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(OHCHR) Human Rights Council concludes forty-fourth regular session after adopting 23 resolutions

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Saturday, 18 July 2020

Human Rights Council concludes forty-fourth regular session after adopting 23 resolutions


Elections for the Human Rights Council will be held at the UN General Assembly in October 2020.

Human Rights Council

17 July 2020  

Roundup                                                                                               

 

Extends Mandates on Eritrea, Education, Extrajudicial Executions, Trafficking in Persons, Leprosy, Judges and Lawyers, Persons with Disabilities, International Solidarity, Extreme Poverty, Belarus, and on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its forty-fourth regular session after adopting 23 resolutions, including one that called for universal, timely and equitable access to and fair distribution of all quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products, including their components and precursors required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a global priority.  It extended 11 mandates, appointed four Special Procedure mandate holders, and adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Spain and Kuwait.

During this session, the Council held 29 meetings, seven debates and 35 interactive dialogues, including with the High Commissioner on her annual report, as well as with 22 Special Procedures mandate holders, two commissions of inquiry and two special representatives of the Secretary-General, covering over 50 human rights themes and 40 country situations. 

The Council filled four vacancies of Special Procedure mandate holders : Marcos A. Orellana (Chile) for the position the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes ; Irene Khan (Bangladesh) for the position of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression ; Tlaleng Mofokeng (South Africa) as Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health ; and Siobhán Mullalay (Ireland) as the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The Council extended, for a period of three years, the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on education ; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions ; the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children ; the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members ; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers ; the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities ; the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity ; the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights ; and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. 

It extended for a period of one year, the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. 

On the Syrian Arab Republic, the Council requested the Commission of Inquiry to prepare a report on arbitrary imprisonment and detention in the Syrian Arab Republic, taking note of the concerns expressed in the present resolution. 

In a resolution on human rights and climate change, the Council decided to incorporate into its programme of work for the forty-seventh session a panel discussion focusing on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by older persons and best practices and lessons learned in the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons. 

On the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers the Council called upon all States to guarantee the independence of judges and lawyers and the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors, as well as their ability to perform their functions accordingly, including by taking effective legislative, law enforcement and other appropriate measures that would enable them to carry out their professional functions without interference, harassment, threats or intimidation of any kind. 

Concerning freedom of opinion and expression, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to compile a report on good practices on the establishment of national normative frameworks that foster access to information held by public entities in the broadest possible terms to give effect, at the national level, to the right to access information.  On the fifteenth anniversary of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as enshrined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the Council decided to convene, before its forty-seventh session, an intersessional panel discussion to mark the anniversary. 

The Council decided to convene a high-level panel discussion on the multi-sectoral prevention of and response, including the global response, to female genital mutilation at its forty-seventh session.  On the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, the Council called upon States to repeal all laws and policies that exclusively or disproportionately target or criminalize the actions or behaviour of women and girls, and laws and policies that discriminate against them, based on any grounds. 

Concerning the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to seek to enhance dialogue with representatives from non-traditional donor countries with a view to broadening the donor base and to replenishing the resources available to the funds.  In the context of the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, the Council requested the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to prepare a set of practical recommendations, based on good practices, on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations.

The Council decided that the Social Forum would meet for two working days in 2021, in Geneva, to focus on good practices, success stories, lessons learned and challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on international cooperation and solidarity, and from a human rights perspective. 

On the contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, the Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the contribution of the respect for all universal, indivisible, interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes and upholding the principles of the Charter, based on good practices, challenges and lessons learned.

Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, President of the Council, opened the session on 30 June during which the Council heard an update from Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Bachelet noted that human rights concerns related to COVID-19 continued to gather pace, as it became clear that the epidemic threatened both peace and development.  Disaggregated data indicated that members of racial and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, particularly people of African descent, were both more likely to die of COVID-19 and were hit hardest by its socio-economic consequences that also disproportionately affected children, women and girls, older people and persons with disabilities.

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, addressed the Council in a video message. 

The Council held two high-level panel discussions.  The first one centred on promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of climate change.  The second one focused on the impacts, opportunities and challenges of new and emerging digital technologies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Council also held an annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity-building, that centred on the theme "upholding the human rights of prisoners, including women prisoners and offenders : enhancing technical cooperation and capacity-building in the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules."

