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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES THIRTY-EIGHTH SESSION AFTER ADOPTING 20 RESOLUTIONS

Extends Country Mandates on Belarus and Eritrea; Decides to Dispatch Two International Human Rights Experts to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Calls on All Parties in Syria to Work Towards a Genuine Political Transition; and Appoints Five Special Procedure Mandate Holders
6 July 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its thirty-eighth regular session after adopting 20 resolutions addressing multiple themes as well as human rights situations in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belarus, and Eritrea.  It also filled five vacancies of Special Procedures mandate holders.

The Council bid farewell to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who delivered his last global update to the Council before his mandate ends in August 2018. 

During the session, the Council heard from 24 independent human rights experts, working groups and investigative bodies, and heard the presentation of 105 reports addressing 36 themes and 44 country situations; it held four panel discussions and heard 11 oral updates; it adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of 14 States; and it heard statements by six high-level dignitaries, including the President of Slovenia, and foreign ministers from the United Kingdom and Austria.  Participating in the session were representatives from 147 States, 260 non-governmental organizations and 16 national human rights institutions.

Ambassador Vojislav Šuc of Slovenia, President of the Council, opened the thirty-eighth session on 18 June.  The Council heard from High Commissioner Zeid, who delivered his last update on the state of human rights around the world.  He urged all States to do more, speak louder and work harder for the common purpose and for universal human rights law, and said he departed an Office which was strong, absolutely committed to its gargantuan task, and which, in the face of heavy headwinds, had made progress.

During the session, the following high-level dignitaries addressed the Council: Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom and Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar on 18 June; Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia and Mohammad Farid Hamidi, Attorney General of Afghanistan on 20 June; Paul Oquist, Private Secretary for National Policy of Nicaragua on 22 June; and Karin Kneissl, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria on 26 June.

In the adopted texts, the Council decided to dispatch a team of two international human rights experts with a mandate to write a report on the implementation by the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the recommendations of the previous team of international experts, especially with respect to the fight against impunity and measures to promote reconciliation, and also decided that the Social Forum will meet in Geneva for two working days in 2019 and focus on the promotion and protection of the rights of children and youth through education.  The Council extended, for one year, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and with a vote of 19 in favour, six against and 21 abstentions, extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.  The resolution on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 26 in favour, five against and 15 abstentions, demanded that all parties refrain from carrying out attacks against the civilian population and civilian objects and that all parties work towards a genuine political transition based on relevant United Nations resolutions.

In other texts, the Council decided, by a vote of 28 in favour, nine against and eight abstentions, to convene two intersessional seminars on the contribution that the Council could make to the prevention of human rights violations, and an intersessional high-level panel discussion to discuss the incompatibility between democracy and racism.  The Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a two-day meeting in 2019 to discuss progress, gaps and challenges in the elimination of female genital mutilation, and decided to hold a panel discussion on women and climate change at its forty-first session. 

Further, the Council requested the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to convene a two-day global consultation on the role of national human rights institutions in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses; and also requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a thematic report on the impact of civilian acquisition of firearms on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and a thematic report on new technologies and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests.  By a vote of 35 in favour, none against and 11 abstentions, the High Commissioner was requested to prepare a report on progress made in improving civil society engagement with international and regional organizations and to present it to the Council at its forty-fourth session.

The Council adopted texts on the prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, including in digital contexts, on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, on accessible, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education, and on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS.  A text on the issue of human rights and international solidarity was adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 14 against and one abstention, and a text on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights was adopted by a vote of 28 in favour, 14 against and three abstentions.

The Council appointed David Boyd of Canada as Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Javaid Rehman of Pakistan as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Sorcha Macleod of the United Kingdom as member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, member from Western European and other States; and two members of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises: Githu Muigai of Kenya as member from African States and Elzbieta Karska of Poland as member from Eastern European States.

On 19 June, the United States announced their decision to withdraw their membership from the Human Rights Council.  In response, the President of the Council said that, in times when the value and strength of multilateralism and human rights were being challenged on a daily basis, it was essential to uphold a strong and vibrant Council, recognizing it as a central part of the United Nations for the twenty-first century.  The President also outlined the procedure for the filling of the vacant seat and the election of a new Member to replace the United States.

