Council Extends Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea
GENEVA (23 June 2017) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted two resolutions in which it extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a period of one year, and in which it urged States to ensure that counter-terrorism measures were not discriminatory. The Council also appointed four Special Procedure mandate holders, and then closed its regular thirty-fifth session.
In a resolution adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a period of one year. It called upon the Government of Eritrea to consider the establishment of a presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Eritrea with a holistic mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights with unhindered access.
In another resolution adopted without a vote, the Council urged States to ensure that measures taken to counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism were not discriminatory, and not to resort to profiling based on stereotypes founded on ethnic, racial or religious grounds or any other ground of discrimination prohibited by international law.
The Council then proceeded with the appointment of Special Procedure mandate holders. The following persons were appointed: Obiora Okafor (Nigeria) as the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Fernand de Varennes (Canada) as the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Felipe Gonzales Morales (Chile) as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; and Fionnuala Ni Aolain (Ireland) as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
The Council adopted ad referendum the report of its thirty-fifth session, presented by Mouayed Saleh, Human Rights Council Vice-President.
In his concluding remarks, Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council, said that with a view to finding a solution to the number of Council meetings, a joint task force comprised of representatives from the Bureau of the Council and representatives of the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had been established. He thanked all members of the Bureau for their work. During the session, a number of allegations of acts of intimidation had been brought to his attention. The Council rejected all such acts by Governments and non-State actors against individuals and groups who sought to cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of the human rights.
Introducing draft texts were Mexico, Russian Federation, South Africa, and Djibouti.
Eritrea spoke as a concerned country.
Speaking in general comments were Panama, Egypt, Germany on behalf of the European Union, Switzerland, Belgium, United States, and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Speaking in an explanation of the vote before or after the vote were: Panama, United States, Albania, United Kingdom, Egypt, Georgia, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Botswana, Slovenia, Venezuela, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, China, Switzerland on behalf of a group of countries, Hungary, and Brazil.
The following observer States spoke on the resolutions adopted: Australia on behalf of a group of countries, Angola, Liechtenstein, Canada, Honduras, Jordan, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Bahrain, Iran, and Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries.
Netherlands and Brazil spoke in general concluding remarks. The International Service for Human Rights delivered a joint civil society end of the session statement.
The thirty-sixth regular session of the Human Rights Council will take place from 11 to 29 September 2017.
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 L.27 on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism
In a resolution (A/HRC/35/L.27) on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, adopted without a vote, the Council expresses serious concern at the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and of international refugee law and international humanitarian law in the context of countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism; strongly encourages relevant United Nations agencies to take into account in their technical assistance to counter terrorism, whenever appropriate, the elements necessary for building national capacity in order to strengthen criminal justice systems and the rule of law; urges States to ensure that measures taken to counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism are not discriminatory, and not to resort to profiling based on stereotypes founded on ethnic, racial or religious grounds or any other ground of discrimination prohibited by international law; and also requests all States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur in the performance of the tasks and duties mandated, including by reacting promptly to urgent appeals and providing the information requested, and to give serious consideration to responding favourably to requests by the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries.
