Friday, March 17, 2006

The New Human Rights Council

I am slow posting about this, but the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday voted 170-4 (with three abstentions) to create a new Human Rights Council. The United States, along with Israel, Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, voted against the resolution creating the new Council.

Human Rights Watch summarizes some of the key features of the new Human Rights Council:

  • The council will meet at least three times a year for ten weeks--an improvement on the commission’s single annual six-week meeting--with a right for one-third of the council members to call additional sessions “when needed.”
  • The old commission’s system of independent “special rapporteurs” and other special procedures, which is one of the great strengths of the U.N. human rights system, will be retained, as will the tradition of access for human rights NGOs.
  • Members of the council are committed to cooperate with the council and its various mechanisms--an improvement on current practice, in which some members of the commission refuse to grant unimpeded access to U.N. human rights investigators.
  • The right of the council to address serious human rights situations through country-specific resolutions is reaffirmed.
  • A new universal review procedure will scrutinize the records of even the most powerful countries--an important step toward redressing the double standards that the commission was often accused of applying.

For more, see the Washington Post story here. The Amnesty International USA news release, which emphasizes the need for states that respect human rights to be elected to the 43-member Council, is available here.