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Human Rights Council concludes eighteenth session

ROUND UP

30 September 2011

Adopts 31 Resolutions, 2 Presidential Statements, Appoints New Special Procedures Mandate Holders, and Extends Mandates of Special Rapporteurs

The Human Rights Council closed its eighteenth regular session this afternoon, adopting 33 texts on a wide range of issues, including on the resumption of Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council; on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression on the Internet; on the death penalty; on preventable maternal morbidity and human rights; on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; on human rights and international solidatrity; on human rights and indigenous peoples; on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking; and on human rights and climate change.

By virtue of the texts adopted, the Council established a new Special Procedure mandate of Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order. The Council also established a Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. The Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste. The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan was extended along with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi. On the situation of human rights in Cambodia, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The Council also extended the mandate of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

The Council also adopted texts on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights; on technical assistance and capacity-building to Yemen in the field of human rights; on human rights and the administration of justice, in particular juvenile justice; on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights; on the regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights; on the human rights of migrants; on the right to development; on human rights and unilateral coercive measures; on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights; on the promotion of awareness, understanding and the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through sport and the Olympic ideal; on the incompatibility between democracy and racism; on the promotion of multiculturalism as a means of protecting human rights and combating xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance; on the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; and on concrete actions against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia related intolerance.

The Council also announced the appointment of the members of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged violations of human rights law in Syria. Chaired by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Brazil), the Commission included Karen Abu Zeid (United States) and Yakin Erturk (Turkey).


The Council announced the appointment of the members of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, which were Michael Addo (Ghana); Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia); Pavel Sulyandziga (Russia); Alexandra Guaqueta (Colombia/United States); and Margaret Jungk (United States).

Doudou Diène (Senegal) was appointed as Independent Expert on Côte d'Ivoire.

Gabor Rona (United States/Hungary) was appointed as a member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination for the Group of Western European and other States.


The President also informed the Council that Cherif Bassiouni was stepping down as Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Libya but he would remain a member of it. Philippe Kirsch, a member of the Commission, would take over as Chairman.

During the session, the Council heard a number of high-profile reports and held interactive dialogues with the Special Procedures presenting them, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict; the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery; the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights; the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples; the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Council also heard presentations, followed by interactive dialogues, from the Chairperson Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; and the Working Group of Experts on people of African descent.

On Monday, 12 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, addressed the Council. Ms. Pillay said the Council’s eighteenth session was opening against the background of towering human rights challenges, such as the food emergency in the Horn of Africa and fears of a new global recession and noted the failure of Governments to meet their preventive and remedial human rights obligations, which included the responsibility of effective governance and human rights-based cooperation.

The Council undertook a review of human rights situations that required its attention, hearing presentations of reports, which were then debated, by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Yemen; on the Commission of Inquiry into the situation of human rights in Libya; on the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan; and on the oral report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

During its eighteenth session, the Human Rights Council undertook a follow up to its Special Session on the situation of human rights in Syria. The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the Fact-Finding Mission on Syria had found a pattern of widespread or systematic human rights violations by Syrian security and military forces that could amount to crimes against humanity. In the interactive dialogue that followed, speakers expressed concern about the number of civilian victims and said that all parties in Syria should use maximum self control to avoid an escalation of the situation.

On Monday, 26 September, the Council heard the report of the Secretary-General on progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict and the report of the High Commissioner on the implementation of resolution 16/32. It was followed by a general debate, in which speakers said Israel should immediately lift the illegal blockade imposed on Gaza and implement the recommendations contained in the Fact-Finding Mission.

In the second week of its session, the Council held a half-day panel on the role of languages and culture in the protection of well-being and identity of indigenous peoples

The Council considered thematic reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General on human rights. The report of the Secretary-General on cooperation in the field of human rights stressed that States should take all necessary measures to stop reprisals and protect persons who cooperated with the United Nations. The report of the Secretary-General on the question of the death penalty drew attention to the continuing trend towards abolition. The report of the High Commissioner on human rights and transitional justice contained an update on the activities undertaken by her Office since July 2009 in the context of transitional justice, including demobilization and reintegration of former combatants and transitional justice. The report on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights included the recommendations from the workshop and called for further research. The report on the obligation of States to investigate serious violations of human rights and the use of forensic genetics illustrated the legal obligation of States to investigate gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and outlined State law and practice regarding investigation through the use of forensic genetics and the establishment of genetic databanks. The report on the rights of indigenous peoples focused on initiatives undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner that contributed to the full application of these rights and provided an overview of the recent developments undertaken by treaty bodies and the Council’s Special Procedures and mechanisms. The remaining reports addressed practices in adopting a human rights-based approach to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, a summary of the Council’s panel discussion on the issue of human rights in the context of action taken to address terrorist hostage-taking, and the situation of migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing events in North Africa, among others.

The Council also heard a presentation from the Chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards.

During its first week, the Council held panel discussions on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests; on the realization of the right to development; and on the right to health of older persons. In the second week of its session, the Council held a half day panel on the role of languages and culture on the protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples. In the third week of its session, the Council held its annual discussion on the integration of the gender perspective, with a focus on institutional implications of gender integration; and a high-level panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights through tolerance and reconciliation in commemoration of Nelson Mandela day.

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; the thematic reports presented by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office; on human rights situations that required the Council’s attention; on human rights bodies and mechanisms; on follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories; on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and follow-up implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; and on technical assistance and capacity building, during which the situations in Cambodia, Somalia and Cote d’Ivoire were discussed.

Over the session, the council adopted two Presidential Statements. On the Presidential Statement on Funding of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council decided to invite the High Commissioner to include in her Annual Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report detailed information on: allocation of the regular budget according to programme and mandate; voluntary contributions received by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and their specific allocation; allocation of earmarked and unearmarked contributions according to programme and mandate allocation of funding for Special Procedures; which would be considered at a mutually agreed forum. On the Presidential Statement on Technical Assistance and Reinforcement of Capacities for Haiti, the Council decided, upon request of the authorities of Haiti, to technically extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti until the nineteenth session of the Council.

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 Belgium, Denmark, Palau, Somalia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Latvia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Suriname, Greece, Samoa, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Sudan, Hungary and Papua New Guinea.

In the context of technical assistance and capacity building, the Council considered the report presented by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia and held an interactive debate on this agenda item in which speakers said it was imperative that the international community donate funds to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia for nation building and to provide coordination of efforts to support internally displaced persons and humanitarian relief. The Council heard the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, followed by an interactive debate in which speakers welcomed Cambodia’s acceleration of its legislative programme to implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on the judiciary.

The eighteenth session, presided over by Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay, was held from 12 September to 30 September. The eighteenth session will formally conclude on Friday 21 October when the new Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance will be announced. The nineteenth regular session of the Council will be held from xxx to xxx 2012.

Resolutions Adopted by the Council

Organizational and procedural matters

On the resumption of Libya's membership in the Human Rights Council, the Council welcomed the commitments made by Libya to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, to promote and protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law and cooperation with relevant international human rights mechanisms including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Commission of Inquiry established by Human Rights Council resolution S-15/1. The Council recommended that the General Assembly lift the suspension of Libya’s membership rights in the Human Rights Council at its current session.


Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

On the report by the Secretary-General on the question of the death penalty, the Council requested the Secretary-General to continue to submit to the Human Rights Council a yearly supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty on persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence, on pregnant women and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.

On preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights, the Council requested the Office of High Commissioner to convene in cooperation with other relevant entities of the United Nations system, an expert workshop, open also to the participation of Governments, regional organizations, relevant United Nations bodies, and civil society organizations, to prepare concise technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, including the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

On the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Council acknowledged with appreciation the third annual report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, and welcomed the submission of the compilation of good practices on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, in which the Special Rapporteur put particular emphasis on practical solutions with regard to the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. It also called upon States to continuously monitor and regularly analyze the status of the realization of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the basis of the criteria of availability, quality, acceptability, accessibility and affordability.

