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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATES ON BELARUS AND ERITREA, ASKS OHCHR TO UNDERTAKE A FACT-FINDING MISSION TO SOUTH SUDAN

Adopts Eight Texts including on Syria, Violence against Women, Racism, Climate Change and the Social Forum
2 July 2015

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted eight resolutions, in which it, among others, extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus for one year, extended the mandates of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for one year, and asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a fact-finding mission to South Sudan to investigate alleged serious violations of human rights.  Other texts dealt with gross violations of human rights in Syria, violence against women, the incompatibility between democracy and racism, the relationship between climate change and the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Social Forum.

On Belarus, the Council expressed deep concern at the continuing, systemic and systematic violations of human rights in Belarus, urged the Government to carry out a comprehensive reform of the justice sector and to immediately release all political prisoners, and decided to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. 

Regarding Eritrea, the Council strongly condemned the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of generalized impunity; and decided to extend, for a period of one year, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability.

Concerning South Sudan, the Council urged all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to end and prevent violations committed against children, and requested the Office of the High Commissioner to undertake a fact-finding mission and comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights in South Sudan and related crimes. 

On Syria, the Council strongly condemned continued gross systematic and widespread violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, including the use of chemical weapons, heavy weapons, cluster munitions and aerial bombardments; and the terrorist acts and violence committed against civilians by Daesh and other extremist groups. 

With regards to violence against women, the Council strongly condemned all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, and urged States to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

On racism, the Council decided to convene, at its thirty-first session, a panel discussion on the incompatibility between democracy and racism and requested the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion for submission to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session.

Concerning climate change, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner to conduct a detailed analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and decided to hold a panel discussion on this issue at its thirty-first session. 

With regards to the Social Forum, the Council reaffirmed the Social Forum as a unique space for interactive dialogue between the United Nations human rights machinery and various stakeholders, decided that the Social Forum would meet for three working days in 2016, and invited it to submit a report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session.

Introducing texts were United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Philippines, United Kingdom, Latvia on behalf of the European Union, Djibouti, Cuba and Brazil on behalf of the Common Southern Market MERCOSUR.

Speaking in general comments were United Kingdom, Albania, Paraguay, Latvia on behalf of the European Union, France, Pakistan on behalf of a group of countries, Argentina, Viet Nam, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, United States, Qatar, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Cuba and China.

Brazil, Albania, Ireland, United States, Montenegro, Argentina, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mexico and Venezuela spoke in explanation of the vote before or after the vote.

Syria, Belarus and Eritrea spoke as concerned countries. 

The Human Rights Council will reconvene on Friday, 3 July at 9 a.m. to continue taking actions on draft decisions and resolutions before it concludes its twenty-ninth regular session.

Action on Resolutions 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 a Fact-finding Mission to Improve Human Rights, Accountability and Reconciliation for South Sudan

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.8) on a fact-finding mission to improve human rights, accountability and reconciliation for South Sudan, adopted without a vote, the Council demands a halt by all actors to all human rights violations and abuses and all violations of international humanitarian law, and strongly calls upon the Government of South Sudan to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights; calls upon the Government of South Sudan to investigate and report on atrocities, and to hold those responsible to account; urges all parties to respect and implement the agreements mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and to commit to inclusive dialogue, reconciliation and peacebuilding; and strongly urges the Government of South Sudan to fully and immediately implement its revised action plan to end and prevent violations committed against children.  The Council also strongly urges the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army to immediately implement their commitment to end violations and abuses against children.  The Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor, report and make recommendations on alleged human rights violations, abuses and related crimes in South Sudan, and to undertake a fact-finding mission and comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights in South Sudan and related crimes, and to establish the facts and circumstances  of such alleged violations, abuses and related crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability. 

United States, introducing draft resolution L.8, expressed grave concern about the human rights situation in South Sudan where many human rights violations and abuses had been committed since December 2013.  This was one of the gravest crises the world was facing today, with more than two million persons displaced and many facing famine.  The proposed mechanism would focus on the victims of human rights violations in South Sudan and would provide better understanding of who was committing human rights violations, and this would also help the peace process.  The Council could not stay silent in the face of such abuses and that was why the draft resolution called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a monitoring mission to South Sudan to identify and document human rights violations in South Sudan.

