UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATES ON FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION, RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, SOMALIA AND MYANMAR



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Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON 28 March 2008


The Human Rights Council this afternoon extended for three years the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia were both extended for one year.

Of the six resolutions adopted, two were adopted by a vote, and four without a vote.

The resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for three years was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, none against and 15 abstentions. Prior to the adoption of the resolution, the Council adopted, by a vote of 27 in favour, 17 against, and 3 abstentions, a separate resolution containing an amendment to the original draft text, which requested the Special Rapporteur to report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constituted an act of racial or religious discrimination. The Council also adopted an oral amendment to the original text, by a vote of 29 in favor, 15 against and 3 abstentions.

The resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for one year was adopted without a vote. The resolution urged the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to respond favourably to his requests to visit the country and to provide him with all information and access to relevant bodies and institutions necessary to enable him to fulfil his mandate effectively.

In a separate resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly deplored the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar and strongly urged the Government of Myanmar to receive, as soon as possible, a follow-up mission by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

The Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance for three years, without a vote. The resolution requested the Special Rapporteur to gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications with all relevant sources, on, among other things, the scourges of anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, Islamophobia in various parts of the world, and racial racist and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed at Arab, African, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities.

The Council adopted a resolution with regard to assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights without a vote, which, among other things, extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for one year, expressed its serious concern at the human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia, and called for an immediate end to all ongoing violations. It also demanded that all parties in Somalia reject and stop all acts of violence and abstain from engaging in hostilities.

Through another resolution entitled “From Rhetoric to Reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, the Council urged Governments that had not done so to issue formal apologies to the victims of past and historic injustices and decided to invite the Group of Five Independent Eminent Experts to address the Council at its tenth session. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 34 in favour, none against and 13 abstentions

Speaking as concerned countries were Myanmar and Somalia.

Speaking to introduce the resolutions, or in general comments or explanations of the vote before or after the vote were Canada, Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Japan, India, Egypt, Switzerland, Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico, Bolivia, the United Kingdom and Guatemala.

The Council will meet on Tuesday, 1 April at 10 a.m. at which time it will hear general statements by observers and adopt its reports to the General Assembly on the current session before concluding the seventh regular session.


Explanation of the Vote After the Vote on the Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), in an explanation of the vote after the vote with regard to L.3 on the self-determination of the Palestinian people, said Canada recognized the Palestinian right to self-determination and reiterated its strongest support for an independent and viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel as part of a comprehensive and lasting peace settlement. This was laid out by Security Council resolution 1515, which Canada fully supported. Canada was disappointed to see the introduction of another resolution which did not lead to the improvement of the situation on the ground. Canada wished to disassociate itself from the consensus on L.3.

Resolutions on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.36) on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly deplores the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar; strongly urges the Government of Myanmar to receive, as soon as possible, at his convenience, a follow-up mission by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, as requested by the Council in its resolution 6/33, to cooperate fully with him and to follow up and implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Rapporteur; strongly calls upon the Myanmar authorities to make the constitution-drafting process inclusive, participatory and transparent in order to ensure that the process is broadly representative of the views of all the people of Myanmar and meets all international norms; to engage urgently in a reinvigorated national dialogue with all parties with a view to achieving genuine national reconciliation, democratization and the establishment of the rule of law; to ensure for its people basic freedoms and desist from further denial of basic freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, assembly and religion or belief; to cooperate fully with humanitarian organizations, including by ensuring full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to all persons in need throughout the country; to take urgent measures to put an end to violations of human rights and humanitarian law and including forced displacement and arbitrary detention and to immediately release all political prisoners without any delay; invites the Special Rapporteur to continue to discharge his mandate in a coordinated manner with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar; and requests the Special Rapporteur to report on the implementation of Council resolutions S-5/1 and the subsequent Council resolution 6/33.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introducing draft resolution L.36, said that the European Union and the other co-sponsors were deeply concerned with the situation of human rights in Myanmar, which, as had been well documented in the report of the Special Rapporteur, was further deteriorating. The resolution also pertained to the essential follow-up to the Special Session held last October in the Council and addressed the non-compliance with its recommendations. Against that background, the European Union was compelled to present the draft resolution that addressed the serious human rights situation in Myanmar.
The European Union particularly deplored the continued imposition of restrictions on the freedom of movement, expression, assembly and association, the prevailing culture of impunity, ongoing summary executions, torture and forced labour practices, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence. Enforced disappearances and the number of detainees also continued to grow. Progress on the political front could only take place if the authorities in Myanmar engaged in real dialogue with all political parties and relevant actors and ethnic groups. The release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and other fundamental steps needed to be taken for any change to be meaningful. In that respect, the European Union called on Myanmar to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit the country at the earliest possible opportunity.