The annual meeting on the rights of the child focused on realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment, and the annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women was comprised of two panel discussions, on "accountability for women and girls in humanitarian settings", and on "COVID-19 and women's rights."

In concluding remarks, Ms. Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Council, thanked those present for their dedication, flexibility and creativity in implementing many precautionary measures, proving that the Council could continue to do its important work in these difficult times.

Documentation, statements, resolutions and reports relating to this and all Human Rights Council sessions are available on its webpage.  Meeting summaries of every public meeting, in English and in French, can be found on the website of the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The forty-fourth regular session of the Human Rights Council was held in Geneva from 30 June to 17 July 2020.  The forty-fifth regular session is scheduled to be held in Geneva from 14 September to 2 October.

Summary of the Programme of Work

Session Opening

Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, President of the Council,  opened the forty-fourth session on 30 June and outlined the extraordinary measures being taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone present at the session in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting an oral update on the human rights implications of COVID-19, noted that human rights concerns related to COVID-19 continued to gather pace, as it became clear that the epidemic threatened both peace and development.  Disaggregated data indicated that members of racial and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, particularly people of African descent, were both more likely to die of COVID-19 and were hit hardest by its socio-economic consequences that also disproportionately affected children, women and girls, older people and persons with disabilities.  Ms. Bachelet concluded that a global coordinated response that acknowledged the central role of human rights was critical to recovery from COVID-19, requiring firm political will and strengthened partnerships.

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, addressing the Council in a video message, said that national security was invariably under the purview of the central authorities, be it in China or any other country.  Since last June, Hong Kong had been traumatized by escalating violence set by external forces.  Once rated as one of the safest cities in the world, security and stability had become relevant concerns in Hong Kong.  All those countries pointing a finger at China had their own national security legislation in place.  There was no valid reason why China alone should be inhibited from enacting national security legislation.  Ms. Lam urged the international community to respect the country's right to safeguard national security and the aspiration of Hong Kong's people for stability and harmony.

First Week of the Session (30 June to 3 July)

The Council held on Tuesday 30 June enhanced interactive dialogues on the human rights situation in the Philippines ; on the situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar ; and on the human rights situation in Eritrea.  It also began an interactive dialogue on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her oral update on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it continued on Wednesday 1 July.  On that day, in the context of its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, the Council held a panel discussion entitled "A healthy environment as a child rights concern  : setting the scene", as well as another one entitled "Ensuring children's rights through a healthy environment : a call to action".

On Thursday 2 July, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her oral update on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and heard presentations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of an oral update on Nicaragua, and of two reports on Venezuela and on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in Ukraine.  It also started an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and separate interactive dialogues with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, which it concluded the following day.

The Council began on Friday 3 July interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which it concluded on the following Monday, and with Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

Second Week of the Session (6 to 10 July)

The Council started the second week of the session with an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls on Monday 6 July, which it concluded the following day.  It also held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and started an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.

On Tuesday 7 July, it held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights as well as an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.  On that same day, it started an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which it continued on the following day and concluded on Thursday 9 July.

The Council on Wednesday 8 July held a panel discussion on the impacts, opportunities and challenges of new and emerging digital technologies with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights, and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, which it concluded the following day.  It also held a panel discussion on the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of climate change.

On Thursday 9 July, the Council held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association which it concluded the following day.  On that same day, it held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, and began an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises which it concluded the following day. 

The Council ended the week by holding separate interactive discussions with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on Friday 10 July.

Third Week of the Session (13 to 17 July)

On Monday 13 July, the Council held the first panel of the annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women on accountability for women and girls in humanitarian settings.  On that same day, it held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, heard the presentation of 12 reports submitted under agenda items 3 and 6, and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, which it concluded the following day.

The Council on Tuesday 14 July held the second panel of its annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women on COVID-19 and women's rights and held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.  On that same day, it held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

On Wednesday 15 July, the Council held a panel discussion on upholding the human rights of prisoners, including women prisoners and offenders, and an interactive dialogue with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on Venezuela.  On that same day, it heard the presentation of the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on the eighth session of the Forum on Business and Human Rights and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which it concluded the following day. 

