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Human Rights Council Advisory Committee adopts two action points and concludes tenth session

Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

22 February 2013

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this morning adopted two action points on new mandates and on human rights and issues related to hostage-taking, and adopted the report of its tenth session to the Human Rights Council ad referendum before concluding the session.

The Advisory Committee adopted an action point in which it expressed its serious concern regarding its current lack of new mandates.  The Advisory Committee encouraged those members who had presented research proposals to engage, as from the date of the Council’s decision to confer a mandate on the Committee, in a preliminary drafting process in respect of the relevant mandates, together with other interested members of the Committee.

The Advisory Committee also adopted an action point on human rights issues related to terrorist hostage-taking, requesting the drafting group to finalise the report on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking and submit it to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session.

The draft report of the tenth session of the Advisory Committee was adopted ad referendum.

Members of the Committee also considered a proposal to prepare a letter to be sent separately to the President of the Human Rights Council and the Regional Coordinators, reflecting concerns about the lack of new mandates, which were necessary to achieve the aims of the Council, the Committee and the international human rights system. 

The following Committee members took the floor in concluding remarks: Imeru Tamrat Yigezu, Saeed Mohamed Al Faihani, Katharina Pabel, Mario L. Coriolano, Cecilia Rachel V. Quisumbing, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Anantonia Reyes Prado, Anantonia Reyes Prado, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Latif Hüseynov, and Laurence Boisson de Chazournes.

Giuliano Comba, Head of the Universal Periodic Review Unit at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also spoke in concluding remarks.

Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, in closing remarks warmly thanked everyone who had helped behind the scenes to carry out the work, in what had been a fluid cooperation. 

The next session of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will take place from 12 to 16 August 2013.

Action Taken by the Advisory Committee

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, said that the Committee would look at the report of the tenth session, at two action points, then at an initiative by Ms. Quisumbing that would propose language for a brief letter to be sent to the Bureau of the Council and the Regional Coordinators about the meeting last Wednesday, reiterating main points.  If this was agreed upon, it should go out in a few days.  The Committee would then look at its own work and members would be invited to share their views and provide feedback.

New Mandates

OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee, said that this proposed action point on new mandates basically recorded an agreement of the Committee to express to the Human Rights Council a serious concern about the current lack of new mandates to further its work on various thematic issues, as well as its agreement that once the Human Rights Council decided in May or June to confer a mandate or mandates, the members may then commence preliminary work immediately and not wait for the August session in order to allow for substantive work to be done.  The proposal also expressed the agreement encouraging members to work on any new mandate in the inter-sessional period that may come from the Human Rights Council from any other themes than those proposed from the Council and again not wait for the August session.  Also recorded was the agreement that the members that would or may commence work in the inter-sessional period between now and August on either mandates proposed to the Human Rights Council or any mandate whatsoever the Council would decided to confer and share their preliminary work on these at the August session. 

The Advisory Committee adopted the action point stating that at its ninth meeting, held on 22 February 2013, it had expressed its serious concern regarding its current lack of new mandates.  Recalling the provision of paragraph 39 of Human Rights Council resolution 16/21 on inter-sessional work between members, the Advisory Committee encouraged those members who had presented research proposals, referred to in action 9/1 (contained in A/HRC/AC/9/6), to engage, as from the date of the Council’s decision to confer a mandate on the Committee, in a preliminary drafting process in respect of the relevant mandates, together with other interested members of the Committee. The Advisory Committee also encouraged interested members of the Committee to engage in a preliminary drafting process as from the date of any decision by the Council to confer on the Committee new mandates on any other themes.  The Advisory Committee further encouraged those members concerned, to share with the Committee at its eleventh session the result of their preliminary work on these mandates. 

The text was adopted by consensus.


Human Rights and Issues Related to Terrorist Hostage-Taking

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, said the second action point was on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking.  The Committee adopted the text by consensus.  On the draft report of the tenth session, would this be adopted?  It would be finalised by the Rapporteur with the assistance of the Secretariat to reflect today’s proceedings.

