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Human Rights Council extends the mandates of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the Independent Expert on Sudan

MORNING

28 September 2012

Adopts Texts on the Human Rights of Older Persons and Indigenous Peoples and on the Situation in Mali and in South Sudan

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted six resolutions in which it extended the mandate of the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria and renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert to Sudan for a period of one year. The Council also adopted texts on the human rights situation in Mali, on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights, and on the human rights of older persons and of indigenous peoples.

In a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, adopted by a vote of 41 in favour, 3 against and 3 abstentions, the Council extended the mandate of the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria established by the Council in its resolution S-17/1, and requested the Commission to present a written report on the situation of human rights in Syria at an interactive dialogue during the twenty-second session of the Council.

Regarding technical assistance for Sudan in the field of human rights, the Council noted with concern the humanitarian situation in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile and renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert to Sudan under agenda item 10 for a period of one year. The Council requested the Independent Expert to submit a report to its twenty-fourth session.

On follow-up to the human rights situation in Mali, the Council renewed its urgent invitation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a written report on the situation of human rights in Mali, particularly the northern part of the country, to its twenty-second session.

In a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to provide South Sudan with the necessary technical support and training and to submit a written progress report to its twenty-third session.

In a resolution on the human rights of older persons, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a public consultation in Geneva to receive information and share good practices on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons and to present a summary report on this consultation to the Council at its twenty-third session.

Concerning human rights and indigenous peoples, the Council requested the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples to continue to undertake a survey on best practices to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and decided to hold a half-day panel discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples at its twenty-fourth session.

Introducing resolutions were Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Senegal and Morocco. Austria on behalf of the European Union, United States, Djibouti, Russia, China, Cuba, India, Ecuador and Switzerland spoke in general comments.

Mali, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan spoke as concerned countries.

The next meeting of the Human Rights Council will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will continue to take action on draft decisions and resolutions and then close its twenty-first regular session.

Action on Resolutions under the 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 the Human Rights of Older Persons

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L15) regarding the human rights of older persons, adopted without a vote as orally amended, the Council recognizes the human rights challenges that older persons face and calls upon all States to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for older persons, including by taking measures to combat age discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence, and to address issues related to social integration and adequate health care; calls upon all States to enhance their existing mechanisms related to the protection and promotion of human rights for older persons, including by adopting legal or other dedicated mechanisms; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize, in Geneva, an intersessional public consultation on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons with the participation of States Members of the United Nations, relevant international organizations, United Nations agencies and stakeholders in order to receive information and share good practices on the matter, and to present a summary report of the above-mentioned consultation to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-third session.

Argentina, introducing draft resolution L.15, said that the ageing of populations was a phenomenon affecting all countries without distinction. Argentina believed that the Human Rights Council could not remain indifferent to the issue of the full enjoyment of human rights by older persons. The resolution had the support of States from a full spectrum of countries in the region. It recognized that there were challenges facing older persons and called upon States to ensure the enjoyment of human rights of older persons. It also requested the Office to carry out a consultation with Members States, international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders.

Brazil, also introducing the resolution, stressed the unprecedented nature of the draft resolution. For the first time the Council had prepared a text specifically targeting the rights of older persons. The Human Rights Council, as the highest body of the United Nations system for human rights, should be in the vanguard of the most important issues of the time, such as this one. Brazil, next Monday, would be commemorating its day of older persons, marking the approval in 2006 of its Statute of Older Persons in the country, the main legal instrument for their rights.

Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said that this topic was high on the European Union agenda and that improving the situation of older persons required cooperation among several stakeholders. Enhancing the participation of older persons themselves was also important. The European Union believed that there was no protection gap but that the focus should be on implementation. This initiative should not prejudge the activities of the intergovernmental Working Group in New York. The European Union expressed concern that this initiative might duplicate other work.

United States, speaking in a general comment, said that the United States attached great importance to the protection of older persons. Nevertheless, at the Working Group in New York it was clear that there was no consensus on whether there was a protection gap. Some of the issues faced by older persons were in fact covered by other human rights instruments. The United States thanked the sponsors and other delegations for openly engaging in a spirit of compromise.
Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L.21) on human rights and indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of his mandate to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session; requests the Expert Mechanism to continue to undertake, with the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner, a questionnaire survey to seek the views of States and of indigenous peoples on best practices with regard to possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a view to completing a final summary of responses for presentation to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session and encourages those States which have not yet provided their responses to do so; encourages those States that have not yet ratified or acceded to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) of the International Labour Organization to consider doing so; and decides to hold, from within existing resources, at its twenty-fourth session, a half-day panel discussion on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Guatemala, introducing draft resolution L.21, said that the draft resolution was remarkable in that it dealt with different aspects dealing with human rights issues and indigenous people. It recognized the different stakeholders and provided a framework for future coverage of the theme within the Human Rights Council. It described the valuable work done in the area by the Office of the High Commissioner, the Special Rapporteur, and the Expert Mechanism, and stressed the need to pay particular attention to the rights of women and girls from the indigenous community. It also asked the Expert Mechanism to carry out a study on access to justice for indigenous peoples to be presented to the Council at its twenty-fourth session.

United States, speaking in a general comment, was pleased to co-sponsor this resolution. During Special Rapporteur Anaya’s visit to the United States a wide range of programmes to improve the situation of indigenous peoples were discussed. The United States had responded to the survey and looked forward to the final summary of responses. In order to further improve the situation of indigenous peoples, the focus should be on individual and collective rights and the United States was pleased that the resolution covered both areas and that it paid attention to the rights of women and children.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Action on Resolution on Follow-up to the Situation of Human Rights in the Republic of Mali

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L9/Rev.1) regarding follow-up to the human rights situation in the Republic of Mali, adopted without a vote, the Council condemns the excesses and abuses committed in the Republic of Mali, particularly in the north of the country, by, among others, the rebels, terrorist groups and other organized transnational crime networks, and including violence against women and children, killings, hostage-taking, pillaging, theft, destruction of cultural and religious sites and recruitment of child soldiers, as well as all other human rights violations; takes note of the measures taken by the Malian Government to bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice; repeats its call for an immediate halt to the abuses and all human rights violations and acts of violence, and for strict respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms; calls for an immediate halt to the destruction of cultural and religious sites; emphasizes the need to pursue humanitarian assistance to the population affected by the crisis and urges the international community, in conjunction with the Malian Government and the neighbouring countries concerned, to continue to deliver appropriate humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons and respond to the challenges that the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel poses; and renews its urgent invitation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit to the Council at its twenty-second session a written report on the situation of human rights in the Republic of Mali, particularly the northern part of the country.

Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introducing resolution L.9/Rev.1, said that the draft resolution constituted a follow up to the resolution adopted by the Council in June condemning the atrocities and violations committed in the North of Mali. The deterioration of the situation in this area had led the African Group to address the issue so that the Council would make a clear statement concerning the inacceptable abuses and the destruction of cultural and religious patrimony. The draft resolution referred to the grave humanitarian crisis in Mali and its impact on the Sahel and requested the High Commissioner to present a written report on the human rights situation in Mali at the twenty-second session of the Council. The African Group reiterated the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Mali and called on the Council to adopt this revised draft resolution by consensus.

Djibouti, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the Francophone Group, welcomed the presentation of the draft resolution. The Francophone Group was concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Mali and condemned all the grave violations being committed, particularly attacks against civilians, summary executions, violence against women, hostage taking, and attacks on religious and cultural sites. It restated its belief in the need for scrupulous adherence to all human rights in conformity with the Bamako Declaration. The Francophone Group welcomed the acts taken by the Government of Mali and took note of its invitation to the International Criminal Court to conduct preliminary investigations in Mali.

