Geneva, Switzerland. September 15, 2017. The Human Rights Council opened its thirty-sixth regular session this week with an address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on the worldwide human rights situation.
Now entering the final year of his current mandate, Zeid reflected on the last three years he has served as High Commissioner.
The High Commissioner outlined states’ lack of consistency regarding their human rights commitments. He noted that states often decry rights violations in other countries while denying their citizens basic rights. He also voiced his concerns over governments’ intimidation and threats against human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations.
The High Commissioner discussed key concerns in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Venezuela, the United States, Turkey, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Mali.
Regarding Latin America, the High Commissioner Zeid noted the OHCHR report on Venezuela, which highlights excessive use of force by security officers and multiple other human rights violations in crackdowns on anti-government demonstrations. “Venezuela is a member state of this Council, and as such has a particular duty to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” he said.
Regarding Guatemala, the High Commissioner commended the action taken by the Constitutional Court to reverse an attempt to expel the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), whose main purpose is to support state institutions in the investigation and prosecution of corruption and organized crime. He also commended the efforts of the many people who took to the streets to support CICIG and the rights of the people of Guatemala to a more open and transparent government.
Regarding the United States, the High Commissioner expressed his concern over the government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months’ time, despite evidence of its positive impact on the lives of almost 800,000 young immigrants and on the US economy in general. The High Commissioner has previously expressed his concerns about the antisemitism and racism openly voiced in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.
The High Commissioner concluded his remarks, saying, “In the first three years of my current term, the world has grown darker and more dangerous. My vision for the work of my office has become more determined, drawing even more deeply on the lessons which come to us from our forebears: human rights principles are the only way to avoid global war and profound misery and deprivation.”
During this session, which concludes September 29th, there will also be four panel discussions, as well numerous interactive dialogues with mandate holders of the special procedures and with the Commissions of Inquiry. At the close of the session, the election of Advisory Committee members and the appointment of seven mandate holders of the special procedures will be held.