The 39th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) was held in Geneva between 10 and 28 September 2018. As the primary international human rights body, the Human Rights Council has the capacity to prevent and respond to mass atrocity crimes, as systematic violations and abuses of human rights can be potential indicators of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. The summary below highlights major outcomes and relevant dialogues from the 39th session as they relate to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) populations from such crimes. As part of the session, the Netherlands delivered two statements on behalf of 49 members of the Group of Friends of R2P.
A/HRC/39/L.1/Rev.1 Promotion and protection of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Expressing deep concern about serious human rights violations and the ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela, the HRC called upon the Venezuelan government to accept humanitarian assistance in order to address the scarcity of food, medicine and medical supplies and the rise of malnutrition. The HRC further urged the government to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the mechanisms of the HRC, and called upon the High Commissioner to prepare a written report on the human rights situation in Venezuela to be presented at the 41st session of the HRC, and to present an oral update at its 40th and 42nd sessions. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favor, 7 against, with 17 abstentions.
A/HRC/39/L.9 Technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights in the Central African Republic
The HRC expressed grave concern about the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and condemned ongoing acts of violence which continue to be committed by armed groups against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian staff, as well as other violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian law, including violence against children and sexual and gender-based violence. The HRC welcomed the adoption of a June 2018 national plan to counter discrimination, hate speech and violence. The HRC also welcomed measures taken by the government to operationalize the Special Criminal Court, including through the adoption of the rules of procedure and evidence, and encouraged the international community to continue to support the Court. The HRC also extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR for a period of one year. The resolution was adopted without a vote. The HRC recalled that “the primary responsibility to protect its population from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing lies with the Central African authorities.”
A/HRC/39/L.10 Technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The HRC expressed grave concern about violations of civil and political rights, in particular freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, committed by state actors in the context of the electoral campaign in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The HRC also expressed deep concern about the humanitarian consequences of violence affecting the civilian population, in particular women and children, leading to a significant increase in the number of internally displaced persons and people in need of humanitarian assistance. The HRC took note of the significant progress made by the Independent National Electoral Commission, requesting all parties involved in the electoral process to refrain from all forms of violence and incitement. The resolution was adopted without a vote. The HRC recalled that “the primary responsibility to protect all civilians in its territory rests with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
A/HRC/39/L.15/Rev.1 Situation of human rights in Burundi
Expressing alarm about the human rights and humanitarian situation in Burundi, the HRC welcomed the work of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. The HRC deplored the continuing refusal by the government of Burundi to grant the Commission access to the country and the threats, intimidation and personal attacks directed by representatives of the government against members of the Commission. The HRC further condemned the decision by the government of Burundi to declare the three members of the Commission of Inquiry persona non grata and urged the government to revoke this decision. The HRC extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, mandating it to present a final report to the HRC at its 42nd session, and to the General Assembly at its 74th session. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 23 in favor, 7 against, with 17 abstentions.
A/HRC/39/L.17 Assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights
While the HRC welcomed the commitment of the Federal Government to improve the human rights situation in Somalia, it expressed concern at reports of violations and abuses of human rights and underscored the need to end impunity and to hold perpetrators of such violations and abuses accountable. The HRC expressed particular concern about abuses and violations committed against women and children, and attacks and harassment against human rights defenders and journalists. The HRC further decided to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a period of one year. The resolution was adopted without a vote.
A/HRC/39/L.20 The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic
Condemning ongoing violations of International Humanitarian Law, including indiscriminate or deliberate targeting of civilians, the HRC reiterated that the only sustainable solution to the current conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic is through an inclusive, Syrian-led political process under the auspices of the UN. The HRC further recalled statements made by the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed in the Syrian Arab Republic. The HRC expressed its deepest concern at the findings of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, and deplored the lack of cooperation by the Syrian authorities with the Commission. The HRC welcomed the work of the “International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011” and reaffirmed the importance of establishing appropriate mechanisms to achieve justice, reconciliation, truth and accountability. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 27 in favor, 4 against, with 16 abstentions. The resolution demanded that “the Syrian authorities meet their responsibility to protect the Syrian population” and stressed that“the primary responsibility to protect the Syrian population lies with the Syrian authorities.”
A/HRC/39/L.21 Human rights situation in Yemen
The HRC expressed concern about allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law and of violations and abuses of human rights in Yemen, including those involving grave violations against children, attacks on humanitarian workers, civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the denial of access to humanitarian aid. The HRC urged all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to ensure effective, impartial and independent investigations into all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and International Humanitarian Law, in accordance with international standards. The HRC extended the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts for a period of one year, and requested the Group of Experts submit a comprehensive written report to the High Commissioner for presentation at the 42nd session of the HRC. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 21 in favor, 8 against, with 18 abstentions.
A/HRC/39/L.22 Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar
The HRC welcomed the work of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, as well as the appointment by the UN Secretary- General of a Special Envoy. The HRC expressed deep concern about the ongoing non-cooperation of the government of Myanmar and its denial of access to the fact-finding mission and the Special Rapporteur. The HRC expressed concern at reports of continued intimidation and violence against the Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in Myanmar, and further expressed grave concern at the findings of the independent international fact-finding mission that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officers of the Tatmadaw for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State. The HRC further decided to establish an ongoing independent mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar, and to prepare files in order to expedite independent criminal proceedings. The HRC further decided to extend the mandate of the independent International Fact-Finding Mission until the new mechanism is operational. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 35 in favor, 3 against, with 7 abstentions.
A/HRC/39/L.23 Technical assistance and capacity building for Yemen in the field of human rights
The HRC expressed deep concern at the serious abuses and violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law committed by all parties to the conflict. The HRC reaffirmed the responsibility of all parties to the conflict to enable the immediate and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need. The HRC requested that the High Commissioner to continue to provide substantive capacity-building and technical assistance to the government of Yemen in the field of human rights, and to present a written report to the HRC at its 42nd session. The resolution was adopted without a vote.
A/HRC/39/L.24/Rev.1 Technical assistance and capacity building to improve human rights in the Sudan
The HRC welcomed the report of the Independent Expert and noted the cooperation of the government of Sudan with the Independent Expert to enable him to fulfil his mandate. The HRC requested the Independent Expert to continue to work with all relevant partners to provide technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights. The HRC renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert for a period of one year or until the day a country office of the OHCHR is declared operational, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 48/141 of 20 December 1993. The resolution was adopted without a vote.