The Council adopted its report of the thirty-eighth session ad referendum.

In concluding remarks, President Šuc rejected all acts of intimidation and reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperated with the Council, and urged Member States to prevent such acts.

Documentation, statements, resolutions and reports relating to this and all Human Rights Council sessions are available on its webpage. Detailed, speaker-by-speaker coverage of every public meeting, in English and in French, can be found on the website of the United Nations Office at Geneva.


The thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council was held in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 18 June to 6 July 2018. The thirty-ninth session will be held in the same room from 10 to 28 September 2018.


Summary of the Programme of Work

Session Opening

On 18 June, Ambassador Vojislav Šuc of Slovenia, President of the Council, opened the thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, hearing the last update on the situation of human rights by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In his address, High Commissioner Zeid raised concern about attacks on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the body of human rights law that followed it, not only from violent extremists, like the Takfiris, but also from authoritarian leaders, populists, demagogues, cultural relativists, some Western academics, and even some UN officials.  Lamenting the United Nations’ silence in the face of chauvinistic nationalism, the High Commissioner strongly insisted on fearlessness as shown by human rights defenders around the world - not ducking for cover, or using excuses or resorting to euphemisms - for only by speaking was it possible to begin to combat the growing menace of chauvinistic nationalism that stalked the common future.

Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, and Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar, also addressed the Council at its opening meeting.

First Week

Following the opening of the session, the Council held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including on the links between hate speech and hate crimes, and with the new Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on global trends on restriction on freedom of assembly and association.  The Council then discussed the relationship between the right to health and specific forms of deprivation of liberty and confinement in penal and medical regimes with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, and the first report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.  At the end of the day, the new Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity set out the vision for the mandate in the report he presented, while the Special Rapporteur on the right to education presented her report which focused on governance in education.
 
On Tuesday 19 June, the Council held a general debate on the oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, concluded its discussion on international solidarity and the right to education, and heard the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including on the role of armed non-State actors vis-à-vis the right to life, and by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, who addressed the regulation of user-generated online content.  This clustered interactive dialogue concluded the following day, Wednesday 20 June, when the Council also heard its President responding to the United States’ decision to withdraw its membership from the Council, and listened to statements by Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia, and Mohammad Farid Hamidi, Attorney General of Afghanistan.  The same day, the Council engaged in a clustered discussion with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on the human rights-based approach to preventing and combatting online violence against women, and also discussed the Global Compact on Migration and return and reintegration with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

On Thursday 21 June, the Council addressed the issue of discrimination against women and analysed challenges in the identification and protection of victims of trafficking in persons in the context of mixed migration, in a clustered dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, who had presented their reports the previous day.  In the context of its annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women, the Council debated the impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organizations in digital spaces, and discussed advancing women’s rights in the economic sphere through access and participation in information and communication technologies on 21 and 22 June, respectively.  Also on Friday 22 June, the Council discussed the impact of the International Monetary Fund on social protection with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and the progress in implementing the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; and heard an address by Paul Oquist, Private Secretary for National Policy of Nicaragua.

Second Week

A clustered discussion with the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on “economic diplomacy”, and with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the role of judicial councils took place on Monday 25 June, and was followed by a presentation of thematic reports by the Secretary-General , and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office, and a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  Later on Monday, the Council opened its agenda item on human rights situations that require its attention, and discussed the situation of human rights in Belarus with the Special Rapporteur.

On Tuesday 26 June, the Council heard from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea who noted that the patterns of human rights violations ascertained over time persisted and welcomed recent efforts to reach peaceful solutions to the boundary dispute with Ethiopia.  During the discussion with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Council heard its update on the recent events in eastern Ghouta, and also heard that medieval siege warfare in Syria encompassed some of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated in recent history towards civilians.  The Council heard an address by Karin Kneissl, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, and then held a panel discussion on the human rights of internally displaced persons to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. 

During the discussion on the human rights situation in Burundi with the Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday 27 June, the Council heard concerns about the continued human rights violations, including in the context of the Constitutional referendum, and the hardening of positions due to a continuous political stalemate.  The same day, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar recommended that the Council to establish an accountability mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations without delay, with the view of preparing for the International Criminal Court and to finally put an end to decades of crimes against the people of Myanmar.  This discussion was followed by a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, and the presentation on the sixth Forum on Businesses and Human Rights held in Geneva from 27 to 29 November 2017, which focused on the theme of realizing access to effective remedy for victims of adverse human rights impacts of business-related activities.