Mexico, introducing draft resolution L.27, highlighted that the text was co-sponsored by 47 States. All action taken to combat terrorism must respect human rights. Terrorism was one of the main threats that democratic societies had to face today. Recent attacks had cost thousands of lives in different parts of the world and destroyed families. It was important that countries remained united against this threat. In that sense, the Global Strategy of the General Assembly and the recent resolutions of the Security Council recognized the responsibility of the State to fight against terrorism and violent extremism. The Council had to ensure that this path would be fully respectful of human rights and international law. Mexico welcomed that, a few days ago, the office of the United Nations to fight terrorism had been established in order to coordinate the action of the United Nations in this field. Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov from the Russian Federation had been nominated at the head of this body. The text brought together the various perspectives as a result of inclusive and transparent consultations. However, despite the fight to reflect concerns, Mexico voiced concerns about the amendments that were proposed to eliminate the concept of “violent extremism” which had been recognized by the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Russian Federation, also speaking on behalf of Egypt and Venezuela, introduced amendments L.43 and L.44 as orally revised, saying that they had always steadfastly upheld human rights and fundamental freedoms. Initiatives in this field had to respect the principles of sovereignty and equality of States and prevention of interference in the internal affairs. The draft resolution, in its current form, did not meet these principles. The States were disappointed that the sponsors of the draft resolution had not included operative paragraph No. 3, which had been included the previous year. They recalled that this paragraph had been agreed upon and was contained in a General Assembly resolution and the Global Counterterrorism Strategy Review. The draft resolution distorted the paragraph No.3, and amendment L.43 corrected this. Regarding amendment L.44 on the concept of violent extremism, the Special Rapporteur on the topic had noted the vagueness of the term “violent extremism” and what compelled people to become followers of violent extremism, led to a wide range of political measures which could have a significant negative impact on human rights. The countries shared this point of view. The pushing of the concept of violent extremism created an explosive potential of using this issue for the purpose of geopolitical engineering, interference, and even removal of governments. The countries did not approve of such an approach. Amendment L.44 removed the reference to violent extremism from the draft resolution. Russia, Egypt and Venezuela asked for the amendments to be considered individually, and called on the members of the Human Rights Council to support them.
South Africa, introducing amendment L.46 to draft resolution L.27, said it was deeply concerned at the loss of life arising from terror attacks across the world, and supported the sentiments underlying the resolution, but believed that it had serious substantive omissions which South Africa had raised throughout the negotiations. The amendment sought to balance the text by confirming that legitimate struggles for liberation should not be associated with terrorism. Numerous United Nations documents, including the United Nations Charter, informed resolutions which had provided the South African liberation movement with safeguards in their efforts to end apartheid. Concern was also expressed at the fact that the draft did not make any reference to the grave violations of human rights precipitated by the war on terror, which included unlawful renditions; the existence of secret detention centres where torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was meted out to suspected terrorists; arbitrary detentions; enforced disappearances; and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Panama, on behalf of the main co-sponsors of draft resolution L.27, rejected the proposed amendments and asked for a vote on them. The main co-sponsors had embarked on an open process. Over 40 countries had co-sponsored the draft. The amendments sought to get rid of some references, and sought to set an undetermined number of States above human rights protection, and they sought to distinguish between terror groups and national liberation movements. All were called on to vote against the amendments.
Egypt, in a general comment, said that it was not necessary to include unclear terminologies such as “violent extremism” in the text. This term had been created four years ago and created an unclear border between violent extremism and terrorism. Extremism, which was a mental disposition, was not necessary linked to terrorism. However if extremism was violent, then it was terrorism. Violent extremism was a synonym of terrorism. However, the draft resolution carried the idea that some types of violent extremism led to terrorism and some others did not. This was not right. This false differentiation led to a politicization and had had severe consequences in Syria. Such a term had been included in several texts at the demand of certain countries. This term made some groups responsible for terrorism which further increased divisions. They had seen the consequences of terrorism on territorial integrity in Syria and Iraq when ISIS captured some territories, in Nigeria with Boko Haram and in Somalia with Al-Shabbab.
Germany, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the creation of the United Nations office to fight terrorism was an important step in ensuring balanced implementation of all four pillars of the United Nations Counter-terrorism Global Strategy. This landmark decision demonstrated that the world was united against violent extremism. The Human Rights Council had to be able to speak with one voice. There had to be only one consensual resolution that would focus on the concrete rights of individuals. The protection of human rights and counter terrorism were two sides of the same coin. States had the duty to protect individuals from infringements on their fundamental rights and freedoms. The European Union had been exploring the negative effects of terrorism. The text of the draft resolution took them one step closer. The European Union called upon all members of Council to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.
Switzerland, in a general comment, said the draft resolution was important as it highlighted the importance of carrying out the fight against terrorism in line with international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law. Respecting international law was an essential way to fight terrorism, and also to prevent violent extremism. Switzerland hoped the text could be adopted by consensus.
