UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES
ANNUAL REPORT OF HIGH
COMMISSIONER FOR
HUMAN RIGHTS

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Human Rights Council
MORNING
7 March 2008



High Commissioner Says She Will Not Seek a Second Term in Office

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today presented her annual report to the Human Rights Council which was followed by an interactive dialogue. Ms. Arbour announced that this would be her last annual report, as she had informed the Secretary-General that she would not seek a second term when her mandate expired at the end of June 2008.

With regard to the Universal Periodic Review process, Ms. Arbour said the Council must turn its attention to supporting the participation of least developed countries to the review, and to the implementation of its recommendations, which would also require financial commitments. With this in mind, the High Commissioner urged donor countries to give special consideration to the two Universal Periodic Review trust funds mandated by the General Assembly. As to other institution-building matters, the creation of the Advisory Committee was commended.

Poverty and global inequalities remained thematic priorities for OHCHR and its advocacy of a human rights-approach to poverty reduction strategies had continued, Ms. Arbour said. OHCHR’s efforts to place gender and women’s rights at the core of the work of the Office as a whole, with priority given to the issue of access to justice for women, and their economic, social and cultural rights, was also highlighted.

The High Commissioner welcomed the renewal of agreements for OHCHR offices in Nepal, Colombia and Mexico and thanked the Government of Senegal with which OHCHR reached an agreement in November 2007, for the establishment of a Regional Office for West Africa. In 2007, the High Commissioner undertook meetings in and conducted visits to twenty countries. The High Commissioner indicated that in January she visited Sweden and Slovenia. Discussions there were wide-ranging with a focus on migration, and counterterrorism and human rights. Shortly after those visits, she went to Mexico where she signed a new agreement with the Government of President Calderón for the continuation of OHCHR presence and activities. In Georgia last week the High Commissioner was able to observe first hand the significant progress that the country had made in ensuring respect for human rights.

Ms. Arbour said the situation in West Darfur was extremely preoccupying as the conflict had flared up anew since the beginning of February. With regard to Kenya, the OHCHR welcomed the power sharing deal brokered by Kofi Annan and encouraged the parties to the agreement to firmly pursue accountability and justice in order to fortify sustainable peace in Kenya. Since last December, Ms. Arbour said she had also been concerned by further acts of violence in Sri Lanka. The efforts made by the Government of Nepal to address the issue of statelessness were also welcomed. In a positive step to advance democratization and combat impunity, the Government of Togo was to be commended for its initiative to hold broad-based, national consultations on questions of reconciliation and justice in order to develop appropriate, nationally-owned response mechanisms.


In conclusion, the High Commissioner said that comments by representatives of Member States which impeached the integrity of the High Commissioner and or of members of her Office through allegations of bias, hypocrisy, insubordination and dereliction of duties, were in her opinion outside the acceptable range of interactive dialogue.

Speaking as concerned countries were Mexico, Sudan, Georgia, Colombia, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Kenya.

Speakers who took the floor praised the High Commissioner for her efforts and the work of the Office and expressed regret that she would not seek a second term. The relationship between OHCHR and the Council was an issue which was raised repeatedly. Some speakers said that while consultations should take place between the bodies, the independence of OHCHR had to be respected. They said that for the High Commissioner to be truly effective, she had to have financial independence and autonomy of action. The Human Right Council had no role in the budgetary process and there was no mandate for the Council to review the Strategic Management Plan of the High Commissioner. Others said that there were some deficiencies in terms of a lack of coordination with States and budget planning. The Office was part of the Secretariat of the United Nations and as such was accountable to the Human Rights Council and Member States. There were repeated calls to put the issue of the Strategic Management Plan on the agenda of the Council’s June session.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Indonesia, Cuba, India, Israel, China, Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, Sweden, Brazil, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Algeria, France, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom.

At the beginning of the meeting, Brazil, Japan and Uruguay spoke in explanations of the vote after the vote on the resolution on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which was adopted yesterday afternoon (see pres release HRC/08/13 of 6 March).

The Council today is meeting non-stop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. When the Council started its midday meeting at noon, it continued the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report.

