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THE STILL NEW UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL. THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL. Conceived in stupidity Born through malice Growing up with difficulty. THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. 1945 UN Charter mandates establishment of Commission

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THE STILL NEW UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

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The still new united nations human rights council

THE STILL NEW UNITED NATIONSHUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL


The human rights council

THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

  • Conceived in stupidity

  • Born through malice

  • Growing up with difficulty


The commission on human rights

THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

  • 1945 UN Charter mandates establishment of Commission

  • 1946 Established by Economic and Social Council with states appointing renowned experts as their representatives

  • 1948 Adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • 1949-1990 Divided by the Cold War

  • 1966 Adoption of Covenants

  • 1991-1995 Post Cold War euphoria

  • Since 1995 reversion to divisive debate

  • 2006 Commission replaced by Council


Conceived in stupidity

CONCEIVED IN STUPIDITY

  • 2001 USA not elected for first time

  • 2003 Libya chairs the Commission

  • December 2004 High Level Panel report recommends replacement

  • March 2005 Secretary General’s report recommends replacement but on a different model

  • September 2005 World Summit and Summit Outcome Document


Born with malice

BORN WITH MALICE

  • 15 March 2006 General Assembly passes resolution to replace Commission with Council

  • General Assembly Resolution 60/251

    • In favour: 170 States

    • Opposing: Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States of America

    • Abstaining:Belarus, Iran, Venezuela


Commission

COMMISSION

  • Broad mandate to discuss human rights issues, both thematic and country specific

    COUNCIL

  • Broad mandate to discuss human rights issues

  • Address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations

  • Universal periodic review of all States


Commission1

COMMISSION

  • Functional commission of the Economic and Social Council

    COUNCIL

  • Subsidiary organ of General Assembly

  • Status to be reviewed within 5 years


Commission2

COMMISSION

  • 53 member states elected by the Economic and Social Council for three year terms

    COUNCIL

  • 47 member states elected by absolute majority of the General Assembly

  • Individual secret ballots

  • Eligible for two consecutive terms only

  • Gross violators can be removed by two thirds majority vote of General Assembly


Commission3

COMMISSION

  • No membership criteria

    COUNCIL

  • Take account of contributions to human rights

  • Voluntary pledges and commitments to be considered when standing for election

  • But no disqualification criteria

  • Members must uphold the “highest standards” in human rights and fully cooperate with the Council


Commission4

COMMISSION

  • Annual 6 week session (March-April)

  • Able to hold special sessions

    COUNCIL

  • At least three meetings a year totalling at least 10 weeks

  • Able to hold special sessions on request of one third of members


Commission5

COMMISSION

  • Mechanisms (Special Procedures) of rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups

    COUNCIL

  • All “mandates, mechanisms, functions and responsibilities” of the Commission transferred to Council for review and ‘rationalisation’ within one year

  • A system of special procedures to be retained


Born through malice

BORN THROUGH MALICE

CommissionCouncil

Africa1513

Asia1213

Eastern Europe 5 6

GRULAC11 8

WEOG10 7

Total5347


Growing with difficulty

GROWING WITH DIFFICULTY

Institution Building (IB) Text: Resolution 5/1

  • Special Sessions

  • special procedures system

  • complaints system

  • expert advice system

  • Universal Periodic Review

  • management and work


Special sessions

SPECIAL SESSIONS

  • Far easier to convene: requisition of one third of Council member States

  • Already had 6 Special Sessions:

    • Israel and the Occupied Territories (3 sessions)

    • Israel and Lebanon

    • Sudan and Darfur

    • Myanmar

  • Not restricted to country specific issues

  • Argument that Special Sessions supercede country resolutions and country mandates

  • New emphasis on follow up


Special procedures

SPECIAL PROCEDURES

  • Special Rapporteurs

  • Independent experts

  • Special Representatives

  • Working Groups

    • of states

    • of independent experts

  • Thematic mandates

  • Country specific


Results to date

RESULTS TO DATE

  • Thematic mandates

    • all reviewed have been renewed

    • one new mandate: contemporary forms of slavery

  • Country specific

    • key issue: consensual or imposed?

