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Council Alert: Human Rights Council to negotiate landmark resolution on laws affecting human rights defenders
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 15:20


The UN Human Rights Council’s 22nd session will be held from 25 February to 22 March 2013 and consider a range of significant thematic and country-specific human rights issues and actions.


The purpose of this Alert is to provide timely and expert information as to some of the issues and actions likely to arise during the course of the Session.


Human rights defenders

For human rights defenders there are several relevant initiatives. Norway will lead negotiations on a resolution focusing on legislation that affects human rights defenders with the goal of improving the protection of human rights defenders and eliminating laws which impair their work. ISHR has watched the development of this resolution closely and will continue to engage in line with our mandate to support and strengthen human rights defenders. The resolution will build on the report of the Special Rapporteur, Ms Margaret Sekaggya, to the UN General Assembly in 2012. This report considered the issue of the ‘criminalisation’ of human rights defenders through laws which are used or misused to hinder, obstruct or render unlawful actions to promote and protect human rights.


ISHR will organise a side event with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders on 5 March (from 12pm – 2pm) which will provide an interactive space for further discussion of the issue of criminalisation and the specific impacts this has on human rights defenders around the world.


The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders will also present her latest report to the Human Rights Council, the subject of which is the role of national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights. She will also report on country visits made to Honduras, Tunisia, and Ireland (report not yet available).


Based on the thematic calendar of resolutions, a resolution on peaceful protests is also likely to be negotiated at this session.


Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Another relevant and significant initiative will be the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA).


The VDPA reaffirmed many of the tenets that underlie the work of human rights defenders including the universality, interdependence, and indivisibility of human rights, as well as recognising the crucial and legitimate role played by NGOs in protecting human rights, and their need for ‘protection in national law.’ Austria is organising a panel discussion to commemorate this anniversary, giving space for States and civil society to offer their own perspectives on the main achievements of the VDPA and the challenges ahead for implementation. ISHR board member Mr Gustavo Gallon from the Colombian Commission of Jurists will be amongst the panellists. The panel discussion will take place on 25 February.


Panel discussions

There will also be panels held on the following themes during the session:

  • Human rights mainstreaming, with the aim of promoting a human rights based approach to the post-2015 development agenda, and in particular ensuring that human rights education is integrated into that agenda
  • Human rights and persons with disabilities, focusing on work and employment
  • Rights of the child, discussing the challenges to the realisation the right of children to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health
  • Impact of corruption on human rights, with a view to producing recommendations on how to protect human rights in the fight against corruption, and how to strengthen anti-corruption efforts through a human rights-based approach
  • Promoting technical cooperation, including sharing best practices and challenges, to strengthen the judiciary and the administration of justice in order to ensure human rights and the rule of law


Provisional dates for all these discussions are included in the programme of work for the session.


High-level segment

The session is particularly busy with 17 special procedures presenting reports to the session. The four-week session also includes the ‘high-level segment’ where dignitaries from States will address the Council. The general segment of this part of the Council’s programme gives space to four representatives from civil society to address the Council, to highlight concerns of victims of human rights violations and offer their own perspective on what the Council could bring to the promotion and protection of human rights.


While the high level segment does not offer space for dialogue and does not contribute directly to the debates ongoing at the Council, it provides an opportunity, on the sidelines, for discussion of human rights issues between States at the highest level. The readiness of States to send dignitaries to address the Council also attests to the significance that States attach to the Council. This year Germany’s President will address the Council, the first time a sitting president has done so.


Country situations

Other potential highlights of the session include a resolution on Sri Lanka, announced by the United States. The resolution will focus on the promotion of reconciliation and accountability in the country. Sri Lanka was reviewed by fellow States on its human rights record last September, at the 14th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The outcome of that review will be considered for adoption by the Human Rights Council at this session, along with the outcomes of the reviews of the 13 other countries considered at the 14th session of the UPR. 


The Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Syria will present its latest report for discussion at this session. The Chair of the Commission, Mr Pablo de Grieff will participate in an interactive dialogue with States on the findings of the report. The report is not yet available. The fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements will also report to the session.


Human rights and ‘traditional values’

The Advisory Committee will submit its report on traditional values to this session of the Council. The report emphasises the universality of human rights and notes that traditional values can play a role in the promotion and protection of international human rights standards through human rights education and training. At the same time, the report concludes that States also have a responsibility to take action against stereotypes and negative, harmful and discriminatory practices justified by traditional values. The presentation of the report to the Council is an opportunity for States and civil society to reflect on these conclusions and to reach an understanding as to where traditional values fit within the universal human rights framework that was reaffirmed in the VDPA.


Renewal of special procedure mandates

The following special procedure mandates also need to be renewed by States at this session, through the negotiation and adoption of a resolution:

  • Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to food


Useful documents for the session


List of resolutions to be introduced at the 22nd session as announced by States during the organisational meeting



  • Prevention of genocide


  • Rights of persons belonging to minorities


  • Rights of children whose parents have been sentenced to death, calling for a panel on the 24th session of the Council


  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, with focus on education as a tool to address this problem


  • Right to food, including extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food
  • Composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


  • Torture and other cruel and degrading treatment and punishment, focusing on rehabilitation and redress


  • Synergies between the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review, and the role of parliamentarians, requesting a panel at a later session of the Council


  • Freedom of religion and belief, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Iran (NAM)

  • Enhancement of international cooperation and human rights


  • Protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on promoting and protecting human rights while countering terrorism

New Zealand, Mexico

  • Right to work and employment of persons with disabilities


  • Protection of human rights defenders

Pakistan (OIC)

  • The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance


  • Education as a tool to prevent racism


  • Iran, extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the country


  • Birth registration and the right of everyone to recognition as a person before the law

Uruguay (GRULAC), EU

  • Right of the child to enjoy the highest possible level of health


  • Human rights and humanitarian activities post-conflict and post-natural disaster, requesting a study from the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee

United States

  • Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 11:19

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