UN Member States should adopt the draft resolution on the Human Rights Council

24/02/2006
Press release
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A potential for increased protection and universality and diminished impotency and corruption

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the draft resolution for the creation of a Human Rights Council, presented by the President of the General Assembly in New-York today, and calls upon UN Member States to adopt it promptly and without reservation.

The text provides potential safeguards against the current practices of corruption of the UN Commission on Human Rights’ protection mandate, and its impotency when reacting to Human Rights crises. It establishes a smaller body, with a specific election procedure that could prevent gross human rights violators from sitting on it. Meetings will take place throughout the year, with a procedure for special sessions which could reduce the Commission’s impotency. The text also foresees the establishment of a universal monitoring mechanism, the « peer review », and requires States sitting at the Council to cooperate fully with the body.

« The adoption of the resolution could therefore provide for the reinforcement of the UN human rights mechanisms », said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH, « nevertheless, the success of the reform will depend primarily on the political will of States to show their commitment to fulfill the mandate that is being created and be submitted to review by mechanisms that are being developed. Like the Commission, it won’t be just about setting up mechanisms, the real test will be about implementing Human rights standards».

President Kaba, also praised the efforts of President Elliasson and the two Co-Chairs to reach a « salutary » compromise. « The international context was not in our favour: a majority of States at the UN are successful in blocking resolutions on the human rights situation in China or in Sudan. Other states, which should be supportive of a greater protection mandate, in fact undermine them: in refusing to let the Special procedures freely conduct their visit in Guantanamo, not only does the US align itself with countries such as Zimbabwe, Burma or Tunisia, but it also undermines the universality of the procedures’ mandate. Human rights are for all and international monitoring mechanisms should be able to undertake visits anywhere around the world. ».

Background

The draft resolution addresses two major important gaps identified by FIDH: the absence of actual implementation by States of the recommendations addressed by UN human rights bodies, and the practical incapacity of the international community to react rapidly to the most serious human rights violations for effective protection of victims. It also sets election procedures that could prevent gross human rights violators from sitting at the Council and corrupt its mandate.

Meetings throughout the year and flexibility for emergency sessions

A minimum of ten weeks of meetings are foreseen throughout the year, added to a possibility to hold special sessions. This responds to the current impotency of the Commission, which, with a single six weeks’ session prevented the intergovernmental body from considering human rights crises as they occur throughout the year.

Obligation for States to cooperate with the Council

FIDH reads this obligation as an obligation to cooperate with UN Special Procedures. This provision reinforces the special procedures, with which a high number of States still refuse to cooperate. If there is no explicit sanction in case of lack of cooperation, States candidates to the HRC that do not cooperate with the special procedures would still have less chances of being elected or re-elected.

Universality of human rights monitoring: the peer review mechanism

FIDH takes note of the setting-up of a "peer review" mechanism, and welcomes the idea of an examination of human rights situations in all countries, without exception, as a means to reinforce the universality of human rights monitoring throughout the world.
FIDH has already warned that safeguards are necessary for good functioning of such a procedure. Indeed, there is a danger that countries’ self-assessment lead to their self-absolution. In this respect, FIDH takes note of the important provision that the review should not duplicate the UN Treaty Bodies’ work. In that sense, FIDH will engage in the coming months to make sure that the peer review develops into a mechanism that complements the existing expertise in monitoring the implementation of human rights.

Election hurdles and candidature requirements

The current practice of gross human rights violators seeking to sit on the CHR in order to corrupt its mandate is potentially diminished. Pledges and commitments, added to the stated obligation to cooperate with the Council are interesting candidature requirements. Moreover, the election procedure if adopted, could constitute a high hurdle: a State willing to sit on the Council would need to gather 96 votes of support, with a secret ballot procedure - thus contributing to preventing the corruption of votes. Finally, gross human rights violators may be excluded from the Council, by a General Assembly vote of a 2/3 majority.

Building upon the successes of the Commission

Finally, the resolution provides for the full reconduction of the Commission’s Special Procedures, and of the practice of NGO participation to the debates, two of the successful components of the UN human rights’ system.

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