ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL URGES SYRIA TO GRANT IMMEDIATE ACCESS TO THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY

Council Adopts 10 Texts, Appoints Expert on Human Rights of Older Persons, Extends Mandate of Expert on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
27 September 2013

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted 10 texts in which it strongly condemned the continued gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law in Syria and urged the Government to grant immediate access to the commission of inquiry; appointed an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; and extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Concerning the continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Council demanded that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry, including by granting it immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the country.  The Council strongly condemned the continued gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, as well as any human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed opposition groups.  It deplored the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and urged the international community to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees. 

Speaking as the concerned country, Syria said that the resolution was biased and selective and the co-sponsors had rejected the contributions offered by the Syrian delegation.  Syria had advised the commission of inquiry to work on the basis of impartiality, but it continued to ignore the thousands of foreign mercenaries and Al-Qaeda fighters who had infiltrated Syria.  The Chairperson of the commission of inquiry had been received but he had continued in his hostility against the Syrian people.
In other resolutions, the Council decided to appoint, for a period of three years, an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.  It
also decided to extend, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

On civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment, the Council decided to organize a panel discussion on the importance of the promotion and protection of civil society space, which would contribute to the identification of challenges facing States in their efforts to ensure space for civil society and lessons learnt and good practices.

The Council also adopted a resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, in which it requested the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee to prepare a research-based report containing recommendations on a mechanism to assess the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and to promote accountability, and the Office of the High Commissioner to organize a workshop on the impact of the application of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by the affected populations.
Concerning female genital mutilation, the Council called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a high-level panel discussion on the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation.

With regard to the World Programme for Human Rights Education, the Council decided to make media professionals and journalists the focus group of the third phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.  On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, the Council decided to convene a panel discussion on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to draft a study on the prevention of human rights violations and its practical implementation.

On regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, the Council requested the High Commissioner to hold a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights.  A resolution was also adopted on conscientious objection to military service.

Introducing texts were Iran, Gabon, Costa Rica, Ukraine, Croatia, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Ireland and the United States.

Speaking in general comments or in explanations of the vote before or after the vote were Venezuela, United States, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Estonia speaking on behalf of the European Union, Tunisia, Cuba, Pakistan, Chile, Costa Rica, Austria, Spain, India, Qatar, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

The Human Rights Council will meet on Friday, 27 September at 3 p.m. to continue to take action on pending resolutions and decisions before it concludes its twenty-fourth regular session.

Action on Resolutions and Decisions under the Agenda Item on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.5/Rev.1) on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 15 against and 1 abstention, as orally revised, the Council decides to give due consideration to the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights issues in its task concerning the implementation of the right to development; requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to pay due attention and give urgent consideration to the present resolution; requests the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee to prepare a research-based report containing recommendations on a mechanism to assess the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and to promote accountability, and to present a progress report of the requested research-based report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session for its consideration.  The Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner, taking into account the proceedings of the workshop held on 5 April 2013, to organize, prior to the twenty-seventh session, a workshop on the impact of the application of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by the affected populations; and to prepare a report on the proceedings of the workshop and to submit it to the Council at its twenty-seventh session.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (31): Angola, Argentina, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Against (15): Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and United States.

Abstentions (1): Kazakhstan.


Iran, introducing resolution L.5/Rev.1 on human rights and unilateral coercive measures on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Non-Aligned Movement recognized that unilateral coercive measures in the form of economic sanctions could have far-reaching implications for the human rights of the general population of targeted States.  The Non-Aligned Movement reiterated that democracy and good governance at the national and international levels, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to development, were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  Hence, the adoption, for any cause of consideration, of coercive and unilateral measures, rules and policies against developing countries was contrary to the basic rights of their populations.  The resolution stipulated that long-term unilateral coercive measures may result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in States concerned.  It also recognized the importance of the quantitative and qualitative documentation of the negative impacts associated with the application of unilateral coercive measures.

Venezuela, in a general comment, said that it fully supported the resolution.  Unilateral coercive measures undermined not only international law but also the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.  Venezuela firmly rejected the enactment of laws and rules that had extraterritorial effect that gave rise to interference into domestic affairs.

