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51st plenary meeting
Friday, 10 November 2006, 10 a.m.
The President: Under agenda item 68, the Assembly has before it the annual report of the Human Rights Council circulated in document A/61/53.
In connection with this item, I would like to recall that the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the General Committee, decided at its 41st plenary meeting, on 26 October 2006, to consider agenda item 68 in plenary meeting and in the Third Committee, on the understanding that the Third Committee would consider and act on all recommendations of the Human Rights Council to the Assembly, including those that deal with the development of international law in the field of human rights. Taking this decision into account, the Assembly will consider in plenary meeting the annual report of the Human Rights Council on its activities for the year.
This division of work was agreed upon with the understanding that this arrangement is motivated by the fact that the Human Rights Council only began its work in June 2006. It is also understood that the current arrangement is in no way a reinterpretation of General Assembly resolution 60/251 and will be reviewed before the beginning of the sixty-second session of the Assembly, on the basis of the experience gained with the efficiency and practicality of this arrangement.
Upon the conclusion of the debate in plenary on this item, the General Assembly will revert to this agenda item in the context of its consideration of the report of the Third Committee.
The Assembly will now start its consideration of the annual report of the Human Rights Council on its activities for the year.
Before proceeding further, I would like to consult members about inviting the President of the Human Rights Council to present the first annual report of the Council. Bearing in mind the provisions of the General Assembly decision on the allocation of the item and without setting a precedent, may I take it that it is the wish of the General Assembly to invite the President of the Human Rights Council to present the first annual report of the Council?
I see no objection.
It was so decided.
The President: We shall proceed accordingly. In accordance with the decision just taken and without setting a precedent, I now give the floor to Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, President of the Human Rights Council, to present the report of the Council.
Mr. de Alba (spoke in Spanish ): It is an honour for me to present to the General Assembly the report on the work of the Human Rights Council during the period since its historic creation on 15 March 2006 in accordance with resolution 60/251 of this General Assembly.
The Council has held two special sessions to date. The first addressed the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and the second addressed the grave situation of human rights in Lebanon caused by Israeli military operations.
The outcome of the first special session was the adoption by the Council of a resolution to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Regrettably, the mission has not yet been able to get under way.
In the second special session, a high-level commission of inquiry was created, consisting of three internationally recognized and prestigious individuals. The commission has already begun its visits on the ground and is ready to conclude its work. The Commission will submit its report to the Council at its third regular session.
It is noteworthy that during the second session, now under way, it was possible to develop a constructive dialogue with a very high number of special procedures and with representatives of other human rights mechanisms under a new format. That led to better and richer participation on the part of Member States and observers as well as of representatives of civil society and national human rights institutions. A generic resolution was adopted allowing for continuity in the work under way, and it is hoped that a body of decisions and resolutions submitted by Member States will be adopted by the end of this month, when that session concludes. Thus we can safely say that the work of institution-building has not resulted in any protection vacuum and that the system as a whole is continuing to function.
Ms. Lintonen (Finland): I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union (EU). The acceding countries Bulgaria and Romania, the candidate countries Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this declaration.
At the first special session, on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, the European Union expressed its concern about the situation which had evolved between Israel and the Palestinians and called on all parties to abstain from any actions that violated international humanitarian and human rights law. The second special session took place following the escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and Israel. The EU deplored the loss of innocent lives and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, to be followed by a sustainable ceasefire.
The EU would have preferred the Council to have adopted texts addressing the situation in a more balanced manner, reflecting all relevant aspects of the crises, and it regrets that no genuine discussions took place, as provided for in resolution 60/251.
It is important that the Human Rights Council effectively fulfil its mandate relating to prevention and address situations of human rights violations worldwide. The EU is also determined to work towards those goals with all stakeholders when the second session of the Human Rights Council is resumed and at the forthcoming third session of the Human Rights Council.
Ms. Hughes (United States of America): ...
As the Council approaches its third regular session, we are faced with yet another call for a special session on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. This will be the third such session in less than a year of the Council’s operation. Some States seem to view the Council as just another arena in which to play political games, and not as a vehicle for advancing the cause of human rights or for giving redress to the victims of abuse.
Mr. Abdelaziz (Egypt): ...
We have replaced the Commission on Human Rights with the Human Rights Council. That was an important step aimed at eliminating all the problems that troubled us — problems related to the way in which the international community dealt with human rights issues as a result of politicization, double standards and selectivity. It was hoped that that step would gear international political will towards overcoming those difficulties.
In that regard, we need to develop a clear vision as to how the new Council will deal with various aspects of the issue of human rights. In the view of my delegation, that starts with revising the means by which countries’ specific draft resolutions are dealt with both in the Human Rights Council and in the General Assembly. There is a need for a firm stand against draft resolutions that are not based on objective and unequivocal evidence of systematic violations that truly require the attention of the international community.
On the other hand, we need the Human Rights Council to take firm decisions against grave and systematic violations of human rights, such as those committed in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, and to take such decisions by consensus, not by divisive votes. For us, condemning and deploring alone do not work — it is not enough.
It was so decided.
The meeting rose at 12.30 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.