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Council appoints a Special Rapporteur on Belarus, adopts 12 resolutions on promotion and protection of all human rights

Human Rights Council
MORNING 5 July 2012

Decides under Complaint Procedure to Discontinue Review of Religious Minorities in Iraq, Keep under Review Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

The Human Rights Council this morning decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and adopted 12 other texts on the promotion and protection of all human rights concerning trafficking in persons, especially women and children, conscientious objection to military service, human rights of migrants, the right to a nationality, arbitrary deprivation of nationality, elimination of discrimination against women, right to education, promotion of human rights on the Internet, human rights of internally displaced persons, the effects of foreign debt, cultural rights and the elimination of violence against women.

At the beginning of the meeting, the President of the Council said that the Council had examined the situation of religious minorities in Iraq and the human rights situation in Eritrea under its Complaint Procedure. It had decided to discontinue its consideration of the situation of religious minorities in Iraq and recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provide Iraq with technical cooperation, assistance and advisory services. The Council had decided to keep under review the situation of human rights in Eritrea until its twenty-first session.

Regarding the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Council was concerned at the findings of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that suggested the existence of a pattern of serious violations of human rights in Belarus since 19 December 2010, of a systemic nature, and including intensified restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of association and expression as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment in custody and impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. The Council decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to monitor the situation of human rights in Belarus and to make recommendations for its improvement.

Belarus, speaking as the concerned country, said that the European Union aimed to push its own political agenda through this resolution and urged the Council to vote against it.

Concerning regarding trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the Council reiterated its concern at the high number of persons who are being trafficked within and between regions and States; and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to organize consultations on the draft basic principles on the right to effective remedy for trafficked persons.

With regards to conscientious objection to military service, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service and called upon all States to continue to review their laws, policies and practices relating to conscientious objection to military service.

Regarding the human rights of migrants, the Council called upon States to respect the right of everyone to education and encouraged them to take steps that promote the prevention and elimination of discriminatory policies that deny migrant children and children of migrants access to education.

On the issue of the right to a nationality: women and children, the Council called upon all States to adopt and implement nationality legislation with a view to prevent and reduce statelessness among women and children.

Regarding human rights and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, the Council urged all States to adopt and implement nationality legislation with a view to avoiding statelessness.

Regarding the elimination of discrimination against women, the Council called upon States to ensure full representation and full and equal participation of women in political, social and economic decision-making as an essential condition for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and a critical factor in the eradication of poverty.

In relation to the right to education and in follow-up to resolution 8/4, the Council called upon all States to achieve the Education For All targets and to give full effect to the right to education.

Concerning the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, the Council affirmed that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression.

Regarding the human rights of internally displaced persons, the Council called upon States to provide durable solutions and assist affected countries in their national efforts relating to internally displaced persons.

Concerning 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 requested the Independent Expert to report to the General Assembly on the issue of the effects of foreign debt of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights.

Regarding the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, in 2013, a seminar on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, and to provide all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur.

On the issue of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and remedies for women who have been subjected to violence, the Council strongly condemned all acts of violence against women and girls and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare and present to the Council recommendations on how to create and/or strengthen linkages and synergies between the mechanisms of the Council and also with other relevant intergovernmental processes on the issue of violence against women and girls.

Introducing draft resolutions were Philippines, Germany, Croatia, Mexico, Russian Federation, Colombia, Portugal, Sweden, Tunisia, Brazil, Austria, Cuba, Canada and Cyprus on behalf of the European Union.

Speaking in general comments were United States, Thailand, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

India, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Costa Rica, Mexico, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Uruguay, Kyrgyzstan, China, Bangladesh, and Cuba spoke in explanation of the vote before the vote and explanation of the vote after the vote.

Belarus spoke as a concerned country.

The Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 p.m., to continue to take action on draft resolutions and decisions. It will close its twentieth regular session on Friday, 6 July.

