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      Press Release No: UNIS/HR/159
    Background Release Release Date: 10 July 2000
    Human Rights Committee to Hold Sixty-ninth Session at Geneva
    From 10 to 28 July

    Experts to Examine Reports of Kyrgyzstan, Ireland, Kuwait and Australia

    (Reissued as received.)

     GENEVA, 7 July (UN Information Service) -- Reports submitted by the Governments of Kyrgyzstan, Ireland, Kuwait and Australia on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will be considered by the Human Rights Committee at its sixty-ninth session, to be held at the Palais Wilson at Geneva from 10 to 28 July.

     The opening meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. on 10 July when the Committee members will adopt their programme of work.  According to the provisional timetable, the Committee will examine the initial report of Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday, 11 July; the second report of Ireland on Thursday, 13 July; the initial report of Kuwait on Tuesday, 18 July; and the third and fourth reports of Australia on Thursday, 20 July.

     The countries presenting reports are among the 145 States parties to the Covenant which was adopted in 1966 by the General Assembly.  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 by the Committee’s 18 members, who serve in their personal capacity.

     Under the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant, 95 States parties recognize the competence of the Committee to consider confidential communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any rights proclaimed under the treaty.  Since the procedure began in 1977, the Committee has found violations in more than 250 cases.  One hundred and eighty-four communications are pending before the Committee.

     In addition, the Committee will have before it summaries of a number of recently registered communications and summaries of new communications registered after its last session, together with an indication of any action which may have been taken by the Special Rapporteur on new communications.

     Forty-four States parties have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty.

     Concluding Observations on Last Reports Submitted by Ireland and Australia

     In its concluding observations on the second periodic report of Ireland, adopted in July 1993, the Committee noted with satisfaction the State party's efforts to review existing legislation and policy in a number of key areas covered by the Covenant.  The Committee expressed its concern over the status of the Covenant in the domestic legal order and the lack of clarity concerning the resolution of possible conflicts between the Covenant and domestic legislation.  It also expressed special concern over the continuation of the state of emergency and the wide discretionary powers generally accorded to law enforcement officials, particularly in view of the increased number of complaints of abuse.  The Committee strongly recommended that the State party critically examine the need for the existing state of emergency and that the wide discretionary powers afforded to the police should be reviewed in the light of the Covenant and of the State party's dialogue with the Committee.  

     Following its consideration of the second periodic report of Australia in April 1988, the members of the Committee expressed appreciation to the delegation, noting that the Committee’s dialogue with the delegation had been satisfactory from every point of view.  Several members expressed their great appreciation for the vigour with which the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission was carrying out its mandate.  The Committee felt that the creation of institutions such as the Commission could also prove invaluable to other countries in their efforts to promote equality of opportunity for disadvantaged and minority groups.  The Committee noted that the situation of the Aboriginal people in Australia continued to present a real problem and welcomed the fact that the Government had frankly acknowledged the persistence of many difficulties in that regard and was endeavouring to deal with them.

    Background on Covenant

     The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the General Assembly and opened for signature in 1966, together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Both entered into force in 1976.

     The Civil and Political Rights Covenant begins by stating that all peoples have the right of 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 reasons 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 present lawfully in the territory of a State party.  In addition, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and to freedom of expression are recognized by the Covenant, which also prohibits any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred.

    States Parties to Covenant

     The following 145 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, 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, Jordan, Kazakhstan, 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 Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    Optional Protocols to Covenant

     The First Optional Protocol to the Covenant provides for the confidential consideration of communications from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation of any 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 First Optional Protocol: 

    Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, 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, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, 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.               

     The Human Rights Committee is also mandated, under article 41 of the Covenant, to consider communications from a State party alleging violations of the Covenant’s provisions by another State party.  This procedure can be applied when both States recognize that competence of the Committee by a relevant declaration.

     So far, 47 States have made the declaration under article 41.  They are: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Congo, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.

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

    Membership of Committee

     The Committee's 18 expert members, who serve in their individual capacity, are elected by the State parties to the Covenant for four-year terms.  Article 28 of the Covenant requires that "they shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights".

     They are:  Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia); Nisuke Ando (Japan); Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati (India); Christine Chanet (France); Lord Colville (United Kingdom); Elizabeth Evatt (Australia); Pilar Gaitan de Pombo (Colombia); Louis Henkin (United States); Eckart Klein (Germany); David Kretzmer (Israel); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Cecilia Medina Quiroga (Chile); Fausto Pocar (Italy); Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen (Argentine); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Roman Wieruszewski (Poland); Maxwell Yalden (Canada); and Abdallah Zakhia (Lebanon).

     Ms. Medina Quiroga is Chairperson of the session while Ms. Evatt, Mr. Bhagwati and Mr. Amor are Vice-Chairpersons.  Lord Colville is Rapporteur.  Mr. Kretzmer is the Special Rapporteur for new communications, and Ms. Chanet is the Special Rapporteur for follow-up.

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