5th session of the Human Rights Council


Recommendations for assuring human rights come first, not politics


The Human Rights Council opens its 5th session this week in Geneva with the key task of finalizing its institutional structure and working methods. This process has understandably occupied much of the Council’s first year in existence and, as it comes to an end, it is crucial that member States commit themselves fully to the establishment of an institution dedicated to the thorough and effective protection of human rights. This objective should not, under any circumstances, be undermined by last minute political bargaining.

Rights & Democracy would like to seize the occasion to recall a couple of key issues that we see as decisive for the success of the Council’s institutional building process:

  • Special Procedures: Special Procedures are critical to the promotion and protection of human rights and the Council must see that they are strengthened. Their independence must be preserved and reinforced, and the selection process for those assigned thematic or country mandates must remain transparent. The code of conduct regulating the work of special procedures, which the Council has been tasked to draft, should not affect the independence of mandate-holders, or unjustifiably restrain their activities. Finally, keeping in mind that the overall aim of this process is to close gaps in the protection of human rights, it is essential that country mandates be preserved, and that they not be considered differently than other procedures.

  • Universal Periodic Review: This process for reviewing each and every state’s human rights record on an on-going basis is an essential feature of international accountability and commitment to the rule of law. The universal nature of this review mechanism may help overcome the real and perceived “selectivity” in the treatment of some human rights situations over others that plagued the Commission on Human Rights. However, for such a mechanism to be effective, it needs to be open, inclusive and transparent. In order for achieve this, the Universal Periodic Review must ensure that NGOs and independent National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are allowed to, among other things: actively participate in all the stages of the review, including national-level consultations with states during the preparation stage; submit independent reports to the UPR mechanism; participate and provide statements during the review; and a  play a meaningful role in the follow-up to the recommendations.

  • Finally, we should not forget that the Council is also crafting its overall rules and procedures, which must ensure that all stakeholders, including NGOs and NHRIs, are allowed to effectively participate in all aspects of the Council’s work.

Over the past year, a lot of energy has been spent on laying the Council’s foundations and its members have not been able to concentrate on the main task of protecting and implementing human rights. It is therefore essential that the Council finish this institution-building phase promptly and satisfactorily and get on with its job of strengthening human rights everywhere in the world. 

 

 

Links:

 

Rights & Democracy:   

  • Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights: “Canada ’s role at the United Nations Human Rights Council”.
     

Office of the High Commissioner for human rights (OHCHR):

  • Draft time table and provisional agenda:
    http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/5session/index.htm
  • Resolution/Decisions and President’s statements:
    http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/5session/resolutions.htm
  • Documentations (ex. reports of Special Procedures):
    http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/5session/documentation.htm
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR):Daily updates of sessions and summary of reports of Special Procedures:
    http://www.ishr.ch/
 

Human Rights Watch: