Council Alert: Preview of Human Rights Council's 29th session

09.06.2015

The Human Rights Council will hold its 29th regular session in Geneva from 15 June to 3 July. The Council will have the opportunity to act to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders and civil society space when it examines the report of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association and adopts a resolution on combatting all forms of violence and discrimination against women.

(Geneva) - The Human Rights Council will hold its 29th regular session at the United Nations in Geneva from 15 June to 3 July.

At this session the Council will have the opportunity to act to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights defenders and civil society space at the international and national levels when it examines the report of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association and adopts a resolution on combatting all forms of violence and discrimination against women.

Significantly during the session, Norway, along with other States, will deliver a statement calling on all States to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their vital work free from arbitrary detention and other restrictions.

The programme of work for the session includes 3 panel discussions. Given the limited time available, as it did in its 27th and 28th sessions, the Council has limited the overall time for its interactive dialogues with Special Procedures to four hours, by reducing the individual speaking time for States. The overall time allocated to civil society was in general already limited to 30 minutes, and will remain unchanged. During the organisational meeting the United States of America voiced its concern that other measures to address the increasing workload of the Council should be considered.

Amendment to the Programme of Work

The Council is likely to follow the Human Rights Council Bureau’s proposal made during the Bureau meeting on 8 June, to have a more in-depth discussion on the human rights of migrants on Monday 15 June after the general debate on item 2. This means that the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on minority issues would take place subsequently and the Council would therefore meet until 9 pm on 15 June. 

Informal dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

On Tuesday 26 May, for the first time, the organisational meeting for the 29th session of the Council was followed by an informal Human Rights Council briefing with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The informal briefing offers an important new platform for the Council to respond rapidly to global human rights concerns, and to interact more effectively with the High Commissioner.

Corporate accountability and human rights

On Tuesday 16 June, there will be an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. During the interactive dialogue ISHR intends to highlight the obligations of States to protect human rights defenders working on corporate accountability issues, and to adopt legislation and policy in that regard, including as it relates to the contribution made by business to the expansion of civil society space.

On Wednesday 17 June, there will be an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. During the interactive dialogue, ISHR intends to identify the need for States and businesses to protect the right to freedom of assembly and of association for all human rights defenders working on corporate accountability issues.

ISHR, in collaboration with FIDH, Civicus, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Norway are organising a side event on Freedom of Association and Natural Resources on Thursday 18 June. This event will focus on opportunities and initiatives to strengthen the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of natural resource exploitation. Discussions will explore measures that stakeholders can adopt to ensure that these rights are taken into consideration as initiatives are developed. This event is scheduled for 15.00 – 17.00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room IX.

Women’s rights

The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women, and the interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Working Group on Discrimination against Women will take place during the 29th session of the Council.

ISHR seeks to ensure that the Human Rights Council explicitly recognises the work of women human rights defenders in its agenda on women’s rights and gender equality, and addresses their specific protection needs. This will be a particular focus of our work relation to the resolution to be adopted at this session on combatting all forms of violence and discrimination against women, which includes a focus on domestic violence against women. It is important that women human rights defenders are able participate in an inclusive and genuine manner in the process of negotiating Human Rights Council outcomes, particularly those initiatives concerning the rights of women

Sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights

The High Commissioner will present his report on ‘sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination [against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity], in application of existing international human rights law and standards’ (A/HRC/29/32). The report draws on recent findings of UN human rights bodies, regional organisations and NGOs, and information submitted by governments. It looks at developments that have occurred at the national level, at the regional human rights mechanisms as well as at the UN level. It is to be presented tentatively on 22 June 2015.

The report concludes that ‘while some progress has been made since the first study in 2011, the overall picture remains one of continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions. These constitute serious human rights violations, often perpetrated with impunity, indicating that current arrangements to protect the human rights of LGBT and intersex persons are inadequate’. It adds that ‘there is as yet no dedicated human rights mechanism at the international level that has a systematic and comprehensive approach to the human rights situation of LGBT and intersex persons’.

Civil society organisations encourage delegations to generate support amongst current and future member and observer States of the Council, in order to develop a clear and strategic multi-year vision. Such a strategy would include longer-term goals and objectives, but also build on and map out a series of immediate actions, including cross-regional joint statements, high-level parallel events, and a series of resolutions to maintain momentum on the issue at the Council.

On Tuesday 23 June ISHR, ILGA, Civicus and others are holding a side event on Voices of LGBTI defenders from 12pm to 1.30 pm at Room VIII at Palais des Nations.