United Kingdom, in a general comment, said that since the start of the violence in December 2013, the population of South Sudan had been suffering as a result of a man-made crisis.  There were new reports about brutality in this crisis, and there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity and war crimes were being committed.  Despite the conviction that the Special Rapporteur was warranted as a response to this situation, the United Kingdom was willing to work with the regional group and sponsor countries on this draft resolution.  The Council must shine a spotlight on the suffering in South Sudan, and to achieve this, the facts must be known.

Albania, in a general comment, stated that it could not stay silent regarding the situation in South Sudan and grave human rights violations that particularly affected women and children.  The Council could no longer wait and Albania was therefore proud to be one of the core countries sponsoring the resolution.

Paraguay, in a general comment, expressed concern over the millions of victims suffering the terrible consequences of the conflict.  Hence it welcomed any measure that brought South Sudan closer to a solution.  All actions should be guided by the overarching ideas that inspired the Council and Paraguay thus hoped that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.

Algeria, in a general comment on behalf of the African Group, said that the draft resolution contained several messages, first that the promotion and protection of human rights in South Sudan be given particular attention, secondly the need to put an end to human rights violations and impunity, and finally, it called for the involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in this situation and a possibility of capacity building support.

Latvia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, expressed alarm about credible reports of human rights violations committed by all parties in South Sudan, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and said that just last week new brutality and intensity of human rights violations on the ground had been reported.  The European Union appreciated the regional leadership in this situation and said that the gravity of human rights violations in South Sudan merited the creation of a strong monitoring mandate under agenda item 4, which would allow the Council to keep this situation under close attention.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, urged the Government of South Sudan and other parties to engage in negotiations in order to end the conflict, and to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.  It was time to give the people of South Sudan a chance to live in peace in the context of reconciliation and justice.  Brazil reiterated its solidarity with the South Sudanese Government and people.

Action on Resolution on Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate All Forms of Violence against women: Eliminating Domestic Violence.

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.16/Rev.1) on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: eliminating domestic violence, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemns all forms of violence against women of all ages, including domestic violence; urges States to support initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and at preventing, responding to, and protecting women and girls from domestic violence; calls upon States to take effective action to prevent domestic violence, including by publicly condemning, addressing and penalizing perpetrators; also calls upon States to take effective action to respond to domestic violence and to protect victims of domestic violence.  The Council urges States to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, and encourages States to improve the collection, harmonization and use of data disaggregated by sex.

Action on Amendment L.26

The Council rejected amendment L.26 by a vote of 13 in favour, 24 against and 7 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.27

The Council rejected amendment L.27 by a vote of 13 in favour, 23 against and 7 abstentions.  The vote of Mexico against amendment L.27 was not registered, but would be reflected in the official report.

Action on Amendment L.28

The Council rejected amendment L.28 by a vote of 14 in favour, 21 against and 9 abstentions.

Action on Amendment L.29

The Council rejected amendment L.29 by a vote of 12 in favour, 24 against and 8 abstentions.

Action on Operational Paragraph 8a

The Council retained Operational Paragraph 8a by a vote of 29 in favour, 5 against and 12 abstentions.

Action on Operational Paragraph 9a

The Council retained Operational Paragraph 9a by a vote of 30 in favour, 3 against and 14 abstentions.

Canada, introducing draft resolution L.16/Rev.1, said that the text was a call for action to eliminate domestic violence and it was time to demonstrate that the Council was seized with this issue.  The statistics showed that domestic violence, specifically intimate partner violence, was the most prevalent form of violence against women around the world.  It was a serious social problem and a grave public health concern.  This violence affected women and scarred their children and their families and communities.  Globally, as many as 38 per cent of all murders of women were committed by intimate partners.  While domestic violence had once been seen as a private matter, it was the responsibility of States to realize the Beijing engagements by committing to take active measures to prevent and eliminate this form of gender-balance.

Saudi Arabia, introducing amendments, said it was convinced of the importance of protection of all family members, especially women, against all forms of violence, and to implement relevant conventions.  The co-sponsors worked to produce a consensual version of the resolution.  However, that version did not fully align with diverging views, reflecting certain religious and legal views.  In case the amendments were not adopted, Saudi Arabia would request a vote on certain paragraphs of the draft resolution.