On the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, the Council decided to establish, for a period of three years, a new Special Procedure mandate of Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, with a mandate to identify possible obstacles to the promotion and protection of a democratic and equitable international order, to identify best practices and to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the adoption of measures at the local, national, regional and international levels. The Council requested the Independent Expert to present their first report to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-first session.

On the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, the Council decided to appoint for a period of three years a Special Rapporteur whose tasks would include gathering relevant information on national situations relating to the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence in addressing gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, and to make recommendations thereon. The Council requested the Special Rapporteur to report annually to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

On the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, the Council decided to convene, at its nineteenth session, a panel discussion with a focus on the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities as well as on achievements, best practices and challenges in that regard.

On the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Council once again urged all States to take the necessary steps and to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by the activities of mercenaries. It condemned mercenary activities in developing countries in various parts of the world, in particular in areas of conflict, and called on all States to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and their nationals were not used for the recruitment, financing, training and transit of mercenaries.

On human rights and international solidarity, the Council affirmed that international solidarity was not limited to international assistance and cooperation and aid; it was a broader concept that included sustainability in international relations, and it urged the international community to urgently consider concrete measures to promote and consolidate international assistance to developing countries in their development endeavours. The Council requested the High Commissioner to convene in 2012 a workshop for an exchange of views on the gender implications of international solidarity, the role of international solidarity in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the realization of the right to development.

On human rights and indigenous peoples, the Council welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and requested the Expert Mechanism to prepare a study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of indigenous peoples, in addition to a questionnaire survey to seek the views of States on best practices to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Council decided to hold, on an annual basis a half-day panel on the rights of indigenous peoples and to hold, at its twenty-first session, a half-day panel on access to justice by indigenous peoples.

On the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, the Council decided to extend the mandate, with the new title of Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, for a further period of three years, and called upon countries to facilitate the work of the Special Rapporteur by providing information and inviting him to undertake country visits.
On the promotion and protection of freedom of expression on the Internet, the Council adopted a resolution on convening at its nineteenth session a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression on the Internet, with a particular focus on the ways and means to improve its protection in accordance with international human rights law.
On human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking, the Council requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a study focusing in particular on how hostage-taking by terrorist groups posed challenges and had an adverse impact not only for the protection of the human rights of hostages but also for the protection and enjoyment of those rights of those living within local communities.
On the promotion of multiculturalism as a means of protecting human rights and combating xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance, the Council decided to convene at its twentieth session a panel discussion on the promotion of multiculturalism as a means of protecting human rights and combating xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance.

On human rights in the administration of justice, in particular juvenile justice, the Council requested the High Commissioner submit an analytical report to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-first session on the protection of human rights of juveniles deprived of their liberty; and decided to continue its consideration of this issue under the same agenda item in accordance with its annual programme of work.

On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, the Council stressed that States should promote supportive and enabling environments for the prevention of human rights violations and encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a practical toolkit to support stakeholders in understanding the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights.

On regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, requested the High Commissioner to hold, in 2012, a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights to take stock of developments since the workshop in 2010, and to organize a thematic discussion based on the concrete and practical experience of regional mechanisms; and also requested the High Commissioner to present to the Human Rights Council, at its twenty-second session, a report on the discussions held at the above-mentioned workshop and on the progress towards the implementation of the present resolution.

On the human rights of migrants, the Council called upon States that have not yet signed, ratified or acceded to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as a matter of priority, to consider doing so, and to strengthen measures to protect the human rights of migrant workers in times of humanitarian crisis. The Council also requested the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to continue his efforts to promote and support the building of greater synergies between States to strengthen cooperation for the protection of human rights of all migrant workers and their families.

On human rights and climate change, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, prior to the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council, a seminar on addressing the adverse impacts of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights and invite States and other relevant stakeholders, including academic experts, civil society organizations and representatives of those segments of the population most vulnerable to climate change, to participate.

