23 Mar

ISHR welcomes ongoing attention by the UN to human rights issues in China, after experts publicly noted concerns about enforced disappearances and their impact on those promoting human rights and democracy in the country.

27 Mar

Following a seven year legal battle, the  Guatemalan Criminal Court acquitted Pascual and recognised that the defense of human rights should not be criminalised. 

26 Mar

Le Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels (CDESC) a tenu sa soixante-septième session du 17 février au 6 mars 2020 à Genève au cours de laquelle il a examiné le tout premier rapport de la Guinée en attente depuis 1990. Le Comité a notamment fait part de ses préoccupations quant à l’environnement dans lequel travaillent les dé des droits humains dans le pays et la nécessité de garantir leur protection.

23 Mar

At its 43rd session, the Human Rights Council considered Angola's report resulting from its last Universal Periodic Review, during which Angola received 272 recommendations and accepted 259 of them.

19 Mar

ISHR has filed a legal complaint against Burundi with the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT). The case seeks justice and reparation for four Burundian lawyers who were disbarred or suspended and threatened by State representatives after sharing information with the CAT about the human rights situation in their country. 

Special Rapporteur says death penalty may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment


On 23 October 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr Juan Mendez, presented his report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly. The Special Rapporteur’s report focused on the death penalty and the prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. He argued that a new approach was needed to frame the debate over the legality of the death penalty in the context of human dignity and the ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  The timing seemed strategic as the Third Committee is currently in the process of negotiating its contentious bi-annual resolution on the death penalty.[1]

While Mr Mendez was clear that capital punishment is not a per se violation of the right to life, he argued that it can violate the prohibition on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in practice, because the death row phenomenon[2] or methods of execution involve unnecessary suffering and indignity.  Linking the discussion back to his report to the General Assembly last year, Mr Mendez noted that solitary confinement, a common practice on death row, combined with knowledge of impending death, contributes to irreparable mental and physical harm.  He said that while it may be theoretically possible to carry out the death penalty without violating the ban on torture, the necessary conditions make the retention of the death penalty costly and ‘not worth the effort’.

Mr Mendez also noted that, while international human rights bodies have yet to hold that the death penalty per se violates the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, there is ‘clearly a trend in this direction at the regional and national levels’. Mr Mendez noted that, even if the emergence of a customary norm holding the death penalty as contravening the prohibition on torture was still underway, most conditions under which it is actually applied render it tantamount to torture. In that regard, he recommended a more comprehensive legal study on the emergence of a customary norm prohibiting use of the death penalty under all circumstances. 

Nine countries intervened in the dialogue, with an evident split between those who viewed the death penalty as incompatible with the prohibition on torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and those who argued that there is no a necessary link.

To varying extents, Singapore, the US and Egypt rejected the Special Rapporteur’s link between the death penalty and torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The US disagreed with Mr Mendez on the evolution of a customary norm towards abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances. Singapore voiced ‘strong reservations’ on the report generally, and argued that State conduct in the report points to a lack of consensus on a customary norm. Egypt echoed Singapore’s reservations about the customary norm and argued that the attempt to draw a link to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment was an attempt to “de-legalize” the death penalty. The Special Rapporteur pushed back against Egypt and Singapore, clarifying that the fact that persistent objectors[3] remain doesn’t imply the absence of a customary norm.

The EU, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report, reiterating their hope for a worldwide abolition of the death penalty. Norway and Switzerland supported the Special Rapporteur’s call for a comprehensive legal study on the emergence of a customary norm prohibiting use of the death penalty under all circumstances. In that regard, Norway reminded the Third Committee about the call by the previous Special Rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, for a comprehensive legal study on the compatibility of the death penalty with the right to personal integrity and human dignity. Mr Mendez welcomed Switzerland’s question on establishing a special procedure on capital punishment, noting that such a mandate holder could carry out the study.

In light of current events and presumably taking aim at the US, the Russian delegate called for a study on the use of torture during military operations outside national jurisdiction.  Reflecting recent events around the world, Egypt urged Mr Mendez to study the use and effects of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a tool to discourage and prevent peaceful assembly and protest. Mr Mendez assured the Russian delegation that many of his communications dealt with torture in the context of war, and that he frequently communicated with the Special Rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism.  Responding to the Egyptian delegation, Mr Mendez stated he was concerned and committed to engaging in circumstances of excessive use of force to curb the right to freedom of expression and assembly.

The Special Rapporteur noted that he had a number of visits planned for 2013, including to Bahrain and Guatemala, and was in discussions with Thailand and Iraq.  He also stated that he remains engaged with the US on the situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and hoped to visit in the near future.

[1] Click here for an overview of the General Assembly’s 64th session, including coverage of the last death penalty resolution

[2] Mr Mendez explained in his presentation that the ‘death row phenomenon’ consists of “a combination of circumstances that produce severe mental trauma and physical deterioration in prisoners under sentence of death. Those circumstances include the lengthy and anxiety-ridden wait for uncertain outcomes, isolation, drastically reduced human contact and physical conditions and regime restrictions which are often worse than those for the rest of the prison population.”

[3] Under international law, a State may avoid being bound by a rule of customary international law if it has been a "persistent objector" to the norm or rule.  Objection to the norm must be consistent.


Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion says converts may face death penalty in some States


On 25 October 2012, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr Heiner Bielefeldt, presented his report,[1] to the  Third Committee of the General Assembly.[2]  

In his statement, the Special Rapporteur said his thematic report focused on the right to conversion in order to clarify the rights of converts and those trying to convert others non-coercively. In his study of the issue, which was based on research gathered from country visits, the Special Rapporteur found a pattern of abuses of the right to conversion perpetrated in the name of religion or ideology, including under the pretext of promoting national identity or preserving political security. He also reported that converts, in some States, may face criminal prosecution, including the death penalty for such offenses as ‘apostasy,’ ‘heresy,’ ‘blasphemy,’ or ‘insult’ in respect of a religion or the country’s dominant traditional and values.

