September 22, 2011

A Year in the Life of the Human Rights Council: Achievements and Challenges

Progress in Responding to Country Situations

During the fifth year since its creation by the UN General Assembly in 2006, the Human Rights Council made substantial progress in responding to human rights emergencies around the world. The Council showed its ability to act promptly and firmly to a range of human rights crises, substantially increasing the overall number of country situations with which it was dealing. The Council tailored its response to the new situations on which it engaged, using various tools and approaches.

The Council’s engagement in eight country situations illustrates this progress.

Iran: New Special Rapporteur

Action taken: In March 2011 the Council decided to appoint a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.[2]

Significance: This new post allows for monitoring of the situation in Iran on a day-to-day basis, and the mandate-holder will be able to raise concerns about human rights violations both privately with Iranian authorities and publicly through the Council, the media, and its reporting function. The establishment of the expert mandate sent a strong message to the Iranian government that the crackdown on rights had gone too far and was adopted partly in response to Iran’s lack of cooperation with thematic experts of the Council, which have not been allowed to visit the country since 2005.[3]

Next steps: Ahmed Shaheed, former foreign minister of the Maldives, was appointed Special Rapporteur on Iran in June 2011. Shaheed will present his first report to the Council in March 2012 and will present an interim report on the human rights situation in Iran to the UN General Assembly at its 66th session in late 2011.

Côte d’Ivoire: Establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and a New Independent Expert Mandate

Action taken: Reacting swiftly to the human rights crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the Council convened a special session on the situation on December 23, 2010, and mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to monitor the situation and report back to it.[4] In March 2011 the Council took further action by creating an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate violations committed in the aftermath of the November 2010 elections.

Significance: The commission documented serious violations of international law in Côte d’Ivoire–including war crimes and potential crimes against humanity–by armed forces on both sides. The commission emphasized the need for impartial and transparent judicial proceedings against those who committed grave crimes.

In response to the report, in June 2011 the Council requested OHCHR to provide technical assistance for the establishment and functioning of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Côte d’Ivoire.[5] The Council also created an independent expert mandate to follow-up and assist the government in the implementation of the recommendations of the commission, as well as the decisions of the Council.

Next steps: The President of the Council in September 2011 will appoint the independent expert, who will present his or her first report in March 2012.

Libya: Suspension of Membership to the Council and Establishment of a Commission of Inquiry

Action taken: The Council convened a special session on Libya on February 25, 2011. The Council condemned the gross and systematic human rights violations committed in the country, noting that some may have amounted to crimes against humanity.[6] In an unprecedented move, it unanimously called on the UN General Assembly to consider suspending Libya’s membership to the Council, prompting the General Assembly’s subsequent decision. It also decided to urgently dispatch an international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law and asked the commission, where possible, to identify those responsible and make recommendations on accountability measures to be taken.

Significance: The work of the commission of inquiry has played a key role in setting the stage for the investigations of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which in turn have led to the issuing of arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, and Libya's intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi. The three are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in attacks on civilians, including peaceful demonstrators, in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, and other Libyan cities and towns.

Next steps: In June 2011 the Council condemned the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in Libya since February 2011 and decided to extend the mandate of the commission of inquiry for a further six months. The commission of inquiry will present its final report in March 2012.[7]

Belarus: Monitoring of the Human Rights Situation in the Country

Action taken: The Council acted in response to an upsurge in abuses following presidential elections in 2010 and urged the government of Belarus to end politically motivated persecution and harassment of opposition leaders and human rights activists.[8] It called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the situation and report to the Council. It also encouraged human rights experts appointed by the council to monitor specific issues, such as freedom of expression, independence of judges and lawyers, and torture, to “pay particular attention to the situation in Belarus” in order to contribute to the High Commissioner’s report.[9]

Significance: The Council's resolution on Belarus sends a clear message that repression in the country needs to stop. It also ensures that key human rights developments on the ground will be monitored independently over the coming months and the Council informed about the situation. The Council’s action is an important response to defenders’ calls for increased accountability of the government of Belarus.

Next steps: An interim report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights will be presented to the Council in September 2011, followed by a final report in June 2012.

Tunisia: Supporting the Establishment of an OHCHR Office in the Country

Action taken: The Council recognized the importance of the Tunisian transitional government’s decision to invite OHCHR to set up a country office in Tunisia.[10] The resolution encouraged the authorities to implement the recommendations contained in the OHCHR assessment mission’s report, produced following its mission to Tunisia from January 26 to February 2, 2011.[11]

Significance: It is important that the Council respond not only when states ignore their human rights obligations, but also when they are willing to work with the UN to improve their record. With this resolution, the Council recognizes the efforts made by Tunisia to cooperate with the UN system to advance human rights in the country. The Council also called on the UN and its member states to assist the transitional process in the country, including through the mobilization of resources to tackle the economic and social challenges in the country.[12]

Next steps: OHCHR is currently recruiting and setting up its country office in Tunisia.

