Global Update by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Item 2 General Debate Oral Statement
14 September 2016
Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19
ARTICLE 19 agrees with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that when Governments attempt to smash the voices of their people, instead of serve them, the outcomes are disastrous.
The situation in the Gambia is gravely concerning: the crackdown on independent and opposition voices continues unabated ahead of elections, and deserves heightened scrutiny from this Council.
States that fail to cooperate with or obstruct the work of OHCHR do not deserve the privilege of Human Rights Council membership. Reprisals against human rights defenders, such as Bahrain’s use of travel bans to prevent travel to the HRC in June, are reprehensible.
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned that in 41% of cases, states failed to respond to communications from the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, a decline on previous reporting periods, and that too many states are yet to respond to requests for country visits or confirm those visits.
We remain concerned that states are failing to implement the freedom of expression standards they commit to in this room.
In June, states committed to protect the same rights that people have offline, online (HRC res 32/13). That same month, Russia enacted the “Yaroyava package” of laws (24 June), and Ethiopia enacted the “Computer Cybercrime Proclamation”, which threaten digital rights in both countries. In August, Ethiopia shut down the Internet to restrict the flow of information and coverage of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, against HRC commitments to refrain from such acts.
In March, states committed to protect human rights in protest (HRC res 31/37). We condemn the killings of 30 protesters and injury of many more at Bahir Dar in Ethiopia on 7 August, and the killing of 8 people including one journalist during protests on 19 June in Nochixtlán, Mexico. These violations underscore that states must adopt national action plans to protect human rights in protests, as recommended by UN Special Procedures at HRC 31.
Media freedom is deteriorating worldwide, against this Council’s commitments on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists (HRC res 12/16; HRC res 27/5).
In Turkey, at least 115 journalists have been detained through the abuse of state of emergency powers, often in the absence of individualised evidence of involvement in a criminal act.
In South Sudan, 3 media outlets have been forcibly closed since August, while several prominent journalists and editors have been subject to arbitrary arrest and detention since July and had their equipment confiscated.
Entering its second decade, the HRC must ensure that it is “the torchbearer” for the protection of human rights around the world, and implement fully its freedom of expression commitments.