Belgium, in a general comment, said the fight against terrorism was as urgent today as it was last March and last September when the predecessor of the resolution had been adopted. The recent resolution by the General Assembly to reform the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture had been adopted by consensus. The Human Rights Council used to speak with one voice on the matter. During informal consultations, Mexico had included compromise language on a number of issues. The different resolutions adopted in the past should be merged into one single consensual resolution.
United States, in a general comment, urged all States to support the resolution by consensus and without amendment. It was important to tackle the scourge of terrorism while protecting human rights. The operative paragraph 15 reaffirmed the important role of civil society in combatting terrorism. The United States was concerned that civil society might be targeted under counter-terrorism laws. The current counter terrorism mechanisms in the United States respected human rights. Data was collected with respect of privacy rights.
Action on Amendment L.43
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected the amendment, stating that it weakened the text of the draft resolution. If the Council adopted the amendment, it would send a negative message. The amendment was in detriment to Human Rights Council resolutions on this subject. It sought to place undetermined States over and above human rights. The language proposed by Mexico was a compromise solution. Panama appealed to all Members of the Human Rights Council to vote against the amendment.
United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed the amendment and urged all Members of the Council to vote against it. The amendment created confusion on the message that the Council was sending by adopting L.27. The language in the draft proposal was a compromise solution. Adoption of the amendment would be a blow to the multilateral process. Draft resolution L.27 already addressed the threat posed to the territorial integrity of States, stability of governments, and other issues. The amendment aimed to reintroduce a controversial and vague notion.
The Council then rejected the amendment, by a recorded vote of 13 in favour, 26 against, and eight abstentions.
Action on Amendment L.44 as orally revised
Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not support the amendment. The draft resolution L.27 as tabled was a commendable outcome of negotiations, and the General Assembly had made numerous references to the concept of violent extremism conducive to terrorism which had been adopted by consensus. The aim of the draft resolution was to ensure fundamental rights while countering terrorism, and to do that it needed to refer to extremism while framing it in the concept of terrorism. Albania would vote against L.44 and urged all others also to vote no on the amendment.
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the amendment sought to remove all references to violent extremism conducive to terrorism despite the fact that the General Assembly had fully endorsed the Secretary-General’s report on the capability of the United Nations system to implement the global strategy. The mandate of the new office dedicated to that included preventing violent extremism. If the concept of violent extremism conducive to terrorism was deleted, it would suggest States need not ensure conformity with human rights. All Council members were called on to vote no on the amendment.
Action on Amendment L.44
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected amendment L.44. This amendment aimed at removing the reference to “violent extremism which led to terrorism” although this terminology already appeared in a number of United Nations documents. It was not acceptable that violent extremism which led to terrorism and had an impact on the protection of human rights received less attention for the Council. Removing this reference would amount to ignoring the current situation of the world. Panama called on Member States to vote against the amendment.
The Council then rejected amendment L.44 by a vote of nine in favour, 26 against and 11 abstentions.
Action on Amendment L.46
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected amendment L.46, stating that its position did not undermine the principle of self-determination embodied in the Charter. The draft resolution had to be kept as it was, and not refer to exceptions or groups in particular. Therefore Panama urged all Members of the Human Rights Council to vote against the amendment.
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Egypt had been involved in putting together the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular, the principle of self-determination contained in the Charter. The principle of mutual basis had been underscored in many resolutions in the General Assembly. Egypt had tirelessly supported national liberation movements, in Africa, Asia and Middle East. It still supported the Palestinian people in their right to self-determination. In March, a group of States, including Egypt, had underscored that the right to self-determination was general in nature and did not focus on a specific region and did not mention specific terrorist groups. It stressed the protection of human rights in the context of the fight against terrorism. The resolution presented by Mexico sought to protect human rights in the context of the fight against terrorism. That was why this resolution had to distinguish between the legitimate fight against terrorism on the one hand, and not to amalgamate all forms of fighting against terrorism. Therefore, Egypt would vote in favor of this amendment.
