Extends the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, Voices Deep Concern about Sexual Violence in Syria, and Adopts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas
28 September 2018
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted five resolutions in which it extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi for a year, expressed deep concern about sexual and gender-based violence in Syria, and adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.
Other adopted texts concerned equal participation in political and public affairs, and human rights and indigenous peoples.
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, seven against and 17 abstentions, the Council decided to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi for another year in order to deepen its investigations, until it presented a final report during an interactive dialogue at the forty-second session of the Human Rights Council, and at the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly. The Council requested the Commission to present an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth and forty-first sessions during interactive dialogues.
By a vote of 27 in favour, four against and 16 abstentions, the Council expressed its profound concern about the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria on the persistent use of sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, men and boys since 2011. The Council also expressed deep concern about the situation of the 6.5 million internally displaced persons across Syria and urged all parties to ensure that any evacuation and movement of civilians was consistent with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Finally, the Council expressed grave concern about the findings by the fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on the use of sarin and chlorine, and it invited Member States to actively support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism.
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, three against and 11 abstentions, the Council adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, and it recommended that the General Assembly adopt the United Nations Declaration. It invited Governments, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to disseminate the Declaration and to promote universal respect and understanding thereof.
In a resolution on the equal participation in political and public affairs, adopted without a vote, the Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to disseminate and promote the use of the draft guidelines on effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs, to prepare a follow-up report on good practices and challenges faced by States in using the guidelines, and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-eighth session.
In another resolution adopted without a vote, the Council decided that the theme of the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples during the forty-second session of the Council would be on the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages. The Council also decided that the theme of the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples to be held during the forty-fifth session of the Council would be on the protection of indigenous human rights defenders. The Council further decided to hold a half-day intersessional interactive dialogue on ways to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them.
Burundi and Syria spoke as concerned countries.
Speaking in introduction of draft texts were Czech Republic, China, Bolivia, Mexico, Austria, Austria on behalf of the European Union, and United Kingdom.
Chile, Peru, Egypt, Pakistan, Slovakia, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Venezuela, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Ecuador, Cuba, Brazil, Australia, and China spoke in general comments.
Panama, Australia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, China, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany on behalf of a group of countries, Iceland, Chile, Republic of Korea, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Egypt, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Qatar, Georgia, Slovakia on behalf of the European Union, Iraq, and Ecuador spoke in explanation of the vote before and after the vote.
The Council will take a short lunch break, and will then continue taking action on decisions and resolutions before closing its thirty-ninth 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 Equal Participation in Political and Public Affairs
In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.14/Rev.1) on Equal participation in political and public affairs, adopted without a vote, the Council acknowledges the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in preparing the draft guidelines on effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs, and presents these guidelines as a set of orientations for States, as well as… other relevant stakeholders in relation to (the) effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs. The Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to disseminate and promote the use of the guidelines and to provide technical cooperation and capacity-building to States upon their request regarding the use of the guidelines; and also requests the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare, in consultation with States and all other relevant stakeholders, a follow-up report on good practices and challenges faced by States in using the guidelines, and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-eighth session.
Czech Republic, introducing resolution L.14/Rev.1, said it believed that the participation in public efforts could play a vital role in social inclusion and economic development. The draft resolution presented guidelines as a set of orientations for States and, where appropriate, other stakeholders to support the right of participation in public efforts. The resolution encouraged the Council to provide capacity building and technical assistance to support the implementation of these guidelines as necessary. The resolution was the result of a transparent and inclusive negotiation process, including three informal meetings and extensive bilateral discussions. During this process, the Czech Republic went a long way to meet the concerns and suggestions expressed by different States. The Czech Republic urged the Council to adopt the resolution with unanimous support.
Chile, in a general comment, welcomed the submission of resolution L.14/Rev.1 and hoped it would be adopted by consensus. As a co-sponsor, Chile had worked on accommodating numerous viewpoints. The approach taken by the sponsors was welcomed and it was vital that equal participation was ensured in all parts of public life. Despite the efforts of States, there were substantive gaps when it came to realizing the right to equal participation. The guidelines were welcomed.
China, speaking also on behalf of Pakistan and South Africa, introducing oral amendment 1, said that full participation in public life was necessary. However, there was one major defect to the resolution. The draft guidelines were not fully discussed in the inter-governmental mechanism so they could not be considered as consensual. There were many rounds of consultations with sponsors on the nature of the set of guidelines. The amendment was to insert the word voluntary, or in other words to change operative paragraph from “presenting set of guidelines as a set of orientations for States”, to “presenting set of voluntary guidelines as a set of orientations for States”. This way the guidelines would not be considered as being imposed on countries and every State could choose if they wanted to accept them. As such, the voluntary guidelines were fully in line with multilateralism.
Peru, in a general comment, said the draft resolution was a result of constructive negotiations, where concerns from different delegations were listened to, and all members and observers could see the changes that were made. They were happy with the constructive spirit during negotiations, so the draft resolution should be adopted as it was; they did not agree with the amendment and asked the Council to put it to a vote.
