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Human Rights Council adopts six resolutions and closes its thirty-first regular session

AFTERNOON
 
GENEVA (24 March 2016) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted six resolutions, including on protecting human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights; on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests; and four under the agenda item relating to the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.  The Council also appointed four Special Procedure mandate holders, before closing its thirty-first session. 
 
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, six against, and eight abstentions, the Council called upon States to combat impunity for all attacks and threats by State and non-State actors against any individual, group or organ of society defending human rights, and encouraged business enterprises to avoid, identify, assess and address any adverse human rights impacts related to their activities through consultations with potentially affected groups.  Before adopting this resolution, the Council rejected a series of amendments to the text. 
 
In a resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, five against, with 10 abstentions, the Council called upon all States to promote a safe and enabling environment for individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association, and encouraged them to engage with relevant stakeholders on the management of assemblies and to seek relevant technical assistance from United Nations agencies.  Before adopting this resolution, the Council rejected a series of amendments to the text. 
 
In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Council reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and reaffirmed its support for the solution of two States living side by side in peace and security. 
 
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 42 in favour, none against, with five abstentions, the Council demanded that Israel cease all practices and actions that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people or the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
 
In a resolution on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, none against, with 15 abstentions, the Council requested the High Commissioner to review the implementation of recommendations addressed to all parties since 2009 and to present a report at its thirty-fifth session.
 
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, none against, with 15 abstentions, the Council demanded that Israel immediately cease and reverse all settlement activities and requested the High Commissioner to investigate the implications of settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people.
 
To fill four vacancies of Special Procedures mandate holders, the Council appointed Alexey Tsykarev (Russian Federation) and Erika Yamada (Brazil) as members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Surya Deva (India) as member of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; and Stanley Michael Lynk (Canada) as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
 
The Council then adopted ad referendum the report of its thirty-first session, presented by Bertrand de Crombrugghe, Human Rights Council Vice-President and Rapporteur. 
 
In his closing remarks, Choi Kyong-Lim, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the 66 meetings undertaken in less than four weeks, were more than this Council had ever taken on, and there was a shared concern about this overload of work.  There was a need to take all necessary measures to prevent and ensure adequate protection against reprisals. 
 
Presenting draft resolutions and draft amendments were Norway, Russian Federation, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey, Costa Rica and China.
 
Speaking in general comments were Germany, France, Latvia, Panama, Namibia, Belgium, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Qatar, Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, Namibia and South Africa.
 
Speaking in explanation of the vote before or after the vote were Germany, Panama, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Georgia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mexico, Latvia, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, France, Albania, Slovenia, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Cuba, China, Ecuador, Botswana, Algeria, Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, Paraguay, India, Viet Nam, Venezuela, and Côte d’Ivoire.
 
State of Palestine and Israel spoke as concerned countries. 
 
The following observer States spoke on the resolutions adopted: Egypt, Pakistan, United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Myanmar.
 
Ghana and Haiti spoke in general concluding remarks.
 
International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement, and Arab Commission for Human Rights also spoke in general concluding remarks.
 
The thirty-second regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 13 June to 1 July 2016.
 
Action on Resolution 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 Protecting Human Rights Defenders, whether Individuals, Groups or Organs of Society, Addressing Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.28) on protecting human rights defenders, whether individuals, groups or organs of society, addressing economic, social and cultural rights, adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, six against and eight abstentions, the Council calls upon all States to take all measures necessary to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders, including those working towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights; urges all States to acknowledge in public statements at the national and local levels, and through laws, policies or programmes, the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in all areas of society; and calls upon all States to combat impunity by investigating and pursuing accountability for all attacks and threats by State and non-State actors against any individual, group or organ of society that is defending human rights.  The Council calls upon all States to ensure that information held by public authorities, including with respect to economic, social and cultural rights, and as related to environmental, land, natural resources and development issues, is proactively disclosed; and encourages business enterprises of all categories to avoid, identify, assess and address any adverse human rights impacts related to their activities through consultations with potentially affected groups. 
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (33):Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 
Against (6):Burundi, China, Cuba, Nigeria, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.
 
Abstentions (8):Bolivia, El Salvador, Kenya, Namibia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam.  
 
Action on Amendments
 
The Council rejected amendments L.41, L.43, L.46 and L.58 altogether by a single vote of 14 in favour, 22 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.42 by a vote of 14 in favour, 20 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.44 by a vote of 14 in favour, 21 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.45 by a vote of 13 in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.47 by a vote of 15 in favour, 21 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.48 by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.49 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.50 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.51 by a vote of 12 in favour, 21 against, and 13 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.53 by a vote of 14 in favour, 22 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.54 by a vote of 13 in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.55 by a vote of 15 in favour, 20 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.56 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.57 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.58 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.59 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 13 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.60 by a vote of 11 in favour, 21 against, and  14 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.61 by a vote of 15 in favour, 21 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.62 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.63 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.64 by a vote of 12 in favour, 20 against, and 14 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.65 by a vote of 12 in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.66 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.67 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.68 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.69 by a vote of 12 in favour, 22 against, and 12 abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.70 by a vote of 17 in favour, 20 against, and nine abstentions.
The Council rejected the amendment L.71 by a vote of 14 in favour, 20 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
02      Norway introduced draft resolution L.28 entitled “Protecting human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights”.  Severe risks were faced by human rights defenders, including those focusing on environmental, land and development issues, governance and accountability, as well as those exposing discrimination, corruption and violence at the hands of States, business enterprises and other non-State actors.  The Human Rights Council had to send a clear message of support for human rights defenders.  The draft resolution did not create new rights or privileges for them, as they were entitled to the same rights as other people, and needed protection to exercise their rights.  Human rights defenders’ work of defending economic, social and cultural rights was a vital factor in the realization of those rights.  It was noted that the resolution faced a record number of amendments which deleted the references to human rights defenders and their legitimate role, and deleted or weakened language related to reprisals, killing and impunity.  Such “backtracking” could not be accepted, as doing so would weaken the protection of human rights defenders.  Norway as the main sponsor was therefore not in a position to accept the majority of the amendments.  In the spirit of cooperation, however, oral amendments were presented which were read out in full.  Those amendments revised three preambular paragraphs and three operative paragraphs, which addressed among other topics the responsibilities of business enterprises.  With those revisions, Norway called on all delegations to support the resolution and reject any remaining amendments, which undermined human rights defenders addressing economic, social and cultural rights and the need for their protection. 
 
Russian Federation, introducing amendments L.41 to L.71 to draft resolution L.28 on behalf of a number of countries, said the official submission of the amendments was a necessary step.  All the States on behalf of whom he was speaking gave great importance to civil society and the important role it played in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Their role could not be ignored.  For the sake of brevity, he would call them human rights defenders.  In 1998 Member States of the General Assembly had adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  These negotiations had taken 15 years, and the reason for this lengthy time frame was the need to develop a comprehensive document, with all rights as well as duties of human rights defenders.  The draft resolution L.28 was an attempt to rewrite the content of the 1998 Declaration on a unilateral basis. 
 