In attempting to clarify the rights of converts and those trying to convert others non-coercively, the Special Rapporteur distinguished four sub-categories of the right to conversion:

  • the right to conversion, in the sense of changing one’s own religion or belief;
  • the right not to be forced to convert;
  • the right to try and convert others via means of non-coercive persuasion, and,
  • the rights of the child and of his or her parents.

These dimensions illustrate that the freedom of religion or belief is not confined to the individual internally, or the forum internum. It also relates to one’s freedom to manifest one’s beliefs in acts, in the forum externum, through prayer, worship and teaching. Unlike the forum internum, aspects of the rights that exist forum externumare not absolute. The Special Rapporteur did make clear, however, that the burden of proof falls upon those intending to restrict this freedom, not those defending it. Subsequently, any restriction must be clearly and narrowly defined, and in a non-discriminatory manner, in accordance with Article 18 (3) of the ICCPR.

The Special Rapporteur urged all States to respect, promote and protect the right of freedom or belief in the context of the right to convert. He underlined that, “the right of conversion and the right not to be forced to convert or reconvert belong to the internal dimension of a person’s religious or belief-related conviction, which is unconditionally protected under international human rights law.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that he had encountered numerous violations of the right to conversion by State and non-state actors. In particular, he was concerned that converts are not only victimized by social pressures, public contempt and systematic discrimination, but often also face administrative obstacles when trying to live in conformity with their convictions.

Commenting on the gender dimension of the right to conversion, the Special Rapportuer noted the pressures and threats experienced by women in the context of marriage, or from a husband or prospective husband expecting her conversion. He also described repressive activities faced by children of converts in schools and said that such measures were used to coerce parents to reconvert to a 'socially appropriate' or accepted religion.

Lastly, the Special Rapporteur indicated that many States impose restrictions on outreach practices, which unduly limit the right to persuade people to convert via non-coercive means. These discriminatory limitations can strengthen the official or dominant religion of the country while further marginalising minorities.   

Twelve countries participated in the interactive dialogue, which proved to be largely supportive and non-controversial.

Canada, the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) expressed appreciation for the Special Rapporteur's attention to the rights of converts, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on best practices to ensure the protection of a person's right to conversion.  The EU, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany welcomed the discussion of the gender dimension of the right to conversion, and of the relationship between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child. Canada and the Netherlands echoed the Special Rapporteur's view that international human rights law apply a broad scope in consideration of the freedom of religion or belief, including theistic, non-theistic and atheistic convictions. 

The UK  questioned the report’s finding that the existence of an official religion would inevitably adversely affect religious minorities. The UK suggested that the Special Rapportuer stress non-discrimination before the law as the overarching principle and not whether the country has an official religion.

Russia and China contended that the State has a right and a responsibility to intervene if a group's outreach activities are not in line with international law. In response to remarks by Canada, China defended its treatment of Falun Gong, calling the group a cult and not a religion.

Several comments alluded to the ongoing tensions and discussions around 'defamation of religion'. Canada, the Netherlands, the US and Austria all emphasized the need for interfaith dialogue because of the connection between the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion.  Iran, more directly, asked whether the issue of insult to the sanctity of religion would be taken up in the Special Rapporteur's next report. The Special Rapportuer emphasised the importance of communication between religions, and responded to Iran's question by discussing the threshold for “hate speech” set out in Article 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


[1] See the interim report (A/67/303) of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief at:

[2] See a webcast of this interactive dialogue that took place during the 25th meeting of the Third Committee at


Top human rights expert says human rights is treated as the 'Cinderella' of three UN pillars


On 24 October 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, presented her report to the 67th session of the General Assembly’s Third Committee.  Ms Pillay's statement focused on the crisis in Syria, the treaty body strengthening process and the  lack of funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).  She also summarized the work and activities of the OHCHR worldwide.  In the interactive dialogue, Member States discussed these issues as well as the protection of human rights defenders, discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and recent tensions surrounding freedom of expression.

OHCHR’s role in the treaty body strengthening process proved to be the most controversial topic discussed during the dialogue. Ms Pillay reminded States that  strengthening of the treaty body system was necessary for the effective functioning of the human rights system, and noted that her report on the treaty body strengthening process was a culmination of discussions with all relevant stakeholders.  

Pakistan, Switzerland, South Africa, Bangladesh and Angola welcomed OHCHR’s role in the treaty body strengthening process.  A key concern for some States was OHCHR’s decision to move the New York meetings of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Human Rights Committee to Geneva. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Group, Russia and Bangladesh expressed discontent about this decision. Some States questioned the financial benefits of the move, while others noted that the committee experts were not consulted. Ms Pillay countered that consultations had taken place, however, the move was essential for budgetary reasons.  The Office had overspent extra budgetary funds by $40 million, so she had asked her staff to make a 7.85 percent cut.  The decision to move the meetings from New York to Geneva was part of this cut.

Some States also expressed concern about an OHCHR letter that requests States to disclose their standing national reporting practices and coordinating mechanisms.  CARICOM and Liechtenstein questioned whether the request would place an additional undue burden on Member States. Russia and China vehemently argued that the request was a violation of General Assembly resolution 66/254 (2012), which established the intergovernmental consultative process on reform of the treaty bodies.  Ms Pillay clarified that the intention was for Member States to share best practices, leading to a fruitful discussion that would ultimately benefit States.

