GENEVA (23 March 2018) - The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting adopted five resolutions in which it extended the mandates on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Iran, South Sudan and Myanmar.
The Council adopted resolutions to extend by a period of one year the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for a period of one year, and it requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide a full report at the Council’s fortieth session on the implementation of the recommendations made by the group of independent experts regarding accountability.
By a vote of 27 in favour, four against and 16 abstentions, the Council decided to extend for one year the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, and it requested the Commission of Inquiry to provide it with an oral update at its thirty-eighth session, as well as to present an updated written report at its thirty-ninth and fortieth sessions.
The Council decided by a vote of 21 in favour, 7 against and 19 abstentions, to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran for a further period of one year, and it requested the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of the mandate at the Council’s fortieth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session.
In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for a period of one year, and it requested the Commission to present an oral update at the Council’s thirty-ninth session, and to present a comprehensive written report at the Council’s fortieth session.
By a vote of 32 in favour, five against and 10 abstentions, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for a further period of one year, and it requested the Special Rapporteur to present an oral progress report at the Council’s thirty-eighth session, and to submit a report to the Third Committee at the seventy-third session of the General Assembly and to the Council at its fortieth session.
Introducing draft texts were Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, Japan, United Kingdom, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, and United States.
Syria, Iran, South Sudan and Myanmar spoke as concerned countries, while Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not present in the room to take the floor as a concerned country.
Australia, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Switzerland, Iraq, Belgium, Venezuela, United States, and Pakistan spoke in general comments.
Cuba, Venezuela, China, Australia, Egypt, Mexico on behalf of a group of countries, Cuba, Brazil, Pakistan, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Japan, Philippines, United States, and Kyrgyzstan spoke in explanation of the vote.
The Council at 3 p.m. will continue taking action on resolutions and decisions before it closes its thirty-seventh session.
Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.29) on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, adopted without a vote, the Council reiterates the request… to the High Commissioner to provide a full report at its fortieth session on the implementation of the recommendations made by the group of independent experts on accountability in its report to the Council; and decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 34/24 for a period of one year. The Council urges the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, through continuous dialogues, to invite and to cooperate fully with all special procedure mandate holders, especially the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to give the Special Rapporteur and supporting staff unrestricted access to visit the country, and to provide them with all information necessary to enable them to fulfil such a mandate, and also to promote technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner.
Bulgaria, introducing the draft resolution L.28 on behalf of the European Union, said for a decade, the European Union and Japan had been at the forefront of bringing the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the attention of the Human Rights Council, starting with the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and later with the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry whose landmark report had been released four years ago. Despite recent high-level talks held between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea being an encouraging signal and a positive step toward the improvement of inter-Korean relations, the European Union and Japan remained deeply concerned by the human rights situation, with on-going, systematic and widespread gross human rights violations taking place in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, some of which might amount to crimes against humanity. It was in the common responsibility as the international community and as members of the Council to ensure that this precarious human rights situation continued to receive the attention it deserved. The draft resolution aimed to address the most pertinent issues related to the human rights situation, and it welcomed steps to strengthen the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including its field-based structure in Seoul.
Japan, also introducing the draft resolution L.29, said the text recalled last year’s United Nations General Assembly resolution that underscored very serious concerns regarding reports of abductions and other forms of human rights violations. The international community must continue to maximize pressure on, and strongly urge, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take concrete steps for cooperation with the international community and for the early resolution of the abductions issue. The draft resolution would continue to encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to expedite the process of strengthening its capacity and it welcomed the recent steps taken to this end. The draft resolution also decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year. Japan called on the Member States of the Council to support the adoption of this draft resolution by consensus, as had been done the previous year.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was not in the room to take the floor as the concerned country.
