Posted by: bklunk | November 29, 2006

The UN and Human Rights

Human Rights solutions?

from International Federation for Human Rights

scallah2 looks at UN reforms regarding human rights.


Reform of the UN human rights protection mechanisms: protective capacities in danger


November 22, 2006

« Improvement and rationalization » of the Special Procedures:

guaranteeing the independence and diversity of these mechanisms

● Context: an offensive against the independent mechanisms inherited from the

Commission on Human Rights

Withing the framework of the discussions on “the improvement and reinforcement” of the

special procedures of the United Nations, many states have an offensive strategy aiming at

weakening their capacity to react quickly to violations. Their strategy also aims to weaken

the guarantees of independance of mandates visavis

governments, to weaken the diversity

of situations on which they work, and at the same time, to eliminate certain of the most

«embarrassing» procedures.

● Threat of extinction of the examination of “country’s situations”

Many countries (on the initiative, in particular of China, the Organization of the Islamic

Conference, among others) carry out an offensive against the examination of the country

situations. This group is likely to collect a majority in the current membership of the

Council. Under the pretext of fighting against the “politization” of the Council, all

actions taken with regard to country situations with grave and massive violations of

human rights are contested, except the violations committed by the State of Israel.

Thus, resolutions and Special Rapporteurs created on situations such as Sudan, Uzbekistan,

Iran, North Korea, Belarus, are disputed by a majority of Member States of the Council.

Here are some arguments to be developed in support of the mechanism (resolutions or

Rapporteurs) on countries:

– With regard to situations of serious and systematic violations, it is necessary for the

international community to react and to condemn such violations; It cannot remain

silent. It would have been indeed wished that the international community reacts and

condemns the Rwanda genocide, before it took regrettable proportions.

– When there are massive and systematic violations in a country, the thematic

rapporteurs cannot document adequately these violations alone; it becomes

necessary to develop monitoring mechanisms which are dedicated to that country, which

is what corresponds to country rapporteurs.

– Many country resolutions have in the past, proven their success, e.g. Chile and South

Africa, facing international pressure, have finally engaged in a democratic process.

● Threats to the independence of thematic tapporteurs

The same group of Member States of the Council seeks to call into question the methods of

appointment of the rapporteurs, by disputing the possibility for experts coming from NGOs

to hold a mandate of Special Rapporteur. Others (Algeria) boldly request that the Special

Rapporteurs be nominated from a list of country ambassadors, in order to dratf “more

constructive and consensual” reports.

Arguments to put forward:

– Special Rapporteurs, working groups, independent experts or representatives of the


are mechanisms whose legitimacy is guaranteed by both their

expertise and their independence;

FIDH / p. 2

– One cannot expect a country ambassador to have independent expertise on human rights.

In fact, this ambassador represents his government. He is thus subject to political

constraints and obligations which are not compatible with the independent evaluation of

other governments’ behaviour;

– Special Rapporteurs must evaluate the behaviour of the governments in the

implementation of the obligations to which these governments have subscribed. Their

independence must thus be guaranteed with regard to the governments, not with regard

NGOs. They can therefore legitimately come from NGOs.

I think the FIDH is on to something here.  By having human rights advisors drawn from NGOs, there is certainly a level for increased independence of action.  Without a government’s biases to thwart the process (i.e. the avoidance of the word “genocide” by the US during Rwanda), these rapporteurs should be more effective.
At the same time, there would need to be rapporteurs from governments, as well.  This would add legitimacy to any findings, and would make it easier for states to accept the findings, as well as earn some political capital by saying that their nation is on top of the issue.
Of course, the decision to intervene in a country’s affairs would be left to the Security Council, so the domestic politics of the permanent members would still make the final decision.  Within the council, intervention would still have to wait for military commitment by a state or group of states with sufficient force, leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of (most likely) the US.  A Rwanda, therefore, would still be possible.

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  1. O come on now. SOMEBODY comment on my entry. Please?

  2. One downside of this though is that there would seem to be less accountability for advisors who are elected from NGOs. While NGO representatives would be the ones choosing where resources are allocated it is the independent nations that would be paying for them. For example, an NGO representative would most likely choose to use military action in cases such as Rwanda because they lack any governmental bias. However, this would also make it more likely for them to use military force frivolously as their non-governmental organization would not be directly funding the operations. States would be picking up the tab for the actions of NGOs.

  3. Steve W:
    What about PMCs? In Rwanda, I believe there was one South African mercenary force that was begging to be allowed to go in and stop the killings. Could an NGO just hire them instead? I know that there is a lot of debate about the ethics of using mercenaries, but it would have been better than nothing. Also, there are a load of PMCs in Iraq right now, and I haven’t heard the international community bat an eye.
    Any thoughts?

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