The Human Rights Council Concludes its 35th Session with Unprecedented Highlights.

Geneva, Switzerland. July 10.  The 35th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council began on Tuesday, June 6 and concluded on Friday, June 23, 2017. At the opening event on June 6, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, presented an oral update on the global human rights situation. The Commissioner’s remarks were summarized in a previous article.

On that same day, Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay, delivered a high-level statement. President Vázquez highlighted the importance that all UN Member States recognize, support, and participate in the work of the Council to ensure peaceful coexistence for all. President Vázquez also announced Uruguay’s candidacy for Council membership for the period 2019-2021.

Furthermore, the session included the presentation of the reports made by both the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Comments regarding the reports can be found in separate articles on the Institute’s webpage.

Another highlight of the 35th session was the address of Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In her speech to the Council, Haley said that “the United States is looking carefully at this Council and our participation in it.” Ambassador Haley also referred to the current situation in Venezuela, urging the Council to address the issue. “Venezuela should voluntarily step down from its seat on the Human Rights Council until it can get its own house in order. Being a member of this Council is a privilege, and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table,” she said.

Additionally, four new mandate-holders were appointed during the 35th session to fill positions in four existing mandates:

  1. Obiora Okafor (Nigeria) was appointed as Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.
  2. Fernand de Varennes (Canada) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on minority issues.
  3. Felipe Gonzalez (Chile) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants
  4. Fionnuala Ni Aolain (Ireland) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

The Consultative Group (CG), which interviews and pre-selects the best candidates, is formed by the representatives of the Czech Republic, Honduras, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Norway. For this session, the CG examined around 76 individual applications to fill these four vacancies. The Consultative Group sent its recommendations to the Council President, a list of three candidates for each position, in order of preference.

Due to “concerns expressed in relation to the gender balance and equitable geographic representation of the candidates recommended by the Consultative Group,” in an unprecedented action, the President of the Council did not follow the top recommendation put forward by the CG when he selected his preferred candidate for each position.

For the mandates on international solidarity, human rights of migrants and countering terrorism, the President appointed the third-position candidates proposed by the Consultative Group, while for the mandate on minority issues, he chose the candidate in the second position. Usually, at least for the majority of the selections, the President chooses the first choice of the CG.

Finally, the Council’s 35th session concluded with the adoption of 36 resolutions and one statement of the President.

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