|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
38th Meeting (AM)
WEATHERING EARLY CRITICISM, HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HAS ‘CARVED A NICHE FOR ITSELF’,
SAYS BODY’S PRESIDENT, APPEALING FOR OBJECTIVITY, PATIENCE WITH ITS WORK
As General Assembly Takes Up Report, Speakers Acknowledge Council’s
‘Challenging Mandate’ Protecting Fundamental Rights, Warn against Selectivity
Calling the creation of the Human Rights Council a “significant development” in efforts to place human rights on the front burner of global discourse, Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi today appealed to General Assembly delegates for “greater circumspection, objectivity and patience”, as the young intergovernmental body worked through growing pains to fulfil its greater promise.
Presenting the Council’s second annual report, Mr. Uhomoibhi, of Nigeria, said all too often, the Council had been criticized, yet, now in its third year –- an evolutionary stage -– it had carved a niche for itself, distinct from its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. It had continued its institution-building process, having set in motion new mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, the Advisory Committee and an updated special procedures system, which assessed either specific human rights situations, or thematic issues, in all parts of the world.
During the 10 September 2007 to 18 June 2008 period, the Geneva-based Council started to review, rationalize and improve special procedures mandates at both thematic and country levels, he explained. Some mandates had been renewed, others terminated, and new ones created. In that process, the Council President had relied on the Consultative Group to ensure greater participation of members in the decision-making process.
Moreover, the Council had adopted resolutions and decisions covering civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights -- including on the prevention of genocide. It had adopted the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was now before the Assembly, and had begun full-stream implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, under which all human rights records of United Nations Members were regularly examined, regardless of their wealth or political importance.
Though the Council still drew on aspects of the Commission on Human Rights, it strove to avoid that body’s shortcomings, he said. “Two years was hardly enough time to be overly critical of an institution that held great potential as a universal human rights body,” he said.
Several delegates took issue with that, scolding the Council for having “drifted” from its founding principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and objectivity, while others pointed to a common belief among States that the continued use of country-specific human rights resolutions ran counter to its mandate, and only exacerbated tensions.
The representative of Israel underscored that while the Council had ignored human rights abuses in other parts of the world, it had targeted Israel, adopting seven resolutions condemning it, and holding four sessions specifically about it. He asked every Council member to examine their motives in their treatment of Israel and ask if such treatment was truly about combating human rights abuses, “or a reflection of the political dynamics of the Council and the larger UN community”. There were millions of people around the world who needed the Council’s protection. Yet the body’s focus on Israel prevented it from fulfilling its responsibilities to those in need, he added.
In similar fashion, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his country, like others, had expected the Universal Periodic Review to develop into a meaningful mechanism, and do away with controversial country-specific resolutions. Regrettably, the Council had adopted a “stereotyped resolution” on his country, in defiance of repeated calls for discontinuing such measures. That action would only foil cooperation between his Government and the Council, and aggravated mistrust.
Among the Council’s several challenges, Romania’s representative pointed out, was the issue of credibility. Human rights did not exist in the abstract, and gross and systematic violations could not go ignored. Any attempt to bring them before the body should not be seen as a sign of selectivity.
Furthermore, assessing the implementation of Council decisions must become a normal practice, while new mechanisms should be insulated from attempts to change them immediately after their adoption, he said. The overall attitude of Council members and observers was largely focused on pragmatic action, mainly when the completion of the institution-building process was at stake. Much work was needed to expand the cooperative approach to substantive issues, and reduce the temptation to politicize debate.
Striking a less critical note, the Russian representative underscored that the Council’s transformation from a functional committee of the Economic and Social Council to a subsidiary body of the General Assembly was an important one, and he urged adopting resolutions to clarify its mandate and agenda.
In the last two years, the special procedures system had undergone a critical rethinking, which had led to an alignment of monitoring procedures with the Council’s mandate. New relations between Governments and civil society had been formed, which he hoped would further unfold on the basis of dialogue. Whether the Council met its expectations depended, in large part, on States’ readiness to listen to each other, and he urged bearing that in mind, to turn the Council into an effective and efficient body.
