Persons affected by leprosy will continue to have a voice at Human Rights Council.
Video: Ms. Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy (Final Remarks at the 44th Regular Session Human Rights Council, July 7, 2020)
The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on leprosy for a further three years.
Alice Cruz is in the final year of her initial three-year term, and the decision by the HRC at its 44th session in July will see her continue as Special Rapporteur through 2023.
A resolution submitted by Japan on behalf of a core group of countries consisting also of Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Morocco and Portugal, and supported by 45 co-sponsors, was adopted by consensus on the final day.
During the session, Cruz presented three reports—two on country visits to Brazil and Japan that took place earlier this year, and a thematic report outlining a rights-based plan for fully implementing the Principles and Guidelines accompanying the UN 2010 General Assembly resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
During testimony she delivered online from her home in Ecuador because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cruz expressed her “great regret” at the difficulties she had in gaining cooperation from states for country visits. “Nine out of 10 countries to which I requested a country visit did not invite me; two states which are top-priority countries for leprosy accepted the request but did not confirm dates despite several reminders.”
On the plus side, she noted that her mandate had succeeded in mainstreaming the elimination of leprosy-related discrimination into the work of United Nations Human Rights mechanisms including the Treaty Bodies, universal periodic review and other special procedures, and that she had witnessed how the mandate had had an empowering effect on many persons affected by leprosy and their families.
Commenting on the HRC’s decision to extend her term, she told the Goodwill Ambassador’s Newsletter that it was “a result of the participation of persons affected by Hansen’s disease in the work of my mandate during the first two and a half years. It is also a result of the cooperation between the main stakeholders in the field. Our joint work has sensitized the UN Member States to the vital importance of addressing Hansen’s disease issues from a human rights perspective.”
Cruz, who serves in an honorary capacity and is not paid for her work, said: “I feel encouraged, but I also feel the added weight of responsibility. Our expectations can now be more substantial and so my own work needs to live up to such expectations. I expect a lot of hard work in the next three years, which I will undertake with a great sense of personal honor for serving our community and for which I hope to continue to receive the key support from the Hansen’s disease community.”
She said her main priority will be to engage with relevant UN member states in supporting them to develop and implement a human rights approach to Hansen’s disease in their respective countries with the meaningful participation of the national organizations of persons affected by Hansen’s disease.
“I also aim at consolidating the mainstreaming of Hansen’s disease within the overall human rights system and I am targeting the inclusion of Hansen’s disease in one general recommendation of a relevant Treaty Body, in order to ensure that legally binding jurisprudence is elaborated and put in place.”