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Council establishes mandate on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, extends mandates on Arbitrary Detention, Cambodia and Health

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 30 September 2010

Council Adopts Statement on Religious Intolerance

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted resolutions in which it established the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and extended the mandates of the Working Group on arbitrary detention, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. The Council also adopted a statement on religious intolerance.

With regard to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Council decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Concerning arbitrary detention, the Council extended the mandate of the Working Group on arbitrary Detention for a further period of three years.

With regard to advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia, the Council decided to extend by one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

Concerning the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as established in Human Rights Council resolution 6/29, paragraph 1, for a further period of three years.
The Council requested the Special Rapporteur to prepare, within existing resources, a thematic study on the realization of the right to health of older persons, including the main existing challenges and best practices, and decided to address this thematic study in a panel within the programme of work of its eighteenth session.

Sihuasak Phuanketkeow, President of the Council, read out a statement on behalf of the Council which said the Council condemned recent instances of religious intolerance, prejudice and related discrimination and violence, which continued to occur in all parts of the world. The Council encouraged efforts to establish collaborative networks to build mutual understanding and promote dialogue. The Council stressed that these efforts should be taken to protect individuals of all religions and beliefs in a non-discriminatory way, and should apply to promote understanding among them.

With regard to draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, the Council invited the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize within existing resources a two day consultation in Geneva on the “progress report of the draft guiding principles on human rights and extreme poverty”. The Council also invited the Independent Expert to pursue further work on the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights with a view to submitting a final draft of the revised guiding principles to the Council at its twenty-first session, in order to allow the Council to take a decision on the way forward with a view to an adoption of guiding principles on the rights of persons living in extreme poverty by 2012.

Speaking in introductions of text were France, Japan, Maldives, United States, and Brazil.

Speaking as a concerned country was Cambodia.

Speaking in general comments were Ecuador, Bangladesh, China, Russian Federation, Cuba, Libya, Pakistan, and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote was the United Kingdom.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 9 a.m. on Friday 1 October, when it will continue to take action on remaining decisions and resolutions before it closes its fifteenth session. At 11 a.m., the Council will proceed to the consideration and adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Kiribati and Guinea-Bissau.

Action on Resolutions Under Agenda Item on Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including Right to Development

Action on Resolution on Arbitrary Detention

In a resolution (A/HRC/15/L.24) regarding arbitrary detention, adopted without a vote as orally amended, the Council encourages all States to: respect and promote the right of anyone who is arrested or detained on a criminal charge to be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and to be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or release; respect and promote the right of anyone who is deprived of his/her liberty by arrest or detention to be entitled to bring proceedings before a court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his/her detention and order his/her release if the detention is not lawful, in accordance with their international obligations; respect and promote the right of anyone who is arrested or detained on a criminal charge to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his/her defence including the opportunity to engage with and communicate with counsel of his/her choosing; ensure that the conditions of pre-trial detention do not undermine the fairness of the trial; decides to extend the mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for a further period of three years; requests the Secretary-General to provide all necessary assistance to the Working Group, particularly with regard to the staffing and resources needed for the effective fulfilment of its mandate, especially in respect of field missions; requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize in 2011, within existing resources, a one-day event to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; decides to continue consideration of the question of arbitrary detention in conformity with its program of work.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), introducing draft resolution L.24, said that the draft resolution had been co-sponsored by 34 States. The principal objective of the resolution was the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on arbitrary detention for another period of three years. The Working Group would continue to investigate allegations of arbitrary detentions and conduct field visits to better understand country situations, with the ultimate aim of providing more informed recommendations to the Council and its members. In addition, this draft resolution recognized that there should be reprisals for persons guilty of arbitrary detention and States had an obligation to conduct trials and bring criminals to justice. France concluded by warmly welcoming all the delegations that contributed to the draft resolution and France hoped that it would be adopted by consensus without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/15/L.25) regarding draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council affirms that the fight against extreme poverty must remain a high priority for the international community; invites the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: to seek views, comments and suggestions on the “progress report of the draft guiding principles on human rights and extreme poverty” submitted by the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, from States, relevant United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations treaty bodies, relevant special procedures, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, especially those working with people living in extreme poverty and other relevant stakeholders; to organize within existing resources a two day consultation in Geneva on the “progress report of the draft guiding principles on human rights and extreme poverty”, with the Independent Expert and relevant stakeholders, including State representatives, development and human rights practitioners and organizations at local, national, regional and international levels, before June 2011; to prepare and submit to the Council, no later than its nineteenth session, an analytical compilation on the basis of above submissions; and invites the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty on the basis of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report, to pursue further work on the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights with a view to submitting a final draft of the revised guiding principles to the Council at its 21st session, in order to allow the Council to take a decision on the way forward with a view to an adoption of guiding principles on the rights of persons living in extreme poverty by 2012.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), introducing draft resolution L.25, said that pursuant to the resolution A/HRC/12/19 adopted during the Council’s twelfth session, the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty had been tasked with presenting a progress report on the project of the guiding principles. This progress report was an important phase in the elaboration before 2012 of the guiding principles which would contribute to the elaboration of national policies combating extreme poverty. The draft resolution before the Council today entrusted the Independent Expert with the task of elaborating the final version of the guiding principles to be presented to the twenty-first session of the Human Rights Council. France reiterated its full support for the Independent Expert in carrying out this task.