Documents

The Council has before it the annual Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights (A/HRC/7/38 and Add.1-2), which outlines the efforts undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to implement its mandate. It elaborates on the support given to the continued work of the Human Rights Council and the effective functioning of its mechanisms, both its reform initiatives and its ongoing substantive work. In this context, attention is equally paid to the challenge of the Universal Periodic Review and the support given to that process by OHCHR. The report elaborates on the strategic themes identified in the Strategic Management Plan and their implementation. It also provides an overview of the continued efforts to strengthen country engagement and activities for the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One focus of the report is the continued commitment to the fight against racism and, in particular, the Durban Review process. Finally, the report highlights the support for human rights instruments and the potential role of the universal periodic review in the promotion of their universal application.

An addendum to the report contains a report on the activities of OHCHR's Guatemala Office [currently available in Spanish only].

A second addendum looks at the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, which records a distinct improvement in the human rights and security situation in conflict-affected north and northeast Uganda during the reporting period. The continued constructive engagement by the Government and its institutions at national and local levels with OHCHR towards strengthening the protection and promotion of human rights is also recognized. In northern Uganda, although more than 1 million persons remain in camps for internally displaced persons, an estimated 560,000 have returned to their places of origin. In support of these population movements and to build local capacity for a peaceful return process, OHCHR considerably stepped up its training and capacity-building activities in northern Uganda in favour of civilian law enforcement and judicial officials. In conclusion, the High Commissioner for Human Rights makes a number of recommendations to the Government of Uganda. These include: ensuring that principles of justice, accountability and the rule of law, in accordance with relevant international norms, are integrated into any peace agreement, and that national consultative processes around accountability and reconciliation continue to allow for the genuine and meaningful participation of the victims of the conflict. The High Commissioner also advocates that the rights of internally displaced persons for a free and informed choice in determining if, when and where they wish to move, including their right to return home in safety and in dignity, guide any planning and assistance during the transition from a humanitarian emergency to early recovery.

Presentation by High Commissioner for Human Rights

LOUISE ARBOUR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed profound sadness at the killings yesterday in Israel and Iraq. There could be no justification for the murder of innocent civilians. Before going into the substance of her speech, the High Commissioner announced that this would be her last annual report, as she had informed the Secretary-General that she would not seek a second term when her mandate expired at the end of June 2008. The annual report, she said, together with her Office’s Strategic Management Plan for the biennium 2008-2009, and two reports—one of them forthcoming—on the implementation of the 2006-2007 Strategic Management Plan, presented a comprehensive overview of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) activities in accordance with its approved Strategic Framework and budget. Against this background and perspective, OHCHR planned to take full advantage of the year-long campaign to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it launched last December.

With regard to the Universal Periodic Review process, the Human Rights Council must turn its attention to supporting the participation of least developed countries to the review, and to the implementation of its recommendations, which would also require financial commitments. With this in mind, the High Commissioner urged donor countries to give special consideration to the two Universal Periodic Review trust funds mandated by the General Assembly. As to other institution-building matters, the creation of the Advisory Committee was commended. Throughout the period under review, through its technical cooperation, advisory and advocacy activities, OHCHR had contributed to international efforts to support national protection systems to help end impunity. Among other things, OHCHR had supported fact-finding or investigative missions, as well as treaty bodies and Special Procedures mandate-holders. Poverty and global inequalities remained thematic priorities for OHCHR and its advocacy of a human rights-approach to poverty reduction strategies had continued. OHCHR’s efforts to place gender and women’s rights at the core of the work of the Office as a whole, with priority given to the issue of access to justice for women, and their economic, social and cultural rights, were also highlighted.

