Human Rights Council concludes Forty-Sixth Regular Session after adopting 30 Resolutions and one Decision

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  • Council Extends 10 Thematic and Country-Specific Mandates
  • Highlights the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Adopts Universal Periodic Review Outcomes for 14 States, and
  • Appoints Six Mandate Holders

Geneva: The Human Rights Council on Wednesday March 24 afternoon concluded its forty-sixth regular session after adopting 30 resolutions and one decision, extending mandates on the environment, cultural rights, albinism, privacy, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Islamic Republic of Iran, Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, South Sudan and Malia, and focusing on the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With regard to ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Council urged States to immediately take steps to prevent, within their respective legal frameworks, speculation and undue export controls and stockpiling that may hinder affordable, timely, equitable and universal access for all countries to COVID-19 vaccines and strongly urged all States to refrain from taking any economic, financial or trade measures that may adversely affect equitable, affordable, fair, timely and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, in particular in developing countries. The Council also decided to hold, at its forty-ninth session, a half-day panel discussion on the matter.

The Council extended mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment for a period of three years; the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights for three years; the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism for three years; the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy for three years; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for one year; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran for one year; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for one year; the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic for a period of one year; the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for a period of one year; and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali for a period of one year.

Key Outcomes

Significantly, with introspection about the United States’ own human rights struggles, particularly in addressing systemic racism, the US galvanized more than 155 members of the international community to join the US in acknowledging the “corrosive legacy of racism and racial discrimination and to proactively address this shameful legacy to make lasting progress”.

Myanmar: The European Union led a resolution that highlighted ongoing human rights concerns and recalled developments in Myanmar since February 1. The United States, along with the core group, supported language that condemned the military’s actions and expanded monitoring and reporting.

Sri Lanka: The United States co-sponsored a resolution led by the United Kingdom on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka.”

Syria: A resolution led by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, and Turkey that highlighted ongoing atrocities by the Assad regime in Syria and renewed the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) was co-sponsored by the US.

The United States also cosponsored the Iran and North Korea resolutions which renewed the country-specific mandates for those Special Rapporteurs.

Fifty-three countries co-sponsored a U.S.-led Joint Statement on Human Rights Accountability. This effort was prompted by a series of apparently coordinated statements by delegations, including that of China, insisting that states cannot interfere in the “domestic affairs” of others by criticizing their human rights records. The joint statement made clear that state sovereignty cannot be used as a shield to prevent scrutiny from the Council, and that states continue to have responsibility to protect human rights. The US reinforced this sentiment by joining the statement of the Group of Friends for Responsibility to Protect for the first time in Geneva. US also joined statements on Human Rights and COVID-19 Measures; Protection of Journalists; Ending Death Penalty as a Punishment for Blasphemy and Apostacy; and Human Rights of Migrants.

The United States continued to oppose what it has called the HRC’s “one-sided and biased approach towards Israel through its stand-along Israel-specific Agenda Item 7”. During HRC 46, two resolutions were merged under Agenda Item 2 (resolutions on accountability and the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories), leaving only three resolutions in Agenda Item 7 (Israeli Settlements, Self-Determination for Palestinians, and Human Rights in the Golan).

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