Action on Resolution on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

In a resolution (A/HRC/15/L.23) regarding the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, adopted without a vote as amended, the Council calls upon States to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, including in the context of elections and including persons belonging to minorities and those espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others seeking to exercise or to promote these rights, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that any restrictions on the free exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law; calls upon the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist States to promote and protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, including through the technical assistance programs of her Office, at the request of States, as well as to cooperate with relevant bodies of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations to assist States to promote and protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; decides to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; requests the Special Rapporteur to submit each year to the Council and to the United Nations General Assembly a report covering activities relating to his/her mandate; requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide all the necessary human and financial resources for the effective fulfilment of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur; and decides to continue its consideration of the issue of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in accordance with its program of work.

LIVSHA ZAHIR (Maldives), introducing draft resolution L.23, said that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association was integral to one’s fundamental human rights and was the foundation of democracy. The Maldives understood this better than most countries as only a few years back, the rights to freedom of assembly and association had been seriously curtailed. The aim of this resolution was to help protect these rights. The Maldives thanked all the delegations that had worked on this draft resolution, which enjoyed the co-sponsorship of over 60 members.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States), also introducing draft resolution L.23, said that the right to peaceful assembly was a basic pillar of a functional democracy. This right was enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Societies moved forward through the right to assemble peacefully. Whether the goals were for social justice or clean air, freedom of assembly allowed groups to collectively act for the betterment of society, including consumer advocates and unions. Civil society had an important role to play in democratic change, as did a free media. This fact was evident in South Africa, where the apartheid regime had been toppled. The draft resolution directly addressed the current gap in the Council on this issue and called for the creation of a Special Rapporteur on the freedom to peaceful assembly and association. The United States felt that this was an important issue that needed to be addressed more actively by the Human Rights Council. The United States thanked all those for their contributions and expressed its wish that the draft resolution be adopted by consensus.

PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom), speaking in a general comment, said the United Kingdom was concerned by the growing trend to restrict freedom of assembly and association, and was therefore pleased by the appointment of the Special Rapporteur, as this would fill the gap in the system of human rights protection. The United Kingdom recalled its position that the costs associated with the new Special Rapporteur should be found within existing resources.

JUAN HOLGUIN (Ecuador), speaking in a general comment, said Ecuador supported the resolution, particularly with regard to the calling it made on all States to respect the rights of individuals, in particular the rights of migrants. Ecuador hoped States would look at this matter openly, and not politicise it.

NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh), speaking in a general comment, said that ensuring the right to freedom of assembly was enshrined in its Constitution, which said that all citizens had the right to assembly and a right to association. Therefore, Bangladesh was committed to the rights to freedom of assembly and association. There was a need to create a space of dialogue and to rationalise the process of creation of new mandates and Special Procedures in the Council. Furthermore, Bangladesh noted that the text of the draft resolution was not balanced. Considering its constitutional commitment, Bangladesh said it did not want to block the spirit of consensus.

