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United Nations Human Rights Council: Positive Steps on Country Situations and the Protection of Human Rights Norms

By International Federation for Human Rights  •  March 31, 2010

Commenting on the results of its 13th session which ended on Friday March 26th, FIDH considers the United Nations Human Rights Council has taken positive steps to respond to the human rights violations committed in Guinea and Burma and has prevented parts of initiatives of certain countries to draft new norms on racial discriminations that may have undermined human rights standards and the fight against racism at the UN.

Country situations: In adopting resolutions dedicated to the human rights situations of Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Democratic Popular Republic of Korea, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Myanmar/Burma, the Council has maintained an important country related focus, which FIDH believes contributes to preventing abuses, in situations where there is a serious pattern of violations. The resolution on Guinea was a long awaited first reaction of the UN’s primary body in charge of human rights on the massacre of September 2009 in Conakry. It prolonged the UN Security Council’s mobilisation and agreed to the establishment of an Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea. The resolution on Myanmar provide an important and timely reaction to the way the junta is organising elections next fall, regretting that the « electoral laws do not meet the epectations of the international community regarding what is needed for an inclusive political process », calling
upon them « to ensure a free, transparent and fair electoral process which allows for the participation therein of all voters, all political parties, and all other relevant stakeholders in a manner of their choosing ».

The resolution also supports the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, notably after his latest report called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry on the international crimes in Burma. FIDH and its partner organisations Altsean Burma and Burma Lawyers’ Council have long been denouncing the electoral process and urged for the establishment
of a commission of inquiry1, a call we hope will be supported following the resolution.

FIDH nevertheless regrets that the Council’s review of its mobilisation on the Democratic Republic of the Congo failed to establish a dedicated expert mechanism to monitor the implementation of deeply needed reforms in the country, despite the alarming reports of UN Special procedures and of the High Commissioner on the absence of genuine progress.2 While the resolution will maintain the attention of the Council on the country’s evolution, FIDH and its member organisations expect that the Council will ultimately retailor its response to the challenges ahead as recommended by the High Commissioner, or witnessed through the assessments of the UN Security Council’s consideration of the country.

FIDH also regrets the absence of a dedicated initiative on human rights in Iran: while the situation has been thoroughly debated and reported by the UN High Commissioner, the Council failed to adapt its decisions to the escalating repression. Notwithstanding the Universal Periodic Review and the General Assembly resolution, the Iranian regime pursues the repression beyond the streets to its tribunals, condemning peaceful activists to the death penalty, reinforcing its control over channels of information, repressing human rights activists, and persecuting religious and ethnic minorities.

Thematic situations: A large number of thematic issues were under discussion, and the workload of the reports to be considered does not give satisfaction to the importance they deserve. Specific themes would benefit from a greater attention and mobilisation, notably to counter specific attempts to diminish the protection mandate of the Council’s instruments. This was witnessed throughout the topics on which FIDH mobilised.

FIDH applauded the introduction of a joint report on Secret detention, a report which consideration will be delayed following the controversy it sparked.

The report provides the first comprehensive UN study to describe and confront secret detention practices in the context of the fight against terrorism. It is an important echo at the universal level, of the documentation lead by experts from the Council of Europe and Members of the European Parliament. It demonstrates how in spite of a large mobilisation, States responsible or complicit of secret detention facilities failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the human rights violations they were – or still are – responsible of.

FIDH regrets the controversy on the report, while we believe it strengthens the quality of the work presented by expert to the Council. We hope the delay in its consideration will enable States to implement its important recommendations and mainstream its results throughout the UN architecture, in particular at the UN Security Council’s Counter-terrorism Committee.

FIDH welcomes the dedication of the resolution on Protecting human rights while countering terrorism, which echoed the work of the Special Rapporteur, on the protection of the right to privacy while countering terrorism, a balance which is at the heart of contemporary legal initiatives in European States, a right balance which few States have been able to strike globally.

FIDH regrets the renewed introduction by Pakistan of a resolution on “Combating defamation of religions”. “Defamation of religion” does not accord with international human rights law, nor does it provide a protective framework to respond adequately to disproportionate restrictions to freedom of religion such as was the Swiss referendum on Minarets, nor an appropriate reaction to respond to the repression that individuals are suffering on grounds of their religious beliefs. We however note the decreased support to the resolution3, and welcome notably the decisions of Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina and Zambia to vote against it.

FIDH also takes note of the resolution on the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and as such, welcomes the fact that the resolution has not endorsed the controversial initiative of Algeria and Pakistan to promote the drafting of binding norms, to further protect the expression of religious identity in societies, in contradiction to clear expert recommendations on the issue.

Finally, FIDH approves the resolution adopted on the Protection of Human rights defenders while regretting the initiatives to reformulate its scope to limit the protection they should benefit from, on grounds of promoting their “responsibility” or challenging their funding.

For further information: Julie Gromellon, FIDH Representative to the UN,
+41 79 331 24 50

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This post is in: Press Release

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