The Human Rights Council (the Council or HRC) convened in Geneva for its 27th session from 8th to 26th September 2014. Several hundred participants representing UN member States, UN bodies, NHRIs and non-governmental organisations attended.
The Council witnessed the active participation of a number of NHRIs on various issues. In total, 22 contributions were made through formal participation of the ICC and A-status NHRIs from across the four regional groups of the ICC in plenary meetings, presentation of oral statements, video statements and written submissions.
Contributions were made on the following substantive and country-specific issues: older persons; contemporary forms of slavery; water and sanitation; arbitrary detention; enforced disappearances; rights of indigenous peoples; protection of human rights of persons deprived of liberty; efforts to end violence against children; sexual orientation and gender identity; situation in Ukraine; implications of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); Universal Periodic Review (UPR); and the 2014 Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process.
The level of engagement between NHRIs and Special Procedures mandate holders was significant compared to previous sessions. A high level of NHRI engagement was witnessed in deliberations concerning the adoption of UPR reports, with 3 contributing to the adoption of their countries' UPR reports.
22 “A” NHRIs from all regional groups contributed through a joint oral statement on the thematic issue of sexual orientation and gender identity.
A significant highlight of the session was the adoption by the Council, without a vote, of the resolution on NHRIs. The Australian-led resolution acknowledges the important role of NHRIs across national, regional and international human rights protection systems. The resolution confirms that NHRIs, their staff and respective members, or individuals who cooperate or seek to cooperate with NHRIs, should not be subject to reprisals and any cases of alleged reprisal or intimidation should be promptly and thoroughly investigated, with the perpetrators brought to justice (see Press release).
ICC Chairperson Adv. Mabedle Lourence Mushwana participated in plenary and side meetings of the Human Rights Council session.
Whilst in Geneva, ICC Chairperson Mushwana met with a variety of stakeholders including newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, President of the Human Rights Council H.E. Baudelaire Ndong Ella and representatives of states and civil society.
NHRIs’ representatives from different regions were present at the HRC session including:
NHRI interaction with Special Procedures
Out of the nine “A” status NHRIs concerned by Special Procedures HRC 27 country mission reports, five NHRIs contributed to the interactive dialogue with Special Procedures.
The National Commission on Human Rights of Mauritania contributed on the findings of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery on the country mission to Mauritania. Commission Chairperson. Irahiba Abdel Wedoud commented on Mauritania's anti slavery bill and shared recommendations to go strengthen the combat against slavery.
The National Council on Human Rights of Morocco contributed to the findings of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its country mission report to Morocco. The Council Secretary General, Mohamed Essabar, welcomed the conclusions and recommendation of the Working Group and addressed recommendations to the Moroccan Government regarding the situation in prisons, centres for child protection, mental hospitals and foreigners in Morocco, and on alternative sanctions and criminal procedure. He called on the establishment of a national mechanism for the prevention of torture.
The Greek National Commission for Human Rights contributed to the findings of the Working Group on the Arbitrary Detention’s country mission report to Greece. The statement, which was delivered on their behalf by the ICC Geneva Representative, welcomed the visit and recommendations of the Working Group It expressed their shared concern about the length of detention of migrants, the failure to consider alternatives to detention, and the detention of minors, bad detention conditions and the heavy backlog of asylum cases, the high rate of undocumented migrants entering into the European Union (EU) via Greece and the dangerous effects of budget cuts on the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill. The Commission commented that recommendations should also be addressed to the EU.
The Defensora del Pueblo de España, Soledad Becerril, commented on the country mission report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to Spain through a video-statement and commented on the independence of the institution.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission commented on the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples’ country mission report. The Statement, delivered on their behalf by the ICC Geneva Representative, expressed the Commission shared concerned regarding the issues facing Indigenous Peoples in Canada identified by the Special Rapporteur. This included among others, barriers for Indigenous people to access justice and a persistent and disproportionate level of violence against Indigenous women and girls due to the lack of access to justice.
Other contributions on Special Rapporteurs’ reports were made by NHRIs. These include, The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s contribution to the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, by video-statement. Furthermore, The National Council on Human Rights of Morocco provided comments to the report of the Independent Expert on older persons as well as to the report on the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation.
Picture: Chairperson Irahiba Abdel Wedoud, Commission Nationale des Droits de l'Homme de Mauritanie and representatives Conseil National des Droits de l’homme Maroc (Photo by : Agnès Gràcia).
On 18th September the HRC hosted a panel discussion on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights featuring Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, as a panellist.
In her opening remarks to the panel, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri quoted the French jurist René Cassin reminding the audience “There is no task of safeguarding human rights more urgent than that of foreseeing such outrages and preventing them”.
Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri acknowledged that national human rights institutions can play a particularly vital role. She reminded that currently it is mostly in the area of torture prevention that national human rights institutions have a specific preventive mandate, being designated as national preventive mechanisms under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, but such specific preventive mandate could very usefully be extended to other areas, such as violence against women, she commented.
Chairperson Sima Samar focused on her experience in Afghanistan and identified main forms of prevention activities that NHRIs can undertake. She underlined NHRIs’ role in education and awareness-raising on human rights among various sectors of the education system. The critical role NHRIs’ play in monitoring human rights was mentioned, as well as NHRIs capacity to work on legislative reforms and undertake activities to practically protect people when they are in danger. She highlighted the importance to fight against a culture of impunity.
During the interactive debate, Ms Samar was asked on the situation of violence against women in Afghanistan, sharing many good practices on this regard.
