ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

News & Media

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE OPENS ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTH SESSION
9 July 2012

The Human Rights Committee this morning opened its one hundred and fifth session, in which it adopted its agenda and programme of work and heared an address by Mona Rishmawi of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. During the meeting the Committee held a tribute to Rajsoomer Lallah, a former member since 1976 who sadly passed away in June, and welcomed new member Yadh Ben Achour of Tunisia.

In her opening address, Ms. Rishmawi, Chief, Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, paid tribute to the late Rajsoomer Lallah, who had been the longest serving Committee Member since the first session in 1976, and who had contributed greatly to the work of the Human Rights Committee. Recent developments around the world, including in the Middle East and North Africa, demanded rule of law and accountability and in order to support sustainable transitions with human rights at their core democratic institutions needed to be established, together with mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable. The Committee had provided valuable assistance in building momentum towards the planned 2012 General Assembly Resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, but it was crucial to consider having a new General Comment on Article 9 of the Covenant because a person’s right to security and liberty was a core concern of the Office of the High Commissioner.

Cornelis Flinterman, Chairperson of the Working Group on Communications, briefly updated the Committee about the meeting of last week, in which the Working Group examined 22 communications cases prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner.

Committee Members paid tribute to the late Rajsoomer Lallah, of Mauritius. They agreed that Mr. Lallah had been woven into the fabric of the Human Rights Committee and it was difficult to imagine the Committee without him. He would be remembered as a symbol of integrity, professionalism and humanity. The Committee held a minute’s silence in the memory of Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah.

During the meeting the Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work.
The Committee then continued in private to hear briefings by United Nations organizations and specialized agencies, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation in Iceland and Lithuania. When the Committee resumes its work in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon it will begin consideration of the fifth report of Iceland (CCPR/C/ISL/5).

Opening Address

MONA RISHMAWI, Chief, Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the beginning of her opening address paid tribute to the late Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah, or Justice Lallah, who had passed away a few weeks ago. Since his election to the Human Rights Committee in 1976 Justice Lallah had assumed many roles in addition to being a Committee Member, including those of Special Rapporteur on the human rights situations in Myanmar and Chile.

Recent developments around the world, including in the Middle East and North Africa, demanded rule of law and accountability, Ms. Rishmawi said. Accountability was a key notion that the Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch promoted and sought to operationalize. In order to support sustainable transitions with human rights at their core democratic institutions that were governed by the rule of law needed to be established, together with effective mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Committee’s work informed the work of the Office of the High Commissioner, in many ways, for example regard to human rights and security policies, including counter-terrorism, or in supporting the rights of victims to an effective remedy. The Office relied heavily on the Committee’s interpretations of the Covenant when furthering human rights protection, which were important in the continued application of human rights law in situations of armed conflict and the extra-territorial application of human rights obligations.

Concerning the moratorium on and abolition of the death penalty the Committee had provided valuable assistance in building momentum towards the planned 2012 General Assembly Resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Ms. Rishmawi updated the Committee on interesting developments regarding the administration of justice, such as adoption of the resolution containing new United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems.
It was crucial to consider a new General Comment on Article 9 of the Covenant (the right to liberty and security of person) because a person’s right to security and liberty was a core concern of the Office of the High Commissioner. Concluding, Ms. Rishmawi said that the High Commissioner’s Report on the Strengthening of the Human Rights Treaty Body System had now been published and would be officially launched in New York on 16 and 17 July 2012.

Questions and Remarks by Committee Members

An Expert regretted the frequent absence of the High Commissioner and other high-level officers from her Office from the opening sessions of the Human Rights Committee. Issues not included in the opening address by Ms. Rishmawi were also raised. Exactly how helpful a contribution Experts’ comments on the High Commissioner’s Report on the Strengthening of the Human Rights Treaty Body System, made after its launch, was queried.

In response to the questions Ms. Rishmawi said that the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, was currently away from undertaking a complex mission visiting two countries in Central Asia. Over the past year Ms. Pillay had undertaken two country visits per month and was often absent from Geneva. Turning to comments regarding her opening statement, Ms. Rishmawi said she would have liked to talk about equality, women’s issues and the interaction between freedom of expression and religious freedoms but unfortunately there was not enough time to address all those issues so her statement had focused on the administration of justice. Concerning the Report on the Strengthening of the Human Rights Treaty Body System, the aim was to inform the Committee about the reactions to the High Commissioner’s report and how to implement some of the recommendations that the Experts had agreed to. The Report was a result of a long process and everyone was happy it was now out.

Report of the Working Group on Communications

CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, Chair of the Working Group on Communications, spoke briefly about a meeting held last week, in which it examined twenty two communications cases prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Working Group also discussed its methods of work and proposed subjects for discussion in plenary.

Tribute to the late Rajsoomer Lallah

ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Committee Chairperson, paid tribute to the late Mr. Lallah, of Mauritius, who excepting a few months had been a member of the Committee since its inaugural session in 1976: he was the longest serving Committee Member and as such the source of its institutional memory. His commitment to international human rights law did not remain within the Committee’s work, as he had also served as a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situations in Myanmar and in Chile, and also been a member of the International Commission of Jurists. Mr. Lallah would be remembered as a symbol of integrity, professionalism and humanity.

Committee Experts took the floor to express their own individual tributes. It was widely agreed that the Committee had lost its founding member and its living memory, in addition to a person who had been deeply involved in international human rights and with civil society. Mr. Lallah had been able to protect the Committee from politicization and from falling into an East-West divide, one Expert said, and he had been one of the first Members to welcome the views and information of non-governmental organizations, said another. Several Experts commented that one striking aspect of their former colleague had been Mr. Lallah’s extraordinary imagination in finding a meeting point between divergent and sometimes opposite views on issues, and his ability to suggest a way out of the most difficult differences. Mr. Lallah had been woven into the fabric of the Human Rights Committee and it was difficult to imagine the Committee without him.

The Committee held a minute’s silence in the memory of Rajsoomer Lallah.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CT12002E