Estonia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, thanked Iran for having organized consultations on this draft resolution.  Economic sanctions should always be adopted in accordance with international law and respect human rights.  The basic needs of targeted persons should be respected.  The Human Rights Council could not to endorse in any ways decisions made by States.  Several paragraphs of the draft resolution overburdened the United Nations human rights mechanism with no clear human rights objective.  In particular, workshops were redundant and exceeded the capacity of the Human Rights Council.  There was no need to urge all Special Procedures, who were independent, to study a specific question.  The European Union recalled its position that the Council was not the appropriate forum to address this issue and called for a vote on the draft resolution.

Draft Resolution L.5 Rev.1 was adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 1 abstention and 15 against.

Action on Decision on High-Level Panel on Female Genital Mutilation

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.11) on a high-level panel on the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation, including cross-border female genital mutilation, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to organize a high-level panel discussion at its twenty-sixth session on the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation, so that an exchange of views may take place concerning the progress made, good practices, and challenges and obstacles encountered in the effort to combat female genital mutilation.  The Council calls upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a high-level panel discussion on the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation and to consult with States and other stakeholders with a view to ensuring their participation in the panel discussion; and to prepare a summary report on the high-level panel discussion.

Gabon, introducing draft decision L.11 on a high-level panel on the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation on behalf of the African Group, said that according to the World Health Organization female genital mutilations were interventions including total or partial removal of female genital organs following non-medical practices.  Although many texts had been adopted to fight this practice and despite condemnation of this practice, many challenges remained to be met to eliminate this scourge.  Every person had the right to live in dignity.  The world could not afford to any longer accept the consequences of female genital mutilation.  This draft decision called for a high-level panel for the identification of good practices in combating female genital mutilation.

Draft decision L.11 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the World Programme for Human Rights Education

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.12/Rev.1) on the World Programme for Human Rights Education, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to make media professionals and journalists the focus group of the third phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a plan of action for the third phase of the World Programme (2015-2019) in consultation with States, relevant intergovernmental organizations, in particular the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, national human rights institutions and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, and to submit the plan of action for consideration by the Council at its twenty-seventh session; and recommends that the Secretary-General ensure that an adequate component of United Nations assistance, to be provided at the request of Member States to develop their national systems of promotion and protection of human rights, is available to support human rights education and training.

Costa Rica, introducing draft resolution L.12 Rev.1 on the World Programme for Human Rights Education on behalf of the Human Rights Education and Training Platform, said that this issue was well-known to the Council.  The World Programme was structured in 5-year phases.  The draft resolution provided that the next phase would focus on media professionals and journalists, stressing the need for non-discrimination.  With the draft resolution, the Council had a new opportunity to reaffirm the fundamental importance of human rights education and training in the effective promotion and the protection of all human rights. 

United States was pleased to join consensus on the draft resolution, which underscored the critical role of human rights education in promoting all human rights and freedoms.  Promoting human rights education was an excellent tool for the promotion of human rights.  Human rights education could cultivate respect for all human rights without discrimination, especially for law enforcement agencies.  In joining the consensus on this text, the United States stressed the importance of human rights education, despite the structural constraints faced by the Federal Government in this area.  This draft resolution did not imply that States had to implement provisions of international instruments to which they were not a party.

Draft resolution L.12 Rev. 1 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Role of Prevention in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.14/Rev.1) on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council affirms the importance of effective preventive measures as a part of overall strategies for the promotion and protection of all human rights; and stresses that States should promote supportive and enabling environments for the prevention of human rights violations.  The Council decides to convene at its twenty-seventh session, a panel discussion on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights; requests the Office of the High Commissioner to organize the above-mentioned panel discussion in consultation with States and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to ensuring multi-stakeholder participation in the panel discussion; to prepare a report on the outcome of the panel discussion and to present it to the Council at its twenty-eighth session; and to draft a study on the prevention of the human rights violations and its practical implementation, and to present the study to the Council at its thirtieth session.

Ukraine, introducing draft resolution L.14/Rev.1 on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights, said that the text was a follow-up to the corresponding resolution of the eighteenth session of the Council and was based on its consensus language.  In view of the fundamental functions of the Human Rights Council according to General Assembly resolution 60/251, the draft aimed at creating an enabling environment for elaboration, through an effective broad and inclusive multi-stakeholder discussion, of the concept of prevention of human rights violations.  To this end the draft suggested concrete steps for a two-year period, the most important of which were a panel discussion in the Council in September 2014 on the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights and the preparation by the Office of a study on the prevention of human rights violations and its practical implementation, to be presented to the Council in September 2015.