Egypt, in a general comment, said the transparency, professionalism and constructive engagement of the group that created the draft resolution was appreciated. States had an obligation to participate in policy measures, with the understanding that each State would develop national solutions in that regard. The guidelines set out by the resolution were an effective menu with which States could choose what fit, as they were not legally binding. Geneva-based intergovernmental consultations would have been a welcome addition.
Pakistan, in a general comment, underlined that it was a multicultural, pluralistic, multi-identity society where equal participation in all levels of politics was supported by the country’s constitution. However, Pakistan expressed its disappointment at efforts by the sponsoring countries to push the set of guidelines as a set of instructions for States to follow. Any document to be considered for future reference must be discussed by all UN Member States, which this resolution was not. The resolution was brought to the majority of Member States just a few days back, not giving States enough time to properly examine it. The concepts and rights within the resolution were presented in an unbalanced manner, which would divide rather than unite the Council. Pakistan expressed its support for the oral amendment and requested Council members to do the same.
Slovakia, in a general comment, emphasized that the right to participate in public affairs was laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The specific implementation of these rights rested on each country’s national contexts, yet at the same time, there were agreed universal indicators in place. Presenting the guidelines contained in the resolution was a logical step that built on previous resolutions. Slovakia welcomed the request for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a follow-up report on the ability of States to implement and formulate guidelines based on the resolution. The resolution was a very solid outcome on the discussions and Slovakia encouraged all Member States to join it in its support of the resolution.
South Africa, in a general comment, believed that equal participation in political and public affairs was of critical importance as confirmed by the Constitution of South Africa. Effective participation was best ensured when it relied on a solid legal basis. That was why the approach adopted by sponsors was concerning. The Council was no exception to multilateralism, so if there were any gaps in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or any human rights instrument, States had to identify the gaps in discussion and find ways to fill them. The current trend of elaboration of guidelines within the Council with its legal status was unclear. There was no discussion on it. Member States could not be expected to approve a set of guidelines, which were released merely two months ago. The guidelines were neither discussed nor negotiated in a transparent manner. For all those reasons, inserting the word voluntary become more imperative and South Africa called on Member States of the Council to support the amendment.
Peru, in a general comment, said that equal participation was a pillar of democracy and its implementation was crucial to achieve the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16. Without the effective participation of all, including vulnerable groups, a democratic society was not viable. The Guidelines prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner referred to the basic principles, covering a series of aspects, including electoral situations. They had to be seen as voluntary guidelines. The text was balanced, as a result of negotiations. States were urged to adopt the draft by consensus and reject the amendment.
Germany, in a general comment, referred to the proposed amendment and confirmed that consultations on the amendment were open and the concerns of all States were considered. In their view, the guidelines were voluntary by nature and they did not see the need to put further stress on this issue. Germany would vote no to the amendment and asked others to do the same.
Switzerland, in a general comment, thanked the sponsors of the resolution L.14/Rev.1 and expressed support for the text. Optional Protocol two requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance and capacity building to States upon request of the use of the guidelines. Concerning the implementation, they hoped the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would coordinate with different departments and the United Nations through its electoral division.
Action on Oral Amendment
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected the oral amendment. Panama did not understand its purpose. The guidelines on equal participation in public and in political affairs were voluntary and not binding. Members States were encouraged to vote against the amendment.
Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the negotiations were undertaken in an open manner and in good faith, and as such, expressed disappointment that the oral amendment was presented at the last minute. The amendment sought to further weaken the text of the resolution which now had over 60 sponsors. The resolution merely provided a useful toolkit for countries to use as they saw fit. As such, Australia emphasized that the amendment was unnecessary as the guidelines were already non-binding.
Ukraine, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, emphasized that the resolution was drafted through open and transparent negotiations among States and accommodated the concerns of many of them. Ukraine therefore did not see any reason for further modifications at this stage. The guidelines presented in the resolution were voluntary, and nothing in the presented text contradicted that fact. Ukraine said it would vote against the amendment and called on other States to do the same.
The Council then rejected oral amendment 1 by a vote of 18 in favour, 22 against and 7 abstentions.
Action on Resolution L.14/Rev.1
Ethiopia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that equal participation was a cornerstone for any democratic society but also a fundamental human right. However, in practice it differed from one country to another. The right was clearly stipulated in the situation of Ethiopia. Due to this constitutional obligation, the Government of Ethiopia worked tirelessly to implement this right, which was also ensured in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The guidelines were not giving a higher degree of responsibility to States than those already existing in international treaties and conventions. Newly introduced rights in the guidelines could not be recognized as such. The scope of application was understood in line with article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted that the amendment was not adopted. China supported the full participation in public life but the draft guidelines were not supported. There were huge differences in views in the Council. The attempt of the sponsors to push through the guidelines were not in line with multilateral work or democratic practice. Therefore, China disassociated itself from the consensus, if L.14/Rev.1 was adopted by consensus. The draft guidelines were not a product of intergovernmental work and States should not be forced to implement them.
Resolution L.14/Rev.1 was adopted without a vote.
Action on Resolution on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas
In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.16) on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, adopted by a vote of 33 in favour, three against and 11 abstentions, the Council adopts the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas; and recommends that the General Assembly adopts the United Nations Declaration… and invites Governments, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to disseminate the Declaration and to promote universal respect and understanding thereof.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (33): Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Against (3): Australia, Hungary and United Kingdom.