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

Action on Resolution on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.1) regarding trafficking in persons, especially women and children, adopted without a vote, the Council reiterates its concern at the high number of persons, especially women and children, who are being trafficked within and between regions and States; increasing activities of transnational and national organized crime groups and others who profit from trafficking in persons; the use of new information technologies for the purposes of exploitation that constitute trafficking; the high level of impunity enjoyed by traffickers; and the denial of rights and justice to victims of trafficking. It urges States to recognize trafficked persons as victims; calls upon States to consider signing, ratifying and implementing relevant United Nations legal instruments; and urges States and requests United Nations bodies to continue to contribute to the effective implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to organize, in close cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, consultations with States, regional intergovernmental bodies and organizations and civil society on the draft basic principles on the right to effective remedy for trafficked persons, and to submit a summary thereon to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-sixth session. The Council calls upon all States to continue to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and decides to continue consideration of this matter under the same agenda item in accordance with its annual programme of work.

Philippines, introducing resolution A/HRC/ 20/L.1, said trafficking in persons remained a major problem for humanity and global statistics were alarming. The need for intensified efforts on the shared responsibility among Governments of source, transit and destination countries could not be ignored. Germany and the Philippines were presenting today for adoption resolution A/HRC/20/L.1 to pursue the application of a human rights based approach by all relevant actors in countries of origin, transit and destination, to intensify their multilateral cooperation in terms of policies, programmes and action to combat and prevent trafficking in persons. In this resolution States were urged to recognize trafficked persons as victims with specific protection needs and ensure the promotion, protection and fulfilment of their human rights, especially their right to effective remedy when these rights were violated.

Germany, also introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.1, said that trafficking in persons remained a heinous crime which deprived persons of their liberty, caused physical harm and violated their human rights. States should do their utmost to identify victims, provide support, and do everything necessary to restore the dignity of the affected persons. Trafficking in persons was a serious challenge to humanity and required a concerted response from the international community.

United States, in a general comment, said it was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution and welcomed the spirit of cooperation during the negotiations. The resolution, by highlighting the different forms of assistance that could be provided to victims of trafficking, reminded all States of their responsibility to assist survivors of trafficking. The United States was able to provide a range of services to victims, including to foreign nationals, and remedies were offered as a humanitarian response recognising the hardship undergone by victims of trafficking and as an incentive for victims to collaborate with the authorities to bring perpetrators to justice. The United States encouraged States to implement similar measures and was pleased that the resolution included action-oriented measures for States to provide.

Action on Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military Service

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.4) on conscientious objection to military service, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare, in consultation with all States, relevant United Nations bodies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and national human rights institutions, a quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service and to submit the first report to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-third session and calls upon all States to continue to review their laws, policies and practices relating to conscientious objection to military service, including by considering, inter alia, introducing alternatives to military service, in the light of the present resolution.

Croatia, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.4, said that the resolution constituted the first such initiative at the Human Rights Council after a long pause of eight years since Croatia had presented the last resolution on the subject at the Commission on Human Rights. The issue of conscientious objection to military service continued to be a very relevant component of international human rights protection and promotion, and was one of the key elements of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. During the time elapsed since the last resolution, there had been a number of positive developments on the question, at regional and international levels. Croatia felt it was the right moment for the Human Rights Council to address this very pertinent question and was introducing the resolution in order to reinstate the Office of the High Commissioner reporting on the issue and thus pave the way to a future substantive discussion on conscientious objection to military service in the Council.

United States, in a general comment, said that it fully supported the right of persons to object conscientiously to military service without reprisal or punishment of any kind.

Action on Resolution on the Human Rights of Migrants

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.6) regarding the human rights of migrants, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to respect the right of everyone to education and encourages them to take steps that promote the prevention and elimination of discriminatory policies that deny migrant children and children of migrants access to education; calls upon all States to ensure that their immigration policies are consistent with their obligations under international human rights law; urges States to take specific measures to promote access to education for everyone, including by taking into account physical, financial, cultural and linguistic barriers that may contribute to furthering inequalities; encourages countries of origin, transit and destination to seek technical assistance and/or to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to better promote and protect the human rights of migrants, including the right to education; requests the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education to continue their efforts to promote and support the building of greater synergies among States; and also requests the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to continue to report on practical solutions in order to enhance the protection of human rights of migrants.

