Posted by: lauraannwilson | March 3, 2015

Human Rights Council 28th Session Day 1: 2 March 2015 – Highlights from the Opening Session


The purpose of this blog is to provide a summary of highlights from the Opening Session of Day 1 of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council (2 March 2015). For background on the Human Rights Council, please read my blog: United Nations Human Rights Council: Demystified.

Opening – Key highlights

H.E. Mr. Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council opened the session
Mr Rücker stated that the HRC is a fundamental pillar of the UN. Mr Rücker commented on the 70th Anniversary of the UN and reflected on the positive work that the UN had undertaken since its inception. Mr Rücker highlighted efficiency as an area that the UN can improve on and he welcomed the delegations’ work to improve efficiency of the HRC.

Video message H.E. Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of General Assembly

Mr Kutesa reiterated the fundamental role that the HRC played in responding to human rights violations and protecting and promoting human rights. He reiterated that the HRC had achieved many positive outcomes in responding to diverse human rights issues, including violations against migrant workers’ rights, the rights of internally displaced persons and victims of armed conflict. Mr Kutesa highlighted that the HRC ‘has done commendable work’ particularly in regard to protecting and promoting civil and political rights. He stated that ‘all life is sacrosanct’.

Video message H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Mr Ban stated that the conflict in Syria requires the response of human rights mechanisms. He reiterated that the UN has a mandate to act to prevent human rights abuses. Mr Ban emphasised that a key issue impeding progress of the UN is the lack of consensus of Member States. Mr Ban stated that he and the Commissioner for Human Rights are ‘allies’ of the HRC. Mr Ban called upon the HRC to fulfil its responsibilities to act to prevent human rights abuses.

Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mr Al Hussein reflected on his last address to the HRC, which focused on global terrorism. He lamented that terrorism remained a key issue of global concern. Mr Al Hussein reflected that it has been 70 years since the adoption of the UN Charter. He reiterated the importance of the Charter and reflected that the HRC Member States had ratified UN Charter. He congratulated the Member States on their commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights and Member States’ recognition of their Charter commitments.

However, Mr Al Hussein stressed that human rights continued to be eroded ‘with alarming regularity’. Mr Al Hussein strongly urged that international humanitarian law and human rights laws must be fully observed. He highlighted his ‘deep concern’ with the situation faced by civil society.

Mr Al Hussein stressed that HRC proceedings and dialogues are meaningless unless Member States implement their obligations outside of the sessions. He stated that a government’s worth is measured by ‘the extent to which it protects the rights of its people and the people to which come under State control’.

Mr Al Hussein stated that on Thursday 5 March 2015 he will announce details of the OHCHR restructure.

S.E. M. Didier Burkhalter, Président de la Confédération et Chef du Département fédéral des affaires étrangères de la Suisse (Pays hôte)
Mr Burkhalter commented that there are ‘a multitude of crises raging around the globe’. He highlighted that currently fundamental freedoms are under threat. Particular rights and freedoms that are under threat included: freedom of press, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. He reiterated that human rights underpin religious tolerance: ‘we must fully embrace these tolerances…it is the best defence…tolerance is what makes us strong’. He stated that religious intolerance is connected to terrorism and highlighted that wherever there is terrorism there are human rights abuses.

Mr Burkhalter highlighted that the crises in Syria and Ukraine is ‘fertile ground’ for human rights abuses. Mr Burkhalter commented that Switzerland is ‘working towards providing alternatives to terrorism for young people’, including improving access to employment. He reiterated Switzerland’s commitment to combat torture and encouraged compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Mr Burkhalter reiterated Switzerland’s commitment to ‘fighting for worldwide abolition of death penalty by 2025’.

To watch these statements, please visit:

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