(Geneva) – An upcoming high-level meeting of UN human rights experts should focus on strengthening the functioning and accessibility of the human rights treaty bodies and protecting human rights defenders who submit information and complaints, the International Service for Human Rights said today.
The annual meeting of Chairpersons of the treaty bodies, which will convene in San José, Costa Rica from 22 to 26 June 2015, is the second since the UN General Assembly adopted a significant resolution on treaty body strengthening in April 2014.
‘This meeting presents a crucial opportunity for the treaty body chairs to take stock of the implementation of this resolution one year later, and assess progress towards ensuring that they become more accessible to human rights defenders and more effective in influencing human rights change on the ground,’ said ISHR Programme Manager Madeleine Sinclair.
In advance of the meeting, ISHR joined 31 other NGOs in making a submission and recommendations to the Chairpersons as how the accessibility and effectiveness of the treaty bodies can be improved, including in relation to fostering synergies between treaty bodies and other UN human rights mechanisms, improving implementation of treaty body recommendations and views, dealing with non-reporting by States, and addressing threats and reprisals against persons engaging with the treaty body system.
Reprisals and threats against persons engaging with the treaty bodies continues to be a significant issue facing the treaty bodies. Despite positive developments, including the creation of rapporteurs on reprisals in half of the treaty bodies, more could still be done to ensure that human rights defenders can engage safely.
'The treaty bodies must do more to ensure that defenders can engage safely with each and every body. It is imperative that all treaty bodies develop comprehensive and effective policies and establish a focal point or rapporteur so that protection measures do not differ from one treaty body to the next,' Ms Sinclair said.
The joint statement also calls for the creation of a common database of cases of reprisals, and publication by each treaty body of information regarding cases received and communications with the States concerned.
Harmonisation of working methods across the different committees also continues to be a critical challenge facing the treaty bodies. The joint statement notes that reform in this area has been too slow and calls on treaty bodies to show flexibility in coordinating their working methods and procedures. 'It is time for the treaty bodies to look beyond their particularities and focus on the accessibility of the system to rights holders, which would be enhanced by greater harmonisation,' said Ms Sinclair.
‘The meeting of Chairpersons represents a key venue for bringing together the critical experience and perspectives of the entire treaty body system. The Chairpersons should seize this crucial opportunity to further strengthen the treaty bodies’ vital work.’
The treaty body chairpersons will meet in San José, Costa Rica from 22 to 26 June 2015.
Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Programme Manager and Legal Counsel, International Service for Human Rights, on [email protected] or + 1-917-544-6148