Cuba, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the draft resolution was a confrontational step taken towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As a position of principle, Cuba objected to country-specific mandates as those violated the principles of non-politicization that should be the real principle of this Council. The road of respectful dialogue and non-selectivity, and respect of sovereignty of States, was the only way to resolve human rights concerns. Adopting resolutions like this one would not contribute to the mandate of the Council and Cuba could not support such resolutions. The draft resolution did not provide added value and would not achieve any progress in current issues facing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated that the draft text was promoting policy against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and stressed that the decision on measures concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must include the country itself. Since this was not the case, Venezuela objected to such an approach and dissociated itself from the resolution.
China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stressed that human rights problems should be resolved through dialogue, and the promotion of a healthy human rights cause. The situation in the Korean Peninsula had recently experienced positive change, and China hoped that all parties would contribute to the amelioration of the situation. The draft text did not promote such an objective and China could not support the draft resolution by consensus.
The Council adopted the draft proposal without a vote.
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic
In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.38) on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions, the Council calls upon all Member States, especially members of the International Syria Support Group, to make renewed efforts to create conditions, including a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire, that support continued negotiations for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, under the auspices of the United Nations Office at Geneva, as only a durable political solution to the conflict can bring an end to the systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law. The Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the continued use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic..., and expresses its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable; also recalls the reports of the Commission of Inquiry, and expresses grave concern at its findings that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the use of sarin on 4 April, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun; and expresses grave concern at numerous continuing allegations of the use of chemical weapons in recent months and weeks, including in Idlib Province and Eastern Ghouta. The Council invites Member States to support actively the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, including by considering the provision of information and data on the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, and to provide adequate financial means for its functioning; and demands that all parties work towards a genuine political transition, including through the establishment of an inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers, and urgently work towards the comprehensive implementation of the Geneva communiqué and Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), within the framework of the United Nations-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. The Council decides to extend for one year the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; requests the Commission of Inquiry to provide an oral update to the Human Rights Council during the interactive dialogue at its thirty-eighth session, and to present an updated written report during an interactive dialogue at the thirty-ninth and fortieth sessions; and decides to transmit all reports and oral updates of the Commission of Inquiry to all relevant bodies of the United Nations, recommends that the General Assembly submit the reports to the Security Council for appropriate action, expresses its appreciation to the Commission for its briefings to members of the Security Council, and recommends the continuation of future briefings.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (27): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.
Against (4): Burundi, China, Cuba and Venezuela.
Abstentions (16): Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
United Kingdom, introducing the draft text L.38 on behalf of a group of countries, said the human rights situation in Syria remained as urgent as ever. There was a need to continue shining a spotlight on the terrible events occurring in this country in which the people were enduring the devastating effects of conflict on a daily basis. The draft text had been shaped by the constructive participation of Member States, said the United Kingdom, and highlighted its importance as it renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The United Kingdom welcomed the Commission’s findings that the use of unguided bombs in the densely populated area of Atarib market by Russian fixed-wing aircraft might amount to a war crime.
Qatar, also introducing the draft resolution L.38, said the text condemned all violations undertaken against the Syrian people and urged the international community to work to end impunity in Syria. The situation on the ground showed once again the disregard of Syria for the relevant United Nations resolutions. Qatar called for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 2401. The draft text under consideration condemned the targeting of civilian infrastructure and other atrocities, and stressed that all rights violators must be held accountable. Qatar reiterated the transparent manner in which the text was drafted.
Russia, presenting amendment L.60, said that Russia could not support the draft resolution as submitted to the Council. The statement made by the United Kingdom had been excessively emotional and sought to mislead the international community. It was clear that the genuine purpose of this text was not concerned with the humanitarian needs or the needs of the people of Syria, but the desire to achieve politically motivated goals. The text aimed to shield illegal armed groups from responsibility for the crimes they committed - armed groups which the co-sponsors had provided with political, informational and armed support, and which continued to commit crimes, hold civilians hostage, destroy entire groups on the basis of religious and ethnic affiliation, torture women and children, and conduct mass killings. Nonetheless, the co-sponsors of the draft resolution tried to justify before the public opinion the investments and down payments they had made to these armed groups. Sooner or later those who supported jihadists would need to admit the choices they made, said Russia, noting that the draft resolution contained politicized words and distortions, which remained the hallmark of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and other co-sponsors of this resolution.