The first step which went against the Declaration was the new definition of individuals,  groups and organs of society in L.28, which undermined these in favour of  the new concept of “human rights defender” which was not a concept of international law.  The Human Rights Council did not have the authority or universal representation to unilaterally replace the set of commitments in which States had entered in 1998.  This was what determined the stance of the Russian Federation around the informal negotiations, which, unfortunately, had not been heeded by the drafters of the draft resolution. 
 
The amendments served to bring the documents of L.28 in full compliance with the 1998 Declaration.  Amendments L.41 L.43 L46 L.58 to draft proposal L.28 regarded the name of the draft and all the changes to the name of the draft, which did not bolster the existing definition in international law of the concept of human rights defenders, but attributed certain features to this non-existent term. 
 
Unfortunately the protection of economic, social and cultural rights had moved to the background when compared to civil and political rights.  Thus, amendments L.66, L.67 and L.68 would deal with business and human rights. 
 
Groups involved in the defence of human rights were not a special category of citizens requiring a special legal regime for their protection.  It was improper to give them a higher rank in some kind of hierarchy, because all were equal before the law.  States had to focus efforts to those who were defending human rights, and not give them the category of untouchable.   This was the aim of amendments L.45, L.47, L.48, L.49, L.50, L.51, L.53, L.54, L.56, L.57, L.59, L.60, L.61, L.62, L.63, L.64, L.65, L.66, and L.69.
 
The draft resolution moved away from the Declaration and was a step away in the wrong direction.  This was why Russia submitted amendment L.42. 
 
Russia expressed regret that in the mass media and on social networks, there was a campaign of defamation vis-a-vis countries which had openly and constructively participated in L. 28 but were forced to defend their interests by the submission of these amendments.  This conduct was not only an attempt to deprive States of concerns, but a violation of the spirit and principles of multinational negotiations.  Russia suggested that one bloc of amendments on the individuals, groups and bodies in defence of human rights concerned L.41, L.43, L.46 and L.58.
 
The other amendments should be examined on an individual basis.
 
Germany, in a general comment, said the situation of human rights defenders was concerning and the Council should provide them with clear support.  The proposed amendments would substantially weaken the text because they would delete references to their legitimate role and reprisals against them.  Germany underlined that the term “human rights defenders” was a well-established term in the work of the United Nations bodies.  To accept the proposed amendments would send a very negative message to human rights defenders all over the world and Germany would thus vote against them.
 
France, in a general comment, noted that it was important for the Human Rights Council to reaffirm the essential role played by human rights defenders.  Their right to exercise their freedoms was paramount to an open society.  It believed that the adopting of the draft resolution would strengthen the legitimacy of the Council.  France regretted that despite the transparent process carried out by the co-sponsors, a group of States had proposed 30 amendments, which would significantly weaken the draft text and would send a negative signal to human rights defenders.  France called upon all Member States to adopt the draft resolution in the form presented by the co-sponsors.
 
Latvia, in a general comment, welcomed the particular focus on human rights defenders working towards the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights.  The draft text was balanced and it specifically identified the challenges faced by human rights defenders, providing good practical guidance to both States and non-State actors in that regard.  Human rights defenders faced increasing pressure around the world, which was a cause of great concern and thus Member States needed to stand firmly with all human rights defenders without discrimination. 
 
Panama, in a general statement on behalf of a number of States, thanked Norway for its efforts, and added that as a co-sponsor of the text, Panama believed it was important for States to recognize and protect human rights defenders who faced a high degree of risk as well as reprisals.  The State had the primary role in defending them.  Member States were urged to vote in favour of the draft which would render more visible the role played by human rights defenders.
 
Namibia, in a general statement, expressed its support for organs of society protecting human rights, adding that the Government of Namibia valued the work of non-governmental organizations and civil society and worked with them to protect its people. Human rights defenders should be protected as all groups in society were, and it was proposed that the use of the term “human rights defenders” should be discussed in the General Assembly, as no group should be elevated above others.
 
Belgium, in a general statement, said it was very attached to the role of civil society and human rights defenders who played a key role in society.  Belgium noted with concern that the space for expression for human rights defenders was dwindling in some countries.  The Council had heard poignant reports from survivors during its current session, and those defenders were commended for their endeavours.  Belgium called on all to support the text as it stood and called on all Council Members to reject amendments to the text. 

Germany, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendments L.41, L.43, L.46 and L.58, noted that it did not understand the rationale of the proposed amendments.  The terminology of “human rights defenders” had long been used within the United Nations.  It was a well-established term, and an easy and short reference.  The draft resolution sought to address the threats and challenges faced by human rights defenders, and to provide States with practices on how to deal with them.  Germany urged Member States to reject the amendments.
 
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendments L.41, L.43, L.46 and L.58, stressed that the generic term “human rights defender” was not new in the United Nations system.  It was a well-established term.  Amendment L.41 did not reflect the language agreed upon in the Council.  The acceptance of the recommendations would send a very negative message to human rights defenders.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendments L.41, L.43, L.46 and L.58, opposed deleting of the term “human rights defenders” and of the  references to women human rights defenders.  That term had been long recognized by the Council and had been in use for many years.  Given its focus on the human rights defenders working with economic, social and cultural rights, it was important to recognize the role of women human rights defenders.
 
The Council rejected the proposed amendments by a vote of 14 in favour, 22 against, and 10 abstentions.
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.42,  raised its voice against this amendment.  Some of the documents had been adopted by consensus, others voted upon.  It was necessary to keep references to previous texts on this issue.  Switzerland did not understand the basis and reasons for the removal of these references, and would vote against the amendment.
 
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.42, said the removal of references to the adopted draft proposal were unreasonable.  Therefore Georgia would vote against this amendment 
 
Amendment  L.42 was rejected by a vote of 14 votes in favour, 20 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.44, said that it required the deletion of preambular paragraph 8 of the original text.  The co-sponsors of the resolution rejected that amendment and the Human Rights Council had to send a clear message and address threats to human rights defenders. 
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said L.44 sought the removal of the eighth preambular paragraph which had received support from numerous delegations during consultations.  Mexico considered it essential to retain that paragraph.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it could not support the removal of preambular paragraph 8 as sought in L.44.  Human rights defenders in many regions of the world faced threats and violence in their work; Mexico would not support the amendment and invited members of the Council to vote no.
 
Amendment L.44 was rejected by a vote of 14 in favour, 21 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.45, noted that the term human rights defender was well established and commonly used language within the United Nations.  Moreover, the Human Rights Council had a dedicated Special Rapporteur with that term in his title.  The adoption of the draft amendment would send a very negative message to human rights defenders, and Georgia would therefore vote against it.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.45,  stated that the term human rights defenders was an agreed language in the wider United Nations system, and asked all Member States of the Human Rights Council to reject the amendment.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.45 by a vote of 13 in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.47, said it did not support amendment L.47 because the term human rights defenders was a widely recognized term in United Nations treaty bodies, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly as well as other bodies.  The deletion of the term could not be accepted.  In addition, the amendment implied that the legality of the activity of human rights bodies would be established, which suggested that all States parties legislation were in line with human rights, which was not the case.  Latvia would therefore vote against this amendment, and invited all to vote no.
 