Draft resolution L.14/Rev.1 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Conscientious Objection to Military Service

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.23) on conscientious objection to military service, adopted without a vote, the Council recognizes that the right to conscientious objection to military service can be derived from the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief; calls upon States that do not have such a system to establish independent and impartial decision-making bodies with the task of determining whether a conscientious objection to military service is genuinely held in a specific case; calls upon States to consider releasing individuals imprisoned or detained solely on the basis of their conscientious objection to military service; and to respect freedom of expression of those who support conscientious objectors or who support the right of conscientious objection to military service; and invites States to consider including in their national reports information on domestic provisions related to the right to conscientious objection.

Croatia, introducing draft resolution L.23 on conscientious objection to  military service on behalf of Costa Rica, Croatia and Poland, said that conscientious objection to military service was an important component of the international human rights framework.  The right to conscientious objection to military service was a part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as various regional human rights instruments.  Croatia expressed its sincere appreciation to all co-sponsors and interested delegations for their constructive approach and flexibility. 

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was pleased to join the consensus on the draft resolution, which was balanced.  The United States fully supported the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  However, there was no explicit right to conscientious objection to military service in international law.  Those who refused to perform their military duty had to be prepared to face the legal consequences of their decision. 

Republic of Korea, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, made it clear that it in principle it could not fully support the resolution because it was a country with compulsory military service under which conscientious objection was not permitted by law.  However, it did not wish to block the consensus on the resolution and so it had decided to join the consensus.  It would, however, continue reviewing and researching the issue.

Draft resolution L.23 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.31) on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, adopted without a vote, as orally revised, the Council welcomes the recognition of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation by the General Assembly and the Council.  The Council calls upon States to integrate the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the principles of equality and non-discrimination into the post-2015 development agenda; and decides to extend, for a period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; requests the Special Rapporteur to continue to report, on an annual basis, to the Council and to submit an annual report to the General Assembly; and requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur with all the resources and assistance necessary for the effective fulfilment of the mandate.

Spain, introducing draft resolution L.31 on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said that the resolution was a joint effort with Germany.  The access to safe drinking water and sanitation was fundamental to ensure the right to life.  The international community should be aware of the remaining challenges to achieve universal access to safe drinking water.  The work of the Special Rapporteur had contributed to the realization of this right and her analysis of the financing of the policies in the area was very useful.  The draft resolution called for an unrestricted access without discrimination to sufficient, affordable and acceptable water for personal and domestic use.  Access to sanitation in all spheres of life had to be ensured to uphold human dignity.  The use and access to sanitation had sensitive connotations in many societies.  Therefore, decisions in this field had to be made with caution. 

Germany, introducing draft resolution L.31, thanked all delegations for their constructive spirit during the negotiations.  Besides the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, the draft resolution called for the inclusion of the right to safe drinking water in the post-2015 development agenda in a sustainable way.

Ecuador, in a general comment, said that it supported, generally speaking, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the resolution.  However, there was no hierarchy between rights and the fact that a right was considered as fundamental did not imply that it was self-sufficient for its full realization.

Brazil, in a general comment, noted that the proposed draft resolution implied that the concept should be necessarily part of the framework now under discussion.  A decision on the possible inclusion in the post-2015 agenda would be taken by the inter-governmental fora created for this purpose, which were in the preliminary stages of discussion.

Argentina, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this right had been recognized by a number of international instruments.  One of the main responsibilities of States was to ensure that their inhabitants had access to water and sanitation.   

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was pleased to the join consensus on this draft resolution and recognised the importance and challenges of meeting basic needs for water and sanitation to support health, economic development, peace and security.  The United States remained deeply committed to addressing the global challenges relating to water and sanitation and was working to improve water resources management and promote cooperation on transboundary water.  The United States supported States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to progressively realise the right to water.  The United States stressed that preambular paragraph 14 of the resolution had to be consistent with those of previous resolutions, which noted that transboundary water issues fell outside the scope of this right.  The United States did not accept all of the analysis and conclusions in the Special Rapporteur’s most recent report.  While pleased to join the consensus, the United States had to dissociate from consensus on preambular paragraph 15.  The language used to define the right to water in that paragraph was based on the views of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but the Council had never previously adopted it, nor did it appear in an international agreement.  The United States did not agree with this definition due to the expansive way this right had been articulated.  This language did not represent a consensus position.