Sierra Leone, responding to the proposed amendment on behalf of the sponsors, strongly supported the draft resolution as presented.  It was the first time that the Council was addressing domestic violence against women and girls and thus it was important to have a strong text.  The initiative was traditionally accepted by consensus, so it was regrettable that amendments were proposed.  They undermined the language on how to address domestic violence in an efficient manner and Sierra Leone would vote against the proposed amendments.

United Arab Emirates, introducing amendments, regretted that the submitted amendments were not taken into consideration by the co-sponsors of the draft resolution.  Some parts of the resolution were contrary to religious beliefs of the co-sponsors of the amendments.

France, in a general comment, said it opposed all amendments to this draft resolution and stressed that sexuality education was essential to combatting violence against women and girls.  Comprehensive sexual education also educated citizens and enabled everyone to take informed decisions, and it was essential that this concept remained in the draft text.

Pakistan, speaking in a general comment on behalf of a Group of States, believed that the issue of domestic violence in the overall context of violence against women merited attention but was concerned about the lack of consensus in the approach by the sponsors, and the introduction of certain concepts which did not take account particular contexts of States.  It was regrettable that the sponsors also attempted to revise the definition of domestic violence and so modified the relevant General Assembly resolution.  Any attempt to disregard the family as the fundamental unit of society was unacceptable, as was the inclusion of comprehensive sexual education as it overlooked cultural specificities.

Latvia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that domestic violence disproportionately affected women and girls.  The draft resolution addressed historical and structural roots of domestic violence and called on States to take effective action to combat it.  As for amendment 26, violence against conjugal partners remained the most prevalent form of domestic violence.   However, it rejected the equation of non-spousal violence with any other form of violence against women and girls, and would vote against the relevant amendment.

Argentina, in a general comment, rejected all amendments submitted to the draft resolution and would vote against them.  It stressed the importance of sexual education in combatting domestic violence against women, and rejected the claim that such education contained inappropriate cultural reference. 

Viet Nam, in a general comment, said that Viet Nam had been exerting tireless efforts to eliminate violence against women, and first and foremost domestic violence.  The current draft was operatively acceptable and could help States in their actions.  Viet Nam strongly advocated for a dialogue between the parties and urged further dialogue to reach a consensus on this text.

Brazil, in a general comment in reference to the amendment L.28, said that “comprehensive sexuality education” reflected terminology agreed in various United Nations documents and the Beijing Declaration, and said that the terms used in the current text were balanced and focused on health aspects, leaving other areas of the concept unaddressed.

Japan, in a general comment, said the resolution should be retained and expressed support for efforts to eliminate violence against women and hoped that the Council would adopt the text by consensus.

Albania, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it was one of the original co-sponsors of the resolution.  It was of paramount importance for the Council to address this issue with a strong text.  The wide cross-regional support was a clear indication of the need for a strong approach.  Albania regretted the tabling of the amendments, which would undermine States’ dealing with the issue, and were not compatible with the spirit of the resolution.

The Council then rejected amendment L.26 by a vote of 13 in favour, 24 against and 7 abstentions.

Ireland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that domestic violence was perpetuated on people closest to each other and might include sexual coercion.  Marital rape had been recognized by the United Nations 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.  Ireland would vote against the draft amendment L.27 which sought to remove the term marital rape from the text of the resolution.

United States, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not support the replacement of “marital rape” with “spousal and non-spousal violence.”  It would be deplorable if the resolution failed to address marital rape, as it should be condemned yet again.  The amendment suffered from vagueness as it would confer all violence with conjugal forms of violence.

Montenegro, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it opposed amendment 29 because partner violence was one of the most prevalent forms of violence, and the proposed term “spousal violence” was too broad and would make it equal to all other forms of violence.  Domestic violence often included sexual violence and it was thus important to retain “marital rape” in the draft resolution.

Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.21) on human rights and climate change, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a detailed analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to be submitted to the Council prior to its thirty-first session;  and decides to incorporate into its programme of work for the thirty-first session, on the basis of the different elements contained in the present resolution, a panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on States’ efforts to progressively realize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.  The Council also decides to consider the possibility of organizing follow-up events on climate change and human rights within its future programme of work.

