Human Right Committee Opens One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Session
The Human Right Committee this morning opened its one hundred and thirty-sixth session, during which it will examine the reports of Ethiopia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, the Philippines and the Russian Federation on their implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.
Mahamane Cisse-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Representative of the Secretary-General, said that today marked the twentieth World Day against the Death Penalty. The latest report by the Secretary-General on the death penalty took stock of developments over the last two years and drew extensively on the work of the Human Rights Committee. It contained multiple references to the Committee’s General Comment 36 on the right to life, as well as recommendations made to States parties under review and jurisprudence on individual cases.
Some 170 States had abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice, or had suspended executions for more than 10 years, reaffirming a positive trend towards the universal abolition of the death penalty. Many States had abolished the death penalty not long after having received recommendations by the Committee, with Equatorial Guinea being the most recent example. Nonetheless, a minority of States continued to use the death penalty, and the safeguards outlined in General Comment 36 therefore remained crucial.
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change in July submitted a comprehensive report to the General Assembly. Among the report’s areas of focus was the impact of climate change on a range of rights protected by the Covenant. The Committee’s recent ground-breaking decision on Australia’s failure to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change was a case in point. The Special Rapporteur would submit a report to the Human Rights Council next year on climate change displacement, another impact of climate change that would undoubtedly become an increasing focus of the Committee’s work.
The Chairs of the treaty bodies, at their thirty-fourth annual meeting in June in New York, unanimously agreed to establish a predictable schedule of State reviews, with an eight-year cycle for full State reviews and follow-up reviews in between. This demonstrated the commitment of the treaty bodies to develop a treaty body system based on full compliance of States parties with their reporting obligations. The Chairpersons further noted that the relevant working methods would need to be harmonised, including to develop a reasonable accommodation policy, and agreed on the need for a digital uplift, including the development of a digital case file management system for individual communications and urgent actions. This landmark agreement would hopefully provide a basis for a more sustainable allocation of resources.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was hopeful that the necessary support from the Member States would be forthcoming. This required a collaborative effort between the Office and treaty body experts. The Office was currently working with all relevant departments on the costing of the calendar. However, the required additional resources would not be received until 2024, if approved by the General Assembly in December 2022.
This session marked a turning point for the Committee and for the Office. The Office had bid farewell to the former High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, in August, and was just one week away from welcoming the new High Commissioner, Volker Türk, who was eager to get to know the Experts serving the cause of human rights.
Seven distinguished members of the Committee would be taking leave of the Committee at the end of year: Chairperson Photini Pazartzis, and Experts Yadh Ben Achour, Christopher Arif Bulkan, Shuichi Furuya, Duncan Muhumuza Laki, Vasilka Sancin and Gentian Zyberi. These members would be missed. Their individual and joint contributions to the Committee’s work had been remarkable throughout the years. Mr. Cisse-Gouro wished them well, expressing expectations that these members would remain committed to the cause of advancing human rights.
In closing, Mr. Cisse-Gouro extended best wishes to the Committee for a successful and productive session and reassured it of the full support of the Office.
Photini Pazartzis, Chair of the Committee, in opening remarks, stated that the session promised to be a busy one. Ms. Pazartzis said that it was good to hear that the Committee’s work had a positive impact on human rights, particularly regarding the death penalty and climate change.
The Committee then adopted its programme for the session, and decided to grant a request from Haiti to postpone the review of its periodic report until a future session, owing to the State’s domestic situation.
Christopher Arif Bulkan, Committee Expert and Chair of the Committee’s pre-session Working Group on individual communications, said that the Working Group had held a pre-session meeting from 3 to 7 October 2022 at Palais Wilson in Geneva. The Working Group had examined and discussed 21 drafts amounting to 34 communications, originating from 17 States parties from different continents and regions. The issues covered included arbitrary detention and conditions of detention, due process guarantees, discrimination, forced eviction, enforced disappearance, and freedoms of expression and assembly. The Working Group had presented for consideration by the plenary 10 communications finding claims to be admissible, five communications finding the claims inadmissible, 17 communications proposing to find a violation of the Covenant, and two communications putting forward two different options. Mr. Arif Bulkan expressed gratitude to the members of the Working Group for their participation and contributions to the drafts discussed.
All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Webcasts of the meetings of the session can be found here, and meetings summaries can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to begin its consideration of the fifth periodic report of the Philippines (CCPR/C/PHL/5).
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