The 48th Sessions of Human Rights Council

By Andrzej Owca CSSp

Every year in the summertime, we observe fewer activities than in the other seasons of the year. Summer 2021 is not exceptional to the Human Rights sessions.

In July 2021, we submitted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on Timor Leste. In that joint statement, we raised the issues of clean water and sanitation and the right to education. I want to congratulate all VIVAT members and other partners from Timor Leste for their commitment and hard work. I also want to address a particular word of gratitude to our partners from Edmond Rice International, who co-sponsored the submission. The State will be reviewed in January 2022. However, before the date, the UPR pre-session will be held in Geneva in December. We did a lobby that a VIVAT member from Timor Leste could speak during that pre-session where all representatives of the States will be present. This is an outstanding achievement!

If one-third of the State Members request so, the Human Rights Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies. At the 31st special session held on August 24th, 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in Afghanistan.

The 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council took place from September 13th to October 11th, 2021, in Geneva. VIVAT International delivered statements to raise human rights concerns from the Philippines, South Sudan, West Papua on obstetric fistula and the UPR mechanism. The statements are made in collaboration with other NGOs and VIVAT members at the grassroots in the respective countries.

On September 22nd, VIVAT International delivered a statement to express deep concern about the human rights situation in the Philippines. Systematic killings continue taking place during the leadership of President Duarte. According to the Philippine National Police records, since June 2016, there have been 5,810 police-drug operations. This data does not include killings allegedly committed by armed civilians. These “unofficial killings” account for at least 27,000 Filipino victims.

At the general debate of the Human Rights Council on September 24th, VIVAT International made a statement about the human rights situation in South Sudan. This year the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of its independence. However, “there were no special celebrations because there was not much to celebrate,” said in the statement, echoing a great concern of the current human rights situation in the country.  Sexual violence remains one of the major issues. The rape of women and girls is often used as a tool of violence against them.  Revenge killings are part of several local traditions, but their frequency and extend have increased with the easy availability of modern weapons. Land grabbing is on the increase, often with ethnic overtones.

VIVAT International and International Coalition for Papua (ICP) continuously raise concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua due to a never-ending conflict between the Indonesian military and indigenous Papuans. In a statement delivered at the Human Rights Council in September 2021, VIVAT International and several organizations raised the issue of the arbitrary detention of the Human Rights Defenders and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). “We are also concerned at the continued judicial harassment of two prominent human rights defenders, Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, for expressing their opinion on an online talk show about the links between the military and mining concession in West Papua.”

The ongoing conflict has resulted in a massive displacement of indigenous Papuans. In the regency of Puncak, Papua Province, at least 4,862 indigenous Papuans have been internally displaced due to an armed conflict between the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and Indonesian security forces. Since April 2021, at least five people, including two women and three minors, have died in refugee shelters. On September 2nd, 2021, following attacks on a military post in Maybrat Regency, the local army regional headquarters dispatched at least a hundred soldiers to pursue alleged attackers. An estimated 2,000 villagers, primarily women, and children fled to the forests from fear of being targeted during the military retaliation.

VIVAT International – Geneva office continues to raise human rights concerns in the countries in close collaboration with VIVAT members at the grassroots and other partner organizations. We express our gratitude and appreciation to VIVAT members for their tireless efforts in defending human rights on the ground and connecting with us in VIVAT International offices.