HRC37 | 71 States fail to respond to allegations of rights abuses


In two statements, ISHR and Amnesty International have called on the President of the Human Rights Council to urge 71 States to respond to communications by UN experts regarding alleged human rights violations, and have raised the alarm regarding personal attacks on such experts.

In a statement delivered to the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR and Amnesty International have reacted to the latest Joint Communications Report of the UN Special Procedures – independent human rights experts, appointed to monitor and report on human rights violations and to advise and assist in promoting and protecting rights. The report reveals that of the 71 states who have not responded to at least one initial letter from the UN experts concerning allegations of rights violations, 21 are Council members.

As Helen Nolan of ISHR explains, that represents almost half of the Council’s membership. Moreover, 16 of those Council members have not responded to two or more communications.

‘This report exposes the high number of repeat offenders,’ says Nolan. ‘We are deeply concerned that Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru and the United States of America have failed to respond to four or more communications from UN experts addressing alleged human rights abuses.’

Remaining Council members who failed to reply include Afghanistan, Burundi, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

ISHR’s statement noted that under GA Resolution 60/251, Council members must ‘fully cooperate with the Council.’

‘Failure to respond to communications alleging rights violations is incompatible with Council membership,’ says Nolan. ‘It undermines the integrity of the Human Rights Council and threatens the safety of human rights defenders.’

This threat is reflected in the fact that the report cites new cases of reprisals against human rights defenders. These include the abduction and detention of Ebrahim Abdelmonem Metwally Hegazy and the arrest and detention of Baderradi Abdalhafez Othman in Egypt for cooperating with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. Another grave case is the detention of Ahmed Mansoor in solitary confinement in the United Arab Emirates for his work with various UN human rights mechanisms.

‘We call on Egypt and the UAE to take swift action to guarantee the rights of these human rights defenders,’ said Nolan.

Read the statement in full here.

Watch the video of the statement here: 


Personal attacks against UN experts

In a second statement, Amnesty International and ISHR drew attention to attacks of a personal nature against Special Procedure mandate holders and members of Commissions of Inquiries:

  • Burundi, a member of this Council, has categorically rejected the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and threatened to bring the members of the Commission to justice for defamation and attempted destabilization of the country during an inter-active dialogue at the General Assembly.
  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila Keetharuth, has faced personal attacks during an interactive dialogue in June 2017 where she was referred to as a 'naked Empress with no clothes' and was accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against Eritrea.
  • The Maldives has accused the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, a Maldives national, of spreading anti-Islamic activities and evil deeds and calling on those who love their country to speak out against him, which resulted in explicit threats of violence and murder against Dr Shaheed online.
  • The Philippines, not only a member of this Council, but also a member of its Bureau, has threatened the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard with physical violence on numerous occasions. The Philippines has also recently made terrorism accusations against the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine national whose safety in country must be guaranteed. Furthermore, the President has been reported in media to have given direct orders to police not to cooperate with Special Procedures mandate holders that may visit the country.

'What have these independent experts done to face such treats and attacks? They have done their jobs. It is wholly unacceptable that these individuals have been targeted simply for trying to fulfil the mandates given to them by the Human Rights Council: investigating allegations of human rights violations and abuses, and reporting on them. These attacks constitute an attack on the Council itself,' explains Anna-Karin Holmlund of Amnesty International. 

Drawing attention to the particularly egregious situation where Council members commit these acts, Amnesty International and ISHR call on the Council to monitor the situations, respond to such attacks as they occur, and make it clear that they will not be tolerated.

Read the statement in full here.

 Photo: Martin Ennals Awards


  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Afghanistan
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Chile
  • Congo (Kinshasa)
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Tunisia
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
  • Venezuela