Belgium, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.47, said it would not support the amendment.  The deletion of human rights defenders would send a very negative message to all human rights defenders around the world.  The amendment went against the spirit of the original proposal and therefore Belgium would vote no to this amendment.
 
Amendment L.47 was rejected by a vote of 15 votes in favour, 21 against, and 10 abstentions. 
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.48, said it rejected the amendment contained in L.48 because there were policies and legislation everywhere to harass human rights defenders which did not protect but restricted their rights.  The amendment tried to change the language and downgrade actions which were States’ responsibility and made the paragraph unreadable.  Member States were called on to vote no on the amendment and Switzerland would do the same.
 
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.48, said the country would vote no and asked others to do the same.
 
Amendment L.48 was rejected by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.49, said that awareness-raising was an essential aspect of the work of human rights defenders, and that access to information and transparency was crucial in that regard.  The draft amendment sought to delete references to access to information, and once more sought to delete the reference to “human rights defenders”
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.49, said that it was unacceptable that the amendment sought again to delete the term “human rights defenders” and to downgrade the need for access to information.  The Netherlands called on all Member States to vote against this amendment. 
 
The Council rejected amendment L.49 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Portugal, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.50, said the deletion of the term “human rights defenders” would mean backtracking.  This was a crucial term, and therefore Portugal would vote against the amendment and urged members to vote against it as well.
 
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was against amendment L.50.  The term “human rights defenders” was a well-established term.  It would vote no against this amendment and invited others to do the same.

Amendment L.50 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.51, stated that it could not support the amendment because of the proposed language and removal of three references to human rights defenders.  The proposed amendment also removed the reference to relevant mandates, as well as the findings of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.
 
France, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.51, considered that it undermined the objective of the draft resolution.  It aimed to ignore the work and expertise of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.51 by a vote of 12 in favour, 21 against, and 13 abstentions. 
 
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.53, said the proposed amendment went against the spirit of the draft proposal.  This was backtracking and did not lead to the promotion and protection of human rights.  It sent an adverse message to human rights workers.  Language on effective remedies must remain in the text.  Therefore Albania would vote against the amendment and invited all to reject it.
 
Slovenia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.53, said L.53 asked for the removal of the term “human rights defenders.”  This was a term that the general public understood.  If the world wanted to make human rights actionable, it did not have to hide behind words.  Since its establishment the Human Rights Council had used the term “human rights defenders.”   Words did matter, and would matter for many defenders who continued to face pressure in many parts around the world.  Therefore, Slovenia would vote no and called upon all members of the Human Rights Council to do the same.
 
Amendment L.53 was rejected by a vote of 14 votes in favour, 22 against, and 10 abstentions.
 
Belgium, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.54, stated that the concerns expressed by the sponsors of the amendment had already been covered.  Belgium would thus vote against the amendment.
 
The Council rejected the draft amendment L.54 by a vote of 13 in favour, 20 against and 13 abstentions. 
 
France, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.55, said it was contrary to the aims of the draft resolution, which welcomed the important role of human rights defenders in the field of economic, social and cultural rights.  The third  operative paragraph should be adopted as it stood.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.55, expressed appreciation for the work of Special Procedures, and it would thus vote against the proposed amendment.
 
The Council rejected the draft amendment L.55 by a vote of 15 in favour, 20 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.56, said it would be highly regrettable to withdraw legitimacy from the work of human rights defenders as was proposed in the amendment.  A lack of recognition would trigger harassment and unpunished attacks against defenders.  The expression “human rights defenders” was clearly part of the working language of the United Nations.  Women human rights defenders made important contributions in many areas and they were often the targets of specific forms of violence.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.56, said that an
amendment to operative paragraph 4, which sought to delete references to women human rights defenders, was without merit and should be rejected by the Council.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.56 with a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, 12 abstentions.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.57, failed to understand why the carefully-drafted language on impunity and reprisals should be deleted.  Netherlands also rejected the use of the term “legitimate activities” in the proposed amendment. 
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.57 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.59, said while removing the term “human rights defenders,” L.59 also removed reference to civil society and the important work of human rights defenders.  It would be a waste of resources and expertise not to take advantage of the work and recommendations of the mandates of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Therefore, Switzerland would vote against this amendment.
 
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said L.59 was yet another attempt to undermine the work of human rights defenders.  Furthermore, the  work and recommendations of the Special Rapporteurs would be undermined by this amendment.  Therefore, Georgia would vote no to this amendment and invited others to vote no.
 
Amendment L.59 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.60, said deleting the language would harm the text and failed to understand the rationale for deleting it.  The paragraph was appropriate and it was critical that women human rights defenders were specifically recognized in the text.  Albania would vote against the amendment.
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.60, said the amendment sought to delete essential references to structural discrimination faced by women human rights defenders.  That was why Mexico considered the amendment unacceptable and urged the Council to continue defeating the amendments one by one.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.60 with a vote of 11 in favour, 21 against, and 14 abstentions.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.61, said that the proposed amendment again proposed to delete the term “human rights defenders” and it thus asked all Member States of the Council to reject it. 
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.61 by a vote of 15 in favour, 21 against, and 10 abstentions.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.62, said the first element of the amendment was to delete the term “human rights defenders.”  The second was to weaken the recognition that States needed to review legislation and national policies that were not in compliance with human rights and that limited the work of human rights defenders.  This concern was very important and responded to calls by many international human rights mechanisms.  Such legislation and policies had a very negative effect on human rights, and it was therefore essential that the draft resolution respond to this concern.   Therefore, the United Kingdom would vote against the amendment.
 
France, speaking on behalf of a group of States in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said amendment L.62 countered the resolution.  The elimination of the term “human rights defenders” would be a negative sign for all human rights defenders around the world.  Paragraph 11 of the draft resolution should recognise the need for reviewing legislation and national policies that were not incompliance with human rights and that had the effect to limit the work of human rights activists.  Therefore France called on all to vote against this amendment.
                                      
Amendment L.62 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Slovenia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.63, said that the original language referred to the public’s need to access information on matters affecting them, which was essential to allow their participation in the public debate.  Amendment L.63 however sought to weaken public participation, and should therefore be rejected. 
 
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.63, said that this amendment sought to provide an escape route to Governments not willing to share information with the public, including with human rights defenders.  Panama rejected this draft amendment, and called on all Members of the Council to do the same. 
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.63 by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.64, said the amendment requested the change of operative paragraph 13 with the aim of diluting the text.  The proposition was unacceptable and went against the fundamental aim of the text.  All Members of the Council were invited to vote no.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.64, said it could not support the amendment which aimed to dilute the operative paragraph.  Guaranteeing access to information was essential to promoting good governance.  Watering down that important right could not be accepted.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.64 with a vote of 12 in favour, 20 against, and 14 abstentions.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.65 with a vote of 12 in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.
 
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.66, said the amendment sought to delete reference to human rights defenders and women human rights defenders.  Therefore Mexico rejected the amendment. 
 