Also speaking today were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Iran, Brazil, Senegal, Mexico, Egypt, New Zealand, Ghana and Panama.
The General Assembly will reconvene Thursday, 6 November, at 10 a.m. to elect five members of the International Court of Justice.
The General Assembly met today to take up the report of the Human Rights Council (document A/63/53 and Add.1), which includes the resolutions, decisions and president’s statements adopted by the Geneva-based body from 10 September 2007 to 18 June 2008, at its sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth sessions, and at its fifth, sixth and seventh special sessions. The resolutions adopted during the reporting period ranged from the establishment of funds for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism to the human rights situations in various countries. As well, the report includes the decisions adopted on the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review for the first 32 countries to undergo that process.
The General Committee had asked for the report to be considered in a plenary meeting and in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the understanding that the Third Committee would consider and act on all the Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the General Assembly, including those that deal with the development of international law in the field of human rights, without prejudice to the right of Member States to present resolutions and decisions on all issues considered in the Council’s report. The Third Committee took up the report of the Human Rights Council on 31 October 2008 (see Press Release GA/SHC/3932).
Statement by General Assembly President
In opening remarks, General Assembly President MIGUEL D’ESCOTO of Nicaragua called the report before the Assembly today a relevant document, particularly as the world was set to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the motivating spirit of human rights, the Assembly was called on to eradicate the scourges of today’s societies: the food crisis, climate change, human trafficking, State terrorism, and violence against women and children, among other global evils. The report was in line with international covenants on civil rights and cultural rights, the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action, and other instruments that affirmed the universality and interdependence of human rights.
The Human Rights Council’s report was before the highest authority in the United Nations, he said, demonstrating the transforming and dialectical force of human rights in helping to solve pressing problems. The report was relevant and timely, denouncing violations in various parts of the world against groups that had been “rendered invisible”. It showed the path to follow to prevent, arrest, and compensate for such violations, covering topics including poverty eradication, access to water, and the elimination of all forms of modern slavery, including human trafficking. In closing, he urged continuing to institutionalize the Human Rights Council as a forum that nourished all the United Nations activities.
Introduction of Report
MARTIN IHOEGHIAN UHOMOIBHI ( Nigeria), President of the Human Rights Council, said the report covered the Council’s second cycle, including the ninth session, which took place from 8 to 24 September 2008. Calling the Assembly’s decision to establish the Council a “significant development” in efforts to place human rights on the front burner of global discourse, he said it also reflected States’ commitment to revitalize the Organization’s role in guaranteeing human rights for all peoples. Empowering the Council to consider human rights situations through the Universal Periodic Review emphasized the principle of equality among all States.
In its second cycle, the Council continued its institution-building process, he said, making operational new mechanisms and subsidiary bodies, such as the Universal Periodic Review, the Advisory Committee, the Social Forum, the Expert Mechanism on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Forum on Minority Issues and Special Procedures. Now in its third year –- an evolutionary stage –- the Council still drew on aspects of its predecessor body, the Commission on Human Rights, and strove to avoid its shortcomings.
Highlighting a few activities, he said first that the Council, in its sixth session in September and December 2007, had begun the review, rationalization and improvement of special procedure’s mandates at thematic and country levels. In that process, some mandates had been renewed; others had been terminated; and new ones had been created, and the Council President relied on the Consultative Group to ensure greater participation of members in the decision-making process.
At its seventh session in March 2007, the Council had adopted resolutions and decisions covering civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including on the prevention of genocide, commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, he said.
The Council’s eighth session saw the adoption of the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “truly significant” as an effort to equalize all such rights, he said. The instrument was before the Assembly for adoption. Also, the Council had begun full stream implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, with 32 countries having been reviewed. Outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review working group had been adopted in June. He said that at its ninth session in September, the Council was updated on two regional preparatory meetings towards the Durban Review Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to take place in Geneva in April.
