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    Press Release No:   UNIS/HR/155
    Release Date:   10 March 2000
    Human Rights Committee to Hold Sixty-eighth Session
    At Headquarters from 13-31 March

    Committee Will Consider Reports
    By Republic of Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, United Kingdom and Venezuela
     

     NEW YORK, 9 March (UN Headquarters) -- Reports submitted by the Governments of the Republic of the Congo, Guyana, Mongolia, United Kingdom and Venezuela on their implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will be considered by the Human Rights Committee at its sixty-eighth session, which will be held at Headquarters from 13 to 31 March.

     The five countries presenting reports are among the 144 States parties to the International Covenant.  The Committee, as a monitoring body, periodically examines reports submitted by States parties on their promotion and protection of civil and political rights.  Representatives of those governments will introduce their country reports and respond to oral and written questions from the Committee's 18 members, who are elected by States parties and serve in their personal capacity.

     The Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the Covenant and its related Protocols in the territory of the States parties.  Its 18 members -- independent experts -- are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights and serve for a period of four years.  The Committee meets three times a year for three-week sessions, which are normally held in March at Headquarters in New York, and in July and November at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

     The Committee is empowered to consider reports on measures adopted and progress made in achieving the observance of the rights enshrined in the Covenant.  In addition, under the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant, a number of States have recognized the competence of the Committee to consider communications from individuals regarding alleged violations of human rights.

     According to the provisional agenda, the Committee will take up the second periodic report of Congo on 13 March, the fourth periodic report of the United Kingdom (Jersey, Isle of Man) on 17 March and the third periodic report of Venezuela on 20 March.  Also, it will consider the fourth periodic report of Mongolia on 22 March and the second report of Guyana on 24 March.

     Under the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the Committee will also consider communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights proclaimed in the Covenant.  In accordance with the provisions of the Protocol and the Committee's rules of procedure, all such communications are considered in closed meetings.

     In addition, during its current session, the Committee will resume its consideration of the second reading of the draft general comment on article 3, which addresses the equal right of men and women to enjoy all civil and political rights set forth in the Covenant.  The Committee will also consider the first reading of the draft general comment on article 4, which pertains to the scope of limitations on human rights during a state of emergency or martial law.

     The Committee is also expected to:  elect a chairperson and other officers; adopt its agenda and other organizational matters; and consider action by the General Assembly on the Committee's annual report and on the effective implementation of United Nations instruments on human rights and effective functioning of bodies pursuant to such instruments.

     Background on Covenant  

     The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, its corresponding Optional Protocol and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were adopted by the General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and opened for signature.  They came into force on 23 March 1976.

     The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights begins by stating that all peoples have the right to self-determination.  It recognizes that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  It prohibits torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment, and the arbitrary deprivation of life.  Anyone arrested is to be informed of the reason for the arrest, and anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is to be brought promptly before a judge or other legally authorized person.

     The Covenant also provides, among other things, for freedom of movement and places limitations upon the expulsion of aliens lawfully present in the territory of a State party.  In addition, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression are recognized by the Covenant, which also prohibits any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial and religious hatred.

     The following 144 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant:  Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan and Jordan.

     Also Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

     Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe are also signatories of the Covenant.

     First Optional Protocol to Covenant

     The First Optional Protocol provides for the confidential consideration of communications from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation of any of the rights proclaimed in the Covenant.  No communications can be received by the Committee if it concerns a State party to the Covenant that is not also a party to the Optional Protocol.

     The following 95 States are parties to the Optional Protocol:  Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece and Guinea.

     Also Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zambia.

     Second Optional Protocol to Covenant

     The Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991.

     The following 42 States have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol:  Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

     Honduras and Nicaragua are also signatories of the Second Optional Protocol.

     Membership of Committee

     The Committee's 18 expert members are:  Abdelfattah Amor, of Tunisia; Nisuke Ando, of Japan; Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati, of India; Louis Henkin, of the United States; Christine Chanet, of France; Lord Colville, of the United Kingdom; Elizabeth Evatt, of Australia; Pilar Gaitan de Pombo, of Colombia; Eckart Klein, of Germany; David Kretzmer, of Israel; Rajsoomer Lallah, of Mauritius; Cecilia Medina Quiroga, of Chile; Fausto Pocar, of Italy; Martin Scheinin, of Finland; Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen, of Argentina; Roman Wieruszewski, of Poland; Maxwell Yalden, of Canada; and Abdallah Zahkia, of Lebanon.

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