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Human Rights Committee concludes one hundred and eighteenth session

Adopts Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Slovakia, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Jamaica, Colombia, Azerbaijan and Morocco
GENEVA (4 November 2016) - The Human Rights Committee this afternoon concluded its one hundred and eighteenth session after adopting concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Slovakia, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Jamaica, Colombia, Azerbaijan and Morocco.  The Committee also continued discussions on a draft General Comment on Article 6 on the right to life.
The concluding observations and recommendations on the seven country reports considered during the session are available on the webpage of the one hundred and eighteenth session.
During the session, the Committee continued discussing a draft General Comment on Article 6, on the right to life, and addressed its methods of work.  It considered the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations and held a discussion on Follow-up to Views. The Committee also considered a number of individual communications in closed meetings.
In the first part of the closing meeting, the Committee continued with the discussion on the new criteria on follow-up, as prepared by Sarah Cleveland, Rapporteur for Follow-ups, and Victor Manuel Rodrigo Rescia, Rapporteur for Views.  According to the criteria, States parties’ replies would be assessed as: largely satisfactory (grade A); action taken, but additional information on measures required (grade B); response received, but actions or information not relevant or do not implement the recommendation (grade C);  no follow-up report received after reminder/s (grade D); and information or measures taken are contrary to or reflect rejection of the Committee’s recommendations (grade E).  Several Experts opined that there should be a separate category, or categories, for those States which did not engage with the Committee or failed to provide a follow-up report even after repeated reminders.  The Committee discussed whether non-cooperation by a State party actually meant rejection of the Committee’s recommendations.  The criteria were then adopted with proposed modifications. 
The Committee then discussed the issue of hearings, based on the paper put forward by Yuval Shany, Committee Member.  Mr. Shany explained that the paper dealt with the issue of oral comments related to individual communications.  Evaluating submissions based on written documents was sometimes difficult as there was no opportunity for interaction.  Sometimes decisions on very difficult cases had thus to be reached without hearing directly from the parties involved, said Mr. Shany.  It would be beneficial for the Committee, on an exceptional basis, to invite parties in pertinent cases to meet with the Committee, which would allow the Committee to ask questions.  The Committee was not in a position to pay for travel or cover legal expenses of parties; they would come to meet the Committee only if they were interested and covered the expenses themselves.  An Expert commented that, with the existing technical capacities, such hearings would not necessitate that parties travelled to Geneva. 
Another Committee Member noted that the Rules of Procedure already allowed for a submission of oral or written presentations, not limited to communications, and wondered if the new procedure would improve the way the Committee was functioning.  It was said that adopting the proposed procedure would allow for a better access to victims and their advocates.  An Expert said that reducing the backlog of cases was a priority, and he was not sure if there was time to add the proposed procedure.  Under the proposal by Mr. Shany, another Expert stressed, oral hearings would be done only in exceptional cases and when the Committee agreed to it.  It could be argued that oral hearings would actually save time.  The Optional Protocol did not state that issues were to be resolved only based on the information provided by the parties.  Mr. Shany concurred that the information and communication technologies could be used for oral hearings.  He believed that the procedure could save time.  The Committee proceeded to adopt the document as put forward by Mr. Shany.
Mr. Shany then said that a number of committees had the lists of cases they were working on published on their websites, and recommended that the Human Rights Committee adopt the same approach.  The Secretariat informed that it would indeed entail some additional work for the Secretariat, but should be manageable, especially if only new cases were posted online.  One Expert said that the nature of closed examinations suggested that the procedure of considering individual communications should not be completely open.   It was noted that the summaries of communications were confidential, but the Committee could decide to publish lists of communications.  Preparing mini summaries of the large number of pending cases would involve significant additional work, noted an Expert.  Several Committee Members expressed their support for maximum transparency.  The proposal was then approved. 
Fabian Omar Salvioli, Committee Chairperson, in his closing remarks, stated that the Committee had had an excellent, productive session, in which seven States parties’ reports had been reviewed.  The concluding observations had been made public today, after the Committee’s press conference.  Thirty-five individual communications had been considered during the session.  The Committee had also adopted seven lists of issues.  Follow-ups into communications and views had been discussed by the Committee, reminded Mr. Salvioli.  The Committee had adopted the paper on the guidelines for the adoption of reparations, which would be published on the website.  The new grading system for concluding observations had also been adopted, as well as Mr. Shany’s papers on hearings and visibility of pending cases before the Committee.  Never before in recent years had so many items on working methods been adopted, said Mr. Salvioli.  The Committee had adopted nine paragraphs of the draft General Comment on the right to life.  Once the first reading had been adopted, the Committee would give a possibility to all interlocutors to speak before moving on to the second reading.  Mr. Salvioli expressed his appreciation for the support of the Secretariat, non-governmental organizations and the Centre for Civil and Political Rights.  Mr. Salvioli, whose term in the Committee would come to an end in December 2016, thanked the colleagues on the Committee for their cooperation and friendship. 
The Committee will hold its one hundred and nineteenth session from 6 to 29 March 2017, when it will consider the reports of Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Serbia, Thailand and Turkmenistan.  The Committee will also consider the situations in Eritrea, Swaziland and Timor-Leste, in absence of States parties’ reports.  

For use of the information media; not an official record