The impact of COVID-19 on efforts to address gross human rights violations will be a major theme of the 46th Ordinary Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The four-week session, which begins Monday in Geneva, will be held virtually due to the pandemic. It will begin with a three-day high-level segment during which nine heads of state and other dignitaries from more than 130 countries will address the UN Human Rights Council via video.
UN officials say the vast majority of their statements should focus on COVID-19. The pandemic will also be the topic of a special roundtable on Monday on combating racism and discrimination and its exacerbating effects on those efforts.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said the council should consider how various governments have used the pandemic as a pretext to consolidate their power by cracking down on the opposition.
He cites the example of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who took power for a time to rule by decree without parliamentary legislation.
“Another example was the recent elections in Uganda, where the president [Yoweri] Musevani used the pandemic as a pretext to prevent the campaign of his main opponent, Bobi Wine, “he said.” The repeated use of deadly violence, the arrest of people, the repeated arrest, the shift to national tobacco of Bobi Wine. You know, a lot of them are just using the pandemic as a pretext.
Special round tables will be devoted to issues such as the death penalty, children’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities. The human rights record of many countries will be submitted to the Council for consideration.
A scathing report from UN human rights chief Michele Bachelet on Sri Lanka’s inability to tackle past violations and impunity for serious human rights violations will be considered.
Other highlights include the examination of Myanmar’s military coup and persistent violations in countries such as Belarus, Venezuela, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and North Korea. The list is long.
United Nations and human rights activists hail US President Joe Biden’s decision to join the council, nearly three years after former President Donald Trump’s administration left the body. They say they hope the United States will use its strength on the world stage to promote universal fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
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