2020 Laureate Lottie Cunningham. Credit: Right Livelihood

Right Livelihood Laureates highlight Belarus, Western Sahara at UN Human Rights Council

News 26.10.2021

Right Livelihood Laureates as well as the Foundation itself addressed the UN Human Rights Council over the past weeks drawing the UN rights body’s attention to the situations in Nicaragua, Western Sahara, Belarus and Saudi Arabia, among others.

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The 48th session of the Human Rights Council was held virtually from September 13 to October 11, 2021, during which states discussed a range of issues, including accountability for human rights violations, women’s rights and the rights of indigenous peoples.

2019 Right Livelihood Laureate Aminatou Haidar called on the Human Rights Council to consider the creation of a Special Rapporteur to monitor the worsening situation in Western Sahara. She also called on the UN Human Rights Office to promptly organize an observer mission to the territory.

“The repression is even more severe since the resumption of the armed conflict in November 2020 and the measures taken in the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said, warning the Council that, “It is time for the UN to assume its responsibility for the decolonization of Western Sahara.”

2020 Right Livelihood Laureates Human Rights Center “Viasna” and its founder, Ales Bialiatski, were highlighted when Right Livelihood told the Council that Belarusian authorities must release all seven members of Viasna who are currently detained, along with all other political prisoners.

The “Viasna Seven” are among 672 political prisoners held in Belarus as of September 22, 2021. Right Livelihood called on the Human Rights Council to ensure the necessary resources for a UN monitoring and reporting mechanism mandated to examine all alleged human rights violations committed in Belarus since May 1, 2020.

The calls came shortly after we launched the global #FreeViasna campaign on September 17 together with 22 other non-governmental organisations.

2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Lottie Cunningham Wren took the floor to raise concern over the incessant violence targeting indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in the Northern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.

“​​We are before a possible ethnocide,” Cunningham warned. “Foreign gold mining firms, forestry companies, and cattle ranching businesses are killing my people and destroying our land,” Cunningham said.

She urged the Council to call on the Nicaraguan government to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples; promptly investigate crimes and bring those responsible to justice; and provide truth, justice and reparations to victims and their families.

The plight of imprisoned 2018 Right Livelihood Laureates Mohammed al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair was also highlighted when Right Livelihood, in a joint statement with ALQST, International Service for Human Rights and MENA Rights Group, said that no human rights defender should be behind bars for promoting democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia.

“We remain deeply concerned at the systematic practice of arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents in Saudi Arabia, who are subjected to persecution and prosecution only for exercising their fundamental rights and advocating for the dignity, equality and freedom of others,” the statement said and called on the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to renew their request for a country visit as a matter of urgency.

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