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote to clarify a point, said it would vote in favour of South Africa’s amendment. Egypt was committed to South Africa’s amendment and supported it on L.27 and would vote for the amendment.
Georgia, in explanation of vote before the vote, said the amendment had already been considered and rejected at an earlier session of the Council. The resolution was not seeking to limit the scope in which human rights should or should not be protected. Therefore Georgia would vote against the amendment.
The Council then rejected the amendment by a recorded vote of 14 in favour to 23 against with 10 abstentions.
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, stated that it was important to remain united against terrorism. States needed to tackle terrorism and violent extremism that led to terrorism. But they should also protect human rights. The United Kingdom called on all members of the Council to vote for the draft resolution.
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, condemned all acts of terrorism. There was a need for agreed joint measures to counter terrorism and its effects, bearing in mind that such measures should be in line with international law, human rights and humanitarian law. Given that there was no definition of violent extremism and terrorism in international law, linking both terms would complicate the efforts made in the past years by the international community. Furthermore, any collateral damage resulting from counter terrorism measures could not be justified.
The resolution was adopted without a vote.
Explanations of the Vote after the Vote Made after the Council Concluded Adopting Texts 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.
United States, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, clarified its position on issues that were present in various resolutions during the current Human Rights Council session. The United States understood that these resolutions did not imply that States must join human rights or other international instruments to which they were not a party, or that they must implement those instruments or any obligations under them. The United States also underscored that human rights were held and exercised by individuals, not groups. The concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development “were long-standing and well known. The United States objected to statements on technology transfer found in resolutions adopted by the Human Rights and it continued to oppose language that it believed undermined intellectual property rights. The United Sates was firmly committed to providing equal access to education, including the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl. These comments applied to a number of adopted resolutions. The United States also wished to correct the record with respect to its explanation of position on the resolution on violence against women (L.15). In joining consensus on that resolution, the United States disassociated itself from Paragraph 9.d.
Republic of Korea, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it had abstained from voting on the resolution on the right to the family. The promotion and protection of human rights had to begin with recognizing individuals as rights bearers. While noting the definition of the family was expanding, the draft resolution did not address aspects of the family. The Human Rights Council in the future might establish other mechanisms to address the situation of the elderly.
Botswana, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, reaffirmed its position on L.15 on violence against women, L.29 on elimination of discrimination against women, and L.25 on the equal right to enjoyment of education. A common thread running through them was that discrimination against women and girls was a violation of their human rights. Resolution L.15 reaffirmed the position that violence against women and girls was often hidden in deeply entrenched cultural beliefs. That was why Botswana supported the resolution. L.29 was equally important as it addressed the broader issue of discrimination against women. L.35 recognized that education was a multiplier right. The resolution recognized that ensuring rights for all was a requirement for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The international community could not continue to hide behind culture and tradition to deny women and girls their rights.
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, considered international cooperation to be an essential element of its foreign action. At the same time, the prime responsibility to promote human rights, including the right to education lay, with the States. Each State had an obligation to protect the human rights within its territory. The United Kingdom would have preferred operative paragraph 24 to have been formulated differently.
Slovenia, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, regretted that the resolution did not mention the gaps in the protection of older persons that had been progressively recognized. The traditional consideration of families had been in decline in several countries. States should protect most vulnerable groups from any abuse, including by other family members. Slovenia recognized the crucial role of the family but regretted that the resolution did not reflect the need to support all types of families.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it had voted in favour of L.21 in line with the constitution. Venezuela would fight all forms of violence and discrimination, including place of birth or other status. Venezuela would promote the participation of Venezuelans in public affairs. Hundreds of social movements existed in the country, but in some parts, political parties financed by foreign interventionists were taking part in actions against the Venezuelan State. Venezuela would underscore that human rights must be dealt with without politicization in concordance with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
Kyrgyzstan, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it recognized the important role of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, but dissociated itself from preambular paragraph 8 as Kyrgyzstan was not party to the Rome Statute.
