URG report on the 25th regular session of the Human Rights Council

by the URG team URG Human Rights Council Reports

(3 – 28 March 2014)

The Human Rights Council concluded its twenty-fifth session on Friday 28rd March 2014 after taking action on forty-two texts. Its high-level segment saw the participation of around 94 dignitaries, including the President of Tunisia and Vice President of Colombia. Key-note statements were delivered by the United Nations Secretary General, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President and Foreign Minister of Switzerland.

 

Quick Summary

 

  • 7 panel discussions were held during the session.
  • 77 reports under the various items on the Council’s agenda were considered.
  • The outcomes of the UPR working group reports of the following 15 countries were adopted: Belize, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Malta, Mautitius, Mexico, Monaco, Nigeria, Senegal, Saudi Arabia
  • More than 125 side events were held during the session.
  • 1 new member of the Advisory Committee was elected to fill the vacant seat: Ms. Karla Hananía de Varela, from the Latin American and Caribbean Region.
  • The Council decided to postpone the appointment of 19 Special Procedure mandate holders to a date within the upcoming session of the Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group, scheduled to take place from 28 April to 9 May 2014.
  • 42 texts were considered by the Council: 38 resolutions, 2 decisions and 2 president’s statements. Of these, approximately 60% were adopted by consensus, and approximately 40% were adopted by a vote.

 

Panel Discussions

 

High Level Panel on Human Rights Mainstreaming

Discussion focused on mainstreaming the human rights of migrants within the work of the UN System, including in the context of the follow-up to the General Assembly’s high-level dialogue on international migration and development and the post-2015 UN development agenda.

Key Quote“It is now widely understood that migrants, like all other social groups, are both contributors to and the subjects of development. We must, therefore, craft an agenda that is responsive to the rights of migrants, and not just to the economics of migration.” – Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

High Level Dialogue with Relevant United Nations Entities on the Promotion of Preventive Approaches within the United Nations System

Discussion focussed on the need for the Council to use all the tools at its disposal to move from reaction to prevention, and thereby address human rights problems at an early stage.

Key Quote: The duty of States to take legislative, administrative and other appropriate measures to prevent human rights violations is well established in law. But the persistence of human rights violations around the world clearly demonstrates that States still have much work to do.” – Ms. Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

High Level Panel on the Question of the Death Penalty

There was exchange of views on advances, best practices and challenges relating to the abolition of the death penalty and to the introduction of a moratorium on executions. Many speakers said that the death penalty was an affront to human dignity and opposed its use in any circumstances, while others stressed that the question of capital punishment was a sensitive issue because of different cultural and intellectual framework.

Key Quote: “Let me begin with this unequivocal statement: as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, and I urge those States that still retain this punishment to move swiftly towards its abolition.” – Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

High Level panel on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Discussions were mainly focused on on how to prevent genocide and fight impunity for it on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention. Speakers stressed that preventing mass atrocities was not limited to the implementation of the Convention, but also required using tools to identify early warning signs and indicators.

Key Quote: “Genocide and other mass atrocities are never unleashed without warning. They are the culmination of a long period of human rights violations — whether civil, cultural, economic, political or social – that have been ignored, giving rise to social divisions, institutional failure and clearly identifiable patterns of systematic discrimination.” – Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

Panel discussion on the importance of the promotion of civil society space

The important role of civil society in the protection of human rights at national, regional and international levels their contribution to the development of social, economic and cultural rights were underscored.  Civil society embraces a myriad of actors, whose empowerment was essential for the development of a democratic society.

 

Annual full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child

A full-day discussion dedicated to the international norms and standards on child-sensitive justice and access to justice for children. Speakers recognized the need to address the vulnerabilities of children in the justice system by building in specific protection measures that considered their young age and emotional immaturity.

 

Annual interactive debate on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Discussions were mainly on the rights of persons with disabilities, with a particular focus on inclusive education. Speakers recognized that the main obstacles on the path to inclusive education arose from prejudice and misconceptions that demanded consistent and systematic actions from Governments, most importantly raising awareness among persons with disabilities, specialists and the general public.

 

High-level dialogue in combating sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Discussions focused on how to prevent sexual violence in the DRC. There was general acknowledged that some progress has been made, but also that there is still much work to be done. Speakers expressed particular concern about the use of rape as a weapon of war, and stressed the importance of ensuring access to justice for all affected and protection of victims and witnesses from reprisals.

 

UPR Working Group Reports

 

The Human Rights Council adopted the reports of Belize, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius Mexico, Monaco, Nigeria, Senegal and Saudi Arabia, each of which was reviewed in October 2013 by the UPR Working Group. 2,372 recommendations were made to these 14 countries, out of which 1,886 were accepted and 361 were rejected:

During the adoption of the UPR report of China, a group of NGOs wanted the Council to hold a minute of silence for the death of a human rights defender. China raised a procedural objection, recalling that paragraph 31 of the institutional building text explicitly states that other relevant stakeholders will have the opportunity to make general “comments” before the adoption of a report by the HRC plenary. There were divergent views between the WEOG countries and China and other developing countries on the legal interpretation of the word “comments”, and whether a minute of silence could be considered as such. The President made a decision that the matter be referred to the Bureau to make a ruling on the issue of the use of speaking time. China requested a vote on the decision of the President as per the rules of procedure of the General Assembly.

