UN Human Rights Council holds emergency debate on Afghanistan and adopts resolution put forward by Switzerland

Bern, 08.07.2022 - The 50th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), based in Geneva, concludes today after an intensive four-week programme of work. An emergency debate was held in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. This was also the final session for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who has announced her intention to step down at the end of August.

The 50th session of the HRC started on 13 June with a presentation of the annual report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Essentially, the report paints a sobering picture of the human rights situation around the world and outlines some of the challenges that lie ahead, for example in relation to gender equality. It also referred to the roll-back of women's rights and, in particular, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Adoption of resolution put forward by Switzerland

The draft resolution jointly tabled by Switzerland and Costa Rica regarding the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests was successful. The resolution concerned the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in times of crisis and the misuse of government powers to impose states of emergency, as was the case during the pandemic, facilitating the criminalisation of demonstrators and the use of excessive force.

A number of specific reports were also presented, including on Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan. Switzerland also expressed regret regarding the situation in the countries concerned, reaffirming, for example, the right to freedom of expression, the right of association and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and called on states to ensure that justice is delivered. Switzerland expressed these views during the interactive dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the situation in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Nicaragua and Belarus.

As usual, joint statements were issued, including in relation to the human rights situation in Russia and China. A number of negotiations were conducted on resolutions concerning the situation in various countries. Switzerland called for the extension of the mandate of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya and supported the EU's proposal for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Eritrea to be extended.

Switzerland supported the emergency debate held on Afghanistan

The EU requested an emergency debate in response to the erosion of women's and girls' rights in Afghanistan. Switzerland backed the request, calling for the rights of women and girls to be protected in Afghanistan and for their inclusion in society.

The HRC's summer session traditionally focuses on women's rights and gender issues. Switzerland made an active contribution on these issues, supporting, in particular, the extension of the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It was also actively involved in negotiating the resolution regarding the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls. In the current climate, the items tabled reflected both the growing polarisation of the HRC and the backlash against the right to non-discrimination and equality.

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