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IBAHRI reflects on key outcomes of the 47th UN Human Rights Council session

Thursday 15 July 2021

With the conclusion of 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC47), held from 21 June–13 July 2021, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) reflects on the key outcomes of the session, the insightful side events held, and the resolutions passed.

Independence of Judges and Lawyers: The IBAHRI, in partnership with four civil society organisations, delivered an oral statement at the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and noted the increased global subversion of judicial independence, and of, by extension, fundamental rights and freedoms, as facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Further highlighting the plight faced by many lawyers worldwide under emboldened authoritarian regimes, the IBAHRI jointly held a side-event titled ‘Defending human rights lawyers in authoritarian times, which addressed the most effective strategies in the protection of human rights lawyers and the role the UN has to play in guaranteeing this.

Belarus: The IBAHRI welcomes the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus and emphasises that this mandate is needed now more than ever. The mandate complements the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) examination of the human rights situation in the Republic of Belarus, by ensuring the continuous monitoring of the ongoing human rights crisis. The mandate remains an accessible and safe channel for Belarusian civil society to deliver relevant and up-to-date information from within the country. The resolution for the renewal of the mandate was discussed during informal consultations, in which the IBAHRI noted with deep concern the increasingly restrictive legal framework constraining the independence of the legal profession, which placed further restrictions on freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly in Belarus. The IBAHRI also published a joint statement, alongside 35 civil society organisations, addressed to permanent representatives of member and observer States of the UN Human Rights Council in support of the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.

In addition, during the Interactive Dialogue, the Special Rapporteur, Anaïs Marin, shared her report on the human rights situation in Belarus, in light of recent events that have, as she concluded, contributed to a worsened state of human rights in the country. The IBAHRI participated in the Interactive Dialogue stressing, via video statement (at 1h12min48s), the importance of ensuring that lawyers are able to exercise their professional duties free from harassment and intimidation, citing recent laws restricting the independence of lawyers and of bar associations as of particular concern. In recognition of the increasingly precarious situation of lawyers in Belarus, the IBAHRI also hosted a side-event entitled ‘Lawyers Under Threat: Increasing Suppression of the Legal Profession in Belarus’, in collaboration with other legal non-governmental organisations (NGO) and the Special Rapporteur on Belarus.

China: The IBAHRI regrets that the UN Human Rights Council has again failed to respond meaningfully to grave human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities. The IBAHRI, jointly with six other organisations, delivered an oral statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide expressing grave concern regarding reports of ongoing gross human rights violations and persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in the People’s Republic of China, and calling, inter alia, for remote monitoring and an independent investigation into atrocity crimes in Xinjiang. On the sixth anniversary of the ‘709 Crackdown’, the IBAHRI also published a joint statement to mark the day when Chinese authorities arbitrarily arrested, summoned or briefly detained an estimated 300 lawyers and human rights defenders in what remains the most overt assault on the legal profession and the rule of law in China in recent times.

Philippines: While the Government of the Republic of the Philippines acknowledged it had signed the Joint Human Rights Programme with the UN OHCHR, the long-standing human rights issues in the country were not addressed. The IBAHRI, along with other human rights organisations, continues to urge the Council to launch the long-overdue independent and transparent investigation on the ongoing human rights violations.

Venezuela: During the Interactive Dialogue on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in the context of the recent arbitrary detention of three defenders from NGO ‘Fundaredes’, several States denounced the persistent restrictions on civil society, calling for visits of Special Rapporteurs to be accepted and expedited.

Freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly: The IBAHRI jointly hosted a report launch side-event titled ‘Access to justice as an integral element of the protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly’ in support of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. In addition, during the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the IBAHRI joined an oral statement signed by 300 organisations calling for an end to police violence in Colombia and expressing deep concern about the brutal repression of protests in the country.

Freedom of expression: The IBAHRI joined Article 19 and 10 other NGOs in delivering an oral statement on disinformation at the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The IBAHRI also co-hosted a side event entitled International media freedom, Impunity and Journalists’ Deaths: the case of Anton Hammerl’ on the continuing impunity for crimes against journalists in Libya.

Adoption of a UN Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet and its thematic focus on bridging digital divides is welcomed by the IBAHRI at a time when the issue has become all-important during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The adoption of the Presidential Statement on the human rights implications of the pandemic, which ensures the continued reporting by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on how States’ responses to the pandemic impact human rights, is also welcomed by the IBAHRI.


Notes to the Editor

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  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org​​​​​​​

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