Conflicts in Countries
& the Security Council

UN Human Rights Council – 4th Session, March 2007

Since the creation of the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, (to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights – see Geneva Digest Feb-July 2006,) attention has focussed more on procedural issues than on substantive issues.  This fourth Session of the Council was no exception, and such discussions continued to dominate the proceedings – although the majority were held outside the main meeting in specific groups, each concentrating on a different aspect of the new Council.  Of great interest and tension are the terms of reference for the annual review of each state’s human rights performance during the previous year, as well as the elections of new members. These discussions are ongoing and will be finalised at the 5th Session to be held from 11-18th June.

Nonetheless, this fourth Session saw more progress in the substantive regard than in previous Council Sessions.  Two notable resolutions were adopted:

1. Resolution on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Darfur’

This resolution was a follow-up to a previous resolution establishing a High-Level Mission to assess the human rights situation in Darfur.  The High-Level Mission reported to the 4th Session of the Council, as requested, but had been unable to visit Darfur itself. 

After much negotiation, this follow-up resolution was adopted by consensus and took note with regret that the High-Level Mission could not visit Darfur, expressed deep concern at the seriousness of ongoing violations in the region, and called upon all concerned parties to put an end to all acts of violence.

The main contribution of the resolution was to convene a group of special procedures, presided over by the Special Rapporteur on the Sudan to work with the Government of the Sudan, human rights mechanisms and the African Union to ensure the effective follow-up and to foster the implementation of resolutions and recommendations on Darfur, ‘taking into account the needs of the Sudan in this regard’, and ‘to contribute to monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.’

This group is mandated to report to the Council in its 5th Session. The extent of state co-operation with the group will continue to determine the effectiveness of any progress on the human rights situation in Darfur.

2. Resolution on ‘Combating Defamation of Religion’

On behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (a grouping of 57 states), Pakistan presented a draft resolution on combating the defamation of religions. In view of the fact that Islamophobia results in the association of Islam with terrorism, with inferiority to the West and with sexism, the resolution called for a report on all manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights. 

The resolution was adopted with 24 votes in favour, 14 votes against and 9 abstentions.  Although states reiterated their condemnation of defamation of religion, those who voted against or abstained explained their objections thus:

  1. Some states felt that as defamation is not only suffered by Islam, but happens worldwide and is not limited to certain religions, the scope of the resolution should have been wider. 
  2. It was argued by some that resolution should have been about discrimination instead of defamation because discrimination falls under the scope of human rights law by prohibiting any form of incitement to religious hatred, whereas defamation is about the religion itself rather than the individuals who practice a certain religion.
  3. Several states felt the resolution’s concept of defamation could infringe on the right to freedom of expression, particularly as the resolution stated that freedom of expression may be subject to limitations without defining its criteria. It was also felt that the resolution did not envisage roles neither for the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, nor for the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

The follow-up of this resolution will be dealt with in the 6th Session of the Council.  The Anglican UN Office in Geneva will continue to follow the developments of these discussions.

Contact information
Anglican UN Office (AUNO) Geneva
Centre Oecuménique
150 Route de Ferney
CH-1211 Geneva 2

Tel: +41 22 791 6556


Published by the Anglican Communion Office ©2002 Anglican Consultative Council