HRC 53 end of session press release

Press release
Mert Ayik - FIDH

On 14 July 2023, the UN Human Rights Council concluded its 53rd session with the adoption of 30 resolutions, 20 of them by consensus.

FIDH welcomes the positive precedent set by Colombia this session, given the constructive approach in leading a resolution on its domestic human rights situation. The resolution strengthens cooperation with OHCHR in order to implement the recommendations of the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition. The resolution takes note of the fact that the violence which has manifested in Colombia has disproportionately impacted a range of historically marginalised groups, including LGBTQIA+ persons. Despite Colombia’s commendable decision to explicitly address the discrimination faced by this group, it is deeply regrettable that the OIC sought to remove the reference to “sexual orientation and gender identity” and ultimately called the resolution to a vote.

The 53rd session also featured an Urgent Debate called by the OIC regarding the burnings of the Quran in several European countries. The debate resulted in the adoption of a resolution on countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence. while FIDH deplores the rise of discrimination, hate, and violence against persons based on their religion, the resolution dangerously co-opts the international human rights protections given to individuals and instead confers them onto religious books, symbols, and religions as a whole. The prioritising of religious doctrine and the focus on prohibiting the defamation of religions only serves to undermine efforts to protect the rights of individuals who are targeted by hate speech and discrimination, and those wishing to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression. By adopting this resolution, the Council risks rolling back the progress achieved in addressing religious intolerance through the constructive and consensual Resolution 16/18.

As warranted by the continually deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, the HRC successfully adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus for one year. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate is a crucial tool for civil society, given the total erosion of civic space within the country and Belarus’s refusal to engage meaningfully with international human rights mechanisms like the UN Treaty Body system.

Despite informative and constructive discussions with both the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur during the plenary sessions, the resolution on Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar directly contradicted the recommendations of OHCHR, civil society, and the affected communities by calling for Myanmar to immediately commence the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. FIDH reiterates the fact that conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return for Rohingya do not yet exist, particularly given the military junta’s continued human rights violations and humanitarian crisis following the 2021 military coup.

While the holding of a Special Session on Sudan was a positive first step, the escalating conflict and rapidly rising death toll clearly demonstrates the need for more robust action. Despite this, the Council failed to take further action on Sudan this session. FIDH continues to call for the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism to monitor, document, and analyse evidence of human rights violations with a view to future accountability. Accountability is an essential element in any peace or transitional process, and the Council has a duty to step in where the national system has failed victims and their families.

FIDH welcomes the adoption of a resolution ensuring continuous funding and yearly updates of the UN Database of business enterprises involved in activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but regrets that it was necessary to adopt an additional resolution to implement a mandate that was agreed by the Council seven years ago. The database is an important tool to assist states in regulating companies contributing to the development and maintaining of the illegal Israeli settlements and should be regularly and comprehensively updated.

The Council’s consensus adoption of the resolution on civil society space is a positive acknowledgement of the important role of civil society. While it is regrettable that the resolution does not more substantively address the misuse of restrictive laws to stifle civil society space, the text did recognise the limitations to civil society participation in decision-making processes and the undue restrictions on funding and accreditation procedures. FIDH further welcomes the renewal of other key thematic mandates, including the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants.

FIDH joined civil society organisations in a joint statement at the closing of the 53rd session, presenting a detailed overview of civil society’s key takeaways from the Human Rights Council.

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