The High Commissioner welcomed the renewal of agreements for OHCHR offices in Nepal, Colombia and Mexico and thanked the Government of Senegal with which OHCHR reached an agreement in November 2007, for the establishment of a Regional Office for West Africa. In 2007, the High Commissioner undertook meetings in and conducted visits to twenty countries. During these meetings and visits, the High Commissioner stressed the need for accountability with a view to putting an end to impunity for all forms of human rights violations, including violence against women. The High Commissioner indicated that in January she visited Sweden and Slovenia. Discussions there were wide-ranging with a focus on migration, and counterterrorism and human rights. Shortly after those visits, she went to Mexico where she signed a new agreement with the Government of President Calderón for the continuation of OHCHR presence and activities. In Georgia last week the High Commissioner was able to observe first hand the significant progress that the country had made in ensuring respect for human rights.

The situation in West Darfur was extremely preoccupying as the conflict has flared up anew since the beginning of February, the High Commissioner declared. Scores of civilians had reportedly been killed in the course of bombardments. The recent fighting has led to thousands of new internally displaced persons and refugees. Indiscriminate attacks must cease and those responsible for the illegal attacks on civilians and civilian property must be brought to justice. With regard to Kenya, OHCHR followed closely the crisis that unfolded after the elections late last year. OHCHR welcomed the power sharing deal brokered by Kofi Annan and encouraged the parties to the agreement to firmly pursue accountability and justice in order to fortify sustainable peace in Kenya.

Since last December, Ms. Arbour said she had also been concerned by further acts of violence in Sri Lanka. The efforts made by the government of Nepal to address the issue of statelessness were also welcomed. In a positive step to advance democratization and combat impunity, the Government of Togo was to be commended for its initiative to hold broad-based, national consultations on questions of reconciliation and justice in order to develop appropriate, nationally-owned response mechanisms. There was also a need to emphasize once again the need for respecting human rights, as well as for greater transparency and accountability, when countering terrorism. There was a need to enhance the impact of the treaty bodies as crucial vehicles for the protection of human rights at the country level. Together with the Universal Periodic Review system, the treaty bodies should operate in a rational and coherent fashion.

In conclusion, Ms. Arbour said that in the context of the relationship between members of the Human Rights Council and representatives of the United Nations Secretariat, comments by representatives of Member States which impeached the integrity of the High Commissioner and or of members of her Office through allegations of bias, hypocrisy, insubordination and dereliction of duties, were in her opinion outside the acceptable range of interactive dialogue. Expressed in this forum, such statements demeaned the Human Rights Council and betrayed the good faith efforts of all those working at the United Nations on very difficult and divisive issues.

Statements by Concerned Countries

LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico), speaking as a concerned country, said the High Commissioner’s visit to Mexico and her frank dialogue with President Calderon and various authorities and representatives from the legislative and judicial branch, as well as with civil society organizations, was, without a doubt highly valuable to all concerned. Mexico reiterated its recognition of the High Commissioner for her personal support, as well as that from her Office, in the implementation of the institution building package, particularly with regard to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and the appointments of Special Procedures’ mandate holders. Mexico would continue to offer its full support to the High Commissioner in identifying the obstacles which remained to reach the full effectiveness of human rights throughout the world. Mexico was grateful to the High Commissioner for the Strategic Programme 2008-2009. Mexico felt it was important that the Office maintained a constructive relationship with the Human Rights Council which would lead to a coherent and effective evaluation of human rights.

Mexico expressed support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its efforts to support the observance of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Non-discrimination, equality, justice and universality were the values at the heart of the Declaration and States should use the celebrations this year to renew their commitment in that regard. Mexico fully agreed that the Council needed to make progress on the rights of disabled persons, bearing in mind the pending entry into force of the relevant Convention. Mexico respected the decision of Mrs. Arbour not to seek a second mandate although it was of the view that the United Nations would lose a real defender of human rights. Her vision, honesty and determination represented a valuable legacy.

IBRAHIM MARGANI IBRAHIM MOHAMED KHEIR (Sudan), speaking as a concerned country, said Sudan shared the view of Mexico and presented its best wishes to the High Commissioner for the remainder of her career. The Darfur region had been occupied by outlawed armed forces. They terrorized civilians in the occupied area, created barriers to the entry of humanitarian aid and violated the ceasefire. This had created a situation where the Sudanese armed forces had an obligation to discharge their responsibilities, which was what government forces would do anywhere in the world. Thus, the Sudanese Government had tried to put an end to this illegal situation. It was regrettable that the High Commissioner had not mentioned in her report the acts committed by the armed rebel factions in violation of international law. Sudan wished to appeal to peaceful reconciliation and respect for the Abuja Accords. Sudan had accepted the presence of the hybrid force adopted by the Security Council.

