The 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council ended on Friday with measures taken to address worrying developments in Eritrea, Syria and the Philippines, along with other issues of global concern, such as violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community.
Out of a total of 26 resolutions approved by the 47-Member body – six country-specific, 20 thematic texts – States tackled numerous thorny topics, including reports about the grave situation of human rights across Syria. In a vote adopted by 26 votes to seven with 14 abstentions, the 11-page resolution highlighted that 11.7 million people in the war-torn country remain in need of “full, timely, immediate, unhindered and safe humanitarian assistance”.
Sponsored by several European Union countries, along with Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey, the text expressed concern for ongoing fighting in Syria’s north-west, adding that more than five million Syrians have “particularly acute” needs and over one million people remain in hard-to-reach areas “where freedom of movement, access to humanitarian aid and services remain very restricted”.
The resolution on Belarus was supported by 20 delegations, 6 opposed, and 21 abstained. Its co-authors expressed concern about the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country. They noted “unreasonable restrictions” on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, while noting some improvement in the freedom to organize events with timely notification of the authorities. The new resolution calls on the government of Belarus to abolish the death penalty and "ensure the full independence and impartiality of the judiciary." With this document, Council members also extended the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anais Maren.
The Geneva-based body also urged the Philippines Government to do more to prevent extrajudicial killings, linked to its campaign against illegal drug use.
After a vote, the Council adopted a resolution expressing concern that since President Rodrigo Duterte announced his so-called war on drugs in 2016, there have been allegations that thousands of people involved with the drug trade and drug use have been killed.
The resolution – adopted on Thursday by 18 votes in favour to 14 against, with 15 abstentions – also appealed to the authorities to investigate the deaths and to hold perpetrators accountable.
It also called on the Philippines Government to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by facilitating country visits and “refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation” against rights experts.
The UN Human Rights Council was established instead of the Commission of the same name based on the results of the UN Summit in 2005. This is the organ of the UN General Assembly. The Council holds regular sessions, at least three per year. The Council on Human Rights consists of 47 states.
The Council’s 42nd session takes place from 9 to 27 September.