One could hardly have a positive view of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Syria, said Russia, noting that it presented often unjustified and false information; at the same time, the more than $ 2.5 million that had been used by this Commission could have been used to truly protect and promote human rights, for example by providing technical assistance to the Government. The report contained accusations of the use of chemical weapons, but Russia was convinced that once Syria was freed, an impartial investigation must be conducted to investigate from where the illegal armed groups had received the components for the chemical weapons. The same applied for the supply chain of weapons and technology. The States that sponsored the draft resolution did not want to condemn all those who committed crimes and this desire was predicted by their need to protect and shield those who supported these armed groups; if they truly condemned all those who had committed crimes, then there should be no difficulty in accepting the amendment to the paragraph as proposed. The second amendment proposed by Russia was on the Syrian National Dialogue Congress which had taken place at the end of January 2018, and which was a vital part of the reconstruction of Syria.
United Kingdom, as the sponsor of the draft resolution, requested a vote on amendment L.60.
Australia, speaking in a general comment, noted that the human rights situation in Syria had been appalling for the past seven years, from the initial brutal response to protests in 2011 to the most recent atrocities in Eastern Ghouta. Australia deplored the use of chemical and other indiscriminate weapons, attacks on civilians, denial of humanitarian access, and the use of siege and starvation tactics, and said that the regime bore the responsibility for the suffering it caused to its own people. Surely it was time to say enough was enough, said Australia, recalling that the Security Council resolution 2401 had already requested an immediate ceasefire. Australia urged all sides to find a political solution and extended its support to the Commission of Inquiry.
Slovakia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that the resolution not only condemned violence but also called for an immediate action to implement Security Council resolution 2401, and expressed full support for the United Nations led efforts to secure a political solution. The European Union welcomed the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, and noted that during the high-level panel on the violation of human rights of Syrian children and the presentation of the report by the Commission of Inquiry, this Council’s session had witnessed heinous violations of human rights in Syria. Security Council resolution 2401 remained largely unobserved due to the continued ground offensive and aerial bombardment as well as deliberate targeting of civilians and medical infrastructure in Eastern Ghouta, by the regime supported by Russia and Iran. The European Union had allocated over €10.4 billion to date for humanitarian and resilience assistance to the Syrians, and the second Brussels Syria Conference afforded a further opportunity to establish peace. Finally, the European Union urged States to bring to an end the suffering of the Syrian people.
Switzerland, speaking in a general comment, remained concerned over all the violations of human rights in Syria and commended the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission of Inquiry and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism which would allow for their greater cooperation. Switzerland opposed the proposed amendment which attempted to weaken the draft resolution which reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in promoting peace in Syria.
Iraq, in a general comment, said that the world was witnessing the Syrian crisis enter its eighth year. The world must not ignore the adversities and challenges in Syria and it must address the conflict without selectivity in order to develop a comprehensive solution. Iraq had been involved in the consultations on the draft text and had attempted to make it more balanced; however, because the current version would not contribute to bringing an end to the conflict, Iraq would abstain from the vote.
Belgium, in a general comment, said that Belgium would oppose the amendment tabled by Russia. The text of the resolution, as it stood, contained strong language condemning terrorism, while Russian proposals had no direct link with human rights and went beyond the currently agreed language in the United Nations. Belgium would vote against the amendment and urged other States to do the same.
Venezuela, speaking in a general comment, supported amendment L.60 put forward by Russia and underlined the importance of its paragraph 7 which strongly condemned all terrorist attacks. Venezuela would vote in favour of the proposed amendment.
United States, speaking in a general comment, strongly supported the draft resolution and the extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, and welcomed the resolution’s strong condemnation of systematic abuses of human rights carried out by the Syrian Government and its allies. The conflict had led to the displacement of millions of people and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The Commission of Inquiry had helped to provide necessary documentation to hold those responsible to account. The United States reiterated the call for a political solution to the conflict and called upon all Member States of the Council to support the draft resolution and vote no to the tabled amendment, which the Russian delegation had put forward after failing to participate in either of the two public informal consultations. Refusing to engage in negotiations and then filing last-minute hostile amendments undermined this Council and made a mockery of all those who had participated constructively in the negotiation process.