LI BAODONG (China), in a general comment, said since the sixth resumed session of the Council, the Government of Myanmar had taken serious measures to improve the human rights situation such as the drafting of a national Constitution set for referendum in May and announcing elections for 2010. The Government also had made progress in the implementation of the seven-point plan. The reports of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and that of the ILO also demonstrated Myanmar’s readiness to cooperate with the international community and the Council, which should be acknowledged by the Council. China maintained that the draft resolution must be balanced and forward-looking and create a positive atmosphere between the Government of Myanmar and the Human Rights Council. Some of the elements in the current draft had not reflected the progress made by the Government of Myanmar and their challenges. This had adversely affected the nature of this draft resolution which should be balanced. The final solution of the question of Myanmar must be led by the Government with the support of the international community. China hoped that all parties would take to heart the genuine interest of the Myanmar Government and find an appropriate solution to the question of Myanmar.

ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines), in a general comment, said that the Philippines believed that the spirit of dialogue and cooperation should be the base of the Human Rights Council‘s work. An atmosphere of constructive dialogue and engagement would create the kind of atmosphere that would help to promote and protect human rights. The Philippines felt that the language of the resolution could be more positive by highlighting the efforts and improvements done by the Government in the last months. More had to be done by the Government of Myanmar but its continuous engagement with the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General was welcomed. The announcement of the national referendum was noted, as well as the Government’s continuous engagement with several partners. The resolution should have a less condemning voice.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan), in a general comment, recalled the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that a constructive and continuous dialogue with the Government of Myanmar would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in the country. Pakistan noted previous examples of the Government of Myanmar's compliance with Human Rights Council mechanisms, including the Special Envoy sent following the Council's fifth Special Session, and was confident that the Government would continue its cooperation with the Council. In Pakistan's view, the present draft resolution was too inclusive and leaned towards political aspects rather than human rights aspects that were within the purview of the Council. The Council had to play its due role in encouraging Myanmar to protect and promote human rights in a non-confrontational manner.

DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka), in a general comment, recalled the engagement of Myanmar with the International Labour Organization (ILO), as previously mentioned. It was unfortunate that there was no sense of balance in the resolution in question, unlike that which was evident in an ILO resolution passed recently which referred to the situation in Myanmar. The situation in Myanmar had improved. No positive or constructive change was possible in any given country without the support of its neighbours and pertinent regional blocks.

HSU KING BEE (Malaysia), in a general comment, said that only a few of the recommendations given by members of the Asian region had been taken into account in the draft resolution. Concerns expressed by neighbours of Myanmar should be given due account. Malaysia believed that the resolution would have been more balanced if it had recognised the improvements made on the ground. A more constructive and forward looking text rather than a contentious one would have brought more to the improvement of the situation.

I. GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia), in a general comment, said that Indonesia had supported the efforts to promote and protect human rights in Myanmar undertaken in the context of the Council, as well as by the United Nations Secretary-General, and in particular through the efforts of the Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari. Indonesia acknowledged that the Government of Myanmar had made some progress, as was evidenced in its declared intention to seek a Constitutional referendum in May 2008 and to hold a general election in 2010. Indonesia recalled that the Council's Special Rapporteur Mr. Pinheiro had not been allowed to conduct a follow-up visit to the country, as set out in the resolution of the Council. The present draft resolution was forward looking, took into account the views of the countries in the region, and Indonesia called on Myanmar to heed the call of the international community to protect human rights, to cooperate with the Council and to forge ahead with the process of democratization and national reconciliation.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), in a general comment, said Cuba supported the efforts and work of the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in Myanmar, even through a Special Session leading to a consensus. Since the Council was established, Myanmar had shown clear signals of its readiness to engage in dialogue and cooperation. Unfortunately, the text of the draft resolution suffered from the problems of the former Commission. Cuba appealed to the co-sponsors of the text to think more deeply about the way in which they presented the draft, which was an intrusion into the internal affairs of Myanmar. It was regrettable that Myanmar’s readiness to cooperate, in particular the meetings with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, was not reflected. Cuba hoped that the wisdom and cooperation of the Government of Myanmar would be drawn on to build on that international cooperation.

ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation), in a general comment, said that the resolution was another example of a one-sided approach. It did not take into account the positive developments and Myanmar’s cooperation with several international instruments. The wording did not lead to a balanced text and would further complicate the situation. The resolution should highlight the need for cooperation on the part of the international community in order to improve the situation.

MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh), in a general comment, said that Bangladesh was closely following unfolding events in Myanmar and had observed some encouraging developments in the past months. The international community should take note of that progress and work to assist the process of democratization and reconciliation in an inclusive manner. As a close neighbour, Bangladesh remained deeply interested in Myanmar, but believed that cooperation and dialogue were the best ways to promote human rights in a given country. The text of the draft resolution was still not in conformity with those principles of dialogue and cooperation.

MAKIO MIYAGAWA (Japan), in a general comment, said the Government of Japan had consistently been assisting in the development and unification of Myanmar since its independence as it was a good neighbour in the region. During the difficult times in the country over the last decade, Japan had been sending signals to the people of Myanmar to improve the internal situation to the benefit of the country. The international community had witnessed agonizing situations in the country, while there had been some progress made at that same time, such as the drafting of a Constitution. It was hoped that the Government of Myanmar would understand such voices.

WUNNA MAUNG LWIN (Myanmar), speaking as a concerned country, said that the draft resolution totally disregarded the actual political process in Myanmar; it was highly intrusive and failed to address the positive developments made by the Government. Myanmar was being put under pressure by powerful countries using the human rights topic to intrude into their internal affairs. The draft was unbalanced and its contents were totally rejected. Myanmar expressed its deep appreciation to its friends that supported the country.

SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Myanmar was a close and friendly neighbour of India, with whom it shared multiple links. In connection with the recent developments in Myanmar, it was well known that India had played a constructive role and fully supported the Secretary-General's Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari. The situation of human rights in Myanmar should be taken up in the Council so as to support the efforts of Mr. Gambari. Following his visit, Mr. Gambari had noted that the principles of engagement remained as vital as ever. What the Council needed was a forward-looking, non-condemnatory approach that sought to engage the Government of Myanmar in a constructive manner. India was convinced that sanctions would not be useful and would prove to be counterproductive. To discount the developments on the ground through a condemnatory resolution would be to negate those positive developments and would undermine the work of the Secretary-General's Special Envoy. Despite those concerns, India would join the consensus in the hope that their joint efforts would contribute to a more constructive engagement in the future.

Resolution on the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.37) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1992/58 and 2005/10 of 14 April 2005; urges the Government of Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to respond favourably to his requests to visit the country and to provide him with all information and access to relevant bodies and institutions necessary to enable him to fulfil his mandate effectively; requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a progress report to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session and to the Council in accordance with its annual programme of work; and calls upon the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur with all necessary assistance and resources to enable him to discharge his mandate fully.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union and introducing the draft resolution, said that the European Union had welcomed the exchange of views that had taken place during the review, rationalisation and improvement of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. This mandate was designed to help Myanmar further the promotion and protection of human rights. The European Union recalled that the Council’s resolutions adopted during its Special Session on Myanmar had not been implemented and that the human rights situation still gave reason for great concern. The existence of a seven-step road map was noted. However, a credible referendum could not take place without freedom of assembly or the release of thousands of political prisoners. The Human Rights Council and the Special Rapporteur both had special roles to play in monitoring the human rights situation. The renewal of the mandate was strongly recommended.

WUNNA MAUNG LWIN (Myanmar), speaking as a concerned country, said as all were fully aware, the Council would soon begin the Universal Periodic Review process that would put all countries on the same footing. Myanmar fully believed that the Universal Periodic Review would work to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. The extension of the country specific mandates ran counter to the principles of the Council, which should not apply the double standards pursued by the former Commission on Human Rights.

The international community should recognize and encourage the positive political developments in Myanmar. Adoption of two resolutions on the same country, on the same issue, and at the same session, showed that Myanmar had been clearly targeted by powerful countries for political motives. However, Myanmar would continue to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms as long as its national interests and sovereignty were not infringed upon.