TAEIMURAZ BAKRADZE (Georgia), speaking as a concerned country, said promotion, adherence and protection of human rights values on the domestic level was one of the primary obligations of any democratic State, particularly to secure the individual guarantees to the members of its local community rather than adopt reforms merely for the sake of reforms or create a positive image on the international level. In this regard, the progress, as mentioned by the High Commissioner as well as its continuance stayed among the priorities of the Government of Georgia. Georgia stressed its commitments for the development of a strong and independent judiciary. The reform was being implemented in full compliance with the Criminal Law Reform strategy and Action Plan of the Government. Georgia was currently in the process of launching systematic reforms for further improvement of the juvenile justice system through diversion, probation and rehabilitation of juveniles in conflict with law in cooperation with UNICEF and other stakeholders. Georgia congratulated the efforts made by the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council for the constant reinforcement of the inalienable principles enshrined in the universal Declaration of Human Rights.

THOMAS CONCHA (Colombia), speaking as a concerned country, said that Colombia regretted the decision the High Commissioner had just communicated that she would not seek a second term. Colombia welcomed the renewal of the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia. It had helped the advancement of human rights in the country and in analysing the situation and developments. Colombia would continue its collaboration with non-governmental organizations in order to build trust. Colombia was also preparing for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review, in consultation with civil society.

PIERRE DIOUF (Senegal), speaking as a concerned country, after thanking the High Commissioner and her staff, for their efforts in promoting and protecting human rights, affirmed that Senegal would make every effort to continue to add to the smooth operation of the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Senegal. In doing so, Senegal would in no way undermine its respect for human rights and democracy.

DAYAN JAYATILLAKE (Sri Lanka) said Sri Lanka was grateful for the High Commissioner’s collaboration with Sri Lanka and despite some differences of opinion, they would continue to collaborate with the Office. They were, like the High Commissioner, concerned about violence in their country. As she had said, all should be done to combat terrorism, without harming civilians. Sri Lanka was concerned for its entire citizens. The Government was fully aware of its role in ensuring human rights. Thanks to the fruitful collaboration with the Office, the Sri Lankan human rights national institution would soon be opened.

MARIA NZOMO (Kenya), speaking as a concerned country, said Kenya looked forward to seeing the results of the fact-finding mission. The Kenyan authorities had invited the mission and given it their full support. The Kenyan Government had already put in place effective mechanisms to put an end to violations and to bring relief to people affected by this violence. Kenya appreciated the support expressed by the international community during one of the most dramatic challenges in its history.

Interactive Debate on the Report of the High Commissioner

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the High Commissioner had rendered an impressive report in regard to the work of her Office in the areas of technical cooperation, advisory and advocacy activities, fact-finding and investigative missions, and support to Special Procedures. Pakistan also commended the High Commissioner for giving prominence to economic, social and cultural rights and to the right to development in the discourse of human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner had indeed worked very hard to support the preparations for the conduct of the Universal Periodic Review and commended the High Commissioner’s leadership to place women’s rights at the core of the work of her Office. There were several unresolved questions regarding the terms of reference, functions, and functionality of the Consultative Group. There were some gaps in the report of the High Commissioner. There was no mention of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and recent incidents of defamation of religion. Sri Lanka and Sudan’s efforts to ameliorate human rights’ situation should also have been mentioned. The Council must have an oversight role on the need and the content of the OHCHR’s country’s engagements. The establishment of field presences should stem from the Council’s mandates and not be left alone to the Office of the High Commissioner. Field Offices should have a beginning and a sunset clause. The Joint Inspection Unit’s 2007 report on funding and staff of OHCHR stated that the Office of the High Commissioner was required to submit the strategic framework for the biennium 2008-2009 to the Human Rights Council, before it was considered by the Fifth committee of the UN General Assembly. The Joint Inspection Unit also recommended that the General Assembly should instruct the High Commissioner to seek the advice and view of the Council in the preparation of the strategic framework. The OIC proposed a separate item be inscribed in the programme of work of the Council’s session in June 2008.

