The Human Rights Council meets for its 18th session

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression and of association are fundamental human rights guaranteed to all and are widely protected under international and regional human rights law. 

The Human Rights Council meets for three weeks in Geneva from 12 September © UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre

On the second day of the upcoming three week meeting, Member States will examine how best to protect those rights, among others, in the context of peaceful protests.  At the direction of the Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has organized a panel discussion which will also make recommendations on how the rights of people taking part in peaceful protests can be better promoted and improved.

The decision to hold the event was made following this year’s peaceful protests in the Middle East and North Africa which in many instances have led to human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture of detainees and others  and enforced disappearances.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay will present a report to the Council based on her visit to Yemen and there will be further discussion of the situations in Syria and Libya.

Two heads of States, the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla Miranda and the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, will also address this session.

Aside from current events of international concern, the Council also has on its programme for this session topics as wide-ranging as the preservation of indigenous languages, the importance of a right-to-health approach in light of our planet’s aging population, and the adverse effects that the unsound management and disposal of medical waste may have on the enjoyment of human rights.

A report on the plight of children from desperately poor families who work in artisanal mining and quarrying industries and who are forced to endure slavery-like practices is one of several from the Council’s independent experts. The experts are called Special Procedures and their mandates cover either human rights situations in specific countries or particular human rights violations wherever they occur.

The Council will also hear from  prominent contemporary human rights campaigners  including Hiu Van Le, the Lieutenant Governor of South Australia,  one of the thousands of ‘boatpeople’ who fled Vietnam’s communist regime in the late 1970’s and who has had an outstanding career in Australia. The event at which he will speak has been organised to celebrate the annual Nelson Mandela International Day and will celebrate individuals who have promoted human rights and achieved transformative change in their societies.

At each of its meetings the Council devotes much of its time to consideration of country reports from the process of review in which every UN Member State has agreed to participate: the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) involves an assessment of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every four years.

The Human Rights Council has 47 Member States and is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights globally. It meets three times a year but may convene for special sessions to address specific human rights issues or situations of concern.  In 2010 the Council met in two special sessions.  This year it has met three times in such sessions – in January, to consider the human rights situation in Libya, and in April and again in August to review events in Syria.

9 September 2011