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Human Rights Committee adopts Annual Report and discusses methods of work

Human Rights Committee

21 March 2017

The Human Rights Committee this morning held a public meeting in which it discussed the draft annual report and its methods of work.

MARGO WATERVAL, Committee Rapporteur, started with the examination of the annual report of the Human Rights Committee, underlining that it was comprised of three parts: jurisdiction and activities; methods of work under article 40 of the Covenant and cooperation with other United Nations bodies; and submission of reports by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant. 

In an initial comment, an Expert regretted that the jurisprudence part was only available in English.  The Experts commented on the general problem of translation of the documents.

The Rapporteur presented the first part of the report, related to jurisdiction and activities of the Committee, focusing on the points that stressed the need for additional resources, the Committee’s working methods, and the way it dealt with communications.   In the discussion that followed, Experts requested a reference to the new grading system to be added, along with the updated figures.  They also asked that a more representative number of cases treated by the Committee in terms of follow-up procedures be included.  Following an earlier decision to publish all of the communications, the Secretariat informed that, as of January 2017, the publication would regularly take place for the cases registered.  In terms of publicity for the work of the Committee, Experts agreed that the media strategy was not yet robust and that further efforts should be made in what concerns media and social media coverage.

Turning to the second part of the Report, Ms.  Waterval presented the methods of work of the Committee under article 40 of the Covenant, and referred to the Committee’s cooperation with other United Nations bodies.  She presented all the adopted guidelines, reports and papers; those concerned, amongst others, the reporting procedures for States parties, and the public awareness campaign on the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  She also mentioned the links of the Committee with other bodies, such as the Committee on Enforces Disappearances and the judges from the European Court of Human Rights.  Following a discussion, the Committee decided to remove parts related to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures, and those referring to the cooperation with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Ms.  Waterval moved to the third part of the report, on submission of reports by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, which listed the reports submitted to the Secretary-General  from April 2015 to 31 March 2016, the overdue reports and non-compliance by State parties with their obligation under article 40, as well as the periodicity with respect to States parties’ reports examined during the period under review. 

After agreeing on a few clarifications, the Committee proceeded to adopt the report as amended.

SARAH CLEVELAND, Committee Member and Rapporteur on the Follow-Up to Concluding Observations, alerted the Committee on an erratum in the Follow-up to Concluding Observations report on the Russian Federation adopted on 20 March 2017, suggesting to re-open the follow-up dialogue with the State party.  The amendment was accepted by the Committee.

Turning to the methods of work, YUVAL SHANY, Committee Member, started by reporting on the meeting of the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), in which he had participated with the Committee Chairman on 9 March.  The Expert mentioned that the meeting was attended by several members of the treaty bodies and representatives of the National Human Rights Institutions and institutions from around the world.  The main themes of the meeting were the need of the treaty bodies to support the National Human Rights Institutions by using their authority to ensure that those could work independently and without reprisal, and the practical modalities of the involvement of those institutions in discussions with the Committee.  Mr. Shany reported on the different modalities of work of the National Human Rights Institutions and their frustration to achieve their objectives, often related to the difficulties to obtain the information relevant to them.

In the ensuing discussion, Experts underlined the need to increase the visibility of the Committee and to allow more time to the National Human Rights Institutions in their discussions with the Committee.  They suggested to establish an amicus curiae process, which would allow a more informal and facilitated interaction with the institutions.

The Committee then moved to the International Law Commission (ILC) report.  The Chairperson reminded there had been a good cooperation between the Commission and the treaty bodies in the past.  The Commission had started working on a subsequent agreement related to interpretation practices in 2012 and adopted its draft conclusions in August 2016.  The Chairperson proceeded to the first reading of those, and invited the Members of the Committee to comment.  Particular interest was given to the part related to the pronouncements of the treaty bodies; Experts noted that the Commission did not entirely recognise the legal value of those.  Underlining the authority of the Committee in the interpretation of the Covenant, Experts suggested to engage with the International Law Commission.  The Chairperson agreed to send a letter explaining the Committee’s views and expressing its concerns, and inviting the Commission Special Rapporteur for a discussion. 

OLIVIER DE FROUVILLE, Committee Member, informed the Committee on his participation in a seminar on the right to participate in public affairs which had taken place on 18 May 2016.  Mr.  de Frouville’s presentation had focused on the General Comment 25 and the issues related to its possible update.  Indeed, many countries and non-governmental organizations had stressed that the current formulation of General Comment 25 was not reflecting the progress made in that aspect, including the jurisprudence of the committees, and still allowed the possibility to deny political rights based on individual’s disability.  Mr.  de Frouville underlined his scepticism towards modifying General Comment 25 in the short-term, given other pending activities of the Committee, however he suggested that some parts or aspects could be updated.  The Committee was expected to express a statement on such matters.

YUJI IWASAVA, Committee Chairperson,  reminded that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had requested in the past a general comment from the Human Rights Committee on the right to vote.  Since 2013, there was a new formulation, which appeared initially in the concluding observations of the Hong-Kong report.  Thus, the Committee had in effect modified the General Comment.  In the discussion that followed, Experts stressed the importance of General Comments for external audiences.  Noting that there were other points in General Comments that could be updated, Experts suggested that the Committee could think more creatively of all the tools available. 

The Committee will next meet in public tomorrow, 22 March at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the draft General Comment on article 6 – right to life. 
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For use of the information media; not an official record

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