HAVIO ABBAS (Indonesia) said that Indonesia very much appreciated the work the High Commissioner had done during her mandate. Her directional guidance, conclusions and recommendations had always been seen as important. In the light of her intention to conclude her mandate, Indonesia wanted to note her high degree of professionalism. During her mandate, some very significant achievements had been achieved for the promotion and protection of human rights. One of the important innovations had been the construction of the Council. The High Commissioner and her Office were thanked for the strong and constant support they had provided to the Council. Also, the Universal Periodic Review was seen as one of the most innovative mechanisms. The Special Procedures were seen as the backbone of the Council and a key instrument. The High Commissioner’s Office had to take care to ensure that they fully reflected the views of delegations. The activities of the High Commissioner to support the follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the Durban Declaration were also commended.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) regretted the decision of the High Commissioner not to seek a second term. With her capacity, she could have brought much more to the United Nations in the field of human rights. Ms. Arbour would always remain the High Commissioner who had accompanied the changes and extended collaboration in the establishment of this Council. Significant challenges remained, including the conclusion of the process of creating the institution building and the launching of the Universal Periodic Review. There was also a need to ensure an improvement in the geographical representation at all levels of OHCHR.

SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India) said the institution-building phase of the Human Rights Council was nearing completion as they got ready to launch the ambitious Universal Periodic Review mechanism. India commended the High Commissioner and her team for their commitment and tireless efforts in supporting the work of the Council in this critical phase. Their contribution to the institution building process had been invaluable and their continued support would be crucial in ensuring the success of the future work of the Council including the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and in the convening of the Durban Review Conference. Concerning the relationship between the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, India had taken note of the views of the United Nations Secretary General on this issue, expressed at the opening of this session of the Human Rights Council.

TIBOR SHALEV-SCHLOSSER (Israel) said the Israeli delegation was very sorry to sit here this morning during which, apart from one statement, no other mentioned the targeting and killing of the students in Jerusalem by terrorists yesterday or the cheering reaction heard yesterday from the leaders in Gaza. If it was Israel that was involved in the killing the Council would hear dozens of calls and condemnations and calls for special sessions. Israel was not surprised by this.

WANG QUN (China) said China appreciated the Office’s successful work under the guidance of the High Commissioner, in particular the institution building process of the Council. The integration of the right to development in the policies of various countries and the promotion of the economic, social and cultural rights in several countries were noted as among important activities in the past year. However, in the High Commissioner’s report, the action plan for the 2008-2009 period made much reference to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It was hoped that the Office could also brief the Council about other regions and countries. Also, the Office should redress the geographic imbalance inside the staff of Office. It was hoped that the High Commissioner’s Office would soon redress this situation. On the question of transparency in budgetary matters, it was noted that the Council had adopted last year a resolution requiring the Office to provide the countries with clear budgetary documents. It was hoped that this resolution would be implemented. In the light of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration and in response of the High Commissioner’s Office budgetary plea, China was ready to make a voluntary contribution. China noted that the High Commissioner would not seek another term. The way she had been advocating for dialogue in the field of human rights during her mandate had been very much appreciated. Her tenacity and professionalism had left them with deep impressions. She was thanked for her contribution to the international defence of human rights.

IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted the intention of the High Commissioner not to seek a second term and wished her well. The African Group took note of the High Commissioner’s report and her efforts to support the human rights mechanisms. The African Group welcomed the efforts to solicit funds to the two Universal Periodic Report trust funds. At the same time, the African Group expressed its concerns over the administrative delays in New York. The African Group expressed its commitment to the mandate, as outlined in resolution 48/148. The African Group agreed with the Organization of the Islamic Conference that today’s General Debate should include the item of the Strategic Management Plan 2008-2009. The African Group considered that the effective implementation of resolution 48/141 required the broadening of the interaction between the High Commissioner’s Office and the Human Rights Council. Consultations on any strategic management plan with the Council should take place at the early stages and not when it was already drafted. The African Group was interested to hear the views of the High Commissioner in this regard. Of particular interest, the African Group stood ready to engage constructively in a transparent and objective dialogue and looked forward to hearing the views from the High Commissioner raised at the current session as well as on the talks of 28 January.

EVA TOMIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union greatly appreciated that the Office of the High Commissioner had been active in engaging with this Council since its establishment in March 2006, and joined the High Commissioner in underlying that now was the time for this Council to begin delivering upon the various substantial responsibilities assigned to it by the General Assembly in resolution A/RES/60/251. Key among the new mechanisms available to this Council was, of course, the Universal Periodic Review process. The Universal Periodic Review would be essential for the credibility of the Council and provided the international community with a golden opportunity to have a candid, transparent and meaningfully constructive review process, both when being reviewed and when reviewing others. The European Union appreciated the High Commissioner’s update concerning the strategic thematic areas such as impunity, poverty, discrimination, armed conflict and violence, among others. Significant obstacles to the full realization of human rights remained in these and other areas. How could Member States further assist and support the Office in its efforts to address and overcome these substantial obstacles.

ELINOR HAMMARSKJOLD (Sweden) said that it was with deep regret that Sweden heard the decision of the High Commissioner not to seek a second term. Sweden noted the professionalism and integrity of the High Commissioner. She had very much benefited the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the broader cause of the human rights in the United Nations system and beyond. She would leave an Office which had been strengthened and which had a solid basis on which to move ahead. Her Plan of Action had been the basis of much of the Office’s Development. The Office continued to live up to its expectations. Sweden fully supported the Office’s efforts to establish field presences. Treaty bodies and Special Procedures needed to be brought back into focus in the future.

SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil) expressed Brazil’s recognition of the High Commissioner’s efforts to promote the human rights cause throughout the world. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was now better equipped with effective mechanisms, such as an office dedicated to the Universal Periodic Review. Brazil continued to support the initiatives of countries towards the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrations. Moreover, the efforts by the High Commissioner to end impunity were commended. Brazil shared the High Commissioner’s reference to boost stronger independent judiciaries as well as effective parliament oversight mechanisms. The High Commissioner’s visit to Brazil was an important event to promote human rights causes in the country. Her dialogue with members of Government and civil society was a useful opportunity to express the challenges Brazil faced and to identify ways to overcome them. Brazil welcomed the initiatives of the High Commissioner to overcome poverty and recognized her efforts in supporting the drafting of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the efforts on the right to development. Brazil shared views that the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies should work together and were, in fact, complementary, and not competitive mechanisms.

ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) said the Philippines wished to thank Louise Arbour for all the hard work she had devoted these past years in promoting human rights and strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner and the United Nations human rights system. The Philippines believed the Human Rights Council provided the platform for constructive engagement between the Member States, who remained the primary actors at the country level, and the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), which was the repository of the technical and institutional expertise on human rights. Concerning the Council’s institution building process, the Philippines attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review. The Philippines had high hopes that the Universal Periodic Review would help countries concerned improve their capacities and be a cooperative mechanism that would create an enabling international environment for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Philippines acknowledged the heavy workload that the creation of the Council and its new or renewed mechanisms had placed on OHCHR.

HOONNIN LIM (Republic of Korea) thanked the High Commissioner for her outstanding work. A great deal had been accomplished during her term and under her leadership, the blueprint for the reform of the Council had been produced. Her views on the importance of strengthening human rights on the ground through technical assistance and capacity building were shared. The plan to open new regional offices was welcomed. As discussions were underway on the relationship between the Council and the Office, it was felt that consultations should take place between the two bodies but the independence of the Office, as part of the United Nations Secretary, had to be respected.

