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Regular Sessions
Tuesday, 20 November 2007 09:07


For information about the 10th to current session of the Human Rights Council, visit the latest Council news and Council news archives.


Information about the 1st to 9th sessions of the Council can be found below.



During its 9thsession, the Human Rights Council (the Council) focused on the remainingreviews, and extension, of several country mandates. As in the past thesediscussions were often divisive and highly politically charged. The mandate ofthe Independent Expert on Liberia was discontinued without much discussionafter the main sponsor (the United Kingdom) decided that the mandate had runits course. The renewal of the mandates on Burundi and the Sudan proved verydifficult. Although they were both extended their future remains uncertainespecially in light of the extension of the mandate for only six months in thecase of the Special Rapporteur on the Sudan, and for the Independent Expert onBurundi until the establishment of a national human rights commission. TheCouncil also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and theIndependent Expert on Haiti.


The Council adopted 26 decisions andresolutions with only three going to a vote. Consensual decision-making has characterised the Council's workfrom its first days and proved its merit, and necessity, during theinstitution-building phase. However, its shortcomings have also beendemonstrated by several decisions based on the lowest common denominator. Thiswas particularly seen at this session's decisions on the mandates on Burundiand the Sudan. Members of the Council must start demanding more than the lowestcommon denominator from the Council's decisions to fulfil its mandate ofpromotion and protection of human rights.


Download the complete overview of the 9th session here.  



The Council's 8th session took place from 2 to 18 June 2008 and was dominated by the adoption of the outcomes of the first 32 reviews of countries under the universal periodic review (UPR). Most notable were the attempts by some States to limit NGO statements on the adoption of outcome documents of the UPR and further restrict the already limited role that the institution-building package has guaranteed for NGOs.



The Council also continued the review of a number of special procedures mandates, most of which went smoothly. However, the reviews of the mandates on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment were contentious. The controversy allegedly related to the conduct of the mandate holders rather than to the mandates themselves. It is regrettable that these issues are sometimes conflated and that some States use the opportunities to engage with the special procedures to strongly criticise the mandate holders. This conflation was also seen in a President's statement adopted at this session on the terms in office of special procedures mandate holders, which was a successful attempt by some States to re-interpret in a restrictive way the institution-building package. The Council should make greater efforts to strengthen its system of special procedures and protect the integrity and independence of mandate holders from undue pressure.


While the Council has almost completed its institution building, it seems that it is encountering significant obstacles in turning its attention to pressing human rights issues and situations. This is not least the result of the many efforts by some States to re-open discussion on, and re-write the terms of, the institution-building package and weaken the Council and its mechanisms. It is high time that member and observer States focus on strengthening the Council and ensure that it fulfils its mandate to promote and protect all human rights everywhere.



The Human Rights Council (the Council) held its 7th session from 3 to 28 March 2008. As with all previous sessions of the Council, it was to continue the implementation of the institution-building package adopted in June 2007. At the same time, it was also commonly felt that the time was ripe for the Council to start focusing on substantive issues, which have been neglected in its first cycle.


Continuing the implementation of the institution-building text, the Council also carried out the review, rationalisation and improvement of 17 special procedures mandates. The session started with a three-day ‘high-level segment' in which large number of high level diplomats and some ministers from most member States of the UN addressed the Council. ISHR in its Daily Updates has reported extensively on the high-level segment, and we will not further analyse it here. Of particular note was the call by several women ministers on the Council to strengthen the human rights of women. They said the Council provided a crucial framework to encourage the international community to pay systematic attention to the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, to take a gender perspective into account in the UPR, and to request all special procedures and other mechanisms of the Council to systematically integrate a gender perspective in the implementation of their mandates. Download the complete overview of the 7th session here.



The 6th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) was split in two parts. The first part was held from 10 to 28 September 2007, and the second part from 10 to 14 December 2007. The information provided here is mainly covering the first part.


The 6th session was the first session in the second cycle of the Council, and was from the beginning confronted with relatively high expectations. In the first year of its existence, the Council had spent most of its time on the institution-building tasks it had been given by General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the Council. Accordingly, little time had been devoted to substantive work and many perceived this as a gap in the protection of human rights that the Council should close as soon as possible. However, despite the many hours spent on institution building during the first year, the final ‘institution-building package' adopted at midnight on 18 June 2007 is far from complete. It required the Council to still discuss and decide on a number of important issues areas that were not settled in the institution-building text.

