Update: 13.11.2007

6th session of the UN Human Rights Council

From 10 to 28 September 2007 the 6th session of the Human Rights Council took place in Geneva. The second part of the session is planned for the 10 to 14 December 2007, where the mandate of the special rapporteurs will be discussed once again. During its session in September the Council once more focussed on institutional questions rather than substantial thematic questions. The Council president admitted at the end of the session that the Council needs reforms, but rejected the idea that a new organ should be established. "The institution must be tested where it now stands. However, I would be concerned if the Council already had a perfect image", he said.

Switzerland among first to be examined

Starting in 2008, the 48 member states as well as all states with observer status to the Human Rights Council will be examined by a working group, as was decided with the introduction of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism (UPR). Apart from the 28 countries which had been members of the Council in 2007 and 2008, 16 further candidates were drawn by lots. Switzerland and Colombia were the only two countries who volunteered for an examination and will therefore be scrutinized at the second UPR-session. The periodic rewiews will take place outside of the regular Council sessions, for 2008 the dates were set at 7-18 April, 5-16 May and 1-12 December. 

3-hourly debates on each country will be the basis of recommendations or resolutions to the examined state. This "examination among equals" will be based on three documents: a report of the state itself (max. 20 pages), a 10-page report by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, which incorporates all information collected by the UN and a document (max. 10 pages) prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner summarizing additional information provided by NGOs. For each country examination three diplomats chosen by lots are responsible for the organisation of the process.

Two new mandates

It is still not clear if the Special Rapporteurs will be able to continue their current mandates unchanged. This issue will be discussed again in December. But the Council decided nevertheless to introduce two new mandates: a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery (resolution A/HRC/6/L.23/Rev.1) and a Forum on minority issues (resolution A/HRC/6/L.34).

Switzerland at the 6th session

The Swiss Delegate to the UN in Geneva, Blaise Godet, took the floor on several occasions. On 13 September he explained to the Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène the position of the Swiss Government concerning the election campaign by the SVP (Swiss People's Party, cf. article in French «Le mouton noir...» ). He also expressed deep concern on the situation of people in Palestine and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Furthermore, under the agenda point «Human rights situations that require the Council's attention» on 24 September Godet highlighted the regions that Switzerland is currently observing with increased vigilance: Iraq, Burma, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Other issues

Switzerland initiated together with Morocco a resolution for a UN-Declaraion on Human Rights Education and Training, which was adopted on the final day of the session. Altogehter the Council adopted 25 resolutions. Furthermore, the reports of the Experts on the human rights situation in Darfur, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Various Special Rapporteurs presented their reports, such as the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion, the right to water and children in armed conflicts. 

Special session on Burma

On the last day of the session the Council decided to hold a special session on Myanmar on 2 October 2007. Switzerland, together with 16 other states, supported the appeal launched due to current developments in the country. Before (end of September 2007) the UN sent the Special Representative for Myanmar to the country in light of the alarming reports of mass executions and torture. During the special session the Council called upon the Burmese government to refrain from using force, to liberate all arrested people and to cooperate with the Special Representative. A resolution tabled by the EU was adopted only after it was weakened by several changes made to the text.   

Official documents by Switzerland on the 6th session of the Human Rights Council

  • 24.09.2007 : 6ème Session, Déclaration de M. Blaise Godet, Ambassadeur, Représentant permanent de la Suisse auprès de l'ONU à Genève (French, pdf, 3 pages)
  • 20.09.2007 : 6ème Session, Déclaration de M. Blaise Godet, Ambassadeur, Représentant permanent de la Suisse auprès de l'ONU à Genève (French, pdf, 3 pages)
  • 13.09.2007 : 6ème Session, Déclaration de M. Blaise Godet, Ambassadeur, Représentant permanent de la Suisse auprès de l'ONU à Genève (French, pdf, 3 pages) 
  • All Swiss contributions to the Human Rights Council
    Links on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Media reports

Special session on Myanmar

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