COUNCIL MONITOR - 17 - 21 March 2014
COUNCIL MONITOR
17 - 21 March 2014

Book launch

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Commentary, Cases, and Materials by Ben Saul, David Kinley, and Jaqueline Mowbray (Oxford University Press, 2014)

26 March, 1300-1400, balcony area between rooms XX and IXX, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

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OPINION

UN member States must commit to ending reprisals
Ambassador Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN in Geneva 

Civil society plays an important and legitimate role in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law, good governance and in the development efforts of any country around the world.  Creating and sustaining an environment where civil society can operate freely and participate meaningfully is an obligation of States.

This includes upholding the right of individuals and members of organisations to unhindered access to and communication with international human rights bodies, in line with international human rights law... more

China interrupts moment of silence for Cao Shunli at the UN Human Rights Council

In a statement to the Human Rights Council on 20 March, ISHR called on the human rights community to observe a moment of silence to remember Cao Shunli and other human rights defenders who have died or been killed as a consequence of their advocacy at the UN... more


KEY DEVELOPMENTS

55 STATES DELIVER STATEMENT CALLING FOR MORE EFFECTIVE APPROACH ON REPRISALS
Botswana led a group of 55 States in a cross-regional joint statement emphasising the unacceptability of reprisals against civil society who attempt to engage with the UN’s human rights mechanisms. The States highlight the current ‘inadequate’ response by the UN and member States in preventing and addressing reprisals, and express their hope that the General Assembly will approve the ‘forward looking’ resolution on reprisals adopted by the Human Rights Council during its September session.

MEXICO’S UPR: WOMEN DEFENDERS SAY IT’S TIME FOR IMPLEMENTATION AND PROTECTION
With the Mexican State in Geneva to accept the majority of its recommendations from the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a group of activists led by women human rights defenders from across the country held a Side Event to analyse Mexico's 'progressive diplomacy, normative advances and human rights violations'… more

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON NORTH KOREA CALLS FOR ACTION FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
“The rest of the world has ignored the evidence for too long. Now there is no excuse, because now we know”, said Michael Kirby, Chair of the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea. He called on member States of the UN to accept their responsibility to protect and to ensure accountability in North Korea… more  

COUNCIL EXAMINES SERIOUS SITUATIONS IN COUNTRIES WHERE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS ARE AT RISK
The Council examined a series of serious country situations over the course of the week, in many of which, including Belarus, Nigeria, and Venezuela, human rights defenders are operating in extremely difficult circumstances… more

ISHR ADVOCACY

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HAS A DUTY TO STRENGTHEN RESPONSE TO REPRISALS
The Human Rights Council, its President and Member States have a moral and legal duty to ensure that all persons are free to access the UN human rights system without hindrance and without fear of harassment and attacks, ISHR has said. ISHR highlighted the case of Cao Shunli, noting that her disappearance, detention, denial of access to adequate healthcare and subsequent death expose the inadequacies of the current system-wide UN response to reprisals…more

'MY FAVOURITE WORD IS FREEDOM' - ISHR SUPPORTS SHIN DONG-HYUK TO GIVE EVIDENCE TO UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
During the presentation of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, ISHR ensured that the victims of the gross violations perpetrated in that country were heard in the Human Rights Council.  

ISHR is proud to have supported North Korean human rights defender and the only known escapee of Camp 14, Shin Dong-Hyuk, in giving witness testimony to the UN Human Rights Council about gross human rights violations in North Korea… more and video

COUNCIL MUST DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DEATH OF CAO SHUNLI
A group of independent UN human rights experts issued a joint statement expressing their deep regret at the news and calling on China to fully and promptly investigate the circumstances leading to Ms Cao’s death. ‘It is unacceptable that civil society activists pay the ultimate price for peaceful and legitimate interaction with the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms,' the experts said… more

NGOS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO APPOINT A HIGHLY QUALIFIED EXPERT ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
ISHR has joined a group of NGOs in calling on the President of the Human Rights Council to ensure he appoints a highly qualified and independent mandate holder on freedom of expression, once the post becomes vacant in June… more


NGO INPUT TO INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS IS CRUCIAL AND SHOULD BE PROTECTED
ISHR joined 19 NGOs in calling for States to make more specific and action-oriented recommendations during the UPR. In particular the statement called for States to meet with NGOs in country to determine what action is needed on the ground.

Reflecting the important role of civil society in the process Uruguay delivered a statement on behalf of 58 countries that reiterated the need for all States to ensure that human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, can cooperate with international mechanisms, including the UPR, without fear of reprisals... more

 

NEXT ON THE AGENDA

PROMOTING RECONCILIATION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SRI LANKA
The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on her Office’s report on Sri Lanka. The report calls for the Council to establish an independent inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged human rights violations.

