Achievements and failures of the Human Rights Council session

The ICJ has joined other NGOs in highlighting some of the achievements and failures of the June 2017 session of the UN Human Rights Council in a statement at the end of the session.

The statement, delivered on behalf of the group of NGOs by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), read as follows:

At the close of this session, we welcome the commitment by many States from all regions to enhance the Council’s success and effectiveness, and the performance of Human Rights Council (HRC) members through a series of concrete actions. The steps outlined by the Netherlands, such as more competitive HRC elections and the application of objective human rights based criteria to determine whether and how to act on situations of concern, would go a long way in making the Council more accessible, effective, and protective.

The leadership shown by States in the development of joint statements on killings in the Philippines‘ so-called ‘war on drugs’ and threats against human rights defenders, and on the increasingly dire situation in the Maldives are examples of this. We regret the lack of such leadership on other States including China and Egypt.

Although we’d hoped for a more robust response on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from the Council, the international team of experts brings hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence in the Kasai. The UN, this Council, and the DRC itself must now ensure unhindered access for and support to the team, for it to independently produce a robust and credible report, which will constitute a step towards accountability.

We congratulate Cote d’Ivoire for its six years of cooperation with the UN and the mandate of the Independent Expert. We urge the Council to continue to pay attention to the human rights situation, particularly in the context of recent mutinies, and to assist the country in the implementation of the Independent Expert’s recommendations, including by striving for A-status for its National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).

We also echo the joint call by several States urging you to create a publicly accessible register of alleged acts of intimidation and reprisals and to provide short oral updates on cases at the start of every Item 5 general debate giving States concerned the opportunity to respond.

We also welcome the joint statement of the core group on civil society space together with some NGOs, and its reaffirmation that the “substantive participation of civil society makes this Council’s debates and work, including the UPR, richer and more meaningful”.

Mr President,

We are pleased that both resolutions on discrimination and violence against women were adopted by consensus, and that adverse amendments designed to remove language on comprehensive sexuality education and women human rights defenders were defeated. We regret that the Russian Federation and others systematically seek to remove reference to human rights defenders in all resolutions at each session. Denial of the existence of defenders is absurd, given the long history of formal recognition of the concept by the Commission on Human Rights, Council and General Assembly.

We regret that the resolution on the “protection of the family” fails to fully recognise that older persons are individual rights holders entitled to self-determination and autonomy, and ignores a significant UN process, the General Assembly Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. The resolution also fails to acknowledge that diverse forms of the family exist. The entire initiative is implicated in an effort to subvert the aims of our human rights system and the universality of rights.

In closing, Mr President, we are dismayed at the lack of progress in terms of ensuring the most effective participation of civil society, in accordance with established rules and practice of the Council. Although symbolic, the massive reduction of reserved NGO desk space in this room is illustrative of this.

We are concerned about the lack of formal engagement by you and your Bureau with civil society, the absence of visible steps to curb and respond to intimidation or reprisals, and the abusive interruptions of NGO statements, including in some instances by the chair. And we look forward to engaging with your office to reverse this trend.

Thank you.

Among the NGOs joining the statement were the following:

  • Amnesty International
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Commission of Jurists
  • International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
  • International Longevity Center Global Alliance
  • International Platform Against Impunity
  • International Service for Human Rights

The joint statement may be downloaded in PDF here: UN-HRC35-EndSessionStatement-2017

* For additional information on ICJ priorities and activities at the session, see the following:

Refugees and migrants: the role of judges and lawyers

Business responsibility to protect human rights

Corporate impunity; legal protection of refugees and migrants

Discrimination against women in access to justice

Threats to independence of judges and lawyers; backsliding on violence against women

Ensuring women’s access to justice for gender based violence

Turkey: judicial independence and freedom of expression

Civil society space in the Human Rights Council

Call for strong action on Egypt at the Human Rights Council

Continuing lack of accountability for rendition and secret detention

“Protection of the Family”: concerns regarding the resolution

UN Human Rights Council adopts resolutions on independence of judges and lawyers

AdvocacyNon-legal submissions