Mexico, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.6, said that as a vulnerable group, migrants required specific treatment that guaranteed respect and effective enjoyment of their fundamental rights. Amongst the tools to realize this were the rationalization of the normative framework in the area of migration and human rights. Many provisions existed in a range of international instruments, applicable to their situation. Systematizing and incorporating these in Human Rights Council resolutions would facilitate consolidation and evolution of measures taken by the international community to the benefit of migrants. The draft resolution attempted to strengthen the right to education of migrants and without doubt would be a step forward in the recognition of their human rights. It restated the obligations of States to effectively promote and protect the human rights of all migrants, particularly the rights of women and children irrespective of their legal situation. Education contributed to the full enjoyment of human rights, and the draft resolution encouraged countries of origin, transit and destination to request technical assistance by the Office of the High Commissioner, or to cooperate with it, to promote and better protect the rights of migrants, including the right to education. The Special Rapporteurs on human rights of migrants and education were both requested as part of their respective mandates to continue to promote and support created of better synergies between States.

Action on Resolution on the Right to a Nationality: Women and Children

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L8) regarding the right to a nationality: women and children, adopted without a vote, the Council reaffirms that the right to a nationality is a universal human right; calls upon all States to adopt and implement nationality legislation with a view to prevent and reduce statelessness among women and children; urges all States to refrain from enacting or maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation; urges States to reform nationality laws that discriminate against women by granting equal rights to men and women to confer nationality to their children and regarding the acquisition, change or retention of their nationality; also urges States to grant nationality to foundlings found in their territory, in the absence of proof that the foundling is not a national of the State where found; calls upon States to ensure free birth registration; calls upon States to implement their international legal obligations to combat human trafficking; requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare, in consultation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relevant stakeholders, a report on discrimination against women in nationality-related matters, including the impact on children, under national and international law, including best practices by States and other measures that eliminate nationality discrimination against women and avoid or reduce statelessness before the twenty-third session of the Council.

United States, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.8, said that the right to a nationality was a human right but had long been under-recognized. Several million persons around the world were stateless as a result of which they were lacking access to legal employment, were facing travel restrictions and were vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Specific reference was made to women’s and children’s right to a nationality. While each State had the right to determine who its nationals were, nevertheless all States were strongly encouraged to refrain from maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Arbitrary Deprivation of Nationality

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L9) regarding human rights and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, as orally revised, adopted without a vote, the Council urges all States to adopt and implement nationality legislation with a view to avoiding statelessness, in particular by preventing arbitrary deprivation of nationality and statelessness as a result of State succession; expresses its concern that persons arbitrarily deprived of nationality may be affected by poverty, social exclusion and limited legal capacity, which have an adverse impact on their enjoyment of relevant civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in particular in the areas of education, housing, employment, health and social security; urges all States to prevent statelessness through legislative and other measures aimed at ensuring that all children are registered immediately after birth and have the right to acquire a nationality; calls upon States to observe minimum procedural standards in order to ensure that decisions concerning the acquisition, deprivation or change of nationality do not contain any element of arbitrariness and are subject to review, in conformity with their international human rights obligations; calls upon States to ensure access of persons arbitrarily deprived of their nationality to effective remedies, including, but not limited to, restoration of nationality; and requests the Secretary-General to prepare a report on legislative and administrative measures that may lead to the deprivation of nationality of individuals or groups of individuals and to present the report to the Human Rights Council before its twenty-fifth session.

Russia, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.9, said that international law in the area of human rights established the obligation of all countries to respect the rights of individuals. Sometimes there was arbitrary deprivation of nationality on a large scale and carried out on discriminatory grounds. Arbitrary deprivation of nationality led to a situation where persons became non-citizens and often became stateless. It also placed these persons in a disadvantageous position in terms of enjoyment of their human rights. The status of non-citizens allowed for the imposition of restrictions that would otherwise not be allowed, and made them vulnerable to human rights violations. The draft resolution requested the United Nations Secretary-General to prepare for the twenty-fifth session a report on legislative measures that would lead to the arbitrary deprivation of nationality. Violations on a large scale that were systemic and discriminatory in nature were of special concern. The key paragraph of the draft resolution appealed for the provision of citizenship to those that had been habitual residents. Nationality in those cases should be provided without preliminary conditions.