Also in the reporting period, he said three special sessions had been held: on “the human rights situation in Myanmar”, “the human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks in incursion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip”, and “the negative impact of the worsening of the world food crisis on the realization of the right to food for all”. In addressing such issues, it was clear that States must continue to muster the political will to overcome challenges, if the Council was to fulfil its expectations.
Given that, it was important that the Council, at its ninth session, adopted a decision on holding a commemorative session on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration, to be held in Geneva on 12 December.
It was gratifying that the Council, as distinct from its preceding body, the Commission on Human Rights, had already carved a niche for itself in the method of work, he said. What was now needed was to ensure that its decisions and resolutions received the full support of the General Assembly. It must be provided with adequate resources. All too often, the Council had been criticized, and he appealed for “greater circumspection, objectivity and patience” in assessing its work. Two years was hardly enough time to be overly critical of an institution that held great promise as a universal human rights body.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, appreciated the presentation of the Human Rights Council’s third annual report and acknowledged the challenging mandate that the Council had been entrusted with, from promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms to direct intervention of serious violations. Special sessions held in the last year focused on the right to food, the situation in Burma, “which remains a very serious concern”, and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Specifically, on the occupied Palestinian territories, while the European Union reaffirmed the need to have the situation there debated by the Council, it would urge members to come up with balanced solutions.
In order to effectively utilize the Council’s potential, he stated that the special procedures needed to remain as one of the Council’s key tools for its action on the ground, and that in light of some countries’ dire and serious situations, justified being maintained. Reaffirming that the primary objective of those special procedures was to ensure greater respect for human rights, he called on the Council to “not lower its guard”, and to ensure their continuation.
The Universal Periodic Review had been another innovative mechanism developed by the Council, and since its inception, he noted, 32 States had been reviewed, including seven from the European Union. As the next 48 Member States prepared to be reviewed, he hoped that the experience of the past two sessions would bring improvement to the process, and that in the future, a consolidation be initiated so that recommendations and pledges made by States under review could be effectively implemented.
However, he concluded, in order to translate the mandate and recommendations of the Council into action, the Council required the unwavering support and cooperation of all Member States. By doing so during the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Council would successfully continue its important work and ensure “the enjoyment of human rights around the globe”.
Though steady progress had been made in institution-building, CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Lichtenstein) encouraged a more “energetic” relationship between the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. He noted that the Council had gone through the first round of Universal Periodic Review, which would hopefully contribute to dialogue on human rights and their worldwide implementation. He welcomed the Universal Periodic Review’s focus on human rights standards implementation within its framework, but urged a closer look at its relationship to treaty body processes, as two essential mechanisms by which to convey their human rights records. Strengthening treaty body mechanisms through the Universal Periodic Review was necessary, making the two mechanisms mutually beneficial, yet still retaining their distinct characteristics.
On the “complex and challenging” review of the Council’s special procedures, he said results had been “generally satisfactory”, but called for more State cooperation with special State procedures, an area where there was “a lot of room for improvement”. He said that States serving on the Council were expected to set a positive example by exercising leadership in that endeavour, and all Members were encouraged to issue standing invitations to special procedures, thereby fulfilling their pledges of cooperation.
In conclusion, he welcomed ad hoc thematic meetings such as the Council’s first special session on a thematic issue, and said such meetings were a significant contribution to the relevance of the Council’s work, in Geneva and elsewhere.
PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) said he wanted to give four principal messages. First, with the conclusion, in June 2007, of the institutional consolidation of the Council, its work had gained in substance, and it was fully ready to discharge its functions. The determining factor for its success was the political will of the States. It was only after a complete Universal Periodic Review cycle that the progress of the body and in the field could be fully evaluated.
Secondly, over the last 18 months, the Council had considered matters of substance and rapidly responded to human rights situations around the world. It had even held a special session on the thematic issue of food. Yet, there was still a problem with its ability to forecast its activities. It needed to find a way to keep Governments and the media focused on all its sessions, not just the main session in March, he said.
