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Human Rights Council 34: UK Explanation of Voting on the Human Rights Defenders Resolution

These statements were delivered during discussion of the resolution during the 34th session of the Human Rights Council on 23 March 2017.

The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

I am taking the floor on behalf of the sponsors of the resolution in response to all of the amendments just presented.

The sponsors of the resolution have presented the Council with a technical update of a resolution that this Council adopted by consensus. We are therefore disappointed that a total of 5 hostile amendments have been put forward on this resolution. These amendment are clearly designed to undermine the protection and legitimacy of human rights defenders all over the world. This is unacceptable to the co-sponsors of this resolution.

The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has repeatedly warned this Council of the increasing threats, intimidation and even targeted murders of Human Rights Defenders. We fully share this concern and it is clear that we need to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of 3 years. We firmly believe that we must send a clear message to defenders around the world that this Council will continue to carefully monitor their situation. We call for states to protect them from violence, threats and reprisals, and that the Special Rapporteur should continue to play a constructive role in giving recommendations to states in order to improve the implementation of human rights worldwide.

The amendments proposed send a very negative signal to defenders around the world and are not acceptable to the main sponsors.

We therefore call for a vote on the all the amendments, L.42-46 and L.51, and urge members of the Council to reject this amendment and vote No.


The United Kingdom would like to explain its vote on L45, which relates to preambular paragraph 9 of resolution L5. The amendments seek to delete the references to human rights defenders and to women human rights defenders.

There is no credible rationale for such deletions. We see this proposed amendment as an attempt to undermine the work and legitimacy of those who are on the front line of human rights work, often at great personal risk. The term human rights defenders is long established and has been recognised in the Council since its inception and in the work of other UN bodies for many years before that. It is therefore preposterous to suggest that the term does not belong in this resolution and that it should be replaced with new and convoluted terminology. Let us call Human Rights Defenders what they are.

We also strongly reject the proposal to delete the reference to women human rights defenders. It is entirely legitimate to make specific reference to women human rights defenders in any resolution on this topic. Indeed, there is a consensus resolution specifically on women human rights defenders in the General Assembly. However, it is particularly relevant for this resolution as the Special Rapporteur’s mandate requires that particular attention be given to the situation of women human rights defenders. To delete references to women is deny the role they play and the threats they face. And it would deny them the protection they need and that they deserve from this Council.

The UK will therefore vote NO on amendment L45 and calls on all members of the Council to join us in voting NO.

Published 23 March 2017