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Human Rights Council concludes sixteenth session

ROUNDUP

25 March 2011

Adopts 40 Resolutions, Creates Mandate on Iran, Decides to Dispatch Commission to Côte d’Ivoire, and Extends Mandates of Special Procedures on Human Rights Defenders, Violence against Women, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and others

The Human Rights Council closed its sixteenth regular session this afternoon, adopting forty texts on a wide range of issues, including on the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind, on the composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on human rights and the environment, on freedom or religion or belief, on the rights of the child, on the right to food, on protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS, on the role of international cooperation in the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities, on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, on combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, and on cooperation between Tunisia and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council also adopted texts on follow-up to the report on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla, the review process of the Council, the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, the right to development, and the Social Forum.

The Council extended the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, the Special Rapporteur on torture, and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Council also extended the mandates of two Independent Experts, on the effects of foreign debt and on minority issues, and of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances. The Council decided to postpone the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity until its seventeenth session, and for that reason it extended the mandate of the Independent Expert until June 2011. The Council also decided to extend the mandate of the current Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The Council elected six new members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and appointed Maina Kiai as the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. It also approved candidates for the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Council decided to dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to Côte d’Ivoire to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed in Côte d’Ivoire following the presidential elections. Also, the Council decided that the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi will report to the Council at its seventeenth session, to be followed with an interactive dialogue, in view of the major changes in the Government of Burundi following the 2010 elections.

By virtue of the adopted texts, the Council decided to hold a panel on the human rights of victims of terrorism; a panel discussion to give voice to people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, in particular young people, women and orphaned children; and a panel on the right to development entitled “The way forward in the realization of the right to development: between policy and practice”, and a panel discussion on international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels.

The Council elected six new members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, appointing Dheerujall Baramlall Seetulsingh, Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Purufucacion Quisumbing, Latif Huseynov and Anantonia Reyes Prado. Further, it approved candidates for special procedures mandate holders, including Maina Kiai for the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Emma Aouij, Mercedes Barquet, Kamala Chandrakirana, Frances Raday and Eleonora Zielinska for the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice; and Mireille Fanon-Mendes for the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. The Council also appointed Vital Bambanze, Jannie Lasimbang, Anastasia Chukhman, Jose Carlos Morales Morales and Wilton Littlechild for the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Over the course of its session, the Council heard a number of high-profile reports and held interactive dialogues with the Special Procedures presenting them, including the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; the Special Rapporteur on the right to food; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and Independent Expert on minority issues.

The Council also heard presentations from the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, which were followed by interactive debates. In addition, the Chairperson of the Working Group on Human Rights Education and Training presented a report to the Council. The Council also heard presentations of the reports of its subsidiary bodies: the Forum on Minority Issues and the Social Forum, and the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Council also undertook a review of human rights situations that required its attention, hearing presentations of reports by Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which were debated by the Council.

On Thursday, 3 March, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, addressed the Council to present her annual report of the work of her Office, which covered the activities undertaken last year in the framework of the thematic priorities. Discrimination remained an obstinate obstacle to the realisation of human rights and the empowerment of the vulnerable, while migrants, especially those in irregular situations, were particularly vulnerable to discrimination and were often denied access to essential public services. Concerning violence and abuse against women and girls, the Office had convened a high-level panel to go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to hear directly from and engage in a dialogue with victims of sexual violence regarding their needs and their perceptions of remedies and reparations available to them. Following the presentation there was an interactive debate with the High Commissioner, during which speakers raised a range of issues, including the rapid response demonstrated during the recent violence and human rights violations in North Africa and the Middle East; commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development and the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; the functioning of the Universal Periodic Review; and the need for a greater regard concerning the issues of discrimination and violence against women.

The Council also considered and debated the High Commissioner’s report on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS; the High Commissioner’s report on the composition of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; the Report of the Secretary-General on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights; the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; and a thematic study by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the role of international cooperation in support of national efforts for the realisation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Council also reviewed two compilations, one of United Nation’s manuals, guidelines, training materials and other tools on minority issues and another of references to paragraphs containing conclusions and recommendations in reports of Special Procedures.

On Monday, 21 March, the High Commissioner gave a presentation of reports concerning the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, followed by a general debate on the same topic, in which speakers noted that the Middle East and the world were witnessing an important transformation with potentially historic consequences and wondered whether the winds of change would also blow in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, injecting the much needed oxygen and energy to the efforts to achieve, at long last, a just and comprehensive peace, or would this conflict continue to defy the lessons of history, humanity and international law. The Council also held an interactive dialogue with the Committee of Independent Experts on follow-up to recommendations in the Goldstone Report. The Committee was mandated to monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both the government of Israel and the Palestinian side in the context of follow-up to the report of the International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report.

In the second week of its session, the Council held its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, focusing on the theme of the children living and or working on the street, holding a panel discussion focusing on root causes and factors leading children to this situation, and another panel discussion on prevention strategies and responses to the conditions of children living and or working in the street.

The Council further held a number of general debates, including on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development; human rights situations that required the Council’s attention; human rights bodies and mechanisms; the Universal Periodic Review mechanism; the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories; follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; and on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance: follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Council also held its annual debate on the human rights of persons with disabilities.

The Council also held panel discussions on the enjoyment of human rights of people of African descent, and on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage taking.

As this was the Council’s first regular session of the year, at the beginning of its sixteenth session, the Council held its annual High-Level Segment during which it was addressed by a range of foreign dignitaries from all areas of the world on a range of subjects.

In the context of its Universal Periodic Review procedure, the Council adopted the outcomes of the reports of its Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review on Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, Maldives, Andorra, Bulgaria, Honduras, Lebanon, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Jamaica, Micronesia, Mauritania and United States of America. The Universal Periodic Review of Libya, scheduled for the current session of the Human Rights Council was postponed to its seventeenth session that will take place 30 May to 17 June 2011.

In the context of technical assistance and capacity building, the Council heard the third joint report of seven United Nations experts on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and considered the High Commissioner’s reports on Guatemala, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Sierra Leone, Cyprus and Kyrgyzstan.

The sixteenth session, which was presided over by Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, was held from 28 February to 25 March 2011.

The seventeenth regular session of the Council will be held from 30 May to 17 June 2011.

Resolutions Adopted by the Council

Organizational and Procedural Matters

On the follow-up to the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla, the Council welcomed the establishment of the United Nations panel of inquiry and requested the High Commissioner to submit a report on the status of the implementation of the conclusions contained in the report to the Council at its seventeenth session.

On the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council, the Council adopted the “Outcome of the review of the work and functioning of the United Nations Human Rights Council” and decided that the Outcomes shall be a supplement to the Institution-Building Package.

On the postponement of the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, the Council decided to postpone the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity to its seventeenth session, and for that reason extended the mandate of the Independent Expert until June 2011.

Annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

On the composition of the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council expressed its serious concern at the fact that, despite the measures taken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the imbalance in the geographical representation of its composition continued to be prominent and requested the High Commissioner to continue to take all measures needed to redress the current imbalance in geographical distribution of the staff of the Office.

Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development

On the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, the Council adopted the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training and recommended that the General Assembly adopt it and invited Governments, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to intensify their efforts to disseminate the Declaration and to promote universal respect and understanding thereof.

On the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Council welcomed the recognition of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council and decided to extend the mandate of the current mandate holder as a Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation for a period of three years.

On promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind, the Council requested the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee to prepare a study on how a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to present that study to the Council before its twenty-first session.

On human rights and the environment, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct, within existing resources, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between human rights and the environment, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council prior to its nineteenth session.

On the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, the Council urged all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

On the right to development, the Council decided to hold a panel during the eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council on the theme “The way forward in the realization of the right to development: between policy and practice”, with the participation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On the freedom of opinion and expression and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years and requested the Special Rapporteur to submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly covering all activities relating to his/her mandate.

On torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, the Council stressed the contribution of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court to ending impunity, through ensuring accountability and punishing perpetrators and decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for a further period of three years.

On the rights of the child and a holistic approach to the protection and promotion of the rights of children working and/or living on the street, the Council called on States to give priority attention to the prevention of the phenomenon of children working and/or living on the street by addressing its diverse causes through economic, social and educational strategies and decided to focus its next full-day meeting on children and the administration of justice.

On freedom of religion or belief, the Council welcomed the report presented by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, on freedom of religion or belief and school education and urged all Governments to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur, to respond favourably to his requests to visit their countries and to provide him with all necessary information to enable him to fulfil his mandate even more effectively.

On the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a period of three years and called upon Governments to give serious consideration to responding favourably to the requests of the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries, and urged them to enter into a constructive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur.

On the right to food, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to collect the views and comments of all Member States, all relevant United Nations special agencies and programmes and all other relevant stakeholders so that the Advisory Committee could take them into account for the conclusion of its comprehensive studies and requested the Advisory Committee to continue to work on the issue of discrimination in the context of the right to food.

On the 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, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert for a period of three years and requested the Independent Expert to explore further the inter-linkages with trade and other issues, including HIV/AIDS, when examining the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights and also to contribute, as appropriate, to the process entrusted with the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development.

