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Geneva Course, HR Council decision process analysis

( Introduction to GHR’s Annual Narrative Report 2017 (march 2018) – available upon request by phone or mail )

Many human rights principles, declarations, and conventions have been adopted by the United Nations (UN) and other inter-governmental organizations, such as the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO, and regional organisations. Many monitoring mechanisms and procedures have been set-up. In spite of this, the international human rights system remains weak. It lacks effective implementation. As we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), let us recall that the implementation of human rights and the follow-up to UN recommendations and decisions depend on each country: not the UN, but the States have to realize human rights. To bridge the gaps between UN standards and the realities, Geneva for Human Rights (GHR) focuses its training activities on developing national capacities.

Progress in the UN is generally slow. End 1947, following resolutions of the UN General Assembly and of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Commission on Human Rights created three Working groups to draft the first human rights documents, one on a declaration, one on a convention, and one on implementation. One year later, the draft Declaration was finalized, and adopted in Paris (10 December 1948). For the convention, it took 18 more years to the UN Assembly to adopt the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights (16 December 1966).

Gradually, several treaty monitoring mechanisms were set-up by several human rights conventions creating Committees to review the implementation by States parties.

More delicate was the reaction to serious human rights abuses committed by the member States. From 1947 to 1967, the rule was the no power’ doctrine: the Commission had ‘no power to take any action in regard to complaints regarding human rights[1]. Finally, in June 1967, the ECOSOC gave the Commission and its expert body, the Sub-Commission, the authority to ‘examine information relevant to gross violations of human rights’, and in certain situations, to take action concerning complaints in the field of human rights [2]. And, in May 1970, ECOSOC adopted the main provisions for a confidential complaint procedure [3].

Increasingly, country situations were raised and referred to in debates of the Sub-Commission, the Commission and the ECOSOC. The difficulty remained to take effective action, namely to obtain a majority in the superior UN bodies on country resolutions. The first initiatives came from the South. With India in the lead, long before the public and confidential procedures were established, the UN had made a first exception to the principle of non interference for South Africa and its Apartheid policy’ [4]4 . Later, at the initiative of Arab States, the Assembly established a Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories (December 1968). And, at the request of the Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights appointed in February 1975 an Ad Hoc Working group to inquire into the situation of human rights in Chile. Since then, the Commission, and currently the Human Rights Council, adopted each year dozens of country resolutions, often with a monitoring mechanism in the form of a Working group or a Special Rapporteur, and, today, sometimes with a Commission of Inquiry.

A majority to condemn Argentina could not be reached. The Commission therefore created a procedure on the main pattern of abuses committed in Argentina, on enforced or involuntary disappearances (1980). It was the first UN thematic procedure. Since then, year after year, the Commission added other thematic procedures. There are currently 44 thematic procedures, most of them is entrusted to one single expert.
The creation of this system is largely due to the work of NGOs, victims and defenders, who submitted first-hand information, advocated the creation of new procedures and used the new General Assembly Resolution 616 A (VII) creating the Commission of Three, 5 December 1952.procedures to denounce the violations. Another main actor has been the Sub-Commission, whose experts prepared high quality reports, most of them being at the origins of UN declarations, conventions and procedures. Involved in the first stages of the confidential procedure, the Sub-Commission also adopted during the 90s resolutions on many countries.

Not surprisingly, States directly affected multiplied initiatives to weaken a system which was unanimously confirmed at the 1993 World Conference. The first aim of hardliner States was to reduce the Sub-Commission experts to silence, as they could not control them. The Sub-Commission was ordered no longer to adopt country resolutions, and later, not to adopt thematic resolutions mentioning countries. This will of the States to avoid the Sub-Commission’s scrutiny on human rights abuses strongly influenced the suppression of the Sub-Commission, when the Human Rights Council was created, and its replacement by a group of experts, who would only make studies, and only at the request of the Council.

The second target was, and still is, to oppose country resolutions in the new Human Rights Council, and to weaken the thematic procedures. A code of conduct was introduced for the Rapporteurs (… instead of a code for the violators …).

The third practice was targeting the messengers, victims and witnesses, their defenders and human rights organizations submitting reports and complaints. Reprisals against those contributing to the UN procedures became a practice all over the world.

We start our Annual Report with this reminder of a difficult reality, to explain the broadening of our action: we cannot teach the use of international procedures without joining efforts to preserve and reinforce these procedures. We cannot continue to train defenders who become potential targets from repressive States without protecting them. We therefore wish to be actively involved in the current reform of the Human Rights Council and of the Treaty Bodies.

February 2018
Adrien-Claude Zoller, President

[1] ECOSOC Resolutions75 (V) and 76 (V), 5 August 1947.
[2] ECOSOC Resolution 1235 (XLII) of 6 June 1967
[3] ECOSOC Resolution 1503 (XLVIII) of 27 May 1970
[4] General Assembly Resolution 616 A (VII) creating the Commission of Three, 5 December 1952.


2016 marked the 50th Anniversary of two main human rights treaties of the United Nations (UN), the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and on Civil and Political Rights. States also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of the UN Human Rights Council and the Anniversary of UN several procedures.
However, despite the numerous human rights principles, declarations, conventions adopted by the UN and other inter-governmental organizations, like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UNESCO, and despite so many useful monitoring mechanisms and procedures, the international human rights system still has a major weakness: a lack of implementation. There are still gaps between UN standards and the realities, between the UN decisions and their follow-up. It is time for implementation. And we all know that this has to be done by the country itself. This is why we have to develop national capacities.
In 2016, the human rights movement obtained some success in international fora, such as the creation by the Human Rights Council of a mandate on the discrimination of sexual minorities, or the decision of the UN General Assembly to create a special team to collect, analyze and keep the proofs of war crimes committed in Syria.
But 2016 was not a better year for victims, witnesses, human rights organisations and defenders in the field. They continued to work under very difficult conditions. As never before organizations of the civil society have been harassed, repressed. They all call for implementation of the international standards.
January 2017
Adrien-Claude Zoller, President



To sensitize actors at the HR-Council on such issues, GHR convened since 2009  Expert Seminars in Geneva on Caste Discrimination (2009), International Humanitarian Law (September 2010, June 2011), Trends in the HR-Council (March 2011), Transitional Justice (September 2011), Minorities (November 2011), Enforced Disappearances (Nov. 2012, Nov. 2013, September 2014), Religious Freedom (December 2012, June 2015), Business and Human Rights (May and December 2013, December 2014, June 2015), the Anniversary of the World Conference (June 2013) International Criminal Law (May 2014),  Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression (March 2016), Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality (June 2016) and Religions, Conflicts and Minorities (Padova, September 2015 ) ,

What we achieved in 2017

  • two Geneva Courses for the ordinary sessions of the HR-Council in March and September; and one introduction Course to the June session of the Council;
  • two Expert Seminars, on Enforced Disappearances (March), and on Indigenous Peoples’ rights (July); and an Inter-Governmental event on the ratification of the
    Convention on Enforced Disappearance (September);
  • the implementation of our implementation projects, in particular the Papua project, and the project on enforced disappearances;
  • several courses and briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group for NGOs coalition from Morocco, Philippines, India, Indonesia;
  • In-Country Courses in India, Nepal and Russia;
  • the contribution to the presence in Geneva of Forum Asia (Bangkok) and of the Dominican Order;
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.


GHR Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples – Implementing the UN Declaration – 11 July 2017



What we achieved in 2016:

  • two Geneva Courses for the ordinary sessions of the HR-Council in March and September 2016; and one introduction Course to the June session of the Council;
  • two Expert Seminars, on the Abolition of the Death Penalty (June), and on Indigenous Peoples’ rights (July); and involvement in two follow-up conferences to GHR Expert Seminar on the religious freedom;
  • the launch of three implementation projects: a study project on human rights implementation at domestic level; the Papua project, and the project on enforced disappearances, focusing on the Conference of the States Parties of 19 December;
  • several courses and briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group;
  • the contribution to the Assembly of Forum Asia (Bangkok) and to the Congress of the Dominican Order (Salamanca);
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.



GHR Expert Seminar on the Abolition of Death Penalty
15 May 2016
GHR Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples – Strengthening the mandate of EMRIP – 25 July 2016



38th Geneva Course (GSC-38)  – (27 February to 11 March 2016)

 and one Introduction Course to the Council.

17 defenders attended GHR 38th Geneva Course –  conducted during the 31st session of the HR-Council

Nine participants were defenders from the regions, from Ethiopia, Nigeria (2), Angola, Nicaragua, China, Armenia, Poland, Philippines-Switzerland. The other trainees were GHR members and students from India, Italy (3), Switzerland, England and the USA (2).

Trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland), René Kosirnik (on International Humanitarian Law, Switzerland), and Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland). A staff member of Huridocs also presented the HRC Analyzer project of her organisation.

The General Course took place from 27 February to 5 March, with the full-day class on Saturday 27 February on the international system, the UN bodies, the UN reform, human rights standards and the human rights mechanisms and procedures. It also included specific Courses on the UN and human rights; the mechanisms of the HR-Council, the Special procedures (and how to write to thematic mandate holders); women’s rights; religious freedom; the international human rights standards; the UPR; and treaty bodies.

39th Geneva Course (GSC-39)  –   (12 – 23 September 2016)

19 defenders attended GHR 39th Geneva Course –  conducted during the 33rd session of the HR-Council

 14 defenders came from the regions: Ukraine, Belarus, Congo-DRC (3). Niger, Argentina, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India (Manipur), Papua (Indonesia (3).

The other participants were GHR members and interns from India, France (Réunion), Italy (2), Spain. Trainer was Adrien-Claude Zoller. A former trainee from the Philippines, Ron de Vera, participated in one morning class.