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said the draft resolution was not an acceptable approach to deal with the situation in the country. Co-sponsors of the draft sought to achieve political goals through the text. Those States had no legitimacy to present a draft on Syria as some continued to occupy parts of Syria or contributed support to terrorists in the country. The draft was an insult to Syria and ignored a long list of crimes committed by other States. The co-sponsors were using unreliable information and the draft lacked neutrality. Syria hoped that those speaking about the suffering of Syrians would address the recent bombings perpetrated by co-sponsors of the draft. The extension of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry would only serve to prolong the war, said Syria and called on the Council’s Member States to vote against the draft.
Action on Amendment L.60
Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, strongly opposed the amendment, which Australia said would introduce new language on terrorism. The draft resolution already condemned all terrorist organizations as designated by the Security Council, and Australia was concerned that the amendment would be used to further justify the horrors on the population of Syria. The amendment also spoke of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, but did not refer to the negotiated and agreed United Nations Security Council and the Human Rights Council resolutions. Australia agreed on the role of the Special Envoy on Syria appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and regretted that Russia had not proposed its amendment in the two open consultations. Australia would vote no on this amendment and encouraged all other States to do the same.
The Council then rejected the amendment L.60, with 8 votes in favour, 25 against and 14 abstentions.
Action on Draft Resolution L.38
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Egypt was at a loss of words to express solidarity with the Syrian people who had been paying the price of the conflict for seven years. Egypt closely followed the situation and its impact on the Middle East at large, and said that Egypt usually rejected resolutions under agenda items 4 which were not accepted by the concerned State. The draft resolution continued to be unbalanced, especially when it came to the identification of perpetrators, and was using information from inaccurate sources. There was more than one reference to the International Criminal Court in the text and the position of Egypt in this regard was well-known, and additionally, Egypt had not supported the resolution that had established the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism. For all those reasons, Egypt would abstain from the vote.
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote that was also on behalf of Brazil, Peru and Panama, said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry had demonstrated serious human rights abuses. The draft resolution could have been more balanced and could have reflected different types of responsibilities that all State and non-State actors held. At the same time, Brazil, Peru, Panama and Mexico were concerned about the escalating situation in Syria and the lack of humanitarian access. Thus, those four countries would vote in favour, although they deeply regretted that their proposals had been rejected - they believed all countries should refrain from arms transfer that would further destabilize the region. There was a moral responsibility to reject gains generated from arms sales when such gains were obtained on the expense of lives of civilians.
Cuba, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its horror at the death of civilians in any circumstances and rejected approaches that singled out one party to the conflict as solely responsible. Interventionist agendas would not lead to a solution of the crisis and Cuba rejected persistent challenges to the territorial integrity of Syria. Cuba reaffirmed its support for a peaceful, just and negotiated solution to the conflict, and requested that the draft resolution be put to a vote, and said it would vote against it.
Brazil, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Syria and expressed support for the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. All Syrians deserved respect for their human rights and human rights violators must be held accountable, stressed Brazil. Noting that the draft text retained imbalances from previous texts, it urged the Human Rights Council to unequivocally condemn the transfer of weapons that was exacerbating the conflict. Brazil also condemned any use of chemical weapons and said it would vote in favour of the draft.
Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Pakistan was seriously concerned about the human rights of Syrians. The situation was grave, and the world could not afford a blame game and politicization. Pakistan believed in a solution that would respect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Syria and stressed that the challenges could only be overcome by a Syrian-led coalition. Pakistan also believed in a solution that would condemn violations by all sides. The killing of innocents must end, and for that, an impartial and non-selective approach was needed. There could not be favourites. Finally, Pakistan supported dialogue, and said that all parties must respect international humanitarian and human rights law. Pakistan had participated in the consultations in a constructive manner and had tried to balance the text; because the draft fell short of consensus and would reinforce divisions and not bridge them, Pakistan would refrain from voting for this draft resolution.