VALERIY V. LOSCHININ (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation regretted that the High Commissioner would be leaving since it appreciated her tireless activities for the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in terms of mechanisms of dialogue with and between States. Because of that, the international community would be able to make huge progress in promoting democratic values. The implementation of the agreement between the Russian Federation and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights made in Moscow would make a significant contribution to uphold human rights in the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, however, in the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights there were some deficiencies in terms of a lack of coordination with States and budget planning. The Office was part of the Secretariat of the United Nations and, as such, was accountable to the Human Rights Council and Member States. The Russian Federation supported the proposals made by Pakistan and Egypt to include a specific issue on the Strategic Management Plan during the June session of the Human Rights Council. It was noted that the Government of the Russian Federation took a decision to make a contribution to the fund to assist countries participating in the Universal Periodic Review. Moreover, the Russian Federation condemned terrorist acts, particularly those whose victims were innocent. In conclusion, the Russian Federation expressed its condolences to the delegation of Israel for the tragedy that occurred yesterday in Jerusalem.

JAVIER GARRIGUES (Spain) said Spain appreciated the vital role played by the High Commissioner in the promotion and protection of human rights. The High Commissioner, in order to be truly effective, must have financial independence and autonomy of action. In this regard, Spain was committed to the consolidation of the administrative and economic need of the Office through voluntary contributions. Care would be taken to ensure the independence of the Office when it determined its priorities and programmes, and that the work of the High Commissioner was not an easy task, and required a balance between the various players without losing sight of the goal of eliminating violations of human rights. In this regard Spain noted in particular the importance of improving the dissemination and information on work of OHCHR. Spain supported the opening of new regional offices to facilitate dialogue among the States and improve their human rights policies.

MARION S. KAPPEYNE VAN DE COPPELLO (Netherlands) said that it was with great regret that the Netherlands had learned that the High Commissioner would not seek another mandate. When she passed on her lead in June, she would leave a much more strengthened Office. Having concluded the institution building phase, the Council should now deliver on substance. The Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures would be one of its major tools. The Netherlands would do everything to strengthen the Special Procedures with a view to create a system that was not selective but covered all relevant issues. The work of the High Commissioner and its staff in the Office and in the field was commended. The Office should preserve its independence. The High Commissioner should continue to be only accountable to the Secretary-General and through him to the General Assembly. Her initiative to send a fact finding mission to Kenya was applauded.

TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said significant support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Council was crucial. Canada was particularly happy to see that 17 new posts had been added to the Office to support the Universal Periodic Review; this would surely assist in the effective functioning of this new mechanism. The technical cooperation the Office was providing was to be commended, as was the work of the Office on transitional justice issues and fact-finding missions, which was essential for combating impunity and in support of human rights on the ground. Canada further supported the work of the Office on human rights and poverty. Canada believed the expansion of the Office’s field presences to 47 was making a substantial difference in the promotion and protection of human rights. Canada urged the Government of Sri Lanka to accept assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to allow it a full mandate to report on the human rights situation throughout the country. With regard to the report of the High Commissioner on Iran, Canada was deeply concerned by the new draft Iranian penal code, which sought to impose capital punishment for apostasy, witchcraft and heresy.
The transparency of the High Commissioner in publishing the Strategic Management Plan was appreciated by Canada. The Human Rights Council had no role in the budgetary process and there was therefore no need for and, in fact, no mandate for the Council to review the Strategic Management Plan of the High Commissioner. Canada was and would continue to be a strong supporter of the mandate of the High Commissioner and the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the promotion and protection of human rights.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said the High Commissioner for Human Rights should not take criticism of the work of the Office to heart. On the responsibility of the Human Rights Council relating to the Strategic Management Plan, resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly previewed that the Council would assume the responsibility of this with the High Commissioner and that the Council had a responsibility in this matter. The role of the High Commissioner could not be without supervision. The High Commissioner could not play judge and prosecutor. She was responsible before the Council. As for geographic presentation in OHCHR staff, Algeria was concerned that while the High commissioner said it had improved, reports said otherwise. The representation of the African Group had not improved.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said that France condemned the recent attacks in Jerusalem. It was with profound regret that France had heard that the High Commissioner would step down. The High Commissioner had brought much in strengthening the human rights pillar of the United Nations and the construction of the Council had been one of the last steps of this procedure. A handful of tools were now available. The Universal Periodic Review, in order to be credible had to be transparent. The work of the Office’s staff was applauded. The field presence of the Office was also seen as important. The degradation of the situation in Sri Lanka was worrying and the proposition to open a regional office there was supported. All human rights defenders and the staff of the Office had to be able to work in full independence. France reiterated its profound attachment to the independence of the High Commissioner.

