Human Rights Council
27 March 2009
Council Establishes Mandate on Cultural Rights, Appoints Rapporteur for Cambodia, Extends Mandates for Myanmar, Somalia and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Elects Four Members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
The Human Rights Council closed its tenth regular session this afternoon after adopting 34 texts on a wide range of issues. Among other measures, the Council established an Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, appointed a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, and extended the mandates of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia and those of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It also elected four members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.
The Council adopted texts on the question of the realisation in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights; human rights in the administration of justice; human rights and climate change; arbitrary detention; enforced or involuntary disappearances; the right to food; cultural rights and respect for cultural diversity; protection of human rights while countering terrorism; discrimination based on religion or belief; human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan; Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; follow-up to Council resolution S-9/1 on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks; combating defamation of religions; and on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At this session, the Council heard a number of high profile reports and held interactive dialogues with the Special Procedures presenting them, including the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the prevention of genocide, the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.
It also held an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Experts on the Right to Food, Safe Drinking Water and Adequate Housing, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Forum on Minority Issues.
The Council heard reports from the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. It also held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, and with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and held a debate on the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as follow-up to the Council’s Special Session on that country. An interactive dialogue on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was also held.
Other interactive dialogues were held with the High Commissioner on her annual report, and with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on country reports on technical cooperation and assistance to Guatemala, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Colombia, Sierra Leone and Nepal, and a report on Cyprus, and the Council then held a general debate on them.
During the session, the Council held a number of general debates, including on reports of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on genocide, arbitrary deprivation of nationality, activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women to eliminate violence against women, and the protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS, among others. It also held general debates on the protection of all human rights, the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Palestinian Territories, and follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
The Council adopted the outcome of the reports on the Universal Periodic Review on Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Liechtenstein, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia, and Uzbekistan. It also held a general debate on the topic of the Universal Periodic Review.
During the session, the Council appointed a new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Prasad Subedi (Nepal). It elected four members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, namely Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco), Shiqiu Chen (China), Miguel Alfonso Martinez (Cuba), and Jean Ziegler (Switzerland). The mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in Myanmar were extended for one year, and the mandate of the Independent Expert for Somalia was extended until the end of September 2009.
On 11 March, the Council held its annual full day meeting on the rights of the child, holding a panel discussion on promoting the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the international level, followed by a panel discussion on achievements and obstacles in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the national level. It also held a general debate on the topic. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was very timely and appropriate to focus on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, twenty years after its adoption, enjoyed almost universal acceptance. There was no doubt that the Convention had transformed the way the world viewed children - they were no longer viewed as the property of parents or the passive recipients of charity or goodwill, but as rights-holders. This conceptual shift also underscored States' accountability in fulfilling their obligations towards children's rights.
Opening the tenth regular session, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said poverty, impunity, armed conflict and authoritarian rule continued to undermine the well-being and human rights of countless victims. The imperatives of fairly managing migration and combating terrorism within the parameters of human rights and the rule of law were also of pressing concern. All these long-entrenched factors challenged the international community’s capacity to cope in an environment of compassion fatigue and shrinking resources. At the same time, new threats, such as climate change, scarcity of food, and the global economic crisis exposed the most vulnerable to additional risk. It was the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms and eradicate inequality and discrimination. Narrow, parochial interests and reflexive partisanship must be cast aside in the interest of a greater common good - a failure to do so might reverberate negatively on the full spectrum of human rights work and mechanisms for years to come.
The tenth session, which was presided by Ambassador Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi of Nigeria, was held from 2 to 27 March 2009. In his concluding remarks, Mr. Uhomoibhi said during the high-level segment of the Council, some 70 dignitaries, including Vice Presidents, Ministers and other high officials of Governments honoured the Council with their presence. It was particularly significant that, for the first time in the history of the Council, the President of the General Assembly addressed the Council, stressing “the need to ensure a more synergetic approach when addressing human rights issues”. In the course of the session, the Council adopted some 34 resolutions and decisions related to various issues in the field of human rights. Most of those texts were adopted by consensus, while others were decided on votes. The importance of the issues under consideration in the Council contrasted with the severe budget shortages the Council was faced with and he kindly appealed to all delegations to make efforts, in Geneva and in New York, to address this serious problem. Covering all the issues relevant to human rights remained a challenge. Mr. Uhomoibhi said that he intended to start consultations with various stakeholders with a view to organizing, during the eleventh regular session, a high-level panel discussion on the situation of civilians in armed conflicts and on the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and vulnerable groups.
