The UN Human Rights Council concluded its 21st Session on Friday 28 September. Welcoming the session, Foreign Office Senior Minister of State, Baroness Warsi, said:
“It is crucial that the Human Rights Council is able to address human rights violations wherever they occur. This session of the Council ensured continued effective monitoring of critical human rights situations around the world and moved ahead important agendas.
“I welcome the extension of the mandate for the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which enables it to continue its valuable work, documenting human rights abuses and violations in the country. I was also encouraged by the strong condemnation in the resolution by the international community of the horrific violations perpetrated by the Syrian regime against their own people. This sends a strong signal that those who commit atrocities will be held to account.
“I was also pleased to see the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Human Rights Situation in Sudan renewed. It is critical that the Independent Expert is in a position to assess the human rights situation across the country, thoroughly and independently, and to offer advice and assistance on improving the systematic protection of human rights throughout the country. I am hopeful that the strengthened mandate, adopted by consensus, will allow him to do just that. Last week also saw the signing of agreements between Sudan and South Sudan, including on the rights of citizens in each other’s countries. The full implementation of those agreements will help contribute to the protection of human rights.
“The Council took another important step forward on business and human rights in this session and I look forward to the Working Group’s Forum Meeting in December to consider strategies for advancing this agenda. It is important that the Guiding Principles be implemented by States across the international community to achieve widespread respect for and protection of the many human rights affected by business activity.
“This session has also been important in raising awareness of the need to protect those who speak out in defence of human rights. I was encouraged by this session’s attention to the safety of journalists, and the need to protect the rights of individuals to peaceful assembly and association - offline and online. I was also impressed by the discussion on the protection of human rights defenders against reprisals for cooperating with the UN human rights system. The UK condemns any form of intimidation against those who work to support and protect human rights. We also look forward to further discussions on the important issue of Freedom of Religion and will be holding a conference in London in December on this.
“I was pleased that gender equality and the empowerment of women featured strongly in this session. The UK joined two widely supported initiatives on the important issues of preventing gender-based violence and on women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. We remain committed to driving forward women’s rights both in the UK and internationally. In New York last week, I supported the UN side event on preventing sexual and gender-based crimes in conflict and securing justice for survivors, which was co-hosted by the Foreign Secretary. During the event, we announced a contribution of £1 million to support the office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
“As we look ahead to our bid for election to the Council (2014-2016), we will continue to work with our international partners on these and other issues, to support the work of the Council and to ensure that this body responds appropriately to all violations of human rights wherever they occur.”