On the right to development, the Council decided to continue to act to ensure that its agenda promotes and advances sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and that the criteria should be used in the elaboration of a comprehensive set of standards for the implementation of the right to development. The Council agreed to review the progress of the implementation of the present resolution as a matter of priority at its future sessions.

On human rights and unilateral coercive measures, the Council noted that the thematic study on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights commissioned in resolution 15/24 required additional time for its completion and would therefore be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its nineteenth session. The Council decided to examine this question in accordance with its annual programme of work under the same agenda item.

Human rights bodies and mechanisms

On cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, the Council urged States to take all necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of reprisals and intimidation, bearing in mind that free and unhindered contact and cooperation with individuals and civil society were indeed indispensable to enable the United Nations and its mechanisms to fulfill their mandates. The Council decided to convene, at its twenty-first session, a panel discussion under agenda item 5 on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

On the promotion of awareness, understanding and the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through sport and the Olympic ideal, the Council decided to convene, within existing resources, at its nineteenth session, a high-level interactive panel discussion to highlight, examine and suggest ways in which sport and major sporting events, in particular the Olympic and Paralympics Games, could be used to promote awareness and understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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

On the incompatibility between democracy and racism, the Council encouraged States to consider developing awareness-raising and education campaigns with a view to combating discrimination and intolerance; stressed the need to implement fully obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as the principal convention in the fight against racism; and took note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

On concrete actions against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Council decided that the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action should convene its tenth session from 8 to 19 October 2012; requested the Secretary-General to make available to the Human Rights Council at its twentieth session his progress report submitted to the General Assembly; and urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to take measures within the framework of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

On the Mandate of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Working Group for a further period of three years; decided that the Working Group should undertake a minimum of two country visits per year; and requested the Working Group to submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council on all activities relating to its mandate.

Technical assistance and capacity-building

On technical assistance for the Sudan in the field of human rights, the Council commended the cooperation extended by the Government of the Sudan to the Independent Expert and to the United Nations and African Union missions in the Sudan in the field of human rights and international humanitarian law. The Council noted the humanitarian situation in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and called upon all parties to make every effort to immediately end violence and halt clashes. Furthermore the Council urged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Sudan with the necessary technical support and training and renewed for a period of one year the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan; and requested the Independent Expert to submit a report to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its twenty-first session.

On technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights, the Council called upon the Government of South Sudan to strengthen ongoing cooperation with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan on issues pertaining to human rights. The Council invited the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to identify and assess areas of assistance and to assist South Sudan with appropriate technical assistance if requested, and called upon the Member States of the United Nations in the framework of international cooperation, relevant United Nations agencies and international financial institutions to provide the Government of South Sudan, upon its request, with appropriate technical assistance and capacity-building to promote respect for human rights.

On technical assistance and capacity-building to Yemen in the field of human rights, the Council called upon the Government of Yemen and the other parties to address the recommendations in the report of the High Commissioner and condemned all violations of human rights in Yemen by all parties and called upon all parties to move forward with negotiations on an inclusive, orderly and Yemen-led process of political transition on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s initiative. The Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to coordinate with donors on ways to assist the Government of Yemen and non-governmental organizations with capacity-building for the establishment of a national human rights institution and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to present a progress report on the situation of human rights in Yemen, and the follow-up on the present resolution, to the Human Rights Council at its nineteenth session.

On advisory services and technical assistance for Burundi, the Council recalled resolution 9/19 of 24 September 2008, by which the Council extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi until the establishment of an independent national human rights commission, and welcomed in the creation of an independent national human rights commission and the effective establishment of a human rights institution by the Government of Burundi, and noted that the Independent Expert had satisfied the requirements of his mandate.

On advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia, the Council decided to extend by two years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, and requested the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of his mandate to the Council at its twenty-first and twenty-fourth sessions. The Council urged the Government of Cambodia to continue to strengthen its efforts to establish a democratic society, to enhance its efforts to investigate and to prosecute all those who have perpetrated serious crimes, including violations of human rights and to enhance its efforts to resolve equitably and expeditiously land ownership issues.

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For use of information media; not an official record