Explanations of Vote After Vote on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan), in an explanation of the vote after the vote on L.28 concerning the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said Pakistan was of the view that a system on non-partiality should adhere to all situations of human rights. These would otherwise prove counter-productive to the Council. Such policies did not promote universal compliance with international human rights norms and standards. The Universal Periodic Review must act as an effective mechanism and should not single out countries. Pakistan abstained on the said resolution as it was contrary to its position. Pakistan was confident that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would continue to promote the situation of human rights in the country.

NOR' AZAM MOHD IDRUS (Malaysia), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Malaysia had voted against resolution L.28 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because of its commitment to address human rights situations through dialogue and cooperation with the concerned countries, instead of country-based resolutions. This practice had discredited the Commission. The upcoming Universal Periodic Review would also provide a new opportunity to review the situation in countries.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, referring to resolution L.37 on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, which was just passed by consensus, said Canada remained deeply concerned about human rights violations perpetrated by the Government of Myanmar against its own people. Following peaceful protests last year, many of those arrested remained in detention, and some had been criminally charged for their peaceful demonstrations. Canada fully supported the Special Procedures of the Council as a unique tool, and certainly, given the situation in Myanmar, felt that the work of that mandate holder was essential to address human rights violations and promote the dialogue necessary for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. Canada welcomed the renewal of the mandate.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, on L.28 on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said Egypt had always maintained its position against country-specific mandates. In line with its position on country specific resolutions, Egypt had voted against the resolution in question.

Resolutions on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-Up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Resolution on Global Call for Concrete Action Against Racism and Racial Discrimination

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.14) entitled from rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted by a vote of 34 in favour, none against, and 13 abstentions, the Council welcomes the landmark and historic formal apology by the Government of Australia for the past laws and policies that inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on its indigenous peoples; urges Governments that have not done so to issue formal apologies to the victims of past and historic injustices; acknowledges the report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its eighth session; welcomes the convening of the first part of the sixth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in January 2008, during which the Working Group made an initial contribution to the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference; also welcomes the convening of the first part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards in February 2008, and requests the Ad Hoc Committee, at the second part of its first session, to fulfil, as a matter of priority, the mandate entrusted to it via Human Rights Council decision 3/103 and Human Rights Council resolution 6/21; further acknowledges the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to the seventh session of the Human Rights Council; and decides to invite the Group of Five Independent Eminent Experts to address the Council at its tenth session.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (34): Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Zambia.

Abstentions (13): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), introducing draft resolution L.14, said at a time of increased expressions of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and in view of the Council's role in the preparatory process of the upcoming Durban Review Conference, the draft resolution underlined the lack of political will to address racism and at the same time recognized the positive actions by States to address that phenomenon. The historic formal apology by the Government of Australia for its past laws and policies that inflicted profound suffering on its aboriginal peoples was acknowledged
and other Governments were urged to issue similar apologies to the victims of past and historic injustices and to take measures to achieve healing and reconciliation. Furthermore, the draft resolution sought to register and react to the various mechanisms on follow-up to Durban, including the Ad Hoc Group on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards. It also sought to reinvigorate the activities of the five independent eminent experts by inviting them to address the Council at its tenth session.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said the European Union attached great importance to the question of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and also the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which underlined that racism was present throughout the world and that all victims should be treated equally. The European Union was committed to fighting these problems at the national, regional and international level. The resolution failed to address the situation in a balanced manner. Any overlap in the work of the Durban Review Conference would undermine the Conference itself. Despite the constructive engagement of the European Union on this text, it regretted that a compromise could not be found, and therefore the European Union requested a vote and would abstain in the vote.

Resolution on Mandate of Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism and Racial Discrimination

