The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a meeting with the Special Rapporteurs for human rights defenders and torture, in which several countries were pointed out for mistreatment including Mexico and Honduras, while recommendations were made to governments in order to address the abuses.
The council invited Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer, to address a meeting with representatives of the UNHRC countries.
The rapporteurs talked about the situation of migrants in countries with a heavy flow of population, such as Mexico, Greece, Spain, Hungary and France.
According to Melzer, these and other states are enforcing a policy of deterrence, criminalization and discrimination to prevent further migration, often resulting in widespread human rights violations against migrants and ignoring the non-refoulement principle.
Both speakers expressed their concern about torture in the context of migration, since migrants are especially vulnerable. For them, poverty and unemployment were the major reasons for migrating and addressing the “widespread and systematic human rights violations” against migrants has already become a global responsibility.
They also said the criminalization and persecution of irregular migrants is related to that of the human rights defenders, who tend to become migrants themselves as their activities and lives are increasingly threatened.
Melzer said he was extremely concerned about the torture and other ill-treatment practices in Turkey which significantly increased after the 2016 failed coup, especially against journalists and human rights defenders.
Michel Forst recognized Mexican authorities for their efforts to face attacks against human rights defenders, but said also that despite those efforts violence was still an everyday concern.
Mexico is currently one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders and the most dangerous one for journalists. Last year, it ranked top worldwide for murdered journalists. Forst pointed at the virtual “absolute impunity” as the main reason for violence.
Forst called Mexican authorities to repeal their Internal Security Law, which de facto perpetuates and legalizes military presence throughout the country. This is supposedly intended to provide security to Mexicans, but in fact the military and the navy receive so much human rights violations complaints that the situation is worrying activists and analysts.
Melzer also declared that individuals can't lose their protection against torture and ill-treatment especially in the context of protests, and called on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Sudan, Spain and Honduras to uphold that prohibition of torture, stop their excessive use of force to disperse peaceful protests and carry out the necessary investigations.
Both rapporteurs highlighted the necessity of strengthening institutions to protect human rights defenders and immigrants, which they called “an everyday phenomenon that enriched nations.”