Draft Resolution L.31 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.35) on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council welcomes the progress made by Governments in the establishment of regional and sub-regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, and their achievements in all regions of the world; and requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide the necessary resources to enable the Office of the High Commissioner to support the above-mentioned activities appropriately.  The Council requests the  High Commissioner to hold, in 2014, a workshop on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights to take stock of developments since the workshop in 2012, with the participation of relevant experts from international, regional, sub-regional and inter-regional human rights mechanisms; and to present to the Council, at its twenty-eighth session, a report containing a summary of the discussions held at the above-mentioned workshop and on the progress towards the implementation of the present resolution.

Belgium, introducing draft resolution L.35 on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, said that the spirit of the text corresponded with the need for good cooperation.  International and regional mechanisms to protect human rights had to cooperate, have their considerations feed into each other and exchange good practices in order to be more effective and better protect human rights in the field.  The pooling of information and joint actions released human and financial resources for new tasks as well.  The text also proposed the organisation of a seminar by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2014 to which all regional mechanisms were invited.  The seminar’s theme would be on economic, social and cultural rights, in response to numerous requests made to the High Commissioner to further and better work on the realization of these rights.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, was concerned about the financial implications of this resolution.  The costs associated with the workshop and with the report on regional arrangements were inordinately expensive.  The United States noted that it was not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and did not recognise any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, recognised the importance of this draft resolution and would continue to participate in discussions on the role of regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Japan would join the consensus; however the financial implications of this resolution were worrying.  The Council should make the best of the available resources.   

Draft Resolution L.35 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on the Human Rights of Older Persons

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.37/Rev.1) on the human rights of older persons, adopted without a vote, the Council recognizes the challenges related to the enjoyment of all human rights that older persons face; calls upon all States to promote and ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for older persons; and decides to appoint, for a period of three years, an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.  The Council requests the Independent Expert to report annually to the Council and to present his/her first report at its twenty-seventh session; and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the above-mentioned comprehensive report of the Independent Expert is brought to the attention of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing; and calls upon all Governments to cooperate with the Independent Expert, and invites them to provide him/her with all the necessary information related to the mandate.

Argentina, introducing draft resolution L.37/Rev.1 on the human rights of older persons on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that ageing of the population was affecting all regions of the world and that it presented the international community with distinctive challenges.  The Human Rights Council, through resolution 21/23 of September 2012, had recognized that this group faced challenges in the enjoyment of human rights.  Today’s draft text created the mandate of an independent expert to look at the situation of older persons, including awareness-raising of challenges, assessments of implementation of existing instruments and identification of good practices, among others.  The Council would thus have a procedure to effectively tackle the promotion and protection of the human rights of older persons.

Switzerland, in a general comment, said it attached a great importance to the well-being of older persons.  The promotion and protection of human rights of older persons faced significant gaps.  Switzerland had already suggested in the past that the Council consider the establishment of an Independent Expert mandate on this question.  The Council should take stock of best practices and establish indicators on why the human rights of older persons were not sufficiently respected.  Switzerland welcomed the initiative and joined the consensus.  However, Switzerland was not a co-sponsor of the draft resolution.  There was lack of transparency during the negotiations.  After three rounds of informal consultations, a new version of the draft was submitted without the possibility to discuss the changes made to the draft.  This was not in line with the principles of transparency and good faith.  The open-ended Working Group on ageing should wait for the final conclusions of the Special Rapporteur before resuming its work.  Duplication between Geneva and New York processes should be avoided.

Estonia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said the situation of older persons was very high on the European Union agenda.  The European Commission, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, had organised an event on this issue.  The mandate established by this resolution should not duplicate the efforts of other bodies.  The Independent Expert should, in consultation with States and other stakeholders, identify gaps in the respect of the  human rights of older persons.  The obstacles to participation and the low awareness of older persons on their rights had to be addressed.  While avoiding duplication, the comprehensive report of the Independent Expert should represent a useful input to the work of the Working Group on ageing, which should make full use of the Independent Expert’s final report before deciding the way forward to promote and protect the human rights of older persons.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that ageing issues were considered throughout the United Nations, not only in the General Assembly and Commission on Social Development, but in other mechanisms as well.  It was stressed that the new Human Rights Council Independent Expert had to focus on activities on working with States to enable them to implement existing law and policies and to protect the rights of older persons, and must not duplicate the activities of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing.  The best way to avoid duplication was for the Open-Ended Working Group to suspend its operations during the Independent Expert’s mandate.  The resolution also triggered significant costs. 

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, supported the aim of this draft resolution and greatly appreciated the sincere efforts to respond to proposed revisions. However, Japan was concerned that the mandate of the Independent Expert to be established by this resolution would overlap with the mandate of the Open-Ended Working Group.  The budgetary implications were also regrettable.  Yet, as it supported the objective of this resolution, Japan would join consensus. 

