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Human Rights Council 36: Resolution on Reprisals

This explanation of vote was delivered during the voting on the resolution on reprisals during the 36th session of the Human Rights Council on 29 September 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

The UK wishes to make an explanation of vote in relation to amendment L51. The UK will be voting no on this amendment and calls on members of the Council to do likewise.

The wording of the amendment seeks to change important wording on cooperation with the Council in preambular paragraph 10 in two ways.

First it seeks to change the wording of the paragraph to remove wording that reiterates that all states should cooperate with the Human rights Council, in particular those states that are members of the human rights Council. It is clear that cooperation is the basis on which this council operates. If states, and particularly those that are Council members, do not cooperate with the Council the work of the Council is seriously hampered. By removing wording which sets out that sates should cooperate with the Council, the amendment seeks to undermine this Council’s legitimacy. The UK cannot accept this.

Secondly, the amendment wishes to remove wording which highlights that the failure to investigate and address acts of reprisals may amount to a lack of cooperation. The council has unanimously affirmed its strong rejection of any act of intimidation or reprisals against individuals who cooperate with the UN and urged states to prevent and protect against such acts, as set out clearly in HRC resolution 16/21 – the consensus document from the Council’s 5 year review. So the paragraph is accurate in stating that a failure to prevent, investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals may amount to the non-cooperation.

Furthermore, the amendment introduces a reference to the UPR process. The UK strongly supports the UPR, but the reference proposed here is irrelevant, and frankly, quite strange.

The UK will therefore vote against L51 and urges all members of the Council to do likewise.

The United Kingdom wishes to make an explanation of vote on amendment L53 which the UK strongly opposes.

The purpose of this amendment is clear, and it is disturbing. The aim is to call into question the many serious cases of reprisals which do occur by stating that some allegations are politically motivated. Such a message runs entirely counter to the purpose of the draft resolution, which is to ensure the safety of those cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms, and to strengthen preventative action mechanisms so that the frequency of such acts will decrease. In order to do this all allegations must be taken seriously, examined, verified and corroborated.

But the fact that some may not be found to have been substantiated must not be used to bring into question the seriousness of the cases which do occur. Such wording could embolden those states and non state actors who are responsible for reprisals into taking even more restrictive measures against those who cooperate with the UN and its mechanisms.

We very much hope that this is not the intention of those who have put forward this amendment, but it is clear to us that its impact would be damaging.

The suggestion that the cases contained in the Secretary-General’s report may be quote ‘fabricated’ end quote also denies the sacrifice that many individuals and their families have made by cooperating or seeking to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms, and often paying a heavy price for doing so.

Finally, the amendment entirely misrepresents and undervalues the diligent work of OHCHR, the Secretary-General and his office in ensuring that the cases that are reported to the Council are well documented, and as such disrespect the good work of these institutions.

We therefore call on all members of the Council to reject this amendment.

The UK wishes to make an explanation of vote on draft resolution L26.

The issue of cooperation with the United Nations in the field of human rights should be an issue which unites this council.

No member state, but especially no member of the Human Rights Council, should bring into question the total unacceptability of any act of intimation of reprisal against those who cooperate with the UN and the human rights system.

At its 5 year review, the Council stood united in its strong rejection of acts of intimidation and reprisal. It is therefore deeply troubling that we have seen so many amendments presented to draft resolution L26.

These amendments have been a clear attack on the notion that reprisals are never, ever acceptable.

The nature and number of these amendments cannot help but raise the question whether the sponsors of the amendments are committed to ending reprisals against those who wish to engage with the UN human rights system, or whether they instead intend to problematize the fight to end reprisals. It is all the more troubling that these amendments have been presented amidst a context of allegations of reprisals against individuals who have sought to travel to Geneva during the current council session to engage with UN human rights bodies, including from some of the sponsors of the amendments, as reported by Special Procedures and the High Commissioner.

The unnecessarily protracted set of votes we have had today makes it clear that there is an ever greater need for the United Nations to improve its response to cases of intimidation or reprisals.

We are therefore grateful to the core group of main sponsors for presenting this text, which they have negotiated at great length in an open and transparent process. A vote in favour of the draft text will send a clear signal of this Council’s rejection of acts of intimidation and reprisals, wherever they occur. It is a much needed signal that all those, including us in this room, who cooperate with the Council and thus enable it to function effectively must be safe in doing so.

The UK will therefore vote in favour of draft resolution L 26 and calls on all members to vote likewise.

Published 29 September 2017