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Human Rights Council resumes its forty-third session and holds a general debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

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15 June 2020

Human Rights Council

15 June 2020

Council Decides to Hold an Urgent Debate on the Current Racially Inspired Human Rights Violations, Systemic Racism, Police Brutality and the Violence against Peaceful Protests on 17 June

The Human Rights Council this morning resumed its forty-third session, which was suspended on 13 March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and held a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms. Summaries of the proceedings held before the Council suspended the session can be found here.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council decided to hold an urgent debate on the current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests on Wednesday, 17 June, at 3 p.m., following a request made by Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group.

In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers welcomed the work carried out by the Council and its mechanisms in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers said that treaty bodies should continue harmonizing their efforts to avoid duplication of work and highlighted the need for a more systematic, efficient and transparent way of working for Special Procedure mandate holders. Other speakers stated that the Council and its bodies must not become politicized and interfere with State sovereignty. They called on the Council and its Special Procedures to rely on the principles of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity, noting irregularities in the communications between certain mandate holders and Member States, as well as the lack of geographic representation and a lack of representation of countries with differing legal systems within mandate holders.

The Council heard the presentation of reports under its agenda item on human rights bodies and mechanisms on 11 March and a summary can be found here.

Speaking in the general debate were Philippines on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Portugal on behalf of a group of countries, Croatia on behalf of the European Union, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba on behalf of a group of countries, Switzerland on behalf of a group of countries, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Brazil, India (video message), Japan, Netherlands, Venezuela, Austria, Indonesia, Nepal, Mauritania, Armenia, Germany, Botswana, Cuba, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, China, Georgia, Bolivia, Cambodia (video message), Belarus and Iraq.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (video message), Friends World Committee for Consultation, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Global Welfare Association, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre, Association for Human Rights and Sustainable Development in Burundi, Association for Victims of the World, Prahar, International Service for Human Rights, World Muslim Congress, CIVICUS – the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Muslim Women’s Union, Victorious Youths Movement, World Jewish Congress, Associazione Communita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Action pour la protection des droits de l’homme en Mauritanie, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, ABC Tamil Oli, Association mauritanienne pour la protection du droit, Association pour le développement humain en Mauritanie, African Heritage Foundation Nigeria, Global Institution for Water, Environment and Health, Association pour l’Éducation et la Santé de la Femme et de l’Enfant, Tamil Uzhagam, Association Solidarité internationale pour l’Afrique and Human Rights.

Speaking in right of reply were India, China, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV.

The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review. It will then hear a presentation of reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, which will be followed by a general debate on this agenda item.

Remarks by the President of the Human Rights Council

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, said that over the past few weeks, she and the Bureau had held numerous consultations and bilateral discussions on resuming the forty-third session and holding the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council and their modalities. The proposals that the Bureau had made related to the extraordinary modalities for the session could be seen as a compromise. These extraordinary modalities would apply exclusively to the current circumstances and would by no means serve as a precedent for the time after the lifting of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Request to Hold an Urgent Debate on Systemic Racism and Police Brutality

Burkina Faso, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the events that had taken place on 25 May 2020 and which had led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the United States, did not amount to an isolated incident. It would be inconceivable that the Council would not be seized of the matter, as its mandate required. Consequently, the Council should hold an urgent debate on the current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protest.

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, asked if the Council wished to endorse the Bureau’s proposal to hold the urgent debate on the current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests, on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 at 3 p.m. It was so decided.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

In the general debate, speakers welcomed the work carried out by the Council and its mechanisms in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers emphasized that human rights treaty bodies should continue harmonizing their efforts to avoid the duplication of work and highlighted the need for a more systematic, efficient and transparent way of working for Special Procedure mandate holders. As a result, measures to ensure and improve the integrity and functioning of the Council were welcomed, and speakers encouraged the setting up of national mechanisms for implementation, reporting and follow-up as a key mean of preventing violations. Other speakers stated that the Council and its bodies must not become politicized and interfere with State sovereignty. Speakers called on the Council to rely on the principles of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity, noting irregularities in the communications between certain mandate holders and Member States, as well as the lack of geographic representation and a lack of representation of countries with differing legal systems among mandate holders.

Speakers noted increased instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence against Muslim minorities across the world, especially in Asia. The severity of the human rights situation in India, including India’s rejection of Special Procedure mandate holders’ reports, the situations in Kashmir and Assam, as well as attacks on indigenous populations was noted by several speakers. A number of speakers requested the referral of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court due to its policy of enforced disappearances and “genocidal” actions with regard to its Tamil population. Finally, speakers welcomed the President’s pledge to follow up on allegations of reprisals against human rights defenders and those who engaged with the United Nations human rights system, emphasizing a recent increase in reprisals across the world.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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