Thirdly, the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was indispensable to the Council’s work. With an organ that was nearly permanently in session and that carried an intense workload, the exchanges between the Office and the Member States had increased considerably. He opposed any attempt to establish Council control over the activities, priorities and field work of the High Commissioner’s Office. The Office should continue to enjoy the necessary autonomy to ensure the defence and promotion of all human rights around the world, he said.
Fourthly, he said there was no clear vision of the attribution of competencies between the Council, General Assembly and the Third Committee. He said cooperation should be reinforced and duplications reduced. The Assembly should serve as a general reference framework and play a programming role. The Council had an operational role to play. The Council had moved ahead to strengthen human rights. It was still a young organ, and it was normal that adjustments would be necessary.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said the Human Rights Council must be the focal point of hope and inclusiveness for all peoples to address global human rights challenges, devoid of politicization. United Nations reform in the human rights field would not yield fruit, unless selectivity and double standards were promptly and vigorously addressed. The manipulation of human rights mechanisms had become prevalent among certain countries, and should not be tolerated.
In that regard, he said the Universal Period Review had been a “breakthrough” in the United Nations intergovernmental human rights activities, its merit found in ensuring universality and impartiality in human rights machinery. He appreciated the transparency of situations during the Universal Periodic Review, acknowledging that there was always room for improvement.
It would be timely for the Third Committee to pay greater attention to its mandate, and that of the Council, he continued. It should focus on policy-oriented deliberations. Consideration of country situation proposals fell within the Council’s purview, as it was the competent organ for considering human rights situations. The overwhelming majority of States believed that the continuation of selective presentation of country-specific human rights resolutions ran counter to the Council’s mandate. In closing, he reiterated that the Council, relying on principles of objectivity and transparency, should rectify the past shortcomings of the United Nations human rights machinery. Iran would continue its constructive cooperation with the Council to promote and protect human rights.
DORU COSTEA ( Romania) highlighted several aspects of the Council’s work. Firstly, the body’s institution-building process was completed, and decisions were now being taken on important and highly sensitive issues. The overall attitude of the Council’s members and observers was largely focused on pragmatic action, mainly when the completion of the institution-building process was at stake. Much work was needed to reduce the temptation of politicizing its debates and to expand the cooperative approach to substantive issues.
Credibility was one of several challenges that faced the Council. Human rights did not exist in the abstract, and gross and systematic violations of human rights must not be ignored by the Council, he said. Nor should any attempt to bring them before the Council be seen as a sign of selectivity.
Another challenge was the efficiency of the Council’s actions. That meant focused debates and decisions, resolutions that included concrete, measurable steps, and follow-up to resolutions and commitments. Assessing the implementation of the Council’s own decisions must become a normal practice, while new mechanisms were insulated from attempts to change them immediately after their adoption, he said. Finally, the mindset of the Commission of Human Rights, the Council’s predecessor, needed to be replaced with a new approach. By entering its “normal” mode, the Council and observers should avoid slipping back to that normal.
PIRAGIBE TARRAGÔ (Brazil), noting that his country had been the initiator of the draft resolution on human rights voluntary goals, went on to call for Member States to “avoid finger pointing and levelling accusations, simply to obtain political gains. These practices do not promote human rights, but, instead, protect vested interests.” He urged all Member States to use negotiations, cooperation and dialogue to achieve desired outcomes, which always needed to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights. In ensuring that, he said that no non-negotiable issues should be on the agenda of the Council.
He believed that the Council’s operations could be improved by fully participating in its mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, “a rigorous and constructive tool” to address human rights situations worldwide, thus creating an environment of equality. To that end, Brazil had offered to assist Member States in implementing Universal Periodic Review recommendations, as well as sharing its experience and good practices with developing countries through a South-South cooperation initiative.
He went on to stress the necessity of putting into action the objectives of Assembly resolution 60/251 and the institutional package adopted last year. To guarantee that multilateral human rights systems worked in a coherent and efficient manner, he also stressed the need to avoid overlapping responsibilities of different United Nations entities. In a time of great challenge and crisis across the globe, it was essential not to waiver from the commitment to the fundamental values of human rights.
