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UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet opens 45th session of the Human Rights Council

Today, 14 September, marks the opening of the 45th session of the Human Rights Council. The session will discuss the situation in Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen, as well as, among other issues, the rights of indigenous peoples and arbitrary detention. 

To mark the opening of the 45th session, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave a speech calling for urgent action to heighten resilience and protect people’s rights. 

Ms Bachelet said:

“In a context of sharply escalating suffering and turmoil across the world, human rights principles, norms and actions offer effective solutions to build stronger resilience to shocks, and counter despair, by preventing social, economic and political instability.”

In her speech, the UN High Commissioner mentioned the alarming reports of the ongoing violent repression in Belarus, including reports of abductions, sexual violence and harrassment of journalists.  

“Re-establishing social peace in Belarus requires far-reaching dialogue, reforms, and accountability for grave human rights violations. […] Given their scale and number, all allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the security forces should be documented and investigated, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

For more information about the violence in Belarus, read IOHR’s report:

Belarus police admit using live ammunition as second protester dies after clashes


Ms Bachelet also emphasised her concerns regarding the situation for LGBTI rights in Poland and the recent fire at a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. She encouraged the EU member states to “enhance genuine solidarity” and for all countries to recall

“their obligation to cooperate in ensuring that migrants’ lives are protected and their human rights upheld, regardless of their administrative status.”

Watch IOHR’s investigation of the fire in the refugee camp which left at least 13,000 refugees stranded.

 Ms Bachelet’s speech also covered the crisis in Lebanon, saying reports are indicating that more than 55% of the population is now trapped in poverty. 

In Iran, she said, 

“human rights defenders – including women’s rights defenders –lawyers, labour rights activists and protesters continue to suffer intimidation, prosecution and ill-treatment. […] I urge the authorities to pursue many more temporary releases, as an urgent public health measure, and to immediately release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.”

Ms Bachelet continued to list her concerns and human rights violations in countries all over the world. She said alarming numbers of human rights defenders and journalists “continue to be intimidated, attacked and killed – particularly those dedicated to protecting the environment and land rights.” 

In Colombia for instance, the UN High Commissioner said her Office has documented 47 killings of human rights defenders in 2020 and that 44 more cases are in the process of verification.

“I call on all Governments to refrain from discrediting human rights defenders and journalists, putting them at further risk of attacks. I encourage decisive investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators.”

To conclude, Ms Bachelet said: “At this critical moment in world history ­– with poverty and tensions shooting up and a sharp decline in many people’s hope for a better life – human rights norms provide the tested guidance that can help States de-escalate grievances, deliver appropriate protection, establish a sound foundation for development and security, and ensure justice, freedom and rights.”

“Humanity has faced many crises. I am convinced that together, we can weather the current challenges – and that our societies can emerge better able to prevent injustice. It is time to rise to the occasion.”


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