The Council is currently negotiating a draft text on Sri Lanka, led by the US, which, as tabled, calls for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out an investigation into the situation in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, two prominent human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM and Father Praveen Mahesan, a Catholic priest, were arrested and subsequently released.

Although their release is welcomed, many more defenders continue to be held without cause. The international community has long called for Sri Lanka to take meaningful steps to end its culture of impunity.

HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
The prevalence of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its use as a weapon of war will be the subject of a high-level panel debate on 25 March.

The brutality and magnitude of rape in the DRC has been highlighted by amongst other reports, the UN Secretary-General’s report on sexual violence in conflict, which found that in conflict areas alone, from December 2011 to December 2012, there were hundreds of acts of sexual violence against civilians.

The panellists include representatives from the government of the DRC, from the African Union and from the UN and offers an opportunity to identify gaps and challenges in combatting sexual violence in the country, as well as set priorities for future action.

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PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS

States have been tabling the resolutions they plan to present for adoption next week. Up for consideration are some key resolutions for human rights defenders as well as texts on some serious country situations.

MANDATE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The Norwegian draft resolution on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders aims at renewing the mandate for three years. The resolution references the work of the Special Rapporteur, and in particular the most recent report on creating a safe and enabling environment, and renews the mandate on the same terms as previously.

During the negotiations to date, some States including China, Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (the latter despite its previous co-sponsorship of the resolution) have sought to remove elements of the resolution which put its procedural nature in the context of the increasing restrictions on human rights defenders and the shrinking of space for civil society as reported by the Special Rapporteur, civil society and the UN High Commissioner recently. It will therefore be crucial to resist attempts to further dilute the message, and ensure that the Council unanimously renews one of its most critical expert mandates. 
 
THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE CONTEXT OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS
Costa Rica, Switzerland and Turkey are leading negotiations for a renewal and strengthening of this resolution, which, in the text as tabled, calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare guidelines for States on the protection of peaceful protests.

To a global background of widespread human rights violations committed against protesters, the resolution represents an opportunity for States to recognise the contribution that protests make to democracy and human rights, and to strengthen their commitment to protecting protesters against violations through the training of law enforcement agencies, de-escalation strategies, establishing communication channels, and ensuring the investigation and sanctioning of violations.

The draft resolution underlines the particular vulnerability of human rights defenders and urges States to avoid using force during peaceful protests. It is hoped that the resolution will include clear language recognising that no individual should be deprived of his or her rights as a result of criminal acts committed by others during the course of a demonstration.

THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
The draft text on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the DPRK for one year. The Chair of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation in the DPRK made clear to the Council during the debate with States that the COI had discharged its mandate and the Council should now find a way to use the information gathered to take action.

While the COI made a clear call for referral to the International Criminal Court, the draft text is less explicit and calls for the Security Council to refer the situation to the ‘appropriate international justice mechanism’. The text also calls for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a field-based structure that could monitor and document the situation of human rights in the DPRK and to ensure accountability.

PROMOTING RECONCILIATION, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SRI LANKA
This draft text welcomes the recommendations and conclusions of the High Commissioner on the need for an independent and credible international investigation in the absence of a credible national process, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to assess progress towards accountability and reconciliation, to monitor relevant national processes and to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka.

There are many precedents for OHCHR to carry out work of this nature. For example the Council requested OHCHR to carry out an investigation into the situation in Syria in a 2011 resolution, from where the wording of the text on Sri Lanka is drawn.

Appointment of mandate holders
The end of the session will see the appointment of 18 mandate holders. The President has released his choice for each vacancy, and the Council will be asked to approve those choices on Friday 28 March. Amongst the appointments to be made are the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, as Margaret Sekaggya comes to the end of her 6-year term. ISHR has previously developed a set of criteria for selecting her successor.

COUNCIL TO FOLLOW UP TO ITS EMERGENCY SESSION ON THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 
Following on from the special session on the Central African Republic, held by the Human Rights Council in January this year, the newly appointed Independent Expert on CAR will present an oral update to the Council as requested by States at that special session.

The High Commissioner will also present a report on the situation in the CAR which identifies impunity and insecurity as two key problems facing the country and calls for capacity building for civil society, amongst other recommendations.

SIDE EVENTS

“Wrap up of the Human Rights Council”
26 March, 1200, room 24


“Book launch: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Commentary, Cases, and Materials” - View online
26 March, 1300-1400, balcony area between rooms XX and IXX

All events take place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva


 

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ISHR would like to thank Irish Aid for its generosity in making this publication possible.