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said China believed that a political solution was a fundamental approach to human rights in Syria and that the discussion should respect the Syrian sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The international community should facilitate a political solution, mitigate the situation and combat terrorism. Since the draft resolution did not conform to those principles, it was not conducive to ensuring peace, and China therefore would vote against.
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed concern about the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all parties to the conflict, and in particular the violations against refugees, medical staff, civil society groups, civilians, and protectors of cultural heritage. In many cases humanitarian aid was instrumentalized as a weapon of war. Ecuador maintained its position of not supporting resolutions against certain countries which prejudged situations and helped unilateral actions. Those resolutions did not help human rights in the countries concerned, they undermined a constructive dialogue, and compromised diplomatic solutions. Ecuador regretted that the draft resolution did not hold accountable all parties involved, which aggravated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, destabilized the region as a whole, and exacerbated the negative impact of arms transfer and illicit arms trade. For all those reasons, Ecuador would abstain from the resolution.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Venezuela would vote against the draft resolution and continued to condemn double standards contained in the L.38 which did not provide any benefits to victims of human rights abuses. Situation in Syria called for a genuine commitment to find politically negotiated outcome, taking into account national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Council then adopted the draft resolution L.38, by a vote of 27 in favour, 4 against and 16 abstentions.
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.39) on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted by a vote of 21 in favour, 7 against and 19 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran for a further period of one year, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the implementation of the mandate to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session; and calls upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country as well as all information necessary to allow the fulfilment of the mandate.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (21): Australia, Belgium, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.
Against (7): Burundi, China, Cuba, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Venezuela.
Abstentions (19): Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.
Sweden, introducing draft resolution L.39 on behalf of a group of countries, said the draft was a short procedural text to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. Sweden welcomed the work carried out by the previous Special Rapporteur, the late Asma Jahangir. Sweden noted the increased engagement of Iran with Special Procedures and urged Tehran to allow a visit to the country by the next Special Rapporteur. Sweden hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.
Slovakia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union remained committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with Iran. The European Union supported the work of the Special Rapporteur and noted the improved engagement of Iran with the Special Procedures. The European Union called on Iran to fully cooperate with the next Special Rapporteur and invited all Human Rights Council members to join consensus on the draft.
Pakistan requested a vote on draft resolution L.39. External interference through country specific resolutions was counterproductive. Iran had cooperated with the United Nations human rights bodies through the Universal Periodic Review and treaty body mechanisms. Iran had also accepted the majority of recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review, showing its willingness to adhere to international human rights standards. Engagement and not estrangement was the way to promote human rights. Since the draft resolution was not in conformity with views shared by Pakistan, Pakistan would vote against it.
Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said that it firmly believed in the respect of human rights, which was why it had adopted a constructive approach, both internally and externally. The Government recently adopted amendments to the anti-narcotics law, which had been recognized as progress by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner. Iran was actively engaged in the implementation of recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. In 2017, the landslide re-election of President Rouhani, who had campaigned on a platform of stronger human rights promotion, showed the importance that the country attached to human rights. Every delegate understood that the draft resolution on Iran was not about human rights aims, but about the continued abuse of the procedures for narrow political purposes. The authors of the resolution on Iran continued in their orchestrated efforts toward reproducing an unjustified and politically motivated resolution. The appointment of the Special Rapporteur for Iran was unnecessary and inappropriate. Iran reiterated its genuine intention to conduct constructive cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Council thematic mandate holders.
Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran and said it would like to see progress there. It appreciated the periodic reporting produced by the Special Rapporteur, which afforded impartial insight into the situation in Iran. It was saddened to learn of the death of the Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir and looked forward to the appointment of a new Special Rapporteur in due course.
Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would abstain in the vote on the draft resolution on Iran. Despite legitimate concern on the human rights situation, Brazil welcomed the efforts by the Government to improve the situation. It noted the initiatives on reforming capital punishment as a first move in the right direction. Brazil hoped that this would bring about positive change. Brazil’s decision to abstain had taken into consideration the Iranian political will to engage with the international human rights system, through the Universal Periodic Review and other mechanisms. Brazil’s decision must be seen as an incentive for Iran to continue on a constructive track. Brazil remained concerned about human rights violations, especially of women, children, human rights defenders, journalists, and religious groups, among others, and took the opportunity to reaffirm the aspirations of the Bahai’s to peacefully exercise their human rights in the country. It was saddened to learn of the death of the Special Rapporteur.
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote in favour of the draft. The report presented by the late Special Rapporteur reflected persistent challenges in Iran and the growing desire in the country to work with the international community. Mexico welcomed Tehran’s increased cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. Dialogue and cooperation were essential to strengthening the institutional capacity of States. Mexico remained concerned over the application of the death sentence and the human rights of women.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the draft did not promote dialogue and cooperation. The draft was an instrument for political confrontation and reflected the manipulation of a few super powers. Venezuela continued to reject selective practices targeted at certain States and would vote against the draft.
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the mandate on Iran was a clear display of discriminatory practices against certain States. Cuba reaffirmed its opposition to country-specific mandates. Only a cooperation- and dialogue-based approach within the Human Rights Council could help promote and protect human rights. Mandates imposed without the consent of States were bound to fail. Cuba would vote against the draft.
The Council adopted draft resolution L.39 by a vote of 21 in favour, 7 against and 19 abstentions.
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in South Sudan
In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.40) on the situation of human rights in South Sudan, adopted without a vote, the Council, deeply alarmed by the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, noting that some of the human rights violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, decides to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, composed of three members, for a period of one year, renewable as authorized by the Human Rights Council, with the following mandate [inter alia]: to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan, and to make recommendations to prevent further deterioration of the situation with a view to its improvement; to determine and report the facts and circumstances of, collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence and ethnic violence, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability, and to make such information available also to all transitional justice mechanisms, including those to be established pursuant to chapter V of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, including the hybrid court for South Sudan, once established in cooperation with the African Union; and to report on the factual basis for transitional justice and reconciliation. The Council requests the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-ninth session in an interactive dialogue, and to present a comprehensive written report, in an interactive dialogue, to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session.
United States, introducing draft resolution L.40 on behalf of the core group, particularly welcomed the productive dialogue with the Mission of South Sudan in developing the resolution before the Council. The situation of human rights in South Sudan as reported was deeply alarming. The report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, presented to the Council last week, had detailed serious human rights violations and abuses and concluded they may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It contained chilling accounts of looting and destruction of homes and villages; rape and other forms of sexual gender-based violence; violence against children; and extra-judicial killings on the basis of ethnicity. The report also underscored that the situation continued to be characterized by impunity. The resolution condemned in the strongest possible terms ongoing human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan. The world must come together to address these atrocities and put an end to the crisis in South Sudan.
Through this resolution, the Council condemned violence by all sides, and encouraged domestic and regional efforts to foster a national reconciliation process and work to ensure accountability. In light of the Commission’s report, it was clear that much work remained in carrying out the Commission’s mandate, which this resolution would extend by a year. Through this resolution, the Council welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s stated commitment to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Special Procedures, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and regional, sub-regional and international mechanisms on the ground. The core group called upon the Government to honour that commitment and to give the mechanisms unhindered access and engage fully and constructively with them. It also reiterated its call for all parties to the conflict, to allow and facilitate the full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel, equipment and supplies free of unnecessary duties and taxes, and the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need, in particular to internally displaced persons and refugees. The Government of South Sudan was urged to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union to establish the Hybrid Court immediately.
