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Human Rights Council extends mandate of commission of inquiry on Burundi

MORNING

Adopts Five Resolutions, including on Syria, the Administration of Justice, the Question of the Death Penalty and Conscientious Objection to Military Service

GENEVA (29 September 2017) - The Human Rights Council this morning adopted five resolutions in which it extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and decided to convene a high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in Syria.  Other texts concerned the administration of justice, including juvenile justice; the question of the death penalty; and conscientious objection to military service.

By a vote of 22 in favour, 11 against, and 14 abstentions, the Council adopted a resolution in which it extended for a period of one year the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in order to deepen and continue its investigations. 

In a resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, seven against, and 13 abstentions, the Council decided to convene a high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in Syria at the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, in consultation with the Commission of Inquiry, with a specific focus on attacks against children, including attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access. 

In a resolution on human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice, the Council called upon the High Commissioner to strengthen advisory services and technical assistance relating to national capacity-building in the field of the administration of justice, in particular juvenile justice.

By a vote of 27 in favour, 13 against and seven abstentions as orally revised, the Council requested the Secretary-General to dedicate the 2019 supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment to the consequences arising at various stages of the imposition and application of the death penalty on the enjoyment of the human rights of persons facing the death penalty and other affected persons.  The Council decided that the upcoming biennial high-level panel discussion to be held at the fortieth session of the Human Rights Council would address human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty. 

In a resolution on conscientious objection to military service, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a report on different approaches and challenges with regard to application procedures for obtaining the status of conscientious objector to military service in accordance with human rights standards, and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

Introducing draft texts were Austria, Benin, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Croatia also on behalf of Costa Rica and Poland, Estonia on behalf of the European Union, United Kingdom on behalf of a group of countries, and Qatar.

Burundi and Syria spoke as concerned countries.

Speaking in general comments were Latvia on behalf of the European Union, Brazil, Egypt on behalf of a group of countries, and the United States.

Speaking in an explanation of the vote before or after the vote were the United States, Switzerland, Panama, Germany, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Egypt on behalf of a group of countries, Iraq, China, Japan, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan,  Brazil, Botswana, Cuba, Egypt and Ecuador. 

The Council will next meet at noon to continue taking action on decisions and resolutions before it closes its thirty-sixth 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 Human Rights in the Administration of Justice, including Juvenile Justice

In a resolution (A/HRC/36/L.5) on human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon the High Commissioner to strengthen advisory services and technical assistance relating to national capacity-building in the field of the administration of justice, in particular juvenile justice; and requests the High Commissioner to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its forty-second session, a report on human rights in the administration of justice, in particular on violence, death and serious injury in situations of deprivation of liberty, drawing on the experience of United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms and seeking the views of States, including on their policies and best practices, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders.

Austria, introducing draft resolution L.5, said that human rights in the administration of justice was at the core of the country’s priorities.  The draft resolution addressed several issues on the administration of justice, including overcrowding.  In the judiciary system, a broad range of groups were at risk of being discriminated against more than others.  Deprivation of liberty on discriminatory grounds were on the rise.  Incarceration rates for persons living in poverty were extremely high.  The resolution recognized that prejudice and discrimination existed in the justice system and asked States to address this issue through increased efforts and better training for all those working in the justice system.  It reiterated the need to take into account the situation of women in the judiciary.  Austria welcomed all delegations’ propositions, many of which had been incorporated in the text.  Austria looked forward to the adoption of the resolution by consensus.

United States, speaking in a general comment, expressed concern that this resolution called on States to comply with various principles and goals that were not obligations that the United States had undertaken and were not consistent with the United States law, federal sentencing guidelines and practice.  Although the United States agreed that discretionary decisions to deprive individuals from liberty should be reasonable and appropriate, such considerations were not universally recognized under international law nor applicable within the domestic legislative framework of every State.  The United States also regretted that the resolution used imprecise language.  This resolution also focused on issues that should be addressed in other fora. 