Draft resolution L.37/Rev.1 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution on Civil Society Space: Creating and Maintaining, in Law and in Practice, a Safe and Enabling Environment

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.24) on civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment, adopted without a vote, as orally revised, the Council decides to organize, at its twenty-fifth session, a panel discussion on the importance of the promotion and protection of civil society space, which will contribute to the identification of challenges facing States in their efforts to ensure space for civil society and lessons learnt and good practices; and invites the Office of the High Commissioner to liaise with States, relevant United Nations bodies and agencies, relevant special procedures, civil society and other stakeholders with a view to ensuring their participation in the panel. 

Amendments to L.24 – L.51, L.52 and L.54 – were rejected by votes.  L. 51 was rejected by a vote of 12 for, 28 against and 7 abstentions.  L.52 was rejected by a vote of 11 in favour, 28 against and 8 abstentions.  L.54 was rejected by a vote of 14 in favour, 27 against and 6 abstentions.

Ireland, introducing draft resolution L.24 on civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment, said the draft resolution addressed the issue of civil society space as a human rights concern.  The draft resolution was not limited to the role of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights, nor did it seek to give any new rights to individuals.  Civil society space was not an abstract idea; it was the environment in which civil society operated.  Ireland was concerned with domestic legal and administrative provisions, and their application, which should facilitate freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression.  Failure by States to promote and protect civil society space and ensure a safe and enabling environment undermined existing commitments and obligations under international human rights law.  States could and should create positive conditions that supported the role of civil society and encouraged citizens’ participation.  The draft resolution requested a panel discussion on the importance of the promotion and protection of civil society space.  It emphasised the positive partnership role between States and civil society and referred to concerns regarding the shrinkage of civil society space.  As it was a new initiative on an issue that had not been addressed by the Council, it was important to provide some of the context and reasoning as to why this panel discussion was so necessary.  Ireland thanked all delegations for their engagement and the constructive spirit in which the negotiations were undertaken.  Ireland made oral amendments to the text.

Tunisia, introducing resolution L.24, said that Tunisia had been working with different countries in this priority area for any democracy wishing to protect human rights and to provide a decent living standard for its population.  Like in many other countries, assistance and contribution from civil society were necessary to meet the needs of the population, particularly during times of crisis.  Tunisia bore in mind the number of civil society organizations active in addressing the needs of vulnerable parts of the population and these were the kind of organizations whose contribution this resolution, and the ensuing panel, wished to highlight.  Tunisia called all members of the Council to vote in favour of this draft.

Japan, introducing draft resolution L.24, said that civil society played an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights, especially after natural disasters and in emergency situations.  States had to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society organizations.  The draft resolution provided an excellent opportunity to further the reflection on this important topic.

Cuba, introducing amendments to draft resolution L.24, said that civil society played an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Cuba had proposed amendments to ensure a balanced approach to this important question.  The Panel had to have precise guidelines in order to ensure that it could contribute positively to the reflection on this issue.  Non-governmental organizations needed to enjoy the necessary space to operate.  Cuba deplored the refusal of several consensual wordings by a number of delegations.  Cuba noted that the right to development was crucial to ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society in developing countries.  Cuba hoped that the Council would adopt the amendments put forward on behalf of a group of countries.

Pakistan, introducing amendments to draft resolution L.24, thanked Ireland for introducing the draft which addressed the situation of civil society.  Pakistan had positively engaged with the sponsors but since its concerns had not been accommodated, it was submitting a number of amendments.  Subsequent to the oral revisions made to the draft resolution, Pakistan would withdraw L.53.  Concerning draft amendment L.54, Pakistan believed that the participation of civil society should be within relevant rules and procedures, as set up by the Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

Ireland said that the core group of co-sponsors opposed amendments on preambular paragraph 9, which described the challenges facing civil society in parts of world in a very concise way.  This paragraph was descriptive and factual.  With regard to document L.52, the core group of sponsors opposed this amendment.  Human rights were not ranked in order of importance, but the rights mentioned in the paragraph were the most relevant in the context of civil society space.  It was not an exhaustive list.  In a spirit of compromise, the core group had agreed to amend the text in order to accommodate some concerns expressed.  Ireland called upon all Members of the Council to oppose these amendments.