QIAN BO (China), speaking in a general comment, said China attached great importance to the rights of peaceful assembly and association, and the constitution made it clear that the State protected human rights, and that citizens enjoyed the rights of peaceful assembly and associations. However, citizens also had obligations under the Constitution, and the State would penalise those acts that harmed public security, order, or were criminal acts. The constitution also stipulated that rights should be exercised under certain conditions. From the very first day of the writing of this draft, China and other States expressed doubts on the need to establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, as this overlapped with the ILO and other mechanisms of the Council. This would be revised during the revision of the Council, and it was not appropriate to establish it now. China was concerned that the draft gave selective emphasis to the rights of certain peoples at certain periods, and extended the mandate unrestrictedly. China had sought consensus in a practical and constructive spirit, but its concerns and those of many other States had not been fully addressed. Therefore, China did not join consensus on the draft.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation), speaking in a general comment, said that freedom of assembly and association was a main condition for a thriving democratic society. Those freedoms were not absolute freedoms and could be restricted by law and in the interest of protecting the rights and freedoms of others, preserving security, public order and morality. Those rights were regulated by a number of international instruments and the work in the protection of freedom of assembly and association should be guided by those instruments. The Russian Federation expressed its concern that not all proposals made by the Russian Federation during the consultation process were adequately reflected in the text. The Russian Federation was of the opinion that the right to freedom of assembly and association must be used in a responsible manner and could not be used for incitement to hatred, racism or national supremacy. The Russian Federation reiterated its position on the principle and said that the creation of a new mechanism within the Human Rights Council was not necessary, especially if the new mandate addressed an issue already dealt with by other human rights mechanisms.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba), speaking in a general comment, said that freedom of association and peaceful assembly was truly a right that could not be contended. However, the text of the draft resolution had significant flaws. For example, between the co-sponsors of the draft resolution, there were States that did not fully endorse trade unions, had opposed the independence of certain countries during decolonisation and had even historically put Nelson Mandela on its list of terrorists. There was also a concern that there would be duplication between this draft resolution and other mandates. Whilst Cuba congratulated the fact that this issue was being looked at, Cuba thought it was not yet the right time to adopt such a resolution. That said, Cuba confirmed that it would continue to support this important issue and would work closely with the proposed Special Rapporteur if the draft resolution was approved.

IBRAHIM A.E. ALDREDI (Libya), speaking in a general comment, said Libya affirmed that the right to peaceful assembly and association was a basic human right and was applied in the country, as the constitution stipulated. All had the right to create trade unions, federations, and associations to protect their interests. There was also a law on the creation of civil society organizations. The right to freedom of assembly and association had been consecrated in a number of international instruments as well as through the ILO, which was the specialised agency in freedom of association, particularly with regard to work. The right was stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and others including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. ILO Conventions, particularly Convention 87 and the Declaration of 1998 on the rights of work, confirmed this right. There was no need to set up a new mandate that would add an additional burden on the Human Rights Council and the United Nations, and would cover ground already covered by other mechanisms. Libya did not commit itself to the draft resolution.

AFTAB A. KHOKHER (Pakistan), speaking in a general comment, said Pakistan reiterated the importance it attached to the right of freedom of assembly and association and said this right was guaranteed to its citizens by the constitution. Pakistan’s key concern was the proliferation of mandates in the Human Rights Council, as well as the overlap with the work of other United Nations bodies and agencies. The work of the Special Procedures was important, but for this particular mandate, there should be a rationalisation and streamlining of a number of already existing mandates. Pakistan therefore believed that in the year when the members were busy with the review of the Council, adding a new procedure was not opportune. It was for those reasons that Pakistan disassociated itself from this draft resolution.

Acton on Resolution on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable standard of Physical and Mental Health

In a resolution (A/HRC/15/L.28) regarding the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as established in Human Rights Council resolution 6/29, paragraph 1, for a further period of three years; calls upon all States: to ensure that relevant legislation, regulations and national and international policies take due account of the realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to pay special attention to the situation of the poor and other vulnerable and marginalized groups, including by the adoption of positive measures, in order to safeguard the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and to protect and promote sexual and reproductive health as integral elements of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; calls upon the international community to continue to assist developing countries in promoting the full realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including through financial and technical support and training of personnel, while recognizing that the primary responsibility for promoting and protecting all human rights rests with States; requests the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to prepare, within existing resources, a thematic study on the realization of the right to health of older persons, including the main existing challenges and best practices; decides to address this thematic study in a panel within the programme of work of its eighteenth session, and to consider taking further possible action on the issue; requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue providing all necessary resources for the effective fulfilment of the Special Rapporteur mandate; and decides to continue consideration of this matter under the same agenda item, according to its programme of work.

