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“Deep concern” at bid to block UN human rights expert

GENEVA (21 November 2016) – A Committee of United Nations human rights specialists is very concerned that some countries are seeking to retrospectively block the creation of the mandate of an Independent Expert designated to tackle violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and warns that the action would have a detrimental impact on the wider work of the Human Rights Council.

The Coordination Committee of Special Procedures* says that challenging mandates in this way undermines the Council’s credibility and authority, and weakens the human rights system as a whole. This unprecedented move will not only affect the mandate of the Independent Expert but special procedures, which is the largest body of independent human rights experts in the UN system, as a whole.

A resolution to block the mandate will be considered by the Third Committee of the General Assembly later on 21 November, 2016.  The resolution proposes delaying the mandate pending further consultations on its legal basis.

The Coordination Committee warns that deferring the decision in this way may place the mandate in a legal and political vacuum.   

It stresses that the creation of special procedures mandates falls squarely within the mandate of the Human Rights Council.

Over the years, the Council, and its predecessor the Human Rights Commission, have established 57 mandates to address new and emerging issues. Many of these have been created by consensus, but others have been established following a vote, as was the mandate for the Independent Expert in this case.

Recently another new mandate was established by vote in the Council’s September session, a Special Rapporteur on the right to development. In all these cases, immediate action has been taken to operationalise the decision of the Council. 

The immediate implementation of HRC decisions, in particular the creation of special procedures mandates, is one of the strengths of the Council. It allows it to react in a timely manner to human rights developments and challenges. The Council’s substantive authority in the field of human rights is respected and upheld.

The new mandate came into effect on 1 November 2016, with Vitit Muntarbhorn named as the first UN Independent Expert on the Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

The Committee is convinced that he will provide the Human Rights Council and Member States with the necessary independent expertise to pursue its discussion on this matter.

It therefore calls on all States to recognize their responsibility to preserve the human rights system and ensure that the Independent Expert is able to continue fulfilling his mandate without hindrance and with the full cooperation of all States and other stakeholders.

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'Special procedures' is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic human rights issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 43 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 80 active mandate holders. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

The Coordination Committee is a body of six independent experts which coordinates and facilitates the work of special procedures as a whole. It is currently composed of Ms. Yanghee Lee (Chair), Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Dainius Puras and Michael Addo.
For more information and media inquiries, please contact Nathalie Rondeux (+41 22 917 9251 / nrondeux@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Liz Throssell – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)  
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