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Human Rights Committee considers methods of work and closes one hundred and nineteenth session

Human Rights Committee

ROUNDUP

29 March 2017

Adopts Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Bangladesh, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Italy, Thailand, and Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Human Rights Committee this morning held a public meeting in which it discussed its methods of work, after which the Committee closed its one hundred and nineteenth session.

Yuji Iwasawa, Committee Chairperson, informed that the Committee would be allocated more meeting time in 2018, and that, accordingly, additional staff would be hired for the Petitions Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He noted the lack of synchronization between the planned session times and the dates of hiring and training of new support staff. 

The Committee had decided to request that appropriate meeting rooms already be reserved for five weeks each in March, July and October 2018.  The Committee also formally decided to hold its one hundred and twenty second session in New York, with the view of increasing its visibility and having further access to States, civil society, media and other stakeholders.   

Moving on to the issue of the work of the International Law Commission, Mr. Iwasawa said that, in 2016, the Commission had adopted draft conclusions on the interpretation of treaties.  The Committee had a particular interest in draft conclusion 12, entitled “pronouncements of expert treaty bodies”.  The Committee decided to send a letter to the International Law Commission voicing some of its concerns and requesting a meeting in July with Georg Nolte, the Special Rapporteur on subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties.

The Committee then turned to General Comment 25 on the right to vote, one outdated paragraph of which ought to be revised by the Committee.  Several other aspects of the General Comment could be updated as well, noted Experts.  One Expert opined that adding new language through concluding observations was not satisfactory or sufficient.  Another Expert stated that drafting general comments was a serious, lengthy and complex undertaking; issuing declarations in their stead was not at the same level.  An opinion was also expressed that a fully revisited General Comment 25 was needed, because the situation had changed since the mid-1990s, when it had been adopted.  Another Expert believed that a new general comment was needed, and it should be put high on the Committee’s agenda.  The Committee’s views and concluding observations for the time being were not easily searchable, even for Experts themselves.  An Expert commented that there should be a facilitated way for the Committee to communicate its views and positions to outside users in an integrated and easy-to-reach way.  Several Experts suggested issuing short and informative fact sheets to make the Committee’s views and positions more accessible.  

While noting the importance of General Comment 25, an Expert noted that probably a number of paragraphs in various general comments were outdated by now, so the challenge would be how to choose which ones to update or revise.  Once the Committee started revising one particular paragraph, where and when would it stop?  The Committee had a huge backlog, with seven States parties being considered per session plus a high number of individual communications.  The Secretariat did not have the resources to conduct research to support the preparation of general comments, for which reason collaboration with academic institutions and other stakeholders should be given a thought.  The law was forever changing, noted an Expert, and the Committee needed to be dynamic and proactive in its approach.  The methodology for general comments could be discussed.  Communicating the Committee’s views to the general public was important, he stressed.  Annual reports of the Committee could be used for compiling updated jurisprudence.  A new working group of the Committee would be formed to look into those issues.  

Closing the one hundred and nineteenth session, Mr. Iwasawa, Committee Chairperson, reiterated that during the session the Committee had reviewed reports of Bangladesh, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Italy, Thailand, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In the course of the session, the Committee had adopted decisions on 46 individual communications, and had found violations of the Covenant in 19 of those cases.  In four cases the Committee concluded that no violation had taken place, 11 cases had been declared inadmissible, one admissible, and 11 cases had been discontinued.  The Committee had sent an open letter to the Philippines about the passage of a bill to reintroduce the death penalty for drug-related offences.  

The Committee announced the new mandate holders within the Committee: Mauro Politi as the Special Rapporteur for Follow-up on Concluding Observations; Photini Pazartzis as the Special Rapporteur for Follow-up on Views; Sarah Cleveland and Olivier de Frouveille as the Rapporteurs on New Communications and Interim Measures; Christof Heyns as the Rapporteur on Repetitive Communications; and Duncan Muhumuza as the Rapporteur on Reprisals.  The Committee had continued the consideration of its draft General Comment on the right to life and was hoping to finish the first reading at the next session.     

The concluding observations and recommendations on the six country reports considered during the session are available on the webpage of the one hundred and nineteenth session.

The one hundred and twentieth session of the Human Rights Committee will take place in Geneva from 3 to 28 July, during which the Committee will consider the reports of Honduras, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mongolia, Pakistan and Switzerland.  The situation in Swaziland will also be considered in the absence of a State report. 
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For use of the information media; not an official record

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