IBAHRI takeaways from the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
At the conclusion of the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), held from 11 June – 8 July 2022, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) outlines IBAHRI contributions, interventions and side events held during the session, and reflects on the key discussions, outcomes and resolutions passed.
Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine
The IBAHRI participated in the Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner with an oral intervention calling on the international community to support Ukraine and to coordinate on legal avenues of justice and reparations, including the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal for the crimes of aggression.
The IBAHRI welcomed the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine and the adoption of the resolution requesting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present an oral update on the grave situation in Mariupol.
The IBAHRI participated in the urgent debate about the current situation of women in Afghanistan with a statement expressing concerns at the deterioration of the rule of law in the country after the Taliban re-seized power in August 2021. The IBAHRI condemned the overthrow of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association in November 2021, emphasising that women jurists are at particular risk, as are the ethnic minority group, the Hazara people. During the Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her oral update on Afghanistan, the IBAHRI further emphasised in a joint oral video statement the risks and threats to Afghanistan’s independent legal professionals, in particularly women.
In an oral intervention during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, the IBAHRI was vocal in denouncing human rights abuses in Belarus, in particular arbitrary arrests and detentions of lawyers on political grounds. The IBAHRI firmly condemned recent amendments to the criminal code that expand the application of the death penalty in Belarus. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus, tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of gross human rights violations in Belarus, is to be extended by the Council in a move that is welcomed.
In a joint written statement, with Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Lawyers for Lawyers, and The Law Society of England and Wales, the IBAHRI denounced the systematic and widespread arbitrary detention of lawyers and other human rights defenders.
During the Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, the IBAHRI denounced the grave human rights situation in Myanmar, notably the systematic violations faced by lawyers, as well as death penalty sentences issued by military courts. The IBAHRI called for an assessment as to whether these amount to crimes against humanity or war and urged the international community to ensure justice and reparations for victims, including a possible referral to the International Criminal Court.
Also, during the Panel Discussion on Human Rights Violations in Myanmar, the IBAHRI highlighted the need for urgent accountability for past and present atrocities including the genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Rohingya. In a joint statement during the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions, the IBAHRI and the Law Council of Australia condemned Myanmar junta’s practice to try civilians in front of military tribunals for capital crimes.
The IBAHRI co-sponsored a joint side event with other legal partners emphasising Russia’s violations of international law within its territory, and gross human rights violations of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly rights, as well as cases of arbitrary detention and torture. The IBAHRI also channelled this call in a joint oral video statement as well as in a written statement.
The IBAHRI regrets that the UNHRC did not take steps to respond to the substantial and growing attacks on human rights on the territory of the Russian Federation, exacerbated since Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine and failed to establish a dedicated Special Rapporteur on Russia.
The IBAHRI, jointly with Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, participated in the Universal Periodic Review on South Sudan highlighting concern over continued reports of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances of human rights defenders by security forces, calling for investigations and accountability, underlining the abduction and disappearance of human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak.
In a statement, during the dialogue with the High Commissioner, the IBAHRI urged the international community to support the Sudanese people in their pursuit of civilian democracy, called for accountability for arbitrary arrests and killings of peaceful protesters and the lifting of security services’ blanket restrictions.
The adoption of the resolution on the situation in Sudan, after the military coup of 25 October 2021 is welcomed.
During the adoption of the Report of the Universal Period Review (UPR) on Venezuela, the IBAHRI and Lawyers for Lawyers made an oral intervention and noted that Venezuela had accepted a number of recommendations related to lawyers. The groups called on Venezuela to effectively implement those recommendations immediately.
In Venezuela, lawyers are often subject to persecution for taking on politically sensitive cases, hindering them from preparing a defence case for their clients.
During the adoption of the Report of the UPR on Zimbabwe, the IBAHRI and Lawyers for Lawyers made an made an oral intervention urging Zimbabwe to implement all UPR recommendations without delay, adopt measures to safeguard the independence of lawyers, and protect them from interference with their professional work.
Independence of Judges and Lawyers
In an oral intervention during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, the IBAHRI emphasised increasing and alarming trends towards attacking lawyers and the legal defence and the association of lawyers with their clients or clients’ causes, noting heightened threats where cases were politically sensitive. The IBAHRI called on the Council to take concrete actions to address the concerns of the Special Rapporteur.
The adoption of the resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the protection of the legal professions is welcomed particularly as it focuses on the participation of women in the administration of justice and has a strong emphasis on gender issues. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers on the protection of lawyers from attacks and undue interference is also welcomed.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)
The IBAHRI joined a statement with 1,117 other organisations from around the world calling for the renewal of the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on SOGI. The IBAHRI also supported a joint oral statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on SOGI, emphasising that renewing the mandate on SOGI would send a clear message that that action is still needed.
Freedom to Association and Peaceful Assembly and Freedom of Expression
The IBAHRI was invited to speak in a panel of a side event: Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association in 2022 and beyond: contemporary challenges and opportunities. The event was organised by the core group of states on freedom of association and peaceful assembly (Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, Maldives, Mexico and the United States). The IBAHRI joined a statement by Article 19 on Freedom of Expression denouncing the usage of broad and vague legislation to systematically silence voices that express dissent.
The adoption of the Resolutions on Peaceful Protests, as well as on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, including the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, is welcomed.
Migration and Trafficking
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Migrants, the IBAHRI emphasised the need to find better solutions to help refugees re-establish their lives and contribute to their host countries.
In a statement given during the session with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, the IBAHRI condemned the exploitation by traffickers of vulnerable Ukrainians trying to flee Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.ENDS
Notes to the Editor
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