On the role of international cooperation in support of national efforts for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a study on participation in political and public life by persons with disabilities, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, and requested that the study be made available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner in an accessible format prior to the nineteenth session of the Council.

On the panel on human rights of victims of terrorism, the Council decided to convene, within existing resources, at its seventeenth session, a panel discussion on the issue of human rights of victims of terrorism, taking into account, inter alia, the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism, held in New York on 9 September 2008.

On the protection of human rights in the context of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to engage actively with the 2011 General Assembly High-level Meeting on AIDS and decided to hold a panel discussion at its nineteenth session to give voice to people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, in particular young people, women and orphaned children.

On enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Working Group for a further period of three years and noted with concern that, according to the Working Group, it had insufficient resources to effectively exercise its mandate.

On the mandate of the Independent Expert on minority issues, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on minority issues for a period of three years, and requested the Independent Expert: to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; to apply a gender perspective in his/her work; to cooperate closely with existing relevant United Nations bodies, mandates and mechanisms and with regional organizations; to take into account the views of non-governmental organizations on matters pertaining to his/her mandate; to guide the work of the Forum on Minority Issues, as decided by the Council in its resolution 6/15; and to submit annual reports on his/her activities to the Council.

On the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, for a period of three years and invited the Special Rapporteur, in carrying out his/her mandate, to continue to adopt a comprehensive and universal approach to the elimination of violence against women, its causes and consequences, including causes of violence against women related to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social spheres.

Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

On the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Council expressed its very serious concern at the ongoing grave, widespread and systematic human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. The Council also urged the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to ensure full, rapid and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance that is delivered on the basis of need, in accordance with humanitarian principles, coupled with adequate monitoring.

On the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Council strongly condemned the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar and decided to extend for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

On the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Council decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, to present an interim report to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session and to submit a report to the Council for its consideration at its nineteenth session. The Council called upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country as well as all necessary information to enable the fulfilment of the mandate.

On the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, the Council expressed concern at the seriousness and extent of the abuses and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and decided to dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed in Côte d’Ivoire following the presidential election of 28 November 2010, and to present its findings to the Council at its seventeenth session.

Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

On the Social Forum, the Council decided that the Social Forum will meet for three working days in 2011 in Geneva and that that the Social Forum will remain open to the participation of representatives of Member States of the United Nations and all other interested stakeholders.

Human rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

On human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Council called upon Israel to immediately release Syrian detainees in Israeli prisons, some of whom had been detained for more than 25 years, and called on Israel to treat them in conformity with international humanitarian law.

On the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the Council demanded that Israel immediately stop its illegal decisions to demolish a large number of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem and release Palestinian prisoners and detainees, including women, children and elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

On the right of the Palestinian people to self determination, the Council reaffirmed its support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security and stressed the need for respect for and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

On Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Council condemned the recent Israeli announcements of the construction of new housing units for Israeli settlers in and around occupied East Jerusalem and called upon the Government of Israel to immediately reverse its decisions, which would further undermine and jeopardize the ongoing efforts by the international community to reach a final settlement compliant with relevant United Nations resolutions.

On the follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, the Council urged the General Assembly to submit that report to the Security Council for its consideration and appropriate action, including consideration of referral of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Council also requested the High Commissioner to submit a progress report on the implementation of the present resolution to the Human Rights Council at its eighteen session of September 2011.

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

On the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance for a further period of three years.

On combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief, the Council condemned serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or beliefs, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups, in particular when condoned by Governments. The Council decided to convene a panel discussion on this issue at its seventeenth session.

Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

On cooperation between Tunisia and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council invited all parts of the United Nations system, including the Office of the High Commissioner and Member States, to assist the transitional process in Tunisia, including by supporting the mobilization of resources to tackle the economic and social challenges faced by Tunisia, in coordination with Tunisian authorities.

On advisory services and technical assistance for Burundi, the Council resolved that the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi will report to the Council at its seventeenth session, to be followed by an interactive dialogue.

On the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the strengthening of technical cooperation and advisory services, the Council urged the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to redouble its efforts to expeditiously put an end to all violations of human rights and bring the perpetrators to justice and called upon the international community to respond quickly to requests for technical assistance made by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Council invited the Office of the High Commissioner to increase its direct collaboration with the Government and to strengthen, through its presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its programmes and technical assistance activities.

On the strengthening of technical cooperation and consultative services in Guinea, the Council invited the Guinean authorities to pursue their efforts to implement the recommendations of the international commission of inquiry and reiterated strongly its call to the international community to provide the Guinean authorities with appropriate assistance to promote respect for human rights, combating impunity and reform of the security and justice sectors and to support the national bureau of the High Commissioner in Guinea.

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For use of the information media; not an official record