UN Human Rights Council: Human rights must also be respected during protests

Press release, 17.07.2020

At Switzerland's initiative, the Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. In addition, Switzerland has submitted a resolution with partner states on the 15th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect.

The Human Rights Council, founded 14 years ago, is the central international institution for the promotion, protection and implementation of human rights worldwide. It is also committed to addressing human rights violations and finding common solutions to protect human rights. Switzerland contributed towards finding such solutions by means of two resolutions at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which came to a close on Friday 17 July 2020.

Human rights apply online as well as offline
On the initiative of Switzerland and Costa Rica, the Human Rights Council adopted, among other things, a resolution calling on all states to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The resolution places a particular focus on the impact of modern technologies on human rights during peaceful protests. In this regard, the resolution reaffirms the applicability of the right to peaceful assembly both online and offline, and underscores the importance of ensuring that protesters are not hindered by internet blocking or surveillance in the digital space.

The resolution also reminds all states that restrictions adopted in times of crisis, for example in connection with combating COVID-19, must in no circumstances serve as a pretext for banning protests or the repression of civil society.

Responsibility to Protect as a means of preventing atrocities
In addition to the resolution on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, Switzerland submitted a further resolution in conjunction with Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Peru and Qatar. This resolution focuses on the 15th anniversary of the 2005 World Summit, during which the UN member states adopted the concept of the Responsability to Protect (Responsibility to Protect R2P). The concept underscores the responsibility of states, but also of the international community, to prevent the most heinous of crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The 15th anniversary is an occasion to renew the commitment to R2P and with a first thematic resolution to emphasise the importance of the Human Rights Council in implementing the concept.

In view of the human rights situation in certain countries, Switzerland sustained its call for systematic compliance with human rights and, where applicable, international humanitarian law by all parties. With this in mind, it participated in the interactive dialogues and negotiations on resolutions on the human rights situation in Belarus, Eritrea and Syria. Switzerland also defended respect for human rights during the dialogues on Burundi, Myanmar, the Philippines and Venezuela. Switzerland also supported a declaration initiated by the United Kingdom and co-sponsored by a total of 28 states in which these States expressed their concern about the human rights situation in China (Xinjiang und Hongkong).

Urgent debate on racially motivated violence
In the run-up to this 44th session, from 15 to 23 June, the Human Rights Council was able to complete the work of the previous session, which had to be suspended on 13 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This session was marked in particular by the holding of an urgent debate on racist human rights violations, systemic racism and police violence.

At the conclusion of this urgent debate, the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution on this thematic. In the course of the debate Switzerland took the opportunity to emphasise the need to ensure respect for and the protection of the human rights of all without discrimination.


Further information:

UN Human Rights Council: right to protest must be preserved
Switzerland and the UN: a long history
The UN and human rights
United Nations Human Rights Council


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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs