Cablegate: Preview of March 2010 Human Rights Council Session

DE RUEHGV #0094/01 0331141
O R 021139Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Preview of March 2010 Human Rights Council Session




1. (U) The 13th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) will
take place in Geneva from March 1 - 26, 2010. The longest of the
three yearly meetings, the March session opens with the High Level
Segment. This cable outlines key issues Mission Geneva expects
will be raised at the 13th Session, particularly: "defamation of
religions," religious intolerance, and related issues; presentation
of a joint study on global practices in relation to secret
detention; and country-specific items to include the Goldstone
report follow-up, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Iran,
Guinea, and the renewal of the mandates for the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burma.
We also outline possible resolutions based on recent activities in
Geneva and the 2009 March session. End Summary.

High Level Segment


2. (U) Since the establishment of the Council in 2006, the March
session has opened with a High Level Segment (HLS). Typically,
delegations are represented at the Ministerial or higher level for
the opening of the Session. In some cases, Heads of State have
addressed the Council. In the past, the United States has been
represented by the Chief of Mission. At the request of
Switzerland, the HRC is also organizing a mini-High Level Segment
on the issue of the draft Declaration on Human Rights Education and
Training. The Swiss have asked for senior U.S. representation or
at least a USG statement from the floor during this mini-high level
segment. [Note: we informed the Swiss that we did not expect to
have a high level official for this segment and that we would
consider making a statement from the floor. End note.]


Key Issues


The Defamation Cluster


3. (U) Drawing from the experience of the 10th HRC Session in
March 2009, which featured five resolutions on the cluster of
issues tied to the "defamation of religions" debate, we can expect
this topic to figure prominently at HRC 13. Resolutions in this
area may seek to impose legal restrictions on speech as a way to
combat religious discrimination. The five related resolutions
presented in March 2009 which may reappear this year are listed
here, including sponsor state and/or group:

-- Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination, which governs the Ad Hoc Committee (South
Africa/Nigeria). See paragraph 4 for details.

-- From Rhetoric to Reality: A global call for concrete action
against racism, related intolerance (South Africa). This
resolution incorporated language on the work of the Ad Hoc
Committee in 2007, but ran separately in 2008.

-- Combating Defamation of Religions (Pakistan/OIC).

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-- Religious Intolerance (EU). Note: While this EU resolution is
traditionally run in the March session, the EU has not yet
confirmed its plans for the resolution during the 13th session.
This resolution has been subject to increasingly intense
negotiations in recent years, with some OIC member states offering
problematic formulations linked to defamation, or rejecting others
that would promote absolute religious freedom (such as references
to the ability to change one's religion); it was unexpectedly
called to a vote by South Africa in 2009, in which they voted no.

4. (SBU) The Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary
standards: This body is the nexus for the defamation and freedom
of expression debate. The Chairperson-Rapporteur, Algerian
Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, will present the report of the Ad Hoc
Committee's October 2009 meeting at the March session. Jazairy has
assured delegations that he will present a factual recording of the
discussion, reflecting the lack of consensus within the group;
however, the follow-on resolution could spark fierce debate. As
the mandate of the Ad Hoc Committee is not time-limited, we expect
the African Group (AG), with support from OIC delegations, to table
a resolution providing for a specific program of work for the
Committee in 2010. Like the meeting in October, a potential
resolution on this issue will again provide a forum for continued
debate on the appropriate government responses to counter racial
and religious intolerance. The OIC and AG interpret this mandate
as a requirement to draft a new treaty that would limit free speech
as a way to prevent people from negatively portraying religions
(primarily Islam). Dispute over whether such a mandate pertains
exclusively to "complementary standards" in the form of a new
international legally binding instrument would no doubt continue in
the negotiation of such a resolution.

5. (U) While we will continue to oppose any attempts to amend or
reinterpret existing international law to address racial and
religious discrimination and intolerance, we see this as an
opportunity to offer an alternative, action-based approach that
would address the underlying concerns without placing unacceptable
limits on the freedom of expression or religion. Heavy, early
engagement and lobbying could gain further support for our Action
Plan approach, which could provide an alternative to states that
need a justification to oppose any further work by the Ad Hoc
Committee on a binding instrument. In the long-run, such an
approach might also contribute to increased opposition to the
defamation resolution in general, as countries realize that concern
for religious minorities can be addressed through support for
concrete measures rather than protracted, conceptual debates.

6. (SBU) We should capitalize on the momentum of the United
Nations General Assembly (GA) vote, where we have increased
steadily the "no" votes on the defamation of religions resolution;
A/RES/64/156 was adopted in plenary with a vote of 80-61(US)-42, up
from 81-55(US)-43 in the Third Committee just weeks prior, and a
significant improvement over the vote in 2008 (85-50(US)-42).

Secret Detention Study


7. (SBU) A group of four special procedures will present their
joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in
the context of countering terrorism (Secret Detention Study). The
group includes the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and
protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while
countering terrorism; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the
Vice-Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and
the Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearances. The four will sit jointly on the dais during the
March HRC for an interactive dialogue devoted solely to the report.
The report was posted on the OHCHR website in late January. The
pages covering the United States feature criticism of alleged U.S.

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uses of secret detention and alleged abuse of detainees in U.S.
custody. The report mentions approximately 70 countries (some 40
of which responded to the study questionnaire) and covers incidents
both before and after the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. We
should be prepared for a session in which other states, NGOs, and
the media condemn the alleged practices of the United States.
Other states have already taken issue with the report. The African
Group reportedly sent a letter to the HRC Secretariat expressing
concern about the report, arguing that the mandate holders exceeded
their mandates in undertaking the study. The African Group and OIC
might try to block the presentation and discussion of the report at
the March session. The OHCHR has encouraged the Group's members to
allow the report to be presented and to make their critical
comments from the floor of the HRC during the debate. This issue
could come up as early as the February 20 organizational meeting
for the HRC March session.



8. (SBU) The March session offers an opportunity to highlight
concerns about recent human rights violations in Iran. Options
include a resolution seeking a range of actions, from establishing
a Special Rapporteur or other special procedure, to recommending
that the United Nations launch a commission of inquiry.

9. (SBU) Several European members, including Spain (the incoming EU
President), France, and Norway, have expressed interest in Council
action on Iran. A significant number of NGOs are actively urging a
Special Session. Other delegations have told us we should not
expect Iran specific action in the HRC absent a triggering event
[i.e. something worse than the current, ongoing crackdown].

10. (SBU) COMMENT: U.S. Mission Geneva assesses that there may be
enough support for an Iran item, but we and like-minded countries
would need to expend significant political and human capital to
ensure a substantive outcome with specific follow-up. It is
unlikely that any Council action would be able to replicate the
numbers from the GA vote. Some Council members oppose
country-specific items on principle. Furthermore, Iran will
undergo its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in February
2010. Some members may hesitate to put Iran in the spotlight so
soon after its UPR. For some states, Iran's conduct at its UPR may
influence their willingness to back action against Iran in March.



11. (SBU) The human rights situation in Guinea also warrants
country-specific action at the March session. Options are similar
to those on Iran and include seeking a special procedure or running
a resolution expressing concern about recent events. Alternatives
include declaring support for the Commission of Inquiry's
recommendation to establish an OHCHR presence in Guinea. Many
European delegations are keen on Guinea action. There appears to
be hesitancy among African delegations. Zambia, Mauritius, and
Senegal, have all told us they would not be in a position to lead
on a Guinea resolution and that they were awaiting the outcome of
the African Union Summit to determine the direction the African
heads of state wanted to take in addressing the situation in

12. (SBU) COMMENT: For Council action on Guinea to succeed, it will
require the strong and early support of African states. It would
be best to have African states lead an initiative or have another
like-minded country act as the main force behind the resolution.
As with any country-specific item, action on Guinea would require a
significant push of outreach and lobbying to achieve. One African
delegate suggested we consider pushing an Iran resolution at the

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same time as the Guinea resolution in order to dilute the African
concerns that they are targets of resolutions because of their
perceived "weakness." END COMMENT.

Mandates for Renewal


13. (U) The mandates for the Special Rapporteurs for the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Myanmar will be up for
renewal in March. In addition, the resolution calling for
strengthened technical assistance and cooperation to the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) will need to be renewed, or replaced
with a stronger country mandate seeking a Special Rapporteur or
Independent Expert, if further HRC-mandated investigation is to

Goldstone, Israel, the OPT, and Related Items


14. (U) We can expect a significant focus on Israel, the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (OPT), and related issues at the March
session. In particular, we expect three major outcomes resulting
from Council Resolution S-12/1, passed at the 12th Special Session
in October 2009 (Gaza Session). First, we expect a report from the
UN Secretary General on steps taken to implement the
recommendations of the Independent International Fact-Finding
Mission on the Gaza Conflict (Goldstone Report). Second, the High
Commissioner for Human Rights is to report on the status of the
implementation of Resolution S-12/1. Third, a Council member
(likely Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, with strong support from the
Arab Group, NAM, and the African Group) is likely to present a
follow-up resolution on the implementation of the Goldstone report
recommendations. According to Spain, this resolution may be based
on the resolution that was drafted but withdrawn at the 12th
Regular HRC Session in September 2009.

15. (U) Additional elements in a Goldstone follow-up resolution
could advocate for the implementation of GA resolution A/64/L.11
(for example, calling on the Government of Israel and Palestinian
authorities to conduct independent investigations, or calling on
the Government of Switzerland to reconvene a Conference of High
Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention). In December
2009, we received a Note Verbale from High Commissioner Pillay
concerning the recommendation that States pursue criminal
investigations in national courts, using universal jurisdiction, to
prosecute perpetrators of the alleged grave breaches of the Geneva
Conventions outlined in the report. There may be further requests
from the High Commissioner regarding Goldstone recommendations.

16. (U) In addition to the items that are specifically related to
Goldstone follow-up, the following resolutions relating to Israel
and the OPT could be presented this year, based on what we are
hearing in Geneva and based on last year's March session:

-- Israeli military attacks in Gaza; last year's resolution
particularly highlighted the events at al-Aqsa mosque and called
for follow up at the 13th Session (Pakistan/OIC, Palestine/Arab

-- Right of Palestinian people to self-determination
(Palestine/Arab Group)

-- Israeli settlements (Palestine, Arab Group)

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-- Human Rights in the Syrian Golan (Palestine/Arab Group, Syria)

Universal Periodic Review Reports


17. (SBU) The following UPR Reports will be presented for adoption
at the March Council session. While UPR report adoptions usually
go smoothly, we should keep an eye out for potential problems
concerning adoption of the Cyprus report; Cyprus refused to attend
the adoption of the report by the December UPR Working Group (see
Geneva 16). The States Under Review are required to accept or
reject all recommendations before their UPR report adoption in the
HRC session. In this vein, we should continue to encourage broad
acceptance by DPRK of recommendations provided during its UPR
review. At the same time, we should maintain pressure on other
governments to hold DPRK to a high standard.

-- Albania

-- Bhutan

-- Brunei Darussalam

-- Cambodia

-- Costa Rica

-- Cote d'Ivoire

-- Cyprus

-- Democratic People's Republic of Korea

-- Democratic Republic of the Congo

-- Dominica

-- Dominican Republic

-- Equatorial Guinea

-- Eritrea

-- Ethiopia

-- Norway

-- Portugal

18. (U) Following is a list of possible resolutions based on
discussions in Geneva and the resolutions presented at the 10th HRC
Session in March 2009. Last year's sponsors are listed in
parentheses when known. Post will canvass delegations to determine
what resolutions will come up this year.

Civil and Political Rights Resolutions:

-- Arbitrary Detention (France)

-- Human Rights and Counterterrorism (Mexico)

-- Arbitrary deprivation of nationality (Russian Federation)

-- Enforced or involuntary disappearances (France)

-- Right to Truth and Forensics (Argentina)

-- Use of Mercenaries (Cuba)

-- Torture (Denmark)

-- Genocide prevention (Armenia) has been discussed at previous
March sessions, but was not introduced at HRC 10.

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Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Resolutions:

-- Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Portugal)

-- Persons with disabilities (Mexico, New Zealand)

-- Climate Change, possibly to include Copenhagen follow-up

-- Rights of the Child Implementation (Uruguay)

-- UN Declaration for HR Education and Training, including
mini-high level segment (Morocco, Switzerland)

-- Leprosy, potential follow-on resolution to finalize the
guidelines passed last year (Japan)

-- Right to Food resolution at March 2009 Session established a
3-year mandate for a Special Rapporteur; we could see a follow-on
resolution (Cuba)

-- Administration of Justice, Juveniles (Austria)

-- Social Forum, Poverty (Cuba)

-- Cultural Rights (Cuba); the 2009 resolution established the
special procedure and called for followup in March 2010.

Country-Specific Resolutions and Other


-- Situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mandate
renewal (Japan, Spain/EU)

-- Situation in Myanmar, Mandate renewal (Spain/EU, usually
requires lobbying from the U.S. and Japan)

-- Technical Cooperation for Democratic Republic of the Congo
(Egypt/African Group)

-- Composition of staff of the Office of the High Commissioner of
Human Rights (OHCHR)

-- International Human Rights Cooperation (NAM)

-- Regional Arrangements for HR (Belgium)



19. (SBU) March will be a packed session. Given the significant
number of high-profile and particularly challenging issues on the
docket for March, we will need to tightly prioritize our
initiatives. This is particularly important given the need for
lobbying by Washington and in capitals. Mission Geneva believes
that with energetic attention to addressing the specific area where
the concept of "defamation of religions" has most recently and
dangerously been advanced, namely the Ad Hoc Committee on
Complementary Standards, we may be able to secure enough support
for a positive outcome on that resolution. However, such success
will require intense, active work with not only the moderate group
of cross-regional countries who voted in support of the Committee's
original mandate but remain opposed to a binding instrument on
defamation, but also with the resolution's traditional sponsors:
South Africa, with the support of African Group Chair Nigeria.
Likewise, we could face difficulties if we extend ourselves on
country mandates at the same time. It will be important to find
other delegations to take the lead on some of these initiatives.
At the same time, we will have to continue to demonstrate that we

GENEVA 00000094 007 OF 007

are both firm on demanding Council action on the worst abuses while
also building new cross-regional alliances that demonstrate we are
changing the dynamic of the Council. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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