Health of the Special Procedure system moves to the centre of the Council’s agenda

by the URG team Blog BORRAR, Human rights institutions and mechanisms, Human rights institutions and mechanisms BORRAR, Special Procedures

For the first time since the Council’s five-year review in 2011, the 26th session of the Human Rights Council that ended on 27th June saw the health and impact of the Special Procedures mechanism move to the centre of the political stage.

States could not resist continuing to add new Special Procedure mandates – the 26th session saw members create a 51st active Special Procedure: a Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. But at least they and other stakeholders combined this on-going enthusiasm for widening with careful consideration of how to improve the mechanism and strengthen its impact.

The session saw two significant side-events. The first, organised by the Permanent Mission of Latvia and OHCHR’s Special Procedures Branch focused on best practice in the conduct of country missions and how to ensure that the ensuing recommendations are followed up on and implemented. The second was hosted by the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) core group and recalled the vital role of the mechanism – the ‘eyes and ears’ of the human rights system – in preventing gross and systematic violations of human rights.

This interest and focus was reflected in the Council’s formal agenda, which saw three important statements delivered during the Item 5 general debate (23rd June) on different determinants of Special Procedures influence.

First, the ‘group of friends’ of Special Procedures delivered a statement drawing attention to the importance of strengthening cooperation with Special Procedures, and the follow-up and implementation of their recommendations. In their cross-regional statement, delivered by the Ambassador of Honduras on behalf of 38 states, they suggested that a more regular interaction with the Chair of the Special Procedures Coordination Committee at the Human Rights Council might be useful to improve dialogue and information-exchange and boost cooperation. On the issue of follow-up and implementation, they urged states to take ‘voluntary steps’ to ‘submit and discuss information on implementation,’ noting that ‘the practice of submitting UPR mid-term reports…began as a voluntary gesture by a small number of states and yet has developed into a widely applied best practice.’ They also called on more Special Procedures mandate-holders to systemise follow-up in their methods of work.

A second cross-regional statement, delivered by Pakistan on behalf of the Like-Minded Group (LMG), focused on the appointment procedure for new mandate-holders. In particular they called for more comprehensive implementation of paragraph 40 of the Council’s institution-building package (IBP), which states that ‘due consideration should be given to gender balance and equitable geographic representation, as well as to an appropriate representation of different legal systems’ in the selection and appointment of mandate-holders. The statement claimed that the recent list of mandate holders ‘reflects discrimination against developing countries.’

Geographic Balance of Mandate-Holders (27th June 2014)

Data Source: OHCHR Website, URG primary research and interviews.

A statement by India also took up the theme of the appointment process, and in particular what it views as the politicisation of the process. India drew attention to the controversial nature of the appointments made earlier in the year, which saw, according to India, the President making changes to the ‘recommendations of the Consultative Group’ without ‘adequate reason and explanation.’

The LMG also highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance, in the Special Procedures mechanism, between civil and political rights mandates and economic, social and cultural rights mandates. Both the LMG and India raised the importance of providing adequate, equitable and transparent funding.

New mandate holders appointed at HRC26

Interestingly, at the end of the 26th session of the Council on June 27th, a number of the issues related to the appointment process, raised by the LMG and India during the Item 5 debate five days earlier, came to the fore as the Council moved to appoint six new mandate-holders. A number of states drew the President’s attention to what they see as a growing regional imbalance in the composition of the Special Procedure mechanism. They argued that the Consultative Group is failing in its responsibility to correctly implement paragraph 40 of the IBP.

Nevertheless, the Council did appoint the following six individuals:

Mr. Baskut TUNCAK (Turkey) – Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes

Mr. Seong-Phil HONG (Republic of Korea) -Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, member from Asia-Pacific States

Mr. Sabelo GUMEDZE (South Africa) – Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, member from African States

Mr. David KAYE (United States of America) – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Mr. Dainius PURAS (Lithuania) – Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Ms. Maria Grazia GIAMMARINARO (Italy) – Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children

Click here for the President’s letter with proposed appointments.


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