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HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE OPENS ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIRST SESSION

16 October 2017

The Human Rights Committee this morning opened its one hundred and twenty-first session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, hearing an address by Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee adopted the agenda of the session and heard a presentation of the report of the Working Group on communications.

In his opening statement, Mr. Abdelmoula reminded that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was the treaty with the fourth highest number of States not complying with their reporting obligations in a timely manner: 36 per cent of initial reports under the treaty were overdue. He encouraged the Committee to continue consulting and working with States parties and consider new and creative ways to reduce the number of overdue reports, such as through the Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme, which supported States parties in building their capacity to implement their treaty obligations. Speaking of the inter-linkage between the Committee’s work and the Sustainable Development Goals, Mr. Abdelmoula noted that the effective implementation of and follow up on the recommendations of the treaty bodies in a holistic and integrated manner would serve as a key contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at the country level. Turning to a proposal to reallocate the meeting time and human resources allotted to each treaty body, Mr. Abdelmoula reminded that the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee would consider the proposal in the coming weeks with a decision expected in December 2017.

Presenting the report of the Working Group on communications, Yuval Shany, Chairman of the Working Group on communications, briefed the Committee about the Working Group’s deliberations on 21 individual communications. He said that three communications had been declared inadmissible, whereas 18 had been accepted on merits. Mr. Shany noted with some concern that the secretariat had been able to prepare only 21 drafts, underlining that it would not be possible to reduce the backlog without sufficient secretariat resources.

During the session, the Committee will consider the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Australia, Jordan, Mauritius, Cameroon and Romania.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to start considering the fourth periodic report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CCPR/C/COD/4).

Opening Statement

ADAM ABDELMOULA, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the session took place in a context of serious and escalating human rights concerns marked by violence, extremism, discrimination, rising xenophobia, arbitrary arrests, torture, and persecution of minorities. The denial of civil and political rights was at the heart of those crises, which only underlined more than ever how crucial the Committee’s work was to protect and promote the Covenant. Mr. Abdelmoula noted that the Covenant was the treaty with the fourth highest number of States not complying with their reporting obligations in a timely manner: 36 per cent of initial reports under the treaty were overdue. The Committee had taken important steps to address that problem, for example by offering simplified reporting procedures to all States and by reinvigorating the procedure to consider States’ implementation of the Covenant in the absence of a report. During the previous meeting with States parties, some 80 States had shared with the Committee the challenges they faced, such as reporting fatigue, and the significant overlap and duplication of issues raised by various treaty bodies. Another area of concern was the lack of time for concrete action to implement recommendations and improve treaty compliance, which was the ultimate goal of the monitoring exercise.
Mr. Abdelmoula encouraged the Committee to continue consulting and working with States parties and consider new and creative ways to reduce the number of overdue reports. Through the Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme, which had been established in 2014, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was also actively working on that issue. The programme supported States parties in building their capacity to implement their treaty obligations. Its two years of operation had clearly yielded results by supporting States to increase their treaty body reporting compliance and improve the quality of constructive dialogues before treaty bodies. Mr. Abdelmoula recommended that the Committee meet with the coordinator of the Treaty Body Capacity Building Programme during the session to consider ways of how to further strengthen the cooperation with its colleagues in the field and assist States parties in meeting their reporting obligations.

As for the inter-linkage between the Committee’s work and the Sustainable Development Goals, it was evident that effective implementation of and follow-up on the recommendations of the treaty bodies in a holistic and integrated manner would serve as a key contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at the country level. Treaty body recommendations indeed could be used as indicators to measure and track progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Conversely, results achieved through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in a given State party could also inform the work of the treaty body. For the Committee there was a clear overlap between the implementation of the Covenant’s provisions and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 – creating peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and strong institutions. Specific targets under goal 16 linked to promoting fundamental freedoms, countering violence and torture were even more explicit references to the Covenant. Connecting the Committee’s work under the reporting procedure to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 would help strengthen accountability under the 2030 Agenda while at the same time raise the profile of the Committee’s important work with an even broader audience.

With regard to the General Assembly resolution 68/268 and the preparations for the 2020 review foreseen under the same resolution on treaty body strengthening, Mr. Abdelmoula indicated that the Secretary-General’s first resort that was being considered during the present General Assembly session in New York had led to a proposal to reallocate the meeting time and human resources allotted to each treaty body, with a considerable increase in resources allocated to bodies examining individual communications. The General Assembly’s Fifth Committee would consider the proposal in the coming weeks with a decision expected in December 2017. In 2018, the Secretary-General would prepare a second report on implementation of resolution 68/268, which would again evaluate the workload of committees and calculate the resources and weeks of meeting required for each committee for the period 2020-2021. Turning to the Committee’s agenda for the current session, Mr. Abdelmoula said that the Committee would not only examine the implementation of the Covenant in seven States parties and review a number of individual communications under the Optional Protocol, but it would also commence the second reading of the draft General Comment on the right to life. Mr. Abdelmoula noted that several States parties, as well as numerous other stakeholders, had submitted their comments on the draft. That demonstrated the interest and appreciation that the international community had for the Committee’s extremely valuable role.

Presentation of the Report of the Working Group on Communications

YUVAL SHANY, Committee Member and Chair of the Working Group on communications, said that the seven-member Working Group had met last week and had reviewed 21 individual communications. The Working Group had made the following recommendations: three communications had been declared inadmissible, whereas 18 had been accepted on merits. Six out of 18 communications had been found to be in non-violation, 10 in violation, and two with deferring opinions. Mr. Shany noted with some concern that the secretariat had been able to prepare only 21 drafts, even though the Committee would have been able to consider more. He underlined that the Committee would not be able to reduce the backlog without sufficient secretariat resources.



For use of the information media; not an official record

CT/17/32E