Press Releases

    Background Release

    HR/CT/611
    15 October 2001

    HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE TO HOLD SEVENTY-THIRD
    SESSION IN GENEVA FROM 15 OCTOBER TO 2 NOVEMBER 2001

    Experts to Examine Reports of Ukraine, United Kingdom,
    Switzerland, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan

    (Reissued as received.)


    GENEVA, 12 October (UN Information Service) -- Reports submitted by the Governments of Ukraine, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will be considered by the Human Rights Committee at its seventy-third session, to be held at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 15 October to 2 November 2001.

    The opening meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, 15 October, when the Committee members will adopt their programme of work. Under organizational and other matters, the experts will consider the report of its newly established pre-sessional working group, as well as working methods. The Committee will also discuss follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism which was held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.

    According to the provisional timetable, the Committee will examine the fifth periodic report of Ukraine on 15 and 16 October; the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom and its overseas Territories on 17 and 18 October; the second periodic report of Switzerland on 19 October; the second periodic report of Afghanistan on 23 and 24 October; and the second periodic report of Azerbaijan on 26 October.

    The countries presenting reports are among the 148 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 Optional Protocol to the Covenant, 98 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 282 cases. One hundred and ninety-four communications are pending before the Committee.

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

    At this session, the Committee may begin consideration of a draft general comment on article 2 concerning the provision of effective remedies for violations of the Covenant.

    Concluding Observations on Last Reports Submitted by
    Countries Whose Reports Will Be Taken Up This Session

    When it reviewed the fourth periodic report of Ukraine in July 1995, the Committee expressed its satisfaction as to the fundamental and positive changes which had recently taken place in Ukraine, noting that these changes would create a better political, constitutional and legal framework for the full implementation of the rights enshrined in the Covenant. Among principal subjects of concern, the Committee said it was concerned about discrimination against women and the persistence of gender disparities, as well as about the increase in the number of death sentences and the inhumane circumstances in which those sentences are carried out. The Committee emphasized that steps should be taken to strengthen recourse procedures for victims of police abuse and detained persons.

    In its final observations on the fourth periodic report of the United Kingdom, reviewed in July 1995, the Committee acknowledged the efforts of the State party to combat racial and ethnic discrimination. Improvements in the prison system were also welcomed. Concerning Northern Ireland, the Committee noted that, despite the recent ceasefire and political negotiations, the lack of a final political solution and the continuation of emergency legislation presented difficulties affecting full implementation of the Covenant. The Committee strongly recommended that the State party take urgent steps to ensure that its legal machinery allowed for the full implementation of the Covenant. The State party was also urged to take further action to tackle remaining problems of racial and ethnic discrimination and of social exclusion.

    With regards to the initial report of Switzerland, which was considered in October 1996, the Committee noted with satisfaction that the Covenant formed an integral part of the Swiss legal system, and welcomed the introduction into the Federal Penal Code of a provision for the punishment of incitement to racial, ethnic or religious discrimination or hatred or to acts of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination. Principal subjects of concern included Switzerland’s reservations on the Covenant and the numerous allegations of ill-treatment in the course of arrests or police custody, particularly in respect of foreign nationals or Swiss citizens of foreign origin. The Committee recommended that measures should be taken by the authorities to combat discrimination against women in practice and that all necessary measures should be taken to ensure that accused persons were not detained for several days in police premises.

    In its concluding observations on the initial report of Afghanistan, reviewed in July 1985, the Committee expressed gratitude to the representative of Afghanistan for his explanations, but regretted that the report and the representative’s statement referred only to the Constitution and to legal texts. The Committee welcomed the offer of the representative to request additional information from his Government for submission to the Committee so that it could learn more about the actual situation in the country, as well as about the practical application of the measures that had been introduced and the difficulties that were being faced. The Committee had scheduled to review the second report of Afghanistan in October 1995, but decided to postpone its consideration because it was impossible for the Afghan delegation to come to Geneva. A representative of Afghanistan said that the situation in the country was very difficult.

    And in its final conclusions on the initial report of Azerbaijan, considered in July 1994, the Committee took note of the efforts of the Government to include human rights in its new Constitution, to adopt new human rights legislation and to ensure the rule of law. Principal subjects of concern included the lack of clarity regarding the resolution of possible conflicts between the Covenant and national law. The Committee deeply deplored the events which had occurred recently in Azerbaijan in the context of the armed conflict and urged the Government to put an end to the gross violations of human rights which had occurred and continued to occur, and to conduct investigations into them, to punish the persons found guilty of such acts and to compensate the victims.

    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 148 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, 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, Ghana, 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 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 98 States are parties to the 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, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, 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 this 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 45 States have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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); Maurice Glele Ahanhanzo (Benin); Louis Henkin (United States); Eckart Klein (Germany); David Kretzmer (Israel); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Cecilia Medina Quiroga (Chile); Rafael Rivas Posada (Colombia); Nigel Rodley (United Kingdom); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Ivan Shearer (Australia); Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen (Argentine); Ahmed Tawfik Khalil (Egypt); Patrick Vella (Malta); and Maxwell Yalden (Canada).

    Mr. Bhagwati is Chairperson of the Committee. Mr. Kretzmer and Mr. Yrigoyen are Vice-Chairpersons; and Mr. Klein is the Rapporteur.

    * *** *