In a spirit of compromise, the core group offered to accept most of the amendments made by Pakistan.  Even though the scope of the paragraph was much broader, the offer was not accepted.  Given the broad consensus on the resolution on human rights defenders, it was not possible to change previously agreed wording on this issue.  Ireland stressed that no new right was created by the resolution and called upon the Members of the Council to oppose this amendment.

Venezuela, in a general comment on draft resolution L.24 and its amendments, expressed support for the amendments submitted by Cuba and was satisfied by the explanation provided.

Switzerland, in a general comment on draft resolution L.24 and its amendments, was grateful to the co-sponsors for the draft dealing with space for civil society and was grateful for the way in which work on this resolution had been carried out.  Switzerland regretted that some States had felt it necessary to submit amendments to this draft and supported the draft resolution as presented, convinced that civil society had an essential role to play at all levels for the protection of human rights and in other areas.  Since the amendments would water down the text or were not relevant, Switzerland would vote against the amendments and in favour of the draft resolution.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the resolution underscored the important role of civil society in promoting and protecting human rights.  States had to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment in which civil society could operate freely.  The United States noted that the draft resolution mentioned the realisation of the right to development in a list of issues on which civil society could help.  The United States thanked the core group of co-sponsors and regretted the decision of States to table numerous amendments that were not related to the creation of an enabling environment for civil society.  The United States called upon Member States to oppose the amendments made.

Japan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that as one of the main sponsors of this resolution, it called upon Member States of the Council to vote against the amendments proposed by Cuba and Pakistan.

Chile, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.24 and its amendments, said Chile had presented the draft because it considered it crucial to have a discussion through a panel on this issue concerning the work of civil society.  States were submitting amendments on aspects which Chile considered to be substantive and would change the core of the initiative.  Many States had recognised in their interventions the importance of the work of civil society and for this reason Chile deplored the current situation.  Chile supported what had been said by Ireland and reiterated that States had the responsibility to support civil society.

Costa Rica, speaking in a general comment on draft resolution L.24 and its amendments, was grateful to the co-sponsors and said that the text was the result of efforts to achieve consensus.  The search for consensus had had a price and for this reason Costa Rica could not accept the amendments, which weakened the text and the proposals.  What would this Council be without the contributions from civil society?  What impact would it have in the field and how would it be able to defend victims without the contributions from civil society?  Without a civil society working in a safe and enabling environment, States and victims would not benefit from their work.  Costa Rica supported the work of civil society and would therefore vote against all the amendments.   

Austria, in a general comment, thanked the main sponsors of this draft resolution, which was very relevant.  Austria would have preferred an adoption by consensus; however it did not seem possible.  If the preambular paragraph 9 was to be removed, the main problem would not be explained.  A clear affirmation of the right to unhindered access to communications with international and regional bodies was needed.  As a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, Austria opposed the amendments.

Spain, in a general comment, said that the draft resolution should be supported by all Members of the Council and deplored the fact that the amendments submitted by Cuba and Pakistan ran counter the spirit of the resolution.  Spain would vote against these amendments and appealed to all Members of the Council to vote against.

Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft amendment L.51, said that it could not support this amendment because this was an essential paragraph.  It was the duty of the States not to hamper the activities of civil society.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of a group of countries in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the countries appreciated the constructive role of civil society and its cooperation with the Council.  States should create safe and enabling environments for civil society.  The resolution should be concise and should not comment on civil society space at large.  The Council was not the competent forum for creating civil society space, especially in humanitarian crisis situations.  The countries were disappointed that their general concerns were not accommodated, even though they were made in a constructive spirit.  The countries dissociated themselves from the consensus on relevant paragraphs where amendments had been proposed.

India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said there was a lot of confusion on what constituted civil society.  There was a conceptual uncertainty and a lack of consensus on what civil society was.  As a vibrant democratic society, India had a very active civil society and valued its involvement in the making of various policies.  Consultations on numerous matters were held.  Civil society had to abide by the law.  Caution should be exercised and the resolution suffered from conceptual ambiguity.  It ignored the fact that there were conflicts and opposing views within civil society.  Civil society organizations could misuse their status.  The draft resolution did not mention the need for responsibility, openness and accountability of civil society, which would enhance the confidence of States in civil society.  At the United Nations level, civil society was explicitly dealt with in the relevant Economic and Social Council resolutions.  India regretted that the draft resolution did not address its concerns.  India dissociated itself from the paragraphs where amendments had been proposed.

