UN Human Rights Council: New website to monitor candidates' human rights records

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20 Apr 2006
[International Secretariat]
Topic: International human rights law
Amnesty International will today launch a new website enabling states voting in next month's election of the first 47 members of the new UN Human Rights Council to assess the human rights records of candidate states.
"The promise by states to take account of candidate countries' human rights records when casting their votes in the Human Rights Council elections is a major step forward," said Martin Macpherson, Director of Amnesty International's International Law and Organizations Programme. "This first election of the Council will help to determine the future strength and reputation of the UN's human rights work."

"With this website, we are providing UN member states with an easy-to-use tool that provides information on all candidates. This will help them to fulfill their obligation to use their votes wisely -- in the interest of human rights internationally."

The website, What you should know: Amnesty International's Guide to UN Human Rights Council candidates, will go live today at 12.01 GMT and can be accessed through http://www.amnesty.org/un_hrc/

The site allows government delegates and other interested parties to click on individual countries on the list of candidates to easily access concise information about their current human rights situation and record -- including on ratifications of treaties, reservations to treaties, submission of reports on how they have fulfilled their obligations to such treaties, and their record of cooperation with special procedures.

The compilation of records has already revealed some interesting facts.

"While 45 of the 50 countries that have announced their candidacy as of 13 April are party to the two International Covenants -- which together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights form the International Bill of Rights -- some candidate countries have not even signed either Covenant," said Macpherson.

"States clearly need to do a lot more to enable them to credibly fulfil their roles as members of the United Nations most important human rights body and be truly effective in protecting all human rights in all countries."

The election of the new Human Rights Council on 9 May is widely seen as an opportunity to move away from the regional politics and horse-trading that characterized the now-defunct UN Human Rights Commission, which allowed for the selection of members in regional blocs.

"The election of the new Human Rights Council is a golden opportunity to start afresh, putting human rights at the heart of the Council's work -- precisely where they should be," said Macpherson. "The new Council will only be as good as its membership. Any future criticism of the Council on the part of member states will ring hollow if they fail to elect those members that have demonstrated a commitment to work seriously and objectively to promote and protect human rights at home and around the world."

Elections to the Human Rights Council will take place through secret balloting, with candidates being voted on individually by all members of the General Assembly -- rather than without a vote as members of regional slates in ECOSOC. Candidates must attain a full majority of the General Assembly (96 votes) to win a seat.

Operative paragraph 8 of General Assembly A/60/25 establishing the Human Rights Council requires that "when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto."

Candidate countries and pledges are listed on the UN website for the Human Rights Council elections at http://www.un.org/ga/60/elect/hrc/. Not all candidate countries have posted their candidacies and voluntary pledges. In the spirit of the genuine election required by resolution A/60/251, Amnesty International calls on all candidate countries to do so.


AI Index: IOR 40/012/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 097
Date: 19 April 2006 00:01 GMT