The Advisory Committee adopted a text on human rights issues related to terrorist hostage-taking.  At its ninth meeting, held on 22 February 2013, recalling Council resolutions 18/10 of 29 September 2011 and 21/18 of October 2012, the Advisory Committee requested the drafting group to finalise the report on human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking and submit it to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session.

The text was adopted by consensus.

Draft Report of the Session

OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee, introducing the draft report of the tenth session, said it was quite unique due to challenges in terms of the lack of new mandates, yet there had been very interesting and intensive discussions in the plenary and closed meetings.  All benefitted from the exchange and interaction with the vice-chair and the dialogue with representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other subsidiary bodies of the Council.  The draft was a work in progress, containing a procedural description of work up until yesterday afternoon’s meeting.  The proceedings of today’s meeting would be reflected in the final report, along with the action taken by the Committee and would be shared electronically on Monday.  Mr. Okafor thanked Mr. Heinz for his excellent dedication and acknowledged the cooperation and support of other members of the Committee, the Secretariat, as well as participants and their continuing commitment to the advancement of human rights.

The report was adopted ad referendum. 

Draft Letter on Lack of New Mandates

CECILIA RACHEL V. QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said that a central theme of the session this week was the serious concern about the lack of new mandates.  There had been very constructive and frank discussions with the President of the Human Rights Council and the Regional Coordinators in separate private meetings and that was a reflection of a further deepening of the interaction and cooperation between the Committee and the Council leadership through the regional bureaus.  In January 2011 Committee members had felt another procedural and institutional gap, that they were not really involved in the final review of the Council and its mechanisms and engaged in discussions.   A letter was sent requesting that mandates be clearer.  Because of the success of that process she proposed that the same be done with this concern and for a letter to be sent to the Regional Coordinators and the President of the Council separately.   Some talking points that would be included would be the expression of appreciation, highlighting the continuing building of cooperation, the meetings with Member States, an expression of concern about the lack of mandates and that these were necessary to achieve the aims of the Council, the Committee and the international human rights system. 

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, understood there would be some form of draft shared electronically.  Would members like to have a letter of that kind?

DHEERUJLAL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, wondered why this letter could not be finalised this morning.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, said that yes this could be done if there was support for the letter.

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, highly appreciated the efforts of colleagues to draw attention to this issue.  Tremendous efforts had been made to draw the Council’s attention to the importance of the Committee and the work it was doing.  The note that should be taken was one of sober reflection.  The desire could be communicated to the Council, without overemphasising.  A rather sober working report should be sent. 

IMERU TAMRAT YIGEZU, Committee Expert, also supported the initiative taken.  It would be good to keep a record of concerns and he fully supported this initiative.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, said the Committee would later meet to discuss this in private.  Mr. Heinz then invited new members to share their observations on this meeting, if they wished to. 

Concluding Remarks

IMERU TAMRAT YIGEZU, Committee Expert, said it was a pleasure and honour to be elected as a member of the Advisory Committee.  The lack of mandates was a challenge but also had given an opportunity to engage with the Bureau, regional groups, the Council and given a sense of the atmosphere in which it was working.  Members of the Committee came from different cultural and academic expertise, bringing different perspectives from which a lot could be learned.  He appreciated the way the President had led the session. 

SAEED MOHAMED AL FAIHANI, Vice-Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, thanked Mr. Heinz for presiding and directing the Committee’s work.  It had been a useful five days of work.  At the same time, when he had first come to the Committee he had thought there would be a heavy agenda.  However, he had been struck that the Committee was facing a problem of mandates, though he was not sure why, as it was part of the human rights system.  If mandates were not given, it would be felt that the whole system was not working well, which was undesirable.
 