Bangladesh, introducing draft resolution L.21, stressed the timeliness of this resolution as the world was witnessing growing climatic vulnerabilities while working on developing a robust, legally-binding outcome this December in Paris.  The adverse effects of climate change would be felt most acutely by people in the least developed countries, Small Island Developing States and in Africa.  It was important to say that across countries, communities and people, there were huge gaps in the capacity and vulnerability of the affected and this called for climate justice and how to ensure that people affected by climate change could draw on resources and support measures fairly, equitably and with dignity. 

Philippines, also introducing draft resolution L.21, said that it mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize during the thirty-first session of the Council a panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the rights of everyone to have the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and to produce an analytical study on the adverse impact of climate change on the right to health.  The resolution also stressed the necessity of the widest possible cooperation of all countries and their participation in effective and appropriate international response in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities and social and economic conditions.

South Africa, in a general comment, said that while the Council should look into how climate change affected the realization of human rights, it should take into account that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.  While it joined the consensus, South Africa expressed strong concern about the manner in which PP11 was drafted, which suggested that non-nationals were excluded or discriminated in terms of government responses, which was not the case in South Africa.

United States, in a general comment, recognized that climate change was a complex challenge, and agreed that it had a range of effects on the enjoyment of human rights.  At the same time, it regretted that the co-sponsors failed to discuss the issue with a true human rights lens.  Certain language was introduced on the human rights language used elsewhere, for example, the unnecessary quotations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which were limited to the context of the carefully negotiated convention.  While the United States appreciated the tremendous work in the negotiation of the draft resolution, the text did not express the diversity of views.

Latvia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that the draft resolution not only outlined the devastating impact of climate change, but also noted the importance of integrating human rights in climate action.  This was crucial to ensure full and effective respect of human rights while addressing climate change.  The European Union reiterated its belief that it was important to encourage the inclusion of human rights in the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and said that the Council should not provide an alternate venue for discussion of climate change.  The European Union was convinced that a robust agreement in Paris would significantly strengthen international resolve to tackle climate change.

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

Action on Resolution on the Grave and Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.4) on the grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 6 against and 12 abstentions, the Council demands that the Syrian authorities cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry; strongly condemns the continued gross systematic and widespread violations and abuses of human rights and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and affiliated militias; strongly condemns the continued use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, including chlorine gas; condemns the use of heavy weapons, cluster munitions and aerial bombardments by the Syrian authorities; strongly condemns the terrorist acts and violence committed against civilians by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh), al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups; and emphasizes the need to ensure that all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law or violations and abuses of human rights law are held accountable.  The Council demands that the Syrian authorities facilitate, and that all other parties to the conflict do not hinder, the full, immediate and safe access of the United Nations and humanitarian actors.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (29): Albania, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.

Against (6): Algeria, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.

Abstentions (12): Bangladesh, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and Viet Nam.

United Kingdom, introducing the resolution, said the crisis in Syria continued to have a devastating impact on civilians.  Syria was the most serious human rights situation in the world today and thus the Council should not remain silent.  The Assad Government, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and all foreign fighters had to stop the bloodshed.  In the absence of any political settlement, it was essential that the Commission of Inquiry continued its work to document violations and abuses of human rights, committed by all parties.  Revisions of the resolution reaffirmed that the Syrian people should determine the appropriate process and mechanisms to achieve justice, reconciliation, truth and accountability for gross violations and abuses of international law, as well as reparations and effective remedies for victims.  It also reaffirmed that there could be only be a political solution to the conflict.

United States, in a general comment, said that by adopting this resolution the Council would continue to fulfil its role of drawing attention to the crimes in Syria at the hand of its regime.  The Commission of Inquiry had called attention to relentless bombing of the population by the regime, including the use of barrel bombs, and the United States called attention to the Commission’s finding on torture committed by the regime.  The international community should do more than solely condemn abuses.

Qatar, in a general comment, said that the draft resolution reflected only a small part of the suffering of the Syrians and the continuing human rights violations in the country by the regime and armed groups.  It condemned the continued deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation and reaffirmed the necessity for accountability for all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Latvia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, expressed alarm at the continued grave human rights abuses and called on the Syrian regime and all other parties to immediately stop the indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment of the civilian population.  The Syrian regime remained responsible for serious violations of international human rights law.  The European Union condemned the indiscriminate attacks and violations perpetrated by ISIL and other terrorist groups.  There should be no impunity for such abuses and it called on the Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.  The Syrian authorities should cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and allow it full access to the country. 

