The 24th session of the Human Rights Council (the Council) was held in Geneva from 9 to 27 September 2013.
Several hundred participants including UN member states, UN bodies, NHRIs and non-governmental organisation representatives participated in the session.
In total, eight ‘A’ status NHRIs from across all regions contributed to the Council session through participation in plenary meetings by way of making presentations and delivering oral and video statements.
Contributions were made on the following substantive issues: the human rights of older persons; rights of indigenous peoples; the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories; human rights of children of parents sentenced to the death penalty or executed; follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA); and people of African descent.
The session witnessed the highest level of NHRI engagement in relation to the adoption of UPR reports by the Working Group on the UPR. However, as per the two previous HRC sessions, engagement between NHRIs and Special Procedure mandate holders was remarkably low.
In addition to the cross-regional representation of NHRIs at the 24th HRC session, the ICC was represented by the ICC Chair Adv. Lawrence Mushwana and the ICC Secretary Alan Miller. Also, the, ICC Geneva Representative represented the ICC at plenary meetings, side events and informal consultations on draft resolutions.
All NHRI statements and webcast links to the delivery of statements to HRC 24 can be accessed through the ICC/NHRI website: http://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/IHRS/HumanRightsCouncil/24/Pages/default.aspx
Of the 24 Special Procedures HRC country mission reports, only 5 involved countries in which there are ‘A’ status NHRIs. During the interactive dialogue with Special Procedures 2 NHRIs made contributions.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), contributed to the findings of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples rights regarding the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia. SUHAKAM informed the Council of the finalisation of its first national inquiry focused on the land rights of indigenous peoples in Malaysia, and called on the Government of Malaysia to consider adopting and implementing its recommendations.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) contributed to the general debate with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples rights, welcoming consultations with the Special Rapporteur during his upcoming visit to Canada.
The three UK NHRIs, namely the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) contributed to the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its twelfth session. The three UK NHRIs concurred with several recommendations made by the Working Group and informed of initiatives taken by the UK NHRIs to promote race equality in line with recommendations by the Working Group.
On the general debate, items 2 and 3 regarding the summary report of the consultation on the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), SUHAKAM encouraged the development of an international convention on older persons and urged the Council to continue to include the rights of older persons on its agenda.
On the general debate, agenda item 7 regarding the report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the Independent Palestinian Commission for Citizen’s Rights (ICHR) urgently called upon the Council to exert pressure on the occupying state of Israel to lift the military siege on the Gaza strip and to provide a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
On the general debate, agenda item 8 regarding the follow up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) the CHRC spoke of its efforts to systematically integrate a gender and intersectional perspective into all aspects of its work including discrimination, prevention activities, dispute resolution processes, policy development and research.
The National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan (NCHR), represented by the Director of the Criminal Justice Unit at the National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan (NCHR) Ms. Nisreen Zerikat, participated as a panellist in the Council panel discussion on the human rights of children of parents sentenced to the death penalty or executed. The NCHR provided information and specific examples from the Jordanian context on the role NHRIs can play in providing protection and assistance to the children of parents sentenced to the death penalty.
The NHRIs of Colombia, Germany, Canada and Cameroon contributed with oral statements during the plenary meetings, before the adoption of UPR reports on their respective countries.
The HRC 24th session adopted two resolutions of particular relevance to the work of NHRIs.
Resolution 24/16 on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/24/L.14/Rev.1) was adopted without a vote on 27 September 2013. The resolution requests OHCHR to convene at the Council's 27th session a panel discussion on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights and to draft a study on the prevention of human rights violations and its practical implementation, to be presented to the Council’s 30th session.
Welcomes the role of NHRIs in contributing to the prevention of human rights violations, and encourages states to strengthen the mandate and capacity of such institutions, where they exist, in accordance with the Paris Principles;
Invites NHRIs to consider addressing the issue of the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights in the framework of relevant international, interregional and regional forums, inter alia the annual general meeting of the ICC;
Requests the OHCHR to consult NHRIs in the organisation of panel discussions on the role of prevention at the HRC; and
Encourages NHRIs, in consultation with OHCR and other stakeholders, to inform the HRC on a regular basis on activities on the practical applications of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The next opportunity for NHRIs to inform the Council of their work on prevention will be at the 25th HRC session in March 2014, during the annual high level panel on human rights mainstreaming on the ‘promotion of preventative approaches within the UN’.
Resolution 24/20 on the human rights of older persons (/HRC/24/L.37/Rev.1) was adopted without a vote on 27 September 2013. The resolution calls on the appointment, for a three year period, of an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons who is requested to report annually to the Council and to present his/her first report at the 27th HRC session. The mandate of the Independent Expert will require him/her to take into account the views of NHRIs.
ICC representatives actively participated in parallel side events and reported back to individual NHRIs at their request.
The acting ICC Geneva Representative . Bruce Adamson participated in a side event on the Role of States and the Council in Protecting Human Rights Defenders organised by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). The Side Event featured the launch of an ISHR report on the role of national law and policy in combating reprisals, available at: http://www.ishr.ch/news/ending-reprisals-role-national-laws-and-policies-protecting-those-who-cooperate-united-nations.
The President of the Human Rights Council, Remigiuscz Henczel, spoke out against reprisals at the close of the session, reiterating that ‘any act of intimidation or reprisals against individuals and groups who cooperated or had cooperated with the United Nations and its representatives was unacceptable and must end’. The President called for all discussions in the Council to be conducted with an appropriate level of dignity and respect.
Sarah Pallesen attended and reported back to the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) on a side event organised in collaboration between the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and UPR Info on the impact of NGO recommendations at the UPR.
The ICC Geneva Office in cooperation with NIRMS, provided support and advice to NHRIs and regional coordinators in their engagement with the HRC, both prior to and during the 24th session.
Activities included: identifying opportunities for ICC members to engage; organising meetings and liaising with key stakeholders; providing substantive input to informal consultations on draft HRC 24 resolutions of relevance to the work of NHRIs; delivering statements on behalf of A-status NHRIs; and reporting back.
At the 24th session of the Council states across the world affirmed the important role NHRIs can play in the prevention of human rights violations and underscored that NHRIs are partners of the UN, including its Independent Experts that must be consulted.
However, the Council continued to witness a relatively low level of NHRI engagement in its procedures. The ICC reiterates its strong encouragement to NHRIs to strengthen their engagement with the Council with a view to furthering the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground, and stands ready to assist NHRIs effectively engage with the various mechanisms of the Council.
For more information on HRC 24 please contact ICC Geneva Representative Katharina Rose (firstname.lastname@example.org).