Abstentions (11): Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
Bolivia, speaking also on behalf of core group members Cuba, Ecuador and South Africa, introducing draft resolution L.16, said the aim of the Declaration was to promote and protect the human rights of people living in rural areas. It reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to work together in favour of peasants and those living in rural areas to be on an equal footing with the rest of the world, while also recognizing international legislation. Peasants and people in rural areas provided the majority of the world’s food. Supporting the Declaration was supporting the work of millions of families, sustainable development and biodiversity. The Declaration combatted poverty and discrimination and affirmed that all humans were equal in their rights, which were inalienable. Their brother and sister peasants sought recognition as equals, to survive and to continue feeding the world; their participation gave the content a face and a voice. Bolivia called on all States to support the Declaration and reaffirm their respect for peasants and people living in rural areas.
Venezuela, in a general comment, expressed its full support for the draft resolution. Venezuela firmly supported the right of peasants. Venezuela had no doubt as to the relevance of these efforts to support over half a billion people working in fields around the world. Venezuela had enthusiastically joined efforts that led to this historic moment. It called for the approval of an international mechanism which would lead to further protections for farmers and peasants around the world.
South Africa, in a general comment, said it attached the highest priority to the rights of peasants, and accorded the highest priority to the issue of people living and working in rural areas. The majority of African women lived and worked in rural areas and were primarily dependent on farming for their livelihoods. The draft resolution allowed for peasants to ensure food security, job creation and the attainment of vibrant, sustainable rural economies. The Declaration aimed at addressing inequalities and discriminations against people in rural areas. The Declaration was the result of six years of constructive and transparent negotiations, and the agreed upon language included compromised language granting States flexibility, taking into account national contexts. The Declaration was a tool to strengthen policies and cooperation in favour of better living standards for peasants. The Declaration represented a message from the international community that it had not forgotten rural areas. South Africa called on the Council to do the right thing by peasants, the majority of whom were in developing countries, and were primarily women.
Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said the European Union was deeply committed to further exploring various possibilities to ensure the better promotion of the human rights of all people living in rural areas. Still, there were divergent views on the content of the United Nations Declaration and it was the obligation of every State to ensure the promotion of all human rights. The European Union constructively engaged in five sessions of the Working Group. Sponsors had a positive approach and took on board proposals, however for some States problems in the text remained including, inter alia, with regard to notions of rights to seeds, land, a clean and healthy environment, protection of biodiversity and food sovereignty. Concern was raised that this draft amendment attempted to create new rights, although a Declaration by definition did not constitute a legally binding document and could not create new rights. For all those reasons, Member States of the European Union that were members of the Council could not support L.16.
Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the core group in a general comment, reiterated its strong support for the draft Declaration, which would be a step forward in the promotion and protection of the human rights of peasants, a group that included one billion people. They appreciated that the negotiations were transparent and inclusive with all stakeholders participating. The draft resolution was in full line with existing norms and with documents on relevant issues. They urged all States to give their support.
Cuba, in a general comment, expressed its strong support for the resolution and expressed recognition to delegations that had worked in an inclusive and transparent manner. Cuba recognized the work of the Chairman of the group as well as the intergovernmental process that made it possible to have a text that promoted and protected human rights. Cuba asked that all States support the Declaration, a responsibility for all members of the world as something owed to peasants all over the world.
Switzerland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that peasants were affected disproportionately by poverty. Switzerland supported the Declaration as it brought together all rights of peasants in a single document. It was a very important political signal. The Declaration was not a legally binding document. Most of concerns of Switzerland were taken into account and the text was very balanced. Still, some problems remained. Agricultural reform mentioned in the text required some legal safeguards. The Declaration did not make sufficient references to the existing international environmental regime and it did not include a sustainable development approach. Switzerland would vote in favour.
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, thanked the sponsors. Mexico was taking a reserved position as the Declaration fragmentised the human rights regime since it focused on one particular sector. Nonetheless, it was positive that the Declaration linked this to existing human rights. For that reason, Mexico would support L.16, as it was consistent with efforts that Mexico was carrying out in the food and agriculture sector, in the context of national food security. The Declaration was in line with national legislation in Mexico, the Cartagena Protocol, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and International Labour Organization Convention169. The Declaration should not promote one sector at the expense of another.
Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, recognized that the adoption of the Declaration was a positive step towards the recognition of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, and addressed their problems associated with other social questions of human security. Although the Declaration was a voluntary and non-binding instrument, it remained very important. However, the Declaration was not a perfect document, particularly given the scope, complexity, and sensitivity of the issue, and the text would have benefitted from additional consultations. In Brazil, there were more than 4 million land holders responsible for 70 per cent of food consumed by Brazilians citizens. There was a greater necessity to find a balance to support small producers without overlooking large-scale commercial operations, which was not expressed in the text. Brazil thus reserved the right to implement the Declaration with regard to its own national legislation, and said it would abstain, regretting a lost opportunity to improve the draft.