Austria, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union supported the draft resolution. It remained highly concerned about the situation in Mali, particularly in the northern part of the country. The High Commissioner had stressed the gravity of crimes committed in the region, including the destruction of religious and cultural sites. Some could be qualified as war crimes, as the High Commissioner had said. The European Union regretted that the text had not sufficiently highlighted human rights violations committed in the south of the country. The European Union would also have liked the text to reflect the efforts made by Mali, including that the Government had addressed the International Criminal Court and supported its work.

Mali, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Council for the attention conceded to the situation in Mali. Mali was undergoing a difficult situation, including the illegal occupation of over half of its territory by armed groups, terrorist organizations and drug-trafficking organizations who committed grave human rights violations. Following up on the human rights situation in Mali, the Council was playing a mayor role in seeking a solution to the suffering of the people in Mali and to find a definitive solution to the crisis. It was important to restore peace and security in the Sahel region. Mali reiterated its willingness to cooperate with all United Nations agencies and other international partners; and thanked the African Group and co-sponsors of the resolution.

Action on Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L.32) on the human rights situation in Syria, adopted by a vote of 41 in favour, 3 against and 3 abstentions, the Council condemns in the strongest terms the massacre of the village of Al-Houla near Homs, where the forces of the Government of Syria and members of the Shabbiha were found by the Commission of Inquiry to be the perpetrators of outrageous and heinous crimes; calls upon all parties to put an end to all forms of violence and to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence; urges the international community to provide urgent financial support to the host countries to enable them to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees; decides to extend the mandate of the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria established by the Council in its resolution S-17/1, and requests the Commission to present a written report on the situation of human rights in Syria at an interactive dialogue during the twenty-second session of the Council; requests the Secretary-General to provide additional resources, including staffing, to the Commission of Inquiry in order to allow it to fulfil completely its mandate in the light of the increasingly deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria; and reiterates its call upon the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry, including by granting it immediate, full and unfettered access throughout Syria.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (41): Angola, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United States and Uruguay.

Against (3): China, Cuba, and Russian Federation.

Abstentions (3): India, Philippines, and Uganda.


Morocco, introducing draft resolution L.32, said that the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its final report last week to the Council and confirmed that war crimes and crimes against humanity were being perpetrated daily, and included the use of heavy weaponry against the civilian population. The grave situation persisted throughout Syria and the authorities continued to perpetrate human rights violations and crimes, and the number of victims had increased in an alarming way. Thousands of Syrians had to flee the violence, affecting all the population. The resolution extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and asked it to present a report in the context of an interactive dialogue at the twenty-second session of the Council. The resolution reiterated the call addressed by the Human Rights Council to the Syrian authorities to stop the violence, and called on the Council and the international community to assume their responsibilities with regards to the situation in Syria.

Russia, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.32, thanked Morocco for working on the draft resolution and presenting it. While there remained questions about how to address the situation in Syria, the cooperation of countries with the Arab League was a strategic priority for Russia. The Arab League had an important role to play. Russia noted that the current draft resolution was more balanced and closer to a compromise, it included condemnation of the acts of terror committed by opposition groups that some were refusing to recognise, and appealed to all sides to provide protection to girls and women. Russia had aimed to bring positions closer but there remained some unacceptable provisions in the draft resolution including the one sided perspective on the Al-Houla massacre, while similar events were being ignored. Unfortunately, some States were de facto encouraging terrorism and the episode in Al-Houla was being used in the media to call for the use of force against Syria. For these reasons Russia called for a vote and would vote against the resolution.

Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment on draft resolution L.32, said that the European Union continued to be appalled by systematic violations and abuses committed in Syria. The European Union had repeatedly called on the Government to refrain from using violence and condemned those violations which may amount to crimes against humanity. The international community must ensure that impunity did not prevail; the draft resolution recognised the importance of international justice and of making perpetrators accountable, as well as the need to provide additional resources to the Commission of Inquiry for it to fulfil its duties. Austria called on all members to support the work of the Commission of Inquiry and its request for unfettered access to Syria. All Syrians must have a place in a new Syria and the European Union was giving full support to this resolution and regretted that the Council could not send a new unified message to the people of Syria.