The Council on Thursday 16 July adopted Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Spain and Kuwait and heard an oral report on the situation in Sudan.  On that same day, it heard an oral update on cooperation with Georgia and held an interactive discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

On Thursday 16 July and Friday 17 July, the Council took action on the resolutions.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Annual Report of the  United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.8) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, adopted by a vote of 24 in favour, 10 against and 13 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a further period of one year, and calls upon the Government of Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.23/REV.1) on the central role of the State in responding to pandemics and other health emergencies, and the socioeconomic consequences thereof in advancing sustainable development and the realization of all human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council calls for universal, timely and equitable access to and fair distribution of all quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products, including their components and precursors required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a global priority.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and  Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.1) on the right to education, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education for a further period of three years, and requests the Special Rapporteur to continue to submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.2) on trafficking in persons, especially women and children : strengthening human rights through enhanced protection, support and empowerment of victims of trafficking, especially women and children, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, for a period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.3) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, adopted without a vote, the Council urges States to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his or her tasks, and decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.4) on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members for a period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.5) on human rights and climate change, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to incorporate into its programme of work for the forty-seventh session a panel discussion focusing on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by older persons and best practices and lessons learned in the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.6) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers for a period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.7) on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon all States to guarantee the independence of judges and lawyers and the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors, as well as their ability to perform their functions accordingly, including by taking effective legislative, law enforcement and other appropriate measures that will enable them to carry out their professional functions without interference, harassment, threats or intimidation of any kind. 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.13) on the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities for a further period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.15) on the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 15 against and 1 abstention, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity for a period of three years.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.18/Rev.1) on freedom of opinion and expression, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on good practices for establishing national normative frameworks that foster access to information held by public entities.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.19) on extreme poverty and human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.12) on the fifteenth anniversary of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as enshrined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 1 against and 14 abstentions as orally revised, the Council decides to convene, before its forty-seventh session, an intersessional panel discussion to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as enshrined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.14) on business and human rights : the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and improving accountability and access to remedy, adopted without a vote, the Council decides, in the context of the tenth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2021, to hold a panel discussion during the forty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.20) on the elimination of female genital mutilation, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to convene a high-level panel discussion on the multi-sectoral prevention of and response, including the global response, to female genital mutilation at its forty-seventh session, inviting States, civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, women and girls and other relevant stakeholders.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.21) on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to repeal all laws and policies that exclusively or disproportionately target or criminalize the actions or behaviour of women and girls, and laws and policies that discriminate against them, based on any grounds. 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.22) on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 30 in favour, 15 against and 2 abstentions, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to seek to enhance dialogue with representatives from non-traditional donor countries with a view to broadening the donor base and to replenishing the resources available to the funds.

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.11) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council urges States to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses through judicial or other national mechanisms, based on law and in conformity with their international human rights obligations and commitments, and to provide all victims with access to a remedy and redress, including in the context of peaceful protests.

Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council's Attention

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.9) on the situation of human rights in Belarus, adopted by a vote of 22 in favour, 5 against and 20 abstentions, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus for a period of one year, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the situation of human rights in Belarus to the Human Rights Council at its forty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session. 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.10) on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted as orally revised by a vote of 28 in favour, 2 against and 17 abstentions, the Council demands that the Syrian authorities and their State and non-State allies facilitate, and all other parties to the conflict do not hinder, full, timely, immediate, unrestricted and safe humanitarian access.

Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.16) on the Social Forum, adopted without a vote, the Council decides that the Social Forum will meet for two working days in 2021, in Geneva, to focus on good practices, success stories, lessons learned and challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on international cooperation and solidarity, and from a human rights perspective. 

Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 

In a resolution (A/HRC/44/L.17/REV.1) on Contribution of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, adopted as orally revised by a vote of 41 in favour, none against and 6 abstentions, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the contribution of the respect for all universal, indivisible, interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing human rights and fundamental freedoms to achieving the purposes and upholding the principles of the Charter, based on good practices, challenges and lessons learned.

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