The General Course took place from 12 to 16 September, with the full-day course on Monday 12. The special courses concerned enforced disappearances; indigenous peoples, the OHCHR; the use of the special procedures; UPR and transitional justice. Additional Courses were given during the second week on the women’s rights; justice in transition; the UN and indigenous peoples; country situations in the HR-Council; Sri Lanka;  International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; and treaty bodies.

Private follow-up meetings were held with the trainees from Ukraine, DRC, Sri-Lanka, Argentina, Manipur, and Papua. 17 trainees obtained their certificate.

Introduction Course to the HR-Council  –  Geneva, Uni-Mail, 1 June)

Together with Vittorio Mainetti, Head of the International Relations Office of the University of Geneva, GHR conducted a one-day Introduction Course to the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. Intended for students, interns, fellows and NGO workers going to monitor the deliberations in the Council’s session, and to advocate on specific issues, the training took place in ‘UniMailon Wednesday 1 June 2016, from 09:00 to 18:30. 

Vittorio Mainetti welcomed the 23 interns and NGO representatives present. Isabelle Gallino, Thomas Harris and Adrien-Claude Zoller introduced the five segments of the Course: the UN and human rights; the HR-Council and its mechanisms; the first ten years of the HR-Council; the tools to monitor the HR-Council (annotated agenda, programme of work, panels, interactive dialogues); and using UN mechanisms and procedures (Special procedures, treaty bodies, UPR).


Assisting defenders from Singapore  –  (Geneva, January and June 2016)

 From 25 to 28 January, GHR assisted three defenders from Singapore who came to Geneva to monitor the examination of their country in the UPR Working group. GHR prepared several meetings for them with NGOs and diplomats. We gave them a briefing on the trends in the HR-Council and we had a last meeting with them to evaluate the outcome of the UPR examination and to prepare the press release and the priorities for the next initiatives.

GHR provided further orientation during their second stay in Geneva, when the HR-Council adopted the report of Singapore. On 24 June, Forum Asia organized with them a side-event on ’Singapore’s responses to the UPR recommendations’.

Lecture at the UPR Seminar of Ebert Foundation and CIFEDHOP   –  (Geneva, CAGI, 19-20 April, 2016)

The Ebert Foundation and the training centre CIPHEDOP convened a Seminar entitled ‘UPR a human rights awareness-raising process’. Adrien-Claude Zoller spoke of the experiences of the engagement of the civil society with the UPR Process. The workshop brought together 16 actors from civil society and national institutions and discussed various practices employed to use the UPR as a lever of understanding and dissemination of human rights.

Briefing to students from Maynooth University  –  (Geneva, Palais des Nations, 11 May 2016)

GHR assisted the Maynooth University in the preparation of the visit of 25 students to Geneva to observe Ireland’s UPR examination of 11 May. Thomas Harris and Adrien-Claude Zoller gave them a briefing on the UN mechanisms and procedures. GHR met again the students to evaluate the examination of the Irish situation during the UPR Working group.

Indigenous Peoples in Asia and UPR   –  Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XXV, 19 September)

GHR, the World Council of Churches, Action Network Philippines, Sri Lanka Advocacy Network, International Coalition for Papua, West Papua Network, Franciscans International (FI), and Vivat International, convened a side-event on ‘Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Asia at the UPR’. Chaired by Adrien-Claude Zoller, the meeting highlighted the cases of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka,

The speakers, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights), Ms Joeven Reyes (Executive Director, Sulong CARHRIHL, Philippines), Mr Paul Mambrasar (Elsham, West Papua, Indonesia), and Mr Sunanda Deshapriya (Journalist, Sri Lanka Brief), recalled the variety of human rights violations indigenous peoples in Asia are confronted with. They stressed that indigenous defenders speaking out face intimidation and violence, often committed by the State security forces, and that in the UPR, the human rights situation of Asian indigenous peoples did not receive ample attention.


Since 2006, GHR has a special Training Fellowship Fund for Defenders from the Regions to offer fellowships to be trained in the Geneva Courses. A fellowship for a defender from the regions covers the registration fees for the Geneva Course, the travel expenses to and from Geneva, and the cost of living in Geneva. GHR Executive Council and its Bureau award the scholarships following the recommendations of GHR advisors and partners. In 2016, the Ebert Foundation (Geneva), UEM (Wuppertal), Misereor (Aachen), and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) contributed to the Fund. Five fellowships were awarded to trainees from Angola, Ethiopia, Congo-DRC, Argentina, and Ukraine.


Strengthening the presence of Forum Asia (FA) in Geneva
  • Advising the Assembly of Forum Asia (Bangkok, January 2016)

Over the last ten years, convinced that the active participation defenders and organisations from the regions is crucial for the work of the HR-Council, GHR significantly contributed to the opening and strengthening of the FA Office in Geneva. In January, Adrien-Claude Zoller participated as a consultant in the 8th Assembly of FA in Bangkok. He advised the participants on the legal and institutional matters (statutes, by-laws, election of the Board).

