United Nations Human Rights Council  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities. The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 (by resolution A/RES/60/251) to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR) that had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members. UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, former president of the council Doru Costea, the European Union, Canada, and the United States have accused the UNHRC of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and many allege an anti-Israel bias – the Council has resolved more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world combined.

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

The amendments to the duties of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, passed by the Human Rights Council on March 28, 2008, has given rise to sharp criticism from western countries and human rights NGOs. The additional duty is phrased thus:

(d) To report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination, taking into account articles 19 (3) and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and general comment No. 15 of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which stipulates that the prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the freedom of opinion and expression

(quoted from p. 67 in the official draft record the council). The amendment was proposed by Egypt and Pakistan and passed by 27 votes to 15 against, with three abstentions with the support of other members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, China, Russia and Cuba. As a result of the amendment over 20 of the original 53 co-sponsors of the main resolution – to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur – withdrew their support, although the resolution was carried by 32 votes to 0, with 15 abstentions. Inter alia the delegates from India and Canada protested that the Special Rapporteur now has as his/her duty to report not only infringements of the rights to freedom of expression, but in some cases also employment of the rights, which "turns the special rapporteur's mandate on its head".

Outside the UN, the amendment was criticised by organizations including Reporters Without Borders, Index on Censorship, Human Rights Watch and the International Humanist and Ethical Union, all of whom share the view that the amendment threatens freedom of expression.

In terms of the finally cast votes, this was far from the most controversial of the 36 resolutions adapted by the 7th session of the Council. The highest dissents concerned combating defamation of religions, with 21 votes for, 10 against, and 14 abstentions (resolution 19, pp. 91–97), and the continued severe condemnation of and appointment of a Special Rapporteur for North Korea, with votes 22–7 and 18 abstentions (resolution 15, pp. 78–80). There were also varying degrees of dissent for most of the various reports criticising Israel; while on the other hand a large number of resolutions were taken unanimously without voting, including the rather severe criticism of Myanmar (resolutions 31 and 32), and the somewhat less severe on Sudan (resolution 16).

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "United Nations Human Rights Council" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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