dcsimg
English Site French Site Spanish Site Russian Site Arabic Site Chinese Site OHCHR header
Make a donation to OHCHR


Header image for news printout

Human Rights Committee opens one hundredth and ninth session

Human Rights Committee

14 October 2013

The Human Rights Committee this morning opened its one hundredth and ninth session with statements by the Committee Chairperson and Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It also adopted its agenda and programme of work, as well as the report of the Working Group on communications.  During the session, the Committee will review the reports of Bolivia, Uruguay, Djibouti, Mauritania and Mozambique.  The fourth periodic report of the United States was also due for review, but had been postponed until next March due to the Government shutdown. 

Sir Nigel Rodley, Committee Chairperson, opening the session, said it was clear that the delegation from the United States was not unwilling to come, but was seriously unable to do so, for reasons that had been widely covered in the media.  The political party  of Abraham Lincoln that, in fire and blood ended slavery and gave freedom to millions of people of African descent, seemed now to have party members who thought that wealth did not just rhyme with health, but should also determine access to it.  To achieve its aim it had brought the Government of the United States to a standstill and to the brink of defaulting on its national debt.  He also spoke about the consequences of the postponement on the civil society of the United States.

Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said as the global, financial, political and technological landscape remained in flux, the challenges for the protection of civil and political rights became increasingly complex, and the question was asked how the Committee, the monitoring body of the most comprehensive civil and political rights treaty, could contribute to the fast-changing environment.  He spoke about relevant developments, such as the issue of how to safeguard the right to privacy in the digital age.  The Human Rights Council’s resolution to respond to the increasing challenge of reprisals against human rights defenders was also discussed. 

Regarding the report of the Committee’s Working Group on communications, the Committee was told that 14 cases had been examined on merits and recommendations would be given to the Committee during the session.  Committee Members also held a brief general discussion.

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: Bolivia and Djibouti. Next week, the Committee will review the reports of Mauritania, Mozambique and Uruguay.

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

Opening Statements

SIR NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, opened the session by saying that the Committee was scheduled to review the periodic reports of Bolivia and Uruguay, and the  initial reports of Djibouti, Mauritania and Mozambique.  The Committee should have been reviewing the fourth periodic report of the United States.  Unfortunately, the State party had requested a postponement until next March.  Despite the Committee’s policy of unwillingness to grant extensions at short notice, the Chairperson said he felt he had no choice but to acquiesce on behalf of the Committee.  It was clear that the delegation from the United States was not unwilling to come, but was seriously unable to do so, for reasons that had been widely covered in the media.  The political party of Abraham Lincoln that, in fire and blood ended slavery and gave freedom to millions of people of African descent, seemed now to have party members who thought that wealth did not just rhyme with health, but should also determine access to it.  To achieve its aim it had brought the Government of the United States to a standstill and to the brink of defaulting on its national debt. 

The United States’ Government’s ability to send a delegation to the session was hardly the greatest consequence of the shutdown, the Chairperson said, adding that on the positive side, the Committee would now be able to make additional progress on its work on a draft General Comment on liberty and security of person.  However, those who had been looking to the Committee to address their concerns about their treatment under the Covenant were left unsatisfied.  Furthermore, the Committee was aware that many members of civil society had been seriously financially disadvantaged by the late cancellation of the review.  The Chairperson was confident that the necessary adjustments would be made to make sure the Committee had the time and means at the next session to hear the essential contributions from the United States civil society.  The Chairperson recalled that without the persistent lobbying of the civil society of the United States the promotion of human rights would not have been written into the Charter of the United Nations, and their contribution was valued significantly.
                                                                       
IBRAHIM SALAMA, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division, said as the global, financial, political and technological landscape remained in flux, the challenges for the protection of civil and political rights became increasingly complex, and the question was asked how the Committee, the monitoring body of the most comprehensive civil and political rights treaty, could contribute to the fast-changing environment.  Mr. Salama spoke about recent developments related to the Committee’s work that had taken place since the last session.  On 13 September the High Commissioner for Human Rights opened a side-event at the Human Rights Council on how to safeguard the right to privacy in the digital age, which was a very topical issue.  The digital revolution, which contributed greatly to social, economic and political change, also came with many challenges.  For the participants, the greatest challenge was how to strike a balance between legitimate public and security concerns and the right to privacy.  The High Commissioner referred to article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the important guidance that the Committee’s General Comment provided to all stakeholders. 

Another development was the Human Rights Council’s response to the increasing challenge of reprisals against human rights defenders.  At its last session the Council adopted a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to nominate a United Nations focal point against reprisals.  Under its Optional Protocol procedure the Committee had already experienced attempts to silence individuals who had submitted communications to it, including through the use of amnesty laws.  The Committee had also received allegations from non-governmental organizations that they had  been threatened for engaging under its reporting process.  The Committee may wish to consider its own options for combating reprisals. 

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted its first decision on article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which related to the right to participate in political and public life.  In a case in which six individuals in Hungary were deprived of their right to vote based on a perceived or actual intellectual disability; the Committee ruled that Hungary had failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention.  It was conscious of the Human Rights Committee’s views during its deliberations.  Such cross-fertilization across the treaty bodies was very positive, and led to harmonization and consistency of jurisprudence.  Mr. Salama also spoke about the intergovernmental process to strengthen the treaty body system, and said work was on-going on a possible draft resolution to go before the General Assembly.  A comprehensive solution to the treaty body strengthening process as well as an agreement on the Committee’s request for extra resources would go a long way to allowing the Committee to fulfil its mandate effectively and efficiently
Statement from the Working Group on Communications

GERALD L NEUMAN, Chairperson of the Committee’s Working Group on Communications, updated the Committee on the work of the Working Group on Communications, which met for four days last week during which time it examined 19 cases last month.  He said that one case was postponed, four were considered inadmissible and 14 were examined on merits.  Recommendations would be given to the Committee during the session. 

The report of the Working Group on Communications was adopted. 

Discussion with Committee Members

In a brief discussion Committee Members spoke about the draft General Comment on liberty and security of person, and said that the right to life would be a strong contender for the subject of the next General comment.  A Member asked about the High Commissioner’s lecture earlier this month at the Washington College of Law on the ‘International Human Rights Treaty System: Impact at the domestic and international levels’, in which she paid homage to the work of the treaty bodies and spoke about challenges to the system, and whether the Committee could be briefed on the highlights of that speech, and on the High Commissioner’s work at the General Assembly last month regarding the treaty body strengthening process. 
__________

For use of the information media; not an official record