Ms Pillay and various Member States expressed much concern over the limited resources available to OHCHR. OHCHR is under financial constraints, due in part to the support the Office provides to the Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and an ever-growing number of special procedures. Liechtenstein, Algeria, Chile, Malaysia, Morocco Norway, and Switzerland questioned how OHCHR would address underfunding. Ms Pillay responded that OHCHR was looking to Member States for financial support as less than 5 percent of the regular budget covers all human rights mechanisms.  She noted that although human rights is one of the three pillars of the UN, it is often ignored. “This tradition of keeping human rights as the Cinderella of the three pillars must be addressed,” she said.

Voicing her concern about the protracted violence and escalating bloodshed in Syria, Ms Pillay noted that protection of human rights,  while a daunting challenge, is the raison d'etre of the UN.  She had briefed the General Assembly and the Security Council on Syria, reiterating to States that outright disrespect for human rights cannot be tolerated, and that the UN must act as a protector of these rights. While taking into account important political concerns, it was urgent to find ways to avert massive loss of civilians and human rights violations.  International law obliged States to protect their people, and where a State manifestly failed to carry out that obligation, the international community should take urgent measures to protect the Syrian people. The European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, Malaysia, and United Kingdom (UK) expressed support for OHCHR’s work in addressing human rights violations in Syria.  Syria continued to question Ms Pillay’s evaluation of the conflict, arguing she relentlessly criticized the Syrian government while ignoring offenses of the opposition.

Both Chile and the UK expressed concern about human rights defenders. Chile declared the UN must guarantee security for those who defend human rights. Echoing Chile, the UK referred to the disturbing trend of reprisals, questioning what the international community could do in order to end reprisals. An attack on human rights defenders for cooperating with the UN is an attack on UN principles.  Ms Pillay expressed disappointment that defenders continued to be threatened, harassed, and killed for engaging with the UN system.  She reminded Member States of their obligation to conduct investigations and provide effective remedies for victims of reprisals.

Ms Pillay highlighted that OHCHR had conducted a study of LGBT rights, and she hoped it would encourage further dialogue between the States on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.  Pakistan noted  that Member States remain divided on the issue, and Iran encouraged the High Commissioner to avoid reports on controversial issues that fall, in its view, outside internationally recognised norms.  The United States (US) was fully supportive of OHCHR’s advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.

Highlighting recent tensions between freedom of expression and respect for religion, Ms Pillay stressed that international human rights law provides a framework to protect freedom of speech while sanctioning incitement to hatred. She discussed the various workshops held by her office to try to reconcile the tension between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred.  Malaysia, Algeria, Bangladesh and Iran condemned religious hatred, arguing that with freedom comes responsibility.

Numerous member States expressed alarm about Israel’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council. Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco and UK were concerned that Israel’s rejection of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) threatened the universality of the system. Ms Pillay assured delegations that she was making every effort to ensure universal participation. OHCHR had asked Israel to reconsider its disengagement. Ms Pillay stressed that the UN was set up for all by all and there was a fundamental obligation to participate in the world body.

Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism calls for improved due process in Al Qaida sanctions regime


On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Mr Ben Emmerson, presented his second report (A/67/396) to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]

The Special Rapporteur's statement focused on the need for the Security Council to align its Al Qaida sanctions regime with international human rights law norms, most notably minimum standards of due process. In particular, he recommended amending the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson,[2] which investigates removal requests regarding individuals and entities from the sanctions list. Though the Ombudsman role was created in 2009 to enhance due process protections, it continues to have many weaknesses. These include that States are under no obligation to disclose information to the Ombudsperson, and that the Ombudsperson has had significant difficulty in obtaining sensitive information. In addition, adverse judicial rulings, in particular by the European Court of Human Rights, have undercut the perceived legitimacy of the sanctions regime and its ability to enforce its decisions.

In the Special Rapporteur's view, the Council should, under Chapter VII powers, establish an independent adjudicator with jurisdiction to review and overturn a designation by the Committee.  Such a regime would be different from the former one as it would require the Security Council to abide by the recommendations of the Ombudsperson.

Eight countries contributed to the dialogue, which centered on the effectiveness of the sanctions regime since its inception in 1999.

Mexico and Pakistan inquired whether some of the recommendations could be applied to other sanction cases and regimes. The Special Rapportuer noted that he had focused on the Al-Qaida regime as it had been  the target of sustained legal challenges. 

The European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) all praised the improvements in the sanctions regime since 1998. However, they questioned the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that current due process procedures fall short of international human rights law. In their view,  the Ombudsperson process is robust, and operates with respect to the fundamental aspects of due process.

Iran raised the issue of targeted killings, and asked if the Special Rapporteur would take the topic up in future studies.  The Special Rapportuer said his next report to the Human Rights Council would review the minimum international standards related to the accountability of public officials who had collaborated with a torture-rendering State.  He also mentioned that he had begun a study on the use of drones, which he would present to the General Assembly in 2013.


[1] The report is available here.

[2] The Office of the Ombudsperson was established by Security Council resolution 1904 (2009) and amended by resolution 1989 (2011). It was created to aid the Al Qaida Sanctions Committee by investigating de-listing requests, and making recommendations on them. The regime requires States to impose measures such as asset freezes, international travel bans and arms embargoes on individuals and entities designated by its own sanctions committee to be associated with Al Qaida.


New UN expert on transitional justice presents first report to General Assembly


On 2 November 2012, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr Pablo de Greiff, presented his first report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.[1]

In his statement, the Special Rapporteur laid out the foundations of his mandate and called on States to translate into practice their commitments to the idea that redressing past violations is vital for the rule of law.

The Special Rapporteur commended the creation of his mandate by the Human Rights Council. He also praised Member States for having recently adopted a Declaration which expresses the international community’s strong commitment to the rule of law that goes beyond a purely beyond legal formalism - which has proven greatly ineffective - and includes protection of human rights. He referred to apartheid South Africa and Pinochet's Chile to highlight that a formal understanding of the rule of law does not offer guarantees against gross human rights violations, and in some cases can be used to strengthen abusive power.

