Preview of the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 25, 2016

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 31st regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 29 February to 24 March 2016 (it also marks the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council). The International Service for Human Rights (see link at the bottom of the post) has published an Alert full of details, but I highlight here the elements that concern human rights defenders most directly:ISHR-logo-colour-high

Human rights defenders:  The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, will present his annual report to the Council on 3 March. The report focuses on good practices to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Presentation of the report will be followed by a dialogue. Of significance this session is a substantive resolution that will be presented by Norway on the situation of human rights defenders. The resolution at this session of the Council follows on the heels of the resolution on human rights defenders presented at the General Assembly in November 2015. The General Assembly resolution included a number of new, important and substantive provisions, including on the vital role of advocacy and the work of defenders in contributing to sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, and the responsibilities of business enterprises with respect to engaging, consulting and protecting defenders. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/un-general-assembly-adopts-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders-with-increased-majority/] This latest resolution provides an opportunity to recognise the critically important work of economic, social and cultural rights defenders, and the cross-cutting challenges they face, including restrictions not only on their rights to health, food, housing, social security and work, but also on their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and life itself. Economic, social and cultural rights activists have been identified by current and previous Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders as among the most isolated and stigmatised defenders. It is integral that the resolution recognises the role of both State and non-State actors in the protection of human rights defenders, and enjoys broad State support for strong language demanding their protection.  (On 7 March, ISHR will facilitate a side event on this topic which will be the subject of a separate post)

Freedom of peaceful assembly: the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, prepared a special report outlining recommendations for the proper management of assemblies, as requested by the Human Rights Council in resolution 25/38.

China: This session of the Council coincides with the anniversary of the death of Ms Cao Shunli; a tragic example of the results of criminalisation of the activities of human rights defenders in China and reprisals against them. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/] There has been a significant backsliding on human rights in China in recent months [too many posts in this blog alone] in contrast to China’s stepped-up international engagement on development, climate, and security issues. (In light of China’s growing role at the Council, ISHR last year began to document China’s engagement at each session. The first analysis from the June 2015 Human Rights Council session is here, while the most recent analysis can be found here.

Burundi: Following the special session of the Human Rights Council on Burundi in December 2015, on 21 March 2016 there will be an enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Burundi. This session will also see the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders present his mission report on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, following a visit in November 2014. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/special-rapporteur-in-burundi-respect-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders-like-mbonimpa/]. During the special session on Burundi, ISHR made a statement to the Human Rights Council welcoming the enhanced UN human rights monitoring and investigation role envisaged in the resolution adopted by consensus at the session. Regrettably, not only has the situation in Burundi deteriorated since then, but the Burundian Government has yet to accept and facilitate access for the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), or to address the human rights concerns raised in the special session resolution.[see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]

Myanmar: The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will take place on 14 March. A resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur will also be considered by the Council. States must take this opportunity to highlight concern about the lack of progress in delivering on the commitment to establish an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ presence in Myanmar; to refer to the need for developing a longer term strategy towards an accountability mechanism for human rights violations; and to call for the release of remaining political prisoners and the removal of ongoing restrictions and threats to human rights defenders. (On 14 February a joint open letter from a number of Burma/Myanmar civil society organisations urged States to renew of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur)

Other country-specific developments: These include the reports of the experts on human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Each of these mandates is due to expire this year. The mandates on Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic are expected to be renewed, while discussions about creating a mechanism on South Sudan are ongoing. The Council will also conduct interactive dialogues with the experts on these countries, providing an opportunity for local human rights defenders to highlight violations that have occurred.

UPR: The Council will adopt the UPR reports of 14 countries. This will provide an opportunity for AustraliaNauruOmanRwanda and Myanmar to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as recommended by ISHR’s briefing papers on these countries

Organizational meeting: during the organisational meeting for the 31st session, the new President of the Human Rights Council highlighted that it is in the common interest of all those engaging in this Council session that a climate free from intimidation or reprisals be maintained. In view of the heavy programme of work for the session, which includes ten panel discussions and 99 reports to be presented the Council has limited the overall time for its interactive dialogues with special procedures to four hours, by reducing the individual speaking time for States. The overall time allocated to civil society was already limited to 30 minutes, and will remain unchanged. These time restrictions are applicable to the clustered dialogue only. Speaking times for non-clustered sessions shall remain the same (three minutes for members and two minutes for observers).

Annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner will follow, providing an opportunity to highlight the integral role and significant risks faced by human rights defenders working in Guatemala and Colombia, two of the countries where the OHCHR has local offices

Selected Events (side events taking place at the Palais):

  • Protecting human rights defenders, Monday 7 March, presented by ISHR. This event is scheduled for 13:30-15:00, Room XVIII.
  • Human Rights in China: UPR, Monday 14 March, organised by ISHR and others. This event is scheduled for 10:00-11:00, Room XVIII.
  • DiploHack: the results [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/diplohack-event-on-human-rights-to-be-held-in-geneva-on-26-27-february/]
  • Human rights in Burundi, Friday 4 March, organised by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. This event is scheduled for 15:00-17:00, Room XXIV.
  • Civil society and business, Tuesday 8 March, organised by CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation. This event is scheduled for 11:00-12:00, Room XXIII.
  • Human rights in Ethiopia: Protests, Tuesday 8 March, organised by CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation. This event is scheduled for 11:00-12:00, Room XXVII.
  • Human rights defenders in Asia, Tuesday 8 March, organised by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development. This event is scheduled for 15:30-16:30, Room XVIII.
  • LGBTI persons and torture, Thursday 10 March, organised by Association for the Prevention of Torture. This event is scheduled for 13:00-14:00, Room XXIV.
  • Elections, Thursday 10 March, organised by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. This event is scheduled for 14:00-15:00, Room XVIII.
  • Human rights in Myanmar, Friday 11 March, organised by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development. This event is scheduled for 10:00-11:00, Room XVIII.
  • Human rights in Myanmar, Friday 11 March, organised by Human Rights Watch. This event is scheduled for 12:00-13:30, Room XVIII.
  • Human rights in Bahrain: Assembly, Monday 21 March, organised by CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation. This event is scheduled for 12:00-14:00, Room XXIV.

The draft full programme of NGO parallel events (as at 19 February 2016) is available here.

See more at: http://www.ishr.ch/news/alert-human-rights-councils-31st-session#sthash.ofk0ntgZ.dpuf. To stay up-to-date without the help of this blog: follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC31 on Twitter.

 

One Response to “Preview of the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council”


  1. […] Severe time restraints made that several NGOs could not make their oral statement on 4 March 2016 during the Interactive Dialogue with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the UN Human Rights Council [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/preview-of-the-upcoming-session-of-the-un-human-rights-coun…]. […]


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