Syria: Fact-finding Mission Established; Bid for Council Seat Withdrawn

Action taken: On April 29, 2011 the Council convened a special session on the human rights situation in Syria. The Council condemned the killing, arrest, and torture of hundreds of peaceful protestors, and the hindrance of access to medical treatment by Syrian authorities and called on OHCHR to urgently investigate the killings and other human rights violations.[13] A few days later, on May 11, 2011, Syria ended its bid for a seat on the Council.[14]

In an oral report to the Council in June 2011, the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that Syrian authorities had failed to respond to her request to send a fact-finding mission to the country despite the Council’s calls on Syria to “cooperate fully with and grant access” to the mission.[15] Nonetheless, the High Commissioner said she would fulfill the fact-finding mandate by sending a team to southern Turkey, where thousands of Syrian refugees had crossed the border.[16] In a presidential statement issued on August 3, 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously called on the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with OHCHR.[17]

Significance: The OHCHR fact-finding mission, scheduled to present its report to the Council in September 2011, will help shed light on the nature and scope of violations that have been ongoing in Syria since peaceful demonstrators took to the streets in February 2011. The work of OHCHR will be instrumental in raising issues of accountability for violations in Syria and will hopefully offer recommendations to the Council on the steps it should take to prevent further abuses.

Next steps: The report of the fact-finding mission will be presented to the Council in September 2011.

Yemen: Briefing on the OHCHR Visit to the Country

Action taken: During its 17th session in June 2011, the Council adopted a procedural decision welcoming Yemen’s decision to invite the OHCHR to visit the country, but failed to speak out on the violent crackdown there.[18] The Council invited the High Commissioner to report back on her visit to Yemen during the September 2011 session.

Significance: While failing to address the substantive human rights issues affecting the country, the Council’s decision puts Yemen on its agenda for further discussion.

Next steps: OHCHR will brief the Council on its mission to the country during the September 2011 session.

The Council’s Ongoing Response to Other Country Situations

During the July 2010-June 2011 period, the Council continued its scrutiny of the human rights situations in Sudan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and Burma. With the consent of the concerned states, the Council also adopted technical assistance resolutions focusing on the human rights situations in Cambodia, Somalia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, and Kyrgyzstan.

Action taken: The Council renewed the mandates of the special rapporteurs on Cambodia,[19] North Korea,[20] and Burma,[21] and the independent experts on Sudan[22] and Somalia,[23] respectively, for one year.

The Council expressed serious concern about the ongoing grave and systematic human rights violations in North Korea[24] and Burma.[25] On Sudan, it called on all parties to implement their obligations stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.[26] In the case of Somalia, the Council focused on the need to protect civilians and particularly condemned attacks and other acts of violence perpetrated by Al-Shabaab forces.[27]

The resolution on Kyrgyzstan strongly condemned the acts that resulted in the killing of protesters on April 7, 2010 and urged the government of Kyrgyzstan to ensure progress in a host of areas, including the administration of justice, the penitentiary system, torture, arbitrary detention, and minority rights.[28] The resolution also urged the government of Kyrgyzstan to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations and to promote inter-ethnic reconciliation. It requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide technical assistance through her office in Bishkek, to brief the Council on progress, and to submit a report for its consideration at its 20th session in June 2012.

In the case of Guinea the Council called on the international community to support the OHCHR office in the country and called on Guinean authorities to pursue efforts to implement the recommendations of the international commission of inquiry set up by the Secretary-General, with the support of Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).[29] The Council invited the High Commissioner to report back on the situation at its 19th session, in March 2012.

The Failure to Respond to Important Human Rights Crises

Although there have been many significant improvements in the Council’s response to situations of violations around the world, the Council’s overall record on response to situations requiring its attention remained mixed, as it failed to adequately address situations such as Bahrain, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan.

 

Bahrain

The Council’s muted response to violations of human rights in Bahrain undermines its credibility and raises doubts about its ability to deal firmly with abusive governments, no matter who their allies are.

Situation: Since mid-March 2011 Bahrain has been carrying out a punitive and vindictive campaign of violent repression against its own citizens.[30] This repression has been characterized by widespread arbitrary arrests, credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, apparently coerced televised “confessions,” unfair trials, and attacks on healthcare professionals and injured protesters, as well as politically motivated mass dismissals of workers from jobs and professors and students from university.

Over the past few months, authorities have released hundreds of detainees and reinstated some workers, but the overall rights situation remains dire. Several hundred still remain in prison and politically motivated layoffs have continued. Despite a June decree by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa indicating that cases pending before special military courts would be transferred to civilian courts, at least some of those charged with more serious crimes will reportedly still be tried by special military courts.

With more than 30 protest-related deaths and hundreds of injuries since February 2011, the number of people killed in Bahrain may not compare to the figures in neighboring Arab states such as Syria, Yemen, and Libya, but relative to Bahrain’s population, it is substantial, and greater than the casualties resulting from five years of protracted unrest in the 1990s.[31]

Since mid-April the government has prohibited Human Rights Watch from visiting the country, refusing requests for visas and not allowing staff members and consultants to acquire visas at the airport, as had been customary. The government has also refused other rights groups and some international journalists from entering the country.

Bahrain’s major Western allies–the United States, the United Kingdom, and France–have pointed to a “national dialogue” that began in July 2011 as the way out of the present crisis.[32] But the ruling family stacked the deck in a way that made resolving the crisis highly unlikely. In place of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the original proponent of the dialogue, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa appointed the speaker of the parliament, a proponent of the government crackdown, to convene and direct it.

Leading opposition figures essential to any successful dialogue were sentenced to lengthy prison terms after transparently unfair trials. Others remain detained awaiting prosecution simply for participating in peaceful demonstrations and criticizing the government. Even legally recognized opposition parties have been completely marginalized: Al Wifaq, Wa'ad, and Democratic Minbar–three opposition societies that, combined, received over 55 percent of the popular vote in the October 2010 election–each received five invitations out of an approximate total of 300. Together, these three groups with a clear electoral mandate made up just five percent of the participants in the dialogue. In July 2011, Al Wifaq and several other legally recognized opposition parties dropped out of the so-called dialogue. 

