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Human Rights Committee opens one hundredth and eighth session

Human Rights Committee 

8 July 2013

The Human Rights Committee this morning opened its one hundredth and eighth session, adopting its agenda and hearing an address by Gianni Magazzeni, Chief of the Americas, Europe and Central Asia Branch of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Magazzeni said that the Office of the High Commissioner assisted States in the implementation of their human rights obligations, including recommendations from human rights mechanisms.  A more integrated approach to treaty body implementation was crucial to better protect rights-holders and some countries had taken steps to ensure the timely and effective implementation of recommendations.  In the context of treaty bodies, the Office’s technical cooperation had three main tasks: to encourage and support States to ratify treaties; to support efforts by State institutions to incorporate human rights obligations into national laws, policies and practices; and to support the building of sustainable national capacities to implement these standards. 

Regarding the report of the Committee’s Working Group on communications, Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the Working Group, indicated that the group had met last week and examined 18 cases of communications prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 15 of which would be considered during the current session of the Committee.  The Working Group also discussed Mr. Ben Achour’s draft proposal to improve the communications procedure.

During the meeting the Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work.

The Committee continued the morning meeting in private to hear briefings by United Nations organizations and specialized agencies, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation in the countries whose reports will be reviewed this week, namely Ukraine, Tajikistan, Indonesia and Finland.  Next week, the Committee will review the reports of Albania and the Czech Republic.

The Committee will hold its next public meeting this afternoon, at 3 p.m., to begin its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Ukraine (CCPR/C/UKR/7).

Opening Statement

GIANNI MAGAZZENI, Chief, Americas, Europe & Central Asia Branch, Field Operations and Technical Coop, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking in opening remarks, referred to the operational work of the Office of the High Commissioner.  The Office assisted States in the implementation of their human rights obligations, including recommendations from human rights mechanisms, and this represented a critical dimension of the Office’s field-work worldwide.  Many activities were undertaken to ensure a greater application of international human rights norms at the country level.  A more integrated approach to treaty body implementation was crucial to better protect rights-holders.  Mr. Magazzeni emphasized that some countries had taken steps to ensure the timely and effective implementation of recommendations.  Some countries had set up senior level coordination mechanisms with the participation of all relevant ministries, State entities, the Ombudsman or national human rights institution, and civil society organizations.  These steps had also opened new opportunities for United Nations Country Teams to integrate recommendations from the international human rights mechanisms into national development plans and laid the ground for much closer collaboration with other key actors, such as the World Bank and bilateral donors, to support national human rights priorities.  The Office of the High Commissioner supported 58 human rights field presences, including country offices, human rights components of United Nations Peace Missions, human rights advisers within United Nations Country Teams, and regional or sub-regional offices and centres covering a larger number of countries.  Mr. Magazzeni said that 13 additional human rights advisers would be deployed in 2013-2014, in countries that had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the context of treaty bodies, the Office’s technical cooperation had three main tasks: to encourage and support States to ratify treaties; to support efforts by State institutions to incorporate their human rights obligations into national laws, policies and practices; and to support the building of sustainable national capacities to implement these standards.  Mr. Magazzeni underscored the indivisible and mutually reinforcing nature of State reporting and follow-up procedures.  Practical tools, such as human rights indicators, allowed States to assess progress in implementing their obligations.  The Office had made significant progress in the implementation of human rights standards concerned with the strengthening of the rule of law and the administration of justice.  Among other activities in this regard, the Office had contributed to normative guidance, policy development and capacity-building; and the focus included not only changes in the laws but also the implementation of regulations, standing orders, and the content of professional manuals for judges, lawyers, prosecutors or police academies.  The Committee’s concluding observations provided a sound basis to ensure follow-up action at the country level.

In Guatemala, the Office of the High Commissioner had provided guidance to ensure that proposed judicial reforms complied with international human rights standards.  Another good example of a successful follow-up was found in Kyrgyzstan where, following technical advice provided by the Office, the Parliament had approved amendments to the criminal code.  In Mauritania, training on human rights had been delivered.  In Paraguay, human rights indicators regarding the right to fair trial had been developed with the participation of more than one hundred judges and court officials.

The Office of the High Commissioner tried to respond positively to requests for technical assistance from States in a coherent, timely, efficient and cost-effective manner.  Mr. Magazzeni argued that development cooperation, in order to be sustainable and successful, had to rest on the solid foundations of good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law; and called on development cooperation actors to take into account recommendations from the human rights system, which represented an x-ray of the critical gaps in implementation.

Discussion

Committee Experts asked questions regarding the preparation of State reports and wondered in what ways the Office of the High Commissioner helped countries in the timely preparation of reports and how civil society was involved in this process.  Another Expert found it very useful to hear about examples from specific countries where the Office helped in the implementation and follow-up of recommendations, which illustrated the relevance of treaty bodies.  Sometimes States felt that the cooperation with the United Nations on the ground had to be strengthened and these examples showed that cooperation was in full effect.

Mr. Magazzeni said that the Human Rights Index had to include not only recommendations but also actions on the ground.  All activities in the field were not included in the Office’s activity reports because of the vast amount of data available.  The Office of the High Commissioner had to improve its collection of disaggregated information on the implementation of recommendations.  Close cooperation with other partners, including NGOs and national human rights institutions, as well as other specialized agencies, was crucial.  The Office would not be able to carry out its work without a very strong partnership and daily interactions with civil society organizations.  The Office received requests from Member States to assist in the preparation of reports and made available expertise to facilitate the reporting process.  The Office looked forward to working more closely with the Committee’s Experts and to providing information regarding cooperation with Member States.

Experts also thanked Mr. Magazzeni for addressing the Committee and underlined that the follow-up to recommendations was crucial.

Nigel Rodley, the Committee’s Chairperson, indicated that capacity building was a key issue for some countries that needed help in the preparation of reports and in the implementation of recommendations.  Committee Members were aware of the existing challenges in many countries regarding the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.

Report of the Committee’s Working Group on communications

CHRISTINE CHANET, Chair of the Working Group on Communications, updating the Committee about the Working Group’s meeting last week, indicated that it had looked at 18 cases prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner, 15 of which would be considered during the current session of the Committee.  The Working Group had also considered the draft proposal presented by Yadh Ben Achour, the Committee’s Vice-Chairperson, regarding the improvement of the communications procedure.
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