The Special Rapporteur also elaborated on how the promotion of transitional justice measures can contribute to the rule of law through the implementation of the four pillars of the mandate: truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.  He underscored how certain measures, such as truth commissions, criminal prosecutions, reparations for victims and institutional reform can enhance the rule of law at the domestic level. However he also regretted that some governments remain reluctant to adopt these measures, or try to  trade off one measure against another.

Five countries participated in the dialogue. All the participants expressed appreciation for the victim-centred approach endorsed by the Special Rapporteur. Several States, including Switzerland, were interested in the next steps of the Special Rapporteur, and how he intended to reinforce links among the four pillars.  Chile, Morocco, and Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the gender-dimension of his work, and Norway inquired about marginalized minorities.

In his responses, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern about how few transitional measures had served women and marginalized communities, In regards to moving forward, he planned to hold a  series of consultations at the regional level to explore how countries had redressed massive violations.  He would also carry out country visits, and in due course, provide advisory and technical services.

Lastly, he reiterated the importance of appropriate redress. The fundamental challenge for the effective strengthening of the rule of law, he stated, is that transitional justice must integrate the four pillars, and that it must be designed and operated with acknowledgement of the past.


[1] The report (A/67/368) is available at


Governments Condemn Extrajudicial Executions in Seminal UN Vote


(Joint press release)

(New York) An international coalition of organizations dedicated to human rights celebrated the historic vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, on November 20, to pass resolution A/C.3/67/L.36 condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  The vote reversed the events of 2010 when the same body voted to strip the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation.” The UNGA also expanded upon its commitment to the universality of human rights by including “gender identity” for the first time in the resolution’s history. 

The resolution, which is introduced biennially in the Third Committee, urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling upon states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. It was introduced by the Government of Sweden and co-sponsored by 34 states from around the world.

For the past 12 years, this resolution has urged States "to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including... all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation."  Apart from Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 it is the only UN resolution to make specific reference to sexual orientation.  This year, the term “gender identity” was added to the list of categories vulnerable to extrajudicial killings.

At Tuesday’s session, the United Arab Emirates, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, presented an amendment that would have stripped the resolution of reference to “sexual orientation and gender identity” and substituted “or for any other reason.”  The UAE proposal was rejected in a vote with 44 votes in favor, 86 against, and 31 abstentions and 32 absent.  Another failed effort, led by the Holy See, would have stripped all specific references to groups at high risk for execution; however it was never formally introduced. 

The Third Committee also retained language expressing “deep concern” over the continuing instances of arbitrary killing resulting from the use of capital punishment in a manner that violates international law, which some States led by Singapore attempted to have deleted. The Singapore proposal was rejected in a vote with 50 votes in favor, 78 against, and 37 abstentions and 30 absent. 

The full resolution passed with 108 votes in favor, 1 against, 65 abstentions, and 19 absent.

Many governments, including Brazil, the United States and South Africa, among others, spoke out to condemn the proposed amendment to remove reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Government of Japan ended the silence that has often characterized the Asian Group’s participation on LGBT rights at the UNGA by stating, “We cannot tolerate any killings of persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our delegation voted against the proposed amendment to this paragraph because we think it is meaningful to mention such killings from the perspective of protecting the rights of LGBT people.”  

Some governments condemned the reference to sexual orientation and gender identity, including Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Trinidad and Tobago stated that specific reference to “gender identity” presented a “particular challenge” for the country.  Speaking frequently, the Government of Egypt stated that it was “gravely alarmed at the attempt to legitimate undetermined concepts like gender identity” by equating them with other forms of discrimination such as that based on race, color, sex, religion, and language.  In reference to sexual orientation and gender identity, Egypt stated, “We are alarmed at the attempts to make new rights or new standards.” 

The vote affirms the resolution’s dramatic conclusion in 2010. At that time, the Third Committee removed the reference to “sexual orientation” by a vote of 79 in favor, 70 opposed, with 17 abstaining and 26 not voting and was silent on “gender identity.” However, in a remarkable turn of events, the resolution was later introduced before the full General Assembly, which voted to reinstate the language by passing it 93 to 55, with 27 abstentions and 17 absent or not voting.

The states’ decision on Tuesday to support the inclusion of “sexual orientation” and introduce “gender identity” into the resolution is one more in a series of positive developments the UN and in regional human rights systems where there is increasingly recognition of the need for protection from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The successful expansion of the resolution to include “gender identity” on Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day dedicated to those murdered as a result of their gender identity or expression, was particularly significant.


  • For a full vote on the Singapore Amendment click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.
  • For a full vote on the United Arab Emirates Amendment to remove sexual orientation and gender identity click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.
  • For a full vote on the passage of the Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Resolutions click here.  For a photograph of the vote click here.

Joint news release by:

Action Canada for Population and Development, Canada

Anjaree Thailand, Thailand

Amnesty International

Arc International

COC Nederland, Netherlands

FARUG, Uganda

For-SOGI, Thailand


GATE: Global Action for Trans* Equality

Human Rights Watch

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO)

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

International Commission of Jurists

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Kaos Gay Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, Turkey

The Norwegian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organisation (LLH), Norway

Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad (OTD), Chile

RFSL The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, Sweden

Russian LGBT Network, Russia

SAYONI, Singapore


SPoD, Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, Turkey

TLF Share, Philippines

Transgender Europe (TGEU)

Women for Women's Human Rights (WWHR), Turkey

President of Human Rights Council condemns continuing reprisals, requests more resources for Council


On 14 November 2012, the President of the Human Rights Council (the President), Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, presented her report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee in New York.