He concluded with a call to Member States to support developing countries that were more likely to suffer the harsh effects of the current economic and financial crisis, and one for which they were not responsible, thus impacting their progress to the realization of human rights in their own countries.
PAUL BADJI (Senegal), noting that the Council’s report coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, underlined his country’s attachment to the universality and indivisibility of all human rights, principles which should guide the Council’s decisions. Promising results achieved by the young body had given rise to hope, and he believed a bright future was in store. Progress in its three years was all the more significant, as it had finalized its institutional architecture, notably with the inaugural session of its Advisory Committee. Important decisions adopted at the nine regular sessions bore witness to the Council’s dynamism.
On the launch of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, he said that initiative had shown it was possible to consider human rights in an impartial manner, devoid of politicization. The experience of the 32 States examined would help guarantee the mechanism’s success. States must now pool efforts towards achieving dialogue, as the mechanism would allow for the Council’s credibility.
He called for allocating sufficient resources to the Fund to meet technical assistance needs. Senegal was ready to be subjected, in 2009, to the Universal Periodic Review and was enthusiastic about implementing its recommendations. There was a long and arduous road ahead to ensure that the Council met expectations. In that respect, he urged seeking middle ground -- seeking dialogue and cooperation -- to ensure that justice prevailed. In closing, he reiterated support for improving the Special Procedures system, and called for prudence in examining the fate of certain mandates.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said his country was fully committed to the consolidation of the Human Rights Council and had played a constructive role in the institutional development of the new organ. Three years since its inception, the Council had the necessary tools, such as the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which was a novel and promising procedure. The Council had maintained the active participation of civil society and had also encouraged candidate States to contribute their human rights materials on a voluntary basis.
He welcomed the Council’s report, which covered the period from September 2007 to June 2008 and covered three regular sessions and three special sessions. It showed the effectiveness of the Council’s work.
Using the Universal Periodic Review, the Council had analysed 32 countries from all regions of the world on an equal footing. Mexico recently completed its annual report, which was given yesterday to the High Commissioner’s Office, he said. It would be evaluated through the review mechanism in February 2009.
Mexico promoted the effective coordination of the work between the General Assembly, particularly the Third Committee, and the Council to avoid duplication and to protect the specific mandates. He appealed to the international community that, when reviewing the Council’s work in 2011, it would redouble its efforts to make it a stronger organ and elevate its level within the Organization. The Council was destined to play a significant and relevant role in protecting human rights around the world.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said that the establishment of the Human Rights Council had ushered in “a new and long-awaited era of joint action, away from politicization, selectivity and double standards”. Egypt, through its membership on the Council, enthusiastically supported the continuing evolution of the Council’s activities, specifically the Universal Periodic Review on all States, which created a world based on common denominators, equal footing and shared values.
Such action was an antidote to what he saw as a few considering themselves custodians of human rights and imposing their particular cultures and systems upon others. Further, the mandate of the Council itself needed to be protected from country-specific resolutions, which only led to “confrontation and repulsion” and attempts to create “parallel structures to the Council”, among other ways by broadening the authorities of the OHCHR beyond its mandate.
He went on to state that it was imperative to maintain the Council’s involvement regarding the human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories, and to verify Israel’s full adherence to international obligations, including its full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories, and the Council’s fact-finding mission led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, which had investigated the events at Beit Hanoun. He reminded the Assembly that to ensure such involvement, as well as its other commitments, meant ensuring adequate financial resources and support for all the Council’s activities.
He concluded by noting that the adoption of the optional protocol to the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, represented an important step towards restoring equal international attention to all aspects of human rights. By making a collective effort and strengthening a cooperative approach from the international community, the Council would be allowed to truly fulfil its mandate “in a manner that reinforces our common pursuit for the consolidation of the universal respect of all human rights for all with no exception”.
ROSEMARY BANKS (New Zealand) expressed her delegation’s wish for the Council to “live up to its mandate”, so that it could reach its full potential by quickly and effectively responding to human rights situations through promoting, with concerned countries, an open and inclusive dialogue and cooperation. That, would, in turn, lead to development and security. She called on the Council to effectively address gaps between standards embodied in human rights treaties, and everyday reality. New Zealand was standing for next year’s election to the Council, as its first Pacific region member, she added.