Russian Federation, in a general comment, said it was disappointed with another anti-Syrian action in the Council, while it was clear that the clear danger was posed by the Islamic State.  Russia was convinced that the co-sponsors of the draft resolution well understood the importance of the right to life.  However, they failed to adequately address the terrorist threat in the draft resolution.  The Russian Federation called on the Government of Syria and moderate opposition to step up their efforts to combat terrorist groups.  The co-sponsors of the resolution were calling for the storming of Damascus and were not trying to reconcile the positions of those who sincerely wished peace for Syria.  All interested parties should set aside their difference and focus their efforts on fighting the terrorist threat. 

Venezuela, in a general comment, rejected and condemned in the strongest terms politicization and double standards in the Council and said that the text was unbalanced and did not reflect the reality.  Some of the countries sponsoring the resolution were those who supported armed groups.  Venezuela would vote against this draft resolution.

Cuba, in a general comment, reiterated its condemnation of the death of innocent civilians and rejected selective and politicized attribution of deaths to only one party to the conflict.  The interventionist agendas should be set aside and serious efforts must be undertaken to put an end to the crisis.  The principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected at all times.

China, in a general comment, believed that open pressure was not conducive to solutions and stressed that the Council must be impartial in its dealings with Syria.  The Council had to foster cooperation between the parties and play a constructive role in the search for a political solution to the crisis in Syria.  China would vote against the draft resolution.

Syria, speaking as the concerned country, noted that the draft resolution included a reference to “strict adherence to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria”.  However, the sponsoring countries completely ignored that commitment and blatantly interfered in the internal affairs of Syria.  The policies of the governments of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which supported terrorism and the training of the so-called moderate opposition, were examples of the violation of the United Nations Charter.  It was ironic that those countries that supported terrorism were the primary sponsors of the draft resolution.  They continued to submit provocative and politicized resolutions to tarnish the image of the Syrian State and to cover up the crimes of the terrorists and their foreign supporters.  Those activities led to massacres, destruction of infrastructure, service institutions, archaeological and historical sites, and other criminal practices.  The draft resolution did not provide explanation for the provision of money, weapons and rockets fired daily by terrorists targeting civilians in Aleppo, Damascus and other cities.  Syria thus called for the rejection of the draft resolution. 

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that considering the grave human rights situation in Syria, Brazil would vote in favour of the draft resolution.  Brazil welcomed the recognition of the need for a negotiated political solution to the conflict and drew attention to some aspects which were not adequately addressed in the text.  Brazil recognized the primary responsibility of Syria for respecting the rights of its people while respecting international humanitarian law.  Gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by ISIL and Al-Nussra should not be overlooked; omitting those from the resolution could send the wrong message that some atrocities were worse than others.  The perception that the military solution was feasible was the cause of the plight of the Syrian people.

Argentina, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote in favour of the draft resolution.  It urged the Syrian Government to respect humanitarian law and human rights.  It condemned in the strongest terms crimes perpetrated by ISIS, and reaffirmed its support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria.  It reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by any side was unacceptable, noting that the only solution for the conflict was a political settlement.

Bangladesh, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it appreciated the work of the regional countries to end the conflict in Syria.  It welcomed the outcomes of the third donor conference for Syria held in Iraq.  The continuing grave human rights crisis in Syria showed that there was a need to insist on a political solution.  However, Bangladesh would abstain.

Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the immediate end of violence in Syria was a priority, and added that the Council should adopt implementable and balanced resolutions rather than politicized ones.  By passing one-sided resolutions, the Council was not able to achieve any solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people.  The draft resolution lacked balance and did not cover violence perpetrated by all sides and Pakistan would thus abstain.

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.12) on the situation of human rights in Belarus, adopted with a vote of 21 in favour, 8 against and 18 abstentions, the Council expresses deep concern at the continuing violations of human rights in Belarus, which are of a systemic and systematic nature; urges the Government of Belarus to carry out a comprehensive reform of the justice sector and bar associations in order to guarantee the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial; strongly urges the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release and rehabilitate fully all political prisoners; and also strongly encourages the Government of Belarus to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.  The Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus for a period of one year, and asks the Government of Belarus to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (21): Albania, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Maldives, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and United States of America.

Against (8): Bolivia, China, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.