Action on Resolution on the Question of the Death Penalty

In a resolution (A/HRC/36/L.6) on the question of the death penalty, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 13 against and seven abstentions as orally revised, the Council requests the Secretary-General to dedicate the 2019 supplement to his quinquennial report on capital punishment to the consequences arising at various stages of the imposition and application of the death penalty on the enjoyment of the human rights of persons facing the death penalty and other affected persons, …and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session; decides that the upcoming biennial high-level panel discussion to be held at the fortieth session of the Human Rights Council will address the human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality; requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize the high-level panel discussion … and to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion and to submit it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (27): Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, United Kingdom and Venezuela.

Against (13): Bangladesh, Botswana, Burundi, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and United States.

Abstentions (7): Cuba, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of Korea and Tunisia.

                                                                                                                     Benin, introducing draft resolution L.6 on the death penalty on behalf of a group of countries, said the draft resolution had 60 sponsors.  It focused on the poorest, those belonging to ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable groups that were disproportionately sentenced to the death penalty.  The proposal aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.  The authors commended the recognition by Madagascar of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.   The authors of the draft resolution also welcomed the signature of the President of the Gambia of this same protocol.  By this step, these two countries were sending out a visible sign against capital punishment.

Mongolia, also introducing draft resolution L.6 on the death penalty, said throughout the four informal consultations, the delegations had maintained an atmosphere of constructive dialogue and mutual respect, which the main sponsors deeply appreciated.  The resolution addressed specific human rights concerns around the use of the death penalty that had been documented both in the Secretary-General’s supplement report and in interventions during the High-Level Panel on the question of the death penalty.  In particular, it initiated a reflection on the discriminatory manner in which the death penalty tended to be used – namely it reflected on why it was poor persons, racial minorities, foreign nationals, specific groups in society – that were disproportionately subjected to the death penalty.  There were many causes to these findings, and States had to continue to analyse its root causes and ensure that the fundamental rights of those facing the death penalty were protected in an equal manner without any distinction.  It was crucial to maintain a human rights centred approach in the discussion around the use of the death penalty.  The amendments submitted to the resolution jeopardized the intention – as such Mongolia called upon all members of the Human Rights Council not to vote for the amendments.

Russian Federation, presenting amendments L.37, L.38, L.39 and L.40, reminded that it had adopted an open-ended moratorium on the death penalty in 1999.  As a result of the long-standing moratorium, Russia now had strong human rights guarantees not to be subjected to the death penalty, as well as an irreversible ongoing process focused on abolishing the death penalty.  However, every State had the sovereign right to decide for itself whether or not to abolish the death penalty.  The draft resolution was one sided and with a deliberately skewed interpretation of international law.  The statements of some countries did not reflect the will of the international community.  Therefore, the Russian Federation had decided to introduce amendment L.37 to correct the interpretation that the death penalty was synonymous with torture.  As for the amendments L.39 and L.40, the use of experimental chemicals in the administration of the death penalty amounted to nothing less than torture.   Their use should be condemned by the Human Rights Council. 

Egypt, presenting amendments L.41 and L.42, explained that guaranteeing the basic rights of people and maintaining of social peace was a priority for the Government of Egypt.  The decision to abolish the death penalty had a lot of repercussions on many parties.  Therefore, declaring a moratorium on or abolishing the death penalty required a series of local and national debates, taking into account the particularities of the given society.  Such a decision could not be imposed from outside.  Any decision required popular support and social acceptance to be sure that it did not have negative repercussions on social peace.  The draft resolution submitted should recognize the need for local consultations and debate.  As for amendment L.42, Egypt emphasised that States that decided to declare a moratorium should carefully study the effects of such a decision on the rights of victims. 

Saudi Arabia, presenting amendment L.62 on behalf of a group of countries, underlined their participation in informal consultations where it was clarified that every country had the sovereign right to choose its own judiciary system and to choose its penalties.  The death penalty was a controversial issue and there was no consensus over it.  This amendment reiterated the sovereign right of States to establish their own legal systems.

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not accept any of the amendments and would vote no against them.  

