High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Addresses the Committee
10 March 2014
The Human Rights Committee this morning opened its one hundredth and tenth session, adopting its agenda and programme of work and hearing an address by Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. During the session, the Committee will review the reports of Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Nepal, Sierra Leone and the United States on how they are implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Ms. Pillay underlined the importance of the right to privacy, and demanded that work be done to adapt this right and its interpretation to new challenges resulting from the digital age. She then expressed her satisfaction regarding the outcome of the Intergovernmental Process of the General Assembly on Strengthening the Treaty Body System, and commended the treaty body Chairpersons’ constructive involvement in the negotiations. She insisted on the importance of preserving the independence and impartiality of the treaty body members. She finally recalled that this year was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and asked the Committee to continue its efforts to promote the abolition of the death penalty.
Committee Members held a brief discussion with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee was told that the Working Group on communications had met last week and examined 24 cases of communications, 17 of which would be considered during the current session of the Committee.
The Committee continued the morning meeting in private to hear briefings by United Nations organizations and specialized agencies, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation in the countries whose reports will be reviewed this week: Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Latvia and the United States. Next week, the Committee will review the reports of Chad and Nepal.
The Committee will hold its next public meeting this afternoon, at 3 p.m., to begin its consideration of the second periodic report of Kyrgyzstan (CCPR/C/KGZ/2).
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined the importance of three issues: the right to privacy in the digital age, the Intergovernmental Process of the General Assembly on Strengthening the Treaty Body System, and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ms. Pillay underlined the importance of the mass media and its positive aspects on the promotion and protection of human rights. She reminded however that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guaranteed the right for everyone to respect of their private life. Some people were recommending that the international framework on the right to privacy be strengthened and adapted to the challenges created by the digital age. This could be done through the creation of a new special mandate of the Human Rights Council, the adoption of a new international instrument, or the elaboration by the Human Rights Committee of a reviewed General Comment on Article 17 of the International Covenant.
The final phase of the Intergovernmental Process of the General Assembly on Strengthening the Treaty Body System was crucial for the real implementation of the system, the High Commissioner said. The final draft resolution submitted by the General Assembly’s Third Committee would now be reviewed by the Budget Committee before being presented to the General Assembly for adoption in plenary, she said. The treaty body system faced many challenges, and would collapse without the adoption and implementation of a strong review mechanism. The draft resolution seemed to be moving in the right direction and included increased budget allocations for the work of the treaty bodies. The High Commissioner welcomed the high level of engagement of all treaty body chairpersons, which had positively influenced the negotiations in New York. This showed how important it was for the treaty bodies to act together as a system. The Addis Ababa Guidelines adopted by the Chairpersons demonstrated the treaty bodies’ ability to strengthen their own methods of work and safeguard their independence. The High Commissioner welcomed that the Intergovernmental Process had successfully avoided the inclusion of a code of conduct which would have seriously limited that independence. She also welcomed the fact that it included the principle that any cost savings resulting from the process be reallocated into the system.
Ms. Pillay recalled that this year was the anniversary of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The Human Rights Committee had achieved significant advances on this issue through its jurisprudence, and was asked to continue its efforts to encourage its ratification by States. Ms. Pillay said she would travel to Nigeria the day after, and asked that the Experts give her some advice on how to raise the question of the abolition of the death penalty there, in the context of a federal State.
Discussion with Committee Members
The Human Rights Committee then held a brief interactive discussion with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
SIR NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, welcomed the involvement of the High Commissioner in the negotiations of the Intergovernmental Process of the General Assembly on Strengthening the Treaty Body System. The outcome of the Process would be discussed by the Human Rights Committee on Friday, 14 March 2014, in the afternoon. Regarding the question of the death penalty, the Human Rights Committee would continue its efforts to promote the ratification and implementation of the Second Optional Protocol.
A Committee Member noted that the outcome of the negotiations in New York would not mean the end of the strengthening efforts by the treaty bodies themselves. An Expert asked the High Commissioner how the Human Rights Council could be encouraged to take in better consideration of the recommendations made by the treaty bodies.
NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded how close the Intergovernmental Process of the General Assembly on Strengthening the Treaty Body System was on including a code of conduct which would have seriously limited the independence of the experts. She welcomed therefore that the final draft did not include such limitations, and reiterated her support for the Guidelines adopted by the Experts themselves in Addis Ababa. The Office of the High Commissioner would work on the dissemination of the treaty bodies’ jurisprudence within the Human Rights Council to enhance the cooperation between the two systems. The High Commissioner explained that States were expecting that a good part of the cost savings resulting from the intergovernmental process be allocated to increasing States’ capacities to fulfill their reporting obligations.
Statement from the Working Group on Communications
FABIÁN OMAR SALVIOLI, Committee Member and Chairperson of the Committee’s Working Group on Communications, updated the Committee on the work of the Working Group on Communications, which met last week and elected him as new Chairperson. The Working Group examined 24 cases, of those 17 would be examined on merits. For one case, the Working Group would ask for more information.
For use of the information media; not an official record