Abstentions (18): Algeria, Bangladesh, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates.

Latvia, introducing the draft resolution L.12 on behalf of the European Union, said that it reflected findings of the latest report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights in Belarus who had reiterated the continuous existence of a pattern of serious human rights violations of systemic and systematic nature, including continuing harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, political opponents and journalists.  The situation in key areas, including workers’ rights, civil society legislation, legislation governing the electoral process and the freedom of expression and media, appeared to have worsened.  This was particularly worrisome in the lead up to the next Presidential elections in October 2015.  The European Union was concerned about the death penalty and lack of transparency surrounding its use, and urged Belarus, the only European country still applying the death penalty, to establish a moratorium as a first step towards its abolition.

Russian Federation, in a general comment, said it did not recognize the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Belarus, nor did it recognize the draft resolution because it had nothing to do with the situation on the ground, and was politicized and punitive.  Instead of developing cooperation, pressure and accusations were being applied.  It was unacceptable to interfere with the electoral process in Belarus, and it was a useless waste of resources.  The Russian Federation requested that the draft resolution be put to a vote and would vote against it.

Cuba, in a general comment, rejected the imposition of the politically motivated mandate on Belarus, which showed double standards in the matters of human rights.  It encouraged Belarus to continue to defend its sovereignty and independence.

Venezuela, in a general comment, reiterated its firm opposition to the selective practice in presenting actions that interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign States.  Belarus continued to show its cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review.  Venezuela would thus vote against the draft resolution.

China, in a general comment, said it was against the imposition of country-specific resolutions for political motives and thought that solutions to differences must be found through constructive means.  Resolutions such as this intensified differences and were examples of politicization and double standards.  China would vote against this draft resolution.

Belarus, speaking as the concerned country, said that the draft resolution was a clear example of double standards.  The fundamental principle of non-interference contained in the United Nations Charter was being flaunted and Belarus would never agree to do business in international relations in this way.  Belarus would never agree to the European Union passing itself as a society which had a monopoly on common sense.  The draft resolution was in contradiction with the United Nations Charter, it created confrontation and mistrust and the Special Rapporteur was not aiding the progress in human rights in Belarus.  The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus should be discontinued.

Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Brazil would vote in favour of the draft resolution.   It underlined that the cornerstone of the Council’s work should be no selectivity and no politicization.  It was important to reconcile the defence of human rights and State-specific scrutiny.  Although the human rights situation in Belarus had deteriorated, Brazil praised Belarus’ participation in Universal Periodic Review and that it had welcomed a significant number of refugees from Ukraine.

Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, lamented that the human rights situation in Belarus had not improved, and that the cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms had been insufficient.  Despite that, it would maintain its abstention on the draft resolution.

Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.23) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemns the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have been and are being committed by the Government of Eritrea in a climate of generalized impunity; reiterates its numerous calls upon the Government of Eritrea to end its use of arbitrary detention of its citizens, to end the use of torture or other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, to account for and release all political prisoners and to end the practice of forcing citizens to participate in the militia; and calls upon of the Government of Eritrea to take immediate and concrete steps to implement recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry in its report.  The Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea for a period of one year.  It also decides to extend, for a period of one year, the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability.

Djibouti, introducing draft resolution L.23 on the human rights situation in Eritrea, said it was a timely response to the thorough report presented by the Commission of Inquiry and it underscored the need for the Council to pay continued and vigilant attention to the human rights situation in the country.  It also stressed the disturbing fate of the increasing number of Eritreans leaving the country who were at risk of people smuggling on their migratory routes.  The draft resolution called for the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry for a period of one year.

Latvia, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep concern about the grave human rights situation in Eritrea and fully supported the African initiative to keep this situation on the Council’s agenda.  The European Union regretted Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry and the intimidation and harassment of the members of the Commission during their stay in Geneva last week.

United States, in a general comment, thanked the delegation of Djibouti for its work on the draft resolution, noting that it was vital to shed light on the grave human rights situation in Eritrea.

China, in a general comment, reiterated its opposition to the imposition of external investigation mechanisms.  Human rights problems should be viewed in a constructive and impartial manner.  The country’s consent was the right way to promote human rights.  Eritrea had made positive developments in human rights protection, and the resolution did not take into account its technical assistance needs.  China would thus disassociate itself from the resolution

Russian Federation, in a general comment, said that the practice of imposing country-specific mandates was counterproductive and would not help normalize human rights problems.  The best way was to provide technical assistance and the Russian Federation would therefore disassociate itself from the draft resolution.

