Turnbull Government set to begin second session as member of UN Human Rights Council

Turnbull Government set to begin second session as member of UN Human Rights Council

The Turnbull Government’s second session as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN body responsible for protecting the rights and dignity of people all over the world, will begin in Geneva tomorrow.

Key focusses for the session will be the ongoing atrocities in Syria and Myanmar. Reports on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, racism, violence against women and the human rights responsibilities of businesses will also feature at the session.

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Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, is in Geneva to scrutinise the role the Australian Government plays on the world stage and to ensure transparency and accountability for the Government’s actions domestically.

"Just saying over and over again that you respect human rights doesn’t make it true. If we want a world where all people are treated fairly and humanely - where victims of cruelty and injustice aren’t just abandoned to suffer at the hands of dictators and military regimes – then we need Governments like ours to play a principled and constructive role on the UN Human Rights Council,” said Mr Webb.

Australia’s first session on the Council, in March this year, was dominated by strong criticism of its indefinite detention of refugees on Manus and Nauru and what an independent UN expert described as the Turnbull Government’s ‘astonishing’ anti-democratic slide. While the Australian Government spoke out strongly against the Syrian Government’s continuing atrocities against civilians, it offered only a weak response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. 

"The Rohingya families being burned alive in their homes in Myanmar. The children dying in attacks in Syria. The journalists rotting in prisons for speaking truth to power. They all need Governments like ours to form part of the UN’s principled spine, not to gnaw away at the foundation of human rights with mealy-mouthed words and unprincipled actions,” said Mr Webb.

“Straight-talking, principled action and practising what we preach are absolutely vital to our Government being able to play the role the international community needs us to.”

Australia was elected for a three-year term on the Council in October last year. This Council session runs from 18 June - 6 July. The Human Rights Law Centre will attend every day of the Council session and provide regular updates on the Australian Government’s actions.

The Council session can be livestreamed here: webtv.un.org

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519