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Human Rights Committee Opens Online One Hundred and Thirty-first Session

01 March 2021

1 March 2021

Committee Elects Photini Pazartzis as New Chairperson, also Elects Bureau

The Human Rights Committee this afternoon opened its online one hundred and thirty-first session, hearing from Mahamane Cisse-Gouro, Director, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and representative of the Secretary-General. The Committee elected Photini Pazartzis (Greece) as its new Chairperson. The Committee also adopted its agenda.

Mr. Cisse-Gouro opened the session, noting that it was taking place online. He welcomed the six new members to the Committee, all of whom came with a wealth of knowledge and experience: Wafaa Ashraf Moharram Bassim (Egypt), Mahjoub El Haiba (Morocco), Carlos Gomez Matínez (Spain), Changrok Soh (Republic of Korea), Kobauyah Tchamdja Kratcha (Togo) and Imeru Tamerat Yigezu (Ethiopia). He also congratulated the re-elected members of the Committee: Tania Maria Abdo Rocholl (Paraguay), Marcia V.J. Kran (Canada) and José Manuel Santos Pais (Portugal).

Mr. Cisse-Gouro said the Committee was meeting at a time of unique challenges for the human rights system. The ongoing pandemic had meant suffering and the loss of rights for many, and deep disruption for all. In places around the world, it had been a time of disinformation and suppression, a time of forced evictions and economic hardship, and a time when inequality had been exacerbated. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Committee had persevered in its important work and led the way in closing the protection gap. Since the early suspension of the March session and the online setting of the July and October/November sessions, the Committee had adopted 153 individual communications, three follow-up reports to concluding observations related to 12 States parties, and three follow-up reports to views related to 22 individual cases, 17 list of issues and 14 list of issues prior to reporting, and a ground breaking general comment on the right of peaceful assembly.

Mr. Cisse-Gouro also commended the Committee’s decision, along with that of six other treaty bodies, to resume constructive dialogues with States parties remotely, on an exceptional basis. He wished the Committee a fruitful and constructive dialogue with the delegations of Finland and Kenya over the next two weeks.

Moving to financial issues, Mr. Cisse-Gouro said regrettably, the General Assembly had not approved the requested staff resources to support the increased workload of treaty bodies, mainly related to individual communications. He reassured the Committee that the Office of the High Commissioner continued to do its utmost to ensure adequate support for its work and actively look for solutions.

Simon Walker, Chief of Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Section, invited the new members Wafaa Ashraf Moharram Bassim (Egypt), Mahjoub El Haiba (Morocco), Carlos Gomez Matínez (Spain), Changrok Soh (Republic of Korea), Kobauyah Tchamdja Kratcha (Togo) and Imeru Tamerat Yigezu (Ethiopia), to make their solemn declarations.

The Committee then elected by acclamation Photini Pazartzis (Greece) as its Chairperson.

Ms. Pazartzis said it was a great honour for her to serve as Chair for the next two years. She was touched by the kind words and support expressed by her colleagues. This was a very challenging period and she would do her best.

The rest of the Bureau was then elected. Christopher Arif Bulkan (Guyana), Shuichi Furuya (Japan), and Vasilka Sancin (Slovenia) were elected as Vice-Chairpersons, and Duncan Muhumuza Laki (Uganda) was elected as Rapporteur of the Committee.

The agenda was then adopted.

José Santos Pais, Chair of the Working Group on communications, presenting the report of its pre-sessional meeting from 22 to 26 February, said that during the session, 28 draft communications, which were submitted between 2011 and 2018, were reviewed and adopted. The issues covered in these 28 drafts included more than 15 different topics: right to life, arbitrary detention, torture, conscientious objection, deportation, disappearance and enforced disappearance, non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, effective remedies, fair trial and procedural guarantees, interference with the independence of lawyers, right to privacy, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, access to information held by governmental agencies.

Mr. Santos Pais said the drafts involved 15 different countries. Out of the 28 adopted drafts, the working group proposed 5 drafts of inadmissibility, 20 drafts of violation, 2 drafts of no violation and 1 draft with 2 options (violation and non-violation). An additional six cases already discussed during the previous session of the Committee, would also be submitted to the plenary in this session, so the total of drafts was therefore 34.

The report of the Working Group was adopted.

The Committee’s one hundred and thirty-first session will take place from 1 to 26 March. All documents related to the session can be found here. The Committee will next meet at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 2 March to start its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Finland.