There were many notable outcomes at the recently concluded 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council or UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Council adopted its first ever resolution on human rights in Ukraine, calling for continued cooperation and monitoring of the human rights situation throughout the entire country and condemned ongoing abuses taking place in Russian-occupied Crimea and committed by separatists in the eastern parts of the country.
U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Keith Harper said the resolution will offer an opportunity for the High Commissioner’s Office to have a more sustained role in Ukraine:
“It will also help with the technical assistance, in the sense of aiding and understanding best practices, aiding and understanding how . . . you address problems that arise. Sometimes they arise with state actors; and oftentimes they arise with non-state actors. And so, how do you deal with those issues? The High Commissioner’s Office has great experience in that.”
The Human Rights Council, or HRC, passed its 14th resolution regarding the Syrian conflict, condemning serious abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in Syria, lamenting the lack of an International Criminal Court referral, and reiterating the international community’s demand for unfettered humanitarian access in Syria.
“The Assad regime is a murderous regime. They are killing their own people. And so, whatever action we can take at the council to push them to find a political solution, in my view, is action that we ought to take. … So, when we see these grave human rights abuses, it’s incumbent on the Council to continue to act. They did continue to act. They ratcheted up the response. For the first time in the operative paragraphs we called for accountability through either domestic or international criminal bodies.”
On South Sudan, the HRC adopted a consensus resolution that condemns human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including targeted killings, unlawful recruitment of child soldiers, and sexual violence and rape that has occurred since mid-December 2013.
The outcomes of this session underscored the importance of robust U.S. engagement at the Human Rights Council, where the United States continues to work with a diverse range of countries from all regions to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership continues to help keep the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights.