HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES THIRD SESSION LARGELY
DEVOTED TO ORGANIZATION OF FUTURE WORK
Human Rights Council
8 December 2006
Decides to Prepare the Durban Review Conference and Establishes Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards in the Fight Against Racism
The Human Rights Council today concluded its third regular session, which was held from 29 November to 8 December. During the session, which started immediately following the conclusion of the second session, the Council heard an address delivered on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and heard the report of High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. The Council also adopted six resolutions and one decision, as well as its annual report to the General Assembly.
Interactive debates and dialogues were also held with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon. Discussions took place on missions to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and with the four facilitators from the Working Group on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251 on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the review of mechanisms, the complaint procedure, and the Expert advice body. The Council also debated methods of work and rules of procedure for the future work of the body.
During the session, the President of the Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba, announced that the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun would be led by Desmond Mpilo Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Christine Chinkin of the United Kingdom was named as a member of the mission, and would accompany Archbishop Tutu.
Ambassador de Alba also announced a request from Finland, on behalf of 29 countries, for the Council to hold a special session immediately after the conclusion of the third session on the situation of human rights in Darfur.
In his message, the Secretary-General said that since their first session in June, the Human Rights Council had been very active – holding three special sessions as well as two regular ones. The Council had focused especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which indeed had escalated during these months in ways that caused deep concern to all. He hoped, however, that the Council took care to handle this issue in an impartial way, and did not allow it to monopolize attention at the expense of others where there were equally grave or even graver violations. There were surely other situations, besides the one in the Middle East, which merited scrutiny by a special session of this Council. The Secretary-General suggested that Darfur was a glaring case in point.
Ms. Arbour offered an overview of the missions that she had undertaken since the second session of the Council as well as updates and thoughts on countries and themes that continued to engage her attention and work. Her missions had taken her to Haiti, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Germany and Canada. On Haiti, Ms. Arbour said the general human rights situation was a matter of serious concern with regard to all rights. The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was grave and worsening, within a general climate of impunity. The High Commissioner also spoke about recent developments in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Darfur.
The Council adopted six resolutions and one decision during the session, including on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; Preparations for the Durban Review Conference; Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive follow-up to the World Conference and the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; regional cooperation for the protection and promotion of human rights in the Asian and Pacific region; the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon; and implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251.
The fourth special session of the Council will be on Tuesday, 12 December 2006, when the Council will consider the situation in Darfur, Sudan. The fourth regular session will be held from 12 March to 5 April 2007.
In his message, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that since their first session in June, the Human Rights Council had been very active – holding three special sessions as well as two regular ones. The Council had focused especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which indeed had escalated during these months in ways that caused deep concern to all. He hoped, however, that the Council would take care to handle this issue in an impartial way, and would not allow it to monopolize attention at the expense of others where there were equally grave or even graver violations. There were surely other situations, besides the one in the Middle East, which merited scrutiny by a special session of this Council. The Secretary-General suggested that Darfur was a glaring case in point.
The Secretary-General asked Member States to not let themselves be split along the fault line between north and south – between developed and developing countries – as their colleagues had done in some other parts of the system, with results inimical to progress. The great challenge for the Council was to find a way to embrace the universality of rights while at the same time addressing specific human rights situations. That was why he strongly believed that the Council must preserve and strengthen the system of Special Procedures – the crown jewel of the system – while also developing a robust universal periodic review.
Ms. Arbour offered an overview of the missions that she had undertaken since the second session of the Council as well as updates and thoughts on countries and themes that continued to engage her attention and work. On Haiti, Ms. Arbour said the general human rights situation was a matter of serious concern with regard to all rights. The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was grave and worsening, within a general climate of impunity. Concerning Nepal, Ms. Arbour said the recent peace agreement reached by the parties was a crucial step towards setting the foundations for democratic transition in which the protection and promotion of the human rights of all Nepalese should be central.
In Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner said the Office had actively provided advice to the Government on the terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into killings and disappearances and on the role of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons that would observe its investigations. In Iraq, despite the Government’s efforts to address the deteriorating human rights situation, violence had reached unprecedented levels. Regarding Darfur, Ms. Arbour said the Government of the Sudan and militias aligned with them, and some still actively supported by them, continued to be responsible for the most serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun
During the session, the President of the Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba, announced that the High-Level Fact-Finding Mission the Council established following the Israeli military operations in Gaza on 8 November in which at least 18 civilians were killed, will be led by Desmond Mpilo Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. A leading figure in the struggle against apartheid, Archbishop Tutu chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 1995. Christine Chinkin of the United Kingdom was also appointed as member of the mission, which was scheduled to depart to the region the weekend following the conclusion of the third session.
According to resolution S-3/1 adopted at the Council’s third special session on 15 November, the Fact-Finding Mission is to travel to Beit Hanoun to, among other things, "assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors, and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults". The Fact-Finding Mission is to report on its progress to the Council no later than the middle of December 2006.
The Council held a range of interactive dialogues, with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, as well as missions to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and with the four facilitators on the review of mechanisms and the Universal Periodic Review mechanisms.
Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide
Juan E. Mendez, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, said the prevention of the genocide was a legal and moral imperative. In reaction to the failure of the recent past and the existence of conspicuous gaps in the capacity of the United Nations to provide early warning, on the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the Secretary-General had announced the creation of the post of the Special Advisor involving the United Nations as a whole. Prevention of genocide required early warning based on indicators or warning signs for situations that risked deteriorating.
Mr. Mendez said he would collaborate with the Human Rights Council while he provided early warning reports to the Security Council. He would have regular relations with the Council with regard to country situations so that the Council might take urgent action. He underlined that States were responsible for preventing genocide.
Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon
Stelios Perrakis, Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, said the conflict, which lasted 33 days, inflicted serious damages and losses on Lebanon. It had exacted a heavy human toll, with 1,191 people reported dead, 4,409 injured, and 900,000 people fleeing their homes; roads, factories, water sources, cultural and economic infrastructure and homes were affected, among many others. It would take a long time before Lebanon could rebuild the country, and the help of the international community would be required in this regard. Basic humanitarian principles were absent throughout the conflict, and there had been indiscriminate use of force against Lebanese civilians. Human rights had not been respected.
Mr. Perrakis said the use of some weapons was illegal, such as the use of cluster munitions, which were mainly fired during the last 72 hours of the conflict. Their use was excessive and not justified by military necessity, and went beyond the arguments of proportionality. They were a flagrant violation. There had been violation of the right to life and property. Israel had violated obligations following from international law and humanitarian law, and it had disregarded its international and individual responsibility.
Working Group on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251
Universal Periodic Review mechanism
Mohammed Loulichki, Facilitator on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, introducing the progress report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, said the Working Group had concluded its work on 23 November after a range of productive meetings with the participation of stakeholders and a series of useful interactive discussions. Terms of reference, bases of review, objectives and principles of review, periodicity of review, process and modalities of review, outcome and follow-up were the six items that were considered as the main outcomes of the consideration by the facilitator. There were many complexities of a practical and conceptual nature that required further consideration by the Council. Work should continue to be constructive, transparent and inclusive.
Review of mechanisms
Tomas Husak, Facilitator on the review of mandates, introducing the progress report of the Working Group, said the Working Group managed to elaborate on the principles of the review, as well as on its objectives and structure, and was also able to engage in a substantive and fruitful dialogue between the delegations and Special Procedures mandate-holders. In overall, it reached agreement on the need to further strengthen and enhance the Special Procedures to improve the enjoyment of human rights as well as protection and promotion against human rights violations. It was underlined that the coherence of the human rights machinery, including the Special Procedures, should be improved.
Blaise Godet, Facilitator on the complaint procedure, presenting his progress report on the work of the Group, said the Complaint Procedure was a mechanism which covered all human rights, whether they were civil and political rights or economic, social and cultural rights. Even if further discussions could be held in order to fine tune how the principle was taken on board, there was a clear belief in the principle of exhausting domestic remedies before the Complaint Procedure could be launched.
