The integrity of the human rights system is at risk, warns Human Rights Council President

04.11.2016

Human Rights Council President has urged the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee not to reverse the Human Rights Council's decision to appoint an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

(New York) The Human Rights Council President, Ambassador CHOI Kyonglim, has made a forceful appeal to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee not to re-open decisions made by the Human Rights Council.

This came on the day that the African Group tabled a resolution seeking to halt the work of the Human Rights Council’s LGBT Independent Expert. Such a step would set a dangerous precedent, said the President, and ‘undermine the credibility of the Human Rights Council and of the UN system’.

This year's dialogue between the Human Rights Council President and the Third Committee was overwhelmingly focused on the question of whether the Independent Expert, created by the Human Rights Council, should continue its work. Underlying this are questions about institutional relationship between the Human Rights Council, and the Third Committee and General Assembly.  

'The Human Rights Council President was absolutely correct in representing this challenge to the Independent Expert for what it is - a serious challenge to the international rights system: a challenge that must be resisted', said ISHR's Eleanor Openshaw.

Many States spoke energetically about the legality of the Independent Expert’s mandate, the authority of the Human Rights Council, and the dangerous precedent set by seeking to defer on a Special Procedures – most particularly one that is already up and running.

The African Group resolution calls for the suspension of the activities of the Special Rapporteur ‘in order to allow time for further consultations to determine the legal basis upon which the mandate of the special procedure’.

During the debate with the Human Rights Council President, Botswana delivered a statement in name of the African Group noting that they were ‘strongly concerned by attempts to introduce and impose new notions and concepts that were not internationally agreed upon’ and that these attempts ‘seriously jeopardize the entire international human rights framework as they create divisions.’ They call for States ‘to refrain from attempting to give priority to the rights of certain individuals’.

‘The creation of this mandate came after two Council resolutions and OHCHR reports that persuaded the Council that there is a need for particular attention on the situation of violence and discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,’ said ISHR’s Pooja Patel. ‘That’s what thematic rapporteurs do - focus on issues and groups that the Council considers need particular attention.’

Denmark rejected the idea that an Independent Expert’s mandate created by a voted resolution was illegitimate, noting that several current Special Rapporteurships were created on that basis. The Human Rights President pushed back on the notion that politicisation and selectivity informs the establishment of Special Procedures. The Procedures are diverse in terms of the countries and themes they focus on, he said.

States such as Algeria and Ethiopia made spirited interventions in defence of the need to respect the decisions of the Human Rights Council.

‘It has to be seen if these States are courageous enough to defend the human rights system against other pressures and interests,’ said Ms Openshaw.

The other issue that received considerable attention during the dialogue with the President, was the importance of civil society’s contribution to the UN, and the urgent need to ensure their protection from intimidation and reprisals. The Human Rights Council President noted that civil society is ‘not just nice to have’ but ‘at the core of our work’. He said he looked to ASG Gilmour to ‘raise the profile of reprisals within the system’.

The President's dialogue with the Third Committee was run at the same time as a discussion held by the UNGA on the President’s report. Algeria expressed frustration at the scheduling of meetings, something the Chair promised to address with the President of the UNGA.

Category:

Topic
  • LGBT rights
Mechanism
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
  • UN Human Rights Council