May 2019: UN Treaty Bodies And Regional Bodies In Session

Palais des Nations
Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr

In May, several 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. Three United Nations treaty bodies will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the elimination of racial discrimination, the prevention of torture, and the rights of children. The Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review will consider the overall human rights situations in 14 countries. Seven UN special rapporteurs, two independent experts, and one working group will conduct country visits in May. Additionally, four UN working groups will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) will all be in session. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the AfCHPR, IACtHR, IACHR, and ECtHR may be viewed via the AfCHPR’s YouTube page, the IACtHR’s Vimeo page, the IACHR’s YouTube page, and the ECtHR’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 Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee Against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. 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.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will continue holding its 98th Session which opened on April 23 and lasts until May 10, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its provisional agenda, the CERD will hold interactive dialogues with Andorra, Guatemala, Hungary, Lithuania, and Zambia to assess their implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CERD’s 98th Session webpage. For more information on the CERD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee Against Torture

The Committee Against Torture (CAT) will continue its 66th Session which started on April 23 and closes on May 17, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its provisional agenda, the CAT will conduct interactive dialogues with Benin, Congo, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom to assess their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). It will consider and adopt list of issues for Burkina Faso and Uzbekistan ahead of those States’ interactive dialogue, and list of issues prior to reporting for the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kuwait, Lesotho, and Mongolia to address in its simplified reporting procedure.

Civil society members who would like to attend the Committee’s session must register through the Indico system before May 17, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CAT’s 66th Session webpage. For more information on the CAT, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will hold its 81st Session from May 13 to 31, 2019 in Geneva Switzerland. According to its programme of work, the CRC will conduct interactive dialogues with Botswana, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Malta, Singapore, and Tonga to assess their implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will also conduct an interactive dialogue with Sri Lanka to assess its implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Civil society members who would like to attend the Committee’s session must register through the Indico system before June 7, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRC’s 81st Session webpage. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group

The Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will hold its 33rd Session from May 6 to 17, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its tentative timetable, the States under review are Norway, Albania, the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal, Bhutan, Dominica, North Korea, Brunei, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Qatar, and Nicaragua regarding their obligations under 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 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.

NGOs and NHRIs wishing to submit written information for the report must follow the OHCHR technical guidelines for stakeholders submissions for the 3rd cycle. For more information about past, present, and future UPR sessions, including timetables and lists of troikas, visit the UPR sessions webpage or visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Special Procedures

Various independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures” have country visits or sessions scheduled for May. Seven special rapporteurs, two independent experts, and one working group will carry out country visits this month. Additionally, four working groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will continue their visit to the Maldives which began on April 24 and lasts until May 6, 2019.

The Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity will continue their visit to Ukraine which began on April 30 and lasts until May 10, 2019. The independent expert has also agreed to visit Sri Lanka from May 27 to June 7, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will continue their visit to Mongolia which began on April 30 and lasts until May 13, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy agreed to visit Argentina from May 6 to 17, 2019.

The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights agreed to visit Bolivia from May 6 to 15, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members agreed to visit Brazil from May 7 to 14, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism agreed to visit Kazakhstan from May 11 to 17, 2019.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination agreed to visit Switzerland from May 13 to May 17, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food agreed to visit the Dominican Republic from May 15 to 22, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes agreed to visit Canada from May 24 to June 5, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, agreed to visit Togo from May 27 to May 31, 2019.

The UN Working Group on arbitrary detention will continue holding its 84th Session from April 24 to May 3, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Intergovernmental Working Group on the right to development will continue holding its 20th Session which began April 29 and lasts until May 3, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will hold its 23rd Session from May 13 to May 15, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances will hold its 118th Session from May 13 to 22, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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.

Regional Bodies

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) will continue holding its 64th Ordinary Session which began on April 24 and ends on May 14, 2019 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. According to the draft agenda, the session has covered the human rights situation in Africa, various panel discussions, and reports from the special mechanisms of the ACHPR. During the remainder of the session, the Commission will consider State reports from Egypt, Lesotho, and the Gambia. Additionally, the special mechanisms, the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Commission, and other Commissioners will present activity reports. More information is available on the 64th Ordinary Session page, including the invitation to NGOs and the invitation to NHRIs. For more information on the ACHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold its 60th Special Session from May 6 to 10, 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay followed by its 61st Special Session from May 13 to May 19, 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 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 on the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 172nd Period of Sessions from May 3 to 10, 2019 in Kingston, Jamaica. 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.

European Committee on Social Rights

The European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) of the Council of Europe will hold its 306th Session from May 20 to 24, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. The agenda and the synopsis for this session will be published on the ECSR’s calendar at a later date. During its sessions, the ECSR reviews States’ reports on their implementation of the European Social Charter, considers collective complaints alleging violations of the Charter, and follows up on the Turin process to improve implementation of the Charter at the continental level. According to the ECSR’s calendar for national reporting, the ECSR will consider State reports concerning the rights of children, the family, and migrants from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Finland throughout the 2019 calendar year. The ECSR will consider simplified reports on the same topics from the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic throughout the 2019 calendar year. Simplified reports focus on areas of non-conformity identified in the Committee’s previous conclusions. For more information on the European Committee of Social Rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

For more information on the European Committee, visit the 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 S.M. v. Croatia (no. 60561/14) on May 15, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. This case concerns a Croatian woman who filed a case in Croatian courts in 2012 alleging that a former police officer had, for months, forced her into prostitution. [ECtHR Press Release] In 2012, the accused man was indicted and the applicant was officially given the status of victim of human trafficking. [ECtHR Press Release] After an investigation and the trial that took place in 2013, the man was acquitted because the court determined that the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to support a conviction on the grounds that he forced the victim into prostitution, concluding that the applicant had voluntarily offered sexual services. [ECtHR Press Release]

The State Attorney’s Office appealed the acquittal and the victim filed a constitutional claim. Both of these failed to make it to court, and she lodged an application with the ECtHR in 2014 alleging a violation of Article 4 (prohibition on slavery and forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR Press Release] In July 2018 a Chamber of the ECtHR concluded that the State violated Article 4, finding that the Article applied even if the case did not involve an international element, that the authorities had failed to conduct an adequate investigation, and that the Croatian court’s consideration of the voluntary nature of the sexual acts she performed was irrelevant under international legal standards regarding human trafficking. [ECtHR Press Release] The Croatian government requested that the case be transferred to the Grand Chamber, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request on December 3, 2018. [ECtHR Press Release]

For more information on the European Court, visit the IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.