HRC38 | Key issues on agenda of June 2018 session

13.06.2018

The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 18 June to 6 July 2018, will consider issues including sexual orientation and gender identiy, freedom of association, assembly, expression and women's rights. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Burundi, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Belarus among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda.

The UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 38th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 18 June to 6 July 2018.

Stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC38 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

Don’t miss this side event organised by ISHR:

  • Public policies on the protection of human rights defenders, on 20 Jun 2018 at 16:00-17:00 in Room V
  • ‘Non-News’: Restrictions on freedom of speech in China on 21 June 2018 at 11:30-13:00 in Room XXIV
  • Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 on 21 Jun 2018 at 15:00-16:30 in Room XXIII

#HRC38 | Thematic areas of interest

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The first interactive dialogue with the new Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be held between 9:00 and 12:00 on Monday 18 June. The Council will consider the new report of the mandate holder as well as the report of the country visit to Argentina.

In a joint written submission to the Independent Expert submitted in the lead-up to the presentation of his report to the Council, a group of 12 NGOs detail State obligations that if  implemented, would work towards ensuring that LGBTI defenders’ rights are protected.

According to these State obligations based in existing international human rights law and articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles (YP) and Yogyakarta Principles plus 10, (YP +10) States should, among other things, exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish, and provide remedies for discrimination, violence, and other harm on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) and enact a law to establish, designate, or maintain an adequately resourced mechanism for the protection of LGBTI rights defenders.

The submission also makes calls on the Independent Expert to:

  • Use the authoritative interpretations in the YP and the YP +10 in engagement with States on issues relating to LGBTI defenders; and

  • Engage with other relevant Special Procedures mandate holders and LGBTI rights defenders to identify protection needs of these individuals and organisations.

ISHR and ILGA will organise a side-event that will build on this submission and discuss in more detail State obligations set out in the YP +10. The event will take place on 21 June 2018 from 15:00 to 16:30 in Room XXIII.

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisal, not only constitute a violation of the rights of that individual, they also constitute violations of international human rights law and undermine the human rights system.

The passage of the resolution on reprisals last September at the 36th session of the Council that affirmed the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; as well as the appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary-General as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals in October 2016 are indications of action taken by the UN on this issue. However, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council's agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out.

During the organisational meeting held on 4 June, the President of the Council again stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those participating in the Council’s work, and the obligation of States to prevent intimidation or reprisals. Further, the President informed the Bureau that he has received a number of complaints of acts of reprisal and intimidation, and underscored his practice to consider carefully and respond promptly to allegations brought to his attention. The President further informed that he had discussed this issue with the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights during his recent visit to New York, including on how to strengthen the cooperation and coordination among the Presidency, the Assistant Secretary-General and OHCHR in this area to strengthen the response.

In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals by issuing formal statements, conducting press-briefings, corresponding directly with the State concerned, publicly releasing such correspondence with and from States, and insist on undertakings from the State concerned to investigate, hold the perpetrators accountable and report back to the Council concerning measures taken.

Women human rights defenders and women's rights

The annual full day discussion on the human rights of women will take place on Thursday 21 June at 16h to 18h. It will focus on the specific impact of online violence on the work of women human rights defenders. It is crucial that the Council's discussions and resolutions recognise the critical role of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and organisations led by women and girls as rights holders and agents of change.

ISHR will support joint advocacy on the resolutions on violence against women and discrimination against women as well as deliver a statement by a coalition of women human rights defenders at the annual full day discussion.

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on 20 June between 09:00 and 12:00 and will consider her report including the report of her visit to Australia. The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice and will consider their reports including a report on the country visit to Samoa and Chad.

Business and human rights

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. It examines the duty of States to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises to whom they provide support for trade and investment promotion. It will also consider the Working Group’s report on its mission to Canada, Peru, and on the sixth session of the Forum on Business and Human Rights. Both country reports contain specific sections analysing the situation of human rights defenders, with the report on Peru raising serious concerns about the high level of threats, attacks and violence against local leaders and HRDs. The interactive dialogue will be an opportunity for States to follow-up to recommendations made in the UPR in that regard.