The eleventh regular session of the Council will be held from 2 to 18 June.
Resolutions Adopted by the Council
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
On composition of the staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council requests the High Commissioner to work on the broadest geographic diversity of her staff, by enhancing the implementation of measures to achieve a better representation of countries and regions which are unrepresented or underrepresented, particularly from developing world, while considering applying a zero growth cap on the representation of countries and regions already over-represented in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, the Council urges all actors on the international scene to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and promotion of and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights, and to reject all doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
On the question of the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights: follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 4/1, the Council notes with interest the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the General Assembly as one of the important tools to help strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights worldwide, and invites all States parties to participate in the ceremony of the opening for signatures of the Optional Protocol.
On human rights in the administration of justice, in particular juvenile justice, the Council stresses the special need for national capacity-building in the field of the administration of justice, through reform of the judiciary, the police and the penal system, as well as juvenile justice reform; and invites Governments to provide for training, including anti-racist, multicultural and gender-sensitive and child rights training, in human rights in the administration of justice for those working in the field.
On the World Programme for Human Rights Education, the Council requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult with United Nations Member States, national human rights institutions and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on the possible focus, in terms of target sector or thematic area, of the second phase of the World Programme to begin on 1 January 2010, and to submit a report on those consultations to the twelfth session of the Council.
On Human rights and climate change, the Council decides to hold a panel discussion on the relationship between climate change and human rights at its eleventh session in order to contribute to the realization of the goals set out in the Bali Action Plan and to invite all relevant stakeholders to participate therein; and welcomes the decision of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living to prepare and present a thematic report on the potential impact of climate change on the right to adequate housing.
On Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities: National Frameworks for the Promotion and Protection of the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Council decides that its next annual interactive debate on the rights of persons with disabilities will be held at its thirteenth session, and that it will focus on the structure and role of national mechanisms for the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
On the draft United Nations guidelines for the appropriate use and conditions of alternative care for children, the Council welcomes the progress made during consultations on the draft guidelines and decides to continue efforts to take action on them at its eleventh session.
On arbitrary detention, the Council encourages all States to ensure that immigrants in an irregular situation and asylum-seekers are protected from arbitrary arrest and detention; requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the Working Group receives all necessary assistance and resources for the effective fulfilment of its mandate.
On Enforced or involuntary disappearances, the Council calls on the Governments that have not provided for a long period of time substantive replies concerning claims of enforced disappearances in their countries to do so and to give due consideration to relevant recommendations concerning this subject made in the reports of the Working Group; urges States to prevent the occurrence of enforced disappearances.
On the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner, as a matter of priority, to publicize the adverse effects of the activities of mercenaries and of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and other military security-related services on the international.
On the right to food, the Council expresses its concern that women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, food insecurity and poverty; requests the Advisory Committee to undertake a study on discrimination in the context of the right to food, including identification of good practices of anti-discriminatory policies and strategies.
On human rights and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, the Council calls upon all States to refrain from taking discriminatory measures and from enacting or maintaining legislation that would arbitrarily deprive persons of their nationality on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, especially if such measures and legislation render a person stateless; and urges all States to adopt and implement nationality legislation with a view to avoiding statelessness.
On the promotion and protection of cultural rights and respect for cultural diversity, the Council decided to establish for a period of three years the mandate of an Independent Expert on the promotion and protection of cultural rights to work in cooperation with States in order to foster the adoption of measures aimed at the promotion and protection of cultural rights through concrete proposals enhancing sub-regional, regional and international cooperation in that regard; and to identify any existing gaps in the promotion and protection of cultural rights and to submit proposals and/or recommendations to the Council on possible actions to fill such gaps.