Action on Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.11) regarding the elimination of discrimination against women, adopted without a vote, the Council recognizes the constructive approach of the Working Group and calls upon it to maintain such an approach and dialogue with States; requests the Working Group to give special attention to the importance of the right to education as a key to the empowerment of women and girls in all spheres; to dedicate specific attention to good practices; and to offer support to States’ initiatives to address multiple forms of discrimination against women when implementing their obligations as States parties to relevant international human rights treaties. The Council calls upon States to ensure full representation and full and equal participation of women in political, social and economic decision-making as an essential condition for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and a critical factor in the eradication of poverty and invites States, relevant United Nations bodies and civil society actors, including non-governmental organizations, as well as the private sector, to cooperate fully with the Working Group in the fulfilment of its mandate.

Colombia, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.11, said that the protection and promotion of the enjoyment of full rights by women was a priority of the Council. Colombia welcomed the work of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women. Member States had a commitment to making further progress to eliminating discrimination against women and girls, taking into account the right to education as a key way of promoting equality in society.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Education: Follow-up to Human Rights Council Resolution 8/4

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.12) regarding the right to education and in follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 8/4, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon all States to take all measures to implement Human Rights Council resolutions 8/4, 11/6 of 17 June 2009, and 15/4 of 29 September 2010 and 17/3 to achieve the Education For All targets; calls upon all relevant stakeholders to urgently increase their efforts so that the goals can be achieved by 2015; urges all States to give full effect to the right to education by, inter alia, promoting quality education, providing a healthy, hygienic and safe learning environment, with adequate water and sanitation facilities, improving teachers’ qualifications and working conditions and allocation of adequate financial resources to quality education; and urges States and other relevant stakeholders to pay enhanced attention to education in emergency situations by, inter alia, enhancing the protection of schools from attacks and strengthening safety and disaster risk reduction.

Portugal, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.12, said that the draft resolution was built upon the resolutions on the right to education previously adopted by the Council, reaffirmed them, and called upon all States to take all measures to implement them. It also reflected developments on the right to education in the past year. The draft resolution expressed deep concern at the fact that, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, most of the goals of the Education for All Agenda set for 2015 would be missed by a wide margin, and referred the particular challenges faced by countries affected by armed conflict. All States were urged to give full effect to the right to education. Focus was on the promotion of quality education through the development and strengthening of domestic legal and policy frameworks for the entire education system and the implementation of quality assessments with a view to promoting equitable education systems, learning opportunities and the empowerment of women, given particular consideration to the educational needs of segments of the population that were economically and socially marginalized.

United States, in a general comment, said that it strongly supported the right to education and firmly believed in quality education. The United States welcomed the resolution’s inclusion of other relevant rights, such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Thailand, in a general comment, said that it attached importance to the promotion of quality education. Thailand had participated actively in the negotiations and was proud to co-sponsor the draft resolution. It noted the potential budgetary implications of the draft resolution in order to achieve its goals. Technical cooperation and assistance were needed. Thailand also highlighted the importance of international cooperation and assistance, particularly for developing countries, and reiterated the importance of access to education, which should go hand in hand with efforts to promote quality education.

Action on Resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.13) regarding the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, adopted without a vote, the Council affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms; calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries; encourages Special Procedures to take these issues into account within their existing mandates; and decides to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and in other technologies, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.

Sweden, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.13, said that the vision of the resolution was to reaffirm the positive impact that the Internet and new information technologies had on society. Freedom of expression should be promoted and protected online as well as offline.

Tunisia, also introducing draft resolution A/HRC/20/L.13, said that Tunisia had launched a process of democratic transition, rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tunisia recalled the fundamental principle that all human rights should be respected both online and offline. Tunisia gave special importance to the Internet as a vector for the enjoyment of human rights with enormous potential and that access to it should be guaranteed for everyone. Tunisia believed the draft resolution addressed a very important message. The Internet was a formidable tool for expression and development.

