Press Release - UN Human Rights Council

Paris, Geneva, June 19th 2008

Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
As the eight session of the UN Human Rights Council came to an end yesterday, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) applauded the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a text that will enable, after its adoption by the General Assembly and its ratification by member States, a petition mechanism for victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights at the international level. Violations such as forced evictions, exclusions from health care systems, and violations of the right to food or to sanitary water will thus find redress.

« It is very symbolic that this adoption takes place in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, » said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen. « After 60 years, we finally give the same level of attention and consideration to civil and political rights as to economic, social and cultural rights. »

The adoption of such a mechanism will greatly help the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights: « As we have seen for other rights, the development of an international complaint mechanism for victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights will enable the strengthening of redress mechanisms at the national level, and of policies specifically targeted to ensure the realisation of these rights, » continued President Belhassen.

Consideration of Country Situations
FIDH further welcomes the Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution on Myanmar, calling for the deployment of an independent investigation on human rights violations in Burma. The decision also calls on the government to bring those responsible to justice.
FIDH urges the government of Myanmar to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar to visit the country without further delay. FIDH further expresses its concern with the worrying trend of statements made by India and countries of the ASEAN that the adoption of resolutions is not constructive. As FIDH’s President commented: « When a Government, such as the Burmese Government, refuses all forms of cooperation with UN independent monitoring mechanisms, in violation of repeated requests from the UN HRC, it puts the credibility of the Council into question. The Council should thus react. »

FIDH also expresses its disappointment at the Council’s failure to take any action on Zimbabwe or Iran, two countries that were brought to its attention following patterns of grave and systematic human rights violations. « The Council is mandated to react to such situations. Calls and condemnations multiply amongst Special Procedures, from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and from civil society groups. The absence of any action is a failure to protect, » concluded President Belhassen.

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