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Archived Articles on Human Rights Council



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States Must Cooperate with Human Rights Council (September 29, 2006)

At the second session of the UN Human Rights Council, experts presented their findings on human rights violations to NGO and state representatives, noting the difficulties they encountered with some governments. Human Rights Watch urges Council members to "lead by example" and invite the independent UN monitors to assess their performance on issues such as torture and violence against women. Though the inspectors focus mainly on "notorious" human rights violators, blatant rights abuses prevail in countries like the US, which often hypocritically condemns other governments.

New Approaches to Addressing Human Rights Situations (September 15, 2006)

This Human Rights Watch (HRW) report offers some suggestions for strengthening the UN Human Rights Council's response to gross and systematic rights abuses across the world. HRW recommends a "flexible approach" to supplement the existing universal periodic review, which only assesses countries every five years, so that the Council can promptly react to unforeseen humanitarian crises. In addition, HRW suggests that through a "multi-level system," the Council can prioritize its agenda topics to allocate discussion time according to urgency and severity of the issues.

Human Rights Council: First Impressions (June 19, 2006)

This report from the International Service for Human Rights provides a brief overview of the first meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the Council to maintain key strengths of its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, such as the special procedures to address human rights violations. Other speakers at the inaugural session called on the Council to include NGOs and human rights organizations in its work.

Human Rights Council: No More Business as Usual (May 23, 2006)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a set of recommendations to ensure the new Human Rights Council becomes an improvement on the Commission. The report stresses the importance of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and states that an independent rapporteur should review each country every five years. The Council also has a responsibility to maintain country resolutions and rapporteurs. But HRW recommends instead of a rapporteur occassionally visiting a country, the Council should encourage the establishment of in-country human rights offices to monitor and report abuses.

UN Human Rights Council: A New Beginning for Human Rights (May 10, 2006)

Amnesty International is pleased that all elected member states to the Human Rights Council made voluntary pledges to ratify human rights treaties, invite UN independent experts and Special Procedures to visit and to strengthen national institutions. Furthermore, all regions, except Africa, put up more candidates than seats, ensuring a genuine, contested election. Amnesty urges elected members to ensure the Council begins without delay and allow the involvement of NGOs and human rights institutions.

UN Defies West in Vote for Human Rights Council (May 9, 2006)

The UN General Assembly has "brushed aside both US and Western criticisms" and elected China, Russia, Cuba to the new Human Rights Council. But the author states the Council election resulted in a good "representative sampling" of governments with varying commitments to human rights. Members must now withstand political pressure from powerful governments and other sources outside the Council. Some observers believe the Council election gives a good indication of how a vote for permanent seats on the Security Council would fare, but others state the race for permanent seats "is over, finished and dead." (Inter Press Service)

Groups Hail New UN Human Rights Council (May 8, 2006)

Human Rights groups state that the new Human Rights Council will have better membership than the former Human Rights Commission. Many of the so-called "worst" human rights abusers have not put forward candidacies for the Council and contests in every region "will hopefully lead to a much stronger body." Amnesty International reports that for the first time human rights must play a distinct role in the election, not the case for the Commission. (Associated Press)

Appeal against Electing the Occupied Iraq to the UN Human Rights Council (May 7, 2006)

In light of Iraq's nomination to the new UN Human Rights Council, human rights groups in Iraq urge UN member states to vote against Baghdad's membership to the Council. The current Iraqi regime, they point out, is largely a continuation of the US-appointed Governing Council, and does not represent a free Iraq. Along with Iraq's government, US occupation forces have committed "gross and systematic" violations of human rights. As such, Iraqi membership to the Human Rights Council would complicate political negotiations in Iraq. (Monitoring Network of Human Rights in Iraq)

Will Human Rights Council Have Better Membership? (April 21, 2006)

Members with "egregious human rights records" were one reason the former Human Rights Commission often failed to take strong action on human rights abuses. Democratic governments were also unwilling to jeopardise economic, political or regional ties, and shied away from condemning many states. Human Rights Watch argues that the new Human Rights Council's increased membership standards will discourage abusive states from joining. But whether "democratic government" members will also take their Council responsibilities seriously remains to be seen.