Once again, therefore, the Council faced several challenges simultaneously. On the one hand, it had to finish a number of crucial and pressing institution-building tasks. Decisions had to be taken notably in the area of the review of special procedures, the universal periodic review (UPR), the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (the Advisory Committee) as well as the functioning of one element of the complaint procedure (Working Group on Communications). On the other hand, it had to focus more on its substantive work. A number of interactive dialogues with special procedures were scheduled for the 6th session. The human rights situations in Darfur, the occupied Palestinian territories and in many other locations were awaiting the Council's attention. And finally, a number of thematic questions had to be debated, since substantive work had been on hold or most of the institution-building year.

A third and independent challenge was the new agenda and programme of work that would be ‘tested' for the first time at the 6th session. In its first year of existence, the Council had operated under a sort of pro-forma agenda, comprising only one substantive item - the ‘Implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 entitled "Human Rights Council"'. The new agenda was adopted as part of the institution-building package. It represents a compromise between proposals for a generic and flexible agenda, and others for a detailed and predictable agenda.  On the basis of the agenda, the President of the Council drafted a programme of work. Prior to the session, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) feared that a too tight programme of work would not let other important issues to be raised, that - according to the institution-building text - should have space under the relevant agenda items.

To sum up, not only had the Council a new agenda to implement, the programme of work was full with substantial points to consider, but also had to accommodate significant amounts of time set aside for institution-building questions. Thus, it promised to be a session fraught with unpredictable changes, adaptations and time constraints. 


The second part of the session focused on the following issues:


  • Implementation of the institution-building text, including the review of individual special procedures mandates;
  • Continued discussion of Item 3, Promotion and protection of all human rights (report of the Working Group on an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, interactive dialogues with remaining thematic special procedures);
  • Continued discussion of Item 4, Human rights situations that require the Council's attention (follow-up to decisions taken during the first part of the 6th session and to the 5th special session onMyanmar).

More: Complete session overview



5th session 

The 5th session was the final session of the Council's first cycle. It was not originally scheduled on the Council's annual programme of work. Instead, Ambassador de Alba of Mexico, the first President of the Council, suggested to shorten the 4th session by one week, to be able to hold a 'wrap-up' session immediately prior to the end of the first cycle and the change in membership of the Council.


The main thrust of the 5th session was the conclusion of the 'institution-building'. This process encompassed all negotiations on the modalities of the new universal periodic review (UPR), the review of mechanisms and mandates from the Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) assumed by the Council, and the elaboration of the future rules of procedure, methods of work, agenda and programme of work of the Council. The institution-building process as such came to a formal conclusion during the 5th session on 18 June 2007, when the Council adopted its institution-building text (Resolution 5/1) and the Code of Conduct for special procedures (Resolution 5/2), the fruit of most of the work done in the first year.


The ‘institution-building text' laid down the modalities for the UPR and for the continued review of special procedures. It also established a complaint procedure and a new Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (the Advisory Committee). Finally, the Council settled on its own rules of procedure, and, more importantly, on a real agenda and programme of work. An analysis of the institution-building text and of the final discussions leading up to its adoption is contained ISHR's Human Rights Monitor 2007.


Currently there is no complete session overview available on the 5th session. Check the Daily Updates of the 5th session instead for details.


The 4th session of the Council was due to take place over a period of four weeks from 12 March to 5 April 2007. However, several weeks before the session was due to begin, the Council accepted a proposal from its President, Ambassador Luis de Alba, to shorten the 4th session to three weeks so that the Council could sit for a 5th session in June in order to finalise the institution-building process and adopt its outcome document before the end of the first year of the Council. In addition, some of the reports due to be presented by the Special Procedures were pushed back to the 5th session. As a result of this tightening of the schedule, there were a number of days where the Council had to begin early, end late or sit throughout lunch in order to make up time.


The 4th session of the Council was the first session of the Council to be held in March/April, when the annual meeting of the former Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) was traditionally held. Therefore, it was decided that this would be the equivalent of the Council's first ‘core' session, expected to cover more substantive areas of human rights work than previous sessions. Some of this work was guided by precedent set by the Commission; some of it followed patterns set by the first three sessions of the Council; and some of it constituted new innovations. The session was opened by two items that used to appear on the Commission's agenda: a segment devoted to statements by high-level representatives, and the presentation of the annual report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The majority of the rest of the session was taken up with the presentation of reports by the Special Procedures, which also followed the traditional pattern of the Commission's sessions. However, following a practice established at the 2nd session of the Council, the presentation of each report was followed by an ‘interactive dialogue' with States and NGOs providing their comments on the report. Another innovation to the Council's agenda was the inclusion of several periods devoted to ‘related debate' following interactive dialogues with the Special Procedures, providing the opportunity for delegations to comment on issues relevant to the general themes and situations covered by the Special Procedures, but not dealt with in the reports presented at this session. A final innovation can be seen in the form of two ‘special events', each devoted to a specific important issue, agreed upon in advance by the Council. 