The results of the vote were as follows:

20 countries against (Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, Namibia, UAE, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, India, Vietnam, Algeria, Kuwait, Benin, China, Maldives, Pakistan, Congo, Morocco, Cuba, Kazakhstan)

13 countries in favour (UK, Germany, USA, Austria, Ireland, Czech, Italy, Estonia, Japan, Mexico, France, Korea and Romania)

12 countries abstained (Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso Chile, Costa Rica, Philipinnes, Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Montenegro, Peru).

2 countries absent (Kenya and FYR Macedonia)

The decision of the President of the HRC was thus rejected.

The adoption of the report of Israel was also marked by the absence of the delegation of Israel on the ground that Officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel were on strike. The absence of the delegation was deplored  by many members of the Human Rights Council.

Resolutions, Decisions and President’s Statements

 

RESOLUTIONS

Agenda Item

Resolution

Sponsors

PBI

Adoption

2

Promoting reconcilation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka

UK, USA, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia, Mauritius

Vote: 23-12-12

3

 Special Rapporteur in the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

USA

Consensus

3

 Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights

China, Iran (NAM), Russian Federation

Consensus

3

Integrity of the judicial system

Russian Federation

Vote: 27-1-19

3

Mandate of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

Austria

Consensus

3

Rights of the Child: Access to justice for children

Greece (EU), Uruguay (GRULAC)

Consensus

3

Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

Mexico

Consensus

3

The role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights

Australia, Chile, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Poland

Consensus

3

The negative impact of the non repatriation of funds of illicit origin to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights  and the importance of improving international cooperation

Ethiopia (African Group)

Vote: 33-2-12

3

Ending violence against children: a global call to make the invisible visible

Algeria

Consensus

3

Question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights

Portugal

Consensus

3

Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living

Finland, Germany

Consensus

3

Freedom of religion or belief

Greece (EU)

Consensus

3

The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests

Costa Rica, Switzerland, Turkey

Vote: 31-9-7

3

Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Norway

Consensus

3

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment : mandate of the Special Rapporteur

Denmark

Consensus

3

The right to food

Cuba

Consensus

3

Promotion of a democratic and equitable international order

Cuba

Vote: 30-14-3

3

Mandate of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights

Cuba

Vote: 30-14-3

3

Promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity

Cuba

Consensus

3

The right to education of persons with disabilities

Mexico, New Zealand

Consensus

3

Human rights and the environment

Costa Rica, Maldives, Switzerland, Slovenia, Morocco, Peru, Uruguay.

Consensus

3

Ensuring use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism in accordance with international law

Pakistan

Vote: 27-6-14

4

The continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

UK, Italy, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, USA, Turkey, France, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar.

Vote : 32-4-11

4

Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Sweden, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United States of America, Republic of Moldova, Panama.

Vote : 21-9-16

4

The situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Greece (EU)

Vote : 30-6-11

4

Situation of human rights in Myanmar

Greece (EU)

Consensus

7

Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination

Pakistan (OIC)

Vote: 46-1-0

7

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

Pakistan (OIC)

Vote: 46-1-0

7

Human rights situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

Pakistan (OIC)

Vote: 46-1-0

7

Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict

Pakistan (OIC)

Vote: 46-1-0

7

Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan

Pakistan (OIC)

Vote: 33-1-13

9

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Ethiopia (African Group)

Consensus

9

The International Decade for People of African Descent

Ethiopia (African Group)

Consensus

9

Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence

Pakistan (OIC)

Consensus

10

Strengthening of technical cooperation and consultative services in Guinea

Ethiopia (African Group)

Consensus

10

Assistance to the Republic of Mali in the field of human rights

Ethiopia (African Group)

Consensus

10

Technical assistance for Libya in the field of human rights

Morocco, Libya

Consensus

 

DECISIONS & PRESIDENT’S STATEMENTS

Agenda Item

Decision/President’s Statement

Sponsors

PBI

Adoption

1

Postponement of the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (DECISION)

France, Morocco, Argentina, Japan

Consensus

3

Panel on the right to privacy in the digital age (DECISION)

Germany, Austria, Norway, Brazil, Switzerland, Mexico, Liechtenstein

Consensus

1

The human rights situation in South Sudan (President’s Statement)

South Sudan

Consensus

10

The Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

France, Haiti

Consensus

Conclusion

 

The 25th Session of the Human Rights Council was marked by tension between the Council’s various political groupings.  It also saw a decision by the Council President being overruled by a majority of Council members. The vote overruling the President’s decision revealed a clear divergence of views between developed and developing country delegations on how to interpret the provisions of the Council’s institutional building text.

There were also notable attempts to bring multiple amendments to the resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The majority of Council members eventually rejected these amendments.

Although there was only a slight decrease in the proportion of resolutions adopted by vote rather than by consensus since the previous March session, from 41.2% in 2013 to 39.5% in 2014, the high number of votes on resolutions and the tabling of last minute amendments was nevertheless indicative of a polarization in the Council on certain issues. This goes against the letter and spirit of the Council’s mandate, as laid down in General Assembly resolution 60/251, which states that “the work of the Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation with a view of enhancing the promotion and protection of all human rights…”

Whether or not states are able to rise above such polarisation and work across groups to address differences at an early stage through dialogue and cooperation will determine whether the 8th cycle of the Human Rights Council continues the body’s impressive recent work in promoting and protecting human rights around the world.

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