Human Rights Council 49th session: General Debate Item 4 - PR UN, WTO and other organisations Geneva

Human Rights Council 49th Session: General Debate Item 4 | 21-03-2022

Delivered by H.E. Nathalie Olijslager, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Mr. President,

A diverse and independent civil society is fundamental to safeguard human rights, rule of law and democracy and foster inclusive development. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is deeply concerned that worldwide civic space is obstructed by restrictive laws and the curtailing of fundamental freedoms.

We are shocked about the rapidly accelerating decline of civic freedoms in Russia, including online. Russia’s unprecedented military aggression against Ukraine, which we condemn in the strongest possible terms, has also proven to be a precursor of an increasing crackdown to silence any form of criticism in Russia itself. We condemn the arbitrary detention of thousands of peaceful protestors and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Alexei Navalny. We urge to thoroughly investigate persistent reports of grave human rights violations towards LGBTI persons, human rights defenders and their family members in Chechnya.

In China, the curtailment of civic freedoms is most severe for minorities living in Xinjiang and Tibet, while citizens in the rest of the country are also denied the liberties of a true civic space. A decline is most visible in Hong Kong, where civil and political rights are rapidly limited. The Netherlands encourages the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to present her report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang as soon as possible and reiterates that a visit to China must include meaningful and unfettered access.

In Afghanistan, the Netherlands is gravely concerned about the erosion of civic space. Civil society actors, especially women, continue to be subjected to violence, detention, intimidation, enforced disappearances and killings. We urge the Taliban to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, ensure justice for victims and prevent further violations and abuses. 

Mr. President, this worrisome trend of shrinking civic space and a decline in basic freedoms is visible in countries around the world.

In Nicaragua, the government has deprived its population of civic freedoms. New legislation criminalizes protest and dissent. Systemic intimidation, arbitrary detention and maltreatment of opposition and civil society are ongoing. We particularly urge Nicaraguan authorities to restore freedoms of association and expression as well as democracy.

We call on all States to repeal laws and abandon practices that restrict civic space and to ensure a safe and enabling environment, both online and offline, in which civil society can do their work free from intimidation, threats and violence. 

Thank you.