On the Panel on the protection of Human Rights of Persons Deprived of their liberty, Mr. Nika Kvaratskhelia, Head of National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of The Office of Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia, contributed with a statement. Mr. Kvaratskhelia commented on the current human rights situation on torture in Georgia and the critical role of the NPM in this regard. He stressed the need for the Georgian authorities to strengthen the mandate of the NPM, which despite its exclusive role has many limitations compared to other NPMs in Europe, which run counter to the spirit of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
Finally, under the Panel on accelerating global efforts to end violence against children, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Valeriya Lutkovska, commented on the protection of the rights of the child in local conflicts. She drew the Council's attention to human rights violations committed by armed groups on the territory of the military conflict in the Eastern part of Ukraine, in particular, international kidnapping, tortures, the use of children as a living shield, while childcare institutions, orphanages, hospitals for children are used as the place for organizing headquarters by illegal armed groups.
Ms. Lutkovska highlighted that besides the numerous efforts of the Ukraine authorities to evacuate and save orphans to safe regions of Ukraine, these were blocked by the special Decree of illegal armed organizations, which only allowed evacuation to neighboring countries. She provided figures on this regard and expressed grave concern on the use of children for political purposes.
On 10th September, the OHCHR organized an event in parallel with the 27th Session of the HRC, to launch the web resource "The Right to Human Rights Education". This resource is a compilation of full texts and provisions of international and regional instruments, which highlight commitments made by States with regard to human rights education and training. Ms Fiona Murphy, from the Irish Human Rights Commission, participated in the debates as panellist to discuss NHRIs’ role in Human Rights Education. Her presentation yielded questions from the audience, which was interested in hearing more about the role of NHRIs and the ICC.
See the link to the web resource http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/Training/Compilation/Pages/Listofcontents.aspx.
On 22nd September, the Independent Commission for Human Rights of the State of Palestine (ICHR) organized a side-event on human rights violations in the Gaza strip during the Israeli military operation “Protective edge” and measures to pursue war criminals. The panel included representatives from the ICHR and Palestinian NGOs, and focused on the Israeli human rights violations and war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians during “Operation Protective Edge”. Measures to pursue Israeli war criminals and the importance of using unified documentation for war crimes were discussed, as well as the role and responsibilities of the international community.
In this regard, it recognizes that:
In order to streamline the work of the Council, its resolutions on NHRIs will henceforth be presented on a biennial basis. The UN Secretary General’s reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process will be submitted to the HRC at its thirty-third session in September 2015 and the next Council resolution on NHRIs will be presented at this same session.
The ICC Geneva Representative delivered a statement on behalf of ICC on the general debate item 2, regarding the update by the High Commissioner. The ICC congratulates the High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for his appointment and acknowledged the work of his predecessor, Navy Pillay, specially her leadership and vision.
The ICC contributed to the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on older persons through a statement delivered the ICC Geneva Representative. The statement addressed the need to clarify and elaborate on the rights of older persons whilst identifying areas of protection for older persons that are not sufficiently covered under international standards in order to develop mechanisms that address these gaps. The ICC encouraged the Independent Expert to engage with NHRIs in the discharge of her mandate given the unique insight NHRIs can provide into the implementation of the existing international human rights framework pertaining to the rights of older persons.
On behalf of the ICC, Executive Secretary of the National Commission on Human Rights of Mexico Nabor Carrillo, delivered a statement during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples. In the statement, the ICC commented on the prevailing obstacles that impede the full enjoyment of indigenous peoples’ rights identified by the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism and made suggestions for the upcoming Wold Conference.
Finally, the ICC contributed to general debate regarding the follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, welcoming the Secretary General reports on NHRIs and the ICC accreditation process respectively. Mr. Francis Johen Anak Adam, Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, delivered the statement on the ICC’s behalf.
ICC activities in support of NHRI engagement at HRC 27
The ICC Geneva Office provided assistance and advice to NHIRs and regional coordinators in their engagement with the Council, both prior to and during its 27th session.Activities included: Identifying opportunities to engage; assisting in the preparation of written submissions and oral statements presented to the HRC; organising meetings and liaising with key stakeholders; delivering statements on behalf of “A” status NHRIs; and reporting back.
It was agreed that in the future sessions video statement would incorporate captioning to facilitate their comprehension in the plenary.
ConclusionThe 27th Session of the Council witnessed a substantive level of NHRI engagement in light of previous sessions and the many opportunities for engagement afforded to NHRIs as a result of ICC advocacy.
These include the right to:
The ICC strongly encourages NHRIs to exercise these rights and stands ready to assist NHRIs effectively engage with the various mechanisms of the Council.While in person NHRI participation at Council sessions is an invaluable opportunity to engage directly with UN human rights mechanisms, pre-recorded video statements presented before the Council serve as an effective and powerful tool of engagement for NHRIs who may not be able to travel to Geneva. The ICC encourages NHRIs to make use of this tool.A major success for the ICC at this session was the adoption, without a vote, of the resolution on NHRIs, which focuses on the role of the NHRIs in prevention and includes language on reprisals.
 Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, Australian Human Rights Commission, Defensor del Pueblo de Bolivia, Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humans de Chile, Defensor del Pueblo de la República de Colombia, Defensoría del Pueblo de la República de Ecuador, Office of the Public Defender of Georgia, German Institute for Human Rights, Great Britain Equality and Human Rights Commission, Greek National Commission for Human Rights, Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia, National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, New Zealand Human Rights Commission, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission, South African Human Rights Commission and the Defensoría del Pueblo of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights.
Link to the webcast:
Clustered ID with IE on older persons and SR oncontemporary forms of slavery
Clustered ID with SR on water and sanitation and SR onhazardous wastes
Clustered ID with SR on truth, justice, reparation andnon-recurrence and the WG on arbitrary detention
ID with WGenforced disappearances
Clustered ID with SR on indigenous peoples and EM on theRights of Indigenous Peoples