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.18) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of three years to gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications with all relevant sources, on all issues and alleged violations falling within the purview of the mandate, and to investigate and make concrete recommendations, to be implemented at the national, regional and international levels, with a view to preventing and eliminating all forms and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, focusing, inter alia, on incidents of contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination against Africans and people of African descent, Arabs, Asians and people of Asian descent, migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples; situations where the persistent denial of individuals belonging to different racial and ethnic groups of their recognized human rights, as a result of racial discrimination, constitutes gross and systematic violations of human rights; the scourges of anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, Islamophobia in various parts of the world, and racial racist and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed at Arab, African, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities; laws and policies glorifying all historic injustices and fuelling contemporary forms of racism and related intolerance and underpinning the persistent and chronic inequalities faced by racial groups in various societies; the role of human rights education in promoting tolerance and the elimination of racism; incitement to all forms of hatred and instances of racially motivated hate speech, including the dissemination of racial superiority or that incite racial hatred; and the impact of some counter-terrorism measures on the rise of racism, including the practice of racial profiling and profiling on the basis of any grounds of discrimination prohibited by international human rights law. The Council requests the Special Rapporteur, to develop a regular dialogue and discuss areas of possible cooperation with Governments and all relevant actors concerning issues pertaining to the mandate, and to integrate a gender perspective throughout the work of the mandate; and requests all Governments to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur in the discharge of the mandate.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), introducing draft resolution L.18 on behalf of the African Group, said that, despite ongoing efforts and a number of positive developments in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, there was ample evidence that the situation of racism worldwide was worsening, not improving. Racism and racial discrimination continued to be among the main sources of violations of human rights impacting the lives of billions of people on a daily basis. The dire situation faced by various groups due to historic crimes and injustices also persisted. The need to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was self-evident. There was an imperative today of continuing to monitor the overall situation, with a particular focus on the most potent and dangerous contemporary forms and manifestations of racism, as well as the emerging forms. Those issues were addressed in the draft resolution, which stood to strengthen the mandate. The African Group looked forward to the support of the Council for the draft resolution, and to its adoption by consensus, which would send an extremely strong and positive signal as the international community was about to start preparations for the Durban Review Conference.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union in a general comment, said the European Union continued to be committed to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as indicated in policies of European Union States and national action plans as requested by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The European Union had two major pieces of legislation related to this issue - on racial equality and employment equality. The European Union remained supportive of the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism for a further three years and would join in the consensus on the text. The European Union, however, was concerned about a number of elements in the text concerning the restrictions on the mandate holder’s autonomy to deal with certain circumstances and over the possible duplication with other mandates. The European Union was also concerned about the multifaceted forms of discrimination which may be compounded by others forms of discrimination. When addressing past or historical issues the Special Rapporteur should be forward-looking and address the contemporary manifestation of such acts. The European Union looked forward to continue to work constructively with the African Group and other States to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related intolerance.

IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) who were Members of the Council, in a general comment, said that the OIC shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur concerning the re-emergence of racial discrimination. It had been acknowledged that racism was man’s greatest threat. The OIC condemned the recent screening of hatred documentaries and publication of cartoons. Such acts posed challenges to peace, harmony and stability. The OIC strongly believed that the resolution was an appropriated response to the challenges in the world today.

MUNU MAHAWAR (India), in a general comment, said that India had always been at the forefront of international efforts to combat racism and had always supported all the resolutions on that issue in this forum. India therefore supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. However, India regretted that the mandate had been formulated in a narrow and prescriptive manner, which established a hierarchy between racial and religious violations which would only harm efforts to combat racism.

ANH THU DUONG (Switzerland), in a general comment, said Switzerland attached importance to the resolution and thus the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism. The resolution was not perfect, but Switzerland welcomed the fact that it was acceptable to all members of the Council. The Special Rapporteur would focus on complying with international obligations to promote action against racism and to protect populations against this scourge.

Explanations of Vote After Vote on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Follow-Up to Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

SERGIO DE ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Brazil had abstained in the vote on resolution L.15 on the defamation of religions. Even though the resolution had incorporated positive elements with the view to making it more compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the text still contained some difficulties. The Covenant did not protect religions but it protected human beings. Brazil was committed to the right to freedom of religion and was committed to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said Nigeria had voted for the resolution on combating defamation of religions L.15. Nigeria was a country where religion was free and the right to practice one's religion was enshrined in the Constitution. It was in Nigeria's best interests to ensure freedom of religions. In that same vein, Nigeria disapproved of the actions of any group or persons to defame the religious practices of any other group. Nigeria upheld the principle set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that human rights and fundamental freedoms were mutually reinforcing. It was Nigeria's firm belief that it was possible for all faiths to co-exist in peace and harmony and that it was possible and plausible for all nations to foster religious dialogue.

SERGIO DE ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), in an explanation of the vote after the vote referring to L.14 on a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, noted that Brazil had voted in favour of the resolution, which contained elements with which Brazil fully identified. Brazil recognized that substantial positive changes were contained in the present text. The Human Rights Council was facing a delicate moment in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the preparation of the Durban Review Conference. It was necessary for all countries to work together in this regard. Brazil was hopeful that L.14 should bring positive contributions to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances. Brazil was committed to this cause and remained fully engaged in the preparatory process for the Durban Review Conference.