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, referred to resolution L.32 which confirmed the link between climate change and human mobility, and related humanitarian risks. Those impacts and risks were taking place in various parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. They had a particularly adverse effect on vulnerable groups, such as women, children, elderly and refugees. Ecuador had set the priority for energy policy in order to produce clean energy sources. There was a need for political will to reduce the emission of gases in accordance with the principle of shared, but differentiated responsibility in light of national circumstances.
Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea
In a resolution (A/HRC/35/L.13/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a period of one year, and requests the mandate holder to continue and to strengthen the follow up on the implementation of the recommendations of the commission of inquiry and her recommendations in her report, on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, to submit and present a written report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session, and to address and engage in an interactive dialogue with the General Assembly at its seventy-second session. The Council also decides to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Eritrea at its thirty-seventh session, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur, the Office of the High Commissioner, civil society and other relevant stakeholders; and calls upon the Government of Eritrea to consider the establishment of a presence of the Office of the High Commissioner in Eritrea with a holistic mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights with unhindered access. The Council further requests the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to enhance engagement in improving the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-seventh session on progress made in the cooperation between Eritrea and the Office, and on its impact on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.
Djibouti, introducing draft resolution L.13, submitted this resolution as a follow-up to previous resolutions that enjoyed the consensus of the Council since 2012. In 2016, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, in its second report to the Council, concluded that in addition to enslavement, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, persecution, rape and murder, there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed and continued in Eritrea since 1991. The draft resolution aimed to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in order to follow up the implementation of the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry, especially in creating accountability mechanisms and other recommendations. Additionally, the resolution asked for enhanced interactive dialogue at the thirty-seventh session of the Council. Many Eritreans were victims of human rights violations and abuses that had been regularly reported to the Council and that were being committed by the Eritrean Government. The wide spread use of conscription into national military service as well as forced conscription of children into military service forced Eritrean people to leave their country, exposing them to abuses by smugglers and human traffickers.
Germany, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, referred to past and ongoing human rights violations in Eritrea, stating that the situation required further monitoring. Therefore, the European Union supported the draft resolution. It thanked the main sponsors for drafting it and urged the Government of Eritrea to fully implement the resolution, including by giving access to the Special Rapporteur.
Saudi Arabia, in a general comment on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, referred to the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights to fulfil the needs of the people, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Gulf Cooperation Council had on many occasions reiterated the need for a dialogue within the Human Rights Council. In this spirit, it encouraged that such clashes be avoided in the future in the Council.
Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, said the Human Rights Council would get itself into a regional conflict by adopting the resolution in question. The objective of the architects of the “sordid affair” was the harassment of Eritrea to serve ulterior political objectives. The resolution served the agendas of other players. The moral authority of the Council would be corroded by the resolution. The underlying report had fundamental flaws, and Eritrea rejected the use of the Council by some desperate members to thwart economic progress. The progress of the nation could not be halted, and the resolution was oblivious to realities. The failure to recognize progress in Eritrea was symptomatic of how the Council regarded other countries, too. The resolution had exposed the destructive aims of Eritrea’s detractors. Eritrea totally rejected the draft resolution, which was a travesty of justice. All Member States of the Council should disassociate from the unfair and unwarranted resolution.
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, deeply regretted that African countries were instrumentalised in bilateral issues within the Council. This cast a shadow on United Nations mechanisms and did not create a climate for a constructive dialogue. It fostered politicization and polarization in resolutions. African problems must have African solutions. Regional efforts complementing action by the African Union were the optimum framework to address the human rights concerns in the region. Egypt declared that it was out of the consensus.
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that following the principles in the United Nations Charter was the best way possible to protect and promote human rights. Cuba rejected operative paragraph 22 which was meant to send the investigation commission’s report to the Security Council. Cuba rejected the involvement of the Security Council in issues related to human rights since it would mean adopting punitive approaches, which reduced the possibilities to seek more feasible solutions. Cuba dissociated itself from the consensus on operative paragraph 22.
