CIHRS Oral Intervention before HRC 10th Session on Annual Report of the High Commissioner

In United Nations Human Rights Council by

Human Rights Council- 10th Session
Oral Intervention
Item 2- Interactive Dialogue-  Annul Report of the High Commissioner
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
5 March, 2009

Delivered by Mr. Jeremie Smith

Thank you Mr. President,

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies would like to congratulate the High Commission and her office for continuing to carry out its mandate with the highest standards of professionalism, and for the many contributions to the protection of human rights around the world the office makes.  CIHRS commends the office’s efforts to keep states and non-state actors actively informed on the work of her office. 

CIHRS greatly appreciates the OHCHR’s efforts to combat racial and gender discrimination, promote a broad range of rights, and stand in defense of international rule of law and justice, including the ICC.  In particular CIHRS notes the OHCHRs efforts to combat impunity, and wholly supports her view expressed today that “When States are unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, international justice mechanism must be engaged.  To this effect, States should strengthen their cooperation with the International Criminal Court and respect its independence.”   Also pointed out by the High Commission is the fact that the situation of human rights in Sudan remains of “grave concern,” and, in particular, there is a need in the country for “accountability for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”    In this respect, CIHRS would like to remind all member states of the United Nations that they have a clear obligation and duty to both respect and support decisions issued by the ICC, including the arrest warrant issued by the court  yesterday for the President of Sudan.  CIHRS is greatly concerned by the response of the government of Sudan to the recent decisions of the court, which have included retaliatory threats to the safety of civilians and humanitarian workers, including UN staff, in Darfur.   CIHRS contends that if those whom the court has issued arrest warrants for are innocent then the ICC remains the most fair and independent body to demonstrate their innocence. 

CIHRS would also like to applaud the OHCHR’s efforts to find a legal, fair and sustainable answer to the question on how to balance freedom of expression and incitement to hatred.  As has been made clear in the many reports and analysis issued by the OHCHR, the proper balance between these two issues must be sought in a holistic view of the existing international legal framework, and not in concepts of “defamation” of religion; a concept which lacks legal clarity, and has often been used by governments to perpetrate violations of human rights.   Furthermore, the reports issued by the OHCHR on this subject also make it clear that Article 20 of ICCPR should not be used to restrict the right of Freedom of Expression as formulated in Article 19.   Rather than being restrictive in nature, Article 20 reaffirms the right of all to live free of discrimination, violence or threats to personal safety.  As such, CIHRS asserts that attempt to use Article 20 to arbitrarily or unlawfully restrict Freedom of Expression have no place in the deliberations or resolutions of this Council.

Thank you Mr. President.