US Quits Race for Human Rights Council, Possibly Fearing Defeat (April 7, 2006)

The US has announced that it will not stand for election to the new Human Rights Council; Washington says it will wait one year to evaluate the Council's effectiveness. But commentators believe the US fears it will not gain the necessary votes to win a seat on the Council. Some observers welcome the US absence from the Council saying that Washington is a major rights abuser. But others worry that without the world's superpower the Council will lack strength. (Inter Press Service)

The UN Human Rights Council: Opportunities and Challenges (April 3, 2006)

This article argues that the former Human Rights Commission (HRC) did need reform, but it should not be described as a "failed institution." As an organ of the General Assembly, the new Council will bring human rights issues closer to "international political fora." Although the author is largely in favor of the reforms, he argues that "nothing much will change" in the near future since member countries attitudes have not changed. He also urges states not to create a "human rights elite" that would watch over the "violators." (Jurist)

The Final Session (March 31, 2006)

The author writes that the Human Rights Commission (HRC), although often criticized, has given the new Council a "solid base to build on." The HRC created much of the language of human rights and the foundation for human rights law upon, although in later years many states used their membership to deflect criticism. The new Council must "create a new culture," with no place for double standards, allow active participation of NGOs and give a voice to victims of human rights abuses. (On Line Opinion)

Geneva NGOs Brace for New UN Rights Body (March 23, 2006)

Swiss Info writes that NGOs face an increased challenge in playing an active role in the new Human Rights Council. NGOs with smaller budgets, particularly those from developing countries will encounter problems with ensuring a presence in Geneva at the more frequent Council sittings. The article argues NGOs also face "certain regimes hostile to human rights" that aim to suppress NGO activities in the Council.

The Human Rights Council: A Chance or a Threat for NGO Participation? (March 16, 2006)

NGOs welcomed the creation of the Human Rights Council but now fear that a failure by the new body to recognize the long fought-for "rights and privileges [they] acquired at the Commission" could potentially weaken NGO participation. In this article, the Conference of NGOs (CONGO) expresses hope that the newly created Council will retain active NGO involvement in its work.

UN Creates New Watchdog over US Opposition (March 15, 2006)

The UN General Assembly has finally created the new Human Rights Council, despite US opposition. Washington nevertheless claims it will support the new Council, but commentators argue that member states must deny the US a seat on the Council. Many human rights organizations welcomed the creation of the new body. (Inter Press Service)

Explanation of Vote - US Ambassador John Bolton (March 15, 2006)

US Ambassador John Bolton addressed the General Assembly after to voting on the Human Rights Council draft resolution. Bolton offered justification for the US negative vote, stating that the text was not "sufficiently improved" to warrant US support. Bolton reiterated the US "proud" human rights history and commitment to the Human Rights Council, yet was still not ready to compromise on certain issues to create a functioning body.

Human Rights: A Needed UN Reform (March 2, 2006)>

Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, argues that the Human Rights Council draft resolution contains many positive aspects. She includes how candidates must be elected by an absolute majority of the general assembly, with abstentions counting as negative votes. In practice this procedure could set a "higher standard than the two-thirds majority test initially proposed." She also argues that drafting marks only the beginning and people must ask what governments will do after the vote to make the Council effective. (International Herald Tribune)

EU Backs Proposal for New UN Human Rights Council, Leaving US Isolated (March 2, 2006)

The European Union has released a statement giving their support to the Human Rights Council draft proposal. The article argues that the EU's backing leaves the US isolated from some of its closest allies and on a "collision course" with supporters of the resolution. However US Ambassador John Bolton reiterated his intent to vote against the resolution. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson states that most member states have warned against changing the proposal or re-opening negotiations. (Associated Press)

US Stuns Advocates of New Rights Body Proposal (February 23, 2006)

US Ambassador John Bolton has responded to the Human Rights Council draft resolution by threatening to re-open talks. Bolton argues that the text does not contain US reform proposals such as a two-thirds majority for membership approval and a smaller membership body. Human Rights groups and UN officials oppose Bolton's suggestion of returning to governmental negotiations. Advocates argue that the Council is an improvement on the Commission and to re-open talks would mean "going in circles." (Reuters)

Time to Act - Adopt Draft Resolution on the Human Rights Council Without Delay (February 23, 2006)

Amnesty International responds positively to the draft resolution on the Human Rights Council (HRC) and urges governments to adopt the text without delay. Amnesty welcomes an increase in the meeting schedule of the HRC and an election procedure that will give the Council a membership more committed to human rights protection. The resolution gives an "acknowledged role for the Council in the prevention of human rights abuses." Amnesty regrets that the text does not create the HRC as a principal organ of the UN, and would prefer the Council to be a standing body with monthly meetings.