Resolution on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

Resolution on Assistance to Somalia in the Field of Human Rights

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.19.Rev1) on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, as orally amended, the Council expresses its serious concern at the human rights and humanitarian situation in Somalia, and calls for an immediate end to all ongoing violations; demands that all parties in Somalia reject and stop all acts of violence, abstain from engaging in hostilities, prevent any act likely to increase tension and security and fully respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law; urges all parties in Somalia to uphold the principles and spirit enshrined in the Transitional Federal Charter and to work towards genuine national reconciliation within that framework, including by holding fair, national multi-party elections in 2009; calls upon the international community to stand by the legitimate Somali institutions and to provide adequate and concrete support in order to enhance their capacity; appeals to the partners of the African Union to provide increased logistical and financial support for the African Union Mission in Somalia; urges the international community to provide, as a matter of urgency, development assistance to Somalia; also urges the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the needy population; and decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a period of one year, with a view to maximizing the provision and the flow of technical assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, and requests him/her to submit a report to the Council during its September 2008 and March 2009 sessions.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), introducing draft resolution L.19 on behalf of the African Group, said that the subject of Somalia had been of great concern to the African Group. The draft resolution welcomed the Declaration made by the Heads of States and Government of the African Union meeting at Addis Ababa last month, where they had adopted a declaration that sought, among others, to build capacities of Somali institutions, while continuing support for all Somali-led efforts towards reconciliation and stability. The present draft resolution reflected the African Groups firm conviction that all parties in Somalia should refrain from acts of violence and should respect their international obligations under international law and human rights law. It stressed that peace and security were essential to create conditions conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance, including unhindered access to the needy population and security for humanitarian workers and organizations, and called on the international community to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary development assistance to Somalia, so as to effectively contribute to the reconstruction of Somalia and the rebuilding of its institutions. In addition, the African initiative acknowledged the work undertaken by the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, and included a provision renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert for the period of one year.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), in a general comment, said Canada expressed appreciation to Somalia and the African Group for their efforts to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia. The Independent Expert played an important role in promoting human rights in the country; his work was key to providing the international community with a better understanding of how to ameliorate the situation in Somalia. Noting with concern the issue of safety to humanitarian workers, as referred to in operative paragraph 8 of the resolution, Canada was of the firm belief that the safety of humanitarian workers rested primarily with the State and non-State actor parties to a conflict. Canada reminded the Somali authorities and all parties to the conflict of their commitment to this. Canada called upon all relevant actors to cooperate with this important mandate.

YUSUF MOHAMED ISMAIL BARI-BARI (Somalia) speaking as a concerned country, said that Somalia welcomed and highly appreciated the timely, tangible and historic stand taken by the African Union and the Governments of Ethiopia as well as those of Uganda, Burundi and Nigeria for having committed the best of their peacekeeping friendly forces. Somalia called on African Governments to fulfil their pledges by deploying the remaining 8,000 peacekeepers. In light of the severe drought, Somalia appealed to the international community to provide immediate relief supply. The draft resolution was welcomed. There was a need for a genuine and effective assistance to ensure human rights advancement in Somalia.

Explanation of Vote after Vote on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

AKIO ISOMATA (Japan), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, on resolution L.19/Rev.1 on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights, said Japan expressed its appreciation to the African Group for its efforts to reach an agreement on the text. Japan supported the objective of the text, that is, for the concerned country to improve its human rights situation with the help of the international community. But resources were not inexhaustible and the Council needed to take into account the programme budget implications. If resolutions involved programme budget implications, sufficient information should be provided to Member States before resolutions were adopted.

Resolution on Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development

Resolution on Mandate of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

In a resolution (A/HRC/7/L.24) on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, none against, and 15 abstentions, the Council decides to extend for a further three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur whose tasks will be to gather all relevant information, wherever it may occur, relating to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, discrimination against, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution or intimidation directed at persons seeking to exercise or to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including, as a matter of high priority, against journalists or other professionals in the field of information; to seek, receive and respond to credible and reliable information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of these cases; to make recommendations and provide suggestions on ways and means to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression in all its manifestations; and to contribute to the provision of technical assistance or advisory services by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Council requests the Special Rapporteur, within the framework of the mandate, to draw the attention of the Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to those situations and cases regarding the right to freedom of opinion and expression which are of particularly serious concern; to integrate the human rights of women and a gender perspective throughout the work of the mandate; to report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination; to consider approaches taken to access to information with a view to sharing best practices; and to continue to provide views, when appropriate, on the advantages and challenges of new information and communication technologies, including the Internet and mobile technologies, for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and the relevance of a wide diversity of sources, as well as access to the information society for all; and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit each year to the Council a report covering activities relating to the mandate.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (32): Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Zambia.

