Human Rights Council Monitor - 17-23 September 2013

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Council Monitor
17-23 September 2013
 
Check out ISHR giving statements at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council


 

 

Opinion

Promoting and protecting civil society space

Ambassador Patricia O’Brien, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations

The spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action infuses every Council session, reminding us to be ever mindful of the need to respond to human rights challenges and crises, as well as to defend the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights. 

Pursuing the vision of the VDPA includes strengthening a pluralistic civil society and twenty years after the adoption of this milestone in the human rights movement, the promotion and protection of civil society space is more crucial than ever… more

 

HIGHLIGHTS


“The USA firmly believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak in the Council... It is essential that civil society's voices be heard here in an atmosphere of open expression.”

US in response to a point of order against an NGO by China



“Participation of civil society in the Human Rights Council is vital to the work of the Council... We all have an obligation to ensure that engagement takes place without intimidation or reprisal.”

Ambassador Patricia O'Brien, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations
 

 

ISHR ADVOCACY

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MUST ACT TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT NGOS

The UN Human Rights Council should take action to condemn escalating threats to non-governmental organisations and restrictions on their rights to freedom of association, expression and participation in public affairs, the International Service for Human Rights said in a statement to the Human Rights Council… more
 

CHINA MUST END REPRISALS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

China must end reprisals against people engaging with the United Nations, ISHR has said, after a Chinese human rights defender scheduled to attend an ISHR training course on international human rights advocacy was reportedly disappeared… more
 

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL AND STATES MUST MOVE BEYOND RHETORIC AND ACT TO STOP REPRISALS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

The Human Rights Council and States must raise the stakes and ‘go beyond reporting’ in their responses to the issue of reprisals, ISHR has said in a statement on behalf of 14 leading international and regional NGOs… more


HUMAN RIGHTS Council called upon by Austria to consider ISHR proposals to protect human rights defenders

In a written statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Austria has endorsed key ISHR proposals to strengthen the legal and practical protection of human rights defenders... more

KEY DEVELOPMENTS AT THE COUNCIL

In Brief

NORTH KOREA CALLS NEW UN REPORT ‘AN INSTRUMENT OF A POLITICAL PLOT’

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has stated earlier that it ‘totally rejects’ an oral report presented to the Human Rights Council by the Commission of Inquiry (the Commission) into the situation in the country. The Commission, chaired by Mr Michael Kirby, is gathering information on ongoing human rights violations with a view to assigning responsibility and ensuring accountability. Prevented from entering the country, the Commission has adopted novel working methods including hearing public testimony from victims who have fled the country. States including the US, Canada and Thailand commended this approach as a means of raising international awareness about the situation. Thailand, however, did call for sensitivity in the Commission’s working methods, so as to promote greater cooperation with the mandate by the DPRK. Other States such as Cuba and China questioned the constructiveness of the Commission, arguing that the UPR is the right place to address country situations. Mr Kirby responded that the DPRK is the only State that failed to accept a single recommendation from the UPR during its first cycle. He called upon the Council to act after the final report of the Commission is presented next March, and not merely to request yet another report.

STATES UNANIMOUSLY CALL FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION TO SYRIAN CONFLICT

In the context of increasingly severe human rights violations in Syria, the Council considered the latest report of the Commission of Inquiry into the situation in the country. The Commission faced criticism from Syria, which questioned the truth and objectivity of the Commission’s findings. Syria highlighted that none of the 250 communications sent by the Government had been taken into account by the Commission. Syria made no reference to the recent agreement reached between the US and Russia, but most other States did, welcoming the approach and condemning the recent chemical attacks. For once, all States agreed unanimously that only a political solution will put an end to the conflict.

In Depth

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY FAILS TO STEP-UP ON REPRISALS

Only three States took the opportunity to raise the issue of reprisals against those cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms despite continuing threats, intimidation and harassment of those attending or attempting to attend this session of the Human Rights Council… more

SIDE EVENTS

Wrap-up of Human Right Council: 25 September, 15:00, Room 22


All events take place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva

 

Next on the agenda

HIGH LEVEL DEBATE ON SOMALIA

An example of innovative working methods at the Council is the standalone high-level interactive dialogue that will be held on Somalia this week. Those participating include the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a high-level representative from the Federal Government of Somalia, and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia. This high level debate provides a novel way of ensuring attention to the situation in the country, and it is to be hoped that the Council will build on the Security Council’s recent resolution on the country, which contained a significantly improved human rights component. Also this week the Council will be asked to consider a resolution renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on Somalia.


COUNCIL TO CLOSE WITH ADOPTION OF RESOLUTIONS

This week the Council concludes with the adoption of resolutions. States will consider some key resolutions for human rights defenders and human rights mechanisms.

 

Civil society space
A resolution on civil society space, led by Ireland, Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia, would set up a panel to discuss the importance of promotion and protection of civil society space, with the aim of identifying challenges States face in achieving this goal. The draft text sets out the essential role of civil society in promoting human rights and the rule of law. It also recalls the critical work of civil society in strengthening and supporting international, regional and sub-regional organisations and reaffirms the right of unhindered access to those bodies.

Cooperation with the UN system in the field of human rights
This resolution, which focuses on intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN, encourages States to enact laws and policies, and the UN to establish a high-level focal point, to prevent and redress reprisals. An ISHR proposal that the UN establish such a focal point was unanimously endorsed in June at the Vienna +20 international expert conference, while the recommendation that States enact specific laws and policies is the subject of a recent major ISHR report.

Promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal
A Russian led draft resolution on sport and human rights calls on the Council’s Advisory Committee to prepare a study on possible ways and means to use sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights. The resolution has particular pertinence in light of Russia’s hosting of the Sochi winter games in 2014 and its legislation prohibiting ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’. While it may be too much to expect specific language on non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in this text, it is to be hoped that States will ensure that the non-discrimination message comes through clearly in this resolution, with the emphasis on sport as a vehicle to promote human rights for all.

Freedom of association and assembly
Over the last week, a cross regional grouping, headed by the US, has continued leading negotiations around a resolution text renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association for a further three years. ISHR very much hopes that this resolution will include a call to States to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his mandate.  In addition, it is hoped that the final text will include reference to  the right of individuals and associations to solicit, receive and utilise resources for the purpose of promoting and protecting rights, in line with Article 13 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.  The connection between access to financial resources and the ability to exercise the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, was the subject of the Special Rapporteur's 2013 report.  Reference to the right to funding would be a fitting acknowledgement of a vital aspect of promoting rights, as well as provide clear support to the mandate and current mandate holder as he continues his work for the Council.

Regional Arrangements

A resolution on regional arrangement for the promotion and protection of human rights has been tabled for consideration at the end of the week, by a broad cross-regional group of co-sponsors headed by Belgium.  Reiterating a commitment to better connecting international and regional mechanisms, and encouraging conversations on best practice for advancing human rights concerns through the regional bodies, is an important signal of an interest in building and strengthening the overall human rights system.  Building on this, ISHR would encourage the Council to consider how to support the development of minimum standards for ensuring regional human rights mechanisms are independent, have broad human rights mandates, and ensure meaningful engagement with civil society actors in a common effort to promote rights.

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