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UN's Human Rights Council Passes 28 Resolutions During Its 23rd Session

June 21, 2013|By Ryan Kaminski, Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow
The 23rd Session of the Unite Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) took place May 27 - June 14, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. During that period, the Council’s 47 members passed 28 resolutions on a wide variety of country-specific and thematic human rights issues.

The Council passed two resolutions addressing the ongoing crisis in Syria. The first followed an “urgent debate”, which took place at the beginning of the session amid allegations of serious rights violations by government-linked forces taking place in Syrian city of Qusayr. U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, declared, “The United States stands with the Syrian people and members of the international community in calling for an immediate end to the Assad regime’s ongoing and egregious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” The second, more general resolution overwhelmingly passed the Council near the end of the session. Both documents condemned ongoing human rights violations within Syria and called upon Damascus to permit the HRC-mandated Commission of Inquiry to enter the country.

In other key country-specific action, the Council voted to extend the mandate for the special rapporteur on the human rights situation Belarus, with the resolution extending the mandate passing the HRC by one of the strongest margins ever.  An Africa Group-led effort also resulted in the passage by consensus of a resolution on human rights violations on Eritrea.

Additionally, the Council looked at the issue of gender empowerment and protecting the human rights of women and girls. For example, the Council passed through consensus a U.S.-sponsored cross-regional resolution on “The Role of Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Gender Empowerment.” The resolution—co-sponsored by Egypt, Qatar, Romania, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Montenegro, and Sierra Leone—urged governments to ensure “full, equal and effective participation and free communication of all women at all levels of decision-making in their societies and in national, regional and international institutions.” The Council also took action on the issue of domestic violence as well the need to combat gender-based discrimination. The Council also agreed to key thematic resolutions related to the protection of human rights defenders as well as the need for national human rights institutions.

A controversial Cuba-led resolution on the “Right to Peace” also passed during the session, albeit with significant objections by some Council members, including the United States. Acknowledging that no delegations wants to appear opposed to peace, the U.S. delegation claimed the resolution “will not contribute to the cause of peace or human rights. A vote against this resolution is not a vote against peace . . . but it is rather a vote against continuing an exercise with little relationship to human rights or to peace.”

While the Council did not consider a much anticipated resolution regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, 33 countries joined together to issue a joint statement on the topic. Norway’s delegation read the statement during the Council session, which cited the need of a “relevant mechanism” to address violence and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The statement also called for a Council resolution on the issue “at the appropriate time.” Some human rights advocates believe this could happen as early as the Council’s next session scheduled for September 2013.  Another Council joint statement  on Internet Freedom, agreed to by more than 70 countries, concluded that the Internet, social media, and mobile technology were key tools for “participation, transparency and engagement in socio-economic, cultural and political development.” The statement also emphasized the themes of HRC Resolution 20/8, which stressed that individuals should enjoy the same human rights online as they do offline

Labels: Advocacy

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