Brazil, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, congratulated the sponsors of this resolution and supported it.  For Brazil the participation of civil society was welcome and the space for civil society was guaranteed.

Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked sponsors and those facilitating this resolution and endorsed the work of civil society organizations.  Qatar endorsed the content of the resolution, in particular, the establishment of a panel discussion on this topic on the basis of the importance granted to the role of civil society, taking into consideration the specificities of each country.  The amendments introduced had been acceptable, given the need to take into account the needs of the different States and particular circumstance.  Since countries had different views and there was a need to take into account cultural and religious specificities, the Gulf Cooperation Council States noted their reservations on these paragraphs and asked the President to take note of this.

Ethiopia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it recognized the critical role of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national, regional and international level.  The right to association was the right of all citizens and should be enforced through their active participation.  Civil society could play a critical role in the overall development of a country and advance their objectives, if and only if an environment for the growth of transparent, member-based and member-driven grass root civil society, providing for accountability and predictability, was put in place.  Ethiopia also believed that the engagement and activities of civil society should be in line with national legislations and consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and other international obligations of the State in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and that the participation of civil society at the United Nations should be in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

Draft resolution L.24 was adopted without a vote.

Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Action on Resolution on the Continuing Grave Deterioration of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

In a resolution (A/HRC/24/L.38) on the continuing grave deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 40 in favour, 1 against and 6 abstentions, as orally revised, the Council welcomes the report of the commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; and demands that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the commission of inquiry, including by granting it immediate, full and unfettered access throughout the Syrian Arab Republic.  The Council strongly condemns the continued gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias, as well as any human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed opposition groups; stresses the need to ensure that those responsible for such violations and abuses are held to account, and encourages States to take steps to support and enable current and future accountability efforts; strongly condemns all massacres in the Syrian Arab Republic, including most recently the massacre in the Al Ghouta region; calls on all groups in the Syrian Arab Republic to refrain from retaliation and violence; deplores the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and urges the international community to provide urgent financial support to enable the host countries to respond to the growing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees; demands that the Syrian authorities facilitate, and all other parties to the conflict do not hinder, the full, immediate and safe access of the United Nations and humanitarian actors, and calls upon all Member States to fully fund the United Nations appeals.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (40): Angola, Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Montenegro, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and United States.

Against (1): Venezuela.

Abstentions (6): Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Philippines.


United States, introducing draft resolution L.38 on behalf of a group of countries, said that the text had been orally revised and circulated in the room.  It was with great regret and grave concern that it was necessary to present yet another resolution on Syria at the Council.  For more than two years the Council had expressed its deepest concern over the deteriorating human rights situation and the armed conflict in Syria.  The crisis was having a devastating impact on civilians, who were denied their fundamental freedoms and the ability to exercise their human rights.  The United States remained concerned about indiscriminate attacks and the deliberate targeting of protected civilians and condemned the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.  The resolution had three key aims: to condemn in the strongest terms the ongoing violations of international humanitarian law; to call for full and unfettered access throughout Syria for the United Nations mandated commission of inquiry and humanitarian access; and to highlight the need for accountability for serious violations.  The resolution represented a measured response to the grave human rights and humanitarian situation on the ground and deserved the broadest support within the Council.

Switzerland, in a general comment, said that it was alarmed at the ongoing deterioration of the situation in humanitarian terms in Syria and deplored violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which continued on a daily basis.  It was important that the violence stopped and that all measures to find a political solution were taken.  Switzerland would support the adoption of the resolution.  Nevertheless it regretted that the resolution did not sufficiently highlight the need for justice and the need for a negotiated solution.  It was the responsibility of the Council to show the path forward for the settlement of disputes and the resolution should, faced with the general impunity in Syria, insist on the need for the question to be dealt with at an international level, more specifically by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the situation in Syria was deteriorating and numerous violations continued unabated.  The European Union condemned the numerous violations and those responsible must be held accountable; there could be no impunity for those perpetrating these crimes.  The European Union reiterated the authority of the International Criminal Court in this regard.  The European Union called on United Nations Member States to support the work of the commission of inquiry.  The resolution highlighted the issue of accountability, but the European Union would have preferred stronger language and noted that whenever a State failed to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Security Council could refer such a situation to the International Criminal Court.  The European Union condemned in the strongest term the use of chemical weapons in an attack in which numerous civilians lost their lives.  The European Union called on all parties to respect international law and to grant access to humanitarian organizations, and to States to fund United Nations appeals.

