Visit to UN Human Rights Council

Chairwoman Hautala took part in the European Parliament delegation to UN Human Rights Council 13th session in Geneva, 14-16. March. [:]The delegation was led by MEP Laima Andrikiene (EPP) and included also MEPs Richard Howitt (S&D) and Eduard Kukan (EPP). The purpose of the visit was to discuss the key issues on the agenda of the Human Rights Council, work and functioning of the Council and the nearing review of its working methods, scheduled to take place in 2011.

The visit took place at a crucial time as there are far reaching discussion taking place at the Council at present.

In recent times increasingly critical views have been expressed over the ineffectiveness, due to politicisation and so called “block mentality”, of the Human Rights Council. As the review of the Council nears, these concerns gained added importance in all discussions the delegation had. Chairwoman Hautala stated that she remains sceptical that working under current trends enables the Council to react to urgent human rights violations without delay or tackle persistent human rights violators, both of which are the main justification for the Council to exist. She underlined the importance of the first review of the functioning of the Council and hopes that the EU will substantially contribute to improving its effectiveness.

The delegation emphasised in several of the meetings that the effectiveness and independence of the Special Procedures are the real backbone of the work of the Council. Special Procedures are the diverse mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, usually individuals such as Special Rapporteurs or Working groups, that independently monitor and address either specific country situations or thematic issues everywhere in the world. At the review the member states should strive to further protect the independence of their mandates and ensure that their work can be carried out effectively at all times.

Chairwoman followed closely the discussion on additional Protocol on complementary standards on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination and the concept of defamation of religions. She expressed her concerns over the exceptionally politicised nature of this debate on discrimination. Chairwoman underlined that she remains unconvinced that additional legal norms are necessary and rather calls for better implementation of the already existing norms in this remit. There is also need for EU member states to look into discrimination on religious grounds within the EU, she noted.

Another key issue that was discussed on the delegation visit was the follow-up on the Goldstone report. Chairwoman Hautala was pleased with the General Assembly resolution on Goldstone on 26 February as the increase of the number of countries who voted in favour showed an important shift in support of measures to ensure accountability for grave violations of international human rights law, which the Goldstone fact-finding report documents. The delegation discussed the report and its follow-up in detail with the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors during the visit.

Regret remains over the decision to postpone consideration of the report on secret detentions. The delegation underlined that all countries, including those explicitly mentioned in the report, should welcome its’ scrutiny. Chairwoman Hautala noted that “this is a fine exercise in democracy and there is no reason why our colleagues in the EU member states should hesitate to take part in this debate. At all times the EU member states must support the integrity and independence of the Special Procedures, this means also full cooperation.”

The delegation also discussed all of the above mentioned issues separately wit h several EU, OIC and US Ambassadors to Human Rights Council as well as representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, FIDH, OMCT, APT and Human Rights First.

Furthermore, they discussed the functioning of the treaty bodies with Mr Ibrahim Salama, OHCHR Chief of the Human Rights Treaties branch and gender mainstreaming and women’s rights with Ms Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and non-discrimination branch.

In addition to this, the delegation held talks with Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on North Korea, Mr Santiago Corcuera, Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures and Mr Tomas Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.