Council Alert: Human Rights Council September 2011 session
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 11:22


The Human Rights Council (the Council) held the organisational meeting for its 18th session on 26 August. The 18th session will commence on 12 September and will run until 30 September. Twelve special procedure mandate holders will present their reports to the Council and engage in interactive dialogues. See the draft programme of work and the list of reports for more information. Information for NGOs about how to participate in the session is available here. The 18th session will be the first under the new President, Ms Laura Dupuy Lasserre, the Ambassador of Uruguay.


During the organisational meeting the President presented the programme of work for the 18th session. Under item 4 there are some especially interesting meetings. Of particular significance procedurally is the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the situation in Yemen. This interactive dialogue was requested by the Council through decision 17/117, adopted at its 17th session. The decision requests the High Commissioner to report to the Council on her visit to Yemen, despite the fact that the High Commissioner is fully within her mandate to report to the Council regardless of whether or not this has been requested. The decision may reflect a desire on the part of the Council to be seen to be taking a stronger interest in country situations and demonstrate a stronger commitment to follow-up.


The Council will also follow up on the 16th special session on Syria and the report of the fact-finding mission set up by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and will engage in interactive dialogues with the Commission of Inquiry on Libya and the Independent Expert on Sudan under item 4. With the mandate of the Independent Expert of Sudan due for renewal at this session, it will be interesting to see how the creation of South Sudan affects those negotiations, with the potential for an additional special procedure to be created to ensure that both Sudan and South Sudan are covered. Sudan’s UPR report will also be adopted at this session. At the UPR of Sudan, recommendations were addressed to both Sudan and South Sudan in anticipation of the creation of this new country. However, since South Sudan was not in official existence at the time it is unclear how those recommendations will be handled (Sudan did not provide a position on any recommendations at the time of its UPR, and must therefore do so at the 18th session of the Council) and whether representatives from South Sudan will attend the report adoption. Finally, under item 4, the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commission on her oral report on the situation in Belarus.


The President announced that consideration of the UPR of Libya will be postponed yet again, this time until March 2012. The Council will consider the outcomes of the 16 State reviews that took place during the 11th session of the UPR in May 2011.


Also at this session the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals against those who cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. This report was due for consideration at the 17th session, but was delayed for ‘technical reasons’. NGOs have been pushing for the Council to take the issue of reprisals more seriously, in particular by making efforts to follow-up on cases contained in the Secretary-General’s report. While the report this year does include some attempt at follow-up, it remains to be seen whether States will make the effort to draw attention to failures to follow-up on the part of those countries included in the report.


Several key bodies will report to the 18th session, including the Ad-hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, and the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (the Advisory Committee). The President announced to States that the membership of the Advisory Committee had been extended until October 2011, in order to allow the presentation of their report to the 18th session.


The President also updated States on meetings held by the task force on accessibility, conference services and the use of information technologies, which was established through the review of the work and functioning of the Council.  The President informed States that two meetings of the task force have been held to date, on conference services and on accessibility, and that it will continue meeting in the next few days to finalise ideas on the issues under discussion.


A number of special procedures mandates expire in September and October. The Council will have to decide on their renewal at the 18th session. They include the following mandates:

  1. Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan
  2. Special Rapporteur  on the situation of human rights in Cambodia
  3. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Somalia
  4. Working Group on African descent
  5. Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste
  6. Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti

Thailand announced its intention to introduce a resolution on enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity building of the Council. The delegation stated that this resolution is based on discussions held during the review of the work and functioning of the Council in which States recognised the need to improve the Council’s technical cooperation, and its coordination with other UN agencies. The delegation mentioned that its aim is to generate more constructive discussion under item 10, by turning it into a space for States to ask for or offer technical assistance.


Austria announced its draft resolution on the administration of juvenile justice and will also be facilitating an exhibition at Palais des Nations on juvenile justice and people in detention. The delegation also stated that it is preparing a decision to allow for the convening of a panel on the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which was adopted in 1992


Argentina along with Switzerland and Morocco, informed the Council about its draft resolution to establish a Special Rapporteur on peace, justice, reconciliation, and guarantees of non-repetition.  The delegation from Argentina stated that the main function of the propsoed Special Rapporteur would be the promotion of best practices and lessons learned, and identification of recommendations drawn up on that basis. The draft resolution also includes provision for technical assistance and consultation as requested by States. The delegations will hold the first informal meeting to discuss the draft resolution on 6 September, i.e. one week prior to the opening of the 18th session.


Brazil informed the council that it will re-introduce its resolution on incompatibility with democracy and racism which was last discussed in 2005. The delegation mentioned its willingness to cooperate and engage with other States in drafting the resolution and will be holding several informal meetings to that end.


The full list of resolutions announced by States during the organisational meeting appears below.


Switzerland took the floor with regard to the planned panel discussion on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The panel debate is intended to address and consider the ways in which human rights of protestors can be protected in the context of international law. Switzerland also announced that the panel will consider improvements that have been made in protecting human rights in the context of peaceful protests. However it remains to be seen if the panel will focus on specific countries and their situations in regards to peaceful protests.


The Council will also hold an annual discussion on the integration of gender perspective, sponsored by Chile. The delegation indicated that the panel will focus on gender equality and institutional practices, and will analyse how States’ commitment to promote women’s rights can be translated to concrete realities.


In addition, South Africa announced to the Council the planned high level panel on promotion and protection of human rights through tolerance and reconciliation. The panel discussions will focus on issues such as racism, xenophobia, and provide relevant examples of how the values of tolerance and reconciliation have been used to promote change and contribute to reconciliation.


List of resolutions to be introduced at the 18th session as announced by States during the organisational meeting:



  • Enhancement of technical cooperation and capacity building of the Council


  • Human rights and the administration of juvenile justice

Argentina, Switzerland, Morocco

  • Establishment of Special Rapporteur for promotion of peace, justice, reconciliations, and guarantees for non-repetition


  • Cooperation between regional organisations in promoting human rights

Guatemala and Mexico

  • Human rights of indigenous peoples


  • Rights of migrants and indigenous peoples

Spain and Germany

  • Access to drinking water

Philippines and Bangladesh

  • Human rights and climate change

New Zealand, Colombia, Burkina Faso

  • Maternal mortality and morbidity

Egypt and Non-aligned Movement (NAM)

  • Right to development


  • Role of prevention and protection in promotion of human rights


  • Incompatibility of democracy and racism


  • Human rights and international solidarity
  • The use of mercenaries as a means for violating human rights, obstacle to self-determination of peoples


  • Renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2011 17:05
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