promoting human rights eliminating discrimination and protecting freedom of expression
Recent interactions between the Human Rights Council and two Special Rapporteurs focused on eradicating prejudice against leprosy patients and advancing and safeguarding the right to freedom of thought and expression. The dialogue’s main themes are outlined in this article.
Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy
The Special Rapporteur on eliminating discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their families, Alice Cruz, gave her final speech to the Council. She emphasised the significance of moving away from a framework focused on medicine or altruism and towards one based on human rights and the recognition of people affected by Hansen’s disease as rights holders.
Ms Cruz emphasised several vital obstacles that people with Hansen’s illness must overcome, such as language challenges, the digital divide, complex procedures needing advanced literacy skills, and the absence of their particular issues on the agendas of Member States. She advocated their correct identification and removal to ensure equitable access to rights and services.
Many speakers throughout the session complemented the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to encourage the empowerment and involvement of leprosy survivors in public affairs. They raised worry over the ongoing stigmatisation and segregation experienced by those with the disease, which limited their ability to participate in society and exercise their human rights. It was made clear how vulnerable women and children are to leprosy-related prejudice, which puts gender equality and the right to education in jeopardy.
In the dialogue, the European Union, Portugal, Egypt, Japan, UNICEF, Italy, and many other nations and organisations acknowledged the need to eradicate prejudice towards leprosy patients and secure non-discriminatory access to healthcare services.
Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
The Special Rapporteur’s interactive discussion with the Council about advancing and safeguarding the right to free speech was also brought to a close. Many speakers emphasised the crucial role of freedom of expression in fostering democracy, attaining sustainable development, and defending human rights.
States and businesses were asked to support the right to freedom of speech, provide a climate that allows marginalised groups to exercise this right, and shield human rights advocates and journalists from harm. Concerns regarding the relationship between hate speech and terrorism were expressed, highlighting the necessity of striking a balance between freedom of expression and national security.
Several speakers spoke about national initiatives to support civil society and human rights defenders, design legislation to enable access to information, encourage freedom of the press, and promote freedom of thought and expression. The difficulties of countering false and misleading information and the significance of trustworthy digital platforms were emphasised.
Speakers from South Africa, Pakistan, India, Greece, and other nations and organisations discussed their viewpoints and strategies for promoting independent media and preserving free speech.
Irene Khan, the Special Rapporteur on promoting and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression, stressed the need to address the digital gap by emphasising affordability and removing structural obstacles in her concluding remarks. She demanded a comprehensive response to hate speech, concentrating on respecting human rights and encouraging independent media. Ms Khan emphasised the link between sustainable development and human rights and urged the Council to participate in the upcoming high-level conference in September.