Country-specific developments

The mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire is due to expire and will need to be renewed at this session of the Council. It is expected that the African Group will support a resolution to that effect. Such a resolution should reflect developments in the area of human rights defenders, as set out in ISHR’s briefing paper, and can help in in the protection of human rights defenders and ensure the effective and full implementation of the law on the protection of human rights defenders.

A resolution on the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus will be tabled by the European Union.

In response to the serious, widespread and ongoing violations and abuses of human rights committed in South Sudan, civil society organisations from South Sudan and international NGOs have sought to ensure appropriate attention by the Human Rights Council. In a public letter to the Council sent this morning, civil society requested that a resolution is passed establishing a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on human rights violations in South Sudan.

Several thematic reports on the situation of human rights in specific countries or regions will be presented to the Council this session, including the reports of the experts on the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gaza, and the Syrian Arab Republic. The Council will also conduct interactive dialogues with the experts on these countries. These meetings provide an opportunity for human rights defenders to highlight human rights violations in those countries.

The Council will adopt the UPR Reports of 14 countries from its 21st session. This will provide an opportunity for Guinea, Kenya, Laos, Spain and Turkey to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as recommended by ISHR’s briefing papers on these countries.

In the case of at Kenya, Kuwait and Spain, ISHR intends to make a statement during their UPR adoptions highlighting the recommendations made to each of these countries in respect of the protection of human rights defenders. In particular, Spain previously co-sponsored a resolution in relation to human rights defenders, therefore if it rejected recommendations in relation to human rights defenders this would confirm a negative shift in its position on defenders – especially in light of proposed legislative restrictions placed on the right to peaceful assembly.

Appointment of Mandate Holders

A key new mandate holder for human rights defenders that will be appointed at this session is the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. This Special Rapporteur will have the opportunity to work with other experts on protecting free expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and human rights defenders, to identify specific threats to rights in the context of massive and indiscriminate surveillance. The creation of this mandate provides global leadership to protect the right to privacy for human rights advocates.

Other mandate holders that will be appointed by the Council during this session also include a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, a Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and an Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.

The Council will also appoint a member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention from the Western European and other States, and a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances from the Asia-Pacific States.

In view of the pending appointments, it is relevant to recall that in appointing mandate holders, the President of the Council is required to give particular attention to the need to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest. Mandate holders should also be genuinely committed to the independence and effectiveness of the Special Procedures system, and have a demonstrated commitment to civil society engagement and participation.

Panel discussions

There are three panel discussions scheduled for this session:

  • The United Arab Emirates will lead a panel discussion on realising the equal enjoyment of the right to education for every girl. This panel will focus on challenges faced and provide an opportunity to share good practices.
  • Canada and Chile will lead a full day discussion on human rights of women. The discussion will focus on the issue of domestic violence, including challenges faced and domestic violence experiences across various social strata and cultural groups.
  • Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia will lead a panel discussion on the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment by all persons of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The discussion will explore the diverse range of opportunities available to States to combat terrorism.
  • Iran intended to lead a biennial panel discussion on unilateral coercive measures and human rights. However, following a request by Iran, this panel discussion has been postponed to the 30th session.
Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 29th session (as announced at the organisational meeting on 26 May):
  • Resolution on the impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights (Morocco, Austria, Indonesia and Poland)
  • Resolution in celebration of the anniversaries of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Russia)
  • Resolution on preventing and eliminating early and forced marriage (Sierra Leone, Canada, UK, Uruguay, Zambia, Argentina)
  • Resolution on the incompatibility between democracy and racism (Brazil, MERCOSUR)
  • Resolution on the human rights situation in the Arab Syrian Republic (UK, core group)
  • Resolution on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, jurors and assessors, and the independence of lawyers (Hungary, Australia, Botswana)
  • Resolution on accelerating efforts to eliminate all kinds of violence against women (Canada)
  • Resolution on the right to education (Portugal)
  • Resolution on human rights and the regulation of acquisition and use of firearms (Peru)
  • Resolution on the freedom of artistic expression (USA)
  • Resolution on the protection of the human rights of migrants (Mexico, Philippines)
  • Possible resolution on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (Mexico)
  • Resolution on women, peace and security (Namibia)
  • Resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus (European Union)
  • Resolution on the human rights of refugees (Japan, Estonia, Morocco, Romania, Ethiopia)
  • Resolution on the elimination of discrimination against women in law and practice (Colombia, Mexico)
Key Side Events