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the amendment requested the deletion of the term “human rights defenders” and the reference to “women human rights defenders,” which was unacceptable.  Therefore Albania rejected the amendment and requested all others to do so.
 
Amendment L.66 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.67, said that businesses should be held accountable for abuses of human rights, adding that the amendment regretfully proposed to delete this reference, as well as reference to the term “human rights defenders”.  Switzerland called for a vote against the draft amendment and would vote against it. 

Slovenia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.67, said that human rights defenders remained among the most exposed, harassed and threatened populations.  Accordingly, they required additional protection from rights abuses, including by companies and enterprises.  Slovenia called on all Members of the Council to vote against the draft amendment. 
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.67 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.68, said it did not understand the rationale of the amendment, which weakened the text and asked all Member States to vote against it.
 
The Council rejected the amendment by a vote of 13 in favour, 21 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
France, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.69, said it could not accept that “human rights defenders” be deleted because it would send a negative message, and appealed to all Member States to reject it.
 
The Council rejected  amendment L.69 by a vote of 12 in favour, 22 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.70, urged all to vote against the amendment.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.70 with a vote of 17 in favour, 20 against, and 9 abstentions.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.71, said the Secretary-General had a crucial role in bringing cases to the attention of the Human Rights Council, and needed to continue to give full visibility to reprisals which undermined the functioning of the United Nations system as a whole, and so deletion was not acceptable.
 
The Council rejected draft amendment L.71 with a vote of 14 in favour, 20 against, and 12 abstentions.
 
Russian Federation, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28 as orally revised, stated that the building of a strong civil society was important, and that it welcomed the support and attention of the Council to persons and groups who promoted generally recognized human rights and freedoms.  However, it regretted that the sponsors of the draft resolution L.28 had refused to conduct an open and constructive dialogue with the Russian Federation.  They had refused its proposals on an entire spectre of institutions working on economic, social and cultural rights, such as trade unions and socially oriented organizations.  The Russian Federation could not agree to single out persons that promoted human rights in particular categories.  That was not in line the principle of equal treatment. The Russian Federation could not accept that the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations were preoccupied with reformulating the duties of Governments enshrined in the Declaration.  Half of the Council Member States opposed such revisionist steps.  The Russian Federation, along with China, thus requested a vote on draft resolution L.28 and would vote against it.
 
United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote on draft resolution L.28, said it was a well-balanced text which addressed important issues.  It identified the threats and challenges human rights defenders found in their work.  The United Kingdom wished to register its displeasure at all the proposed amendments to the text.  That practice distorted the spirit in which Council Members should engage with that body.  The United Kingdom was therefore encouraged that the amendments had been uniformly rejected.  Those who saluted the bravery of human rights defenders at the international level were in the majority.
 
Viet Nam, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28, said that the country recognized the importance and lawful role of organs of society in the promotion and protection of human rights and agreed that primarily, States should take measures to protect them.  Appreciation was expressed for co-sponsors’ efforts to have consultations.  All concerns had not been taken on board, however, regarding defining the responsibilities of States.  In Viet Nam’s view, the amendments could have helped make the draft resolution more balanced and the country’s vote would reflect that.  Viet Nam encouraged all parties to engage in continued consultations in facilitating a genuine progress.
 
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Cuba could not support the draft resolution as it stood because the text did not reflect the balance struck in 1998 on the rights and duties of individuals and groups which had been universally recognised.  Although the debate on the Declaration did not achieve all its aims, the international community had to develop its ideas on the rights and duties of individuals.  Agreement on that had to be found.  That was why Cuba considered that L.28 did not reflect the provisions of the agreement.  The term human rights defenders was referred to at the detriment of other things such as the right to development.  The media manipulated the term and some non-governmental organizations in the northern hemisphere had a monopoly on representing so-called defenders.  Foreign funding of the activities of so-called defenders showed political manipulation, sometimes that concealed activities incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations.
 
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28 as orally revised, said it attached great importance to individuals and groups working to promote human rights.  As for the draft resolution, China opposed the forceful imposition of concepts that did not enjoy general acceptance internationally.  Human rights defenders were not regarded as a group with special rights and legal status.  The free exercise of rights could be curtailed by provisions of law.  Everyone was equal before the law, and no one should be able to escape restrictions of the law.  The provisions in the draft resolution were prescriptive and did not recognize and respect the essential development models of different countries and their business models.  Regrettably the sponsors had taken some proposals only symbolically. 
 
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28 as orally revised, noted that there was a need for a balanced text which respected the needs of different countries.  The Russian Federation and other co-sponsors of the draft amendments had sought to enrich the original draft text.  It would vote in favour of the resolution, nevertheless. 
 
Botswana, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28 as orally revised, noted that human rights defenders played an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights, adding that they should be protected from reprisals.  The resolution had to speak about all human rights, even though it seemed more focused on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Nevertheless, Botswana would vote in favour.
 
Algeria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.28 as orally revised, stated that civil society had to play a due role in the protection and promotion of human rights.  They had to be protected as long as they respected public order.  It recognized that there was much value in the draft resolution, even though concerns voiced by certain countries had merit as well.  Given that, Algeria had abstained on all amendments, but would vote in favour of the draft resolution L.28.
 
The Council adopted the resolution by a vote of 33 in favour, 6 against, and 8 abstentions. 
 
Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories
 
Action on Resolution on the Right of the Palestinian People to Self-determination
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.36) on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, adopted without a vote, the Council reaffirms the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and the right to their independent State of Palestine; calls upon Israel, the Occupying Power, to end its occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and reaffirms its support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security; and urges all States to adopt measures as required to promote the realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.
 
Pakistan, introducing on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other countries draft proposal L.36 on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, said the realisation of self-determination was an essential condition for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The draft proposal focused on the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, granted through the United Nations Charter, international law, international human rights covenants and relevant United Nations resolutions.  The preambular part sought thematic guidance from the United Nations Charter and other relevant international instruments and United Nation resolutions.  In the operative part, the draft resolution reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and the right to their independent State of Palestine.  It also reaffirmed its support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security. 
Due to the universal character of this right and its continued applicability to the Palestinian people, Pakistan trusted the resolution would be adopted by consensus. 
 
State of Palestine, speaking as a concerned country, thanked all the groups and States which supported four draft resolutions on Palestine, and their work in order to strike consensus.  Speaking about the first draft resolution on the right to self-determination (L.36), it noted that the right to self-determination was enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  As for the draft resolution on the human rights in the Occupied Palestine territories (L.37), the most flagrant violations of human rights had been taking place there.  That was not an internal conflict, but the occupation of one country by another.  Israel repeated its egregious abuses on a daily basis.  Israeli soldiers and settlers killed Palestinian children.  The Israeli army prevented the provision of medical care to Palestinians.  There were some 300 children in administrative prisons.  The continued blockade of the Gaza Strip had exacerbated the suffering of the Palestinian people. 
 
