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Human Rights Council Elects Three Vice Presidents for 2021 Bureau

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16 December 2020

Adopts Methods of Work for Consultative Group

GENEVA, (16 December 2020) – The Human Rights Council this afternoon elected Ambassador Keva Lorraine Bain of the Bahamas, Ambassador Ali Ibn Abi Talib Abdelrahman Mahmoud of the Sudan and Ambassador Monique T.G. van Daalen of the Netherlands to serve as three of its Vice Presidents for a one-year term beginning on 1 January 2021, representing, respectively, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, African States and Western European and other States.  Ambassador Van Daalen will also serve as Rapporteur for the human rights body. 

During today’s meeting, a resumption of the Council’s organisational session held on 7 December, the 47-member body agreed to a proposal to convene a meeting in the coming days to consider the election of its President for its 15th annual cycle, to come from the Asia-Pacific States, and its fourth Vice President, to come from the Easter European States, to complete its five-member Bureau for next year.  The proposal came following requests from the two regional groups for additional time to allow for further consultations on nominating two ambassadors to fill these positions.

For her part, current Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, whose one-year term comes to an end on 31 December, expressed the importance to receive nominations for the new President and pending Vice President as soon as possible, ideally prior to 31 December, to allow them to assume office in early January and be in a position to discuss with the new Bureau the modalities of upcoming meetings, including an organizational meeting scheduled for 12 January.

Eric Tistounet, Director of the Human Rights Council Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, took the floor to provide details on legal provisions with regard to the election of Council Bureau members.

The following States, regional organization and non-governmental organisation delivered general comments:  Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC); Burkina Faso (on behalf of the African group of States); the European Union; Sudan; Togo; the United Kingdom; the Netherlands; the Bahamas; the Marshall Islands; Australia; Mexico; Afghanistan; Slovakia; and the International Service for Human Rights (on behalf of Human Rights Watch and the Universal Rights Group).

Through her personal end-of-year remarks, Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger said serving as President of the Human Rights Council has been the “honour of my career”.  She noted that when she took up her current position in January this year "we were living in a different world", which in many ways “felt like a roller coaster with a few soft landings in between" and eventually found ourselves in “the brave new world of COVID”.  Noting that the Human Rights Council was the last UN organization in Geneva to go into lockdown and the first to come out again, she said among the human rights body's major achievements this year was the adoption by silent procedure of a statement addressing the human rights implications of the pandemic.

Remarking that the Human Rights Council was the only UN body to complete its full programme of work this year, Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger said, "It would not have been an option if the Council vanished from the scene".  She also noted that this year has been particularly difficult for civil society - "a cornerstone in the work of the Council" - adding that it was in our best interest to protect human rights defenders and NGOs who participate in the Council’s work “because they help us look beyond our own silo”.  She concluded: "The Council is a very impressive machinery – sturdy like an aircraft carrier which no single person can steer - let alone divert….the aircraft carrier proved surprisingly adaptable to the bad weather we had this year."

At the onset of today’s meeting, the human rights body adopted a President’s Statementconcerning the methods of work of its Consultative Group – a five-member body charged with making recommendations on appointments for the Councils’ independent experts known as the Special Procedures.  

The Human Rights Council will meet on 18 December to hear oral updates by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situations in Ukraine.  Thereafter, the Council will meet hold a meeting to consider the election of its President and remaining Vice President (date to be determined), and then hold a subsequent organizational meeting on 12 January 2021 for the selection of members of troikas for the 37th, 38th and 39th sessions of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.

ENDS

Media contact: Rolando Gómez, HRC Media Officer, OHCHR; +41 22 917 9711 or rgomez@ohchr.org

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