Brazil, also introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.13, said that the resolution emphasised the relation between the Internet and human rights. What was valid offline should also be valid online, including freedom of expression. Brazil acknowledged with satisfaction that this first resolution on the Internet in the Council was underpinned by the Universal Declaration and both Covenants, on civil and political rights as well as on economic, social and cultural rights. The resolution also drew inspiration from General Assembly resolution 66/184. Democratic governance for the Internet was essential for the full enjoyment of this technological tool.

China, in a general comment, said that it had given careful consideration to the resolution and expressed the hope that attention would be paid to different views of countries on freedom of speech and on controlling the Internet. China noted that that some of China’s recommendations on the matter had not been fully accepted despite being constructive and reasonable. It stressed that online gambling, pornography and hacking were increasingly becoming a threat to the legal rights of society, particularly minors. States therefore were bound to run the Internet legally, otherwise the free flow of unhealthy and negative information would obstruct the function of the Internet.

Cuba, in a general comment, highlighted worrying points that it deemed were not properly reflected in the text. The draft resolution talked about human rights on the Internet but forgot that most persons in the world did not have access to Internet services or information technology. Unfortunately, something that also was not reflected in the resolution was Internet governance, and the fact that everybody knew the tool was controlled by a single country globally, hampering free access to this very important tool. It was important to highlight the fact that in the draft resolution, despite the delegation having made proposals along those lines, no language was incorporated that recognized the obstacles launched by some countries unilaterally and their implications when it came to access of new information technology. If this had been incorporated, the resolution would have been more balanced and could have been supported by more countries. Cuba hoped that in future these points would be taken into account. In the spirit of flexibility and compromise, it would nonetheless rally for consensus on the draft resolution.

Action on Resolution on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.14) regarding the human rights of internally displaced persons, adopted without a vote, the Council encourages the Special Rapporteur to continue his analysis of the root causes of internal displacement; calls upon States to provide durable solutions and assist affected countries in their national efforts relating to internally displaced persons; encourages States to continue to develop and implement domestic legislation dealing with all stages of displacement in an inclusive way; emphasizes the importance of taking the human rights and specific needs of internally displaced persons into consideration; expresses concern at the persistent problems of large numbers of internally displaced persons worldwide; expresses particular concern at the grave problems faced by many internally displaced women and children; condemns the continued perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence against internally displaced persons of all ages; calls upon States to ensure the full participation of internally displaced women at all levels of decision-making processes; expresses concern that many internally displaced children lack access to education; recommends that States ensure through all necessary measures that internally displaced children have access to education; and recognizes the adverse effects of climate change as contributors to environmental degradation which may contribute to human displacement.

Austria, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.14, said that the resolution placed emphasis on the particular situation of internally displaced persons who were not inside camps and whose human rights should also be protected. It also focused on the right to education of internally displaced children and stressed the consequences of climate change on the situation of internally displaced persons.

India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was of the view that internally displaced persons enjoyed the same national rights and freedoms as other persons in their counties. State responsibility and decisions on internal displacement was paramount. International or United Nations agencies should act on the request of the State or if the State was manifestly unwilling or unable to fulfill its responsibilities. This issue and that of climate change were beyond the competency of the Council. In the spirit of cooperation, India would go along with the consensus.

Action on Resolution 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 land Cultural Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.17) regarding 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, as orally amended, adopted by a vote of 31 votes in favour, 11 against and five abstentions, the Council reaffirms that responses to the global financial and economic crises should not result in a decrease in debt relief; affirms that the activities of vulture funds highlight some of the problems in the global financial system; calls upon creditors and debtors to consider the preparation of human rights impact assessments with regard to development projects, loan agreements or Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers; urges States, international financial institutions and the private sector to take urgent measures to alleviate the debt problem of those developing countries particularly affected by HIV/AIDS; and requests the Independent Expert to report to the General Assembly on the issue of the effects of foreign debt of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights.

