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News & Media

12 July 2012

The Human Rights Committee this morning discussed its working methods, in particular the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on treaty body strengthening and its preliminary statement in response.

In the discussion on the High Commissioner’s report titled “Strengthening the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies System” Committee Members said the initiative to deeply consider the challenging task of strengthening the treaty bodies system should be welcomed. The system was in crisis due to its rapid growth and the systematic problem of increasing backlogs. For example, States submitting initial reports to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have had to wait seven years for the Committee’s consideration of their report. The crisis triggered the Dublin Process, which began in November 2009 and generated over a hundred recommendations of ways to strengthen the treaty bodies system. Many of those recommendations were contained in the report and were addressed to the United Nations, treaty bodies, non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and States Parties, all of whom needed to take action to strengthen the system. The Committee was concerned that the treaty bodies system would be irrevocably damaged if the High Commissioner’s proposals failed.

The discussion turned to availability of resources for treaty bodies, an issue addressed in the report. Committee Members suggested the Human Rights Committee remind other treaty bodies that additional resources could be obtained by re-allocating existing resources within the Office of the High Commissioner. The core recommendation of the report was to launch a comprehensive reporting calendar, but additional discussions were needed to how that would work. A Committee Member warned that the proposal to hold State hearings without a report risked making banal what was exceptional. The Committee discussed its participation in the consultation meeting for the report which would take place in New York from 16 to 18 July 2012. Committee Member Mr. Michael O’Flaherty was proposed by the Chairperson to be the Committee’s representative in the intergovernmental consultation process on treaty body strengthening.

The Committee also held a detailed and technical discussion on its draft Preliminary Statement on the report of the High Commissioner. During the dialogue Committee Members agreed that the statement should include several other issues such as resources and the relationship between reform and funding. The statement should recall that the authority to change treaties was in the hands of treaty bodies and not the General Assembly, as was their autonomy and choice of working methods, and that the specificity of each treaty body should be taken into account. Some Committee Members said that the Committee should be more critical. They also expressed concern about the proposal to establish a joint treaty body working group on communications, namely because the proposal was incompatible with the treaties themselves, because treaties had different members so therefore it would be impossible to have one joint working group, and because a number of States did not want joint treaty procedures – something that may endanger future ratification of treaties and their Optional Protocols.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be today 12 July at 3 p.m. when the Committee will hear the initial report of the Maldives (CCPR/C/MDV/1). The Committee will continue its discussion on working methods and its draft Preliminary Statement on Thursday 19 July 2012 at 3 p.m.

For use of information media; not an official record