UN ‘think tank’ winds up by proposing expert body to advise Human Rights Council

25 August 2006 – The United Nations “think tank” on human rights ended its last meeting today, presenting its vision of how a future advisory body could service the recently established Human Rights Council.

Meeting in Geneva, the Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights – whose parent body, the Commission on Human Rights, was abolished in the reforms that brought the Council into being earlier this year – propose that a human rights consultative committee of 26 experts should assist the new Council.

When the General Assembly voted in March to establish the Council, the resolution indicated it must be assisted by an expert advice system. The details of how that system would work have yet to be determined, but Council members must agree upon on a new system within a year.

There was still a clear need for “a collegial, independent, expert advice body” within the UN human rights machinery, the Sub-Commission said in today’s decision, which will be discussed by the Council at its meeting next month.

Such a body should have functions that include, among other things, “the promotion and progressive development of human rights through studies and standard-setting.”

In her address to the Sub-Commission’s session, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mehr Khan Williams, said the body was meeting at a time of historic transformation of the UN human rights system. The Sub-Commission had “a unique opportunity to contribute to the Council’s thinking on this issue” by providing its own vision and recommendations.

Since it was created by the Commission on Human Rights in 1947, the Sub-Commission has devoted itself to research and discussion of new and challenging human rights issues.

“The Sub-Commission did not hesitate to raise issues that were initially considered provocative or unwelcome but which essentially helped in shaping new thinking and action of the Commission,” said Mrs. Khan Williams.

The Sub-Commission appointed two new Special Rapporteurs: one on the impact of debt on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights, and the other on the legal implications of the disappearance of States and other territories for environmental reasons.

The outgoing body also adopted by consensus 30 resolutions that tackled issues ranging from the accountability of international personnel taking part in peace support operations; the right to drinking water and sanitation; the human rights of elderly people; to the prevention of human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons.

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