Ethiopia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, emphasized that the majority of its population lived in remote rural areas. For this reason, Ethiopia had pursued an agricultural and industrialization policy which contributed to positive economic development over the last decade and a half. Ethiopia’s constitution provided protection for peasants and pastoralists, and it had adopted laws to translate these protections into action in a detailed manner. Pastoralists and peasants remained the backbone of Ethiopia’s economy and the livelihood of its people. Ethiopia agreed in principle that the human rights of peasants and pastoralists required protection, and that, due to their vulnerability, these rights should be extended. However, Ethiopia emphasized that the international rights and duties of States were limited to the States’ own territory and jurisdiction – Ethiopia thus underscored that the applicability and scope of the Declaration was limited to States’ territory and jurisdiction. Ethiopia thus underlined that the legally non-binding nature of the Declaration reaffirmed that the current and future laws of Ethiopia would prevail over the Declaration. Ethiopia would vote in favour of adopting the resolution.
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that all humans were born free and equal and on an equal basis with others. The United Kingdom had engaged constructively both nationally and internationally on this resolution. They remained committed to translating the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind and would work with small holder farmers in developing countries to provide them with greater opportunities. However, the United Kingdom had a number of longstanding concerns about the draft Declaration which sought to expand upon existing rights. In that regard, the United Kingdom did not accept collective human rights in international law and would vote no.
Germany, speaking on behalf of Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Spain and Belgium in an explanation of the vote before the vote, shared concerns that in many parts of the world, peasants continued to be victims of human rights violations. The countries thanked the core group and Bolivia on their cooperation during the drafting process, however, they found the resolution was not fully in line with established international agreements and conventions. They took note of legal concerns with the rights to seeds, lands and a clean and healthy environment as well as food sovereignty. There was further work to be done, they said, while emphasizing that the existing framework be properly implemented.
Iceland, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, strongly believed that the existing human rights framework adequately protected all individuals, including peasants and those working and living in rural areas. Iceland was of the opinion that there was an implementation gap, not a normative one and there was no added value of this Declaration. The Declaration could be understood to be new rights. By recognizing them for peasants and those living in rural areas, a legal uncertainty was created. Additionally, the definition of peasant and those living in rural areas was imprecise as it related to indigenous peoples, creating another uncertainty. The text could benefit from further discussion to avoid contradictions and more work was needed to address concerns raised and Iceland would abstain from the vote.
Chile, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, supported the Declaration, as it did not establish new human rights different from those established by the United Nations declarations and treaties.
Panama, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, supported the Declaration as an effort to fight poverty and discrimination. The Declaration contained the right balance, taking into account different realities and national legislation of different countries. The text had an interest in the international community as a whole, for all those providing to the world economy and who were vulnerable, fishermen, peasants etc. It was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Decade of Agriculture, which would start in 2019 and it would assist in eradicating hunger. All Member States of the Council were invited to vote in favour.
Republic of Korea, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it placed high priority on the protection of the human rights of persons living in rural areas, and it was carrying out development projects with that aim. The Republic of Korea generally supported the draft resolution L.16. However, some provisions may be incompatible with its domestic laws and international obligations and it would, thus, abstain from the vote.
China, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that it was committed to protecting the wellbeing of peasants, as reflected in its national laws. It thanked the co-sponsors of the draft Declaration for their constructive and inclusive spirit. China still had some concerns about the definition of peasants, land and other resources. However, China supported the main content of the Declaration so it would vote in favour.
The Council then adopted draft resolution L.16 by a vote of 33 in favour, three against and 11 abstentions.
Action on Resolution on Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples
In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.18/Rev.1) on Human rights and indigenous peoples, adopted without a vote, the Council decides … that, in view of the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019, the theme of the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples during the forty-second session of the Council will be on the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to make the discussions fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and to prepare a summary report on the discussion and to submit it to the Council prior to its forty-fourth session. The Council also decides… that the theme of the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples to be held during the forty-fifth session of the Council will be on the protection of indigenous human rights defenders, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to make the discussions fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and to prepare a summary report on the discussion and to submit it to the Council prior to its forty-seventh session. The Council further decides to hold a half-day intersessional interactive dialogue… on ways to enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in meetings of the Human Rights Council on issues affecting them, [and] requests the Office of the High Commissioner to make the interactive dialogue fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and to prepare a summary report thereon for submission to the Council prior to its forty-fourth session.
Mexico, speaking also on behalf of Guatemala, introducing draft resolution L.18/Rev.1, thanked the contributors to the solid text that pushed forward the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The draft resolution established that the theme of the next panel discussion would be on the preservation of indigenous languages, in line with the year of indigenous languages, 2019. The panel would discuss protections for human rights defenders of indigenous peoples and hold an interactive dialogue on improving indigenous participation during meetings and discussions which affected them. They asked that the resolution be adopted without a vote.
South Africa, in a general comment, said they had participated actively in informal consultations concerning the draft resolution. Regrettably, several of their proposals were not taken on board. The trivialisation of the rights of indigenous peoples as found in the resolution was concerning, as there was a complete disregard for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was a matter that South Africa had raised many times. South Africa also believed that the Declaration should be made a legally binding instrument. The World Conference against Racism underlined the suffering of the indigenous peoples. South Africa noted that those on the front lines of the rights of indigenous peoples also needed protection. It was also important to resuscitate and protect indigenous languages; a move from the rhetoric to the reality of the rights of indigenous peoples was needed.