  • Advising the Board of Forum Asia (April – November 2016)

In April, GHR submitted a Note to FA board on the requirements of the Swiss law and the necessary steps to obtain tax exemption. In August, Adrien-Claude Zoller was a member of the selection panel for the post of Executive Director of the Organisation. In May, he was elected in Forum Asia’s Executive Council. The first Executive Council meeting of Forum Asia in Geneva took place from 18 to 20 November.

Strengthening the Office of the Dominicans in Geneva  –  (April – December 2016)

GHR assisted the Representation of the Dominican Order at the UN in the consolidation of their Geneva Office, revising their Statutes and strengthening their decision-making bodies. Active at the UN in Geneva since the 90s, the Dominicans constitute an important voice, as their members and their institutions (research institutes, Justice and Peace commissions) are present everywhere in the world. Having decided to recruit permanent staff, their Statutes had to be revised in order to obtain tax exemption. The Dominicans also reactivated their association to have an efficient decision-making. GHR assisted in the preparation of their Assembly and Board meetings, which took place in Rome on 15 November.




Because of lack of funding, the only training activities conducted in the regions in 2016 were Forum Asia’s Anniversary in Bangkok and the Congress of the Dominicans in Salamanca.

Forum Asia 25th Anniversary  – (Bangkok, Pridi Banomyong Institute, 8 January 2016)

Forum-Asia is the largest coalition of human rights groups in Asia. It is one the main partners of GHR in this region. On 8 January 2016, a public event took place in Bangkok to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this network. Adrien-Claude Zoller intervened during the panel on the future of human rights in Asia. Other speakers were: Ms Debbie Stothard (Secretary General, International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH), Ms Gayoon Baek (Coordinator PSPD, South Korea), Rafendi Djamin (Executive Director, Human Rights Working Group Indonesia), and Mr Anoop Sukumaran (ACT Alliance representative for Asia and Pacific). Facilitator was Anselmo Lee (Secretary General of the Asia Democracy Network).

The President of GHR spoke of the hardliner regimes, the widespread impunity, the use of religions for political purpose, the shrinking space for the civil society, and the need to bolster initiatives to protect the defenders. He stressed that international NGOs had to be at the service of regional and domestic NGOs, instead of trying to speak on their behalf.

World Congress of the Dominicans  –  (Salamanca, Spain, 1-4 September 2016)

Adrien-Claude Zoller animated parts of the International Congress marking the 800th Jubilee celebrations of the Dominican Order. Theme of the Congress was: ’Dominicans in the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights: Past, Present and Future’.

During the Congress, he presented a communication entitled ‘The international community and current global human rights challenges’. This (39-page) paper describes the history of human rights in the UN, the treaty bodies, the special procedures, the UPR and the recent developments in the HR-Council. It outlines the main challenges in the human rights debates: the proliferation of conflicts, terrorism, humanitarian law, the migration crises, the use of the religions. The document concludes with an analysis of implementation strategies.


Programme No. 3

Training Specific Stakeholders (TSS)


In 2016, GHR gave lectures and briefings during conferences and for specific partners.


Course to National Institutions

(Geneva, Palais Wilson, 4 May 2016)


GHR contributed again to the annual Course on the international human rights system, of the Ebert Foundation, OHCHR and the Secretariat of the national institutions (GAHNRI) for staff of national institutions (Geneva, 2-6 May). Adrien-Claude Zoller presented the Course on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Participants came from national institutions from Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda, Malaysia, Palestine, Timor Leste, Germany, United Kingdom, Latvia and Ukraine.


Course to students from the University of Padova

(Geneva, 9 & 10 May 2016)


As in previous years, members of GHR Senior Management Team (Isabelle Gallino, Thomas Harris and Federica Parisoli) were involved in the study trip to Geneva of a group of 30 students from the University of Padova. Adrien-Claude Zoller gave them two Courses, on 9 May (on the political trends in the HR-Council) and on 10 May (on the main thematic challenges in the HR-Council).


Human Rights Working Group of the World Council of Churches

(Geneva, 27 May 2016)


Peter Prove, Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC), has set-up a human rights working group composed of staff of the WCC on the strategic engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms. Hosted in the Ecumenical Centre, GHR was invited to contribute.

Prepared by Bruschweiler Patricia and Asfaw Semegnish, a first meeting with WCC staff took place on 27 May. Adrien-Claude Zoller gave an overview of the UN mechanisms. A discussion followed on the working priorities of the participants: women’s rights, rights of the child, country files, in particular Palestine, statelessness, freedom of religion, shadow reports to treaty bodies and UPR, and relations between Geneva and Brussels.


International Expert Meeting on the Human Rights Council

(Berlin, 10-11 October 2016)


The annual Expert meeting on the HR-Council, convened by the Ebert Foundation, the German Institute for Human Rights and Forum Menschenrechte took place on 10-11 October in Berlin. Theme this year was the 10th Anniversary of the HR-Council. Adrien-Claude Zoller chaired the Working groups on the migration crisis and on the role of the civil society. He also spoke at the public conference of the Monday evening devoted to the assessment of the achievement of the HR-Council.


