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United Nations Human Rights Council Statements

The Law Council of Australia has held special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2011, which enables the Law Council to attend UN conferences, meetings and other events, and deliver written and oral statements.

Since 2019, the Law Council has delivered oral interventions during successive Human Rights Council sessions, both in its own right and in partnership with organisations including the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. These oral interventions are compiled below.

2024

14 March 2024

On 14 March 2024, Law Council President, Greg McIntyre SC, delivered a statement in the Item 3 General Debate expressing the Law Council’s concern for Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun, and urging his release.  

1 March 2024

On 1 March 2024, the Law Council co-sponsored a statement on Myanmar as part of the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement, which was delivered by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute before the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the ongoing atrocity crimes committed by the military junta in Myanmar and urged the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner to respond robustly to the ever-worsening situation in Myanmar. The Law Society of England and Wales and Lawyers For Lawyers also joined the statement.

Read the full statement here.

2023

21 September 2023

On 21 September 2023, Law Council President, Luke Murphy, delivered a pre-recorded statement during the 54th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The statement, which was co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), expressed concern regarding State measures which limit, deter and penalise post-appeal applications in capital cases.

The statement also referred to a number of developments of concern in Singapore, including the passage of legislation which limits the ability of persons on death row to apply to stay or challenge their execution or conviction post-appeal, as well as the imposition of personal costs orders against capital defence lawyers.

Read the full statement here.

26 June 2023

On 26 June 2023, Law Council President Mr Luke Murphy presented an oral statement before the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Mr Morris Tidball-Binz. The statement, co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, referred to the Special Rapporteur’s report on deaths in prisons, and urged states to aim to reduce incarceration through alternative justice approaches, and ensure independent, thorough, transparent and timely investigations into all prison-related deaths. The President also reiterated the Law Council’s call for Australia to fully implement the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) by ensuring that an effective, adequately-resourced preventative mechanism is in place across all places of detention in Australia.

Read the full statement here.

26 June 2023

On 26 June 2023, Law Council President Mr Luke Murphy presented an oral statement before the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms Margaret Satterthwaite. The statement, co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, condemned the Taliban’s dismantling of Afghanistan’s independent legal system, contempt for the independence of judges and lawyers, and exclusion of women from legal education, legal practice and the judiciary. The statement also encouraged the Special Rapporteur to liaise with the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association in Exile, and urged the international community to provide protection, safe passage and support for judges, prosecutors and lawyers at risk.

Read the full statement here.

20 March 2023

On 20 March 2023, Law Council President, Mr Luke Murphy, presented an oral statement before the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar during the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement, which was co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, expressed concern regarding the Myanmar military’s weaponisation of the legal system to entrench its power, conceal human rights abuses, and avoid accountability.

Read the full statement here.

15 March 2023

On 15 March 2023, Law Council President, Mr Luke Murphy, presented an oral statement before the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders during the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement, which was co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, noted the key role played by lawyers to address the implementation gap between the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and national laws and policies, and uphold and defend human rights in the context of the legal system.

Read the full statement here.

2022

21 September 2022

On 21 September 2022, Law Council President Tass Liveris presented a video statement during the 51st United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The statement, delivered on behalf of the Law Council of Australia and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, expressed concern regarding the escalating judicial and constitutional crisis unfolding in Kiribati.

In the past four months, the Government of Kiribati has suspended the judges of Kiribati’s High Court and Court of Appeal has disabled both superior courts of record. The Law Council is greatly concerned by the lack of transparency regarding the membership and procedure of the disciplinary tribunals established to investigate alleged judicial misconduct.

Read the full statement here

22 June 2022

As part of the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Law Council President, Mr Tass Liveris, presented a video statement before the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on 22 June 2022.

This statement, delivered on behalf of the Law Council and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, urged the Special Rapporteur to monitor the misuse by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw of military courts and unlawful use of the death penalty. Since the coup on 1 February 2021, at least 114 people have been sentenced to death, including 41 in absentia, in closed, summary proceedings before military tribunals. These trials are completely incompatible with international standards on the use of capital punishment.

The full statement is available here

7 March 2022

On 7 March 2022, Law Council President, Mr Tass Liveris presented an oral statement for the Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan.

Read full Statement here.

2021

20 September 2021

On 20 September 2021, Law Council President, Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, presented an oral statement before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement was co-sponsored by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and expressed concern at the practice of states to unlawfully detain lawyers acting for human rights defenders and political opponents.

Read the full statement here.
 

Co-sponsored statement delivered by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

In addition to the statement Dr Jacoba Brasch QC delivered to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Law Council also co-sponsored a statement delivered by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute on 23 September 2021 during the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ written update on Myanmar. The statement was also co-sponsored by the Law Society of England and Wales, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada and Lawyers For Lawyers.

Read the full statement here.

6 July 2021

On 6 July 2021, Law Council President, Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, presented an oral statement in the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar during the 47th UN Human Rights Council. The statement condemned the intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of lawyers by Myanmar’s military since the coup d’état.

Read the full statement here.

28 June 2021

On 28 June 2021, Law Council President, Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, presented an oral statement before the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, as part of the 47th UN Human Rights Council. The statement, presented on behalf of the Law Council and the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, asked the Special Rapporteur to investigate the misuse of sanctions against lawyers and related entities.

8 March 2021

On 8 March 2021, Law Council President, Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, presented a video statement before the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Violence Against Children within the programme of the 46th Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The statement noted the Law Council’s advocacy for raising of the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years across Australia, and discussed the need for a holistic approach to juvenile justice reforms.

The full statement is available here.

2020

18 September 2020

On 18 September 2020, Law Council President Pauline Wright delivered a video intervention to Working Group on Arbitrary Detention within the programme of the 45th United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Law Council’s statement reiterated the fundamental importance of the right to legal assistance across all settings of detention, and requested the Working Group affirm how this duty continues to apply in the context of national security cases.

9 July 2020

Law Council President, Pauline Wright, presented an oral statement to the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 9 July 2020 on the extrajudicial killings of lawyers and judges in the Philippines. Read the full transcript here.

6 March 2020

On 6 March 2020, the Law Council partnered with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) to deliver an oral statement to the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The statement, delivered by the IBAHRI UN Liaison Dr Helene Boussard Ramos Dos Santos, sought to draw the Council’s attention to the use of counter-terrorism and security measures to repress human rights lawyers and deter them from undertaking their work.

The statement focused on the legislation and measures adopted in China, the Philippines and Turkey. The statement called on the Human Rights Council to:

1. urge States to respect the independence of the legal profession and the corresponding immunities contained in the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers;

2. protect all lawyers in their professional functions, including those who are called to act for unpopular persons or persons whom a Government alleges to have broken the law; and

3. ensure that these principles are not curtailed by any legislation or measure purporting to protect national or international security interests.

The Law Council is grateful to the IBAHRI for its continued support to enable the Law Council to participate in HRC dialogues.

A full copy of the statement is available here.

2019

13 September 2019

On 13 September 2019, the Law Council of Australia and the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) presented a joint oral statement to the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council. The statement outlines deep concern in relation to the systematic underminding of the rule of law in the People’s Republic of China; especially in relation to the Government’s abuse of criminal processes and arbitrary detention to intimidate, harass and suppress lawyers and human rights defenders.

Read full statement here.

27 June 2019

Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC, addressed a side-event at the 41st session of the United Nations’ Humans Rights Council on 27 June 2019 on the extradition bill proposed and under consideration in Hong Kong.

The side-event was hosted by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights.

You can read the full speech here.

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