Latvia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the death penalty was a cruel and irreversible punishment.  The European Union strongly opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, and proposed an abolition, if necessary, through a moratorium with a view to abolition.  The European Union would have welcomed a stronger text, but understood the text was balanced in order to take into account all views.  It regretted the strong opposition to the text.  The Human Rights Council had been mandated to protect human rights for all in an equal and fair manner.  The European Union members would vote yes on this resolution and vote no on all amendments.  The European Union called upon all members to do the same.

Brazil, speaking in a general comment, thanked the core group for the open, transparent and inclusive manner in which it had conducted the negotiations on the draft resolution. It supported the way in which the draft resolution tackled the death penalty, through the principles of non-discrimination and equality.  It acknowledged the efforts of the core group to reach a balanced text and called for the adoption of the text.

Action on Amendment L.37

Panama, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected the proposed amendment which sought to relativize the seriousness of the death penalty by saying it could be a violation of human rights only in some cases.  Panama called on all members States to vote against the amendment.

Germany, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the death penalty did not comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The proposed amendment that weakened the text was not acceptable.

The Council rejected amendment L.37 by a vote of 15 in favour, 22 against and 7 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.38

Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the draft resolution represented the best possible compromise text which could have been achieved.  The amendment deleted important provisions in the draft resolution.  There was indeed an emerging view that the death penalty was incompatible with international humanitarian law which prohibited torture, inhumane punishment and other cruel and degrading treatment.  This was the reason why Albania would vote no on this amendment.

Croatia regretted to see the amendment, as the draft resolution had already taken into account many views.  The amendment would weaken the paragraph and would go counter to certain United Nations international documents.  Therefore Croatia would vote against it and invited all other members to do the same.

The Council then rejected amendment L.38 by a vote of 16 in favour, 22 against, and 7 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.39

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the amendment and called on all Member States of the Council to do the same.  The amendment was not in the scope of the proposed text.  Switzerland underlined that contrary to the previous resolution proposed on the same topic, this one focused on the rights to equality and non-discrimination. 

The Council rejected amendment L.39 by a vote of 10 in favour, 22 against and 15 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.40

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had no choice than to vote against this amendment.

The Council then rejected amendment L.40 by a vote of 10 in favour, 21 against, and 16 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.41

Slovenia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the proposed amendment nourished dangerous views by referring to the so-called public opinion on the death penalty, noting that the right to life was paramount.  Jurisprudence and international practice needed to inform domestic debates, which undermined the existing international legal obligations.  The draft resolution focused on human rights violations arising in the context of the use of the death penalty.  The amendment was problematic with respect to the human rights context.  Slovenia would thus vote against the amendment.

Belgium, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the draft resolution deliberately focused on human rights.  It did not state that the death penalty was illegal and did not oblige retention countries to establish a moratorium.  The aim was to create dialogue away from polarizing debates.  The draft text addressed the protection of human rights in the context of the death penalty.  The text was well balanced and focused on what united rather than divided countries.  The proposed amendment was not relevant to human rights, but aimed to disrupt the text and bring in polarizing elements. 

The Council then rejected amendment L.41 by a vote of 18 in favour, 19 against and nine abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.42

United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it could not accept the amendment.  It was not clear what the purpose of this amendment was.  Empirical studies had proven that there was no evidence that the death penalty deterred crime.  The crime rate did not increase after a country had abolished the death penalty.  Countries that had the death penalty did not have low crime rates.

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the amendment.  It had been confirmed on many occasions that the death penalty had no deterring effect on crime rates.  The affirmation that the death penalty could be a form of reparation for victims was unacceptable.  Remedies for victims were a concept more complex and should be based on justice and not on revenge or the execution of a person. 

The Council rejected amendment L.42 by a vote of 11 in favour, 21 against and 13 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.62

Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the amendment sought to introduce a new operative paragraph.  The amendment sent a contradictory message, as it emphasised States’ sovereign rights.  This would attempt to place States’ sovereignty above international obligations.  The draft resolution did not question the development of legal systems in countries.  It reaffirmed the United Nations Charter and simply focused on human rights concerns arising in the context of the death penalty. Albania would vote against the amendment and invited all others to do so.