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said human rights were an essential component of economic development in Eritrea. The international community had to deal with the situation in Eritrea in a comprehensive manner, respecting the principles of universality and interdependence, as well as other principles of human rights. The draft resolution did not respect these principles. For this reason, China would not vote in favour of the resolution. It hoped that the countries of the Horn of Africa would seek to achieve common development goals.
Cuba, clarified that it disassociated itself from paragraph 23 and not 22.
Explanations of the Vote after the Vote Made after the Council Concluded Taking Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on behalf of a group of countries, said the human rights situation in Belarus was of concern and the group of countries supported the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The wording of operative paragraph 6 was unfortunate, in light of the spike in death sentences. The wording should have been clearer and expressed concern at the use of the death penalty in Belarus. The Secretary-General in a report had noted the imposition of the death penalty alongside torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, rejected double standards and politicization against specific countries, and said that dealing with any human rights situation needed to involve the concerned country. The Universal Periodic Review was the most appropriate form for promoting human rights. Venezuela dissociated itself from the consensus on L.13/Rev.1 on the human rights situation in Eritrea.
Hungary, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that impartiality and non-selectivity should act as guiding principles for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. The resolution expressed concern about the situation of human rights in the country and also reflected that Belarus had engaged with the Universal Periodic Review. Belarus had resumed its cooperation with the European Union, which was a significant step. Hungary highlighted that there was a need for a more balanced approach which would help find a long lasting solution for the situation of human rights in Belarus.
Brazil, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, attached utmost importance to the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity in the field of human rights. In the case of the resolution, Brazil considered that the situation of the enjoyment of human rights in Belarus had deteriorated since 2017. However, there was still room for dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. Brazil hoped that the upcoming elections in Belarus would contribute to enhance the situation of human rights in the country.
Appointment of Four Special Procedure Mandate Holders
JOAQUIN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, said the Council would proceed to appoint four Special Procedure mandate holders. He thanked the members of the Consultative Group for their invaluable role in the process to identify an appropriate candidate for each vacancy. For the position of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, the President proposed Obiora Okafor from Nigeria. For the position of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, he proposed Fernand de Varennes from Canada. As to the position of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the President proposed Felipe Gonzales Morales from Chile. In relation to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the President proposed Fionnuala Ni Aolain from Ireland.
The list of candidates was then approved by the Council.
General Comments by Observer States
Australia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries in a general comment, recognized that families played a key role in providing an enabling environment for the full enjoyment of human rights. But the family could also be a field of violations of human rights, including elder-based violence, denial of women’s property rights, children abuse, or mistreatment of persons with disabilities. Australia also recalled that various forms of families existed. This assumption recognized the reality that family structures were diverse. Consequently there was a need for diverse and adequate family policies.
Angola, in a general comment, reiterated its commitment to respect the principles of human rights. However, Angola was concerned at the politicization, selectivity and interests intended to influence the decisions of the Council. Nevertheless, Angola welcome the adoption of resolutions supported by Angola, particularly the ones under items 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 of the agenda. On item 10, Angola supported the efforts which had led to the adoption by consensus of the resolution on technical assistance for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The international community was called on to provide technical assistance to the Congolese authorities to ensure peace and stability in the country. Angola called on the international community to provide assistance to Congolese refugees who continued to arrive in Angola. Finally, Angola was determined to strengthen regional and international cooperation to preserve peace and stability around the world.
Liechtenstein, in a general comment, said it was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution on violence against women. It was positive that the mandated report reviewed certain practices; the proposed amendments were of great concern, and their rejection was welcomed. Regarding resolution L.34 on corruption and human rights, Liechtenstein was actively engaged in work against corruption, and assigned a significant part of some of its resources to working for the return of corrupt assets. It was hoped that the mandated workshop would be a success. Regarding the resolution on Syria, Liechtenstein welcomed that the resolution stressed the complementary nature of the Commission of Inquiry and the International Mechanism. It was of utmost important that the Mechanism was fully funded.