Webinar for the World Council of Churches

(27 October 2016)


Following a request of several members of the CCIA, a first Webinar on UN human rights mechanisms and procedures was organized. The Webinar took place on 27 October 2016. It was prepared and animated by Asfaw Semegnish. The Course was given by GHR. It had four parts of 15 minutes: on the UN structure and the human rights standards; on the treaty bodies; on the Special procedures; and on the Universal Periodic Review. Each section of the Course was followed by questions and answer of the trainer.

The summary of the Course was sent in advance by E-mail to the participants. A video recording of the Webinar has been made and sent to CCIA members, so that each of them could use it in briefings to be organized locally.


Paris Colloquy on the UN system of human rights protection

(Paris, Université Paris II, Centre Panthéon, 7-8 November 2016)


On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the two UN Covenants, the Research Centre on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (CRDH) and the University  Panthéon-Assas (Paris II) organized on 7-8 November their 11th International Colloquy under the theme: ‘the UN system of human rights protection: assessment and future’. Many UN Rapporteurs, academics and diplomats attended this conference on the strengthening of the UN system.

During the conference, Adrien-Claude Zoller participated in the round-table on the future of the special procedures. He introduced his communication entitled: ‘The UN special procedures, origins and challenges’, describing the creation of these country and thematic procedures, the negotiations during the Vienna World Conference, the institution building of the HR-Council and the challenges for the coming years.


Course on Minority Protection

(OHCHR, Geneva, 11 & 25 November 2016)

As in previous years, GHR participated in the Course organized by OHCHR, as part of its Minorities Fellowship Programme (7-25 November). On 11 November, Adrien-Claude Zoller gave a Course on The international community and minority protection. He spoke of the historical development of minority rights: the League of Nations, the standard-setting process in the UN, the Durban processes, the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Minorities. Together with Michèle Buteau (Head Indigenous and Minority Section of OHCHR), he gave a second briefing on the concepts of indigenous peoples and of minorities (25 November).

The 12 Minority Fellows came from: India (Christian religious minority), Pakistan (Hindu religious minority), Iraq (Yezidi ethnic minority), Egypt (Christian religious minority), Bosnia Herzegovina (Polish national minority), Cameroon (Anglophone linguistic minority), Colombia (Afrodescent), Japan (Korean ethnic minority), Moldova (Roma national minority), Moldova (Russian linguistic minority), Kyrgyzstan (Uzbek ethnic minority), and Ukraine (Polish ethnic minority). At the end of the Course, they spoke at the UN Minority Forum.

Course for diplomats from Guinea

(GCSP, Geneva, 13 December 2016)

From 12 to 21 December, the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) conducted in Geneva a Course on State building for 10 diplomats from Guinea. Adrien-Claude Zoller animated the session devoted to the UN human rights mechanisms. He spoke on the usefulness for the States of the special procedures, the treaty bodies and the UPR. The discussion focused on the preparation of States reports, the role of the civil society and the public policies to follow-up on the recommendations, often with the UN support.

Other briefings for stakeholders in 2016

Public lecture in the cycle of conferences ‘Witness’ of the Parish St.-Pie X, Geneva, on ‘Human rights, justice, resistance, challenges: vision of a defender’ (8 March).


  • Briefing to a dozen students of the School of Journalism from Neuchatel by Ana Maria Rodriguez (Colombian Commission of Jurists) on her lobby experience in the UN and Adrien-Claude Zoller on the decision-making process in the UN  (22 March).


  • At the invitation of the Ebert Foundation, several Geneva-based NGOs, including GHR, had a brainstorming with six Syrian lawyers based in Syria and members of the Syrian League for Citizenship, visiting Geneva (6 April).


  • Vittorio Mainetti and Adrien-Claude Zoller animated the Course at the University of Geneva on the UN and human rights for 20 students of the University of California was animated by (8 April).


  • On 24 June, GHR gave a briefing to 7 young professionals from Ukraine on the UN human rights bodies and mechanisms. The group was on a study visit to Geneva and Switzerland (19-25 June) with the support of the Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation.




The organisation invited diplomats, officials and NGO’s to its ‘Geneva Specific Seminars (GDH-GSS)’ : 

GDH GSS death penalty rev 1 web


What we achieved in 2015:

In 2015, GHR conducted its three Geneva Courses  during the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council.

  • three Geneva Courses on the occasion of the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council in March, June and September 2015;
  • three Expert Seminars, on Business and Human Rights (with the Ebert Foundation); on Religions and gender-related rights; and on Religions, Conflicts and Minorities (with the University of Padova);
  • a specific Geneva Course for Burmese Lawyers (with the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association);
  • several courses and briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group;
  • the animation first global pilot of the Institute ‘Women’s Institute on Peace and Security’ (with Cordaid, January 2015, Istanbul);
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.



As in previous years, all GHR trainers worked pro bono. For the three Geneva Courses of 2015, the two full-time trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland, Vivat International) and Adrien-Claude Zoller (Switzerland, GHR).  Four other experts lectured during these courses: Ms. Danica Finger (Germany), René Kosirnik (Switzerland), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka), and Rogier Huizenga (the Netherlands, IPU).