Panama, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected the proposed amendment, which was unacceptable as it attempted to enforce norms regarding international human rights.  The draft resolution was an attempt to have a dialogue between States on the death penalty.  The amendment went against the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which reinforced international obligations.  Panama therefore called on all Member States to vote against the amendment.

The Council then rejected the amendment, with 17 votes in favour, 22 votes against and seven abstentions.

Action on Draft Resolution L.6 as Orally Revised

Egypt, speaking on behalf of a group of 9 countries in an explanation of the vote before the vote, underlined that ensuring people’s human rights was of paramount importance.  For many countries, the death penalty remained an important component of their justice system.  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stated that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force (…)”.  Some countries had a different perspective.  But none should be viewed as a better view than the other.  There was no international consensus on the death penalty.  It was consistent with international human rights law.  It was false to link it with human rights violations, torture and degrading treatment.  The group of countries remained disappointed that the draft resolution did not take into account their concerns and called on all members to vote against it.

United States, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against this resolution.  The United States reaffirmed its longstanding position on the legality of the death penalty, when imposed and carried out in a manner consistent with a State’s international obligations.  The United States was deeply troubled whenever an individual subject to the death penalty was denied the procedural and substantive protections to which he or she was entitled.  But it was not possible to accept the implication that all methods of execution had such a result.
 
Iraq, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Iraq was dealing with the most serious crimes, including those which may be crimes against humanity.  Therefore, it employed the death penalty and applied the procedure seriously.  Countries had to be able to draft their own legislation regarding this issue.  This was a right enshrined in Articles 2 and 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Specificities of certain societies had to be taken into account.  Terrorism violated many of the rights of citizens, including the right to life.  Therefore, countries where terrorism was prevalent could not have the same policy on terrorism as other countries.  The draft resolution did not take into account the rights of citizens and therefore Iraq would vote against the draft resolution.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the death penalty was under the purview of national sovereignty and national legislation.  Instruments of international law provided rules that were clear in that regard.  The abolition of the death penalty must take into full account the development of national legal systems, as well as the economic, social and cultural situation in the States.  A balanced approach had to be taken into account when regarded sovereignty.  China only employed the death penalty in a specific context and only for the most serious crimes.  It had extremely strict provisions regarding this.  As a result, China would vote against this draft resolution.

Japan, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, strongly opposed all forms of discrimination, including discrimination in the context of the death penalty.  It was in that context that Japan had engaged in discussions about the draft resolution.  Japan appreciated the effort of sponsors to find common grounds, but it regretted that several paragraphs still treated favourably the moratorium on and abolition of the death penalty.  There was no internationally accepted obligation for States to adopt a moratorium.  It was up to States to make that decision.  Japan would thus vote against the draft resolution. 

Indonesia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would abstain from voting on the draft resolution because there was no emerging international agreement on the prohibition of the death penalty and each State was free to exercise its right to implement positive law as it saw fit in accordance with its international obligations.  Indonesia applied the death penalty only as a measure of last resort, taking into consideration the existing safeguards and only in the cases of most serious crimes.

United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it opposed the death penalty in all circumstances.  The death penalty only served to undermine the value of human life.  In the last two years, some States had rehabilitated the death penalty to respond to terrorist attacks.  There was no moral justification to judicial killing.  The draft resolution linked several forms of discrimination with the application of death penalty.  The United Kingdom was pleased that a number of its suggestions had been incorporated in the text and hoped it would be adopted.

Action on Resolution on the Conscientious Objection to Military Service

In a resolution (A/HRC/36/L.20) on the conscientious objection to military service, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council takes note of the analytical report on conscientious objection to military service presented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-fifth session, pursuant to resolution 20/2; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare …a report on different approaches and challenges with regard to application procedures for obtaining the status of conscientious objector to military service in accordance with human rights standards, and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

