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Human Rights Committee discusses working methods

13 March 2013

The Human Rights Committee this afternoon held a discussion on working methods on a proposal to request additional resources and on the agenda for its retreat to The Hague in April 2013.

Introducing the discussion, Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, recalled the proposal put forward by the Bureau to discuss a request to the General Assembly for additional resources. In order to do so, the Committee should request an assessment of cost implications in order to submit a formal request with the adoption of its final report. The Chairperson recalled that the Committee had solicited additional resources for its Petitions Unit last year so that more drafts could be prepared in time for consideration.

During the discussion, Committee Experts highlighted the need for additional resources for the Secretariat and increased meeting time for the Committee in order to address the backlog in the consideration of reports. For the first time, during this session, the Committee was considering six country reports instead of five and this had made the agenda very tight. An additional week would help keep up with work on country reports, but Experts attending the working group on communications would then have a five-week session. The Secretariat suggested converting a working group week into a plenary week, leaving 2.5 days for dealing with country reports. Nevertheless, the Secretariat would also require additional resources to keep up with the work of the Committee and the provision of drafts for consideration. For example, while it would be possible to deal with 30 cases per week, currently only 20 or 21 cases were provided.

Committee Experts expressed concern about the growing backlog of reports and agreed that the Committee should further discuss different ways of addressing the growing backlog, given the current financial situation. The Secretariat said that while it was up to date with communications, it faced problems getting drafts ready. There were about 160 cases which could be considered if sufficient resources to prepare the drafts were made available. Given the building backlogs affecting the consideration of State reports and individual cases, the Committee was at risk of losing credibility and becoming irrelevant. Some Experts argued that clearing the backlog in communications should be a priority. Among others, Experts suggested focusing on communications rather than on the consideration of States’ reports and employing the United Nations’ working languages rather than the five official languages in order to save resources. Additional proposals included reducing the work on general comments and holding additional meetings during lunch time, such as those currently held with NGOs, for Committee Experts to engage with Member States.

Summarising the discussion, the Chairperson noted that if the Committee did not re-submit a request for additional resources, it would be understood that these were not really needed; and recalled that in order to be able to make such a request, cost implications should be assessed. The Chairperson urged the Committee to decide to request additional resources and meeting time, in accordance to the need to deal with the backlog of reports. The Committee should also continue to discuss additional measures to save resources. Several constructive suggestions had been put forward and additional time should be dedicated to this discussion. Individual communications were extremely important and, given its potential impact on the ground, the Committee’s timely response was crucial.

The Committee decided to request an evaluation of cost implications in order to be able to formally submit a request for additional resources with the adoption of its final report.
Concerning the draft agenda for the retreat to The Hague in April 2013, the Chairperson noted that a draft had been circulated and, among other items, included the relationship between the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other treaty bodies; the discussion of a paper on remedies prepared by Fabian Omar Salvioli; a template for a new format for individual communications; consideration of the High Commissioner’s report on strengthening the treaty bodies; and a review of the Addis Guidelines and the role of the meeting of States parties. Given time constraints, the Chairperson asked Experts to submit any recommendations to the Bureau and a revised proposal would then be circulated next week.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 14 March at 10 a.m. to consider the initial report of Angola (CCPR/C/AGO/1).


For use of the information media; not an official record