The results of the vote are as follows:

For: ( 31 ) ; Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Koweit, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand, Uganda, Uruguay.

Against: ( 11 ) ; Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United States.

Abstentions: ( 5 ) ; Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway, Peru.

Cuba, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.17, said that the financial crisis affecting the world had had a very serious impact, especially on the developing world. Cuba regretted that there were still countries which failed to recognize the close link between the external debt of a State and the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens, and that an equitable solution to the debt problem of States had not yet been found.

Austria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union continued to believe that it was important for the Council to maintain a focused approach. The Council did not constitute the appropriate forum to discuss this issue. The European Union acknowledged the role and mandate of agencies and programmes in this field, and found that the current resolution was an unnecessary duplication of important work done by other international organizations. Resource limitations warranted serious consideration. Due to apprehension on a number of issues, the European Union would call for a vote and its Member States members of the Council would vote against this initiative.
Action on Resolution on the Promotion of the Enjoyment of the Cultural Rights of Everyone and Respect for Cultural Diversity
In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.18) regarding the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity, as orally amended, adopted without a vote, the Council recognizes the right of everyone to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications; recalls that no one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law; recognizes that respect for cultural rights is essential for development, peace and the eradication of poverty, building social cohesion and the promotion of mutual respect; requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, in 2013, a seminar on the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications; requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur and requests the Special Rapporteur to present her next report to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-third session.

Cuba, introducing resolution A/HRC/20/L.18, said that the resolution followed up the work of the Council in the area of cultural rights and stressed the importance of the promotion and protection of cultural diversity. It also regretted that cultural diversity and cultural relativism were often equated, and called for a better understanding of the relevant aspects of those issues.

United States, in a general comment, said that it continued to support cultural diversity, pluralism, tolerance, and dialogue between people from all countries. Cultural diversity had played a critical role in the United States’ own history. Human rights were universal and all Governments were responsible to abide by their obligations under human rights law. The United States was committed to respecting human rights domestically, but also promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental rights abroad. It was concerned that the concept of cultural diversity could be misused. It should not be used to undermine or limit the scope of human rights or justify or legitimize human rights abuses. Efforts to promote cultural diversity should not infringe on the enjoyment of human rights. These could be mutually reinforcing concepts.

Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, regretted that not all of the proposals which had been made by the European Union on the resolution had been accepted. The European Union noted with concern that some cultural practices violated human rights and stressed that it was the responsibility of States to promote and protect all fundamental rights of persons. It was also important that the resolution did not imply that cultural diversity could be invoked to justify the violation or restriction of human rights.

Action on Resolution on Acceleration of Efforts to Eliminate All Forms of Violence against Women and Remedies for Women who have been Subjected to Violence

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L.10) regarding acceleration of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and remedies for women who have been subjected to violence, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council strongly condemns all acts of violence against women and girls and calls for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence; stresses the need to treat all forms of violence against women and girls as a criminal offence; urges States to take measures to investigate, prosecute, punish and redress; to ensure that remedies for women and girls subjected to violence are available, accessible, acceptable, age- and gender-sensitive and adequately address victims’ needs; to place a high priority on removing gender bias from the administration of justice and enhancing the capacity of law enforcement officials to deal appropriately with violence against women; stresses the need to pay particular attention to marginalized groups of women and girls; emphasizes that the involvement of victims, victims advocacy groups, women’s organizations and other relevant stakeholders in the design and implementation of remedies enhances their effectiveness and requests the Office of the High Commissioner, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to prepare and present to the Council, at its twenty-third session, recommendations on how to create and/or strengthen linkages and synergies between the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and also with other relevant intergovernmental processes on the issue of violence against women and girls.

Canada, introducing draft resolution A/HRC/20/L.,10 said that the draft resolution aimed to identify the main elements to be considered in relation to implementation and follow up of issues related to gender perspectives. It encouraged States to contribute to the studies of the Special Rapporteur in the area of the elimination of all forms of violence against women, and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Human Rights Council with recommendations aimed at creating links and synergies between mechanisms of the Council. Canada noted that amendments were made to the draft resolution over the last week, and drew attention to specific revisions.

