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Meeting Summaries


The Human Rights Committee this afternoon opened its one hundred and thirtieth session in an online format, hearing a statement from Simon Walker, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee also adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

Ahmed Amin Fathalla, Committee Chairperson, noted that it was the second time that the Human Rights Committee was meeting online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He welcomed, David H. Moore who had been elected Committee member at the thirty-eighth Meeting of States Parties to the Covenant, held on 17 September 2020.

Mr. Moore made the solemn declaration of new Committee members, in accordance with article 38 of the Covenant and rule 14 of the rules of procedure.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Walker said that the Human Rights Committee continued to showcase how treaty bodies could advance their crucial work through creative working methods and rapidly adapt and respond to these exceptionally difficult and challenging times. He congratulated Committee members on the adoption of the General Comment on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right of peaceful assembly, at the last session - an important achievement.

In relation to individual communications, Mr. Walker said that it was extremely gratifying to see the Committee’s commitment to avoid a protection gap. Since the beginning of the year, despite the early suspension of the March session and the online setting of the July session, the Committee had adopted 103 individual communications. Despite difficulties, challenges and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 situation, the Committee had accepted with an open mind and good spirit to test and implement new methods of work. In this regard, it had agreed to invest more efforts into the preparation phase and reviewed documents in advance of the session, introducing written comments and changes to the documents. He understood this pre-session written phase had helped the Committee hold more focused discussions although there was still ample room for technological improvement. With regards to the language challenge, the Committee had also been keen to transcend language barriers in an innovative and inclusive way.

In relation to the 2020 Review, Mr. Walker said he had shared with the Committee the report of the co-facilitators to the President of the General Assembly on the process of the consideration of the state of the United Nations human rights treaty body system. He was encouraged by the recognition in the report of the important role of the treaty bodies, as well as the imperative of sustained and regular budget resources to support their work. He was also encouraged by the importance given in the report to issues the Committee had already embraced, including with respect to introducing a predictable review calendar and generalizing the simplified reporting procedure. The report highlighted the ongoing need to harmonize working methods between Committees and to promote the digital shift, including through establishing a petitions database. Mr. Walker also drew the attention of those present to a recent ground-breaking Views of the Committee where it had found in a case against New Zealand, that “climate asylum-seekers” could use the mechanism to prevent deportations and request asylum.

Committee Experts then adopted the agenda.

A Committee Expert, reacting to Mr. Walker’s statement, said the Committee shared the concern he expressed about the protection gaps. The sacrifices that the online session had required on the part of members of the Committee should not be underestimated. There were also efficacy issues related to remote meetings ; technology did not allow the Committee to fully discharge its mandate. The Committee should therefore resume its work in person as soon as possible.

Yuval Shany, Committee Expert, presenting the report of the Working Group on communications, said that at its last session, held from 28 September to 9 October, it had adopted 29 draft views. One draft view was pending, and currently being considered by a sub-working group. The Working Group had found that 9 cases were inadmissible. It recommended that one case be considered for discontinuance, and had found that two cases amounted to non-violations, and found violations in 17 cases.

The Committee adopted the report of the Working Group on communications.

The Committee’s one hundred and thirtieth session will be held from 12 October to 6 November 2020. Because of COVID-19, the examination of the reports of States parties has been postponed to future sessions.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the Committee’s public meetings in English and French will be available on the Meetings Summaries page of the United Nations Office at Geneva website, while the webcast can be viewed at UN Web TV.

The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Friday 30 October to examine the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations, as well as the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on follow-up to views.