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Human Rights Committee discusses follow-up to concluding observations

Human Rights Committee 

13 July 2015

The Human Rights Committee this morning discussed a progress report by the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations.

Sarah Cleveland, Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations, presented a draft report on follow-up to the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee.  The Special Rapporteur briefly overviewed the system of the assessment of replies by States parties, which included a scale from A – “largely satisfactory” to C2 – “response received, but not relevant to the recommendations”. 

In the case of Norway, in its third follow-up, the State party had been asked for particular details on the use of coercive force and restraint of psychiatric patients, which had not been fully furnished, Norway’s response had been described as “initial action taken, but additional and measures required”.  Regarding the reply to the question on the restructuring of the national human rights institution, the Committee asked Norway to submit additional information on the shape of the new national human rights institution and the progress and implementation of the draft act.

With regards to Portugal, which had given a reply on the reduction of the number of persons in pretrial detention as well as the duration of such detention, the Committee regretted that no additional information had been provided on the amendment to the Criminal Procedural Code, and no statistical data had been furnished on the average length of pretrial detention over the previous three years.  The Committee noted the 2013 legal amendment on the need to combat and prevent domestic violence.

On Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, the Committee had asked for additional information on universal suffrage and requested a clear outline and detailed plans on how universal and equal suffrage might be instituted; the State party had repeated the information.  The State party had been recommended to consider repealing the rule by which domestic migrant workers had to leave Hong Kong within two weeks upon termination of contract, but the State party had informed that it would not repeal the requirement.

Turning to Bolivia, the Committee had asked for additional information on human rights violations during the 1964-1982 period, revision of the standards of proof and compensations and other redress for victims.  Bolivia had not provided new information on the proposed Truth Commission, whereas no action had been taken to revise the standard of proof in relation to acts for which reparation was sought.  No information had been provided on cooperation by the military.  Updates on the cases of Pando and Sucre were welcomed.

Regarding the first round of follow-ups on Djibouti, the Committee noted that the State party had been largely unresponsive.  The Committee had requested the State party to  criminalize domestic violence, on which a minimal response had been provided.  Alleged cases of ill-treatment and torture needed to be investigated, the Committee had recommended; the State party responded that the allegations of torture were baseless.  The Committee had asked Djibouti to revise its legislation on the freedom of assembly, while Djibouti had reiterated statements provided in the periodic report.

While the United States of America had provided information on convictions of four Blackwater contractors for their crimes in Iraq, the Committee required information on investigations, prosecutions or convictions of United States’ Government personnel in Iraq.  The Committee regretted that no action had been taken to incorporate the doctrine of command responsibility into the criminal law.  The Committee reiterated its concern about the reports that the immunity provided by “Stand Your Ground” laws had expanded.  Transfer and/or trial of detainees from Guantanamo ought to be sped up; even today, a number of people were administratively detained there without being charged or tried.  Given the lack of specific information provided by the State party on measures to ensure that interference with the right to privacy, in line with the established principles, and regardless of the nationality or location of the individual under surveillance, the Committee reiterated its request for information.

In the related discussion, Experts noted problems with word limits in follow-ups, which seemed likely to continue.  Sometimes, the text of the follow-up reports was getting even longer than the original text.  Such excessive lengths had started to create a backlog, and ways to deal with it needed to be looked into.  A question was also asked whether it was a practice to downgrade a State in the reporting process; reluctance and caution were expressed over that issue.  The Special Rapporteur stated that the question of what grade to give to a State party’s response was an important methodological one; if the State party had not responded at all to a recommendation, it would be given an appropriate grade, regardless of what grade it had received in the previous cycle.  Grading could be used to attract attention to serious problems, such as violations of human rights, rather than the quality of follow-up reports, an Expert noted. 

The Chairperson stated that the criteria for the methodology had already been established; the methodology might not be perfect, but it was in place, based on which the Rapporteur had suggested grades.  In line with the approved method of work, more than 10 follow-up reports had been approved in the past.  Grades were given to evaluate responses received by States parties to follow-up requests for further information, and should reflect the reality, the Rapporteur stressed.  The Committee should be cautious in following assessment grades proposed by non-governmental organizations. The Chairperson noted that the issues of methodology ought to be addressed, as they had come up on a number of occasions.  More specific criteria should be identified; the result of the recommendations should be looked at rather than the form. 

The next public session of the Committee will take place in Room XIX of the Palais des Nations, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 July 2015, when the Committee will hold a half-day discussion on the General Comment on Article 6 on the right to life.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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