Brazil, in a general comment, said that the Brazilian Government was fully committed to protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, as enshrined in its Constitution, and carrying out consultations in good faith with indigenous peoples in line with the International Labour Organization Convention 169. Brazil supported the adoption of the resolution, and the only reservation voiced was the possible duplication of efforts, taking into account the work of the General Assembly.
Resolution L.18/Rev.1 was adopted without a vote.
Explanations of the Vote after the Vote 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
Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, noted that it had voted for the draft resolution on the right to development, which provided a bridge between human rights and development. Little headway had been made on the implementation of the right to development and it was time to make progress. Freedom from poverty underpinned the right to development, as did sharing economic and regional connectivity and inclusiveness. The new Prime Minister of Pakistan had pledged to alleviate poverty in the country.
United Kingdom, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, explained its vote in favour of the draft resolution L.11 on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, noting that the United Kingdom upheld that right without discrimination. It did not dispute that economic, social and cultural rights were as important as civil and political rights. But that did not mean that all human rights required different approaches. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was not incorporated in the United Kingdom’s domestic law.
Saudi Arabia, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, thanked the core group of L.13 on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity for their constructive efforts during negotiations. Concerns were expressed to the core group, especially over the language, and the core group had taken into account many concerns. However, one concern that was not accommodated was to eliminate the wording on comprehensive sexual education. For that reason, Saudi Arabia withdrew from certain paragraphs.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it was committed to fighting all forms of violence, especially those occurring because of gender, race or any other grounds. Hundreds of organizations and civil society partners in Venezuela operated to ensure the protection of the human rights of citizens. However, some were acting on behalf of foreign governments. There was a campaign against Venezuela and some of those organisations supported it. Any human rights issue had to be dealt with in line with neutrality and solidarity and avoiding double standards.
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, welcomed the adoption of L.16 on the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and the conclusions of the intergovernmental group. The leadership of Bolivia in guiding this process was welcomed. Egypt had carried out legislative measures to ensure the wellbeing of its people living in rural areas. A few elements in the Declaration exceeded the current human rights framework. Egypt would interpret those provisions in line with international human rights law and its own national legislation. Egypt had voted in favour of L.16 and was looking forward to its adoption by the General Assembly.
Australia, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, was concerned by weakened rights of indigenous peoples and their defenders under resolution L.18/Rev.1. on human rights and indigenous peoples. Indigenous human rights defenders were vulnerable targets; holding States accountable for discrimination against them was a critical role of the Council. On resolution L.13 Rev.1 on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, Australia said it was committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights and provided universal access to tools and education in order to promote those rights.
Spain, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, thanked Bolivia for their positive and open approach to the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants in resolution L.16. Spain was committed to improving living conditions for peasants and recognized their crucial role in society. Their contribution was critical to the future in terms of diversity and wealth of resources. Spain upheld the rights of peasants. There was a need to redouble efforts to achieve human rights for all people. Spain continued to work on initiatives to support peasant agriculture and agreed that the Declaration included elements that created new rights, which needed to be compared with other instruments, therefore they abstained from the previous vote on that declaration.
China, in an explanation of a vote after the vote, said the Council’s adoption of resolution L.12 on preparing a legally binding instrument on the right to development by an overwhelming majority was a welcome development. The right to development was a right of primary importance. China supported global efforts to combat poverty and achieve local development. China hoped the instrument would put the right to development on the international level on a different footing. China was committed to people-centred development. They were ready to work with other countries to encourage inclusive development and work to help people in developing countries to share the profits of development to promote and protect human rights on the global level.
Action on Resolutions under the Agenda Item on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Action on Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi
In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.15/Rev.1) on the Situation of human rights in Burundi, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, seven against and 17 abstentions, the Council requests the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi to share its report and recommendations with the African Union and all relevant organs of the United Nations for their consideration; decides to extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in order to deepen its investigations until it presents a final report during an interactive dialogue at the forty-second session of the Human Rights Council and at the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly, and requests the Commission to present an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth and forty-first sessions during interactive dialogues. The Council urges the Government of Burundi to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry, to authorize it to conduct country visits and to provide it with all the information necessary to properly fulfil its mandate; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to provide all the resources necessary to the Commission of Inquiry to allow it to fulfil its mandate properly.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (23): Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
Against (7): Burundi, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Abstentions (17): Afghanistan, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.
Austria, introducing resolution L.15/Rev.1 on behalf of the European Union, said that the aim of resolution was to allow the Council to continually monitor the human rights situation in Burundi. The conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry pointed to grave violations of human rights in Burundi. The political crisis had exacerbated the poverty in the country. Security forces committed most violations and some of those could be considered as crimes against humanity. It was vital to ensure independent monitoring of the situation in Burundi and the Council had to be informed on a regular basis and to have final report presented at the Council. The European Union regretted that Burundi refused to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner and the Commission of Inquiry. The resolution called on Burundi to restart cooperation with both the Office of the High Commissioner and the Commission of Inquiry. Since 2015, 400,000 people had fled Burundi and the Council could not ignore such situation, so hope was expressed that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.