Saudi Arabia, in a general comment on resolution A/HRC/20/L.10, said that further consultation on the text of the resolution would have been beneficial. Saudi Arabia was firmly opposed to the Special Rapporteur’s introduction of the rights of homosexual and transgender persons into her mandate and also objected to the terminology used to describe discrimination and violence against women.

Action on Resolution Under Agenda item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus

In a resolution (A/HRC/20/L7) regarding the situation of human rights in Belarus, adopted by a vote of 22 votes in favour, five against and 20 abstentions, the Council expresses grave concern at the findings of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that suggest the existence of a pattern of serious violations of human rights since 19 December 2010, of a systemic nature, and including intensified restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of association and expression as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment in custody and impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations; urges the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners, to address reports of torture and ill-treatment and to put an immediate end to arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and arbitrary travel bans aimed at intimidating representatives of the political opposition and the media, as well as human rights defenders and civil society; decides to appoint a Special Rapporteur to monitor the situation of human rights in Belarus and to make recommendations for its improvement; to assist the Government of Belarus in fulfilling its human rights obligations; to offer support and advice to civil society; to seek, receive, examine and act on information from all relevant stakeholders pertaining to the situation of human rights in Belarus; and to report annually to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly and calls upon the Government of Belarus to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to provide him/her access to visit the country.

The results of the vote are as follows:

For: ( 22 ) ; Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Maldives, Mauritius, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United States.

Against: ( 5 ) ; China, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Russian Federation.

Abstentions: ( 20 ) ; Angola, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, , Guatemala, Indonesia, Koweit, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand, Uganda, Uruguay.

Cyprus, introducing draft resolution A/HRC/20/L.7 on behalf of European Union, said that the draft resolution reflected the findings of the High Commissioner’s report on the human rights situation in Belarus that suggested the existence of a pattern of serious violations of human rights since 19 December 2010, that was of systematic nature and included inter alia restriction aimed at curtailing fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, opinion, expression, and media, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment in custody, impunity of perpetrators of human rights violation and abuses, harassment of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and journalists, violations of due process and fair trial safeguards, and pressure on defense lawyers. The list of human rights violation referred to in the draft resolution was not exhaustive. The European Union remained concerned about the recent executions in Belarus, some which were carried out in breach of interim measures imposed by the Human Rights Committee. The European Union urged Belarus to establish a moratorium on the death penalty, as a first step towards its abolition. Over the past year and a half, the European Union had undertaken several progression steps to engage Belarus in a meaningful dialogue on its human rights situation with the Human Rights Council, and regretted that the Government had not reacted positively to any of those efforts. The resolution established a mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus, which would ensure dedicated and effective monitoring of the situation and report to the Council on developments on the ground. The European Union urged the Government of Belarus to comply with its international human rights obligations, cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur, and reverse its trend of non-cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Belarus, speaking as the concerned country, said that a group of countries was trying to impose a mandate on the Council and that the European Union aimed to push its own political agenda through that resolution. The European Union was therefore trying to present Belarus as a special case of human rights violator, while the members of European Union had failed to tackle human rights violations in their own countries. Belarus categorically rejected the draft resolution proposed, it did not recognize the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and it was not going to cooperate with him. It did however recognize that there were certain universal mechanisms within the framework of the United Nations, to which it was going to adhere. It would continue to act in the interest of the Belarusian people and stressed that it did want to be a client but also a partner to the European Union. United Nations members should not become targeted only because they were pursuing an independent foreign policy. Belarus urged the Council to vote against the draft resolution.

Costa Rica, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it believed it was very important that the Council addressed the human rights situation in any country. The human rights situation in this case was of concern to Costa Rica because of the information shared by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her report. Costa Rica believed the situation could indeed be dealt with in the Council. However, it did not see the added value in appointing a Special Rapporteur. As it saw it, Special Procedures would not establish a political dialogue that was productive in nature. Costa Rica had suggested that alternatives to the appointment of a Special Rapporteur should be explored, but that proposal was not accepted and it regretted that. It understood the legitimate concerns of the sponsors on the situation of a country in their region. That was why, though it did not agree with the appointment of a Special Rapporteur and its proposal had not been taken into account, Costa Rica would nonetheless vote in favour. Costa Rica asked Belarus not to close its door to cooperation and constructive dialogue with the Human Rights Council.

