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Human Rights Council elects new bureau for 2014; States express need for Special Session on Central African Republic in January 2014

Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon Appointed as President-elect

Geneva, 16 December 2013 -- The Human Rights Council this afternoon elected its new bureau for 2014 at an organizational meeting appointing Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon to serve as its President for a term beginning on 1 January 2014.

The Council also appointed Kateřina Sequensová of the Czech Republic, Alberto D'Alotto of Argentina, Maurizio Enrico Serra of Italy, and Dilip Sinha of India to the positions of Vice Presidents to the United Nations’ leading human rights body. Ambassador Sequensová was also elected to fill the post of Rapporteur. All five candidates will serve as members of the Human Rights Council Bureau from 1 January to 31 December 2014.

Speaking on the occasion, Remigiusz A. Henczel of Poland, who has been serving as Human Rights Council President throughout 2013, remarked that it has been an “eventful year” for the Council marked by a focus on an “increasing number of topics, both thematic and country-specific” and as a result the Council was being perceived as one of the principal organs of the Organization.

Ambassador Henczel highlighted the many achievements made over the course of the year including progress on the Universal Periodic Review and on accessibility for persons with disabilities. The outgoing President also commended the invaluable contribution of civil society who, he said, “have continued to play a crucial role in enriching our discussions and exposing us to a reality check”. He added: There can be no true dialogue on human rights if affected people and those who represent them are not given a voice within this Council”.

The incoming President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, said that he would build on the success of his predecessor to ensure all human rights were respected, and, in particular, to protect those persons who have cooperated with human rights bodies. He also informed the Council of his intention to highlight a wide array of issues in the area of human rights including the right to privacy, the use of drones in the fight against terrorism, and the death penalty, amongst other issues.

On 12 November, the General Assembly elected 14 new States to serve as members of the Human Rights Council filling the vacancies to be left at the end of this year.

On a separate matter, the Council also addressed the situation in the Central African Republic expressing the need to hold a special session at the beginning of 2014 to address the human rights situation in the country.

Léopold Ismael Samba, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic highlighted the fact that the country was currently going through a very grave crisis. Despite France's intervention, which they welcomed, the Central African Republic was still facing several challenges and was far from emerging from the crisis. For these reasons they were seeking support for holding of a special session in January 2014, as well as the deploying of independent experts which became more urgent in order to shed light on the responsibilities of perpetrators of the violations that were currently being committed.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Ethiopia said the Group strongly condemned the on-going widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Central African Republic. The African Group expressed alarm that the crisis could have a negative impact throughout region. The African Group, therefore, supported the calls for convening a special session at the beginning of the New Year to address the dire situation in the country. The African Group also called on the international community to support the humanitarian efforts currently underway in the Central African Republic.

The United States, the European Union and France also delivered statements on the Central African Republic expressing the need for convening such an urgent session at the beginning of the year and also to accelerate the appointment of the independent expert on the Central African Republic decided by the Council at its last session.

The 47 Council members also decided that the theme for the 2014 high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming, to be held during the upcoming 25th regular session of the Council on 4 March 2014, would be "the protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants" and for the Council to hold a high-level dialogue on "the promotion of preventative approaches within the UN system" in the afternoon of the same day.

At the onset of this afternoon’s meeting, the Council held a minute of silence to pay respect to Nelson Mandela.

The Council will hold its next organizational meeting on 15 January 2014 at which time they are expected to adopt its programme of work for the year.

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For more information about the Human Rights Council, please visit the HRC website - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx