After four weeks of debates and negotiations in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) completed on Friday its 19th session with the adoption of a set of resolutions covering a wide range of countries and themes, including Syria, Yemen and the OPTs, Burma and North Korea, as well as the rights of human rights defenders and LGBT persons.
Once again, the Council proved responsive to the urgency of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Syria. Besides the urgent debate held at the beginning of the session, the Council adopted on Friday a resolution extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry until September 2012, and insisting on the need to hold accountable those responsible for the grave violations committed for over a year now. This Commission should now gather the elements of evidence that could be used to prosecute the perpetrators, paving the way to criminal justice, so that the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria do not remain unpunished. FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen called on the UN Security Council today to “build on the HRC’s action by referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. These crimes that we witness and document day after day cannot be met with impunity.”
FIDH regrets, however, that the HRC did not demonstrate such a strong reaction vis-à-vis the dire human rights situations in Bahrain and Egypt. We welcome the European Union public statement made during the session on the seriousness and widespread character of the violations of human rights in these countries, but as underlined by Souhayr Belhassen, “we regret that the HRC proved unable to take firmer action to denounce the abuses of defenders’ rights, the continuing violations of human rights and the endemic impunity in both these countries.”
FIDH welcomes the extension of the mandate of the special rapporteurs in charge of Iran, Burma and North Korea, with less opposition in the Council than ever before 
, thus confirming the ever wider acceptance of the relevance and importance of these country-specific mandates, which monitor chronic situations and give an account on the situation in the field to the international community at large. The degrading situation of a large range of rights and freedoms in Iran since the 2009 elections, the fragile transition in Burma and the numerous remaining challenges in this country, as well as the never-ending suppression of North Koreans’ most basic rights fully justify the particular attention given by the HRC to these countries, which have all been theaters of major violations of human rights for decades.
FIDH also welcomes the text adopted during this session on the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For the first time, the Council adopted, with a landslide majority 
, a resolution establishing an international and independent fact-finding mission, with a mandate to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the rights of the Palestinian population.
In the framework of the technical assistance and capacity-building part of its mandate, the Council decided to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on Haiti. FIDH welcomes this decision, and calls on the independent expert to address the issues of concern for the country such as the persistence of impunity for past crimes, the living conditions of IDPs in camps, the endemic insecurity, and the practice of land evictions, and to help the Haitian authorities meet these challenges.
FIDH however regrets that the Council proved unable to properly address the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, by failing to create a country-specific mandate to map out the numerous recommendations addressed to the Congolese authorities by UN expert-bodies, and to provide assistance to the Congolese government in the establishment of a roadmap for the swift implementation of these recommendations.
FIDH furthermore deeply regrets that the Council proved unable to maintain any monitoring on the situation in Libya. The repeated proposals of amendments going in this direction, by Russia and others, were systematically rejected. In particular, the United States and European countries such as Italy, Romania, Hungary and Czech Republic voted against an amendment requesting the High Commissioner to report on the human rights developments in Libya. As a consequence, the resolution adopted on Friday fails to address the current concerns regarding the situation of women’s rights and of fundamental freedoms in the country.
FIDH joins the Council in welcoming the ongoing negotiation between Yemen and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, regarding a future presence of the Office in the field. This office should help the Yemeni authorities ensure that the national independent commission, announced but still to be established, comply fully with international standards, and that investigations are conducted in a genuinely independent and transparent way.
On the thematic side, FIDH welcomes the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, which has been one of the cornerstones of the special procedures system since 2000, defending the rights of defenders worldwide. The holding of the panel debate on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, following the groundbreaking resolution of June 2011, when for the first time the HRC voted in favour of the inclusion of LGBT issues on its agenda, proved to be another landmark of this session.