At the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, council member have 3 minutes to speak, while observer states and NGOs have two minutes. It is always a challenge to fit a full speech into two minutes, especially on crucial matters that are often on the top of the world’s agenda.
To our pleasant surprise, these rules were broken today in the case of Burundian civil society leader Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. On August 3rd, Mr. Mbonimpa survived an assassination attempt during which his son-in-law was murdered. On November 6th, his son was arrested by government forces and was soon found dead.
In a whispery voice, Mr. Mbonimpa addressed today’s special session on the human rights situation in his home country, Burundi. The Council’s President, German Ambassador Joachim Rücker, in an unprecedented more, graciously introduced him and referred to the frequent mentions of his name by member states and UN officials during today’s proceedings.
In addition, during Mr. Mbonimpa’s speech, the timer was off and he was allowed to speak for four and a half minutes!
This is a welcome development which we hope that the Council will continue in the future, especially when prominent individuals take the floor on behalf of NGOs. UN Watch regularly hosts such persons. For example, when Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lord David Trimble took the floor on behalf of UN Watch, he did not get a personal welcome and introduction from the Chair. Similarly, when North Korean survivor Yeonmi Park and Venezuelan opposition figure Lilian Tintori spoke recently on behalf of UN Watch, they did not get a few extra seconds to end their speech.