BIRGITTA SIEFKER-EBERLE (Germany) expressed Germany’s thanks to the High Commissioner for her excellent report and for her good cooperation with the German Government. The briefings received by the Office of the High Commissioner gave evidence to the good way of how the Office worked. There was no need for micro management of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by the Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner’s work in the area of economic, social and cultural rights as well as the Office’s field presence were commendable. Germany expressed appreciation to the High Commissioner’s role in preparation of the Universal Periodic Review process and said it would support the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in all efforts towards implementing the institution building package. As noted by the High Commissioner in her report, racism was one of the major human rights challenges and Germany recognized, as had the High Commissioner, that no country was free from racism. The German Government was strongly engaged in the Durban Declaration conference efforts. The High Commissioner was asked how the international community could best unify its efforts in the fight against racism and for her views on the outcome of the Durban Review process. Lastly, Germany expressed its condolences to Israel for the tragedy in Jerusalem yesterday.

CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said on behalf of the Australian Government, he wished to thank the High Commissioner for the leadership, integration and innovation that she had bought over the past four years to the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR). She had exercised leadership in a period of great change in the United Nations, including setting up the Human Rights Council. Under her leadership, OHCHR had expanded its presence in the Pacific region. Australia would continue to support focus on the region by OHCHR. Australia thanked the High Commissioner for her strategic stewardship, and for her remarks concerning the apology of Australia to its indigenous people, which had been a defining moment in Australian history. Australia condemned cowardly acts of violence like the one that had taken place in Jerusalem yesterday.

REBECCA SAGAR (United Kingdom) expressed the deep condolences of the United Kingdom on yesterday’s attacks in Baghdad and Jerusalem. The United Kingdom had very much enjoyed the work of the High Commissioner during her mandate. Her departure would be a big loss. The current discussion and the High Commissioner’s openness on her work were welcomed. The United Kingdom reiterated their support for the work of the Office, human rights where an important pillar of the United Nations system. The Office was centred at the heart of the United Nations and it was normal for such an important mission. The Office was not a specialized agency but part of the Secretariat. The openness of the High Commissioner to share its internal strategy was welcomed and she was thanked for all her achievements.

Explanations of Vote after Vote on Resolution on Palestine (see press release HRC/08/13 of 6 March)

SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Brazil had voted in favour of the resolution because the current situation was a cause of serious concern. The recent military attacks in the Gaza strip had resulted in a great number of deaths. Both parties had to restrain from using violence. It was recognized that the number of Palestinian victims was bigger than those of Israel. Also, it would not be possible to make significant changes on the ground unless the use of violence was not stopped. The escalation of violence was condemned.

ICHIRO FUJISAKI (Japan), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said Japan was not happy because it could not support the resolution yesterday and had to abstain from the proposal text. Japan appreciated the improvement to the original text and was grateful to those who worked hard to find a compromise, but it still abstained because it felt more balance was needed. Japan strongly condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and the shedding of blood by the Israel Defence Forces and regretted that Palestinian civilians were suffering from the Israeli use of force and blockades. What happened in Jerusalem last night and other such actions were totally impermissible. Japan strongly urged both sides for self-restraint so that the situations would not be escalated and worsened. Japan was committed to the Middle East peace process.

ALEJANDRO ARTUCIO RODRIGUEZ (Uruguay), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Uruguay had supported similar resolutions on Palestine in the past. On this occasion, in view of the current situation, Uruguay had decided again to vote in favour of the resolution. However, they would have preferred a more balanced version of the resolution, to reflect that both sides had to respect human rights.

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For use of the information media; not an official record