South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, noted that the Government did appreciate the mutual spirit demonstrated by the United States and the core group in negotiating the extension of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. It was time to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union. The international community was urged to support the existing peace processes, including the national dialogue, which had been a vital peace process initiated by the President. Moreover, people to people peace initiatives promoted social cohesion. Finally, the High-Level Revitalization Forum on the Peace Agreement was a process led under the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to prepare the ground for national elections. Those three tracks were complementary processes and had to be firmly supported to achieve lasting peace. South Sudan was born out of a long struggle for peace. South Sudan called upon the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Troika and the international community not to pursue sanctions but to complement the Government’s efforts toward achieving a sustainable peace.
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
In a resolution (A/HRC/37/L.43) on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 5 against and 10 abstentions, the Council strongly condemns the reported widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Rakhine State since 25 August 2017…, expresses its deepest concern about the disproportionate response of the military and the security forces and deplores the serious deterioration of the security, human rights and humanitarian situation, [and] the exodus of almost 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh; and calls for a full and independent investigation of the reports of systematic human rights violations and abuses committed, as reported by various United Nations bodies, including the Human Rights Council independent international fact-finding mission. The Council decides that the fact-finding mission must ensure that the large and continually increasing amount of evidence of human rights violations and abuses it has collected is fully documented, verified, consolidated and preserved in order for the material to be effectively shared, accessed and used by credible justice mechanisms, and requests the Secretary-General to allocate the resources necessary for this to be done; and also decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for a further period of one year, requests the Special Rapporteur to present an oral progress report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session and to submit a report to the Third Committee at the seventy-third session of the General Assembly and to the Council at its fortieth session.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (32): Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.
Against (5): Burundi, China, Cuba, Philippines and Venezuela.
Abstentions (10): Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Japan, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa.
Bulgaria, introducing the draft on behalf of the European Union, said the Special Session called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities last December had been a sign of the indignation of the international community toward the actions of the Myanmar military against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. The draft resolution voiced its condemnation of the abuses taking place in Myanmar. Human rights mechanisms established by the Council played a real difference on the ground and States should cooperate with mandates. The draft called on Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur. Adoption of the draft resolution by consensus would send a strong signal of support to the Rohingya community.
Australia, in a general comment, reiterated its deep concern about events in Rakhine state, including reports of systematic and widespread violations by the army and vigilantes and the clashes in northern Myanmar. It reiterated its call for an independent fact-finding mission, and called upon Myanmar to grant it unhindered access to all affected areas. All perpetrators of violence and crimes must be held accountable. Displaced persons must be allowed to return in a safe, dignified and voluntary manner in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights. It encouraged Myanmar to implement fully the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Myanmar. Implementation would be a long-term process. It welcomed the Government of Myanmar’s engagement within the Bali Process on people smuggling, trafficking in persons, and transnational crimes, and stood ready to continue to support the country’s democratic transition and its peace and national reconciliation at this difficult time.
Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said that in its long march to a democratic society, it had faced daunting challenges in peace, national reconciliation and development. Maintenance of the rule of law and providing security for all in Rakhine state and the humanitarian situation there, were particular concerns for present-day Myanmar. As repatriation was an immediate step, the Government had carried out necessary preparations for reception. Regarding repatriation, the Government was ready to receive the list of people at any time. A Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for their role in development and repatriation was in the making. While Myanmar did not abdicate its responsibility, the focus should be on the way forward for finding a sustainable solution for the future. At this juncture, the world should be concentrating its efforts to help Myanmar with humanitarian assistance and capacity building to alleviate and end the suffering of internally and externally displaced populations. The draft resolution, in PP7 mentioned “ethnic cleansing.” Diplomatic corps and United Nations agencies had already witnessed that most of the Muslim population and their villages remained intact and they were assuming their daily livelihoods as before. If ethnic cleansing was happening, why had many chosen to continue to reside there? Furthermore, PP12 expressed ongoing intimidation and violence. There was no basis for this allegation.