37th Geneva Course (GSC-37)   14 – 25 September 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 37th Geneva Course  conducted during the 30th session of the HR-Council

Thirteen defenders came from the regions: from Bosnia Herzegoniva, Namibia, Tanzania (2), Mali, Philippines (2), West Papua, Armenia (2), Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia. The other participants were students and members from partner organisations from Austria, Ireland, Romania, and Hungary.

The General Course took place from 14 to 18 September, with the full-day course on Tuesday 15. The special courses concerned enforced or involuntary disappearances; the OHCHR; the use of the special procedures; and the UN and women’s rights.

Additional Courses were given during the second week on the UPR; transitional justice; the UN and indigenous peoples; country situations in the HR-Council; Sri Lanka (Commissions of inquiry and OHCHR); International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; and Human Rights Treaty Bodies.
The trainers held private meetings with the trainees from Namibia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Guatemala, Tanzania, Philippines, Armenia and Papua to discuss their follow-up initiatives in their countries. All the trainees obtained their certificate.

36th Geneva Course (GSC-36)    12 – 26 June 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 36th Geneva Course during the 29th session of the HR-Council

The 17 participants included 4 defenders from the regions: Myanmar, India (2) and Sri Lanka. Other participants were students, nationals from Spain, Italy-Morocco, Italy, France (2), Norway (2), Switzerland-Korea, Switzerland-Portugal, Switzerland (2), and the USA.

The General Course started on Friday 12 June with an introduction to human rights standards. It continued on Monday 15 June with the opening of the 29th session of the HR-Council and the course on the tools of the Council. During this first week, the trainers gave special courses on the UN and Human Rights; the use of Special Procedures; the right to freedom of expression; the UN and Freedom of Religion and Belief; the UN and Women’s Rights; the UPR; and the OHCHR.

Additional Courses during Week-2 were given on business and human rights; International Humanitarian Law; country situations and strategies; transitional justice; and implementation inside countries.

All the trainees also participated in GHR Expert Seminar on religions and gender (18 June). The trainers had individual meetings with the trainees from Burma, Sri Lanka and India. All the trainees obtained the Course’s certificate.

35th Geneva Course (GSC-35)     2 – 13 March 2015

17 defenders attended GHR 35th Geneva Course conducted during the 28th session of the HR-Council

There were eleven defenders from the regions: from Cambodia (2), Taiwan, Philippines, West Papua, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, Guatemala, Uruguay. The other trainees were students from Australia , Finland, Italy, Switzerland, and the USA (2).

The General Course took place from 2 to 7 March, with the full-day class on Saturday 7 March. Special Courses were given on the work of the HR-Council; the Special procedures (and how to write to thematic mandate holders); women’s rights; religious freedom; the international human rights standards; the UPR; and treaty bodies.

During the second week, after the analysis of the reports submitted to the Council and of the Council’s debates, the trainers gave additional courses during the daily morning classes on human rights defenders and civil society; International Humanitarian Law; International Criminal Law; Transitional Justice; and economic, social, and cultural rights.

The recapitulation of the course and GHR course on implementation in the countries were presented during the last class on Friday 13 March. The farewell dinner with the certificates took place on Friday Evening 13 March. All 17 trainees received a certificate.

During the Course, GHR trainers met individually with the trainees from Cambodia, Guatemala, the Netherlands, and Uruguay to discuss their specific follow-up initiatives. The participant from Uruguay attended several meeting on human rights and environment, and the one from Guatemala met with assistant of Special Rapporteur on transitional justice.



GHR elaborated a specific training scheme, covering all the stages of UPR, and highlighting the importance of bolstering the cooperation with the States, with the special procedures and the treaty bodies.

As many NGO coalitions come to Geneva to attend the review of their country, since December 2008 GHR offers briefings and orientation at each UPR session. GHR main training activities during the UPR sessions in 2015 were:

  • Briefing to NGOs from Laos (20 January);
  • Briefing to NGOs from Honduras (with Misereor, 12 March);
  • Briefing to the NGO delegation from Honduras (convened by the F. Ebert Foundation, 8 May);
  • During the 10th UPR training for civil society organisations, conducted in Geneva by CIPHEDOP from 27 October to 2 November, 30 trainees attended the course given by Adrien-Claude Zoller on the UPR mechanism (27 October); the trainees came from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo, DRC, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Malaysia, Nepal, Hawai, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldavia, Ukraine, Canada and Switzerland;
  • Chairing the side-event of FES with Nepalese NGOs (on the occasion of UPR, 4 November 2015);
  • Briefing to Australian partners (9 November 2015).



Since 2006, GHR has a special Training Fellowship Fund for Defenders from the Regions to offer fellowships to be trained in the Geneva Courses. A fellowship for a defender from the regions covers the registration fees for the Geneva Course, the travel expenses to and from Geneva, and to the cost of living in Geneva. GHR Executive Council and its Bureau award the scholarships following the recommendations of GHR advisors and partners in the regions. In 2015, UEM (Wuppertal), Bread for the World (Berlin), and Vivat International (Geneva) contributed to this Fund. Seven fellowships were awarded to trainees from Cambodia (2), Burma, Namibia, Guatemala, Tanzania and Armenia.