ISHR Events

  • Reprisals and Attacks against Defenders: Enhancing the Accountability of Violations, Tuesday 16 June, led by FIDH, OMCT and ISHR. This event is scheduled for 15:00-17:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXII.
  • Freedom of Association and Natural Resources, Thursday 18 June, presented jointly by ISHR, FIDH, Civicus, OHCHR and Norway. This event is scheduled for 15:00 – 17:00 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room IX.
  • Using Information and Communication Technologies to Protect Human Rights Defenders, Friday 19 June, cosponsored event between ISHR and the Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions. This event is scheduled for 12:00 – 13:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room XXIII.
  • Voices of LGBTI defenders, Tuesday 23 June, cosponsored by ISHR, ILGA, Civicus and others. This event is scheduled for 12 noon – 13:30 at Palais des Nations in Geneva in Room VIII.
  • Ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and journalists in Iraq and Syria, Thursday 25 June. Cosponsored by Gulf Center for Human Rights, Reporters Sans Frontiers, International Media Support, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), CIVICUS, Metro Center for Defending Journalists' Rights. The event is scheduled for 11:30 -13:00 at Palais des Nations in room IX. 

Other Key Events

  • Free & Equal in Rights: Introduction of the OHCHR Report on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, organised by the permanent missions of Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay on 11th June. This event is scheduled for 10:00 – 12:00 at Palais des Nations, Room XXVII.
  • Human Rights Policy Responses to the Growth of Private Actors in Education, organised by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Geneva Academy, the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative and the Right to Education Project on 12 June. This event is scheduled for 12:45 at Auditorium A2 at the Graduate Institute, Geneva.
  • Lockdown in Tibet, led by Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on 15 June. This event is scheduled for 15.00 at Palais des Nations in room Room IX.
  • Human rights in South Sudan, 15 June, led by the East and Horn of Africa Human Defenders Project. This event is scheduled for 11:30 – 13:00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXVII.
  • Human rights of migrants at sea, 15 June, led by Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO). This event is scheduled for 17:00 – 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Room XXII.
  • Human rights in China: Tibet autonomous region, 15 June, led by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. This event is scheduled for 15:00 – 17:00 at Palais des Nations in Room IX.
  • Anti-terrorism laws in Africa, 16 June, led by Human Rights Watch. This event is scheduled for 11:00 – 12:30 at Palais des Nations in Room IX.
  • Human rights in Malaysia, 16 June, led by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). This event is scheduled for 15:00 – 16:30 at Palais des Nations in Room IX.
  • Holding business accountable across borders: Seeking options and solutions to enhanced accountability and access to remedy, 16 June, led by OHCHR and the permanent missions of Russia, India, Ghana, Argentina and Norway. This event is scheduled for 14.00 – 16.00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXV.    
  • Universality of human rights, 17 June, led by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. This event is scheduled for 17:00 – 18:30 at Palais des Nations in Room XXVI.
  • Women’s human rights defenders in the MENA region, 18 June, led by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation. This event is scheduled for 10:00 – 12:00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXII.
  • Freedoms of Association in Asia, 19 June, led by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). This event is scheduled for 11:00 – 12:00 at Palais des Nation in Room XXVI.
  • Extrajudicial Executions in India - World Premiere of ‘Healing Manipur’ - a Documentary Film, 19 June, led by Asian Legal Research Centre. This event is scheduled for 15.30-17.00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXV.
  • Human rights and corruption, 23 June, led by Penal Reform International. This event is scheduled for 12:00 – 13:00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXII.
  • Human Rights in Eritrea, 24 June, led by Human Rights Watch. This event is scheduled for 15.00 – 16.30 at Palais des Nations in Room XXV.
  • Human rights in Pakistan, 26 June, led by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA). This event is scheduled for 12:00 – 13:30 at Palais des Nations in Room XXV.
  • Civil society reactions, 30 June, led by the Centre for Civil and Political Rights. This event is scheduled for 14:00 – 16:00 at Palais des Nations in Room IX.
  • Civil society and the commonwealth, 1 July, led by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). This event is scheduled for 13:00 – 15:00 at Palais des Nations in Room XXIII.
     
Please note – This is a selection of the events from the full program of NGO parallel events (as at 8 June 2015) which can be found here

Category:

Topic
  • Corporate accountability
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • Women's rights and WHRD
Mechanism
  • Human Rights Committee (CCPR)