Turning to the draft resolution on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (L.38), the State of Palestine tried to prevent any incitement to provocation of Israel, and it condemned the inflammatory discourses by some Israeli politicians, including the Prime Minister.  The State of Palestine was ready to assume its legal responsibilities to ensure accountability through investigation of human rights violations.  Nevertheless, it was Israel that prevented the access of the Commission of Inquiry to the Palestinian territories.  With respect to the draft resolution on Israeli settlements (L.39), the international community condemned the Israeli settlements claiming that they were an obstacle to peace and the two-State solution.  If the land grab by Israel continued, its credibility would certainly be undermined.  The State of Palestine asked the Member States of the Council to adopt the draft resolutions with consensus.  
 
Action on Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.37) on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a vote of 42 in favour, none against and five abstentions, the Council demands that Israel, the Occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and cease immediately all measures and actions taken in violation and in breach of the Convention; calls for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem;  and demands that Israel, the Occupying Power, cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.  The Council also calls for urgent attention to the plight and the rights, in accordance with international law, of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails; demands that Israel, the Occupying Power, cease all of its settlement activities, the construction of the wall and any other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and requests the Secretary-General to place the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on a firmer basis under the regular budget. 
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (42): Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Venezuela, and Viet Nam. 
 
Abstentions (5): Botswana, Ghana, Paraguay, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Togo.
 
Against (0): 
 
Pakistan, introducing draft resolution L.37 on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, said the text addressed conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The resolution was described; in its operative paragraphs it would, among other measures, urge Member States to continue to provide emergency assistance to the Palestinian people.  Hopes were expressed that the resolution could be adopted by consensus. 
 
Paraguay, in a general comment on draft proposal L.37 on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, said Paraguay had suffered the terrible consequences of war.  After 120 years of a fratricidal war, Paraguay had developed a relationship of trust and mutual support with the peoples of its region.  It was based on its own personal experience, thus, that Paraguay was convinced that Palestine and Israel had the right to live by each other in peace and in respect of their full rights.  Paraguay had always been consistent in recognizing a two State solution. Palestine and Israel were sovereign States and Paraguay had diplomatic relations with both of them.  It called on both parties to respect human rights and international law, and to respect the basic principles and the need for dialogue.  Therefore Paraguay supported the draft resolution. 
 
Saudi Arabia, in a general comment on draft proposal L.37, said six decades and more had passed and the world was still witnessing the shedding of blood by Palestinians at the hands of Israel, which was in unprecedented defiance of all international resolutions.  The continuation of this would only have negative implications for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Israel had blood on its hands and the Human Rights Council should not remain passive.  Saudi Arabia could not understand the words that could be put forward to find a justification to not vote in favour of the draft proposal.  It called upon all countries to vote in favour of the draft proposal. 
 
United Arab Emirates, in a general comment on draft proposal L.37, said the occupation by Israel of Palestine was illegal.  The Human Rights Council needed to continue to address the violations of human rights until the occupation of Israel came to an end. 
 
Cuba, in a general comment on draft resolution L.37, said the situation of the occupied territories needed maximum attention from the Human Rights Council, as Israel continued to violate international humanitarian law and human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Cuba called for a sustainable fair solution to the conflict, and this was not possible if violations continued and if there was impunity.
 
Action on Resolution on Ensuring Accountability and Justice for All Violations of International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.38) on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, adopted by a vote of in 32 favour, none against with 15 abstentions, the Council calls upon all duty bearers and United Nations bodies to pursue the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict; calls upon the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened; and also calls upon all States to promote compliance with international law, and all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to respect, and to ensure respect for, international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  The Council requests the High Commissioner to conduct a comprehensive review detailing the status of implementation of the recommendations addressed to all parties since 2009 by the relevant Human Rights Council mechanisms, and to present a report to the Council at its thirty-fifth session. 
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (32): Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Viet Nam. 
 
Abstentions (15): Albania, Botswana, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Latvia, Netherlands, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Togo, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 
Against (0): 
 
Pakistan, introducing draft resolution L.38 on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, stated that it was imperative to end violations of international law in the occupied State of Palestine.  The draft text emphasized the importance of safety of all civilians and it deplored civilian deaths from the 2014 Gaza conflict.  The operative part welcomed the work of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry into the conflict and called upon all duty-bearers to implement its recommendations.  Member States were urged to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.
 
Saudi Arabia, in a general comment, said that Palestinians were suffering from systematic violations of their human rights.  Impunity and the potential impunity in such systematic, long-term fashion had allowed for the persistence of long-lasting repression without any repercussions.  Palestinian victims had been deprived of their right of effective compensation.  All responsible Israeli officials ought to be held accountable for the violations of the international law and the international humanitarian law.
 
United Arab Emirates, in a general comment, deeply regretted that some delegations were against accountability when it came to the rights of the Palestinian population.  However, in the end, accountability should prevail.   
 
Action on Resolution on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.39) on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, none against with 15 abstentions, the Council demands that Israel, the Occupying Power, immediately cease all settlement activities in all the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan; also demands that Israel, the Occupying Power, comply fully with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice; and calls upon Israel, the Occupying Power, to reverse the settlement policy in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, and, as a first step towards the dismantlement of the settlement enterprise.  The Council also urges all States to ensure that they are not taking actions that either recognize or assist the expansion of settlements or construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, including with regard to the issue of trading with settlements; and requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. 
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (32): Algeria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.
 
Abstentions (15): Albania, Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Latvia, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 
Against (0): 
 
Pakistan, introducing on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other co-sponsors draft resolution L.39 on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, said the construction of settlements was in continuing violation of international humanitarian law and human rights.  The draft sought to counter the settlement policy and establish a legal framework against it, based on the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on this matter, as well as many other human rights instruments, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, customary international law, and Protocol 1 of the Four Geneva Conventions.  The settlements were illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.  The resolution condemned the settlement activities and demanded that all settlements in all occupied territories immediately cease.  It called for an end to violations of all human rights, especially the right to self-determination, and to provide for reparations.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation hoped that the Human Rights Council would abide by international humanitarian law and human rights and adopt the resolution by consensus.
 
Saudi Arabia, in a general comment on resolution L.39, condemned the occupation by Israel of Palestinian territories for decades, and the expansion of the settlements in flagrant violation of international law and in contradiction of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that stated that it was illegal to establish such settlements.  Saudi Arabia called upon peace-loving nations to vote in favour of this draft resolution. 
 
Qatar, in a general comment on resolution L.39, said it was extremely important that the Human Rights Council adopt this resolution, as Israel was in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights, including the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Not adopting it would encourage Israelis to continue the settlements.
 