On Thursday 28 June, the Council held a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, and adopted Universal Periodic Review outcomes of France, Tonga, Romania, Mali, Botswana, Bahamas, and Burundi.  The Council concluded its second week with the adoption of Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Lichtenstein, and Serbia, and a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review on Friday 29 June.

Third Week

The Council opened the last week of the session with a general debate on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and a general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Later on Monday 2 July, it held interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, on her reports on racial discrimination in the context of laws, policies and practices concerning citizenship, nationality and immigration, and on shifts in ideologies and support for Nazism and neo-Nazism and their glorification, which was followed by a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.

On Tuesday 3 July, the Council, in the context of technical cooperation and capacity-building, discussed the development of a national plan of action to implement recommendations of human rights mechanisms in Haiti with the High Commissioner for Human Rights; held an enhanced dialogue on the findings of the team of international experts on the situation in the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after hearing the High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation of human rights in this country; and discussed, in an interactive dialogue, an oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine

The panel discussion on human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on enhancing human rights technical cooperation and capacity-building to contribute to the effective and inclusive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was held on Wednesday 4 July, which was followed by an interactive discussion with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.  At the end of the day, the Council discussed the oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation of the Rohingya people and other minorities in Myanmar, and also heard an oral update by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on Burundi and on Georgia. 

The following day, Thursday 5 July, the Council held a general debate on technical cooperation and capacity-building, and then started taking action on resolutions and decisions, which concluded on Friday 6 July, after adopting 20 texts.

Resolutions

Action on Texts under Agenda Item 3 on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Including the Right to Development