Australia, in a general comment, thanked the core group for their work and welcomed the resolution on Burundi. The findings of the Commission of Inquiry were alarming and the extension of the mandate had to be supported. The Government of Burundi was called on to resume cooperation with human rights instruments.
Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, condemned the conspiracy of which it was a victim, noting the shocking content of the draft resolution. If adopted the draft resolution would once again show that the Council was politicized by certain countries. Some non-governmental organizations, financed and guided by the European Union, used every opportunity to make statements in support of the reports of the Commission of Inquiry. It was regrettable that the European Union and its allies had violated the principle of the presumption of innocence, with the only aim being to support the work of the International Criminal Court against Burundi, holding the Council hostage and adopting a resolution that ran counter to previous resolutions. There was no reason for the European Union to deny the real situation in Burundi, which was recognized by the delegations which had visited the country. Some countries first set the fire and then wanted to play the role of firemen. Burundi demanded that the draft resolution be submitted to a vote and asked all Member States which opposed the politicization of the Human Rights Council to vote against it.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said they would vote against draft resolution L.15/Rev.1 on the human rights situation in Burundi. Venezuela rejected the text as it was fully politicised. They also rejected the double-standards reflected in other initiatives. The monitoring mechanism established by the resolution was created without input from the country. Venezuela considered it an interference in Burundi’s internal affairs. Burundi was working with the Council and its mechanisms. Venezuela upheld the country’s sovereignty and reiterated their opposition to the initiative.
Egypt believed that initiative of the proposed resolution did not bear positive results. Egypt regretted that the content did not reflect the positive developments on the ground in Burundi or the Government’s cooperation with the Council. Egypt would vote against the draft resolution.
The Council then adopted resolution L.15/Rev.1 by a vote of 23 in favour, 7 against, and 17 abstentions.
Action on Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic
In a resolution (A/HRC/39/L.20) on The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 27 in favour, four against and 16 abstentions, the Council expresses deep concern at the finding of the [Independent International] Commission of Inquiry [on the Syrian Arab Republic] that tactics used in the recapturing of the besieged area of eastern Ghutah amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity; expresses its profound concern at the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, men and boys has been a persistent issue in the Syrian Arab Republic since the uprising in 2011, and that women and girls have been disproportionately affected and victimized on multiple grounds; and notes the findings of the Commission of Inquiry that such acts of sexual and gender-based violence were committed most commonly by Syrian authorities and associated militia, as well as by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh), that they form part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population, amounting to crimes against humanity, and that, after February 2012, these acts constitute the war crimes of rape and other forms of sexual violence. The Council expresses deep concern at the situation of the 6.5 million internally displaced persons across the Syrian Arab Republic, takes note with concern in this regard of the latest report of the Commission of Inquiry, and urges all parties to… ensure that any evacuation and movement of civilians is consistent with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as applicable; and deplores the existence and application of national legislation, in particular Law No. 10/2018, which would have a significant detrimental impact on the rights of Syrians displaced by the conflict to claim their property and to return to their homes in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner when the situation on the ground allows it, and calls for its immediate repeal.
The Council expresses grave concern at the findings by the fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that sarin and chlorine were very likely used in separate attacks in Ltamenah on 24 and 25 March 2017, and that chlorine was likely used in an attack in Saraqib on 4 February 2018; also expresses grave concern at the reported chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018, and looks forward to the final findings of the fact-finding mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on that attack; and invites Member States to actively support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, including by considering the provision of information and data on the most serious crimes under international law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic, and to provide adequate, multiannual, financial means for its functioning.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favour (27): Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
Against (4): Burundi, China, Cuba and Venezuela.
Abstentions (16): Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
United Kingdom, introducing resolution L.20 on behalf of a group of States, said that the human rights situation in Syria remained of grave concern, including attacks against civilians and medical infrastructure. ISIS had taken hostages in areas of southern Syria. Recent developments were noted in the draft as well as findings of the Commission of Inquiry. Efforts were made to present a balanced text accommodating different concerns. Turkey and Russia were called on to de-escalate actions for the sake of 3 million people living in Idlib. Only a political solution was viable and the United Nations Special Envoy was offering his support. All the changes made to the resolution should allow this text to be adopted by consensus, without amendment.
Russian Federation, introducing amendments L26 to L29, expressed concern that the initiative Friends of Syria Group was of a politicized nature and had nothing to do with protecting the human rights of Syrian citizens. Instead, Russia suggested that the resolution supported extremist terrorist groups that were holding Syrian citizens hostage. The Russian Federation sought to amend the resolution to ensure it was not a means of supporting militants within the Syrian conflict. Russia noted that these amendments were analogous to the proposals it had made in June. Russia called on the Council to separate extremist and terrorist groups from those groups that were ready to support a constructive dialogue for the future peace of Syria. Russia proposed that the Council urge countries to refrain from supporting terrorist groups in Syria, a call that should be supported by all countries. Russia called for these amendments to be put to a vote, a vote that would reveal which countries supported the Islamic State and Al-Nusra. The Russian Federation drew attention to the White Helmets organization, which carried out informational support for terrorists. The Russian Federation called for large companies and big organizations that came from countries that sponsored the resolution to be investigated for funding terrorist groups, which Russia suggested might lead to some very curious results. The Russian Federation condemned the draconian restrictive measures that some countries had taken against Syria, through which the country had been thrown back in its development, and had had its sovereign rights violated.
