140th Human Rights Committee Session Begins in Geneva


The Human Right Committee today opened its one hundred and fortieth session, during which it will examine the reports of Chile, Guyana, Indonesia, Namibia, Serbia, Somalia and the United Kingdom on their implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In her opening remarks, Wan-Hea Lee, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Representative of the Secretary-General, said this was a particularly difficult time globally. The systemic problems that came to light under the COVID-19 pandemic had hardly been addressed. Multiple brutal wars raged on. The forces uniting humanity were seemingly no match for the rising hate speech and shrinking civic space across the world. This year was particularly volatile, with over 50 countries representing almost half the world's population heading into elections.

In tumultuous times like these, it was useful to turn to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights treaties as a roadmap on how to move forward. They defined the red lines that humanity simply must not cross.

The deep and abiding belief in human rights was the major takeaway from the high-level event held in December 2023 to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The enthusiastic participation of youth rekindled hope for a better future. Future generations understood that they were born into a world where each individual was equal in dignity and rights, a truth that was not self-evident 75 years ago. The difference today was evident in the 770 concrete pledges received from 153 States, civil society, businesses and other actors. Many States had committed themselves to ratifying the human rights treaties, including optional protocols; to establishing and strengthening national human rights institutions; and to increasing their capacity for the implementation of treaty body recommendations. Pledges were made by all seven of the States parties under review at this session.

Ms. Lee announced with pleasure that, last month, South Sudan had acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This was the first addition to the Covenant's list of States parties in nearly six years. The Committee continued, as it must, to build the foundation of human rights protection, one brick at a time.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights had convened an informal briefing on the treaty body strengthening process last November. The views expressed by States during that briefing indicated broad support for a predictable calendar of State party reviews, the harmonisation of working methods, and the increased use of digital tools. The subsequent discussions among treaty body chairs in December on the margins of the high-level event commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and outreach to civil society further set the stage for action this year.

Ms. Lee said that at the same time, the United Nations' budgetary constraints, coupled with a prolonged liquidity crisis, were having an adverse impact on the proper functioning of the treaty body system and threatened to further increase the backlog of the treaty bodies. The urgency for States to provide the essential resources needed to overcome these challenges was underscored by the High Commissioner at the informal briefing. The High Commissioner's strategic goal was to mobilise support from States for the strengthening and further harmonisation of the work of the treaty bodies. Decisions taken by States this year on the main pillars of the treaty body strengthening process would determine the future trajectory of the treaty body system. This process would culminate in the adoption of the biannual resolution of the General Assembly in December 2024, hopefully with a robust budget.

Ms. Lee said that since 22 January 2024, the United Nations Office at Geneva had ceased servicing hybrid or virtual meetings on any platform, system or tool. Official dialogues with State party delegations would exceptionally continue to be held virtually with full services, but no other treaty body meetings would be serviced in hybrid mode. The Office of the High Commissioner was keenly aware of how disruptive this development was on the work of the Committee. It deeply regretted this situation and hoped that the option of hybrid meetings with all partners would be possible again in the future.

In closing, Ms. Lee said that the programme for the current session was as heavy as always. She wished the Committee a successful and productive session.

The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Tania María Abdo Rocholl, Committee Chair, said that Committee Expert Farid Ahmadov (Azerbaijan) had resigned from his position as Committee Expert and Rapporteur to take up the position of Minister of Justice in his home country. The Committee wished him well and hoped that he would continue to work to uphold human rights in his new position.

The Committee elected Committee Expert Tijana Šurlan (Serbia) as its new Rapporteur.

Carlos Gómez Martínez, Committee Expert and chair of the working group on communications, presented the working group's report for the one hundred and fortieth session. The working group considered 19 drafts relating to 28 communications covering issues relating to non-refoulement, family reunification, arbitrary detention, the death penalty, due process, freedom of religion, forcible transfer of prisoners, forced acquisition of nationality, and freedom of expression and assembly. The communications covered 13 States parties from different continents and regions, and were submitted between 2016 and 2023. The working group submitted to the plenary eight proposals of inadmissibility, three cases presenting two options to the concerned State party, and 17 admissibility proposals. Three highly relevant cases concerned the death sentence and the right to life, the first right protected in the Covenant, and many gave rise to in-depth debates and deliberations in plenary. Discussion of one case could not be completed because the draft of the alternative wording proposed by the Committee was pending. This case would be discussed during the session.

The Human Rights Committee's one hundred and fortieth session is being held from 4 to 28 March 2024. All the documents relating to the Committee's work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session's webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee's public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 March, to begin its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Chile (CCPR/C/CHL/7).

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.