Much more promising than the national dialogue, as proposed, was King Hamad’s announcement on June 29, 2011, of an independent investigative commission headed by M. Cherif Bassiouni and including four other internationally recognized human rights experts, among them Nigel Rodley, the former UN special rapporteur on torture. According to Royal Order No. 28 of 2011, the commission’s mandate is to investigate “the events occurring in Bahrain February/March 2011, and any consequences arising out of the aforementioned events.”[33] The investigation was underway at the time of writing. The government says it has launched its own investigations into the period of unrest and announced the investigation of several members of the security forces allegedly involved in committing rights abuses, but these investigations are neither transparent nor impartial.

Action needed: The Council should take action on Bahrain during its September 2011 session. It should request the government of Bahrain to allow international human rights organizations and media representatives access to the country. It should also ask the Bahraini authorities to present the report of the independent investigative commission set up in accordance with Royal Order No. 28 of 2011 to its session in March 2012. It should also follow up on Bahrain’s promise to invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the country and request the High Commissioner to report back to the Council following her visit. The Council should call on the government of Bahrain to welcome visits from the special procedures of the Council, including the special rapporteurs on torture, on freedom of expression and opinion, on peaceful assembly and association, on the independence of judges and lawyers, on the right to education, and on freedom of religion and belief, as well as the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Sri Lanka

Situation: In May 2009 Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised in a joint statement with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address allegations of laws-of-war violations committed by both government forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the final months of Sri Lanka’s decades-long war, which ended in May 2009.[34] One year later, after the Sri Lankan government failed to honor that commitment, the Secretary-General appointed a panel of experts to advise him regarding the “modalities, applicable standards and comparative experience relevant to an accountability process.”[35] On March 31, 2011, the Secretary-General released the report of the panel of experts.[36]

The panel of experts concluded that tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final five months of the conflict, and that both Sri Lankan government forces and the LTTE conducted military operations “with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law.”[37] The panel found that the conduct of the war represented a “grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.”[38] It concluded that Sri Lanka’s efforts to provide accountability “fall dramatically short of international standards on accountability and fail to satisfy either the joint commitment of the president of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General, or Sri Lanka’s legal duties.”[39]

The panel called on the Sri Lankan government to commence genuine investigations and recommended that the UN establish an independent international mechanism to monitor and assess the government’s domestic accountability process, conduct investigations into the alleged violations, and collect and safeguard information relevant to accountability for the final stages of the war.

Regrettably, the Sri Lankan government responded to the report with blanket denials.[40] Instead of investigating the report’s allegations, the government wrongly claimed that the Secretary-General did not have the authority to commission such a report, questioned the impartiality of the experts, and launched a diplomatic campaign to pressure the UN, including the Human Rights Council, to not act on the report’s recommendations.

With so much new information on serious abuses now available, the panel questioned whether the Council possessed all the information it needed when it convened during its May 2009 special session immediately after the conflict ended.[41] In its report the panel recommended that the Human Rights Council reconsider its May 2009 special session regarding Sri Lanka in light of the report.[42] Yet in its June 2011 session the Council failed to take up Sri Lanka.[43]

Action needed: The Council should reexamine its position on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. In particular, it should express concern that the Sri Lankan government has failed to investigate and provide accountability for abuses in violation of its international legal obligations. The Council should encourage the Secretary-General to work towards the implementation of the recommendations of the panel, in particular the recommendation to create an independent international mechanism to investigate the violations. It should also call on the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendation to facilitate international efforts. The Council should remain seized of the situation in Sri Lanka and request regular updates from the Secretary-General of his assessment of measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to advance accountability.

Afghanistan

Given the gravity of the violations taking place in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch has called on members of the Council to consider supporting the creation of a special rapporteur mandate on Afghanistan.[44]

Situation: In the immediate years after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, involved states frequently contended that stability and security took priority over justice and rights. As a result, the Afghan government awarded warlords and serious rights violators with official positions and allowed them to commit abuses with impunity, bringing the government into disrepute among Afghans. The Taliban insurgency, which itself has been responsible for numerous abuses against the civilian population, has partly been fuelled by the abusiveness and corruption of powerful local government figures and warlords. The UN, foreign military powers, and donors are still not giving priority to the problem of impunity and the weakness of the rule of law. Efforts at reform in these areas remain slow and under-resourced, despite being critical to good governance.

In 2009 the Human Rights Council reviewed the situation in Afghanistan. During the fifth session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), on May 7, 2009, numerous governments raised concerns about the violations of human rights in the country.[45] In particular, governments identified the lack of progress in fighting impunity, their concerns regarding high civilian casualties in the armed conflict, and the need for stronger protection of women’s rights, as key issues that should be addressed as a matter of urgency in the country. In the context of the review, a number of recommendations were made to improve Afghanistan’s compliance with its international legal obligations. Of the 143 recommendations made to the government of Afghanistan, the government accepted 117 and rejected 10.[46] Sixteen recommendations remained pending as the government gave no clear position on their implementation.[47]

In June 2010 the Council adopted a narrow resolution on Afghanistan that focused only on attacks targeting school children and supporting Afghan government efforts to protect all students from such attacks.[48] While the Council’s belated attention to an important human rights issue was a step forward, the Council’s failure to address the full range of rights violations in Afghanistan by all parties to the conflict was regrettable.