    • three abolished: Belarus, Cuba, DRC

    • others retained: DPRK, Myanmar, Sudan

    • no new ones


Important changes

IMPORTANT CHANGES

  • Code of Conduct

    • Complaint procedure

  • Appointment process

    • eligibility list

    • consultative group

    • Presidential slate

    • Council endorsement


Process for individual communications

PROCESS FOR INDIVIDUAL COMMUNICATIONS

  • Complaints (communications)

  • Consistent pattern of reliably attested gross violations of human rights

    • how to establish a consistent pattern: individual handling or aggregation of complaints?

    • reliably attested: before or after referral to State?

    • gross violations: quantity or quality?

    • prevention?


The machinery for complaint handling

THE MACHINERY FOR COMPLAINT HANDLING

  • Working Group on Communications

  • Working Group on Situations

  • Report to the Council: confidential consideration

  • Confidential or public decision

  • Public debate

  • Appointment of special procedure with country specific mandate


Human rights council advisory committee

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

  • Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (formerly on discrimination)

  • 18 independent experts elected by the Council for 3 year terms (one third elected every year)

  • Think tank for the Council (expertise, studies, research) but no right to initiate activities

  • Meets up to twice annually in Geneva for up to two weeks in total


Geographic distribution

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION

Africa:5

Asia:5

Eastern Europe:2

GRULAC:3

WEOG:3


Universal periodic review

UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

  • The biggest change from Commission to Council

  • All states to be reviewed periodically, within first four years initially

  • Council members to be reviewed during terms of office

  • Not peer review but to be undertaken by Council without expert participation


Issues

ISSUES

  • Relationship with treaty body processes

  • Role of experts

  • Role of NGOs (whether or not accredited) and other relevant stakeholders

  • Technical cooperation and assistance

  • Nature of the recommendations: consensual or imposed?


The basis

THE BASIS

  • The UN Charter

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Ratified human rights treaties

  • Voluntary pledges and commitments


The process

THE PROCESS

  • Collection of information

    • State reports limited to 20 pages

    • Additional information from UN sources (OHCHR compilation up to 10 pages)

    • Additional, credible and reliable information from relevant stakeholders (OHCHR compilation up to 10 pages)

  • Troika of 3 rapporteurs, chosen by lot from member States

  • Interactive dialogue, with member and observer States: up to 3 hours

  • Report to the Council: up to half hour

  • Report adopted by the Council: up to one hour


The result

THE RESULT

  • Discussion in plenary, with all relevant stakeholders

  • Summary of proceedings

  • Conclusions

  • Recommendations: agreed by the State and not agreed

  • Voluntary commitments made by the State

  • Follow up


The experience

THE EXPERIENCE

  • First round conducted over last two weeks and 16 States examined

  • Interactive dialogue quite restrained but key issues were raised

  • Reasonable cooperation of States under review

  • Some good recommendations but tendency to “go slow and go soft” for the first round

  • Second round next month, another 16 States


Management

MANAGEMENT

  • Bureau, elected annually, consisting of

    • President and four Vice Presidents, one of whom is rapporteur, one from each geographical group on a rotational basis

    • First President: Amb Luis de Alba of Mexico

    • Second President: Amb Doru Costea of Romania

    • Third President from African Group: Egypt?

  • Secretariat provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Ordinary session agenda

ORDINARY SESSION AGENDA

1. Organisational and procedural matters

2. Annual report of the United Nations HCHR, OHCHR and SG

3. Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

4. Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

5. Human rights bodies and mechanisms

6. Universal Periodic Review

7. Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

8. Follow-up and implementation of the VDPA

9. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the DDPA

10. Technical assistance and capacity-building


Un and ngos

UN AND NGOs

  • UN Charter Article 71

  • Vienna Declaration and Program of Action paragraph 38

  • Accreditation by the Economic and Social Council

  • Role and functions within Human Rights Council: General Assembly resolution OP 11.


Role of ngos

ROLE OF NGOs

  • Direct access unparalleled in UN system

  • Written submissions: unlimited number

  • Oral statements: limited number but on all agenda items

  • Participation in UPR

  • Parallel events

  • Lobbying and persuasion

    • General

    • Related to specific resolutions

    • Related to specific delegations


Useful websites

USEFUL WEBSITES

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • www.ohchr.org

  • Note also extranet page

    • Login “hrc extranet”

    • Password “1session”

      International Service for Human Rights

  • www.ishr.ch


  • Login