Expert advice body
Musa Burayzat, Facilitator on the Expert Advice Body, presenting his progress report on the work of the Group, said nobody had spoken against election for the membership of the body- the text of the report indicated that there was no consensus on this matter, and here consensus should be interpreted in a broader way, as to not mean unanimity. It was important for the Council to address the issue of the selection process, which was the most important issue, and one where delegations views were not without merit. Every suggestion was valid, but at the end of the day a compromise had to be reached, including on size and function. The views of delegations would be taken into account in writing the working non-paper.
The Council also discussed follow-up to its decision for John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to undertake an urgent fact-finding mission to the Occupied Territory, and for a high-level fact-finding mission to travel to Beit Hanoun. It also discussed the status of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the President recalled the Council had adopted on 29 June at its first session, but that what was expected to be a simple endorsement by the General Assembly had become a rather long process of re-negotiation of the text.
In a discussion on "other issues" related to the protection and promotion of human rights, the Council discussed the situation of children involved in armed conflict, human rights violations linked to sexual orientation and gender identity, and the situation of human rights in various countries of the world.
It was vital to protect children in all circumstances, and this was especially important during armed conflict where children often were victims of grave human rights violations, speakers said. Children were involved in armed conflicts in many parts of the world, including Sri Lanka. The situation of children under foreign occupation was also raised. The recent report by the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict was welcomed.
There was deep concern at ongoing human rights violations around the world based on sexual orientation and gender identity, speakers said. The principles of universality and non-discrimination required that these be addressed. All Special Procedures and treaty bodies should continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation within their relevant mandates, as too often in the past these human rights abuses had passed in silence. Tackling stigma and discrimination was about political and moral leadership: from politicians, religious figures, communities, the media, campaigning organizations, and from individuals, including how each behaved.
Among other issues raised were the situation of human rights in a number of countries, including Darfur, Sudan. Speakers welcomed the calling of the special session on Darfur, and urged each other to hold a comprehensive and constructive dialogue on the situation, as this would give a clear signal that the Council would take action everywhere gross violations of human rights occurred.
Methods of work and rules of procedure
The Council also discussed methods of work and rules of procedure in an interactive debate with delegations, many of whom urged the Council to ensure that it would not repeat the mistakes of the defunct Commission, and to adopt an agenda and methods of work that avoided the pitfalls of politicisation, selectivity, and double standards. The work of the Human Rights Council should be organised around transparency and predictability, and it should become a shining example of inclusiveness, and promote and embrace the realization of human rights.
The agenda of the Council should provide the right framework for its work, delegations said. To be effective, it needed to be predictable and flexible, in order to ensure that the Council was able to respond effectively to developments on the ground and discuss issues of concern at an appropriate time. However, a delegation pointed out that it was perfectly acceptable to imagine a certain degree of flexibility for methods of work during the current transition period, but such flexibility should not become synonymous with a lack of organization or not providing for future developments.
Resolutions and decisions
In resolutions and decisions, the Council adopted texts on:
on Preparations for the Durban Review Conference, in which it decides that the Human Rights Council will act as the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference, and decides that the review will concentrate on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive follow-up to decisions of the Human Rights Council to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, in which it establishes an Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards.
on Regional cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Asian and Pacific region, in which it decides to convene the next session of the Workshop on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asian and Pacific Region in 2007.
on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon, in which it requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult with the Government of Lebanon on ways and means of implementing the relevant recommendations contained in the report of Inquiry which are consistent with paragraph 7 of the Council resolution S-2/1 and to report to the Council at its fourth session.
on Implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251: agenda, annual programme of work, methods of work and rules of procedure of the Human Rights Council, in which it decides to establish an open-ended intergovernmental, intersessional working group to formulate concrete recommendations on its agenda, its annual programme of work, its methods of work as well as its rules of procedure in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251.
on Conference facilities and financial support for the Human Rights Council, in which it Council requests the Secretary-General to report to the sixty-first session of the General Assembly on ways and means to guarantee the provision of: conference services including interpretation, particularly for the holding of special sessions, additional meetings during regular sessions and organizational meetings.
on Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Follow-up on the Human Rights Council resolution S-1/Res.1, in which it calls for the speedy implementation of its resolution S-1/Res.1, including the dispatching of the urgent fact-finding mission; and decides to report on the implementation of this resolution at its next session.
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