On the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Council called upon States to ensure that any measure taken to counter terrorism complied with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, and in this context expressed serious concern at the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
On the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols thereto, the Council called on the States that had not yet become States parties to the Convention and the Optional Protocols thereto to do so as a matter of priority, and to systematically assess any proposed law, administrative guidance, policy or budgetary allocation that was likely to have an impact on children and their rights, ensuring appropriate enforcement of their obligations under the Convention and the Optional Protocols thereto.
On torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: the role and responsibility of medical and other health personnel, the Council condemns all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which can never be justified, and calls upon all States to implement fully the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
On discrimination based on religion or belief and its impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, the Council emphasizes that discrimination based on religion or belief often has an adverse impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly with regard to members of religious minorities and other persons in vulnerable situations; urges States: to ensure that everyone has the right, inter alia, to education, work, an adequate standard of living, the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and to take part in cultural life, without any discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
On forensic genetics and human rights, the Council encourages States to consider the use of forensic genetics to contribute to the identification of the remains of victims of serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, and to address the issue of impunity.
Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
On the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Council expressed serious concern at ongoing grave, widespread and systematic human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Council commended the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the activities undertaken so far and his continued efforts in the conduct of the mandate, despite the limited access to information, and decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year.
On the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the Council condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar; strongly urges the Government of Myanmar to desist immediately from further politically motivated arrests, to release all political prisoners without delay and without conditions; and decides to extend for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Human rights bodies and mechanisms
On the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, the Council welcomes the initiative of the Platform for Human Rights Education and Training to organize a seminar to further reflection on elements to be included in the draft declaration; and requests the Advisory Committee to submit its draft Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training to the Council for consideration at its thirteenth session in March 2010.
On the Social Forum, the Council requests that the next meeting of the Social Forum be held during 2009, in Geneva, and decides that at its next meeting the Social Forum should focus on negative impacts of economic and financial crises on efforts to combat poverty; national anti-poverty programmes: best practices of States in implementing social security programmes from a human rights perspective; and international assistance and cooperation in combating poverty.
On publication of reports completed by the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the Council decides that all reports of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights mandated by the Commission on Human Rights that have been completed and submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pursuant to the resolutions and decisions of the Subcommission at its fifty-eighth session be issued as United Nations documents.
Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
On human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Council expressed deep concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the systematic and continuous violation of their fundamental and human rights by Israel since the Israeli military occupation of 1967.
On Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Council deplored the recent Israeli announcements of the construction of new housing units for Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as they undermined the peace process and the creation of a contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian State.
On human rights violations emanating from the Israeli military attacks and operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Council strongly condemned the Israeli military attacks and operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the recent ones in the occupied Gaza Strip.
On the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, the Council reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State.
On follow-up to Council resolution S-9/1 on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip, the Council expressed with regret that resolution S-9/1 had not been fully implemented to date and requested the President of the Council to continue his tireless efforts to appoint the independent international fact-finding mission.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
On combating defamation of religions, the Council strongly deplored all acts of psychological and physical violence and assaults, and incitement thereto, against persons on the basis of their religion or belief, and such acts directed against their businesses, properties, cultural centres and places of worship, as well as targeting of holy sites, religious symbols and venerated personalities of all religions. The Council noted with deep concern the intensification of the overall campaign of defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general, including the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.
On elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Council endorses the road map adopted by the Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards during the second part of its first session as a guiding framework document for all future work in this regard.
On From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Council requests the Secretary-General to examine the challenges that have impeded the work of the Group of Five Independent Eminent Experts in fully discharging its mandate in following up on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and, in this regard, requests that the Council take appropriate action in accordance with its process of review, rationalization and improvement of mandates.
Technical assistance and capacity-building
On assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, the Council decides to invite the Independent Expert to continue his work till the end of September 2009, without prejudice to the relevant provisions of Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1; and to present an update to his report at the 12th session of the Council in September 2009.
On situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the strengthening of technical cooperation and consultative services, the Council notes the report of the seven thematic special procedures on technical assistance to the Government and urgent examination of the situation in the east of the country (A/HRC/10/59) drawn by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons on behalf of the other six Special Rapporteurs, and invites them to report again to the Council at its thirteenth session; and calls on the international community to increase the various forms of assistance requested by the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a view to improving the human rights situation.
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