In March 2011 the High Commissioner presented a report on her office’s activities in Afghanistan.[49] The report raised serious concerns about rising civilian casualties and decreased protection for civilian populations. This lack of protection was cited as being due to an intensification of the armed conflict in the country, a lack of functioning and independent rule of law institutions, and the widespread use of harmful traditional practices against women and girls. While noting efforts made by the government, the report underlined the need for much more effective implementation of existing laws and policies designed to promote and protect human rights.[50]

Concerns raised during the UPR and by the High Commissioner in her report on Afghanistan indicate the need for more decisive action by the Council beyond the framework of the UPR and the resolution focusing on attacks on school children. Close and regular independent examination of an already volatile and deteriorating situation is necessary. The Council can be instrumental in profiling the key challenges facing Afghanistan in the area of human rights in order to ensure that these challenges are adequately addressed by all actors involved.

Action needed: A special rapporteur would be instrumental in bringing the urgently required attention to the situation and would help assist the government in implementing its commitments under the UPR, while keeping the Council informed of developments. Such a mandate would also help shape an independent assessment of the shortcomings of some of the policies and practices implemented in Afghanistan to date, which have not helped improve the state of human rights in the country. The special rapporteur would provide public reporting and independent advice on the way in which key actors should engage to prevent further deterioration of the situation. The mandate would also function as an early warning mechanism to alert the Human Rights Council of emerging threats to the human rights environment in the country.

The Council’s Engagement on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel

Situation: The Human Rights Council continued to focus disproportionately on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel. Out of the 102 resolutions[51] adopted between July 2010 and June 2011, 9 focused on Israel and 26 focused on other country situations. Item 7 on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories continues to be the only country-specific agenda item of the Council.

It is the disproportionate number of resolutions and time dedicated to the OPT and Israel, as compared to other human rights situations that is problematic for the Council, not that the situation is being addressed. Adding to the controversy is the fact that many of the states supporting strong action on the OPT and Israel obstruct action on all other country situations, sending a strong signal of selectivity. Furthermore, some of the resolutions on OPT/Israel fail to recognize the responsibility of all parties to the conflict, targeting Israel alone, and can be dismissed as unbalanced and selective. Human Rights Watch has consistently emphasized that by failing to look at the roles and responsibilities of all parties, the Council’s approach renders it incapable of effectively addressing this human rights situation.

Between July 2010 and June 2011, almost half of the resolutions adopted by the Council on the OPT were perennial resolutions, adopted on a recurring annual basis. This includes the resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination[52] and the resolution on Israeli settlements,[53] as well as the annual resolutions on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan[54] and on the human rights situation in the OPT including East Jerusalem.[55] The US was the sole vote in opposition to all four resolutions, although there were 16 and 15 abstentions, respectively, on the Golan and OPT resolutions.

During the July 2010-June 2011period, the Council also adopted three resolutions on the follow-up to the May 2010 “Gaza aid flotilla” incident, one at each session. Several delegations did not vote in favor of the resolution adopted during the September 2010 session[56] because it failed to acknowledge the work of the panel appointed by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the incident and therefore lacked cohesion with other parts of the UN system. This was remedied in subsequent resolutions adopted during the March 2011 and June 2011 sessions,[57] which got broad cross-regional support, including the votes of several European Union and Western states, although the US voted against all three resolutions.

The Council also adopted two follow-up resolutions to the inquiry of laws-of-war violations committed during the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone inquiry. Both resolutions were voted on and did not enjoy the support of any EU or Western state.[58] During the September 2010 session, Human Rights Watch called for the Council to refer the report of the expert committee that had been set up to monitor the status of investigations to the General Assembly, where the issue was being considered together with the Secretary-General’s reports on the matter.[59] According to Human Rights Watch’s research, Israel’s investigations of the allegations of violations had not been thorough or impartial, while Hamas had conducted no serious investigation at all.[60] Human Rights Watch also urged the Council to request the prosecutor of the ICC to determine whether the court had jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict in order to clarify the avenues for justice available, particularly in view of the failure of the domestic courts to investigate adequately.[61]

Resolution 15/6 adopted during the Council’s September 2010 session[62] failed to link the work of the committee of experts with the ongoing debate at the UN General Assembly. Instead it asked the committee to continue to report to the Council in parallel. Resolution 16/32, adopted during the March 2010 of the Council,[63] discontinued the work of the expert committee and reverted back to the General Assembly and the Secretary-General to take further steps regarding the findings of the Goldstone inquiry. The resolution also recommended the General Assembly submit the report to the UN Security Council for it to decide whether referral to the ICC was warranted or not.[64]

Action needed: The Council should streamline the number of resolutions it considers each year on the situation in Israel and the OPT. At the same time, it should continue to expand its work on other situations that warrant attention by the Human Rights Council, a step that would also address disproportionality in the Council’s treatment of Israel. Efforts should also be made to ensure that resolutions put forward on the situation fully reflect the responsibility of all parties to the conflict, not Israel alone. It is important for states from all regional groups to abandon a selective approach to the question of the OPT and Israel–whether it takes the form of promoting Council action only on this situation or systematically opposing any initiative focusing on this situation.

Progress in Thematic Areas Addressed by the Council

The Human Rights Council ventured into a number of new thematic areas of work during the last year and finally overcame the conflicting positions that had undermined discussion around the question of religion and freedom of expression.

Preventing Maternal Mortality

Action taken: Many resolutions were adopted in the area of the right to health during the July 2010-June 2011 period, including resolutions focusing on HIV and AIDS[65] and access to medicine.[66] Of particular significance, however, was the adoption for the first time by the Council of a resolution focusing on the prevention of maternal mortality from a human rights perspective.[67]

Significance: The resolution calls upon states to collect disaggregated data in relation to maternal mortality and morbidity, to ensure effective targeting of policies and programs, to address discrimination and the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized women and adolescent girls. It requests all states to renew their political commitment to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and to give the topic renewed emphasis in their development partnerships and cooperation arrangements.

Next steps: The resolution requests the OHCHR to document initiatives that exemplify good or effective practices in adopting a human rights-based approach to eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. The Council requested the OHCHR to prepare an analytical compilation on such initiatives, to be considered at its 18th session in September 2011.

Creation of a New Special Rapporteur Mandate on Freedom of Assembly and Association

Action taken: One of the most significant resolutions adopted by the Council during its September 2010 session was the decision to appoint a new special rapporteur focusing on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.[68]

Significance: At the time of its adoption, the resolution was seen as an important development given the growing restrictions to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, particularly as experienced by the human rights communities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a number of countries.[69] The mass mobilization of peaceful protesters in the Arab world beginning in December 2010 proved the pertinence and timeliness of this mandate. 

Like other thematic mandates, the newly appointed special rapporteur will carry out country visits. The special rapporteur’s reports will shed light on violations and document good practices in this area. The special rapporteur will engage governments about their obligations to respect freedom of association and assembly, and be a voice for victims of these violations around the world. Like other mandates, the special rapporteur will also be able to take up individual cases and will help clarify state obligations in this area.

Next steps: The new special rapporteur will present his first report to the Council in June 2012.

Landmark Decision on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Action taken: In June 2011 the Council adopted its first-ever resolution on the issue of sexual orientation, gender identity, and human rights.[70] The resolution calls on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to commission a study, to be finalized by December 2011, that documents discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world. The Council called on OHCHR to examine how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Council also decided to convene a panel discussion during its March 2012 session focusing on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. It requested the panel to discuss what would be appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner.

Significance: By adopting this resolution the Council took a first bold step into territory previously considered off-limits. It is the first text of its kind to recognize the suffering of people who are targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The groundbreaking text adopted by the Council expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”[71]

The importance of this resolution lies in the recognition that all people, regardless of who they are, are entitled to the protection of their rights. It affirms the principles of nondiscrimination and universality of human rights.

The report commissioned by OHCHR will provide important guidance on how existing human rights law can be used to end violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The panel will help shed light on the types of abuse that people face because of their gender identity or sexual orientation and hopefully help identify follow-up measures that can help prevent further violations.

Next steps: The OHCHR report will be published in December 2011. The Council will hold a panel discussion on the issue during its March 2012 session.

Creation of a New Working Group on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Action taken: During its September 2010 session, the Council created a new working group of five independent experts focusing on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.[72]

Significance: The newly established mechanism is the only entity with universal coverage that focuses on the problem of laws and practices that discriminate against women globally. By creating this mandate the Council will contribute to discharge, 15 years overdue, a commitment made by states during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.”[73] In fact, the resolution calls upon states to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to revoke any remaining laws that discriminate against women, and remove gender bias in the administration of justice. It hoped that the working group can be a catalyst for change by presenting positive practices used to overcome obstacles to legal reform.

Next steps: The new working group will present its first report to the Council in June 2012.

Discontinuing the Resolution on Defamation of Religions

Action taken: During the March 2011 session, the council took a major step forward by discontinuing the adoption of a perennial resolution on “defamation of religions.” Instead it adopted a new resolution on combating intolerance and incitement to violence against persons based on their religion or belief.

Significance: The concept of defamation of religions had polarized discussions in the Council for years because it undermined existing international human rights guarantees on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and nondiscrimination. The adoption of the new resolution was particularly significant because it was proposed by the OIC and adopted by consensus.

The challenge during the negotiations that led to the adoption of the new text was to forge a consensus around a resolution that presented a robust international response to tackling discrimination against individuals and groups on religious grounds and reflected international human rights law. The premise was that international human rights law does not protect religions per se, but does and should protect individuals and groups from discrimination, violence, and hostility on the basis of their religion. It was therefore necessary to shift away from the notion of defamation of religions, particularly because under international law, religious beliefs, ideas, and systems should not be exempt from discussion, debate, or even sharp criticism.

The new resolution condemns any advocacy of religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence, and urges states to take effective measures to address and combat such incidents.[74] The text recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue, at the local, national, and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance. It further calls upon states to adopt measures and policies to promote the full respect for and protection of places of worship and religious sites, cemeteries, and shrines, and to take measures in cases where they are vulnerable to vandalism or destruction.

The adoption of the new resolution has allowed states to refocus the discussion on religion and discrimination. On June 14, 2011, the Council held a panel discussion on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs, in accordance with Council Resolution 16/18. During this panel, states expressed concerns about increased discrimination and violence on the ground of religion, and presented their national initiatives to combat religious intolerance on the international and domestic levels.

Next steps: The General Assembly is expected to discuss this issue during its 66th session beginning in September 2011. It is hoped that, like the Council, the General Assembly will be able to overcome the polarization that the concept of defamation of religions has created, in order to adopt a fresh approach to the issue of discrimination based on religion and belief.

Worrying Thematic Developments

Business and Human Rights

Reasons for concern: During its June 2011 session, the Council missed an opportunity to take meaningful action to curtail business-related human rights abuses. Instead the Council conformed to the status quo: a world where companies are encouraged, but not obliged, to respect human rights.

