Burma: First Test for the Human Rights Council
Eighteen months after the United Nations jettisoned its Human Rights Commission, human rights activists say the crisis in
Below is an article by Nick Cumming-Bruce for The International Herald Tribune:
The successor organization, the Human Rights Council, is hoping to dispatch its own investigator even as
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the council's special rapporteur, is assembling a team to visit
Pinheiro held the same post on the disbanded commission, and
His mandate comes from a resolution passed unanimously by a special session of the council on Oct. 2 . "
It would also reinforce concerns among some human rights organizations that the council, far from developing a new resolve and culture needed to fulfill its mandate of protecting human rights, will succumb to politicking, often by states with poor human rights records, which discredited its predecessor.
Diplomats applaud the council's willingness to convene a special session on
Human rights groups are less impressed. Even the old commission had little difficulty achieving consensus on
Moreover, the resolution did not press for any action beyond the special rapporteur's visit. "Without action, they are just a talk shop, and what's the point," said Brad Adams,
A similar chasm divides views of the council's operating mechanisms that were the main focus of discussions in its first year. Unlike the commission, in which members decided which countries' human rights performance to study, the council has adopted a review process to look at the human rights records of all countries, including the
That should help to address criticisms of the commission that it was selective and thus ensure equal treatment of all states. "We have started to do things that were not done before and that is a good sign," said the council president, Doru-Romulus Costea. "There is nothing like this in the rest of the UN."
The universal reviews have good potential, human rights activists said, but come as part of a package of measures that make the deliberations of the council increasingly state-centered.
"Member states were told by the General Assembly to improve on the commission, but there have been no significant improvements. We either have had regression or an architecture which could still turn out to be ineffective," said Nick Howen, president of the International Commission of Jurists.