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Mexico would be abstaining and explained that that should not be taken as a position of indifference. The lack of democratic space in Belarus still persisted and all political prisoners had to be released. Mexico was concerned at the application of the death penalty in the country without respect to the guarantee of a fair trial. It also noted the reports on the restrictions imposed on the media, including the Internet and electronic media, and incidents of intimidation of journalists. Belarus had to address those issues and cooperate with the mechanisms of the Council.

Russia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, believed the resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus was subjective and counterproductive. Attempts to push through the issue of Belarus as urgent matter for consideration were unsubstantiated. Russia believed that problems in the human rights area should be based on discussions based on equality and mutual respect. Instead of promoting cooperation in the area of human rights, the co-sponsors of the draft resolution had chosen an approach with no future, namely pressure on a sovereign country, isolating it rather than engaging in dialogue. Russia asked for the draft resolution to be subjected to a vote, and it would vote against it.

concerns of the international community about the situation in Belarus, particularly after the incident in December 2010; and hoped that the Government would engage constructively with the United Nations human rights machinery as well as considering positively the international cooperation extended to them in order to bring tangible results on the ground. Indonesia regretted that the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue, aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to fulfil their human rights obligations, had not been applied in addressing this issue in the Council. In the midst of mutual distrust among countries concerned, selectivity, double standards and politicisation were not the solution. Indonesia was not in a position to support the resolution and would abstain.

Uruguay, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it valued the role of Special Procedures which were vital. Nevertheless, the establishment of a Special Procedure needed to be examined in the light of the particular circumstances surrounding each case. In the case of Belarus it was necessary to give consideration to whether there were other instruments which could have been used. The situation in Belarus required the attention of the Council but not all possible solutions had been explored. Uruguay had always favoured exhausting all means of cooperation with the State concerned. Uruguay therefore would be abstaining from the vote on the resolution.

Kyrgyzstan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that Belarus had shown the willingness to cooperate and respected its commitments. Therefore Kyrgyzstan would abstain from the vote on the resolution.

China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it was against the politicization of issues of human rights and that the best interests of the citizens of the States concerned should always be taken into account. The situation of human rights in Belarus should be addressed in an objective way. China would vote against the resolution.

Bangladesh said that it was not able to support country-specific resolutions without having exhausted all avenues to engage with the countries concerned. Moreover, it was important to consider whether enforcing these resolutions would have any significant value to improving the situation of the ground and whether these resolutions actually contributed to the capacity of the countries concerned to fulfil their obligations. Bangladesh reiterated the importance to lead by example and not by imposition. Bangladesh also noted the efforts of Belarus to promote and protect human rights, for instance during its Universal Periodic Review, and Bangladesh urged Belarus to continue to work with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Bangladesh would abstain from voting on this resolution.

Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the submission of the draft resolution was a clear example of selective manipulation and politicization of the work carried out by the Council. Cuba had been warning against this for quite some time. Such practices sunk the previous Human Rights Commission. Some were determined to impose initiatives of this nature, without the consent of the State concerned, without taking into account cooperation already undertaken by Belarus. Reference was made to alleged arbitrary detention and restriction on freedom of assembly, association, and cases of torture. It was worth reminding that the United States had the Guantanamo detention centre. Cuba recalled the increased repression against thousands of peaceful demonstrators in the United States and Europe, violating the right to assembly and peaceful association. The Council had not taken a stance or adopted a single resolution in that regard. The true title of the draft resolution should be ‘the promotion of a regime change in Belarus’. It was an example of imperial arrogance. The credibility of the Council had already been called into question, with double standards seen in a whole sway of events. This resolution was really handing out the final death blow to the little credibility the Council had. It was a political action in breach of agreements reached by all during the institution-building of the Council. Cuba would vote against the resolution.

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For use of information media; not an official record