Side event: strengthening accountability in the field of human rights

On Tuesday 28 May 2013, the ICJ co-sponsored a parallel event with TRIAL and the Missions of Botswana, Costa Rica, Estonia and Switzerland during the Human Rights Council’s 23rd regular session held in Geneva.

The event, held in Room XXV of the Palais des Nations, addressed key issues concerning accountability and human rights. The event was chaired by Professor Paola Gaeta from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Panelists were Tiina Intelmann, President of the Assembly of the States Parties to the ICC Statute; Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai, Ambassador of Botswana; Ian Seiderman, Director of the ICJ’s Law and Policy Office; and Gabriella Citroni, Senior Legal Adviser at TRIAL (Swiss association against impunity).

Panelists agreed that accountability is intimately linked to the enjoyment of human rights. It was stated that – under State responsibility – States are, or should be, held responsible for acts involving any violation of international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Accountability is thus not only about criminal justice, but also about ensuring reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism were seen as having been partly successful in bridging gaps, although there remains a lack of proper follow-up on the progress of implementation between UPR cycles. Panellists observed that States often fail to refer to standards enunciated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and by the Special Procedures. Regarding the accountability of non-State actors for conduct involving human rights abuses and violations, the ‘Ruggie Principles’ were referred to as a representing good progress but still failing to be as comprehensive as they should be.

Concerning future steps by Human Rights Council mechanisms, panellists proposed that resolutions, statements and Special Procedures should more directly and frequently refer to accountability. The need for greater political pressure on the International Criminal Court was expressed, with the aim of supporting the domestic capacity of States parties to the Rome Statute. Concerning domestic capacity to strengthen accountability more generally, panellists and participants agreed on the need to improve linkages between the work of persons dealing with development and those working on accountability.

HR Council-Strengthening accountability-event-2013 (event flyer in pdf)