Will the Human Rights Council Do Better than the Commission? (February 15, 2006)

In this interview, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe discusses the progress that a new Human Rights Council would bring and points out the "sticking points" in the debate. Chidyausiku has concerns that the Council will contain double standards, where countries like the US are not called upon for activities in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, yet developing states are punished for "unsubstantiated and politicized issues." Chidyausiku believes Washington has been unable to control the Human Rights Commission, and hence seeks to change the body. (South Bulletin)

New Draft for UN Rights Panel Circulates (February 2, 2006)

A new draft for the Human Rights Council (HRC) states that HRC members would be subject to periodic reviews of their own human rights records. Human rights advocates promote a two thirds vote the worst human rights abusers will continue to be elected. The draft however remains unclear on how elections will take place. The draft calls for a 45 nation body with membership open to all; however it recommends that a candidates' human rights contribution and instances of gross violations be taken into account. (Associated Press)

160 NGOs Identify Essential Elements of a UN Human Rights Council (January 19, 2006)

In an open letter to foreign ministers and UN permanent representatives, 160 NGO's urge UN Member States to build the new Human Rights Council upon the Human Rights Commission's successes and go beyond, in ensuring that states engaged in gross, systematic human rights violations cannot be elected and that the council meet regularly throughout the year. Of central importance as well, NGOs call for a continuing established participation of NGOs. (Human Rights Watch)

Human Rights Commission Must Change (January 16, 2006)

As the author points out the Human Rights Commission lacks credibility because it is controlled by many governments who do not respect human rights themselves. The new Human Rights Council must seek to remedy this by being selective in membership. Furthermore the Council must strive to take effective action on emerging human rights crises, which the Commission failed to do in situations such as Rwanda, and to condemn all those which occur, without favor. Each reform must aim to strengthen the commission and the author advocates increased meetings and broad participation of NGOs. (San Francisco Chronicle)

US Deflects Criticism of Commitment to UN (January 16, 2006)

Human rights groups and UN ambassadors have heavily criticized the Bush administration for its disinterest in diplomatic negotiations at the UN. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has trumpeted his support for a new Human Rights Council yet failed to participate in any of the recent negotiation talks. Bolton shrugs off these condemnations, repeating that he will only support meaningful reform. (Washington Post)

American Disdain Hurts UN Reform (January 9, 2006)

After shying away from Human Rights Council (HRC) negotiations for weeks, US Ambassador John Bolton took his first policy stance on the make-up of the new UN body. Bolton insisted that the five permanent members of the Security Council should each have a permanent seat on the HRC. Many ambassadors and NGOs disagree, maintaining that they expect Washington to support "free and fair elections" to the HRC, which would ensure higher standards of accountability among members. (International Herald Tribune)


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The Proposed Human Rights Council: Prospects andObstacles (September 22, 2005)

In a panel event at the 58th annual DPI/NGO Conference, experts from many sides of the Human Rights Council reform debate presented their views on the best future for the body. The transcript of this discussion juxtaposes these views, and illustrates the overlaps and discords between NGOs, the US, other member states, the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and academia. (Center for UN Reform Education)

UN Reform Summit Q and A (September 8, 2005)

Human Rights Watch provides a guide to the issues at stake for the reform of the Commission on Human Rights in the Millennium+5 outcome document. Important points highlighted include why reform of the Commission is necessary, how the new Human Rights Council would differ from the old Commission, and the implications the change would have for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Who Deserves a Seat on New Human Rights Council? (August 31, 2005)

In the event that UN member states establish a new Human Rights Council, many experts anticipate that disagreements will surround the election of members to the new body. While some hope that the United States will be exposed for its hypocrisy on human rights issues and left off the HRC, others, including Global Policy Forum, recognize that the elections to the council, "will be, as always, heavily influenced by political considerations." (Inter Press Service)

UN Reform and Rights Council (August 21, 2005)

NGOs have pushed for years for reform of the Commission on Human Rights. Now that this reform is almost a reality, NGOs must remain vigilant during the establishment of the new Human Rights Council (HRC). This eKantipur editorial proposes several ways to make the HRC successful, and alerts NGOs about the potential warning signs of regressive reform, which would make the HRC less accountable to civil society than its predecessor.