Eritrea, speaking as the concerned country, said that it rejected politically motivated mechanisms and prescriptive reports and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.  This draft resolution was only meant to legitimize those unfounded, biased and shunned reports and Eritrea called upon the Council members to oppose it.  The architects of the draft resolution dreamed to perpetuate the already failed hostilities aimed to thwart Eritrea’s national building aspirations, violate its sovereign rights, compromise the independent political stance of the nation, and sabotage the promising development achievements in the country.  Eritrea would not surrender its sovereign rights nor abandon its independent political stance under any name, including under the pretence of human rights.  Eritrea was redoubling its development efforts to achieve a qualitative leap in the next three to four years, in which the mainstreaming of human rights would be strengthened.

Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, rejected the selectivity and politicization of country-specific mandates.  The Council had to protect human rights based on genuine dialogue and cooperation through the Universal Periodic Review as the proper mechanism for that.  Venezuela thus disassociated itself from draft resolution L.23.

Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Action on Resolution on the Social Forum

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.5/Rev.1) on the Social Forum, adopted without a vote, the Council reaffirms the Social Forum as a unique space for interactive dialogue between the United Nations human rights machinery and various stakeholders, including the contribution of civil society and grass-roots organizations; decides that the Social Forum will meet for three working days in 2016, in Geneva; requests the President of the Human Rights Council to appoint, as early as possible, from candidates nominated by regional groups, the Chairperson-Rapporteur for the 2016 Social Forum; decides that the Social Forum will remain open to the participation of representatives of Member States and other interested stakeholders; and requests the Secretary-General to take appropriate measures to disseminate information about the Social Forum and to provide all the necessary support for the 2016 session.  The Council also invites the 2016 Social Forum to submit a report containing its conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session.

Cuba, introducing draft resolution L.5/Rev.1, said that the Social Forum allowed for the widest participation of civil society organizations and ensured that their voices were heard on numerous topical issues.  The draft resolution proposed that the Social Forum 2016 focused on the rights of persons with disabilities.  This topic had been chosen on the basis of its importance and to allow civil society organizations an opportunity to voice their opinion on the subject.  

Latvia, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that general concerns about the Social Forum as expressed over the past years persisted.  Questions over its added values remained, given duplication of its work with other mechanisms of this Council and other fora.  The budgetary implications of a three-day Forum were disproportionate, straining already scarce resources, and the European Union urged the sponsors to consider ways of reducing the costs associated with the work of the Forum, bearing in mind the limited resources of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

United States, in a general comment, supported the engagement of civil society and the  private sector in the protection and promotion of human rights.  However, the draft resolution contained inaccurate language on the financial and economic crisis.  The United States was also deeply concerned by the resolution’s budgetary implications, and noted that the Social Forum demanded too many resources, which was why it disassociated itself from the resolution.

Japan, in a general comment, recognized the importance of the full enjoyment of human rights by all persons, including persons with disabilities, and thus joined the consensus.  However, it was concerned that previous discussions under the mandate created by the draft resolution could overlap and would therefore undermine the effective use of budgetary resources.

Action on Resolution under the Agenda Item on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Action on Resolution on the Incompatibility between Democracy and Racism

In a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.1) on the incompatibility between democracy and racism, adopted without a vote, the Council reaffirms that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance condoned by governmental policies violate human rights, as established in the relevant international and regional human rights instruments, and are incompatible with democracy;  decides to convene, at its thirty-first session, a panel discussion on the incompatibility between democracy and racism with a view to identifying challenges and good practices; requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize the panel discussion, in consultation with various stakeholders in order to ensure broad participation in the panel discussion.  The Council also requests the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion for submission to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session.

Brazil, introducing the draft resolution L.1 on behalf of the Common Southern Market MERCOSUR on incompatibility between democracy and racism, said that it was the result of a firm commitment to fight racism and all forms of discrimination, and the commitment to strengthen democracy in the region and the world over.  There was concern about the rise of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance in political discourse and societies in general, and all agreed on the need to remain vigilant, particularly in the Human Rights Council.

For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC15/101E