United States, speaking in a general comment, said it was proud to co-sponsor the resolution. The United States recalled that the Human Rights Council had begun to focus on the situation in April 2011. Sadly, as this twenty-first session was drawing to a close, President Assad continued to cling to power. The Council could not remain silent. The resolution put forward strengthened support for the Commission of Inquiry instituted by the Council more than a year ago. It had been doing its job, documenting widespread and systematic crimes. It had found reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces and the Shabiha had committed war crimes and gross violations of international humanitarian law.

China, speaking in a general comment, said China was deeply concerned by the turn of events. It opposed and condemned all forms of terrorism and violence against innocent civilians. China believed the key to the solution was staying the course in search of a political solution. The immediate priority was to call on all parties to put an immediate end to hostilities. Both the Government and opposition should shoulder their responsibility for the restoration of peace and stability. Pressure on one party would not solve the problem. Transition had to be led by the Syrian people and should not be imposed from the outside.

Cuba, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.32, said Cuba had followed the work of different Arab delegations to find a path to dialogue. Despite the resolve of delegations it had not been possible to reach an agreement. There were parties that were not interested in promoting dialogue and, instead, attempted to promote regime change or a military intervention. Cuba was committed to political dialogue, justice and the right to self-determination of the Syrian people. Some were determined to force a regime change in Syria and this was not a resolution that reflected in a balanced way what was really occurring and it was not conducive to dialogue either. For these reasons Cuba would vote against it.

India, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.32, was deeply concerned about human rights violations in Syria and condemned all violations regardless of who the perpetrators were. The task of the international community, anchored in the United Nations, was to assist the Syrian people in this process with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty. There was an urgent need for the international community to close ranks and send a strong message urging all parties to find a solution to the crisis without further bloodshed. The Council should always act with impartiality to maintain its credibility. The promotion and protection of human rights was better served by dialogue and cooperation; what was needed was a balanced resolution conducive to dialogue and a political solution.

Ecuador, speaking in a general comment, called on all parties to lay down weapons and put an end to the violence that had taken so many lives in Syria. Ecuador was alarmed by the rise in sectarian violence which indicated that the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people had turned into a bloodbath where men, women and children lost their lives. Those who were arming parties in this conflict must be condemned and must stop sending weapons. Ecuador called on the Council to ensure there was no impunity for everyone who had blood on their hands, including those who provided weapons.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, condemned the presentation of the draft resolution because it made libellous statements and because the Human Rights Council was based on fundamental principles of dialogue and cooperation, and those were the ways to promote human rights. This draft resolution did not reflect the reality in Syria; on the contrary, it was based on accusations and fictitious reports, such as on the Al-Houla massacre, which the Government had condemned in the strongest terms. The Commission of Inquiry had not visited Syria, had not arrived to definite conclusions concerning the massacres and had not taken into account the results of the Ad Hoc Committee established by Syria to investigate the crimes. The seven co-sponsors had ignored aspects of the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the barbaric acts committed by armed groups in Syria. Moreover, the Commission of Inquiry had highlighted the adverse impact of sanctions on Syria, and those were also not included in this draft resolution. Some of the co-sponsors forgot that they did not have the right to give advice because they were directly involved in killing the Syrian people and could not call on others to respect human rights before they respected them at home. Syria rejected the draft resolution and urged all countries that sincerely wished to help the Syrian people to vote against.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Action on Resolution on Technical Assistance for Sudan in the Field of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L4) regarding technical assistance for Sudan in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council notes with concern the humanitarian situation in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and calls upon all parties to make every effort to immediately end violence and to halt clashes, to facilitate access for humanitarian assistance and to take action to strengthen respect for the rule of law in the two provinces; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to provide Sudan with the necessary technical support and training; urges the Government of Sudan to continue its cooperation with the Independent Expert, including by giving him access to the entire country, in particular in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, in order to assess and verify the situation of human rights, to determine technical assistance needs and to report on his findings; decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert to Sudan under agenda item 10 for a period of one year; requests the Independent Expert to continue his engagement with the Government of Sudan with a view to implementing the projects that will further help Sudan to fulfil its human rights obligations, and to submit a report to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its twenty-fourth session.

