Opportunities to Contribute to UN Reports with March Deadlines

This month, civil society organizations and human rights defenders have the opportunity to contribute their comments on three upcoming UN reports on the topics of the right to peace, the relationship between human rights and traditional values, and the death penalty.

Report on the First Session of the Open-ended Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Draft United Nations Declaration on the Right to Peace

On February 21, 2013, the Working Group on the Draft UN Declaration on the Right to Peace, created pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 20/15 of July 17, 2012, adopted their First Session report which reflects that the draft declaration is far from being finalized.  Government delegations participating in the Working Group session “debated as to whether the right to peace is an individual or collective right,” and some maintained that the right to peace has no basis in international law.  Some delegations asserted that the draft declaration is too ambiguous, while others maintained that the declaration must broadly address the right to peace. Discussions of Article 1 of the draft declaration, which lays out its core principles, revealed the persistence of fundamental disagreements about whether the right to peace is “a fully-fledged right” or a “mere concept able to benefit from other rights.”  Some delegations believed certain articles – such as those on disarmament and the environment – should be eliminated altogether on the basis that the declaration is not the appropriate forum or that those issues are addressed in other international instruments.

The Working Group will continue to discuss the draft declaration during the Human Rights Council’s 25th Session in early 2014. All interested civil society stakeholders are invited to respond to the Working Group’s report and contribute to the discussion on the right to peace by emailing their submissions to the Secretary of the Working Group at wgrightpeace@ohchr.org prior to the deadline of March 8, 2013.

OHCHR Report on “Promoting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Humankind: Best Practices”

On October 9, 2012, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to “collect information from State Members of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity, and to submit a summary” for review at the Council’s 24th Session in September 2013.  This compilation of best practices followed from the prior Council Resolution A/HRC/21/L.2 on the relationship between traditional values and human rights.

While some States assert that traditional values are the source of human rights and thus serve to strengthen and contextualize universal human rights for individual societies, others are concerned that States could violate human rights with impunity under the argument that they are adhering to traditional values. For more details, see the prior IJRC post on the ongoing debate about traditional values in the human rights context. The anticipated report will draw on submissions from civil society organizations on this debate.  Those interested may submit contributions of no more than 2 pages in length (in Microsoft Word or a compatible document format) via email  to spuvimanasinghe@ohchr.org by March 15, 2013.

Secretary General’s Report to the Human Rights Council on the Death Penalty

In 2011, the Human Rights Council requested that the UN Secretary General prepare and submit a report on “capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty on persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence, on pregnant women, and on persons with mental or intellectual disabilities.”  In the report, the Secretary General is likely to reaffirm that the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights and UN principles, as the Deputy High Commissioner expressed on the Secretary General’s behalf on February 25, 2013 to the International Commission against the Death Penalty.   In August 2012, the Secretary General submitted a similarly themed report to the UN General Assembly, specifically addressing the “trend towards abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a moratorium on execution.” For further information on the death penalty under international law, see the previous IJRC post on the recent findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions.

In preparing his report, the Secretary General has invited civil society organizations to email their submissions of no longer than 1,500 words to registry@ohchr.org (with CC to zmahmood@ohchr.org) by March 31, 2013.