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.1/Rev.1) on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council calls upon States to work towards establishing or strengthening inclusive and gender-responsive social protection systems, including floors, to ensure full access to nationally appropriate social protection for all without discrimination of any kind. The Council requests the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to continue engaging with the Commission on the Status of Women, including by participating in its work and formally reporting.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.3) on human rights and international solidarity, adopted by a vote of 31 in favour, 14 against and one abstention, the Council recognizes that international solidarity shall be a new foundational principle underpinning contemporary international law, and requests the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity to continue to participate in relevant international forums and major events with a view to promoting the importance of international solidarity in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.4) on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights, adopted by a vote of 28 in favour, 14 against and three abstentions, the Council requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to make clear the process by which States request assistance from the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and to prepare a report for the forty-first session of the Council on the work of the Office in the implementation and the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.5) on human rights and climate change, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to incorporate into the programme of work of the its forty-first session a panel discussion on "Women's rights and climate change, climate action, best practices and lessons learned" and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct, from within existing resources, an analytical study on the integration of a gender-responsive approach into climate action at local, national, regional and international levels.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.6) on accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls: preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in digital contexts, adopted without a vote, the Council welcomes the panel discussion on violence against women and girls, held during the annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights at the thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a summary report on the discussion to the Council at its fortieth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.9) on the elimination of female genital mutilation, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a two-day meeting in 2019, preferably in Addis Ababa, to discuss the measures taken by State and non-State actors to prevent and eliminate female genital mutilation in different contexts, and to submit a report on the outcome of the above-mentioned meeting at the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.10/Rev.1) on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon all States to bridge the digital divides, including the gender digital divide, and to enhance the use of information and communications technology, in order to promote the full enjoyment of human rights for all; to ensure effective remedies for human rights violations, including those relating to the Internet, in accordance with their international obligations; and to consider adopting national Internet-related public policies that have at their core the objective of universal access, and the enjoyment of human rights.
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.12) on human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a consultation, in the first half of 2019, in coordination with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, lasting one and a half days, to discuss all relevant issues and challenges pertaining to respect for and the protection and fulfilment of human rights in the context of the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and sub regional strategies and best practices; and present the report on the outcome of the consultation to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.13) on the right to education: follow-up to Human Rights Council resolution 8/4, adopted without a vote, the Council calls upon States to take all necessary measures to ensure accessible, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory quality education, and to promote learning opportunities for all; and to accelerate efforts to eliminate gender-based discrimination and all forms of violence, including sexual harassment, school-related sexual and gender-based violence, and bullying of children, in schools and other educational settings, and to realize gender equality and the right to education for all.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.14) on human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the impact of the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and to present the report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session; and requests the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Member States.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.16) on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a thematic report on new technologies, including information and communications technology, and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests, and to submit it to the Human Rights Council prior to its forty-fourth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.17/Rev.1) on civil society space: engagement with international and regional organizations, adopted by a vote of 35 in favour, none against and 11 abstentions as orally revised, the Council urges States to take all steps necessary to prevent threats, attacks, discrimination, arbitrary arrests and detention or other forms of harassment, reprisals and acts of intimidation against civil society actors, to investigate any such alleged acts, to ensure access to justice and accountability, and requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on progress made in improving civil society engagement with international and regional organizations and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its forty-fourth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.18) on business and human rights: improving accountability and access to remedy, adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to convene a two-day global consultation on the role of national human rights institutions in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses, and to submit a report thereon to the Human Rights Council for consideration at its forty-fourth session.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 4 on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.7) on the situation of human rights in Belarus, adopted by a vote of 19 in favour, six against and 21 abstentions, 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 requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report on the situation of human rights in Belarus to the Human Rights Council at its forty first session and to the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.15/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, adopted without a vote, 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; requests the Special Rapporteur to submit and present a written report to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session, and to engage in an interactive dialogue with the General Assembly on her report at its seventy-third session; decides to hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, at its fortieth session; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its fortieth session on progress made in the cooperation between Eritrea and the Office, and on its impact on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.20) on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted by a vote of 26 in favour, five against and 15 abstentions, the Council deplores the fact that the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continues in its eighth year with its devastating impact on the civilian population, and demands that all parties, particularly the Syrian authorities and their allies, refrain from carrying out attacks against the civilian population and civilian objects; demands that all parties desist immediately from any use of chemical weapons; reaffirms the importance of establishing appropriate processes and mechanisms to achieve justice, reconciliation, truth and accountability for gross violations and abuses of international law, and reparations and effective remedies for victims, and demands that all parties work towards a genuine political transition based on the Geneva communiqué and Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), within the framework of the United Nations-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.

Action on Resolutions under Agenda Item 5 on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.2) on the Social Forum, adopted without a vote, the Council decides that the Social Forum will meet for two working days in 2019 in Geneva and focus on the promotion and protection of the rights of children and youth through education, and invites the Social Forum to submit a report containing its conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session.

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.19/Rev.1) on the contribution of the Human Rights Council to the prevention of human rights violations, adopted by a vote of 28 in favour, nine against and eight abstentions as orally revised, the Council decides to convene two intersessional seminars with States and other relevant stakeholders on the contribution that the Human Rights Council can make to the prevention of human rights violations; requests the President of the Council to appoint, as early as possible, a chair-rapporteur and two rapporteurs to chair and facilitate the two intersessional seminars in Geneva, and to consult and gather the views of relevant stakeholders in Geneva and New York, in the form of a report for consideration by the Council at its forty-third session.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 9 on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.11) on the incompatibility between democracy and racism, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council decides to convene an intersessional high-level panel discussion, before the forty-first regular session of the Human Rights Council and requests the High Commissioner to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion for submission to the Human Rights Council at its forty-second session.

Action on Resolution under Agenda Item 10 on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

In a resolution (A/HRC/38/L.8) on technical assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and accountability concerning the events in the Kasai regions, adopted without a vote as orally revised, the Council requests the High Commissioner to dispatch a team of two international human rights experts with a mandate to write a report on the implementation by the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the recommendations of the previous team of international experts, especially with respect to the fight against impunity and measures to promote reconciliation, and to make recommendations in that regard.  It also requests the High Commissioner to present an oral update on the developments of the situation of human rights in the Kasai regions and to invite the team of two international experts to take part in an enhanced interactive dialogue at the Council’s fortieth session, and to present an integrated report on the situation of human rights in the Kasai regions during the Council’s forty-first session.

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HRC18/118E