Israel, in general comment on resolution L.39, said the Human Rights Council had just witnessed another absurd performance.  Today it was considering five resolutions mandating six reports overburdening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the time of the Human Rights Council for future sessions.  Israel rejected these resolutions in their entirety.  By now Israel realised the politicization of the Human Rights Council.  Where was its sense of purpose?  The Human Rights Council had become an inflammatory environment.  Instead of contributing to a more peaceful environment, it contributed to deepened the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  Was this a farce or a tragedy?  Israel would achieve peace despite the difficulties posed by the Human Rights Council.  Later today, Stanley Michael Lynk would be appointed of Special Rapporteur.  Again the fox would be given the job to guard the hen house.  Again another absurd performance.  While this theatre continued, Israelis would work hard to live in peace and security.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, said settlements were illegal and jeopardized the two-State solution.  Comments were made regarding the listing of companies’ alleged activities.  While recognising the need for informing consumers, Member States had the primary role.  Disappointment was expressed that operative paragraph 17 on looking further regarding best practices was not taken into account.  Due to that, the European Union had been unable to support L.39, and European Union Member States would abstain.  It was noted that in making its statement, the European Union had not expressed itself on the use of certain legal terms, which were listed.
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Switzerland deplored the existence of settlements which undermined the rights of the Palestinian people.  Switzerland regretted that the text in operative paragraph 17 provided for the establishment of a database of private businesses alleged to be involved in settlements.  There were more appropriate means of ensuring compliance.  That was why Switzerland refrained from co-sponsoring the resolution as had been done in previous years.
 
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that the Council had considered several resolutions on Palestine, with the view of improving the livelihoods of Palestinians.  All resolutions pointed to the need to recognize and apply many recommendations of international bodies.  Ecuador believed that compiling a database of companies working in the Occupied Territories was a significant proposal, and such a list should be made public.  The request for a database was a viable initiative. 
 
Germany, speaking on behalf of a group of countries in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that their position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was clear.  The continuing violence had led to the loss of numerous lives in both Israel and Palestine.  All acts of terror were unacceptable and could not be justified; the perpetrators, no matter from which side, ought to be brought to justice.  The group of countries urged both sides to act in a manner which was proportionate.  They believed that the situation in Palestine should be addressed under agenda item 4, as all other country situations. 
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, believed that calling upon the High Commissioner to establish a database was inappropriate and the United Kingdom would not cooperate in the process.

Action on Resolution 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 Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Peaceful Protests
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/31/L.21) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, five against, and 10 abstentions, the Council calls upon all States to promote a safe and enabling environment for individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association; encourages all States to engage at the national and regional levels with relevant stakeholders, including assembly organizers, human rights defenders, civil society actors, national human rights institutions, as well as business enterprises and regional human rights mechanisms, on the management of assemblies; and invites States to seek relevant technical assistance, including from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and from other specialized agencies where appropriate. 
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (31): Albania, Algeria, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 
Against (5): Burundi, China, Cuba, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.
 
Abstentions (10): Bangladesh, Bolivia, Namibia, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Togo, United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam.
 
 
Action on Amendment L.72, L.74, L.75, L.76, L-78, L.79
 
The Council rejected amendment L.72 by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 11 abstentions.
The Council rejected amendment L.74 by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected amendment L.75 by a vote of 17 in favour, 23 against, and six abstentions.
The Council rejected amendment L.76 by a vote of 13 in favour, 24 against, and nine abstentions.
The Council rejected amendment L.78 by a vote of 13 in favour, 23 against, and 10 abstentions.
The Council rejected amendment L.79 by a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, and 11 abstentions.
 
Turkey, introducing on behalf of Costa Rica, Switzerland and Turkey and co-sponsors  draft resolution L.21 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, thanked the Special Rapporteurs, whose comprehensive work and compilation constituted a guide, for the draft resolution.  These would help promote a safe and enabling environment for individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association. 
 
Costa Rica, also introducing draft proposal L.21, thanked the delegations for their contributions and tireless efforts on the draft resolution.  The sponsors had desired to initiate a round of informal consultations on the right to freedom of assembly and arbitrary arrests and summary and extrajudicial killings.  An open consultation had also been held with the two Special Rapporteurs on these issues, as well as with all interested delegations.  The dialogue had been pursued right up until today.  Costa Rica appealed to all States to vote in favour of the resolution.
 
Switzerland, also introducing draft resolution L.21, said that on the basis of discussions some States had presented oral revisions of the draft proposal.  Amendment L.73  and L.77 had been withdrawn by the sponsors.  Switzerland  regretted that amendments L.72, L.74, L.75, L.76, L.78 and L.79 had been maintained, and was confident that States would adopt the text in its entirety.  It called on States to vote against amendments L.72-L.79.
 
China, introducing amendments L.72, L.74, L.75, L.76, L.78, L.79,  said China supported freedom of association and peaceful assembly.  It opposed however concepts that had not been generally accepted.  The draft resolution took peaceful assembly and association as a separate category which constituted a distortion of human rights.  Each country should be recognized to manage assemblies according to its own rules.  While it emphasized protecting the rights of protesters, China also advocated for a balanced view on their responsibilities.  The report on the appropriate management of assemblies prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association should be treated as a reference, not as a tool to impose and interfere into other countries’ judicial sovereignty and independence.  China thus called on the Council to support the amendments and take action on the proposed amendments one by one.
 
Switzerland said it was not in a position to accept the proposed amendments and requested a vote on them one by one.
 
Netherlands, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, noted that the right to association and peaceful assembly was one of the most important human rights.  The European Union welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and of association, and it strongly encouraged States to use it as a tool for proper management of assemblies and prevention against violence.  The European Union noted that its implementation would require strong commitment by States, business and private parties.
 
France, in a general comment, supported the balanced text of the resolution.  The right to peaceful demonstration was indeed an important human right.  All members of the Council were invited to adopt the draft resolution as proposed, without weakening it.
 
Namibia, in a general comment, said that the Constitution of Namibia allowed for freedoms of expression, assembly and association.  Those rights were protected at all times.  Sometimes reasonable restrictions were necessary to preserve public order or morality, or to avoid defamation or call to offence.
 
South Africa, in a general comment, was fully supportive of the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in whatever form.  South Africa believed that all individuals and groups of individuals, while enjoying their human rights, should bear in mind their concomitant duties and responsibilities.  South Africa underlined that the right to freedom of assembly was part of its Constitution. 
 
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.72, rejected the amendment because it removed the reference to the promotion of human rights within the context of peaceful protests.  That amendment was not necessary because it took language from most of the existing resolutions adopted by the Council.  It called on all Member States to vote against it.
 
Slovenia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.72, noted that since the aim of the draft resolution was to follow up on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the freedoms to assembly and to peaceful protest, it was properly reflected in the text.  Thus Slovenia called for the rejection of the amendment L.72.
 
The Council rejected amendment L.72 by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 11 abstentions. 
 
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.74 to draft resolution L.21, said the proposed amendment sought to amend the language of operational paragraph 1 in order to introduce language that was not in conformity with the draft resolution.  Namely, it proposed to replace the term “peaceful protest” by “peaceful assembly.”  However protest was broader than assembly, as it included the right to freedom of expression and association as well as assembly.  It also captured the idea that the message of right-holders did not have to be in line with governments.  Therefore Albania rejected the amendment, and urged all members to vote no.
 
Belgium, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.74 to draft proposal L.21, said the amendment aimed at deleting two important elements in the resolution.  The first was deleting the term “protest,” which was broader than the term  “assembly.”  The second important element was the listing of the most relevant human rights violations, which was important to the debate. Therefore, Belgium would vote against the amendment and requested all to vote against it.
 