Canada, in a general comment, thanked civil society for their active participation in Canada’s resolution on ending violence against women. That resolution called on all to challenge stereotypes and support men and boys. The landmark resolution was an important step to ensure that men and boys were agents of change. Canada also thanked the delegations of Sierra Leone and the Netherlands for the adoption of an important resolution on ending child, early and forced marriage. While the session saw many resolutions on women’s human rights, it was regrettable that there continued to be no consensus on comprehensive sexuality education. Civil society played an essential role in holding governments accountable, and therefore the work of human rights defenders was crucial.
Honduras, in a general comment, reaffirmed the essential role of the Council in promoting human rights and universal freedoms, saying the work of the Council had to be based on the principles of universality, international dialogue, cooperation, and non-selectivity. Education and capacity building were important on the ground, as was the importance to do this in a systematic approach. This approach had to be stressed. During this session, the Council had adopted a number of resolutions. Cooperation and dialogue were important and Honduras encouraged all States to work on this.
Jordan, in a general comment concerning a number of resolutions in reference to the protection of migrants’ human rights, on climate change and on others, said it appreciated these but disassociated itself from references to contributions to the development of the Global Compact and a number of paragraphs on climate change. The Human Rights Council was not the proper forum to discuss the Global Compact or definitions on refugees. Jordan would not be bound to any new definitions or extensions of any definitions in regional tests or other international principles not in line with international principles. It also spoke on resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, refugees, and disassociated itself from the reference to inheritance in the resolution on the rights of women.
Pakistan, in a general comment, took note of the resolution L.13 and condemned terrorism in all its forms. It regretted that the draft resolution failed to incorporate various United Nations resolutions. Pakistan upheld the principle of self-determination, which could not be equated with terrorism. There was nothing in present resolutions that could prejudice against the right to self-determination.
Russian Federation, in a general comment, opposed the Council’s consideration of politicized country resolutions. Those should be discussed constructively and with full involvement of the concerned country. The agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building was once again being misused for political purposes. The Russian Federation, thus, could not support the resolutions on Belarus, Eritrea and Ukraine. The efforts to reinterpret the 2030 Agenda were useless, and references to controversial terms in international law were unacceptable.
Sierra Leone, in a general comment, commended the adoption of resolution L.26 on child, early and forced marriage, which would contribute to end this harmful practice around the world. Sierra Leone commended the fact that the discussion on racism, xenophobia and discrimination attracted the attention of many Member States, however, mere rhetoric would not solve the problem. Action was required in line with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. States willing to take action to stop discrimination against persons of African descent should be encouraged. Sierra Leone considered that the consideration of the role of men and boys in resolving problems related to violence against women was a positive step since women and men did not live separate lives. More needed to be done so that the Council could fulfil its role. The rights of all should be respected if no one was to be left behind.
Bahrain, in a general comment on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council States, commended the adoption of resolution L.26 on child, early and forced marriage. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council attached great importance to the protection of children’s rights. While the rights of the child were among consensual rights, Bahrain regretted that the States that supported the resolution insisted on concepts which were not part of international commitments in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This impeded reaching consensus on the resolution. National and international specificities should be taken into account. The proposals submitted by the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to the States sponsoring the resolution could have helped achieve consensus since a number of States shared those views.
Iran, in a general comment, disassociated itself from operational paragraphs 8 and 9 of draft resolution L. 15, underscoring that the application of terms and concepts that were neither defined nor recognized by international human rights law or domestic legislation, should be avoided. On draft resolution L.26, it believed that in drafting and presenting resolutions to the Council, cultural diversity, religious sensitivity, and national particularities of countries should be given due consideration. It would therefore pursue this resolution accordingly. Regarding draft resolution L. 27, Iran reserved its position on any reference made to “violent extremism conducive to terrorism” throughout the text. It also reserved the right not to apply any provisions of this resolution that were incompatible with the international obligations and/or national legislations in this effect. On draft resolution L.29, Iran fully embraced the efforts aimed at the elimination of violence against the girls and women, however it disassociated itself from preamble paragraphs 7, 13 and 17, and operational paragraphs 3(c), 5(d), 8(c), 9(e), 12 and 13, noting that it was strongly opposed to comprehensive sexuality education as proposed in the draft. Regarding draft resolution L.35, Iran expressed its broad support and commitment to the right of education for every girl, but expressed its reservation on some concepts in the document, and disassociated itself from operational paragraphs 2(c), 2(d), 5 and 6.