Croatia, introducing draft resolution L.20 on behalf of Costa Rica, Croatia and Poland, stated that this was a quadrennial resolution with a long history and had been adopted by consensus for almost 30 years.  The core group was committed to using this opportunity to address a significant implementation gap highlighted in the most recent quadrennial report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In the interest of maintaining consensus on this important issue, the group of countries brought to the Human Rights Council a procedural text which would contribute to implementation efforts.  Despite recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service, those seeking to exercise this right continued to face violations of this and other rights due to non-recognition of the right or the failure to fully implement it.  Therefore, the group of countries asked the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the different approaches and challenges with regard to application procedures for status as conscientious objector to military service.  This report would be presented at the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council.  The focus was on application as the process by which an individual could be recognized as a conscientious objector was key to the translation of recognition of the right on paper into realisation of the right in practice.  It was the most significant aspect in ensuring the right de facto as well as de jure.  Incomplete implementation was a result of a mix of lack of political will, technical capacity, prioritisation and oversight.  The report would act as guidance and support implementation in States where technical capacity and lack of prioritisation were the biggest challenge.
Egypt, speaking in a general comment, paid tribute to the core group of the draft resolution.  It was not the first time that divergences of views on this issue had emerged.  Egypt respected the point of view of the sponsors of the draft resolution but urged them to take into account the different settings of countries.  Some were affected by instability and regional conflicts.  Many had conscription services and others operated only with volunteers.  These variables needed to be taken into account.  Further normative expansion could compromise the values and effectiveness of the armies in delivering their tasks.  Egypt welcomed the fact that attention had been paid to the concerns of Egypt.  Nothing in this text should be interpreted as going beyond international law.

Paraguay, speaking in a general comment, said that the rights to objection of conscience could be derived from the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.  It had been recognized for decades that this right was connected to ethical or religious reasons which were part of an individual’s identity.  The draft resolution carried this important recognition. 

Kyrgyzstan, speaking in a general comment, stated that its Constitution permitted alternatives to military service.  It should be taken into account that its military service law was rather liberal, granting the right to perform alternative service based on various grounds, such as religion.  However, granting full conscientious objection was not acceptable and Kyrgyzstan would thus dissociate itself from the draft resolution.

Explanations of the Vote after the Vote on Resolutions Adopted under Item 3 on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

Kyrgyzstan, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, joined the consensus but disassociated itself from L.11.  The operative paragraph allowed the Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence to collect information from States.  This provision ran counter to the principle of the sovereignty of States.

United States, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the Human Rights Council and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not create legal obligations.  Any reaffirmation to prior documents applied only to those States that affirmed them initially.  Welcoming a report did not mean acceptance of all provisions contained therein.  According to Article 2.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, each State party had the right to achieve progressively these rights, with a view to full realisation.  There was a wide array of policies to promote the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.  The right to development did not have an agreed international meaning.  The Sustainable Agenda 2030 was a global framework for sustainable development, wherein all countries had a role to play.  However, each country had its own development priorities and each country had a right to promote its agenda according to its priorities.  Respect for fundamental rights and freedoms could be mutually reaffirming, but all States had to reaffirm all rights, regardless of the Sustainable Development Goals.  This included the right to education.  The United States was concerned about the growth of funding needs for the Human Rights Council, which had tripled. The United States worked to contain costs where possible.  It had listed on the United States Mission website, all of the resolutions to which the aforementioned general statement pertained.

Japan, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the focus of the resolution was the protection of persons and that it set out to protect the rights of persons deprived of their right to liberty.  But some paragraphs could not be accepted by Japan.  However, Japan had supported the overall consensus.  Japan would pursue implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant conventions.

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

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi

In a resolution (A/HRC/36/L.9/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Burundi, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 11 against, and 14 abstentions, the Council expresses its deep concern about the continuing serious human rights situation and the worsening economic and humanitarian situation in Burundi, which affects, in particular, women and children; and requests the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi to present its report, including any necessary follow-up action, to the General Assembly at its seventy-second session.  The Council decides to extend for a period of one year the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in order to deepen and continue its investigations, and requests the Commission to present an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth sessions and a final report during an interactive dialogue at its thirty-ninth session and at the seventy-third session of the General Assembly.  The Council urges the Government of Burundi to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, to authorize it to conduct visits to the country and to provide it with all the information necessary to fulfil its mandate.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (22):  Albania, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (11): Bolivia, Burundi, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Abstentions (14): Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, Togo and Tunisia.

