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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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  2. THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL • Conceived in stupidity • Born through malice • Growing up with difficulty

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. COMMISSION • Functional commission of the Economic and Social Council COUNCIL • Subsidiary organ of General Assembly • Status to be reviewed within 5 years

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. BORN THROUGH MALICE CommissionCouncil Africa 15 13 Asia 12 13 Eastern Europe 5 6 GRULAC 11 8 WEOG 10 7 Total 53 47

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. SPECIAL PROCEDURES • Special Rapporteurs • Independent experts • Special Representatives • Working Groups • of states • of independent experts • Thematic mandates • Country specific

  16. 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

  17. IMPORTANT CHANGES • Code of Conduct • Complaint procedure • Appointment process • eligibility list • consultative group • Presidential slate • Council endorsement

  18. 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?

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION Africa: 5 Asia: 5 Eastern Europe: 2 GRULAC: 3 WEOG: 3

  22. 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

  23. 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?

  24. THE BASIS • The UN Charter • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights • Ratified human rights treaties • Voluntary pledges and commitments

  25. 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

  26. 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

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. 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

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