The protection of women who defend human rights must be Belgium’s top priority at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the 11.11.11 NGO said on Wednesday.
The call came one day after Belgium was elected to sit on the Council.
Belgium will be a member of the Geneva-based body, which promotes compliance with human rights treaties worldwide, from 2023 to 2025. This will be its third stint on the Council, having been a member in 2010-2012 and 2016-2018.
Meanwhile, 11.11.11 said in a press release, “Belgium can now box above its weight.”
Director Els Hertogen noted that, “The defence of human rights activists and especially women will be crucial. There are many alarm bells on red.”
For example, 358 murders of human rights defenders were reported last year, noted the NGO umbrella, which works for global justice.
It also pointed to the situation in Iran where, since the assassination of Mahsa Amini, dozens of female activists have been arrested in ongoing protests.
“In the field of abortion rights too, many alarm bells are on red, just look at Poland or the United States,” human rights policy expert Eva Demaré added. “Women human rights defenders worldwide face enormous pressure, threats and violence. Yet they manage to do an incredible job under these conditions.”
“Belgium must make their rights a critical topic on the agenda,” she stressed.
At the Human Rights Council, Belgium must also emphasise the oppression of the Palestinian population,11.11.11 said.
In addition, Brussels must put climate rights on the table and promote the finalising of negotiations on a UN treaty on business and human rights, it stressed.