The Council provided an opportunity to focus on innovation and exchange of effective practices in human rights implementation. The report illustrated the Council’s “evolving capacity” in implementing its promotion and protection mandate. It also spotlighted the important consolidation of the Council’s institutions and mechanisms.
On the establishment of the Universal Periodic Review, she encouraged every country be reviewed regularly under that mechanism because being assessed was a critical element in the effective implementation of human rights, and would help reduce the gap between policy and practice. New Zealand was currently preparing for its Universal Periodic Review next year. She urged States to implement the Council’s recommendations from its first two sessions of the Universal Periodic Review. New Zealand had assisted Tonga in preparing its Universal Periodic Review report, hoping that the Review would facilitate like dialogue on human rights with Pacific neighbours. New Zealand planned to host a seminar early next year, so that Pacific nations could exchange views on Universal Periodic Review in regards to regional capacity-building.
She went on to recognize positive developments in the Council’s working methods and increased transparency of the Council’s sessions, although she was concerned by what she saw as an increased level of pressure on small delegations that undermined their effective Council participation. She, therefore, called for a more predictable and manageable yearly work programme, with more effective use of meeting time for working groups. She also encouraged the Council to continue its leadership in human rights promotion and protection at the national level, and urged delegations to focus on implementation of the “comprehensive, robust, and universal” human rights standards agreed upon for the past 60 years.
LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) stated that the Universal Periodic Review was an indication that the Human Rights Council’s institution-building package had now moved into the operational phase of its various mechanisms. Recalling that the first group of 32 States, including Ghana, had been reviewed by the mechanism, he called the process a “worthwhile innovation” to address obstacles in fully promoting and protecting human rights, in addition to strengthening the capacity of States to implement their human rights commitments via dialogue and cooperation, thereby preventing human rights violations.
In Ghana’s May 2008 review by Universal Periodic Review, its Government presented efforts to make the country a more tolerant society with the creation of: an increased respect for the rule of law; strides towards democratic rule; and reforms to nurture an improved human rights culture among marginalized segments of society. It had also addressed the Council on the efforts to deal with social and traditional mindsets that led to human rights abuses. It also outlined challenges faced, especially in the promotion of economic and social rights, as well as in the areas of education, health and employment, among others, and most of the Universal Periodic Review’s working group recommendations had been accepted and implementation pursued.
Important lessons had been gained from the first sessions of the review exercise, which had been effective in increasing responsibility for human rights, such as the need for States which made recommendations to consider constitutional developments, along with cultural specificities of States under review. He urged the Council to abide by guiding principles in its institution-building text to ensure universality, transparency and non-selectiveness, to prevent the “selective and discriminatory” practices of the former Commission and to ensure the credibility of the Council, while strengthening States’ commitment.
Finally, he discouraged the use of subtle pressure on States to report on the implementation of their Universal Periodic Review recommendations before the four-year completion period.
DANIEL CARMON ( Israel) expressed dismay and disappointment at the results of the second report of the Human Rights Council, stating the body had “drifted from its founding principles of impartiality, universality, non-selectivity, and objectivity”. He went on to say that, while ignoring human rights abuses from other parts of the world, the Council had targeted Israel, adopting seven resolutions condemning that country and holding four sessions specifically about it.
He asked every member of the Council to investigate their motives in their treatment towards Israel and ask if such treatment was truly about combating human rights abuses or a reflection of “political dynamics of the Council and of the larger UN community”. He emphasized that Israel, as a democracy, did not hide its human rights record and that it was proud to fulfil the founding principles of the United Nations.
However, he felt the focus on Israel diverted the attention of the Council from legitimate human rights abuse. He challenged the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, which he felt avoided discussing human rights in a holistic and impartial manner, among them, the issue of Palestinian terrorism that deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, and the violation of human rights by Hamas to its own people.