Abstentions (15): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

The Council also adopted an amendment to resolution A/HRC/7/L.24, as tabled in resolution A/HRC/7/L.39, by a vote of 27 in favour, 17 against, and 3 abstentions. The amendment adds that the Special Rapporteur shall “report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination”.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (27): Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zambia.

Against (17): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Abstentions (3): Bolivia, Japan and Republic of Korea.

The Council also voted on an oral amendment read out by the delegation of Cuba to be inserted at the end of preambular paragraph 10, as follows… “and also the importance for all forms of media to repeat and to deliver information in a fair and partial manner”. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 15 against and 3 abstentions.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (29): Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zambia.

Against (15): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Abstentions (3): Guatemala, Peru and Philippines.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada), introducing draft resolution L.24, said that the right to freedom of opinion and expression was at the core of human dignity. It was linked to the exercise of all human rights and was at the core of a free and democratic society. New challenges to this right had emerged. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was more important than ever. Several informal consultations had been held, in order to improve and renew this resolution with consensus. Canada hoped that the mandate would be renewed.

IMRAN Ahmed SIDDIQUI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, introducing L.39, which was an amendment to draft resolution L.24, said although the sponsors supported freedom of opinion and expression, it was nevertheless their belief that rights carried within them an inherent responsibility and should not be used for negative objectives. The reprinting of insulting and racist caricatures and the making and screening of a racist documentary pointed to a disturbing new trend. The amendment requested the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression "to report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constituted an act of racial or religious discrimination, taking into account articles 19 (3) and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and General Comment No. 15 of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which stipulates that the prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the freedom of opinion and expression". The maximum of hatred for a minimum of effort started with inflammatory words. All those whom were behind the racist caricatures and the hate documentary had cited their right to freedom of expression. They must not let hate and mischief overtake the right to freedom of expression.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada), in a general comment, said acts of racism or racial discrimination were of considerable concern to Canada. The amendment, contained in draft L.39, was not the best way to address these issues. This would request the Special Rapporteur to report on acts of religious and racial discrimination, which was not part of his mandate, nor should it be. This fell within the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This would therefore duplicate the work of the Special Procedures. The amendment would seriously weaken and undermine the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of freedom of expression and its focus. The amendment would also turn the mandate on its head. Preambular paragraph 3 of L.24 addressed the issue of freedom of expression. The review of this mandate had been consulted in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation. Canada would call for a vote on the amendment and would abstain. If it passed, then it would abstain on the overall text.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, in a general comment, said that the European Union condemned all acts of religious hatred around the world. The issue of the balance between freedom of expression and religious or racial hatred was well-struck in international human rights law. The European Union had agreed during negotiations to make explicit reference to the permissible limitation on the right to freedom and expression. The focus of the mandate had to remain centred on its core mission. The amendment did the reverse, it was shifting the mandate away from promoting freedom of expression towards restricting it. The amendment could not be accepted, all delegations were urged to vote against it.

DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka), in a general comment, said that Sri Lanka supported amendment L.39, not because it was a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, but because it believed that the amendment "rounded off" the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, made it fuller, enriched it, brought in the dimension of responsibility and merged it with the idea of rights. There had been occasions in history where rights had been abused grossly. One called to mind the example of State's rights being used to defend segregation. This was not a zero sum game and should not be allowed to be a matter for polarization. If they regulated certain things minimally, they may be able to prevent them from being acted out on the streets of their cities.

MUNU MAHAWAR (India), in a general comment, said India supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and was a co-sponsor of the draft resolution on the renewal of this mandate. It was the view of India that the proposed amendment to the draft sought to change the mandate. India would vote against the amendment.