The Council will also consider the report of the High Commissioner on the effectiveness of State-based non-judicial mechanisms that are relevant for the respect by business enterprises for human rights, including in a cross-border context, including an addendum on improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse through State-based non-judicial mechanisms and on the relevance of human rights due diligence to determinations of corporate liability.

The core group on the resolution business and human rights (Argentina, Norway, Ghana and Russia) have announced that they will present a resolution at this Council session to request the OHCHR to continue with the accountability and remedy report with a focus on non-State based remedy mechanisms. The first informal consultation on the draft resolution will be held on 18 June at 16:30 in Room XXIV.

Acting preventatively and responding to country situations of concern

Colombia announced on behalf of the core group (Sierra Leone, Norway, and Switzerland) that they will present a draft resolution this session on the implementation of the prevention mandate of the Council as per paragraph 5f of the General Assembly resolution 60/251, building on the joint statements delivered in by Norway at the 36th session and by Sierra Leone at the 37th session of the Council. 

The resolution will call for the creation of an expert group to present to the Council at its 42nd session recommendation on improving the implementation of its prevention mandate. The first informal consultation will be held on 19 June.

Other key thematic reports

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on 20 June between 09:00 and 12:00 as well as consider his first report, with a focus on the safe return and reintegration of migrants, and his mission report to Nepal.

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Switzerland with Costa Rica also announced that they will be running the resolution on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests. The first informal consultations will be held on 19 June from 11:30 to 12:30 in Room V.

The Council will also hold an interactive dialogue and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which examines regulation of user-generated content online.

The Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner on procedures and practices in respect of civil society engagement with international and regional organizations. The core group on the civil society space resolution (Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone and Tunisia) announced that they will present a resolution this session.

The Council will also consider the reports of and hold interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, including the report of his mission to Poland, and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including reports of her missions to Iraq and El Salvador.

#HRC38 | Country-specific developments

Burundi

During its 36th session, the Council passed two resolutions on Burundi; one led by the European Union extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry and a second resolution by the African Group that requested OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts to engage with the Burundian authorities and all other stakeholders to “collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances in accordance with international standards and to forward to the judicial authorities of Burundi such information” in order to establish the truth and ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. Read here ISHR’s analysis of the two resolutions.

At the 38th session, the Council will hear the oral briefing by the High Commissioner on the mission of OHCHR on 4 July between 15:00 and 18:00. The Council will also hear an oral briefing by the Commission of Inquiry on 27 June between 09:00 and 12:00.

ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms, which taken together clearly warrant an invitation to the General Assembly to consider the suspension of Burundi as a member of the Council.

For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here.

China

By any measure, the Chinese government is not living up to the commitments to protect and promote human rights inherent in its Human Rights Council membership. Since the twelve-country joint statement on the human rights situation in China in March 2016, there has been no concerted effort to use the Council space creatively to call for accountability and transparency related to violations in China. This, despite the fact that in July 2017, Chinese security authorities presided over the death in custody of Liu Xiaobo, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in detention since Carl von Ossietzky died in Nazi Germany in 1938.

ISHR calls on States to take joint and individual actions at the 38th session. Such action is warranted based on the above criteria and should take into account the dangerous environment in the country for human rights and those who defend them, and should serve to hold China accountable to the standards to which the government has committed. Specifically, we urge States to:

  • Condemn China’s refusal to allow Liu Xia, a poet and activist and the wife of Liu Xiaobo, to travel and communicate freely. She has been under de facto house arrest, and occasionally held incommunicado in an unknown location, since October 2010. Her physical and psychological health has deteriorated significantly, especially since Liu Xiaobo’s death in custody in July 2017.

  • Demand full access for independent observers, including possibly UN experts, to Xinjiang in order to verify the facts related to the reports of large-scale detentions of Uyghurs and restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religious belief.

  • Continue to call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained and/or held incommunicado, including Wang Quanzhang, Gui Minhai, Tashi Wangchuk, Lee Ming-che, and Yu Wensheng.

Eritrea

The Council will hold an interactive dialogue with and consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea on 25 June. 

ISHR joined a cross-re­gional group of non-governmental organisations to share their serious concerns over the sys­te­ma­tic, wide­spread and gross human rights violations that continue to be committed with impunity in Eritrea.