UN: NGOs Seek Louder Voice in New Rights Body (July 29, 2005)

Because UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has left most details on the forthcoming Human Rights Council for member states to decide after the High-Level September summit, many NGOs are worried that they will be excluded from the deliberations leading to the Council's formation. (Inter Press Service)

A Restrictive Human Rights Council Gets Mixed Reviews (April 28, 2005)

In this Inter Press Service article Thalif Deen comments on the "mixed reaction" to the Secretary General's proposal to reform the Human Rights Commission. The most controversy surrounding the formation of a Human Rights Council stems from its proposed membership, which would consist of states that abide by the "highest human rights standards." Deen writes that this likely alludes to Western countries, but points out US human rights violations in the War on Terror, UK abuses in Northern Ireland and Russian violence in Chechnya, and quotes "let those without human rights sin cast the first stone."

NGO Joint Statement on the Secretary General's proposed Human Rights Council (April 18, 2005)

This NGO joint statement at the 2005 session of the Commission on Human Rights expresses concern over the Secretary General's proposed Human Rights Council. Specifically, the organizations believe the declining credibility of the UN and its human rights mechanisms results from an "absence of will of the parties concerned" rather than any inherent flaws in the institutions' structures, and that reform efforts should address this problem first. The statement also stresses the importance of representation and NGO participation.

Amnesty International's Views on the Proposals for Human Rights Machinery Reform (April 11, 2005)

Amnesty International (AI) commends UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for his bold proposal to replace the UN Human Rights Commission with a Human Rights Council. However, AI stresses the need for transparency and objectivity under the new Council and says it must "discourage bloc solidarity and political factionalism." Moreover, the organization warns against abandoning the system of Special Procedures established by the current Human Rights Commission and insists that NGOs retain their consultative status at the proposed Council.

Without Reform of Human Rights Body, UN Credibility at Stake, Annan Says (April 7, 2005)

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Commission, Secretary General Kofi Annan strongly criticized the body as overly politicized and ineffective. He reiterated his commitment to reforming the UN human rights machinery and increasing its meager budget. Annan declared that the "era of declaration" must give way to an "era of implementation" under a new Human Rights Council, but failed to address concerns of member states or NGOs about the proposed body's membership and special procedures. (United Nations)

United Nations Human Rights Council - Explanatory Note (April 2005)

In his report "In Larger Freedom," Secretary General Kofi Annan devoted just three paragraphs to his proposal on replacing the Human Rights Commission. This explanatory note develops the concept of a Human Rights Council further, and addresses some of the concerns of NGOs by assuring that the new Council will include civil society participation and retain the Commission's special procedures. (United Nations)

Meeting the Challenge: Transforming the Commission on Human Rights Into a Human Rights Council (April 2005)

Amnesty International (AI) has released this comprehensive report to encourage governments and civil society to "seize the historic opportunity. to build a stronger, more authoritative and effective UN machinery to promote and protect human rights." While acknowledging the many shortcomings of the Human Rights Commission, AI also recognizes "extremely valuable" aspects of its work and insists on their preservation and inclusion in the proposed Human Rights Council. AI further warns that just changing the name and position of the UN human rights body will not be enough without implementation of "a whole range of [other] measures."

Annan Reforms 'Courageous' (March 21, 2005)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomes Kofi Annan's proposal to create a permanent Human Rights Council as part of his UN reform agenda. HRW expects the new Council will have an increased capacity for monitoring and responding to human rights violations, and insists that members of the body must comply with the highest rights standards.


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Good Diagnosis, but Poor Prescription (December 2, 2004)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizes the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change's recommendations for restoring the credibility of the UN Human Rights Commission. HRW suggests basing membership on a country's human rights record in order to deny states that violate human rights a seat on the commission. The panel, however, recommends expanding the Human Rights Commission to include all 191 UN member states, reducing it, as far as HRW is concerned, to "yet another talk shop."

Amnesty International Statement on the High Level Panel's Report (December 1, 2004)

Amnesty International praises the report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change for its focus on human rights. The organization urges states to comply with the report's recommendations and to support proposed reforms to the UN's human rights programs.

Credibility at Stake for Rights Commission (March 10, 2004)

Human Rights Watch expresses concern at the inability of the UN Commission on Human Rights to expose serious cases of human rights violations in the world. The organization criticizes some governments for abusing their membership on the commission to block criticism of each other's human rights records.



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