In her statement, the President summarized some of the key developments in the Council in 2012, including the ongoing consideration of the human rights situation in Syria; the creation of new mandates on Eritrea and on Belarus, and on the effects of Israeli settlements on human rights; the adoption of resolutions on 17 countries; and the organization of 16 panel discussions, including  on freedom of expression on the Internet, and on access to justice for  indigenous peoples.

The President stressed the importance of civil society contributions to the Council, which were indispensable to its work and credibility. However, she was disappointed at continued reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. She underscored that it was essential for human rights defenders to carry out their work in a safe and open environment, and in particular, she referenced paragraph 30 of HRC Resolution 16/21. In this provision, the Council strongly rejects acts of intimidation and reprisals, and urges States to prevent and ensure adequate protection against them. She also highlighted the strong stance of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the issue during his September address at the Council, and in a high-level panel on reprisals.

The President highlighted several other Council resolutions, including one recommending the General Assembly to allow participation of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at the General Assembly.  She also welcomed the constructive discussion in June on the line between freedom of expression and incitement to hatred and violence, which was an important follow-up to Council resolution 16/18 (2011).  That resolution, among other things, emphasizes the interdependence and mutually reinforcing bond of freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

She also appealed to States to keep up the momentum of the first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle, noting that the second cycle, already underway, will be crucial in dealing with follow up on human rights in a non-confrontational and depoliticized manner.

One of the major challenges facing the Council is the lack of resources for the numerous activities it undertakes. In particular, the President noted that the conference services required more resources, including for translation of UPR documents into all languages .  She also requested that resources from the regular UN budget cover webcast coverage of Council and UPR meetings, as the webcasts are the only official archive of those meetings.

In the interactive dialogue, most States praised the Council's progress, though a few pointed out some issues that required further attention.  Mexico said there was room for improvement in how the Council addressed national situations, while Liechtenstein regretted that the Council had not taken sufficient action regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. Liechtenstein also questioned the usefulness of the “traditional values” debates.  China and Cuba expressed concern about the Council's lack of attention to economic, social and cultural rights. Russia, Syria, Bangladesh, Cuba and China accused  the Council of selectivity and double standards, practices which could lead to the discrediting of the Council, as happened with the Commission on Human Rights, its predecessor. China also disagreed with the General Assembly practice of taking up the Council’s report before the Third Committee considers it. As the premier human rights body, China believed the Third Committee should review it first.

Mexico, Turkey, Switzerland and South Africa agreed that the Council needed more resources, though Mexico urged the Council and Third Committee to look closely at their division of labour and avoid duplication of efforts. Turkey highlighted the need for more transparency around voluntary contributions to the Office, and for easily accessible information on sources and funding allocation to the Office.  Switzerland urged States to maintain their voluntary contributions, while increasing their portion of the regular budget for the High Commissioner.

The United States (US) , Switzerland, European Union (EU), and Japan asked for advice about how best to ensure the implementation of recommendations during the UPR’s second cycle. Apparently referring to Israel decision to suspend  relations with the Council, Liechtenstein expressed concern about the threat to the universality of the UPR.

In closing, the President again invited States to consider providing additional resources to the Council and for OHCHR. Funding was very much needed, including for technical cooperation, local offices and general support for fieldwork.

General Assembly grants Palestine 'Non-Member Observer State' status


On November 29, the anniversary of the General Assembly resolution on the partition of Palestine and the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution granting Palestine the status of “non-member observer state”. In 2011, the Palestinian's bid for recognition as a full member of the United Nations stalled when it was unable to garner sufficient support in the Security Council, and faced the threat of a veto from the United States.[1] However, unlike the bid for full membership, recognition as an observer state only required a simple majority of the 193 Member States of the General Assembly.[2]

The resolution was approved with 138 states voting in favour, 9 against and 41 abstentions. Five States did not vote.[3] The United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Panama and Israel voted against the resolution (see full vote record here). European Union (EU) countries were almost evenly split between voting for and abstaining, with only the Czech Republic voting against. This was a significant change from the EU votes last year on Palestine’s membership in UNESCO, showing a marked increase in support.[4] The majority of African, Asian and Latin American and Caribbean States voted in favour of the resolution.[5]

Sudan introduced the draft text. In addition to Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, and Ron Prosor, the Ambassador of Israel to the UN, 40 States spoke at the adoption of the resolution.[6] Israel expressed that the resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, will not enable it to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences, and cannot serve as terms of reference for peace negotiations because it says nothing about Israel’s security needs.

Mr Abbas did not make any specific reference to other international bodies or treaties that Palestine would aim to join, including the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many States have expressed concern in recent days that such action by Palestine would jeopardize the peace process. However, human rights groups are urging States that have been pressing Palestine to forgo membership in the ICC to end such pressure and support universal ratification of the ICC treaty.

Of the nine States that voted against the resolution, only Canada, the USA and the Czech Republic spoke. All shared the view that the resolution undermined the prospects for a two-state solution and that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations. Of the 41 countries that abstained, many expressed concern that the resolution would have an adverse impact on negotiations. In addition, many States that voted in favor of the resolution affirmed that this was not a formal recognition of Palestine as a State.[7] Presumably referring to the potential for Palestine to pursue action against Israel at the ICC, many expressed concern that ‘unilateral actions’ are counter-productive and threaten the viability of the two state solution. Others, including the UK, Japan and Italy, referred more overtly to the ICC issue, with the UK stating that it abstained for lack of assurances that Palestine would forego such actions.

Though attention has been focused on the ICC, a significant development for human rights defenders is the fact that Palestine’s new status may also open the door for ratification of core human rights treaties. Human rights treaty-monitoring and reporting would be an important development towards promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.


