HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONCLUDES WORK OF
Reports of Gambia, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Yemen, Republic of Moldova
NEW YORK, 5 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its seventy-fourth session –- held at Headquarters from to 18 March to 6 April. The 18 expert members began the day continuing their exchange of views on working methods, and ultimately decided to create a Country Report Task Force to help streamline procedures related to the Committee’s primary task: monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
During this session, the Committee considered the reports of Hungary, Sweden and Georgia. Those countries had submitted their reports and sent Government delegations to appear before the Committee to answer questions relating to their obligations as States parties to the Covenant. The Committee, as a monitoring body, periodically examines reports on measures adopted and progress made in achieving observance of the rights enshrined in the Covenant, and subsequently formulates observations and recommendations.
The Committee’s chief decision today would create a team of experts to focus on the most relevant problems facing a State party whose report was under examination. Once established, each Country Report Task Force (CRTF) would consist of five or six Committee members, including at least one member from the region and the relevant country rapporteur. The Committee agreed that all members could take part in Task Force discussions, but would be asked to do so following CRTF deliberations. It also determined that the CRTF would generally take over the function of pre-session working groups, but that mechanism would be preserved in case of need.
Also this morning, acting Committee Chairman David Kretzmer of Israel announced the decisions of the Bureau, noting that during the Committee’s upcoming July session –- to be held in Geneva from 8-26 July -– the experts would consider the reports of New Zealand, Yemen and Republic of Moldova. The Committee would also consider the reports of the Gambia and Viet Nam, which had been postponed from the current session.
Mr. Kretzmer also said the Bureau had set the deadlines for submission of reports of the States parties examined during this session. The deadline for the submission of Georgia’s third periodic report was 1 April 2006, the deadline for the sixth periodic report of Sweden was 1 April 2007, and Hungary’s fifth periodic report was due by 1 April 2007.
The Bureau’s other decisions included setting a deadline of 15 May 2002, for the submission of articles written by Committee members for inclusion in a proposed bound volume to commemorate the Committee’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It also decided to set a deadline for the submission of members’ individual opinions on specific cases -- three weeks from the time the Committee’s final decision was issued.
Summing up the Committee’s work, Chairman Prafullachandra Bhagwati said the seventy-fourth session was the first that had disposed of so many communications, making it the most productive in history. Only five communications, of the original 29, awaited consideration during the July session. He added that the Committee looked forward to a strengthening of its follow-up mandate and more concrete results from States parties. The Committee had examined three country reports, with Viet Nam and the Gambia being postponed until the next session. It had adopted a record 24 decisions under the Optional Protocol, including one admissible, two inadmissible, two under rule 91, and 19 follow-up views on case recommendations.
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. There are 148 States party to the Covenant, and China, Guinea-Bissau, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Nauru, São Tome and Principe and Turkey are 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. There are 99 States party to the Optional Protocol, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Nauru and São Tome and Principe are signatories of the Protocol.
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, 48 States have made the declaration under article 41.
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. There are 44 States party to the Second Optional Protocol, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Poland and São Tome and Principe are also signatories of the Protocol.
The Human Rights 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.
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. There are currently 215 such cases pending. In accordance with the provisions of the Protocol and the Committee's rules of procedure, consideration of such communications will take place in closed meetings.
The Committee's 18 expert members are: Abdelfattah Amor, of Tunisia (Vice-Chairperson); Nisuke Ando, of Japan; Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati, of India (Chairperson of the Committee); Christine Chanet, of France; Maurice Glèlè Ahanhanzo, of Benin; Louis Henkin, of the United States; Eckart Klein, of Germany (Vice-Chairperson); David Kretzmer, of Israel; Rajsoomer Lallah, of Mauritius; Cecilia Medina Quiroga, of Chile; Rafael Rivas Posada, of Colombia; Nigel Rodley, of the United Kingdom; Martin Scheinin, of Finland; Ivan Shearer, of Australia; Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen, of Argentina (Vice Chairperson); Ahmed Gwafik Khalil, of Egypt; Patrick Vella, of Malta; and Maxwell Yalden, of Canada.
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