KATHARINA PABEL, Committee Expert, said that there been an open atmosphere and that she had felt welcomed.  Ms. Pabel had the impression that it was a stage of institution-finding and process building.  It was a bit difficult to understand why a body that was meant to be a think tank needed to look for support to do this.  It would rely on its function as an advisory body, and its independence should be kept very carefully.  Because of the specific situation, not much work was done on real human rights topics, but the presentation of proposals of studies was a good basis to get into a running process.  Discussion of topics had been open and friendly.  From an academic background it was important to be able to criticise.  She looked forward to bringing her legal expertise to the next meeting in August.

MARIO L. CORIOLANO, Committee Expert, expressed thanks for the warm welcome by the Committee.  There was a need to avoid politicisation.  With new members in the Human Rights Council, the Bureau, and the Advisory Committee, what was urgent was to achieve more effectiveness and impact on the ground so as to reduce the mass violations of human rights.  The inter-active dialogue had to focus on the implementation of the mandates.  The Committee was working on important issues and had taken on board a new subject related to citizens, safety, and human rights.

CECILIA RACHEL V. QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said it was a pleasure to be a member of the body.  The frankness without rancour or malice was refreshing.  There was a willingness to listen and accommodate different views into the final output.

AHMER BILAL SOOFI, Committee Expert, said that there had been scarcity of work.  He believed however that it was likely that in August, the Committee may be overwhelmed with mandates.  It had been a pleasure interacting with new members and all those that had participated in the processes of the Committee.

ANANTONIA REYES PRADO, Vice-Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, pointed out that it was very important to strengthen this body and have on-going work in the Bureau.  Likewise, there was a need to continue working on those mandates entrusted to it.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, expressed his appreciation for the previous Chairmanship of Mr. Hüseynov, as well as to Mr. Heinz.  He was quite optimistic about the future of the Committee and that new mandates or thematic issues would be obtained and that the Committee would be able to continue with its work.  The Committee should sit in drafting groups at the next meeting, in private, in smaller rooms, to exchange ideas.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, said he had written to everyone in the morning on procedural efficiency, also having heard from the four subsidiary bodies, with a few suggestions on the issue of working methods.  Perhaps some short papers or ideas could be shared at the next Committee meeting in August, to constantly look at and improve its procedural efficiency.

LATIF HUSEYNOV, Vice-Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, thanked those who had commented kindly on his chairmanship.  On behalf of the Eastern European Group, he extended its appreciation for the excellent Chairmanship of Mr. Heinz, who had come in at a very difficult and challenging time for the Committee.  He still believed that solutions could be found.  The lack of a mandate should not amount to termination of work of the Committee.  Certainly, the main problem was not finding ad-hoc solutions, but sustained and normative solutions.  What should not be compromised was the independence of the Committee and its members.

GIULIOANO COMBA, Head of the Universal Periodic Review Unit at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it could be said that the Committee had had a series of fruitful and substantive deliberations and exchanges.  Of course the issues of mandates had been at the forefront, but the Advisory Committee had reached out to the Bureau of the Human Rights Council and to the Coordinators of the regional and political groups.  There was a lot of interest in what the Committee did and it could make a lot of contributions.  Unfortunately it was caught in a cross-fire, but he did not find the Committee powerless.  The proposal on commencing work before the August was a good one and it was encouraged.  There were some resolutions in the making that had elements that may be of relevance to the Committee.  There was a whole area that needed to be explored on the functioning of the Universal Periodic Review and the follow-up of recommendations, and the Committee was encouraged to look at this.

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, said that on behalf of the Western Europe Group and other countries, Mr. Comba was thanked for his support in their work.  It had been realised that there had been a need to work on coming up with initiatives.  All the efforts made this week had borne fruit as there had been a proposal with which it was well-worth proceeding.  If the Committee was to work well it had to maintain its independence.  If corruption was taken up as a subject by Member States, then they had to discuss who was most interested in working on this.  The collective work of the Committee was the most important thing.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, President of the Advisory Committee, in closing remarks warmly thanked everyone who had helped behind the scenes to carry out the work.  It was a fluid cooperation.  He recalled that the eleventh session of the Advisory Committee would be held from 12 to 16 August 2013. 
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