He continued by noting the mandate of the Human Rights Council had not been reviewed in over 15 years, since its creation in 1993. A review had been scheduled in March and September of this year, yet it had not happened. That lack of review and revision had only added to what he called an “unbalanced mandate”.
He concluded by stating that there were millions of people around the world who needed the Council’s protection. Yet the body’s focus on Israel prevented it from fulfilling its responsibilities to those in need. On the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the work of the Council “casts a dark shadow on the commitment of the international community to the true principles of human rights”.
OLEG MALGINOV ( Russian Federation) said the Council’s creation had been important to ongoing United Nations reform. Its transformation from a functional committee of the Economic and Social Council to a subsidiary body of the General Assembly was important. In reviewing its activities, he called for adopting necessary decisions on clarifying its mandate and agenda.
Among the Council’s most important functions was the Universal Periodic Review, he said, noting that the Russian Federation had backed its creation in the hope it would promote an easing in confrontation on human rights issues. In the future, the Review must fully replace the “seriously discredited” practice of introducing country-specific resolutions. At the same time, he reaffirmed the need to respect intergovernmental agreements, including on the inclusion of various participants.
The special procedures system, unfortunately, had shortcomings that were legitimately criticized, he continued. In the last two years, the system had undergone a critical rethinking, and an important outcome of that was to bring monitoring procedures in line with the Council’s mandate. There were new relations between Governments and civil society, and he hoped the Council’s interaction with human rights non-governmental organizations would be based on dialogue.
His country supported reviewing the activities of Office of the OHCHR, including in planning, implementing programmes at global, regional and local levels. He urged avoiding duplication among all human rights entities, and paying attention to all categories of human rights, norms and standards, in both the near- and long-term. Human rights drew inspiration from various societies, he said, and it was that which united all States. Whether the Council met its expectations depended, in large part, on States’ readiness to listen to each other, and he urged bearing that in mind, to turn council into an effective and efficient body.
PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), recalling the Council’s creation, in the hope it would address human rights issues of all countries on an equal footing, said it was in that vision that the Universal Periodic Review also had been established. His country, like others, had expected the Review to develop into a meaningful mechanism, doing away with controversial country-specific resolutions.
However, the Council had failed to meet the expectations of a vast majority of States by repeating the same mistakes of selectivity and double standards that had paralysed the work of the former Commission on Human Rights, he said. A growing number of countries were opposed to the politically motivated resolutions that had nothing to do with promoting human rights, but incited distrust. His country had always opposed such resolutions.
Regrettably, the Council had adopted a “stereotyped resolution” on his country at its seventh session, in defiance of repeated calls for discontinuing such measures. He “resolutely” rejected resolution 7/15 as contradictory to the Council’s mission; its adoption was the most vivid manifestation of politicization, selectivity and double standards. That resolution had almost paralysed the Review, as it called for retaining the post of Special Rapporteur for an individual country, a “leftover of the defunct Human Rights Commission”.
While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea respected global human rights bodies, it could not accept any discriminatory treatment. The resolution would only foil cooperation between his country and the Council, and aggravate their mistrust. The Council’s future would depend on how it met States’ expectations for non-politicization. For its part, his country would continue to “firmly guarantee” its citizens’ freedom and rights, both legally and in practice.
GIANCARLO SOLER TORRIJOS ( Panama) said it was important to continue reviewing the operation of the Council in the Assembly. Member States needed to monitor respect for human rights without any prejudices. The Council was the multilateral venue where human rights were examined, including flagrant violations of fundamental rights. Panama urged that dialogue needed to take the place of violations, he said.
He said it was indispensable for the Council to avoid politicization and avoid any interests foreign to human rights that had hurt its predecessor institution. Impartiality, objectivity and universality should be its guiding principles, he said.
Panama was worried by any efforts to weaken the Council’s procedures. He encouraged it to use its mechanisms. Despite the criticism of the Universal Periodic Review, he said it included the novel practice of involving public institutions and civil society. He hoped the Council would continue to be strengthened in the near future. It was the responsibility of Member States to do so, and their cooperation was important to letting this young organ mature.
* *** *For information media • not an official record