What we achieved in 2014:

  • three Geneva Courses on the occasion of the ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council in March, June and September 2014;
  • four Expert Seminars, on Indigenous Peoples, on International Criminal Law, on Enforced Disappearance and on Business and Human Rights;
  • a specific Geneva Course for Uyghur Representatives;
  • several briefings during the sessions of the UPR Working group;
  • two In-Country Courses in India (for Tibetans) and in Nepal;
  • the second national Implementation Workshop in Botswana;
  • a dozen lectures for our partners, in particular universities and the OHCHR.
Geneva Course GSC-32 –  (3 – 21 March 2014)

21 defenders attended GHR 32nd Geneva Course conducted during the 25th session of the HR-Council

Thirteen trainees came from the regions: from Panamá, Venezuela, Palestine, Iraq, Tanzania, Angola, Iran, India, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka (3). Four trainees were from partner organizations: AFEDEM-Congo (two trainees from France) and Yellowcross International (two Sri-Lankans from Switzerland). The other participants were students from Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Norway.

 The full-time trainers were Edward Flynn (Ireland, Geneva Representative of Vivat International) andAdrien-Claude Zoller (Course Director, Switzerland). The other trainers were René Kosirnik (Legal Advisor GHR, Course on IHL, Switzerland), Penny Parker (Course on treaty bodies, USA) and Helen Walker (Course on persons with disabilities).         Support staff: Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Course Coordinator, Spain), Nicolas Zoller (GHR IT Officer, Switzerland) and George D’Souza(Advisor, India).

GHR  32th  Geneva Course took place from 3 to 21 March 2014, during the 25th session of the HR-Council. Since the creation of the HR-Council in 2006, GHR has conducted this 3-week Geneva Course at each ordinary session of the Council.

The Course had two segments: the General Course (3 to 8 March 2014) to teach the international system; and the Course on the proceedings of the Council (10 to 21 March) had daily morning classes to analyze the debates in the HR-Council (which the trainees learn to monitor) and taught  drafting communications to the UN special procedures. Every day, GHR trainers summarized the reports submitted by the Experts and the OHCHR, and explained the ongoing negotiations.

To obtain the Course’s certificate, trainees compied with several tasks, including reading reports submitted to the Council, drafting reports on the deliberations in the Council, a summary of the situation in their country and a communication to the UN thematic procedures; there were also three written tests.

Indigenous Peoples: Expert Seminar

GHR Expert Seminar took place on 19 March 2014. Theme was ‘Indigenous Peoples: Towards the World Conference’. The Seminar discussed the UN action regarding indigenous peoples (Working groups, Sub-Commission, Commission, Council, Special procedures, treaty bodies, Permanent Forum) and the preparation of the World Conference, which shall take place next September 2014 in New York. For more information, contact

Research institutes: visit to Galway

On 10 – 11 February 2014, a delegation of GHR  visited the Irish Centre for Human Rights of the National University of Ireland, in Galway. With the Director of the Centre, Prof. Michael O´Flaherty, GHR had an exchange of views on GHR study programme and Experts Seminars. Prof. O’Flaherty is a member of GHR as well. During this visit, GHR President addressed Master students on the main challenges facing the HR-Council.

Botswana: 2nd National Workshop on the National Plan

In April 2013, GHR actively participated in a first National Workshop in Botswana to prepare a Comprehensive National Human Rights Strategy and National Action Plan (CHRSNAP). Botswana’s 2nd National Workshop took place from 24 to 27 February 2014 to elaborate the National Action Plan. The Workshop was facilitated by Adrien-Claude Zoller. More on the background to this Implementation initiative.

GHR General Assembly 2014

The 13th General Assembly of Geneva for Human Rights took place on Thursday afternoon 6 March 2014.  Secretariat

31st Geneva Course for defenders from the regions

Twenty human rights defenders attended the 31st Geneva Course (9 – 27 September 2013), which took place during the 24th session of the UN Human Rights. 13 trainees came from the regions: Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia (incl. one from Papua), Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Brazil. The others were GHRfellows and graduate students from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the United States and Switzerland.

The Course was conducted by Edward Flynn, Adrien-Claude Zoller, René Kosirnik, Ms. Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera.The other resource persons for the Course were Ms. Agnès Gràcia Corberó (Project Officer, Spain) and Nicolas Zoller (IT Officer). More.


UPR: GHR invites defenders from Saudi Arabia

For the 17th session of the UN Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), GHR invited to Geneva human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia to monitor the review of their country (Geneva, 17 – 24 October 2013). Briefing and orientation was provided by GHR team composed of Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Secretariat Coordinator), and two Project Officers, Alex Guye (Switzerland) and Nuno Santos Rocha (Portugal).

