February 2019: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session
In February, various universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding children’s rights; the prevention of torture; economic, social and cultural rights; and the rights of women. The Human Rights Council will be holding one of its three regular sessions and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. One UN special rapporteur and one UN working group will conduct country visits in February, and three UN working groups will hold sessions. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be holding public sessions.
The UN treaty body and UPR sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR, the IACHR, and the European Court may be viewed via the IACtHR’s Vimeo page, the IACHR’s website, and the European Court’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies
Three of the 10 UN human rights treaty bodies will meet this month to review certain States parties’ implementation of their treaty obligations. They are the Committee on the Rights of the Child; the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Through the State reporting procedure, treaty bodies review States’ reports and responses to a specific list of issues, receive additional information from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), engage in an interactive dialogue with each State’s representatives, and then adopt concluding observations detailing the progress and remaining challenges in the State’s implementation of the treaty. Through a simplified reporting procedure, treaty bodies may invite States to respond only to questions (list of issues) prepared by the treaty body, rather than submitting a comprehensive report and also responses to a subsequent list of issues. Additionally, the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture will meet privately to advance its work.
Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will continue with its 80th Session in Geneva, Switzerland which opened on January 14 and is set to end on February 1, 2019. According to its programme of work, the CRC will consider the State reports of Bahrain, Belgium, Guinea, Italy, Japan, and Syria to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CRC will also consider the State report of the Czech Republic for its compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC).
Civil society members wishing to attend the CRC’s session must register through the Indico system before February 1, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRC’s 80th Session webpage. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Following the CRC’s 80th Session, the CRC Pre-Sessional Working Group will hold its 82nd Session in Geneva, Switzerland from February 4 to February 8, 2019. The Working group will begin its review of the State reports of Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Portugal, Korea, and Luxembourg to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and will hold private briefings on those countries. The Working Group will also begin its review of Georgia’s State report to assess its implementation of the CRC-OP-SC, and its review of Georgia’s and Panama’s State reports to assess their compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture
The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) will hold its 37th Session from February 18 to February 22, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland, according to the calendar of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The SPT session information is confidential, but the SPT publishes annual reports on its activities. Its sessions generally provide its 25 members—an independent group of experts—a chance to report on and discuss upcoming and recent activities related to specific States, regions, and thematic priorities. For more information on the SPT, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) will hold its 65th Session from February 18 to March 8, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its provisional programme of work, the CESCR will hold interactive dialogues with Bulgaria, Cameroon, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Mauritius with respect to their compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights. During the remainder of the session, the Committee will hold closed discussions.
Civil society members looking to attend the CESCR’s session must register through the Indico system before February 11, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society’s alternative reports, visit the CESCR’s 65th Session webpage. For more information on the CESCR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) will hold its 72nd Session from February 18 to March 1, 2019 in Geneva Switzerland. According to its proposed programme of work, the CEDAW Committee will engage in interactive dialogues with Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Colombia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Serbia, and the United Kingdom to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Civil society members looking to attend the CEDAW Committee’s session must register through the Indico system before March 8, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CEDAW Committee’s 72nd Session webpage. For more information on the CEDAW Committee, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental deliberative body, will hold its 40th Session from February 25 to March 22, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the session agenda, the Human Rights Council will review reports from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary General, outcome reports from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group on specific States, and reports from UN special procedures mandate holders. The list of reports is available on the session’s webpage.
The Human Rights Council will select four individuals from a proposed list of candidates to serve as members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Human Rights Council will also convene several panel discussions on topics including human rights and multilateralism, the rights of persons and children with disabilities, human rights violations related to the implementation of the death penalty, and efforts to counter the rise of nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies.
NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions as observers, as described on the Council’s webpage on NGO participation. Relevant documents and further information regarding the issues that will be covered at the session, including the reports considered during the session, submissions from civil society, and the Council’s agenda, is available on the Human Rights Council’s 40th Session webpage. For more information about the Human Rights Council, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Universal Periodic Review Working Group
The Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group will proceed with its 32nd Session which began on January 21 and will last through February 1, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its tentative timetable, the Working Group is holding interactive dialogues with New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Vietnam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, and Cambodia regarding their obligations under the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights instruments to which the State is party, the State’s voluntary pledges and commitments, and applicable international humanitarian law.
During the session, a group of three Human Rights Council Member States (or troika) will facilitate the review of each country. Representatives from the country being reviewed will give an oral presentation, which is followed by an interactive dialogue with the UN Member States. The States make recommendations and comments, which the troika summarizes in a report, and the reviewed country can accept or reject the recommendations and comments. A final outcome report will then be adopted, and the country will report on its implementation of the recommendations during the following UPR cycle.
Various independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures” have country visits or sessions scheduled for February. One special rapporteur and one working group of experts will carry out a country visits this month. Additionally, three working groups will hold private sessions in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice will hold its 24th Session from January 28 to February 1, 2019 in New York, United States.
The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will hold its 22nd Session from February 4 to February 8, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will hold its 117th Session from February 11 to February 15, 2019 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation agreed to visit Lesotho from February 4 to February 15, 2019.
The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will carry out a fact-finding visit to Belgium from February 4 to February 11, 2019.
During their country visits, these special procedures mandate holders will assess both the overall human rights situation in the country and the issues specific to their thematic focus. Experts also meet with civil society, government, and national human rights institutions when they visit a country. Their findings are published later in reports addressed to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and other visits of Special Procedures. To view the full list of forthcoming country visits, review the Special Procedures’ Visits document and visit the OHCHR website. For more information on each special procedure, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 171st Period of Sessions from February 13 to February 15, 2019 in Sucre, Bolivia. During the session, it will hold public hearings on a range of human rights concerns in the region, including in 13 countries. The schedule of hearings is available on the IACHR website. For more information on the IACHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will continue holding its 129th Regular Session which began on January 28 and will close on February 8, 2019 in San Jose, Costa Rica. During its sessions, the IACtHR typically holds public hearings on the merits of individual complaints and deliberates on contentious cases alleging human rights violations. For more information about the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (no. 20958/14) on February 27, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. This case is one of five inter-State applications pending before the ECtHR regarding events preceding and following from the Russian Federation’s assumption of control over the Crimean peninsula and its exercise of control over separatist and armed groups in Eastern Ukraine. [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine; ECtHR Press Release: Adjourn] In this case, Ukraine alleges that Russia’s control over the region makes it responsible for the violation of numerous human rights listed in the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to respect for private life (Article 8), freedom of religion (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10), freedom of assembly and association (Article 11), right to an effective remedy (Article 13), and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine] Ukraine alleges that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea has resulted in the killings of military personnel and civilians both directly by Russian forces and through Russia’s support for violent separatist groups. The Government also alleges that Russia is responsible for the torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Ukrainians based on their ethnic origin. [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine]
For more information on the European Court, visit the IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.