16 March 2009
General Assembly
HR/CT/702

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release


HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE AT HEADQUARTERS 16 MARCH –- 3 APRIL

 


Reports submitted by Rwanda, Chad, Australia and Sweden on measures to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee at its ninety-fifth session, to be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 16 March to 3 April.


On Monday, 16 March, the Representative of the Secretary-General is expected to open the session.  The nine Committee members elected or re-elected at the twenty-sixth meeting of States parties to the Covenant on 4 September 2008 will take the oath, and the 18-member Committee will then elect a Chairperson, three Vice-Chairpersons and a Rapporteur.  The Committee will then adopt its agenda and programme of work, and will also hear from representatives of non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations on the situation in the countries under consideration.


The Committee is scheduled to examine the third periodic report of Rwanda on 16 and 17 March; the initial report of Chad on 18 and 19 March; the fifth periodic report of Australia on 23 and 24 March; and the sixth periodic report of Sweden on 25 March.  The Committee will present its concluding observations at the end of the session.  Later in the session, the Committee’s country report task forces will examine and adopt lists of issues on the reports of the Republic of Moldova, Croatia, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and the United Republic of Tanzania.


The Committee’s Special Rapporteurs for follow-up on concluding observations and views under the Optional Protocol are also scheduled to provide a progress report on their activities.


The countries presenting reports are among the 164 States parties to the Covenant, which was adopted in 1966 by the General Assembly.  The Committee, as a monitoring body, periodically examines reports submitted by States parties on the promotion and protection of civil and political rights.  Representatives of those Governments introduce the reports and respond to oral and written questions from Committee members.


Under the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, 111 States parties recognize the competence of the Committee to consider confidential communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any rights proclaimed under the treaty.  A total of 294 communications were pending before the Committee as of 11 December 2006.  During the course of the present session, most likely during the last week, the Committee will review a portion of these communications.


Seventy-one States parties have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims to abolish the death penalty.


Background on Covenant


The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the General Assembly and opened for signature in 1966, together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Both entered into force in 1976.


The Civil and Political Rights Covenant begins by stating that all peoples have the right of self-determination and recognizes that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  It prohibits torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment and the arbitrary deprivation of life.  Anyone arrested is to be informed of the reasons for the arrest, and anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is to be brought promptly before a judge or another legally authorized person.


The Covenant also provides, among other things, for freedom of movement, and places limitations upon the expulsion of aliens present lawfully in the territory of a State party.  In addition, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression are recognized by the Covenant, which also prohibits any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred.


For further information on the Covenant and the Committee, please go to http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc.


States Parties to Covenant


The following 164 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Optional Protocols to Covenant


The Optional Protocol to the Covenant provides for the confidential consideration of communications from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation of any rights proclaimed in the Covenant.  The Committee can receive no communications if it concerns a State party to the Covenant that is not also a party to the Optional Protocol.


The following 111 States are parties to the Optional Protocol:  Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zambia.


The Human Rights Committee is also mandated, under article 41 of the Covenant, to consider communications from a State party alleging violations of the Covenants provisions by another State party.  This procedure can be applied when both States recognize this competence of the Committee by a relevant declaration.  So far, 48 States have made the declaration under article 41.


The Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991. 


The following 71 States have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol:  Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.


Membership of the Committee


The States parties to the Covenant elect the Committee’s 18 expert members who serve in their individual capacity for four-year terms.  Article 28 of the Covenant requires that “they shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights”.  The are Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia); Mohammed Ayat (Morocco); Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati (India); Christine Chanet (France); Ahmad Amin Fatalla (France); Yuji Iwasawa (Japan); Hellen Keller (Switzerland); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Bouzib Lazhari (Algeria); Zonke Zanele Majodina (South Africa); Iulia Antoanella Motoc (Romania); Michael O’Flaherty (Ireland); José Luis Perez Sanchez-Cerro (Perú); Rafael Rivas Posada (Colombia); Sir Nigel Rodley (United Kingdom); Fabian Omar Savioli (Argentina); Krister Thelin (Sweden); and  Ruth Wedgwood (United States).


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For information media • not an official record