UPR: Side-event with Jordanian NGOs

During the UPR session, GHR met the coalition of NGOs from Jordan hosted by the Ebert Foundation. GHR was involved in the Ebert Foundation’s side-event, which discussed the main human rights issues of Jordan, the recommendations of the civil society, and those made by the States during the review. The event was moderated by the President of GHR (25 October 2013).

Minorities: Training for OHCHR

On the eve of the 6th session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, OHCHR invited Adrien-Claude Zoller to give a Course to OHCHR Minority Fellows and staff on the ‘Minority rights in the League of Nations and in the UN system’ (5 November 2013). His Course focused on the international policies regarding minority protection. The 13 participants came from England, Canada, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Latvia, Nepal, and Colombia.

GHR Board member: Nicolas Joffre passed over

On 4 November 2013, GHR board member Nicolas Pierre Abel Joffré passed over. As a wise architect, he built our pivotal Department of Human Rights Policy Studies, which ensures our knowledge and the quality of our teaching. From 2005 to 2010, Nicolas Joffré coordinated the Department. Since 2003 he was Executive Council member. During seven years, he resisted to his illness. Ultimately, he lost this battle. He was 39.

During all these years, we all learned a lot from Nicolas Joffré, in particular from his unlimited efforts to be always available, at the service of all the defenders GHR trains. He was a great defender. We really miss him.

Enforced Disappearances: GHR 2nd Expert Seminar

GHR second Expert Seminar on Enforced Disappearances took place on Thursday 7 November. Theme was ‘The pivotal role of the CED in the treaty bodies and in the thematic procedures’.The Seminar was sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Argentina and France. Ambassador Alberto Pedro D’Alotto (Argentina) and GHR President Adrien-Claude Zoller co-chaired the Seminar.

14 (out of 15) members of the Committee and of the Working Group attended, as well as delegates from 11 countries, eight NGOs and OHCHR staff members. Special guest was French expert Louis Joinet, who just published his Memoirs. The Working Group member Prof. Olivier de Frouville introduced the Memoirs, and highlighted Louis Joinet’s significant contribution to main chapters of the UN human rights programme, in particular those on impunity and on the crime of enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The Seminar focused on the promotion of a system-wide coherence in the fields of doctrine and action regarding enforced disappearances. Amb. D’Alotto and the Chairs of the Committee and of the Working Group made the key-note speeches. More.

Course at the University of Padova

The Masters programme of the University of Padova’s has set-up a ‘Padova Human Rights Laboratory’. It invites field experts in human rights and humanitarian action, international organizations’ officers, diplomats, practitioners, and scholars from foreign universities and research centres to address students and the faculty and report on their experience and studies. On 12 and 13 November 2013, Adrien-Claude Zoller contributed to the first Human Rights Laboratory. Theme of his Course was ‘The decision making process in the UN regarding human rights violations since 1945’.

Forum on Business and Human Rights: GHR briefing

The Ebert Foundation (FES) brought to Geneva eighteen CSO representatives (human rights NGOs, national institutions, trade unionists) to attend the 2nd session of the UN Forum. On 2 December 2013, GHR joined the FES to conduct a briefing for these defenders from Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Philippines, Mongolia, Malawi, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. Six of them were sponsored by the FES. The others were funded by a grant of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs. Three delegates of ‘Forum Asia’ were also present. Felix Kirchmeier (FES) and Adrien-Claude Zoller conducted the session.

Implementation Programme: International Seminar in Morocco

With the support of the UNDP, the OHCHR and the Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), Morocco’s Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH) convened an International Seminar in Skhirat (3 and 4 December 2013). Theme was the ‘Follow-up to the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and Strategic Planning in the field of Human Rights: Compared Experiences and Good Practices’.

About 200 persons attended. GHR contributed to this Seminar. To discuss the good practices of other States, diplomats from Thailand, Mexico, Mauritius, France, and OHCHR, OIF and GHR Representatives presented their experiences. Interestingly, the Action Plan of Morocco concerns all the UN recommendations (UPR, thematic procedures and treaty bodies). More.

GHR: Meeting of the Bureau

Meeting in GHR Secretariat on 17 December 2013, the Bureau of the Executive Council prepared the financial report and adopted the guidelines for the annual narrative report and for Action Plan 2014. The Bureau is composed of four members of GHR Executive Committee, Alain Dick, Jean-Pierre Huber, Eric Revillet and Adrien-Claude Zoller.

Visit and Briefing in Dubai

On the invitation of the lawyers trained in 2013 in the Geneva Courses of June and September, GHR President paid a visit to the United Arab Emirates (3 to 5 January 2014). A series of meetings took place, during which he provided information and orientation on strategies to develop their work at domestic and international levels and to set-up their organization.

Course at the Catholic University Lyon

The Human Rights Institute of the Catholic of Lyon has longstanding working relations with the UN Secretariat in Geneva. His Director, André S. Dizdarevic, welcomed Adrien-Claude Zoller in the Institute. On this occasion, the President of GHR addressed a group of forty-six students of their Master Programme (17 January 2014). His lecture focused on the trends in the multilateral negotiations regarding human rights, in particular in the HR-Council.