[1] According to Article 4 of the UN Charter, full membership requires a recommendation by the Security Council. See also  XIV of the UN Rules of Procedure

[2] The granting of observer status is based purely on practice, and there are no provisions for it in the UN Charter. The practice dates from 1946, when the Secretary-General accepted the designation of the Swiss Government as a Permanent Observer to the UN. Observers were subsequently put forward by certain States that later became UN Members, including Austria, Finland, Italy, and Japan. The Holy See is currently the only other observer State.

[3] Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, and Ukraine.

[4] Compared to the UNESCO vote in 2011, five EU countries switched from abstain to yes (Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal and Georgia); three EU countries switched from no to abstain (Germany, Netherlands, and Lithuania); and one country switching from no to yes (Sweden).

[5] In Africa, only Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Togo abstained. Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Madagascar did not vote. Of 54Asian States, only eight abstained (Fiji, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Tonga, Vanuatu), four voted no (Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau) and Kiribati did not vote. In GRULAC only six States abstained (Bahamas, Barbados, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay) and Panama voted no.

[6] Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, The Russian Federation, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA.

[7] Including Belgium, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway and Papa New Guinea. As of November 2012, 131 States had formally recognized the State of Palestine.


Third Committee holds course on death penalty, makes historic gains on SOGI rights


The 67th session of the General Assembly’s (GA) Third Committee saw the re-hashing of a number of by now predictable debates between States, including on religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual and reproductive health and rights, traditional values, and the death penalty. Fragile gains were consolidated and setbacks avoided, though significant achievements were minimal.

Thematic Developments

Reference to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) survives attempted deletion in extrajudicial executions resolution

This year’s resolution on extrajudicial executions added ‘gender identity’ to the list of vulnerable groups that States were specifically urged to protect. Two attacks on the SOGI language were waged in negotiations. Some States[1] proposed deleting the entire list of vulnerable groups, in a bad faith attempt to ‘streamline’ the text with generic language referring to all of them. Other States[2] proposed to simply delete the SOGI language. In the end, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) tabled an amendment to delete the SOGI language, which was overwhelmingly defeated.[3]

Hard fought consensus prevails on violence against women resolution

As expected, negotiations on the violence against women resolution were lengthy and difficult, against the backdrop of the traditional values debate at the Human Rights Council (HRC).[4] New language on sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights was retained in the end, though only in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which, amongst other things, states that abortion should not be promoted as family planning.[5] Notably, Chile withdrew its co-sponsorship of the text this year, due to the language on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Efforts by the co-sponsors (France and the Netherlands) to further expand the language on custom, tradition, and customary practices to include language on 'modifying social and cultural patterns of conduct' were not successful.

GA adopts new resolution on female genital mutilation (FGM)

A new resolution on FGM was passed by consensus. Though the resolution urges States to pursue education and training that incorporates a social perspective and is based on human rights and gender-equality principles, the resolution falls short of categorising FGM as a human rights violation, as some Western European and Others Group (WEOG) States and human rights defenders had hoped.

Somewhat surprisingly, discussions around several sensitive issues were relatively uncontroversial. The resolution refers to sexual and reproductive health and not the more divisive ‘reproductive rights’. In addition, though previous UN resolutions have referred inconsistently to FGM as a harmful ‘traditional’ practice, the language on traditions was not included in the initial draft, nor accepted during negotiations.[6]

Global momentum continues for abolition of the death penalty

The GA adopted its fourth resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty[7] reaffirming the UN's growing commitment towards abolition. The text was adopted by vote, with a slightly larger margin than in 2010.[8] New improved language this year includes additional safeguards for the application of the death penalty, including for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age and for pregnant women. 

The passage of the resolution was tense, though less acrimonious than in previous years. Retentionist States argued throughout the negotiations that there was no international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, that the death penalty was not prohibited under international law, and that its application was a matter for individual States to decide.[9] Key detractors[10] proposed hostile amend­ments along these lines in the Third Committee to weaken the text but all were defeated.[11]

Third Committee grapples with potential revival of defamation of religions

It was unclear this year whether the GA would find consensus on two texts related to religious intolerance following the release of an inflammatory video "The Innocence of Muslims" prior to the GA session. An overriding concern was that the OIC might bring back a defamation of religion text. However the OIC remained committed to the cooperative approach that first prevailed in the HRC in March 2011 and GA in 2011. The GA this year adopted another consensus resolution on combating intolerance and incitement to violence against persons, based on religious beliefs that omitted any specific references to defamation of religion or blasphemy. 

As in previous years, the GA also adopted an EU-sponsored resolution on freedom of religion and belief without a vote. [12] However maintaining consensus came at a price; in exchange for the OIC dropping defamation language from its own resolution, the EU also had to make multiple concessions, including giving up new language on protection of religious minorities, and on the right to conversion.

Country Resolutions

This session saw some fairly significant developments in the country resolutions. The Third Committee again took up four country-specific resolutions on human rights:MyanmarIran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Syria.[13]However, in a marked departure from previous years, the Third Committee adopted two of the four resolutions by consensus: Myanmar and the DPRK. This marks the first time since 2006 that the Third Committee adopted a country-specific resolution by consensus.

Consensus on the Myanmar resolution was expected, and the result of intense negotiations between the sponsors of the text (EU) and the country concerned. The resolution continues to call for reforms but also acknowledges positive steps taken in the last year. The ongoing violence against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State threatened the fragile consensus, as some OIC states (including Qatar and Iran) threatened to call a vote due to insufficient language addressing the issue. While human rights defenders were pushing for stronger wording,[14] many still see the resolution as having proven its worth as an important tool for engaging with the government of Myanmar to encourage further reforms and improve the human rights situation in the country. Whether this will in fact be the last resolution, as stated by the representative of Myanmar at the adoption, remains to be seen. Notably, the usual language referring to the continued consideration of the question at the next session of the GA has been replaced by a more vague formulation to ‘remain seized of the matter’.