The organisations urged Member and Observer States of the Council to support and co-sponsor at the 38th session a streamlined resolution that accurately reflects the gravity of the situation on the ground, renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under the Council’s agenda item 4, and sets out a framework for needed reforms to improve the human rights situation in the country and advance accountability.

Other country situations:

The Council will hear reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in many instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates.They include:

  • An interactive dialogue on the oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Rakhine State of Myanmar, and the oral report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
  • An enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the findings of the team of international experts on the situation in the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and on the oral update by OHCHR on the situation of human rights in the DRC
  • An oral update by the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Ukraine
  • An oral update by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic
  • An interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Haiti and consideration of the report of the High Commissioner
  • An oral update by the High Commissioner on the technical assistance provided to Georgia
  • An interactive dialogue with the Commission of inquiry on Syria (oral update) and consideration of the summary report of OHCHR on the high-level panel discussion on violations of the human rights of children in Syria
  • An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus on his report

Universal Periodic Review (UPR): Adoption of UPR reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports as part of the 29th session of the UPR. These reports list recommendations the following States under review are expected to implement: France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, the Bahamas, Burundi, Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Liechtenstein, and Serbia.

ISHR supports human rights defenders in their interaction with the UPR. We publish and submit briefing papers regarding the situation facing human rights defenders in some States under review and advocate for the UPR to be used as mechanism to support and protect human rights defenders on the ground. This session of the Council will provide an opportunity for Burundi, Mali and the United Arab Emirates to to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers on those countries.

#HRC38 | Council programme, appointments and resolutions

During the organisational meeting for the 38th session held on 4 June 2018, the President of the Human Rights Council presented the programme of work. It includes four panels of discussion and 52 reports. States also announced at least 16 resolutions. However, more resolutions are expected to be presented during the session as per the 2018 voluntary yearly calendar of thematic resolutions.

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council has proposed candidates for the following nine vacancies of mandate holders to be filled at this session:

  1. Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
  2. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;
  3. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from African States;
  4. Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, member from Eastern European States;
  5. Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, member from Western European and other 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.

Officers of the Human Rights Council

The Council appointed new Bureau members due to the departure of the Ambassadors of Chile and Germany. The members of the Bureau for 2018 now comprises of the following Ambassadors:

  • Mr Vojislav ŠUC (Slovenia), President of the Human Rights Council
  • Mr Evan P. GARCIA (Philippines), Vice President
  • Mr. Cristobal Gonzalez-Aller Jurado (Spain), Vice President
  • Mr Juan Eduardo EGUIGUREN (Chile), Vice President and Rapporteur
  • Mr François Xavier NGARAMBÉ (Rwanda), Vice President

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 38th session

At the organisational meeting the following resolutions were announced (States sponsoring the resolution in brackets):

  1. Elimination of discrimination against women (Colombia and Mexico)
  2. Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (Canada)
  3. The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet (Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, USA)
  4. Civil society space (Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone, Tunisia)
  5. Human rights and climate change (Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines)
  6. Intensifying global efforts and sharing good practices to effectively eliminate female genital mutilation (African group)
  7. The right to education (Portugal)
  8. Business and Human Rights (Norway, Russia, Ghana, Argentina)
  9. Impact of arms transfers on human rights (Peru, Ecuador)
  10. Racism and Democracy (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay)
  11. HIV and Human Rights (Brazil, Colombia, Mozambique, Thailand, Portugal)
  12. Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK, US)
  13. Situation of human rights in Eritrea (Djibouti, Somalia)
  14. Situation of human rights in Belarus (EU)
  15. Resolution on the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of peaceful protests (Costa Rica, Switzerland)
  16. Resolution on the implementation of the prevention mandate of the Human Rights Council under paragraph 5f of the General Assembly resolution 60/251 (Norway, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Colombia)

Furthermore, according to the voluntary calendar for resolutions, it is possible that the following resolutions could also be presented at this session:

  1. Protection of the family (Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Uganda)
  2. Contribution of development to the promotion and protection of human rights (China)
  3. Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (Non-aligned movement)
  4. Elaboration of international legally binding instrument on TNCs and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights (Ecuador, South Africa)

Panel discussions

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org. Four panel discussions are scheduled for this upcoming session:

  • The annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women will be held in two sessions. First, on 21 June at 16:00 to 18:00, the panel will focus on the impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organizations in digital spaces. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The second panel will be held on 22 June at 10:00 to 12:00 and will focus on advancing women’s rights through access and participation in information and communication technologies (ICTs). The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • A panel discussion will be held on 26 June at 16:00 to 18:00 on the human rights of internally displaced persons in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The concept note of the panel is available here.
  • The annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights will be held on 4 July at 10:00 to 12:00. The topic will be human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals: enhancing human rights technical cooperation and capacity-building to contribute to the effective and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The concept note of the panel is available here.