In a resolution adopted at the June 2011 session, the Council endorsed the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” developed by John Ruggie, the UN's Special Representative on business and human rights from 2005 to 2011.[75] It also agreed to form a working group and announced the convening of an annual meeting of business, government, and civil society representatives focused on disseminating and discussing those principles. The Council disregarded recommendations by dozens of civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch, that called for a strong follow-up to Ruggie’s work, with a mechanism to assess whether companies and governments had actually put the principles into operation.[76] Instead, it mandated the new five-member working group, to be appointed in September 2011, to promote and disseminate the Guiding Principles. It also invited the group to consider options and make recommendations aimed at improving victims’ access to remedies.[77]

The Guiding Principles aim to provide “an authoritative global standard.”[78] However, the Council described them as “comprehensive recommendations for the implementation of the United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework.”[79] That framework articulates three core concepts rooted in longstanding human rights principles: governments have a duty to protect individuals and communities from human rights abuses, including in connection with business activity; businesses have a responsibility to respect all rights; and victims should have greater access to remedy for abuses.[80] The Guiding Principles outline only partial steps to carry out the UN Framework. In January 2011, 125 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, jointly expressed concern that a draft version of the Guiding Principles was weaker in several respects than prevailing human rights standards. Unfortunately revisions to the text did not fully address the discrepancies.[81]

Future action needed :Looking ahead, it is hoped that the five-member working group will press for genuine, on-the-ground implementation of the Guiding Principles and the broader UN Framework in ways that benefit human rights victims in concrete cases, rather than limiting themselves to promoting codes of conduct and other such general commitments. In line with the Council’s resolution, the working group will also have the opportunity to put forward recommendations on remedies, which should ideally include a call for work leading to an international legal instrument on business and human rights. This idea, while supported in principle by former Special Representative Ruggie, was considered too controversial to gain support in the June 2011 session, since many governments seek to protect companies from the risk of human rights cases being filed against them in other jurisdictions.

Traditional Values

Reasons for concern: This resolution, initiated by Russia, undermines the basic principles of universality and equality, and puts forward new concepts that do not form the basis of, and are sometimes incompatible with, human rights doctrine. The initial drafts of this resolution focused on traditional values as something inherently positive and failed to recognize that some “traditional values of humankind” are inconsistent with international human rights or are invoked to justify human rights violations. The main problem with the initiative is that the common “values of humankind” underpinning international human rights law are already inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Injecting undefined concepts of “tradition” or “traditional values” into this framework risks redefining the meaning of existing instruments and subordinating the universality of human rights to cultural relativism.

Resolution 16/3 adopted by the Council during its March 2011 session mandated the advisory committee of the Council to “prepare a study on how a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.”[82]

Future action needed: In order for the advisory committee to fully develop an understanding of how traditional values contribute to human rights, the study needs to discuss the negative as well as positive ways in which they impact on human rights.

Such a study should underline that traditional values may not detract from the international human rights framework, and affirm that traditional values and practices may need to evolve to ensure conformity with international human rights standards.

In a joint statement, a group of 65 NGOs recommended that the advisory committee form a drafting team that reflects appropriate regional and gender balance; this is particularly important for a subject matter relating so closely to cultures and traditions, and their impact on women’s rights.[83] They also suggested that the advisory committee prepare a questionnaire to facilitate consultations with member states, civil society, human rights experts (such as special procedures mandate holders), UN organizations (such as UNAIDS and UNFPA), and all relevant stakeholders on both the positive and negative impacts of traditional values on human rights.[84]

Institutional Developments

When the General Assembly established the Human Rights Council in 2006, it decided that the Council should review its work and functioning five years after its creation and report back to the General Assembly. From October 25, 2010 to February 24, 2011,[85] delegations invested significant time and energy in a review that would ultimately come up with few changes or improvements for the Council. The review was a missed opportunity because it failed to address problems that had prevented the Council from responding promptly and effectively to situations of gross violations of human rights.

The process was marked by the reluctance of a large group of delegates, particularly those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Russia, and China, to even consider proposals that would have enhanced the ability of the Council to respond to violations in a non-selective way. Innovative proposals from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru that suggested giving more authority to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to bring issues to the attention of the Council for its action, were shelved. A proposal by the Maldives that would have allowed for states wishing to brief the Council on their domestic situation was also not incorporated.

The final outcome,[86] adopted by consensus, is disappointing in the limited changes that it set out. Among the changes that did make it into the final document were the decision to review the way in which states sign up to speak during the Universal Periodic Review of a country[87]; the decision to increase the UPR cycle from four to four and a half years, in order to allow for an increase of time allotted for each review; and the agreement that the Council will explore the use of information technology as a means of improving accessibility and participation by all stakeholders.

The June 2011 session of the Council saw the adoption of a decision establishing the Office of the President of the Human Rights Council, bringing to fruition a long-envisaged institutional change at the Council. The decision calls for appointment of three staff members to support the president in the fulfillment of his or her tasks.[88]

One of the most controversial institutional issues debated during the past year was the issue of the relationship between the Council and the OHCHR. The controversy was sparked by an impromptu Cuban initiative in September 2010, which called on the High Commissioner to formally present OHCHR’s strategic framework (its biannual management plan) to the Council before its submission to the General Assembly. The draft resolution would have altered the relationship between the two institutions by attempting to give the Council certain oversight functions over the OHCHR. Instead of the Cuban initiative, which met the resistance of several states, the Council adopted a decision that left it to the High Commissioner to compile state views to her office’s management plan and did not formalize the process through which OHCHR’s strategic framework would be submitted to the Council.

[2] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” March 24, 2011, Resolution 16/9, A/HRC/RES/16/9.