Some viewed the unexpected consensus on the DPRK as a positive development, presuming that the DPRK did not call a vote for fear of an embarrassing defeat in the face of an ever greater number of States supporting the resolution. Others are concerned that the DPRK’s disassociation from the consensus after the adoption is simply indicative of a new form of rejection by the State of the resolution.

This was the first time that the DPRK resolution was adopted by consensus since it was first introduced in 2005. The resolution on Myanmar was first adopted in 1991 and was adopted by consensus until 2006 when the Human Rights Council was created — which many States regarded as the proper venue for country specific resolutions. The move to consensus of these two resolutions therefore begs several questions, including whether States are moving beyond the debate on whether it is appropriate for the GA to consider country specific resolutions. Some would point to the spate of GA resolutions this year and last on Syria as evidence of the GA’s relevance in addressing country-specific human rights situations. Some would also point to the absence of no-action motions on resolutions.[15]

Two of the four resolutions continued to be voted: Iran and Syria. The resolution on Iran was passed by 86 YES votes, 32 NO votes and 65 abstentions.[16] The resolution on Syria passed with 135 YES votes, 12 NO votes and 36 abstentions.[17]

The resolution on Syria was led by Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with strong regional co-sponsorship.[18] As was the case in the Third Committee last year, no Arab country voted against the resolution. However, in contrast to last year’s Third Committee resolution, Russia and China moved from abstentions to voting against the resolution. Several States who voted for the resolution expressed unease about the resolution’s one-sidedness insofar as it inadequately condemns human rights violations by the opposition.[19]

Votes in favour of the resolution on Iran (86) stayed constant compared to Third Committee last year (86) but unfortunately decreased compared to the 2011 GA plenary (89). Overall, the vote count in Third Committee reflects a large number of shifts in position. In terms of backsliding, changes of note include: the shifting back from abstaining to NO by Egypt and Kuwait and from YES to abstaining by Tunisia, Rwanda, Gambia, Tanzania, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia. There is some speculation that the backsliding is due—at least in part—to the fact that Iran is now chairing the non-aligned movement (NAM), an organisation that maintains a principled position against country-specific resolutions at the GA. More positive developments include the shift from abstaining to YES by Serbia, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, from NO to abstain by Algeria and Comoros, and from NO to being absent by Myanmar.

Institutional Developments

Three treaty bodies made requests for, and were granted, additional funding this year: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee Against Torture (CAT), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). CAT[20] again received an additional week per session in 2013 and 2014, for a total of four additional weeks.[21] CRPD[22] was granted two pre-sessional weeks plus two additional regular session weeks bringing the total number of weeks to five. CRC[23] was also granted the additional meeting time it requested.[24] However, the necessary funds for the CRPD and CRC requests were rolled into the regular budget for 2014-2015, delaying implementation.[25]

Though consensus was achieved on all three requests, these were not well received by some of the traditionally fiscally conservative States. The United States disassociated from the consensus on all three, while the UK singled out the CRC in particular for disassociation. Japan did not disassociate from consensus, but made statements after each adoption expressing its concern about the budgetary implications.

Negotiations on the OHCHR strategic framework follow smooth course despite initial concerns

The human rights component (Programme 20) of the UN’s proposed strategic framework for the period 2014-2015[26] was taken up by the Third Committee this year.[27] In past years, several States[28] have used the process to press for more oversight of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by the Human Rights Council, while others have vigorously defended the High Commissioner and her Office's independence. Though it was anticipated that Programme 20 negotiations might centre around this divisive issue, fortunately no standoff occurred.[29] Positively, a number of attempts by Russia, Cuba, and China to significantly weaken language relating to the OHCHR's role and mandate were roundly rejected by OHCHR and supportive States,[30]including a Russian proposal to remove all references to OHCHR's cooperation with civil society or NGOs. However, some minor changes were made to the text relating to OHCHR's engagement with Member States, OHCHR's relationship with civil society, the treaty-body strengthening process, and legislative mandates.

Despite consensus on these changes, the resolution containing Programme 20 was adopted by vote because Israel, along with the US and Australia, disagreed with the emphasis on the Durban Declaration and Programme for Action (DDPA) in the text.[31]

[1] Holy See, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

[2] Russia and Syria.

[3] The vote count was 44:86:31 (for:against:abstentions).

[4] See here for more information.

[5] Egypt (on behalf of Arab Group), Holy See, Iran, Pakistan and the Russian Federation opposed these references.

[6] See here for more information on the traditional values debate at the UN.

[7] Led by Chile and Micronesia on behalf of a cross-regional task force.

[8] The vote count was 111:41:34 (for:against:abstentions). The Central African Republic (absent in 2010) voted YES this year. and did South Sudan (which did not exist in 2010). (In Third Committee the vote was 110:39:36). The resolution is a biannual one, last seen in 2010 at the 65th session. In 2010, resolution was adopted by a vote of 109:41:35 (in the GA plenary).

[9] Singapore, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan, Botswana, China, Egypt.

[10] Egypt, Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Botswana.

[11] The amendments attempted to either remove new language from the resolution (the call for States to provide  specific death penalty statistics), reaffirm State sovereignty, or assert a State's right to chose its own legal justice system.

[12] The EU changed the name of the resolution this year from "elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief" to "freedom of religion and belief" which is consistent with HRC resolutions by the EU on the same issue. 

[14] Particularly on: freedom of expression, association and assembly; the situation of prisoners; and the National Human Rights Commission.

[15] Human rights defenders have long decried the use of no-action motions, which prevent the continuation of a debate and allow States to avoid taking a position on politically sensitive issues.

[16] The vote in the Third Committee was 83 YES votes, to 31 NO votes, with 68 abstentions.

[17] The vote in the Third Committee was 132 YES votes, to 12 NO votes, with 35 abstentions,

[18] By Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

[19] Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Brasil, and Jamaica. As a result of the resolution's perceived one-sidedness, Nigeria moved from supporting the text to abstaining and Ecuador continued to vote against the resolution.

[20] This resolution was run by Denmark.

[21] The CAT was previously granted an additional week per session in 2010, for 2011 and 2012.

[22] This resolution was run by New Zealand, Mexico and Sweden.

[23] This resolution was run by Slovenia and Costa Rica.

[24] The request was to work in two chambers at one pre-sessional working group meeting in 2013 and at one regular session to be held in 2014.

[25] At issue with the CRC request was the fact that the budget division at the UN had included the cost of 10 common core documents in the budget implication document, while the CRC is not the only committee that would benefit from those documents.

[26] The strategic framework is the principal policy directive of the UN, which serves as the basis for programme planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, with effect from the biennium 2014-2015.

[27] The Strategic Framework was reviewed in June by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) of the GA. However, negotiations in the CPC broke down, and consideration of the report was deferred to the GA's Third Committee.  A summary of some of the developments that led to this breakdown is available in ISHR's Alert: A forecast of the 67th GA session, p.11, here.

[28] China, Cuba, Russia, among others.

[29] Egypt and Mexico co-facilitated the negotiations.

[30] EU, Australia, US, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

[31] 161 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 3 voted against (US, Israel, Canada) and 7 abstained.


States should reject procedure that results in exclusion of non-government organisations from UN


A group of leading international human rights organisations, including the International Service for Human Rights and Amnesty International, have called on the UN to ensure that non-government organisations are not excluded from key UN meetings.

The call was made in response to a resolution proposing that an NGO could be excluded from a high-level international meeting on immigration and development if any state objected to the participation of that NGO on any grounds whatsoever.

“Non-government and civil society organisations have a critical role to play at the UN, ensuring that the voices of people on the ground are heard and understood. This is particularly the case on issues such as migration, poverty alleviation and development, where NGOs are the experts,” said Madeleine Sinclair of the International Service for Human Rights.

The proposal to exclude any NGO on the basis of any objection by any state reflects a concerning trend to restrict NGO access at the UN.

“Unfortunately the 'no-objection' procedure has become prevalent in a range of meetings at UN headquarters in recent years,” said Ms Sinclair.

“The ‘no-objection’ procedure is severely flawed. Its arbitrary and ad-hoc nature not only risks excluding relevant and valuable voices, but can also lead to censorship and politically motivated exclusion of critical voices,” she said.

“Despite rhetoric supporting the vital role that civil society plays within the UN, the procedure flouts basic principles of accountability, transparency and due process.”

The International Service for Human Rights deeply regrets that, despite the NGO letter, the resolution providing for the exclusion of NGOs was passed by the UN General Assembly. “ISHR calls on all states to reflect on the valuable role of NGOs in promoting and protecting human rights and to ensure that civil society organisations can meaningfully participate in and contribute to UN General Assembly processes.”


In December 2012, fifteen NGOs, including ISHR, issued a joint letter on NGO participation in the draft Migration and Development resolution of the General Assembly.

The joint NGO letter was developed in response to provisions in the draft resolution that could be used to limit the participation of NGOs in the 2013 High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development to those that are ‘relevant’, ‘in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council’ and to whose participation no State objects. The concern is that such language is open to a politically motivated exclusion of NGOs and undue censorship of these legitimate stakeholders.

This ‘no-objection’ procedure for NGO participation, whereby NGOs can be barred from participating if a single State objects, is severely flawed. The arbitrary and ad-hoc nature of the procedure poses a severe obstacle to the effective participation of NGOs, and undermines the planning of meaningful NGO contributions. By its very nature, the procedure risks excluding relevant voices in each of the fora it is applied, and we therefore object to its application. Unfortunately the 'no-objection' procedure to arbitrarily and unfairly restrict NGO access has become prevalent in a range of meetings at UN headquarters in recent years. For example, the ‘no-objection’ procedure was included in a resolution setting out modalities for a 2013 high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the MDGs for persons with disabilities. The procedure was also used to manage NGO participation in the General Assembly’s treaty body strengthening process in 2012.

The 'no-objection' procedure was included in a revised resolution issued by the drafters, though consensus could not be found. The resolution was put to a vote (by the EU). The result of the vote was: 110 for, 2 against, 46 abstaining. Click here for a breakdown of votes by region (Click here for a breakdown of votes by region). Canada and the US voted against the resolution. The rest of the Western Europe and Others Group abstained. All of Latin American and Carribean States voted for the resolution, with the notable exception of Mexico, which abstained. All of the Eastern European Group abstained except Russia and Belarus, which voted in favour of the resolution. All Asian states voted in favour of the resolution with the exception of Japan, Korea and Cyprus, which abstained.  

The US, EU, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway all referred to the NGO participation issue in their explanations of vote. China is the only State that spoke in support of the 'no-objection' procedure. The US specifically referred to the NGO letter, explaining that they shared our concerns that the 'no objection' procedure could be used to limit participation without transparency or due process.

It is our hope that this result will lead to further scrutiny of the use of the 'no-objection' procedure as accepted practice at the General Assembly and that States will build on this momentum to reject the procedure in future resolutions dealing with modalities for General Assembly processes.




Lire cet article en français                                                                                                                         Lea este artículo en español aquí

By Alexandre Skander Galand, postdoctoral researcher at the Hertie School, and Başak Çalı, Professor of International Law at the Hertie School and Director of the School's Centre for Fundamental Rights

UN human rights treaties allow individuals to launch complaints when their rights are violated—but the system for dealing with them needs urgent reform.

This article was first published on OpenGlobalRights on 20 March 2020.

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