 

#HRC38 | Side events

  • Public policies on the protection of human rights defenders is an event organised by ISHR, Center for Justice and International Law and Protection International. It will be held on 20 Jun 2018 at 16:00-17:00 in Room V. The event will discuss developments in laws and policies for the protection of defenders and make clear recommendations to enhance the protection of defenders.
  • "Non-news": Restrictions on media freedoms and free speech in China is an event organised by ISHR, the Committee on the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and FIDH. The panelists, who include the Special rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, journalists and human rights defenders, will discuss the overall situation of freedom of expression in China and draw attention to different ways that freedoms are suppressed online and off, and in different parts of the country. In addition, ISHR and CPJ will present their joint submission for the UPR of China. It will be held on 21 June 2018 at 11:30-13:00 in Room XXIV
  • Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 is an event organised by ISHR, ILGA, TGEU and GATE will be held on 21 Jun 2018 at 15:00-16:30 in Room XXIII. The panelists will discuss Yogyakarta Principles +10 and State obligations that if implemented, would work towards ensuring that LGBTI defenders’ rights are protected.

Other key side events at the Council:

States and NGOs are holding a series of events. You can download the list of State events here and NGO events here.

  • Rights Eroded: The effects of closing civic space on WHRDs is an event organised by the Permanent Mission of Norway, Association for Women's Rights in Development, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, the Urgent Action Fund and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. It will be held on 19 June 2018 at 15:00-16:30 in Room XXIII. The event aims to analyze closing civic space through an intersectional, gender, and human rights-based lens and highlight current challenges and resistance strategies for WHRDs, to identify how implementation of the Declaration can be strengthened to address the needs of WHRDs in the context of closing civic space and to provide recommendations on how protection gaps for WHRDs can be better addressed through inter-governmental spaces, such as the Council.
  • Ethiopia: What next? is an event organised by CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) to discuss what civil society expects from domestic, regional and international stakeholders to address systemic human rights issues and advance civic space in Ethiopia. It will take place on Tuesday 19 June from 12:00-13:30 in Room XXIII and will gather a group of human rights defenders from Ethiopia and the broader sub-region.
  • Privacy in the digital age: A dialogue on the challenges and opportunities, organised by the Permanent Missions of Germany, Brazil and Global Partners Digital. It will be held on 20 June at 14:00 to 15:00 in Room XXVII. ISHR Programme Manager Sarah Brooks will speak on the panel.
  • Persecution of journalists across borders: Iran, the BBC & beyond, organised by the BBC World Service, Douthy Street Chambers, National Union of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists. It will be held on 20 June at 16:00 to 17:00 in Room XV. The panel includes the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, journalists from BBC and Deutsche Welle. 
  • Addressing backsliding on civic space in the EU: Despite strong national, regional and international commitments, several European Union countries have experienced a steep regression on protecting and promoting the rights essential to civic space. The event will provide an opportunity to present findings from a new report and European wide perception survey carried out by Civil Society Europe exploring civic space in the EU. The event is organised by CIVICUS will be held on 22 June 11:30-13:00 Room XXVI
  • A side event on the Human rights situation in Eritrea, sponsored by a large group of national, regional and international NGOs and coordinated by the Eritrean Law Society, will take place on Monday 25 June from 09:00-10:00 in Room XXVI. Panelists will include Eritrean human rights defenders.
  • Addressing Tanzania's mounting human rights crisis is an event organised by DefendDefenders and CIVICUS, with the support of members of the Vuka! coalition and NGO partners. It will take place on Tuesday 26 June from 14:00-15:00 in Room XXIV. On this occasion, DefendDefenders will launch a report on Tanzania's rapidly shrinking civic space. The event will gather Tanzanian journalists, human rights defenders, and advocates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: UN Photo_Jean-Marc Ferré