United Kingdom, stating the sponsors views, called for a vote on all four amendments L.26- L.29. Sponsors would vote no and the Council’s members were urged to do the same. Amendment L.29 introduced a vague language on extremists and terrorists. The language of the Security Council resolutions had to be affirmed. Russia was again inserting hostile amendments. All States had had the chance to present their requests during negotiations but Russia did not do it, unlike other States that had shown constructive engagement. The amendments were unnecessary and vague.
Cuba, in a general comment, reaffirmed its support for a peaceful and just solution in Syria. A selective approach to the conflict was rejected. Cuba condemned the killing of civilians as well as all acts of terrorism. Any attempt to use this regrettable situation to destabilize countries of the region and promote geopolitical interests from countries outside of the region was rejected. This draft did not help in finding a just solution, which was why Cuba requested L.20 to be voted on. Cuba would support Russia’s amendments.
China, in a general comment, supported Cuba in their request to put L.20 to vote. Any solution to the crisis in Syria should respect territorial integrity and contribute to counter-terrorism as well as alleviate the suffering of civilians. Draft L.20 was not in line with those solutions. China would support Russia’s amendments.
Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, reminded that the recent memorandum of understanding reached by the Russian Federation and Turkey on Idlib had bought some time, but there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. The Syrian regime bore the overwhelming responsibility for the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country. The European Union called for unrestrained humanitarian access, the rule of law, and for accountability for those who had perpetrated serious crimes. The European Union was fully committed to the full territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Syria. It urged all parties to provide safe, unhindered and immediate access for all those in need, and to provide for the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons. The European Union shared profound concern about the findings of the Commission of Inquiry about the persistence of sexual violence against women, girls, men and boys in Syria. The European Union would continue working with other partners in order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and to find a solution to the conflict. It urged all parties to work constructively with the High Commissioner for Refugees. The European Union would vote in favour of draft resolution L.20.
Switzerland, in a general comment, voiced concern about the violations of international law committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria, and welcomed the agreement between the Russian Federation and Turley on Idlib. Switzerland called for unhindered humanitarian access to those in need, and in light of the repetitive violations of human rights, it called for justice and reparation for victims. The fate of arbitrarily detained and disappeared persons should be revealed. Switzerland called on all parties to come back to the negotiation table under the auspices of the United Nations. It was pleased that draft resolution L.20 referred to disappeared persons and those arbitrarily detained. However, some operative paragraphs were not fully balanced, namely parts about the crimes committed by all parties, and the status of foreign fighters. Switzerland did not support the amendments proposed by the Russian Federation.
Australia, in a general comment, expressed concern about the situation of human rights in Syria. Australia deplored the ongoing human rights violations and abuses in Syria, emphasizing that the Syrian authorities bore particular responsibility for the abuses inflicted on the Syrian people. Australia called on the Council to maintain international attention on the human toll of the crisis and respond to the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Australia also expressed concern about the human rights situation and the lack of humanitarian access to areas recently under control of the Syrian authorities. Australia called on Council members to oppose the amendments that had been tabled.
Syria, speaking as the concerned country, said that States were attempting to politicise the work of the Council and use its mechanisms as a way to advance their political agendas. The resolution ignored the situation of foreign interference in Syria and the suffering of Syrian people because of terrorist groups. Syria condemned the resolution which contained lies and various allegations as part of a political misinformation and media campaign. That stripped the resolution of any objectivity and exacerbated the lack of credibility for any such resolutions from the Council. Syria regretted that the resolution sponsors included countries accused of committing war crimes in Yemen and funding terrorism in Syria and across the world. Syria expressed concern that the resolution would violate the rights of Syrian citizens through political coercive measures, and suggested the resolution was devoid of any basis of neutrality and integrity. Syria said that, while it stood ready to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms in line with the UN Charter, these mechanisms were continually being used to push a politicized agenda lacking the basic objective of neutrality and professionality. Syria said it did not support the measures in the draft resolution and called on the Council to reject it.
Action on Amendment L.26
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that while the proposed amendment referred to the stabilisation of Idlib, the preamble to paragraph nine already included language to that effect, and felt it did not add value to the resolution. Mexico also expressed concern that there was no definition of extreme terrorist groups or moderate groups included in the text. Rather, they said, any violations of human rights by any parties of the conflict were condemnable. Given those reasons, Mexico would vote against the amendment.
The Council then rejected amendment L.26/Rev.1 by a vote of 9 in favour, 24 against, and 14 abstentions.
Action on Amendment L.27, as Orally Revised
Germany, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the fight against terror remained the responsibility of the international community, as reflected in the Security Council resolution, which was invoked by the resolution. Therefore, this amendment introduced by Russia served no purpose. Moreover, it was detrimental as it was reducing clarity on a very important subject.
Belgium, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed amendment L.27 and called on others to do the same. The text already included strong language on terrorism making this amendment unnecessary. The text referred to atrocities committed by ISIS, including chemical attacks, findings of the Commission of Inquiry referring to sexual violence, taking hostages and other crimes. All were called to vote against the amendment.
