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Syria and Yemen at the UN Human Rights Council 33rd session

October 4, 2016

The Human Rights Council ended its 33rd regular session last Friday 30 September. Among others, the Council held interactive dialogues and adopted resolutions on Syria and Yemen.

Evo Morales Ayma ( right, at the podium ) President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia speaks at the 33th ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. 23 september 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Evo Morales Ayma ( right, at the podium ) President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia speaks at the 33rd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. 23 September 2016. Photo: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré / Flickr.

Syria

The Council adopted a resolution on Syria[1], with which it decided to convene a high-level panel discussion on the human rights situation on Syria at its March 2017 session, “including on the issue of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and the need for accountability for related violations and abuses, featuring witness testimony and Syrian voices”.[2] We find it crucial that Syrian women’s voices, particularly those in Syria and in neighboring countries, are heard in this panel. The Council has to fulfill its own call on the “international community to support the leadership and full and meaningful participation of women in all efforts” and to “ensure that all resulting peace-building efforts are gender-responsive and consider the differential impact of conflict on women and girls, and their specific needs and interests” [3]. In order for these women to be able to share their experiences freely and fully, the Council must take extra measures to ensure their protection since incidents of targeting activists by the Syrian government are more than common.

At this session, WILPF spoke in the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry and encouraged it to further develop gendered analysis and integrate in all its future reports. We also voiced our concerns about the pattern of systematic and deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure, especially medical facilities and personnel, and the use of extensive use of besiegement as a weapon of war. We reiterated our recommendation to States to refrain from selling weapons to any of the parties to the conflict or countries that might transfer to them. It was encouraging to see Brazil stating its full support to “the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry that the international community needs to curb the proliferation and supply of weapons to the conflict and address the sources thereof ” during the dialogue with the Commission. Other countries should support that recommendation, including in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Syria, and should work to ensure that future Council resolutions respond to that Commission’s recommendation.

The UPR of Syria will take place on 31 October.[4] We admire the determination of the many grassroots organisations, including the women’s organisations with whom we worked on a joint UPR submission,[5] that are engaging in this process despite the extensive targeting of activists by the government and the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in the country. We hope that many States taking part in the UPR of Syria will support recommendations on protection of civilians, controlling the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, working towards an inclusive and just peace process, and addressing the devastating impact of the conflict on women and girls. 

Yemen

At this session, WILPF organised a side event highlighting how the flow of weapons to a conflict situation exacerbates civilian suffering and increases human rights violations, and that Yemen is no exception. The speakers discussed the human rights implications of the arms transfers to parties to the conflict, their hindering of the peace negotiations process, and their impact on women. One of the speakers was Rasha Jarhum, a member of the Yemeni Women Pact for Peace and Security.

We reiterated our concerns about the use of cluster munitions and explosive weapons in our statement to the Council, in which we also called for support to interventions of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of combatants, including child combatants, and meaningful participation of Yemeni women in the peace process as well as a gender-sensitive humanitarian aid. [6]

The Council adopted a Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen resolution,[7] which was presented by Sudan on behalf of the Arab Group. While the adopted text is an improvement from that originally submitted by the Group, it falls short of establishing a full-fledged international commission of inquiry, referring to the severe impact of excessive arming on women and girls, and urging all States to stop all arms transfers or license agreements with all warring parties in line with the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call on all States “to refrain from encouraging or arming parties to the conflict ”.

The resolution expresses deep concern at the continued recruitment of children, abduction of political activists, violations against journalists, killing of civilians, attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and ambulances, the prevention of access for relief and humanitarian aid, and the cutting of electricity and water supplies; calls on all parties to stop immediately attacks targeting civilians, ensure humanitarian access to the affected population nationwide and facilitate the delivery of basic humanitarian goods and service.

The Council also calls on all parties to all parties to implement fully Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), including by engaging in the political process in an inclusive, peaceful and democratic way, ensuring that women are part of the political and peacemaking process.

The Council will receive a High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation at its March 2017 session and a written report in September 2017.[8] In the months leading to the March session we will continue to advocate for: all parties to the conflict to stop using explosive weapons in populated areas; all States to stop all arms transfers or license agreements with all warring parties and the Saudi-led coalition to stop using cluster munitions.


[1] Draft resolution A/HRC/33/L.30 adopted as orally revised by vote. The result of the vote was:

In favour (26): Albania, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.

Against (7): Algeria, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.

Abstentions (14): Bangladesh, Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Togo, and Viet Nam.

The proceedings on the adoption of the resolution can be watched at this link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/human-rights-council/watch/ahrc33l.30-vote-item4-41st-meeting-33rd-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/5148794452001

[2] Operative Paragraph 43 “Decides to convene a high-level panel discussion on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic at its thirty-fourth session, in consultation with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, including on the issue of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and the need for accountability for related violations and abuses, featuring witness testimony and Syrian voices, and requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to liaise with States and all stakeholders, including relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, special procedures of the Human Rights Council, national human rights institutions and civil society, with a view to ensuring their participation in the panel discussion;”

[3] Operative paragraph 31 “Calls upon the international community to support the leadership and full and meaningful participation of women in all efforts, including decision-making, with the aim of finding a political solution to the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, as envisaged by the Security Council in its resolutions 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000, 2122 (2013) of 18 October 2013 and 2254 (2015), and welcomes the participation of the Women’s Advisory Board and civil society in the United Nations-led talks, in order to ensure that all resulting peace building efforts are gender-responsive and consider the differential impact of conflict on women and girls, and their specific needs and interests;”

[4] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/SYSession26.aspx

[5] Violations against women in Syria and the disproportionate impact of the conflict on them, NGO summary report for the UPR of Syria, by (in alphabetical order) Badael Foundation, BIHAR Relief Organization, Center for Civil Society and Democracy (CCSD), Dawlaty, Musawa – Women’s Study Center, Syrian Female Journalists Network, Syrian League for Citizenship, Urnammu, Women Now for Development, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Available at: https://wilpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/WILPF_VAW_HC-2016_WEB-ONEPAGE.pdf

[6] https://wilpf.org/wilpf_statements/wilpf-statement-on-the-use-of-weapons-and-arms-transfer-to-parties-to-the-conflict-in-yemen/#_ftn9

[7] Draft resolution L.5, adopted as orally revised without a vote.

The proceedings on the adoption of the resolution can be watched at this link: http://webtv.un.org/search/ahrc33l.5-vote-item10-39th-meeting-33rd-regular-session-of-human-rights-council/5145201568001?term=L.5

[8] Operative paragraphs:

“10. Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide substantive technical assistance and advice, including in the areas of accountability and legal support to enable the National Commission to complete its investigatory work concerning allegations of violations and abuses committed by all relevant parties in Yemen to fulfil its mandate in line with international standards and finalise its comprehensive report on all alleged human rights violations and abuses before the 36th Human Rights Council, with both the National Commission and the OHCHR continuing to strengthen and improve their mutual cooperation;

  1. Also requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to allocate additional international human rights experts to the Yemen OHCHR Office to complement the investigatory work of the National Commission while collecting and preserving information to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged violations and abuses, and encourages all parties to facilitate access and cooperation with the National Commission of Inquiry and OHCHR.
  1. Requests further the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present to the Human Rights Council, at its 34th session, an oral update on the situation of human rights in Yemen, and the development and implementation of the present resolution; and to present to the Human Rights Council at its 36th session a written report on the situation of human rights including violations and abuses since September 2014, as well as on the implementation of technical assistance as stipulated in this resolution.

 

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