More robust competition for a seat on the Council, and an objective way of addressing situations of concern would strengthen the world’s peak human rights body, a group of leading NGOs said today.
In a statement delivered at the closing of the Human Rights Council 35th session, the International Service for Human Rights welcomed the voluntary commitment by 48 States, expressed in a joint statement delivered by the Netherlands, to enhance the Council’s success and effectiveness.
The statement also welcomed the the leadership of States in putting the Philippine’s so called ‘war on drugs’ and the increasingly dire situation in the Maldives on the agenda. However, the organisations also regretted the lack of similar joint statements on Egypt or China.
‘We had hoped for more robust response to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’, said Clément Voule, Director of Africa Advocacy at ISHR. ‘It’s now important for the international community to push for full access to the country by the international team of experts’, said Voule.
During the 35th session, the Council also heard the last report of the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire, whose mandate will be discontinued.
‘We congratulate Côte d’Ivoire for its cooperation, but call on the Council to assist the country in the implementation of the Independent Expert’s recommendations, including by striving for A-status for its NHRI,’ said Voule.
The NGO statement welcomed the fact that resolutions on discrimination and violence against women were adopted by consensus, and that adverse amendments designed to remove language on comprehensive sexuality education and women human rights defenders were defeated.
‘However, we regret that Russia and others systematically seek to remove reference to human rights defenders in all resolutions at each session,’ said Michael Ineichen, Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy at ISHR.
‘This stubborn denial of the existence of defenders is absurd, given the long history of formal recognition of the concept by the Commission, Council and General Assembly,’ Ineichen said.
In that context, the civil society statement welcomed the important joint statements by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg (BENELUX) calling for a public database of acts of intimidation or reprisals against persons cooperating with the UN, and a joint statement by the core group on civil society space delivered by Ireland, and joined by both States and civil society.
The statement also expressed concern about the continuously flawed resolution on the ‘protection of the family’ and on the lack of general progress in terms of the participation of civil society in the Council’s work.
See the full text of the statement below, or here.
Joint statement on behalf of International Service for Human Rights, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Platform Against Impunity, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, International Longevity Center Global Alliance, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia).
At the close of this session, we welcome the commitment by 48 States from all regions to enhance the Council’s success and effectiveness, and the performance of HRC members through a series of concrete actions. The steps outlined by the Netherlands, such as more competitive HRC elections and the application of objective human rights based criteria to determine whether and how to act on situations of concern, would go a long way in making the Council more accessible, effective, and protective.
The leadership shown by States in the development of joint statements on killings in the Philippines’ so-called ‘war on drugs’ and threats against human rights defenders, and on the increasingly dire situation in the Maldives are examples of this. We regret the lack of such leadership on States including China and Egypt.
Although we’d hoped for a more robust response on the DRC from the Council, the international team of experts brings hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence in the Kasai. The UN, this Council, and the DRC itself must now ensure unhindered access for and support to the team, for it to independently produce a robust and credible report, which will constitute a step towards accountability.
We congratulate Cote d’Ivoire for its 6 years of cooperation with the UN and the mandate of the Independent Expert. We urge the Council to continue to pay attention to the human rights situation, particularly in the context of recent mutinies, and to assist the country in the implementation of the Independent Expert’s recommendations, including by striving for A-status for its NHRI.
We also share and echo the joint call by several States urging you to create a publicly accessible register of alleged acts of intimidation or reprisals and to provide short oral updates on cases at the start of every Item 5 general debate giving States concerned the opportunity to respond.
We also welcome the joint statement of the core group on civil society space together with some NGOs, and its reaffirmation that the “substantive participation of civil society makes this Council’s debates and work, including the UPR, richer and more meaningful”.
We are pleased that both resolutions on discrimination and violence against women were adopted by consensus, and that adverse amendments designed to remove language on comprehensive sexuality education and WHRDs were defeated. We regret that Russia and others systematically seek to remove reference to human rights defenders in all resolutions at each session. Denial of the existence of defenders is absurd, given the long history of formal recognition of the concept by the Commission, Council and General Assembly.
We regret that the resolution on the “protection of the family” fails to fully recognise that older persons are individual rights holders entitled to self-determination and autonomy, and that it ignores a significant UN process, the GA Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The resolution also fails to acknowledge that diverse forms of the family exist. The entire initiative is implicated in an effort to subvert the aims of our human rights system and the universality of rights.
In closing, Mr President, we are dismayed at the roll back and lack of progress in terms of ensuring the most effective participation of civil society, in accordance with established rules and practice of the Council. Although symbolic, the massive reduction of reserved NGO desk space in this room is illustrative of this.
We are concerned about the lack of formal engagement by you and your Bureau with civil society, the absence of visible steps to curb and respond to intimidation or reprisals, and the abusive interruptions of NGO statements, including in some instances by the chair. And we look forward to engaging with your office to reverse this negative trend.
Contact: Michael Ineichen, Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, [email protected].