Francesca Mancarella of Right Livelihood delivering an oral statement at the Human Rights Council.

Report of the 49th session of the Human Rights Council 

From February 28 to April 1, the Human Rights Council held its 49th session in Geneva. Right Livelihood took this opportunity to raise issues affecting multiple Laureates. More details about our engagement and summaries of relevant debates can be found in our report.

Here are some of the highlights from the four-week session:

The 49th session took place soon after the military aggression on Ukraine by the Russian Federation, which became a central point of discussion. It was also a matter of urgent debate on March 3, resulting in the Council adopting a resolution that created a Commission of Inquiry on the human rights violations committed in Ukraine.

On that same day, Right Livelihood held a virtual side event featuring Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Right Livelihood Laureates from Russia. The event provided concrete recommendations on how to address the ongoing human rights crisis in the country, including in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

We also addressed the Council on the situation of human rights in Russia later in the session, calling for the creation of a Special Rapporteur on Russia and for the suspension of its Council’s membership. On April 7th, the General Assembly effectively enacted this second call.

Belarus also remained high on the agenda. The Council decided to extend the mandate of the High Commissioner’s examination mechanism to further investigate and monitor human rights violations in Belarus in the aftermath of the 2020 elections. Together with the Human Rights Center “Viasna” we expressed concern over the continuing criminalisation of human rights defenders and urged the authorities to immediately release the seven members of Viasna currently imprisoned.

In mid-March, Sahrawi human rights defender Aminatou Haidar came to Geneva and held meetings with UN representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other partners to denounce the increasing repression against her people at the hands of Moroccan authorities. Together, we also denounced before the Council the situation in Western Sahara, where serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law continue to take place unabated.

Violence against indigenous peoples remains central to the work of many Right Livelihood Laureates. We continued to condemn the crimes committed against indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in Nicaragua. At the end of the session, we were very pleased to see the passing of a resolution establishing a new experts’ mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in the country.

In Brazil, on the other hand, together with Survival, we expressed deep concern at the situation of indigenous peoples, including the Yanomami, who are suffering a socio-environmental crisis due to alarming mercury levels in their territory.

Lastly, we highlighted the plight of arbitrarily detained Laureates, such as Mohammed al-Qahtani, Waleed abu al-Khair, in Saudi Arabia, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Iran, and the aforementioned members of Human Rights Center “Viasna” in Belarus. We called on the Council to keep these countries under close scrutiny and urged them to release all human rights defenders, providing them with compensation and rehabilitation.