Senegal, introducing draft resolution L.4, said that the draft resolution was a direct follow-up to resolution 18/16 adopted by consensus by the Council in September 2011 that led to the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert. It highlighted developments in the promotion and protection of human rights in Sudan. It did not neglect to recognize the cooperation of the Government with the Independent Expert, the United Nations, the African Union and the Arab League. The resolution encouraged Sudan to strengthen efforts made in the context of the Doha Peace Agreements. The resolution also called for the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert for one year, and for appropriate access to be provided to him in the implementation of his mandate.

Switzerland, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.4, expressed concern about the human rights situation in Sudan, in particular with regards to freedom of expression. The situation in peripheral regions such as Darfour, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile was particularly concerning. It was important that the Independent Expert was allowed to fulfil his mandate without restrictions and to monitor the situation in Sudan. The draft resolution was insufficient concerning these points. The Independent Expert should continue to follow the situation in Sudan and to report to the Council at its twenty-third session. Switzerland had decided not to co-sponsor the resolution.

Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment on draft resolution L.4, expressed concern about human rights in Sudan, including freedom of expression, restrictions on the media, reports of torture, and the lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Court. It was vital that the Independent Expert was able to carry out his mandate, to monitor the situation and to engage freely with civil society. Austria urged Sudan to allow the Independent Expert to fulfil his mandate without restrictions during future visits. The European Union remained unconvinced that the resolution reflected the situation in Sudan and had hoped that more of its concerns were reflected in the draft. It was crucial for Sudan to reflect its intention to cooperate with international partners in the field of human rights.

United States, speaking in a general comment, agreed that the Independent Expert’s mandate should be continued and strengthened. The Government of Sudan was strongly urged to begin working closely with the Independent Expert in advance of his visit to arrange access to all parts of the country. The Independent Expert should be able to assess and verify the status of human rights and report without hindrance. The United States called on the Government to fulfil its commitments and immediately implement the tripartite plan for humanitarian access.

Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, confirmed once again its full readiness to cooperate with the Council and would pursue the same approach. Sudan would be honouring all the requirements and as everyone knew and had seen, it had addressed an invitation to all stakeholders to take part in the elaboration of a new constitution; this would enhance the promotion and protection of human rights.

Action on Resolution on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for South Sudan in the Field of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/21/L7/Rev.1) regarding technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council calls upon the Government of South Sudan to strengthen ongoing cooperation with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan on issues pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights; encourages the Government of South Sudan to ratify the main international and regional human rights instruments; encourages the continuous commitment by the Government of South Sudan to resolve all the post-Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) outstanding issues with the Government of Sudan; requests Member States, relevant United Nations agencies and stakeholders to support, as a matter of urgency, the national efforts of the Government of South Sudan, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 18/17 of 29 September 2011 on technical assistance and capacity-building; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to provide South Sudan with the necessary technical support and training; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to submit a written report on the progress of technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights for South Sudan to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-third session.

Senegal, introducing on behalf of the African Group draft resolution L.7/Rev.1, said that as a new independent State, South Sudan sought to establish an institutional framework appropriate for the promotion and protection of human rights. In this context, technical cooperation and capacity building would provide important support for South Sudan. The draft resolution also aimed at strengthening cooperation between South Sudan and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in the field of human rights, and hoped for the cooperation of the international community so that South Sudan was able to face its challenges. The draft resolution requested the Office of the High Commissioner to submit a progress report concerning technical assistance and capacity building for South Sudan at its twenty-third session.

South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, highlighted the importance of the agreement signed with Sudan. Peaceful coexistence between the two sister countries would contribute to stability, development and peace. South Sudan intended to implement the provisions of the resolution. However, it could not do this without support. This could not be just another resolution, and it had to be implemented. A clear human rights strategy would have to be defined by developing a comprehensive plan of action. South Sudan expected the resolution to be adopted unanimously.
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