Uruguay, in a general comment on behalf of Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, on L.21, said they believed in the importance of family. The State must protect the family. Instead of an existentialist type of approach to the family, which may discriminate against the elderly, they sought the empowerment of the elderly. Resolution L.21 considered the elderly as objects. It did not address with a specific case and human rights based approach the problem of discrimination against the elderly, and in particular women, and the violence they faced, especially within the family. Looking at a family based approach required looking at all families on an equal footing, including single headed households.
Draft Report on the Thirty-Fifth Session of the Council
MOUAYED SALEH, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, introduced the draft report of the Human Rights Council. It contained a procedural description of the work of the session up to the end of the debate. He reminded delegations that any comments and corrections should be sent within two weeks. The draft report contained 10 chapters corresponding to the agenda items of the Council. The text of the resolutions and the President’s Statement would be available shortly on the website. The Council had heard an oral update from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and held dialogues with Special Procedures and two Commissions of Inquiry. A wide range of subjects had been discussed through panel discussions and general debates. Four mandate holders of Special Procedures had been appointed.
Acting without a vote, the Council decided to adopt its report ad referendum.
General Concluding Remarks
Netherlands, in general concluding remarks on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, noted that Member States had a particular responsibility to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms. Members of the cross-regional group were committed to strive for competitive membership elections to the Council, to promote universal participation in the Council’s work, to apply objective and human rights-based criteria, to engage in self-reflection and address human rights situations on the basis of their merit, to avoid procedural tactics, to work in close cooperation with civil society, and to promote the implementation of human rights at the national level.
Brazil, in general concluding remarks on behalf of a group of countries, stated that it was incumbent upon the Council to promote the effectiveness and efficacy of its work. While recognizing its intrinsic qualities, the value of the Council ultimately stemmed from the concrete impact on the ground of the measures and initiatives agreed upon in Geneva. It was the common responsibility of Member States to actively seek to close the implementation gap and to overcome the administrative hurdles. The current institutional framework of the Council offered a wide range of tools that members could mobilize and adapt to prevent human rights violations and address diverse and varied situations. There was a need to work together to improve the methods and practices of the Council. It was fundamental to actively nurture a culture of dialogue, transparency and respect in the Council, to search for inclusive solutions and to explore innovative proposals, including in the field of technical assistance, without preconceived positions.
International Service for Human Rights, in a joint civil society end of session statement, welcomed the commitment by many States from all regions to enhance the Council’s success and effectiveness and the performance of the Human Rights Council members through a series of concrete actions. The steps outlined by the Netherlands, such as more competitive Human Rights Council elections, would go a long way in making the Council more accessible, effective and protective. The leadership shown by States in the development of joint statements on killings in the Philippines’ so-called “war on drugs” and threats against human rights defenders, and on the increasingly dire situation in the Maldives were examples of this. International Service for Human Rights regretted the lack of such leadership on States, including China and Egypt. Although there were hopes for a more robust response on the Democratic Republic of Congo from the Council, the international team of experts brought hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence in the Kasais. International Service for Human Rights also welcomed the adoption by consensus of both resolutions on discrimination and violence against women and regretted that Russia and others systematically sought to remove reference to human rights defenders in all resolutions at each session.
Concluding Remarks by the President of the Council
JOAQUIN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, said that with a view to finding a solution to the number of Council meetings, a joint task force comprised of representatives from the Bureau of the Council and representatives of the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights had been established. Through that task force’s work, it was hoped that a solution would be found to allow the Council to finish its work for 2017 and identify sustainable solutions for the future. He thanked all members of the Bureau for their work. During the session, a number of allegations of acts of intimidation had been brought to his attention. The Council rejected all such acts by Governments and non-State actors against individuals and groups who sought to cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of the human rights.
For use of the information media; not an official record