Highlights of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council

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1 July 2016

The 32nd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) started off by celebrating the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Council, its achievements and current challenges. Through the month, the Council considered a wealth of issues: protection against violence and discrimination, education, youth and Human Rights, migration, Internally Displaced Persons, Human Rights situation in Syria, Burundi and Ukraine.

At this session, the Council adopted 31 resolutions, 23 by consensus and 8 by vote.

Following is a selection of outcomes: 

 Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual oreintation and gender identity

In a landmark resolution, the Human Rights Council (HRC) decided to appoint an independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, for a period a three years. His mandate would be to assess the implementation of existing international human rights instruments to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination.(A/HRC/32/L.2)

Youth and Human Rights

For the first time, the HRC adopted by consensus a resolution on Youth and Human Rights.The resolution decided to convene a panel discussion on the theme ‘Youth and human rights’ at its thirty-third session with a primary focus on identifying challenges and empowerment of youth in the exercise of human rights. ( A/HRC/32/L.1)

 Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of migrants

The Special Rapporteur, Mr. François Crépeau, emphasized the conditions of vulnerable migrant groups, reaffirming the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants. The Council reaffirmed that when exercising their national sovereignty by implementing border security measures, states still have a duty to comply with their obligations under international law.

The Council adopted a resolution expressing serious concerns about these groups, especially unaccompanied migrant children, recognizing the need to provide adequate protection and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations such as women, children and persons with disabilities, and facilitate the voluntary return to their homes.

The HRC extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur Mr François Crépeau and requested the High Commissioner to develop principles and guidelines on the protection of human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations within large movements.(A/HRC/32/L.22)

 The Special Rapporteur on the right to education

The report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Kishore Singh, addressed issues and challenges to the right to education in the digital age, with a focus on higher education. The Council recognized that access to information and communications technology can facilitate the realization of the right to education by promoting inclusive and quality education. Mr Singh, however, expressed concern that digital technology can lead to digital divide and that the cost of investment in technology infrastructure can lead to greater disparity in access to education between countries. He highlighted the necessity to preserve education as a public good.

The Council adopted a resolution  urging all Member States to fully implement the right to education by addressing the quality and equity of education, building capacities for teachers, encouraging the availability and regularity of online educational frameworks. The Council recognized the significant importance of investment in public education to the maximum of available resources, urging all States to expand educational opportunities for all without discrimination. (A/HRC/32/L.33) 

 Special Rapporteur on the elimination of violence against women

The Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Dubravka Simonovic, called upon the establishment of a femicide watch, to gather data on victims as well as perpetrators to facilitate the prosecution process.

In response, the Council recognized the absence of adequate gender statistics and or specific data on the incidence of violence against women and girls, its context and perpetrators, impeding any strategy to address both the causes and consequences of violence against women and encouraged States to improve its collection.  The HRC adopted a resolution underscoring that the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence must be pursued in conflict situation as well as in times of peace, both in the public and private spheres, including the family, and extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for a period of three years.

The resolution called upon States to take effective action and provide adequate funding to respond to violence against women and girls, including indigenous women, by creating an enabling environment to report incidents of violence; providing capacity-building training to law-enforcement and social officials to promote the safety of victims of violence as well as physical and psychological rehabilitation.(A/HRC/32/L.28)

 Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Dr. Charloka Beyani, stated that displacement was at the highest level ever recorded with 59.5 million people forcibly displaced in 2014, compared with 37.5 million a decade ago. He focused on ensuring a global collective response to promote action for improving protection and respect of the IDPs and highlighted the need to resolve Development-Induced and business-related Internal Displacement. Development projects can forced displacement of communities from their lands. Dr Beyani called upon Member States to establish national legal frameworks relating to development, land and non-state actors that intersect with legal provisions relating to IDPs and their related rights to conform to international standards.

The HRC extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of three years and requested the Special Rapporteur to continue to submit annual reports on the implementation of the mandate to the HRC and the General Assembly, and to make suggestions including on the impact of measures taken at the inter-agency level. (A/HRC/21/L.13)


At this session, the HRC focused on the Syrian Arab Republic, Belarus, Eritrea, South Sudan, Namibia, Niger, Mozambique, Estonia, Belgium, Paraguay, Denmark, Palau, Somalia, Seychelles, Soloman Islands, Latvia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi. Following are a few highlights: 

 Commission Of Inquiry on the Syria Arab Republic

The Chair Person of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry of Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, emphasized that “ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities” and that “Genocide has occurred and is ongoing” in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Commission noted with no path to international criminal justice available, it is likely that the first such prosecution of ISIS crimes against the Yazidis will take place in a domestic jurisdiction. It is essential that States enact laws against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and repeated its call for the Security Council to refer urgently the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. 

The HRC adopted a resolution to demand the immediate release of all people’s arbitrarily detained, including women, children, human rights defenders, humanitarian aid providers and journalists and further demands all parties work urgently towards the comprehensive implementation of the Geneva communiqué. (A/HRC/32/L.9)

The Human Rights situation in Ukraine

Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, recalled that the conflict in Ukraine had killed more than 9'000 people to this day. He said there had been an increase in use of heavy weaponry since mid-May. He added that the freedom of movement of civilians continued to be extremely curtailed with a negative impact that on lives of civilians.

The delegate of the concerned country, Ukraine, underlined the fact that the situation was in fact deteriorating further, demanding that Russian authorities allow access to Human Rights organizations to Crimea and that they immediately cease the aggression against Ukraine.

The delegate of the Russian Federation stated that the situation in Ukraine had not changed with the special report and that the violations of Human Rights by the Ukrainian government remained unaddressed and for whom the Ukrainian authorities must be held responsible for the restrictions of freedom.

The HRC adopted a resolution inviting the OHCHR to continue reporting on its findings on the situation. (A/HRC/32/L.21) 

The High Commissioner report on Burundi

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, detailed the tragic deterioration in the human rights situation in Burundi in the year following the political crisis of April 2015. Violations of human rights in the country include extrajudicial killings, murders, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions and sexual violence. The High Commissioner noted that the perpetrators of these violations were members of the security and intelligence forces and other armed groups. Hundreds of people remained in jail because of their real or perceived opposition to the government.

The government of Burundi disagreed with these statements, and added that the crisis was not to be seen in ethnic terms, that, in fact, there were no ethnic tensions between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Burundi. The High Commissioner urged the government of Burundi to proceed to an examination of the legality of all detentions, to ensure the right to fair trial and to bring to justice the perpetrators.

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