Estonia, introducing on behalf of the European Union draft resolution L.9/Rev.1 as orally revised, said the European Union had decided to present a procedural resolution aimed at the technical renewal of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.  The oral revision had been necessary to avoid all possible contradictions with the resolution submitted at the last minute by a number of African countries.  It was crucial that the Council renewed the mandate of the Commission for another year.  The European Union welcomed Burundi’s stated intention to cooperate with the international community to improve the situation of human rights, not least as a member of the Human Rights Council.  The Members of the Council owed it to the victims of human rights violations and abuses to take meaningful actions.  All Member States of the Council were urged to adopt the resolution by consensus. 

Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the African Union for their solidarity and continued commitment to improve human rights on the African continent and throughout the world.  Burundi had spared no effort to cooperate with the European Union on the draft resolution.  However, the European Union had not taken into consideration what was going on in the country.  The European Union wanted to instrumentalise the Human Rights Council.   Politicisation did not improve human rights at all and it in fact violated the human rights of the victims of violations.  Only international cooperation would contribute to the protection of human rights across the world.  The mechanism adopted by the Council yesterday was sufficiently strong and Burundi expected the European Union to withdraw the draft resolution on Burundi.  Burundi thus asked for a vote on the draft resolution, and it asked all to vote against it. 

                                                                                                                     Brazil, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the text was the result of long and complex negotiations.  Brazil commended the efforts to find common ground, but regretted that consensus could not be reached.  Brazil was concerned about the situation in Burundi.  It urged that human rights violators be held responsible.  Sustainable outcomes on the ground were needed.  By its very nature, the Human Rights Council should aim to elicit dialogue in the promotion of human rights.  Brazil remained ready to engage constructively in all parts for this resolution.

Botswana, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted the Human Rights Council’s inability to reach consensus on this resolution.  Botswana put a very high premium against the abuses of human rights.  Abuses should not be tolerated anywhere.  Women and children were particularly affected.  Therefore, Botswana would not condone human rights violations.  It chose to forgo political interests, and remained on the side of those who suffered violence.  It wished for others what they wished for themselves.  Human rights should never be subjected to political interests.  The Human Rights Council had failed and had only succeeded in producing two polarized texts, which did not have the victims of human rights in Burundi as the central priority.  Botswana hoped that the Commission of Inquiry would further complement the efforts, and would vote yes to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

United States, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed concern about continued violence in Burundi.  The refusal to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry had demonstrated disdain for the Human Rights Council.  The Human Rights Council had to maintain its resolve to act on Burundi.  The Commission of Inquiry had gathered valuable information, including some violations by Burundian officials.  Not only were extrajudicial killings and sexual violence continuing to occur in Burundi, but large parts of the population were now refugees.  The people of Burundi deserved better.  If Burundi was genuinely interested in working with the Council, it should allow the Commission of Inquiry access to Burundi, and let them see for themselves.  The Human Rights Council’s credibility would suffer.  That was why the United States supported the European Union proposal, would vote yes on the resolution, and urged all to vote yes too.

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that no consensus has been found between the two draft resolutions on Burundi and regretted that they had been submitted in parallel.  A joint text would have been preferable.  The polarization of the Council went against the common goals.  Switzerland was disappointed that delegations were presented with a revised version at the last minute, a working method that did not reflect what ought to be cultivated.  The resolution L.9 called on the Government of Burundi to restore full cooperation with the High Commissioner and supported the reopening of the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bujumbura.  The resolution also set out for a furthering of investigations, and for all those reasons Switzerland voted no yesterday, and today would vote in favour of L.9.

