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Human Rights Council session to conclude

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Human Rights Council session to conclude

A meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland
A meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland
The 51st session of the Human Rights Council will conclude today in Switzerland, which faced scrutiny during the session for its gold-importation practices – Photo: UN/Anne-Laure Lechat

The 51st session of the Human Rights Council will conclude today in Switzerland.

During the session, UN-cited findings on Switzerland’s role as an importer in illegally mined gold took the spotlight. Switzerland is the biggest global importer of gold, having imported about $92.3 billion of the metal last year. The country is also home to four of the biggest global refineries.

A special rapporteur presented reports to the Council about the impact of gold mining on communities and the environment, especially in the Amazonian Basin. UN investigators cited several human rights abuses, including the sexual exploitation of women and children, mercury poisoning and child labor impacting communities where illegal gold production takes place.

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Switzerland faces immense pressure from the Human Rights Council to take a more active role in condemning these practices. Should Switzerland remain silent, it could face further scrutiny by human rights mechanisms in the coming months and years—likely by means of legal action—especially as the ramifications of mercury poisoning will have long-term effects on mining workers and nearby indigenous communities. Expect Switzerland to follow through on its recent pledge to trace and remove any gold originating in indigenous lands from supply chains.

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