Indonesia, in a general comment, reiterated its firm position in joining the international community’s expressed concern about continued human rights violations in Syria and it could not but condemn the perpetrators of those violations.  This, regrettably, had not been well captured in the draft resolution.

Brazil, in a general comment, said the international community must stop the death of innocent civilians and cease the use of arms - conventional or chemical - by the Government and the rebels in Syria.  There was no military solution but only a solution based on dialogue.  Brazil supported the agreement reached between the United States and Russia for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.  It was up to the Government of Syria to fully implement this in a spirit of cooperation and good faith.  The text could have been improved and Brazil regretted that differently from previous resolutions the draft resolution did not contain a clear condemnation of all violence, nor a clear demand for all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and international humanitarian law. 

Syria, speaking as the concerned country on draft resolution L.38, said that the draft resolution was biased and selective and the co-sponsors had rejected the contributions offered by the Syrian delegation.  The question was: wouldn’t’ calls for humanitarian assistance go beyond the mandate of the Council, as well as the references to the Commission of Inquiry which had been established in a politicised manner.  The Commission’s work had been based on testimonies and media reports and lacked credibility?  Syria had advised the Commission to work on the basis of impartiality, but it continued to ignore the thousands of foreign mercenaries and Al-Qaeda fighters who had infiltrated Syria.  The work of the Commission had also ignored the actions of Qatar and its provision of funding for foreign mercenaries.  Saudi Arabia in the past used to be the sound counsellor but it had publically become a supporter of violence and destruction in Syria.  Did this not mean that the Commission’s report was biased and that they were contributing to terrorism by ignoring these criminal roles? The Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry had been received but he had continued in his hostility against the Syrian people.  Ms. Carla del Ponte, Member of the Commission of Inquiry, had also been invited, hoping to establish a solid basis for cooperation and dialogue, but the Chairperson of the Commission had prohibited her from travelling.  Syria would not recognise any resolution on which it was not consulted and reaffirmed its rejection of any resolution sponsored by countries that believed they could buy the consciences and votes of people with money from oil and gas.  Across the globe there were demonstrations against a military attack and further bloodshed in Syria. 

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it rejected the presentation of draft resolutions against States violating the principle of respect for sovereignty and non interference in domestic affairs, when they did not include the view of the country concerned.  Venezuela condemned the politicization of these mandates.  Some of the States co-sponsoring this draft resolution had committed and continued to commit horrendous mass and flagrant violations of human rights.  However, there were no similar initiatives against these States, showing there was a selective approach.  The draft text was unbalanced and therefore did not tackle in an objective way the situation taking place in the country.  Venezuela supported initiatives aimed at finding and encouraging a negotiated, political and peaceful solution among Syrians themselves.  Venezuela was vigorously opposed to this draft resolution and requested a vote.

Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it saw with great concern the events that were taking place in Syria over the last few months and expressed its solidarity with the people of Syria and the Middle East.  The conflict had degenerated into an international conflict where not only non-state actors but also foreign Governments were directly or indirectly involved through the provision of combatants, of arms or of financial support to the opposition forces.  These unacceptable actions constituted violations of the principles of neutrality and non-interference in the domestic affairs of a State.  Ecuador reiterated the need for the international community to support a single and exclusively diplomatic solution to the conflict and categorically condemned attempts to use force against a State outside of international law. 
Argentina, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, expressed its grave concern at the situation in Syria and the notorious use of force and reiterated its commitment to the territorial integrity of Syria and the need to support the aspirations of the Syrian people.  Argentina urged States to stop providing weapons to the parties to conflict.  As a party to the conventions on chemical and biological weapons, Argentina highlighted that those who used these weapons should face  accountability, particularly in front of the International Criminal Court.  Dialogue and the democratic participation of all sectors were the only possible solution.

India, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, strongly condemned all violence and violations of human rights irrespective of the perpetrators.  India condemned the use of chemical weapons and reiterated its support for the elimination of chemical weapons.  India reiterated the view that there could only be a political solution to this crisis.  The Council should not confuse its mandate by meddling with humanitarian issues, for this reason, and other concerns with the resolution, India would abstain from the voting on this resolution.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was deeply concerned over the violence and human rights violations in Syria.  The Council had to play its due role.  This was a time for diplomacy and for the collective wisdom of the international community to stop the carnage and degradation of the situation in Syria.  Pakistan would vote in favour of the resolution to express solidarity with the people of Syria.

Draft resolution L.38 was adopted with a vote of 40 in favour, one against and 6 abstentions.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/128E