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

In a resolution (A/HRC/36/L.22) on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, seven against, and 13 abstentions, the Council expresses grave concern at the use of sarin in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017, resulting in approximately 100 fatalities, and the use of sulphur mustard in Umm Hawsh on 16 September 2016, as concluded by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and looks forward to the results of the investigations into these incidents by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism; recalls with grave concern the report of the Commission of Inquiry on 6 September 2017 identifying the Syrian air force as responsible for the sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017; expresses deep concern at the Commission of Inquiry’s conclusion that children throughout the Syrian Arab Republic remain disproportionately vulnerable to violence and abuse, and that children suffer as a consequence of attacks against civilians, lack of access to education and their recruitment for use as child soldiers; decides to convene a high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in the Syrian Arab Republic at the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, in consultation with the Commission of Inquiry, with a specific focus on attacks against children, including attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access, featuring witness testimony and Syrian voices, including children’s views through appropriate and safe means; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the high-level panel discussion, to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (27): Albania, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Against (7): Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Iraq, Philippines and Venezuela.

Abstentions (13): Bangladesh, Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia.

United Kingdom, introducing on behalf of a group of countries draft resolution L.22, noted that the international community had to take a unified stance on the situation in Syria.  It was concerned about repeated attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, which caused untold suffering.  It was civilians in the country who were shouldering most of the impact, especially children.  The international community had to do everything possible to end the abuses that they faced.  There had to be accountability and the sponsors thus strongly supported the work of the Commission of Inquiry and the Independent International Impartial Mechanism.  Countries should put aside their differences and give due consideration to the draft resolution. 

Qatar, also introducing draft resolution L.22, noted that the text reflected the concerns of the international community regarding gross violations in Syria and condemned abuses committed by all sides, terrorist attacks by ISIS and all violations committed against women, children and persons with disabilities.  It condemned attacks on schools, hospitals and chemical weapons, starvation and siege against civilians, and forced displacement.  It called on Syrian authorities and all parties to ensure humanitarian access to all areas.  It called on all parties to ensure a peaceful solution under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as a ceasefire all over the country. 

Latvia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the resolution welcomed the work of the Commission of Inquiry and called for an end to impunity.  Syrian authorities and others should refrain from some actions, and millions of Syrians needed humanitarian aid.  A panel on attacks against children was welcomed for the March session.  The European Union looked forward to reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  The European Union had been working to ensure that financial pledges of $ 10 billion were met.  The European Union would host a second conference to ensure work was carried out in a consistent manner.  The Brussels process would put the process at the service of the international community.  For all the above reasons, all Member States were urged to support the draft resolution.

Switzerland, speaking in a general comment, expressed concern about violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria and thanked the Commission of Inquiry for its exemplary work over the last six years.  All forces as well as those with influence in Syria should ensure the protection of medical infrastructure in Syria.  Switzerland regretted that some paragraphs weakened the general applicability of the text.  It remained indispensable that justice be served to all victims.  The Commission of Inquiry and the international mechanism should cooperation closely.  Switzerland reiterated its longstanding call for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court. 

United States, speaking in a general comment, said it fully supported the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and called attention to its critical work investigating egregious human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law.  The Syrian Government remained responsible for the vast majority of the Syrian people’s suffering.  The United States called on all countries that supported accountability and justice for Syrians to join them in voting for this resolution.  It welcomed the resolution’s strong condemnation of the systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian Government and its allies, as well as the abuses committed by ISIS.  It condemned the regime’s continued attacks against hospitals and schools, besiegement and the forced displacement of civilian populations.  It shared the Commission of Inquiry’s concern about the impact of the conflict on children who remained among the most vulnerable.  The list of egregious acts committed by the Syrian Government was long and included unlawful killing; arbitrary detention; torture; sexual and gender-based violence; besiegement; airstrikes on doctors, hospitals, clinics and place of worships; removal of medical supplies from aid convoys; and use of chemical weapons.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said draft resolution L.22 represented a new attempt to mislead the Human Rights Council by States which had dishonest interests on the ground that had nothing to do with the human rights situation in Syria. The resolution deliberately ignored crimes committed by terrorist groups and provided them with a political cover to continue the crimes.  It placed these groups on an equal footing with the Government of Syria.  It ignored violations by the United States-led international alliance which shelled schools and deliberately caused the death of thousands of civilians.  It was drafted by countries which supported terrorism, financed it, and opened their borders for terrorists and arms.  One could not talk about the political or legal legitimacy of these countries.  At a time when weapons and armed forces were found in the territory of Syria without the consent of the Government, the Government was committed to protecting its people against terrorism and was determined to promote the rights of its citizens throughout the country.  Syria condemned the lies about its alleged use of chemical weapons and other lies, and regretted that its clarifications fell on deaf ears.  Syria had shown serious interest in participating in the Peace Talks in Geneva.  However, the sponsors of the resolution reiterated the biased nature of the Human Rights Council and forced Syria to vote against the resolution.