[3]OHCHR, “Country and other visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders since 1998 - F-M,”

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/special/countryvisitsf-m.htm#iran (accessed July 7, 2011). Requests from the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (2005, 2007, and 2010), the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (2006 and 2011), the Independent Expert on minority issues (2008), the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (2010), and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2011) have not yet received any answer from the government of Iran. Requests from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief have been agreed upon in principle, but no date for the visits has been set.

[4] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire in relation to the conclusion of the 2010 presidential election,” December 23, 2010, Resolution S-14/1, A/HRC/RES/S-14/1.

[5] UN Human Rights Council, “Assistance to Côte d'Ivoire in the field of human rights,” June 17, 2011, Resolution17/21, A/HRC/RES/17/21.

[6] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” February 25, 2011, Resolution S-15/1, A/HRC/RES/S-15/1.

[7]UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/17, A/HRC/17/17.

[8] UN Human Rights Council, “Human rights situation in Belarus,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/24, A/HRC/RES/17/24.

[9] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 17/24, para. 5.

[10]UN Human Rights Council, “Cooperation between Tunisia and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” March 24, 2011, Resolution 16/19, A/HRC/RES/16/19.

[11] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report of the OHCHR Assessment Mission to Tunisia,” 2011, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TN/OHCHR_Assessment_Mission_to_Tunisia.pdf (accessed July 13, 2011).

[12] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 16/19.

[13]UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” April 29, 2011, Resolution S-16/1, A/HRC/RES/S-16/1.

[14] “UN: Syria Ends Rights Body Bid, but Not Repression,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 11, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/05/11/un-syria-ends-rights-body-bid-not-repression.

[15] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution S-16/1, para. 8.

[16] UN Human Rights Council, “Preliminary report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Report 17/CRP.1, A/HRC/17/CRP.1, para.14, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.CRP.1_Englishonly.pdf (accessed July 11, 2011).

[17] UN Security Council, Statement by the President of the Security Council, “The Situation in the Middle East,” August 3, 2011, S/PRST/2011/16.

[18] UN Human Rights Council, “Procedural decision,” June 17, 2011, Decision 17/117, A/HRC/DEC/17/117.

[19] UN Human Rights Council, “Advisory services and technical assistance for Cambodia,” September 30, 2010, Resolution 15/20, A/HRC/RES/15/20.

[20] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” March 24, 2011, Resolution 16/8, A/HRC/RES/16/8.

[21] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in Myanmar,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/24, A/HRC/RES/16/24.

[22] UN Human Rights Council, “Situation of human rights in the Sudan,” October 1, 2010, Resolution 15/27, A/HRC/RES/15/27.

[23] UN Human Rights Council, “Assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights,” October 1, 2011, Resolution 15/28, A/HRC/RES/15/28.

[24] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 16/8.

[25] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 16/24.

[26] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 15/27.

[27] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 15/28.

[28] UN Human Rights Council, “Technical assistance and cooperation on human rights for Kyrgyzstan,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/20, A/HRC/RES/17/20.

[29] UN Human Rights Council, “Strengthening of technical cooperation and consultative services in Guinea,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/36, A/HRC/RES/16/36.

[30] Human Rights Watch, “Bahrain’s Human Rights Crisis,” July 5, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/Dowload%20the%20Report.pdf (accessed July 12, 2011).

[31]Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] “HM King Hamad Sets up Royal Independent Investigation commission,” Bahrain News Agency, June 29, 2011, http://bna.bh/portal/en/news/462963 (accessed July 12, 2011).

[34] UN Secretary-General, “Joint statement by UN Secretary-General, Government of Sri Lanka,” May 26, 2009, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sg2151.doc.htm (accessed July 12, 2011).

[35] UN Secretary-General, Office of the Spokesperson, “Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka,” June 22, 2010, http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=4627 (accessed July 12, 2011).

[36] UN Secretary-General, “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka,” March 31, 2011, http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf (accessed July 12, 2011).

[37] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, para. 421.

[38] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, para. 258.

[39] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, para. 441.

[40] “Government rejects illegal Moon’s Committee report,” The Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka, April 19, 2011, http://www.news.lk/home/17911-government-rejects-illegal-moons-committee-report (accessed July 12, 2011).

[41]UN Human Rights Council, “Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights,” May 26-27, 2009, Resolution S-11/1, A/HRC/RES/S-11/1. The resulting resolution from the special session exhibits an array of shortcomings in dealing with the human rights situation in Sri Lanka following the conclusion of the civil war in May 2009. A disproportionate focus on LTTE abuses to the exclusion of government abuses is maintained throughout the text. This is most evident through the condemnation of attacks on the civilian population carried out by the LTTE (see PP8), with no mention of similar atrocities perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government, for which there exists a convincing body of evidence. The resolution even goes as far as explicitly welcoming “the continued commitment of Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of all human rights” (see para. 2), despite well-documented human rights violations carried out  by government forces during the final stages of the civil war. Furthermore, the resolution seeks to shield these violations from international scrutiny, through emphasizing the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of states as enshrined in the UN Charter (see PP2), as well as the sovereign right of states to combat terrorism (see PP7). Nowhere in the text is the Sri Lankan government called to accountability.

[42] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, p. 122.

[43] UN Human Rights Council, “Resolutions and decisions adopted at the 17th session,” http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/17session/resolutions.htm (accessed July 12, 2011).

[44]Letter from Human Rights Watch to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations Office at Geneva, “The Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan,” March 18, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/03/18/letter-situation-human-rights-afghanistan.

[45] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Afghanistan,” July 20, 2009, Report 12/9, A/HRC/12/9.