MARIA LUISA ESCOREL DE MORAES (Brazil), introducing draft resolution L.28, reaffirmed the importance of working towards the enjoyment of everyone to the highest attainable standard to physical and mental health. The draft resolution took stock of other Council resolutions on the right to health. The draft resolution called for the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health for an additional three years. In Brazil’s view, the need for human rights based guidance and assistance remained crucial. States needed to continue promoting the right to health. The draft text also requested that the Special Rapporteur prepare a thematic study on the right to health, with particular regard to the elderly. In the context of rapid demographic changes, occurring in all societies of the globe, the Human Rights Council needed to urgently address the rights to health of this vulnerable group. Brazil was confident that the draft resolution would be accepted and thanked all delegations and relevant stakeholders for their valuable contributions.

AFTAB A. KHOKHER (Pakistan), speaking in a general comment on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the Conference had been actively engaged in the consultation on this draft resolution. Pakistan expressed its deep appreciation to the delegation of Brazil for their most transparent conduct of the consultation process. Therefore, the Organization of the Islamic Conference joined the consensus.

Action on Text Under Agenda Item on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Statement on behalf of the Human Rights Council

SIHUASAK PHUANKETKEOW, President of the Council, said in view of the growing number of instances of religious intolerance such as discrimination, conflating a religion with terrorism, or desecrating or destroying holy books, religious sites or shrines, he had been empowered by the agreement of all Council members to make the following statement on behalf of the Human Rights Council:

“The Council condemns recent instances of religious intolerance, prejudice and related discrimination and violence, which continued to occur in all parts of the world. The international community should stand united against all forms of religious intolerance and should engage in practical steps to end such intolerance. The Council encourages efforts to establish collaborative networks to build mutual understanding and promote dialogue. The Council stresses that these efforts should be taken to protect individuals of all religions and beliefs in a non-discriminatory way, and should apply to promote understanding among them. The Council also recognises that open, constructive and respectful debate, as well as interfaith dialogue, could have a positive effect. The Council reiterates the call by the United Nations Secretary-General on the necessity for the voices of moderation to be heard and mutual respect to prevail.”

Action on Resolution Under Agenda Item on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Action on Resolution on Advisory Services and Technical Assistance for Cambodia

In a resolution (A/HRC/15/L.17) regarding advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia, adopted without a vote as orally amended, the Council welcomes the positive engagement of the government of Cambodia in the Universal Periodic Review process and its acceptance of all recommendations thereon and its intention to follow-up on them; expresses its concern about some areas of human rights practices in Cambodia, and urges the government of Cambodia to: continue to strengthen its efforts to establish the rule of law, including through the adoption and implementation of essential laws and codes for establishing a democratic society; and to continue its efforts at judicial reform, especially to ensure the independence, impartiality, transparency and effectiveness of the judicial system as a whole, including through the adoption of the law on the status of judges and prosecutors and the law on the organization and the functioning of the courts; decides to extend by one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, and requests the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of his mandate to the Council at its eighteenth session and to engage in a constructive manner with the government of Cambodia for the further improvement of the situation of human rights in the country; requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council at its eighteenth session on the role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in assisting the government and the people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights; and decides to continue its consideration of the situation of human rights in Cambodia at its eighteenth session.

KENICHI SUGANUMA (Japan), introducing draft resolution L.17, said that, on behalf of 30 co-sponsors, Japan was pleased to submit the draft resolution on advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia. The main objective of the draft resolution was to provide Cambodia with the technical assistance it required to continue its efforts to promote and protect of human rights. Cambodia’s acceptance of all 91 recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review process was an indication of the country’s commitment to human rights as well as its willingness to work closely with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. However, Cambodia still faced numerous challenges. The Special Rapporteur’s focus on Cambodia’s judicial system was very much welcomed and Japan looked forward to extending the scope of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate to address other critical issues. The draft resolution was conducted in close cooperation with the Government of Cambodia and Japan hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.

SUN SUON (Cambodia), speaking as a concerned country, said Cambodia welcomed the adoption by consensus of the draft resolution on technical assistance and capacity building for Cambodia. Cambodia thanked the delegation of Japan for their efforts in preparing and conducting the negotiations on the draft resolution. Also, Cambodia extended its appreciation to all other delegations for their active participation on the draft resolution and in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. Through the adoption of the draft resolution, Cambodia welcomed the extension of the mandate for one year, and said it would allow the Special Rapporteur to continue his work and cooperate with the Royal Government of Cambodia in improving and advancing human rights in this country. It was hoped that the Special Rapporteur would continue to perform his duties in a spirit of good partnership and constructive cooperation with the Government, which would further contribute to making greater progress in this important area of cooperation. In conclusion, Cambodia reiterated the sincere efforts and firm commitments of the Government to further promote and improve human rights and appreciated the support and assistance provided by the international community.

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