38th Session of the un human rights council: Find out what happened

This session saw the controversial departure of the United States from the Council as well as denouncements of police violence in the Maré favela and of violations involving Venezuelan refugees.

A general view during the 23th Session of the Human Rights Council. 27 May 2013. Photo by 
Jean-Marc FerrŽ
A general view during the 23th Session of the Human Rights Council. 27 May 2013. Photo by Jean-Marc FerrŽ

The 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council took place from 18 June to 8 July, in Geneva. Civil society raised issues such as Venezuelan migration, the impact of austerity measures, human rights violations by businesses and the militarisation of pubic space.

Conectas participated in these discussions and held a series of parallel events to debate these and other issues. See below for a summary of events:

Austerity Measures

On 22/6, a declaration put together by Conectas, INESC (Institute for Socioeconomic Studies), FIAN Brasil and Plataforma Dhesca Brasil drew attention to the increase in poverty in Brazil as a result of government austerity measures. Organisations addressed the Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights, Philip Alston reiterating the need for the IMF to adopt measures that take into account the social impact of fiscal measures.

>> To watch the declaration
>> Read the full text

Businesses and human rights

On 25/6 the need for Brazil to adopt protection measures against the impact of big ventures on the rights of local communities, was brought to the table. According to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, action taken by the Brazilian Government and by the private sector to implement human rights remains unsatisfactory and over 60% of the recommendations made by the Group have not been applied.

>> To watch the declaration
>> Read the full text

Venezuelan refugees

Also on 25/6, the Venezuelan activist Lígia Bolívar read a declaration denouncing the violation of the rights of over 1.6 million people who have left Venezuela headed for other American countries. Among the abuses are mass deportation in Trinidad and Tobago, militarisation of the humanitarian response in Brazil, deportations without the right to defence in Mexico and the imposition of new requirements for visa application in Chile.

>> Watch the declaration
>> Read the full text

Police operation in Maré

On 27/6, Conectas and Redes da Maré revealed details of the operation in the Maré favela in Rio de Janeiro, by the Civil Police and Armed Forces, with the support of three armoured vehicles and a helicopter that opened fire indiscriminately from the sky. Seven people died during the operation, including the schoolboy Marcos Vinícius, aged 14. Witnesses reported that the bodies of three of the other six victims were thrown from the third floor of a building. These three were young people.

>> Watch the declaration
>> Read the full text

Parallel events

In addition to the declarations, Conectas held a series of events in parallel to the main session, in conjunction with partners. On 19/6, the process of militarisation of public security in Mexico and Brazil was debated; on 21/6, Strategy Web was launched, bringing together best practice for the defence and promotion of human rights and for foreign policy in the Global South; On 22/6, specialists discussed Brazil’s implementation of the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights; on 26/6, American organisations exchanged experiences on how countries in the region have been dealing with reception of Venezuelan refugees.


Conectas also joined other organisations in supporting declarations and letters addressed to UN special procedures. See below:

  1. Human Rights Watch on the crisis situation in Venezuela (link) (text)
  2. Forum Asia on the situation in countries and the suspension of declarations (link) (text)
  3. International Service on the next Human Rights High Commission (link) (text)
  4. Importance of the resolution on the space occupied by civil society (text)

Other highlights

During the session the United States announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. The decision was criticised by a number of organisations, including Conectas, who see this act as a lack of commitment to multilateralism and the defence of human rights. Nikki Haley, the North American Ambassador to the UN, sent a letter to a number of organisations, blaming NGOs for their alleged attempt to ‘undermine’ proposals for a restructuring of the Council. Haley insinuated that organisations had acted to block negotiations on the restructuring of the Council. Immediately following the end of the session it was announced that Iceland will occupy the seat vacated by the United States.

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