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Summary of the principal decisions of the United Nations Human Rights Council affecting the work of the ACATs

April 2008

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7th session, 3-28 March 2008

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has announced that she will not stand for a second term of office in June 2008.

1. Countries:

- DRC

In a resolution on technical cooperation and advisory services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council invited the government of that country to inform it, at future sessions, on developments in the human rights situation on the ground, and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to increase and enhance the UN’s technical assistance programmes. In its resolution on technical cooperation and advisory services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (A/HRC/7/L.13/Rev.1, amended) the Council thanks the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its cooperation with the independent expert during the period of his mandate and with the special thematic procedures of the Council, and for having invited a number of representatives to make recommendations on how best to help the country remedy its human rights situation. The Council invites the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to inform and update it, at future sessions, on the human rights situation on the ground, identifying the challenges that it may still encounter as well as its needs in this regard. It also requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, through its presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to increase and enhance its technical assistance activities and programmes in consultation with the authorities of the country.

The Council calls on the international community to support the implementation of the local mechanism of cooperation between the government, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights section of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, called ‘Entité de liaison des droits de l’homme’. The Council invites the High Commissioner to report to it at its session in March 2009 on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on the activities the Office of the High Commissioner has undertaken in that country. It decides to pursue this matter under the same agenda item at its session in March 2009.

2. Thematic areas:

- Enforced disappearances

In a resolution on enforced or involuntary disappearances (A/HRC/7/L.30), the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances for a further period of three years, and encourages it, in fulfilling its mandate, to promote communication between families of disappeared persons and the governments concerned, particularly when ordinary channels have failed, with a view to ensuring that sufficiently documented and clearly identified individual cases are investigated and to ascertain whether such information falls under its mandate and contains the required elements. The Council also urges States to work to eradicate the culture of impunity for the perpetrators of enforced disappearances and to elucidate cases of enforced disappearances.

In a resolution on International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (A/HRC/7/L.31 Rev.1), the Council encourages States that are in the process of signing, ratifying or acceding to that Convention to complete their internal procedures towards those ends in compliance with domestic legislation as expeditiously as possible. It also encourages all States that have not yet done so to consider signing, ratifying or acceding to the Convention.

In a resolution on missing persons (A/HRC/7/L.33/Rev.1, amended), the Council calls on States, in the implementation of their obligations under relevant international humanitarian law and international human rights instruments, to adopt a comprehensive national policy and the necessary legal, regulatory and institutional measures in their domestic laws and practices in order to prevent the disappearance of persons as a consequence of armed conflict, to elucidate the fate of missing persons, to protect the rights of missing persons and to assist their families. It calls upon States that are parties to an armed conflict to take all necessary measures, in a timely manner, to determine the identity and fate of persons reported missing in connection with the armed conflict and, to the greatest possible extent, to provide their family members, through appropriate channels, with all relevant information they have on their fate.

- Prevention of genocide

As regards the prevention of genocide, a matter examined on 17 March in the presence of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the Council has invited the High Commissioner to implement appropriate commemorative events to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and to organise a seminar on the prevention of genocide. In its resolution on the prevention of genocide (A/HRC/7/L.26/Rev.1, amended), the Council reaffirms the significance of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and calls upon States that have not yet ratified it to consider doing so. The Council reiterates the responsibility of each individual State to protect its population from genocide. It welcomes the decision of the Secretary-General to retain the mandate of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, to upgrade his position to the level of Under-Secretary General and to strengthen his office. It invites the High Commissioner to elaborate and implement appropriate commemorative events to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Convention, having also in mind the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also invites the High Commissioner to organise a seminar on the prevention of genocide.

- Human rights and the countering of terrorism

In a resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/HRC/7/L.20), the Council reaffirms that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law. It reaffirms the obligation of States, in accordance with Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to respect that certain rights are non derogable in any circumstances. It calls upon States to raise awareness of the importance of these obligations among national authorities involved in combating terrorism. The Council calls upon States not to resort to discriminatory profiling based on stereotypes founded on grounds of discrimination prohibited by international law. It also urges States to fully respect non refoulement obligations under international refugee and human rights law. The Council expresses its opposition to any form of deprivation of liberty that amounts to placing a detained person outside of the protection of the law.

- Human rights defenders

The Council has adopted a resolution on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/7/L.23, amended), in which it decides to extend that mandate (which was previously held by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative) for a period of three years. The Council requests the Special Rapporteur to promote the effective and comprehensive implementation of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, through cooperation and constructive dialogue and engagement with governments, relevant stakeholders and other interested actors. It also requests him to recommend concrete and effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders.

- Women

In a resolution on the elimination of violence against women (A/HRC/7/L.22/Rev.1), the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, for a period of three years. It strongly condemns all acts of violence against women and girls, whether these acts are perpetrated by the State, private persons or non-State actors, and calls for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence in the family, within the general community and where perpetrated or condoned by the State. It stresses the need to treat all forms of violence against women and girls as a criminal offence, punishable by law.

- Children

In its resolution on the rights of the child (A/HRC/7/L.34, amended), which is now four-yearly, the Council requests the Secretary-General to appoint at the highest possible level and without delay a Special Representative on violence against children and to report on progress made to the Council at its tenth session. It also decides to request the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to submit a report to the Council at its tenth session. Besides this, it urges all stakeholders to take into full account the rights of the child in the universal periodic review. The Council also decides to incorporate into its programme of work sufficient time, at a minimum an annual meeting, to discuss different specific themes on the rights of the child, including the identification of challenges in the realization of the rights of the child, beginning in 2009.

The Council also calls upon all States to ensure, for migrant children, the enjoyment of all human rights and access to health care, social services and education of good quality. It calls upon all States, in particular those States in which the death penalty has not been abolished, to abolish by law, as soon as possible, the death penalty and life imprisonment without possibility of release for those under the age of 18 years at the time of the commission of the offence. Concerned at the great number of reservations to the Convention, the Council urges the States parties to withdraw reservations incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention and its Optional Protocols and to consider reviewing regularly other reservations, with a view to withdrawing them.

April 2008


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