Highlights of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council

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GENEVA – On Monday, 29 February 2016, the 31st session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) started off with interesting debates, panel discussions, individual and clustered dialogues. The Council, established in 2006, gathers 3 times a year in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Throughout the month the council divides its agenda into 10 items which are open to discussion. Alongside, States and civil society organizations hold parallel events to raise their concerns on human rights related issues, share their experiences and encourage an even more interactive dialogue.


Resolutions and outcomes

A/HRC/31/L.35 Freedom of religion or belief: The Council expressed its deep concern at the increasing numbers of acts of violence against religious minorities, closely related to religious hatred, discrimination and intolerance. It is essential to not stereotype and negatively profile individuals on the basis of their religion or belief. The resolution also strongly condemns acts of terrorism, targeting also individuals belonging to religious communities.

A/HRC/31/L.8 The rights of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies: States were urged to promote and implement measures eliminating discrimination against women and girls with disabilities in situations of risk. The resolution calls on international cooperation in order to prevent the creation of new barriers.

Current Special Rapporteurs list

Documents and Resolutions

 

Individual interactive dialogue with Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syrian Arab Republic: 

On Tuesday, 15th March the HRC focused on the Syrian Arab Republic. Mr. Pinheiro presented the report on the human rights situation in Syria. Following the agreement on the cessation of hostilities of 26 February 2015 a significant decrease of violent incidents has been reported. Despite this improvement, serious violations still take place and the Commission demands that the Syrian authorities meet their responsibility to protect the Syrian population, to release all prisoners of war immediately and to respect the cessation of hostilities. Mr. Pinheiro stressed that only a political solution will truly change the situation in Syria.

 

Focus on …

The Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic strongly disapproved the report presented by the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. According to him the report was based on biased, politicized and selective information. He went as far as to accuse the Commission to differentiate between “good” and “bad” terrorists and to politically cover terrorism. Underlining that the Syrian government implements its obligations towards human rights as much as it can, given the current situation, and brings relief to everybody without discrimination, the Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic met predominantly with disagreement.

The resolution A/HRC/31/L.5 strongly condemns all acts of violence and violations of human rights, while only mentioning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) as specific example for such perpetrations.

 

Panel discussion on Preventing Violent Extremism

The panel discussion aimed at examining the human rights dimensions of preventing (PVE) and countering violent extremism (CVE). The speakers and participants stressed that governments need to ensure that any PVE and CVE measures comply with international humanitarian law and universal human rights. The panel recognized the existing risk for governments to make use of such measures in order to advance their own interests.

Another main issue addressed by the panel concerned the definition of the terms “violent extremism” and “terrorism”. The Human Rights Council was urged by the states to propose a precise working definition.

The resolution A/HRC/31/L.13 requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the negative effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-fourth session.

 

Individual interactive dialogue with SR Ms. Yanghee Lee on Myanmar: 

On Monday, 14March, the Human Rights Council discussed the human rights situation in Myanmar. Special Rapporteur Ms. Yanghee Lee reported that Myanmar has released thousands of prisoners since 2011 and has made important improvements concerning human rights related issues. However, despite the effort made by Myanmar, the country still has a long way to go in order to call itself a democracy and to fully integrate human rights into the system. Especially the matter of the Rohingya minority is a problem which needs to be addressed urgently by the state.

The resolution A/HRC/31/L.30/Rev.1 emphasizes the importance to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of one year and call upon the government of Myanmar to take further necessary steps to consolidate the progress made to put an end to all remaining human rights violations.

 

Panel discussion on the Climate Change and Right to Health

The Council held a panel discussion on climate change and right to health. The main topic discussed at this panel was the relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Human rights are essential in the dialogue on climate change and right to health to achieve a sustainable development and a long-lasting improvement.

Violence is considered a major public health as well as a human rights threatening factor and represents a threat multiplier, especially in combination with climate impacts.

“No matter how challenging addressing such realities are, they are our common responsibility to do so and that makes it a matter of human rights.” - Said by Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

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