Representatives of diplomatic corps, all United Nations agencies and journalists had been to the Maungtaw area numerous times in January and February 2018 and had witnessed the active resumption of normal livelihoods. Operational paragraph 7 was holding the military and security forces accountable for the security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Maungtaw areas in Rakhine State. Myanmar noted that threats, reprisals, instigations, false hopes, forced recruitments and slaughtering the dozens of Hindus by ARSA had played a critical role in the abrupt change of the daily livelihoods of all people. Immediate and primary causes and effects should be analyzed more closely in a balanced and forward-looking manner. Operational paragraph 9 was factually flawed as there was no curfew order in the whole of Rakhine state. The usage of “no man’s land” in OP11 was incorrect, while with regard to OP13, Myanmar had never rejected the allegations. Operational paragraph 17 related to the collection of evidence of human rights violations and abuses, the credibility of which was crucial. Operational paragraph 23 on land confiscations was unreasonable, and OP8 was most intrusive. The situation in Myanmar was linked to the authority of the Security Council and thereon, to the International Criminal Court. There must be concrete evidence and legal determination to what constituted a crime related to violations and abuses of international human rights law. The notion of this paragraph was a threat and a direct challenge to the State’s sovereignty. Although Myanmar saw some paragraphs acknowledging and welcoming the efforts made by the Government of Myanmar, the aforementioned factually-flawed, intrusive, sovereignty-infringing paragraphs had surpassed these. Against this background, Myanmar categorically rejected the draft resolution.
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was concerned about the situation in Myanmar and condemned the escalation of violence. The situation was now calmer and Myanmar and Bangladesh had been continuing their talks, so the international community should lend its support to the dialogue. China always believed in dialogue and respect of sovereignty and did not believe that pressure could result in some progress. Action taken by the Council had to focus toward the continuation of the dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The draft resolution which was put forward did not reflect the progress made by Myanmar in bilateral efforts and was only putting pressure and conflicting elements on the concerned country. China had participated in the resolution of the conflict and had contributed toward a peaceful solution, but the authors of the draft resolution had not taken that into account. The draft resolution did not create conducive conditions to dialogue, it did not reflect the interests of parties concerned and it would not alleviate the suffering across the region. China called for a vote on the draft resolution, and said it would vote against it.
Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had been actively engaged in informal consultations to achieve a balanced text, however, Japan would abstain from voting. The safe return of the displaced was crucial and the involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was essential so the decision of Myanmar to cooperate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was important. Bangladesh was praised for its generosity in hosting the displaced population and the international community needed to provide appropriate assistance. The Government of Myanmar was urged to implement the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s Advisory Commission. Japan was providing humanitarian and development assistance to Myanmar, including to Rakhine state, and the international community was urged to do the same.
Philippines, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it had been following developments of a complex inter-communal issue in northern Rakhine state, including the positive developments in Myanmar. Concern was raised about the humanitarian situation. All acts of violence were condemned. The provision of humanitarian assistance was supported and the international community was urged to further assist Myanmar and its neighbour Bangladesh. Philippines did not support the international fact-finding mission as it rested on the wrong assumption that domestic investigative processes were not independent and credible. For that reason, the Philippines would vote no.
The Council then adopted the draft resolution L43, by a vote of 32 in favour, 5 against and 10 abstentions.
Explanation of the Vote After the Vote After the Conclusion of Taking Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
United States, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it remained a leader in the fight against impunity for international crimes. The International Criminal Court could play a critical role by exercising its power judiciously and within the parameters of international law. The United States reiterated its serious and fundamental concern with the Court’s Prosecutor’s decision to seek an investigation into allegations against United States personnel in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, referring to the resolution on South Sudan, said it took great care to participate during the consultation process and to ensure human rights objectives were not politicized. Concerns remained over certain paragraphs in the draft, namely operative paragraph 15. Egypt broke consensus on operative paragraphs 15 and 16(b) of the draft. Turning to the text on Myanmar, Egypt said it was closely following the situation in Rakhine state. Egypt did not support dealing with human rights issues through resolutions not approved by the country concerned. Egypt voted for the draft but voiced reservations over operative paragraph 8.
Kyrgyzstan, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it had not ratified the Rome Statute and therefore disassociated itself from the paragraph relating to this, in the resolution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
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