The session also included in-depth follow-up to decisions taken at previous special sessions of the Council, specifically the high-level missions on Darfur and the occupied Palestinian territories. The day devoted to discussing Darfur was one of the most highly anticipated of the session. However, due to controversy over the visit of the high-level mission to the region, the day was taken up with heated debate on the legitimacy of the report rather than the substantive issues relating to the situation in Darfur.


More: Complete session overview.


The ground covered in the resumed 2nd and 3rd session inlcuded:

  • Outstanding resolutions/decisions from the second session;
  • Update by the High Commissioner and presentation of the Special Advisor to the
  • Secretary-General on genocide;
  • Methods of work and agenda of the Human Rights Council;
  • Follow-up to decisions of the Council;
  • Progress reports of the working groups on review of mandates and the UPR.


Currently no complete session overview is available on the resumed 2nd and the 3rd session. Check the Daily Updates of the 3rd session instead for details. 



2nd session

The 2nd session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) was scheduled to take place over a period of three weeks from 18 September to 6 October 2006. However in a surprising and unprecedented move the session was not closed when the 29th meeting was concluded on the afternoon of Friday 6 October, but rather simply adjourned. During the final days it proved impossible to resolve negotiations on how the Council would deal with the various proposed resolutions that had been submitted throughout the course of the session. The 2nd session therefore resumed its work on 27 November 2006 prior to the 3rd session.


This 2nd session of the Council was to be situated in the context of the Council's programme of work for its first year of operation. During its first year the Council had much to achieve, and each session has been structured to address particular aspects of the priority tasks that need to be addressed in order to establish the proper functioning of this new body. The key task of this 2nd session of the Council was to review the reports of the special procedures mandate holders that had been submitted to the 62nd Commission on Human Rights (the Commission). These reports were not considered at the last Commission session, but rather transferred to the new Council for review. The second task of the 2nd session of the Council was to review the reports, studies and other documents prepared by the Secretariat, the High Commissioner, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Secretary-General on the request of the Commission. Other key substantive tasks that the 2nd session was to undertake included reviewing the reports of the Sub-Commission and the 1503 procedure. As part of its functions in reviewing the progress made towards implementing its mandate to become fully operational, the 2nd session also considered the progress reports of the intersessional meetings on the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism and the review of mandates and mechanisms. Future sessions of the Council will address some of these points in more detail, for example the 3rd session in late November/early December will focus primarily on the progress of these inter-sessional meetings. Decisions on the UPR and the review of mandates, as well as the Council's methods of work and agenda are scheduled to be made in the 4th session in March/April 2007.

The key substantive work of the 2nd session was devoted to an update from the High Commissioner on her work, and consideration of any other issues related to the promotion and protection of human rights, including any initiatives or resolutions to be proposed by delegations. As this was the first session of the Council to consider substantive issues, it was unclear what outcome was expected on these issues. This led to confusion throughout the session, which is discussed in more detail in the session overview. More...



The new Human Rights Council (the Council) held its first session from 19 to 30 June 2006, amid hope and scepticism. The session failed to live up to the rhetoric of a "new start" and a "new commitment" to human rights, but it was certainly far better than many had feared. The pity was that the many accomplishments and good spirit of most of the two-week session were dissipated by the highly "politicized", selective actions initiated by the member States of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) during the last hours of the session.

The former Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) had been abolished and replaced by the Human Rights Council precisely because of its perceived ‘politicisation' and selectivity. General Assembly Resolution 60/251 proclaimed a new working methodology of collaboration, objectivity, and even-handedness. The debates of the Council in the plenary generally reflected this. There was less heat, less provocation and less confrontation than in recent years. The informal consultations on draft resolutions running parallel to the plenary were different. There, the discussions sounded more like the rejected past than a new hopeful future.

Whether the new Council will be different from the old Commission remains an open question. Fortunately, however, its first session produced some very good results. More...


Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:47

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