Amendment L.74 was rejected by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against, and 10 abstentions.
 
Georgia, commenting on proposed amendment L.75 in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the proposal incorrectly suggested that assembly organizers were responsible for the conduct of other persons participating in the assembly or the protest.  International standards recognized that isolated cases of violence in a protest did not deprive citizens of the right to protest.
 
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it could not accept the proposed amendment L.75.  International law recognized that cases of isolated violence should not prevent peaceful protests or individuals participating in demonstrations.  All States were called upon to vote no on L.75.
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the proposed amendment L.75 aimed to shift the responsibility from States to organizers of events.  An enabling environment was not an environment in which people were afraid to organize events.  Organizers should not be held responsible for activities of other individuals.  Based on the international law, isolated behaviour by some should not deprive others of their right to assemble.
 
Draft amendment L.75 was rejected by a vote of 17 in favour, 23 against and 6 abstentions.   
 
Paraguay, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.76, noted that the report of the Special Rapporteur had an added value with respect to the fulfilment of the freedom of assembly and association.  Keeping the original draft text would be the best way forward.  It requested that Member States vote against the modification proposed by the amendment.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.76, opposed the amendment, noting that removing the list prepared by the Special Rapporteur would do disservice to his work and it therefore encouraged States to vote against the amendment.
 
The Council  rejected the amendment  by a vote of 13  in favour, 24 against, and 9 abstentions. 
 
Netherlands, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.78 to draft proposal L.21, said it aimed to delete the reference to human rights defenders in operational paragraph 6.  Mentioning them was important, as they were a particularly vulnerable group, and a crucial source of information.  Human rights defenders were vulnerable to stigmatisation and attacks.  The draft resolution did not suggest that they had special rights.  They were bound by national law, as long as such law was in accordance with international humanitarian law.  The Netherlands also encouraged the practical recommendations in the resolution and their implementation, as they were the fruit of extensive cross-regional consultations, and efforts to bring together a variety of expectations.  Their utility should thus be recognized.  Therefore Netherlands would vote against the amendment and urged all States to vote against it.
 
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.78 to draft proposal L.21, said the specific reference to human rights defenders was important.   The follow-up to the compilation of practical recommendations was also important.  Thus Georgia would not support the amendment and invited all States to vote against it.
 
Amendment L.78 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 23 against, and 10 abstentions.
 
Germany, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.79, said that the concept of peaceful protest encompassed much more than just peaceful gathering.  The entitlement to express disagreement with the Government should be protected.  The draft amendment should be rejected.
 
Latvia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on the draft amendment L.79, stated that the guidance of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on how protests could be peacefully conducted was extremely valuable.  Other Special Procedures should also be invited to address relevant issues.  Latvia would vote against the proposed amendment. 
 
Draft amendment L.79 was rejected by a vote of 13 votes in favour,  22 against and 11 abstentions.
 
India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, noted that the ability to protest was an enabler for other human rights.  The Constitution of India guaranteed the right to peaceful protest.  However, every right had a corresponding duty and there were inherent and reasonable restrictions of human rights.  In the name of protest, the life of society could not be paralyzed.  The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights set out clear limitations as long as they were reasonable.  The resolution was highly unbalanced, which was why India had supported amendments.  It would support the draft resolution with reservations
 
Viet Nam, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, noted that States had the responsibility to protect all rights, including the right to peaceful assembly.  It took note of the recommendations to manage assemblies and saw it as a useful reference.  The draft resolution should be based on United Nations terminology.
 
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, said that in light of violent and destructive activities, the international community should take a careful approach to the regulation of peaceful protests.  It was not a new or special right.  Peaceful protest mainly involved the freedom of speech, assembly and association.  The rights and obligations should be approached in a balanced manner.  The interests of States and societies should not be ignored.  The legal framework should safeguard the basic order, whereas governments and the public should interact in a constructive manner in order to promote social stability.  Interference into national judiciary was not acceptable and thus China requested a vote on the draft resolution and would vote against it.
 
Algeria, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, said the right to peaceful assembly was now guaranteed in Algeria by the Constitution.  This year Algeria would vote in favour of the draft.
 
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, supported the revisions by China and would vote against the draft resolution because it did not reflect the balance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The draft resolution failed to recognize that in exercising the right to peaceful assembly there should be possibility for restrictions as defined by the law, in the interest of public order and national security, and with a view to protecting public health and morals.  Therefore Cuba would not support draft resolution L.21.
 
Russian Federation, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, said, after listening to the arguments, it was ashamed of the lack of legal literacy by its colleagues.  Russia advised its colleagues to study existing international and legal instruments in the area of human rights before speaking out in favour of initiatives.  Whereas the draft proposal referred to the right to so-called peaceful protest, this did not exist in international law.  Russia said that they should be talking about the right to peaceful assembly.  With these incorrect approaches to decision-making, the Human Rights Council was discrediting itself, first in front of civil society and second, in front of the entire society.  Given this, Russia would vote against the draft proposal, and called on those who were in favour of human rights as the basis for the work of Human Rights Council to do the same.
 
Morocco, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.21 as orally revised, said demonstrations were a means of expression which could be individual or collective, adding that Morocco was attached to strict respect for the right to demonstrate peacefully and would vote in favour of the resolution, having rejected all the amendments.
 
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on the right to food, said that trade negotiations were conducted through the World Trade Organization and that at the tenth conference there had been a range of views on how to approach the Doha negotiations.  Agricultural subsidies, services, rules, trade-related aspects and development were noted. 
 
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on L.21, said Venezuela’s Constitution enshrined the right to peaceful demonstration, noting that security force action such as the use of firearms in the course of peaceful protests was prohibited.  Violent protests used to undermine State institutions had nothing to do with peaceful protests.  The Venezuelan State guaranteed the full right of human rights defenders to operate in line with the Constitution.  Venezuela supported amendments launched by the group of like-minded countries, and regretted that certain entrenched positions had prevented the outcome of negotiations being acceptable to all concerned.
 
Côte d’Ivoire, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on the resolution on human rights defenders L.28, said that it sought to provide support for the cause of human rights defenders.  Restrictive laws and repression should not be allowed to hamper the work of human rights defenders, who should be protected. 
 
India, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on the resolution of the integrity of the judicial system L.1, fully supported the overarching goals.  Indian tribunals followed established judicial procedures and there was a judicial review secured at the highest level.  In spite of certain deficiencies, India had joined in support of the resolution.
 
Appointment of Special Procedure Mandate Holders
 
CHOI KYONG-LIM, President of the Human Rights Council, said that on the basis of the recommendations of the Consultative Group, the list of candidates had been circulated to all delegations on 23 March 2016 and posted on the Extranet as well.  In line with the recommendations of the Consultative Group, the President said that he had decided to appoint Alexey Tsykarev from the Russian Federation as a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from Eastern European States; Erika Yamada from Brazil as a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from the Latin American and Caribbean States; Surya Deva from India as a member of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; and Stanley Michael Lynk from Canada as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
 
The Council endorsed the list of Special Procedure mandate holders.
 
