Human Rights Council: UN reform at risk

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15 Mar 2007
[International Secretariat]
Topic: International human rights law
(Geneva) -- On the occasion of the fourth session of the HumanRights Council, human rights NGOs reaffirmed clearly today theirsupport for the Special Procedures in the face of serious challengesby governments. Without independent and objective experts, theability of the UN -- in particular the Human Rights Council -- torespond to violations will be severely compromised.
In UN General Assembly's resolution 60/251 establishing the HumanRights Council member states decided that "the Council shall assume,review and, where necessary, improve and rationalize all mandates,mechanisms, functions and responsibilities of the Commission on HumanRights in order to maintain a system of special procedures, expertadvice and a complaint procedure”" The United Nations Human RightsCouncil's special rapporteurs and representatives, independent expertsand working groups -- collectively known as the "Special Procedures"-- are among the most innovative, flexible and responsive toolscreated by the UN to promote and protect human rights.

However, in Council discussions since the Council first met in June2006, certain states tried to restrain special rapporteurs, forinstance by introducing a "code of conduct". Despite the clear needfor the Human Rights Council to strengthen the Special Procedures,several states are instead proposing changes that would cripple theability of Special Procedures to promote and protect human rightseffectively. Those states are disregarding the harm that such measureswould do to the men, women and children whose human rights areviolated every day in all parts of the world, and who look to theSpecial Procedures to intervene on their behalf in defense oftheir rights.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, la Federationinternationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH),l'Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT) andForum Asia today reaffirmed in Geneva the importance ofthe Special Procedures and the need not only to maintainthem, but to reinforce them.

"A strong UN needs a strong Human Rights Council. And a strongCouncil needs a strong system of independent experts who are ableto monitor effectively, respond rapidly and inform the Council ofhuman rights violations throughout the world without politicalinterference or intimidation. Victims and rights-holders deserveno less," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

"The special procedures are the most important legacy from theCommission to the Human Rights Council. They must be furtherstrengthened, not undermined," said Reed Brody, spokespersonfor Human Rights Watch.

"If the implementation of human rights requires politicalintervention, the assessment of their respect and the conformityof action at the national level with standards and internationalcustomary law should only be dealt with by experts who areindependent, professionally qualified and free to act withintheir mandate", said Anne-Laurence Lacroix, Deputy Director ofOMCT.

"One of the reason to upgrade the human rights system in the UNreform was to give human rights more visibility and importance in theUN system, therefore when states refuse to cooperate in the area ofhuman rights, this should also be of concern to the Security Councilin the same way the Security Council discusses lack of cooperationwhen a state doesn't meet its nuclear obligations," said Simia Ahmadi,FIDH representative at the UN in Geneva.

The "Etats generaux" on Human Rights invites all NGOs representativesattending the 2007 Human Rights Council to a discussion of NGO demandsfor the special procedures on Thursday 22th of March. 18:00 to 20:00,location to be determined.

BackgroundThe "Etats generaux" on Human Rights is an initiative of the GenevaFilm Festival on Human Rights (FIFDH) and was formally establishedin early 2006. The aim is to offer a platform to all persons andorganizations actively engaged in the defense of human dignity andfundamental rights. Most Geneva-based international organizationsthat actively promote human rights are part of it. The overall aimis to give a stronger voice to civil society as well as to nationaland international NGOs in Geneva.

To see the online petition supporting the Special Procedures, pleasego to

15 March 2007
AI Index:IOR 41/006/2007