The 23rd session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) was held in Geneva from 27 May to 14 June 2013. Several hundred participants including UN member States, UN bodies, NHRIs and non-governmental organisation representatives participated in the session.
A total of 32 NHRIs from across all regions, including the APF as regional coordinator for Asia Pacific and the ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights contributed to the Council session through various means including participation in plenary meetings, presentation of oral and video statements and submission of written contributions.
Contributions were made on the following substantive issues: the human rights of migrants; human rights and transnational corporations; right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association; right to education; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; business and human rights; women’s human rights; UPR; sexual orientation and gender identity; and the 2013 Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively.
The high level of NHRI engagement was, however, not proportionately reflected across the various segments of the Council session. The Council witnessed the active participation of a few NHRIs on various substantive issues, and a large number of predominantly European NHRIs contribute through a joint oral statement on the thematic issue of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The level of engagement between NHRIs and Special Procedures mandate holders was particularly low compared to previous sessions. A higher level of NHRI engagement was witnessed in deliberations concerning the adoption of UPR reports.
The OHCHR and ICC strategic priority of advancing the human rights of women and girls was a key thematic focus of the 23rd Council session, to which the ICC contributed.
A significant highlight of the session was the adoption, by consensus, of the third Council resolution on NHRIs sponsored by Australia. The resolution acknowledges the important role NHRIs can play in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls.
The ICC was represented through remote participation by the ICC Chair Adv. Lawrence Mushwana, and the in person participation of ICC Geneva Representative a.i. Bruce Adamson and Assistant ICC Geneva Representative Sarah Pallesen.
All NHRI contributions to the 23rd Council session, including oral statements, written submissions and video recordings of the various meetings of the session can be accessed on this page below.
NHRI interaction with Special Procedures
Out of the thirteen A status NHRIs concerned by Special Procedures HRC 23 country mission reports, only four NHRIs contributed to the interactive dialogue with Special Procedures.
The Greek National Commission for Human Rights contributed on the findings of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants’ country mission to Greece.
The three UK NHRIs1
contributed on the findings of the Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and association’s country mission to the UK.
Both oral interventions were delivered upon request by the ICC Geneva Representative and on behalf of the Paris Principles compliant NHRIs concerned.
The NHRIs of Ecuador and India respectively made written submissions to the Council prior to the session on the country mission report on Ecuador by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the country mission report on India by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary.
NHRI participation in general debates
The majority of NHRI contributions were made during the general debates of the Council.
On the general debate, item 3 regarding the panel on business and human rights the Canadian Human Rights Commission welcomed the UN Secretary General and UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights’ call to reflect the mainstreaming of business and human rights in the post-2015 development agenda goals, strategies, policies and practices.
On the general debate item 3, regarding the work of the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations the Canadian Human Rights Commission as Chair of the ICC Working Group on business and human rights informed the Council that it the ICC Working Group will continue to provide guidance and tools to NHRIs on the UN Guiding Principles. Capacity building tools, including regional and thematic training supplements, side events, a website compendium of proven practices, and a series of fact sheets developed in collaboration its other key institutions, continue to be developed by the ICC Working Group for the benefit of NHRIs.
A representative from the Australian Human Rights Commission presented at the HRC annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights, which is organised pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution No 6/30. The focus for this year’s discussion was on prevention and elimination of violence against women. The AHRC representative spoke on the linkages between wrongful gender stereotyping and violence against women and domestic violence as a workplace issue. During the general debate, the ICC Chair gave a video statement affirming the ICC’s commitment to give priority to women’s public and political participation, economic and social rights, health and reproductive rights, and to address violence against women and girls.
On the same agenda item, the Canadian Human Rights Commission brought the Council’s attention to the disproportionate burden of violence born by indigenous women and girls in Canada. The Commission used the opportunity to urge the Government of Canada to take specific, named actions to address and prevent the roots causes of violence.
On the general debate, item 8 regarding follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, ICC Geneva Representative speaking on behalf of the ICC, welcomed the Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively. The Geneva Representative noted with appreciation the Secretary General’s emphasis on recent improvements in the accreditation process of national human rights institutions; and welcomed the 2013 report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, which acknowledges that NHRIs and their members and staff can be considered as human rights defenders.
On the same agenda item, the Australian Human Rights Commission on behalf of 28 other NHRIs2
delivered a statement on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement expressed concern for the systemic and continuing human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and of intersex persons in all regions of the world; and called on the Human Rights Council to encourage States to accept recommendations and implement commitments made through the UPR process related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It stressed that NHRIs play a crucial role in protecting and promoting the rights of LGBT people.