The President of the Council praised the professionalism of the members of the Consultative Group, and paid tribute to the important work of Special Procedure mandate-holders and stressed the need for cooperation with the Council’s mechanisms.
 
General Comments by Observer States
 
Egypt, in a general comment, was of the view that preambular paragraph 8 of L.5 on the human rights situation in Syria could be used as justification for violence and terrorism by extreme groups.  Egypt attached great importance to the work of individuals, groups and society to protect and promote human rights.  These also had duties.  The adopted draft resolution L.28 created categories not recognised in human rights documents.  The term human rights defenders was not an internationally recognized term. 
 
Pakistan, in a general comment, said it strongly supported the fundamental right to self-determination, which was common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Pakistan also commented on draft resolution L.5 on Syria.  
 
United States, in a general comment, said it strongly supported the new mandate of the Commission for Human Rights in South Sudan.  The wholescale disregard of human rights, and the abuses, including sexual abuse, had gone on for too long.  Accountability was essential.  The United States was pleased that the resolutions on “North Korea” and South Sudan had been adopted.  The United States stood firmly with human rights defenders.  It regretted that Russia continued to politicise key issues on judicial independence.  It remained deeply troubled by the stand-alone item on Israel.  While the United States’ national policy on settlements had not changed, the resolution on Israeli settlements was out of line and politicized.
 
Australia, in a general comment, acknowledged that there were ongoing human rights concerns in Myanmar, including the treatment of minorities and the situation in Rakhine State.  Regarding the resolution on Myanmar and going ahead, its continued consideration under item 4 should be changed.  The international approach should be constructive and affirmative, and the Council should work by shifting it to item 10 in 2017.  Comments were also made on a resolution on persons with disabilities in emergencies, and trade negotiation issues were noted.
 
Japan, in a general comment, welcomed the approval of the resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and thanked the co-sponsors.  It was important that immediate, concrete actions toward improving the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were taken.  On Myanmar, significant progress had been made recently, but challenges remained to be addressed.  At the current juncture, it was essential that the international community lent support.  Hopes were expressed that it would be considered under item 10 next year.  Regret was expressed that programme budget implications were made available at the last minute for some resolutions with significant implications.  Sponsors and the Secretariat were urged to work more closely together.
 
Canada, in a general comment, expressed support for human rights defenders.  In countries around the world, they were targets of legislation such as reprisals and detention and undue restriction on peaceful assembly.  Thanks were expressed to Norway for facilitating the resolution.  The text had made advances, including on the role played by indigenous and women human rights defenders.  Canada called on all Member States to protect human rights defenders in line with it.
 
New Zealand, in a general comment, thanked Norway and said that the value of the initiative on human rights defenders could not have been made clearer than when a human rights defender was tragically murdered.  The negative trend was unfortunately all too clear through the amendments put forward to the text.  It was curious that delegations tried to contest the term “human rights defenders”.  On the resolution on the human rights situation in Syria, a reminder was issued so none would forget how the civil war in Syria had started, with teenagers caught writing slogans on a wall.
 
Myanmar, in a general comment, reiterated its opposition to country specific mandates without the consent of the concerned country.  The Universal Periodic Review was the most appropriate format to address human rights violations.
 
Statement by the Rapporteur of the Council
 
BERTRAND DE CROMBRUGGHE, Vice President and Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, introduced the draft report of the thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council, which described the work from the beginning and until before the Council had started taking action on draft proposals.  Delegations could send comments or corrections within two weeks of the publishing of the draft report on the extranet of the Council.  Mr. De Crombrugghe expressed the gratitude of the Government of Belgium for the support received after the terrorist attacks in Brussels.  There was a need to reaffirm that human rights, democracy and the rule of law were the best tools to discourage terrorism and deprive them from support.  He thanked the Secretariat, all delegations and civil society organizations for their active contribution to the work of the Council. 
 
The Council then adopted ad referendum the report of its thirty-first session. 
 
General Concluding Remarks
 
Ghana, in general concluding remarks, focused on the rights of women, economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development.  It reminded that in 2013 the African Union had established an inevitable link between the achievement of development and the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It had also pledged to rid the African continent of conflict.  However, wars continued.  It was necessary to ensure accountability for committed human rights violations through strengthened national judicial frameworks.  Technical assistance was necessary for peace and reconciliation processes, as well as for strengthening of accountability.  As for the rights of women, there was a need to combat sexual violence against women.  The adopted recommendations on African countries received full support of the African Union. The Council needed to continue addressing human rights abuses and the issue of disarmament.  Ghana reiterated its intention to engage with Member States on ways to achieve sustainable development goals while keeping the perspective of human rights.
 
Haiti, in general concluding remarks, said the dialogue had been very productive.  It expressed sincere thanks to countries and regional groups, as well as the President of the Human Rights Council, in putting forward the resolution on the right to development.  In particular Haiti thanked France for its coordination role, which made it possible to reach consensus on the resolution on Haiti.  It reiterated its commitment to ensure democracy in Haiti.
 
International Service for Human Rights, on behalf of severals NGOs1, said the work of women human rights defenders was very important.  They welcomed the strong resolution on human rights defenders and the threats they faced.  They regretted the attempts by some States to undermine the resolution, in an attempt to avoid accountability for their own crackdowns on defenders.  They welcomed the resolution on the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, as well as the resolution on South Sudan, both of which usefully complemented the Human Rights Council toolbox to address human rights issues.  They also welcomed the resolution on Myanmar, as well as the joint statement on China.  They  welcomed the adoption of the resolution on peaceful protest.
 
Arab Commission for Human Rights, said 40 resolutions had been adopted after a marathon session and night meetings.  It welcomed the resolutions on combatting torture, on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  It hoped to see the adoption of this study, in particular the repartition of funds.   It regretted the abstentions on resolutions L.37, L.38, and L.39 in face of the odious practice of building settlements on the Palestinian peoples’ land.  It regretted that Israel practiced colonial occupation while having the indecency to give lectures in the Human Rights Council.  
 
Closing Remarks
 
CHOI KYONGLIM, President of the Human Rights Council, in closing remarks, congratulated participants on completing a milestone session.  The 66 meetings undertaken in less than four weeks were more than this Council had ever taken on.  During this session, The Council received over 100 dignitaries, adopted 38 resolutions and 2 decisions, and heard more than 3,000 statements.  It had endured six night meetings.  There was a shared concern that due to this overload of work, the Council may not be doing justice to the issues that it discussed.  The President recalled that the Council would be hosting a high-level panel during its thirty-second session to mark its tenth anniversary, and encouraged all those who participate in the Council’s work to consider how to strengthen its credibility, integrity and solidarity.  In order for this Council to effectively fulfil its mandate, it was important to ensure that deliberations and debates were conducted in a constructive and consensual spirit.  He then referred to allegations of intimidation and reprisals brought to his attention during this session, which was unacceptable.  There was a need to take all necessary measures to prevent and ensure adequate protection against such acts.  The President then thanked members of the Bureau and other United Nations staff, and closed the thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council.

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1 Joint statement: International Service for Human Rights; Article 19; CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Human Rights Watch; and International Federation for Human Rights

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