SERGIO DE ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), speaking on behalf of a number of countries in a general comment, said they would vote against the amendment. They viewed freedom of expression as one of the basic legitimate human rights. While recognising this fundamental principle it was also accepted that no right was an unlimited right. In this specific case, limits were already established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The insertion of a new paragraph, as contained in the amendment, was restricting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Setting such restrictions might create an unwanted selectivity.

JOSE GUEVARA (Mexico), speaking also on behalf of Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.24, as amended, were of the view that the introduction of the new paragraph incorporated elements that were not included within the right to freedom of opinion and expression as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These countries therefore withdrew their sponsorship of the draft resolution on the continuation of the mandate. However, as this was a matter of the renewal of the mandate, they would still vote in favour of the draft resolution.

MUNU MAHAWAR (India), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said India had opposed the resolution adopted by the Council containing the amended text with regard to the freedom of expression. India would vote in favour of the amended proposal for the renewal of the mandate. However, it withdrew its co-sponsorship of the text.

MURIEL BERSET (Switzerland), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Switzerland attached great importance to the renewal of this Special Procedure. Freedom of expression was one of the basic building blocks of a democratic society. Switzerland regretted that the amendment had been introduced. Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights gave specific reference to the restriction; it had not been necessary to include additional reference in the resolution. The amendment was ambiguous. Switzerland was thus forced to withdraw its sponsorship due to the introduction of the amendment and would thus abstain in the vote on the resolution.

ANGELICA NAVARRO LLANOS (Bolivia), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.24, as amended, said that Bolivia had been a co-sponsor of L.24 owing to the importance Bolivia attached to human rights, in particular to the right to freedom of opinion and expression. However, given the inclusion of the amendment that established a hierarchy in the abuse of rights of freedom of opinion and expression, Bolivia would refrain from co-sponsorship. The authors of the amendment should take into consideration articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, in order to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Bolivia would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the European Union strongly supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and would continue to support his work. However, the European Union was concerned over the language inserted in the text. It was noted that the role of the Special Rapporteur was to report on the implementation of States and not to report on the activities of individuals. The European Union States and aligned countries withdrew their co-sponsorship of the text.

NICHOLAS THORNE (United Kingdom), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote as a coordinator of the Western Group countries who were not members of Council, said that the co-sponsors that were not members of the Council had decided to withdraw their co-sponsorship.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Guatemala attached great importance to the Special Procedure on the freedom of opinion or expression, but did not see how racism or religious acts related to that. Guatemala would therefore withdraw its sponsorship and would abstain on the draft resolution.

SERGIO DE ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said as a co-sponsor, Brazil voted against the amendment. However the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression was important and Brazil would vote in favour of the amended resolution but would withdraw its co-sponsorship.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Cuba had planned to vote in favour of the draft resolution. But Cuba considered that the text was insufficient. Cuba proposed to introduce an oral amendment to the resolution that would improve the text.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on the oral amendment by Cuba, referred to the rules of procedure regarding Cuba's amendment to the draft resolution, saying it was not in order to consider that amendment at this point.

BO QIAN (China), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said China was of the view that it was important that the oral amendments read out by the delegation of Cuba be included in the new text.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada), said that they requested a vote on the oral amendment.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote on Cuba's oral amendment to resolution L.24, said that the European Union supported the position stated by Canada, that the amendment should not be allowed. The European Union asked for a suspension of the meeting.

Explanations of Vote After Vote on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development

JOSE GUEVARA (Mexico), in an explanation of the vote after the vote on L.16 on human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation, said Mexico joined in the consensus on the said resolution which established the mandate of the Independent Expert on the right to water and expressed thanks to all who supported this resolution. Mexico entrusted that the work carried out by the Independent Expert would abide by existing international human rights norms.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on L.12 on the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, said that the European Union had not supported the mandate in the past because of conceptual doubts. The European Union was convinced that States were primary responsible for protecting and promoting human rights. Thus, the European Union could not support the appointment of the Independent Expert.

MURIEL BERSET (Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Norway and Liechtenstein, in an explanation of the vote after the vote on L.20 on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that Switzerland welcomed the adoption of that resolution. However, while in that resolution States were called upon to fully comply with their obligations in respect of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in particular the absolute prohibition of torture, Switzerland wished to recall that that absolute prohibition also applied to the other types of treatment listed. Furthermore, with regard to the establishment of safeguards, the addition of the term "sufficient" would not detract from the need for States to provide for all the safeguards required in its national legislation.

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For use of information media; not an official record