ICJ welcomes few advances at the UN Commission on Human Rights

The ICJ issued today its evaluation of the 56th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which ended on 28 April 2000.

The ICJ said that the session produced mixed results and that it was marred by politicisation, intrigue and obstruction by some States. However, the ICJ is encouraged by the progress made on some issues.

The Commission’s decision to establish a Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders provides an enormous source of encouragement for NGOs around the world.

The establishment of the two UN Special Rapporteurs on Adequate Housing and on the Right to Food no doubt constitute a great leap forward in the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The ICJ regrets however that not much progress was made on the draft Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which establishes an individual complaints procedure. When finalised and adopted, this protocol will constitute a significant step forward towards the full realisation of these rights. The draft, however, is meeting resistance from developing and developed countries alike.

The ICJ said that the adoption a resolution on the human rights situation in Chechnya is “symbolically speaking at least – a very positive development”. However, the resolution is couched in mild terms and fails to adequately reflect the immensity of the human rights tragedy. The ICJ urged the Russian Federation to fully cooperate with the UN Commission on this matter.

The ICJ considered that the extremely serious human rights situation in Sierra Leone warranted the establishment of a position of country-specific special rapporteur. The resolution failed to heed that call but instead entrusted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on that country at its next session. The ICJ views this request as a positive development.

Amongst the most negative steps taken this year was the adoption of a resolution on human rights and human responsibilities. The ICJ is concerned that by adopting this resolution the Commission is embarking upon the dangerous path of affirming the responsibility of individuals rather than their rights. The resolution embraces autocratic notions and distorts the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The resolution requests the Sub-Commission on Human Rights to undertake a study on the issue. It was narrowly adopted. A resolution on human rights and terrorism also attempts to shift the debate from the rights of individuals to the rights of States.

The ICJ welcomed the resolution on the elimination of violence against women which particularly denounced the phenomena of so-called killings in the name of honour or passion.

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