[46] Ibid. Thirty-seven recommendations remained pending during the adoption of the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. Out of these 37 pending recommendations, 21 were later on accepted by the government of Afghanistan (UN Human Rights Council, “Addendum to the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Afghanistan,” September 18, 2009, Report 12/9/Add.1, A/HRC/12/9/Add.1).

[47] UN Human Rights Council, Report 12/9/Add.1.

[48] UN Human Rights Council, “Addressing attacks on school children in Afghanistan,” June 18, 2010, Resolution 14/15, A/HRC/RES/14/15.

[49] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights,” January 19, 2011, Report 16/67, A/HRC/16/67.

[50] UN Human Rights Council, Report 16/67, para. 57.

[51] Includes all resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council (except UPR outcome adoptions, which were not included).

[52]UN Human Rights Council, “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/30, A/HRC/RES/16/30.

[53] UN Human Rights Council, “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/31, A/HRC/RES/16/31.

[54] UN Human Rights Council, “Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan,” March 24, 2011, Resolution 16/17, A/HRC/RES/16/17.

[55] UN Human Rights Council, “The Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/29, A/HRC/RES/16/29.

[56] UN Human Rights Council, “Follow-up to the report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla,” September 29, 2010, Resolution 15/1, A/HRC/RES/15/1.

[57] UN Human Rights Council, “Follow-up to the report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the incident of the humanitarian flotilla,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/20, A/HRC/RES/16/20; UN Human Rights Council, “Follow-up the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the incident of the Humanitarian Flotilla,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/10, A/HRC/RES/17/10.

[58] See Appendix 3.

[59] Human Rights Watch, “Statement to the UN Human Rights Council on Accountability in the Gaza Conflict,” September 27, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/09/27/statement-un-human-rights-council-accountability-gaza-conflict.

[60] Human Rights Watch, Turning a Blind Eye: Impunity for Laws-of-War Violations during the Gaza War, April 2010, http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/iopt0410webwcover_0.pdf.

[61] Human Rights Watch, “Statement to the UN Human Rights Council on Accountability in the Gaza Conflict,” September 27, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/09/27/statement-un-human-rights-council-accountability-gaza-conflict.

[62]UN Human Rights Council, “Follow-up to the report of the Committee of independent experts in international humanitarian and human rights law established pursuant to Council resolution 13/9,” September 29, 2010, Resolution 15/6, A/HRC/RES/15/6.

[63] UN Human Rights Council, “Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/32, A/HRC/RES/16/32.

[64] Ibid.

[65] UN Human Rights Council, “The protection of human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/28, A/HRC/RES/16/28.

[66] UN Human Rights Council, “Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health in the context of development and access to medicines,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/14, A/HRC/RES/17/14.

[67] UN Human Rights Council, “Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights: follow-up to Council resolution 11/8,” September 30, 2010, Resolution 15/17, A/HRC/15/17.

[68] UN Human Rights Council, “The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,” September 30, 2010, Resolution 15/21, A/HRC/RES/15/21.

[69] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2010 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2010), “The Abusers’ Reaction: Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations, and Institutions,” http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/01/20/world-report-2010.

[70] UN Human Rights Council, “Sexual orientation and gender identity,” June 17, 2011, Resolution 17/19, A/HRC/RES/17/19.

[71] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 17/19, p. 1 (emphasis in original).

[72] UN Human Rights Council, “Elimination of discrimination against women,” October 1, 2010, Resolution 15/23, A/HRC/RES/15/23.

[73] Fourth World Conference on Women, “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,” para. 232(d), http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/BDPfA%20E.pdf (accessed July 12, 2011).

[74] Ibid.

[75] UN Human Rights Council, “Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,” June 16, 2011, Resolution 17/4, A/HRC/RES/17/4.

[76] Letter from 55 Civil Society Organizations to UN Human Rights Council, “Advancing the Global Business and Human Rights Agenda: Sign-on Statement to the Human Rights Council from 55 Civil Society Organizations,” May 13, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/05/13/advancing-global-business-and-human-rights-agenda.

[77] UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 17/4.

[78]“UN Guiding Principles for business & human rights published,”Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on business and human rights press release, March 24, 2011, http://www.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/ruggie/ruggie-guiding-principles-press-release-24-mar-2011.pdf (accessed July 18, 2011).

[79] UN Human Rights Council, “Human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,” June 16, 2011, Resolution 17/4, A/HRC/RES/17/4, para. 4.

[80] Human Rights Watch, “Joint NGO Statement to the Eighth Session of the Human Rights Council,” May 19, 2008, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/05/19/joint-ngo-statement-eighth-session-human-rights-council.

[81] ESCR-Net, “Joint Civil Society Statement on the draft Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” January 2011, http://www.escr-net.org/actions_more/actions_more_show.htm?doc_id=1473602 (accessed July 18, 2011).

[82] UN Human Rights Council, “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind,” March 24, 2011, Resolution 16/3, A/HRC/RES/16/3 (emphasis in original).

[83]UN Human Rights Council, “Joint NGO Statement to the 7th session of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council,” August 3, 2011, A/HRC/AC/7/NGO/1, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/advisorycommittee/docs/session7/A-HRC-AC7-NGO-1.pdf.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Date at which the working group on the review adopted the outcome on the review of the work and functioning of the Council, by consensus.

[86] UN Human Rights Council, “Review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council,” March 25, 2011, Resolution 16/21, A/HRC/RES/16/21.

[87] The current system works on a first come, first served basis. Given the limited time allotted to the review of each country, those that do not sign-on early do not get a chance to speak.

[88] UN Human Rights Council, “Office of the President,” June 17, 2011, Decision 17/118, A/HRC/DEC/17/118.