The Council then rejected amendment L.27, as orally revised, by a vote of 12 in favour, 22 against, and 13 abstentions.
Action on Amendment L.28
Qatar, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, rejected the amendment submitted, which introduced no added value to the resolution, which already included clear language concerning terrorists and terrorist groups. Qatar encouraged all Members States to reject the amendment.
Georgia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that by tabling the amendment, the Russian Federation was vaguely trying to add language, which risked broadening their definitions to justify any actions. The resolution already had strong language on terrorism and Georgia felt the amendment was unbalanced. Georgia would vote against the amendment and urged all other Council members to do likewise.
The Council then rejected amendment L.28 by a vote of 12 in favour, 22 against, and 13 abstentions.
Action on Amendment L.29
Slovakia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of the European Union, rejected the amendment proposed by the Russian Federation. The responsibility for the poor human rights situation in Syria rested with the Assad regime, particularly through indiscriminate bombing and the use of chemical weapons. The European Union had introduced sanctions against the Assad regime in 2011 for its actions against the Syrian civilian population. However, the European Union was also the largest funder of humanitarian aid to Syria, with over 12 billion euros donated since 2012. The sanctions imposed on Syria were targeted and carefully designed to exclude humanitarian organizations and to minimize any impact on humanitarian aid. There was no trade embargo against Syria, and food and medicine could still be traded with Syria. Moreover, exemptions to the sanctions allowed for aid access to humanitarian organizations. These sanctions were not indiscriminate but targeted. The European Union urged the Council to vote against the amendment and support the resolution as presented.
Australia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed the amendment which it said appeared to portray all sanctions as having a negative impact on humanitarian rights and humanitarian access in Syria. Australia emphasized that the careful targeting of sanctions was designed to protect civilians in Syria. It was the Syrian authorities that were largely responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people through the violation of international human rights law. The Syrian authorities and their backers as well as terrorist groups bore the responsibility for the denial of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Australia also condemned Syrian authorities for continuing to block humanitarian access to civilians, even in those areas that had come under their control.
The Council then rejected amendment L.29 with 11 votes in favour, 22 votes against and 14 abstentions.
Action on L.20
Egypt, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its position concerning resolutions on specific States under item 4. Egypt hoped that parties to the conflict would stop the hostilities and that cooperation could be ensured to guarantee safe passage of humanitarian assistance. However, the draft resolution had moved far away from such an objective. It focused on the human rights situation in particular regions in Syria, and added elements not serving to promote human rights. The resolution should be based on credible sources. In light of all of this, Egypt would abstain from voting. The conflict in Syria brought the involvement of many countries, which had not been truly seeking a solution.
Iraq, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not support resolutions on specific States under item 4. The United Kingdom took into account some concerns of Iraq. However, the draft resolution continued its unequal treatment towards all parties when it came to the tragic humanitarian experience of Syrian people. The draft spoke of Syria as if it was not a member of the United Nations. Unilateral coercive measures had to be mentioned, especially since they contributed to the deterioration of the situation, as stated by the Special Rapporteur. The voluntary return also had to be mentioned when talking about Syria. For all those reasons, Iraq would abstain from voting.
Ecuador, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated its concern about and condemnation of the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including the hindrance to the right to peace, in the Syrian Arab Republic. Ecuador reiterated its solidarity with the victims of the violence. They deplored the use of illegal war tactics and remained concerned about internal displacement, hunger, human shields, attacks against hospitals and humanitarian aid and other acts of crimes against humanity. Ecuador also condemned the use of chemical weapons. They hoped perpetrators of the conflict, both indirect and direct, including those providing arms or funding the exacerbation of the situation, would be brought to justice by the International Criminal Court. They regretted that firm language had not been included with regard to weapons suppliers, taking into account that those arms were used to commit human rights violations and destabilised the entire region. The search for peace was necessary and they would vote in favour of the draft, which would allow true justice and reparations to prevail.
Mexico, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, reiterated their concern about the situation in Syria and would vote in favour of the resolution. The prohibition of chemical weapons would help eliminate their use and it was urgent that all parties laid down all weapons of mass destruction. All parties to the conflict had to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. A dialogue was necessary to end the conflict. A human rights based approach should also be implemented.
Brazil, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Syria. Brazil vehemently condemned any use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstances. Brazil looked forward to the establishment of the Syrian Constitutional Committee which could work towards a Syrian-owned and Syrian-backed solution to the conflict. Brazil called on the Council to act on the Commission of Inquiry recommendations that the international community refrain from providing arms or funding to any parties of the conflict. Brazil would vote in favour of the resolution, while highlighting its concern for the imbalanced and selective nature of the text. Brazil encouraged further efforts to address all violations in Syria in a fair and unbalanced way.
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the draft resolution. Venezuela regretted the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic but rejected the selectivity, politicization, and double standards reflected in the resolution which did nothing to improve the human rights violations. Venezuela called on the international community to find a political solution to the conflict, but emphasized that this was not the way. Venezuela reiterated its support for negotiations and peaceful settlements so that he people of Syria could return to peace. Venezuela called for the continued respect of the national territory and national sovereignty.
The Council then adopted resolution L20 with 27 votes in favour, 4 votes against and 16 abstentions.
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