HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE HEARS ANNUAL PROGRESS
NEW YORK, 4 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Human Rights Committee met this morning to discuss its methods of work, hearing the presentation of the annual report of its Special Rapporteur concerned with follow-up on cases in which the Committee has considered allegations from individuals of human rights violations.
The Committee monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its related Protocols in the territory of the States parties. Its 18 members -- independent experts -- are 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 Covenant’s First Optional Protocol a number of States have recognized the competence of the Committee to consider communications from individuals regarding alleged violations of human rights. Following such considerations, the Committee issues concluding views on observations to address the claims and provides States a deadline for follow-up information. The Special Rapporteur picks up the cases thereafter.
The progress report of Nisuke Ando, this year’s Special Rapporteur includes information on 161 cases filed by individuals residing within 36 States parties. He gave a brief overview of how a follow-up mechanism within the Committee had been created, noting that a preparatory stage for the Rapporteur’s work had taken place from 1990 to 1995. In July 1995, the Committee began highlighting the follow-up of views in its annual report. A special chapter was assigned to it and cases were separated into country-specific lists, which also included how those countries had implemented measures on final views.
He went on to highlight several positive follow-up replies that had been received during the reporting period, including information provided by Nicaragua, Netherlands, Ireland and Finland. Each State was responding to views expressed by the Committee on such individual communications of human rights violations. He added that he had also met with the representatives of seven States parties to discuss follow-up initiatives: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Togo.
As roughly 30 per cent of the Committee’s recommendations had been implemented, he said, the bulk of the report focused on cases in which no or incomplete information had been received. He suggested that the Committee consider making the information in the Report more widely available, perhaps through the Web site of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Following Mr. Ando’s presentation, the Committee’s experts commented on the progress report and several emphasized how important follow-up measures were to ensuring the protection and promotion of individual human rights. Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen, of Argentina said follow-up was a fundamental part of the Committee’s work, allowing decisions to be implemented.
However, another expert, Eckart Klein of Germany, said the report was less a follow-up progress report than a follow-up "non-progress" report. He noted that the Committee’s views had been implemented at a rate of about 25 to 30 per cent, and during the last few years, little progress had been made. It was frequently unclear how the Committee’s views and communications affected the future behaviour of States parties. He wondered if the Committees’ recommendations often ended up forgotten, stuffed in the back drawer of some government official. There should therefore be a procedure for pressing States parties -- particularly when their representatives appeared before the Committee -- on how their governments had responded to the Committee’s views.
That view was echoed by several other experts, who called for the creation of a mechanism that would enable the Committee to see how States parties actually put its recommendations and judgements into effect. While they realized there was no legal obligation to introduce such a procedure, it was necessary to provide States with a mechanism to examine views separately. Otherwise, the Committee’s recommendations would be of little value.
Alfred de Zayas, Senior Human Rights Officer, Coordinator of the Petitions Team for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said discussions on the issue of creating model enabling legislation that would make it easier for States to implement the views and recommendations of international monitoring bodies were indeed under way within the United Nations system and the wider humanitarian community. He noted, in particular, the relevant efforts within the context of Inter–American Commission on Human Rights and the European Human Rights Commission. The Committee should make clear to States that much more could be done.
Abdelfattah Amore of Tunisia cautioned, however, that neither the Optional Protocol, nor the Covenant itself, provided the means for the Committee to establish a mechanism to implement its decisions. Legally, he did not think such an end could be achieved. Implementation would depend on the nature of each case. Various procedures would need to be applied. States should be told to implement the Committee’s decisions in good faith. He added that implementation would depend on whether States believed that the Committee’s interpretation of claims was well-founded. The Committee should always adopt the best-founded position. If it did not, States could choose their own interpretation of events and refuse to follow the Committee’s pronouncements.
Also during the discussion, other experts highlighted the need to make the Committee’s work public. Not only legal experts, but States should be made aware of the Committee’s position on the questions it examined. Nigel Rodley of the United Kingdom said the Committee should explore how individual views on cases could be made public in a media-friendly way to attract attention. He suggested that Committee members prepare texts for the media and then hand them over to the Department of Public Information for professional review. Maxwell Yalden of Canada echoed that view, stressing that the Committee must gain media attention itself; one of the experts could even brief the press on each case.
The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced. On Friday, 5 April, it is expected to conclude the New York phase of its 2002 substantive work.
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