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22 March 2013 – End of the Session

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Joint statement on behalf of the International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, CIVICUS, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Human Rights House Foundation and supported by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

22 March 2013

Thank you Mr President. We appreciate the opportunity to speak, but regret to note an overall decline in the time and space accorded to civil society during this session.

Mr President, The 22nd session of the Council has continued a trajectory of incremental progress. We wish to highlight 5 key developments in this regard:

  • First, we welcome the consensus adoption of the resolution on the protection of human rights defenders. The resolution recognises the critical role of human rights defenders in upholding human rights, democracy, accountability and the rule of law. It affirms that the use and abuse of national law to impair, restrict and criminalise the work of human rights defenders is a contravention of international law and must end. We also welcome the Council’s recognition of the specific protection needs of women human rights defenders in a number of resolutions, including that on peaceful protest.
  • Second, we welcome the joint statement on reprisals and the commitment of the 54 cosignatories to end harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders. The next step for the Council must be to develop a strong institutional mechanism to end reprisals.
  • Third, we welcome the steps the Council has taken to ensure accountability for mass, past and ongoing violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, and encourage the Commonwealth to do likewise.
  • Fourth, we appreciate the Council’s efforts to support human rights and the rule of law in emerging and transitional democracies, with the resolutions on Mali, Libya and Burma being cases in point.
  • Finally, we welcome the Council’s enhanced response to some country situations of serious and grave human rights concern. The mandating of commissions of inquiry for both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Syria are positive developments in this regard. The Council should not hesitate to call on other parts of the UN system, including the Security Council, to respond effectively to serious and grave violations.

Mr President, despite the progress, there were also some concerning developments at this session, in particular the now withdrawn resolution on the ‘protection of the family’.

We were presented with the notion of a single model of family – something that denies the diversity of human experience in all our societies. Looking ahead, we trust that the Council will find a way to hold genuinely inclusive debates that take universal human rights principles as a starting point. This is essential for the Council to fulfill its mandate to ‘promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all’.

Mr President, if the Council wants to improve the real lives of real people, it must resist attacks on the universal human rights principles on which this body is built.