Cuba, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its condemnation of innocent civilian deaths and rejected any attempt to undermine the territorial integrity of the Arab State.  Interventionist agendas must be left to one side, and the international community must provide support to safeguard peace and stability in Syria.  Cuba reiterated its support for the search for a peaceful and negotiated solution in Syria.  The draft resolution before the Human Rights Council did not contribute to that goal, so the draft resolution L.22 should be subject to a vote, and Cuba would vote against it.

Egypt, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was following developments in Syria closely and had decided to take a position according to the Council item which it rejected because it was not accepted by the concerned country.  The situation in Syria had ramifications for the entire Middle East.  The current resolution was imbalanced when it came to perpetrators of human rights violations.  The resolution included references to the International Criminal Court about which there was a very clear position.  Egypt would abstain from voting on the draft resolution.

Ecuador, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated concern at the human rights situation and humanitarian crisis in certain parts of Syria.  Ecuador could not support resolutions or Special Procedures targeting specific countries if the participation of other States through military interventions had not been taken into account.  Ecuador highlighted the need for the work of the Council to be based on impartiality and universality.  Ecuador called for the protection of all human rights of the entire Syrian population in the context of the transparent monitoring and support of the entire United Nations.  Ecuador would abstain on the draft resolution.

Brazil, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said although it would vote in favour of the resolution, it was of the view that the text remained unbalanced and did not favour a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  The responsibility of all parties, directly or indirectly involved in the violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law, must not be overlooked.  All violations had to be equally addressed.  Brazil rejected any proposal that singled out some violators against others.  There was no solution other than a peaceful solution with dialogue.  Brazil called upon all those with influence on the conflict to overcome their differences and to put an end to the suffering by citizens.  A common ground, led by the Syrian people, with full respect to these people, was long overdue.  The Human Rights Council had to take into account the need to find remedies for these people.

Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it remained very concerned by the alarming human rights situation in Syria.  Appalling violations continued unabated in the country, while there remained impunity for the widespread violations and abuses which had been perpetrated since 2011.  As the Commission of Inquiry had stated in its most recent report, it was civilians in Syria who made up the overwhelming majority of casualties in the conflict.  It was therefore necessary that the Human Rights Council respond once again through a resolution.  Albania expressed its support for the draft resolution, which reflected a range of the most serious concerns in Syria and accurately reflected the key human rights issues on the ground at the moment.  It encouraged others to join it in doing so.
 
Iraq, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its support for a solution that would lead to an end to the bloodletting of Syria’s people.  Iraq also backed all initiatives which aimed to put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.  Iraq viewed that the tabling of the draft resolution under item 4 would not serve the political peaceful settlement of the crisis.  It also ignored positive developments.  Therefore Iraq would vote against the draft resolution.

Indonesia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed concern at the ongoing conflict in Syria.  Indonesia shared the concerns raised on the impact of the conflict on women and internally displaced persons.  The draft resolution failed to address those issues and would contribute little to improvements on the ground.  The Human Rights Council should support inclusive dialogue without any preconditions.  All relevant peaceful actors needed to work together.  Indonesia would therefore abstain on the draft resolution.

Venezuela, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the draft resolution.  In various multilateral fora, there was selectiveness and double standards.  Venezuela rejected the interference and intervention ongoing in Syria.  Venezuela reiterated its support for an inclusive dialogue that would allow the country to move towards lasting peace.

China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, believed that a political solution was the right approach to protect human rights in Syria.  The discussion should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.  The draft text was not in compliance with those principles.  Therefore, China would vote against the draft resolution.

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