United Nations

A/51/425


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

27 September 1996

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH


                                                        A/51/425
                                                              

General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Agenda item 110 (a)


      HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS:  IMPLEMENTATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS

             Effective implementation of international instruments on
             human rights, including reporting obligations under
                   international instruments on human rights

                        Report of the Secretary-General

                               I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   In paragraph 24 of its resolution 50/170 of 22 December 1995,
entitled "Effective implementation of international instruments on
human rights, including reporting obligations under international
instruments on human rights", the General Assembly requested the
Secretary-General to report to it at its fifty-first session on
measures taken to implement the resolution and on obstacles to its
implementation.  The present report has been prepared in accordance
with that request.


           II.  ISSUES DEALT WITH BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 50/170
                REQUIRING ACTION BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OR THE UNITED
                NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

            A.  Financing and adequate staff and information resources
                for the operation of the human rights treaty bodies
                (para. 2 of resolution 50/170)

2.   The General Assembly emphasized the need to ensure financing and
adequate staff and information resources for the operations of the
human rights treaty bodies, and with that in mind:  (a) reiterated its
request that the Secretary-General provide adequate resources in
respect of each treaty body; and (b) called upon the Secretary-General
to make the most efficient use of existing resources and to seek the
resources necessary to give the treaty bodies adequate administrative
support, access to technical expertise and access to appropriate
databases and on-line information services.

                   1.  Resources and administrative support

3.   The five international human rights instruments with monitoring
mechanisms currently supported by the Centre for Human Rights are the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child.

4.   The work of the staff assigned to provide support to the
respective treaty bodies established listed above is mainly associated
with:  (a) the State reporting procedures under all five human rights
instruments; (b) the individual complaints procedures under the
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and (c) the
inquiry procedure under article 20 of the Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

5.   At the time of preparation of the present report, a new management
structure is being put in place in the Centre for Human Rights within
the context of the process of its overall restructuring (see
A/C.5/50/71).  All secretariat activities supporting the treaty bodies
will be regrouped in Management Unit II.

6.   It may be noted in this connection that the reductions in the
budget of the United Nations decided by the General Assembly for the
biennium 1996-1997, which involve the freezing of posts and the
reduction in financial resources for each and every sector of the
Secretariat, are also affecting staff and other resources assigned to
support the activities of the treaty bodies.


             2.  Access to technical expertise, appropriate databases
                 and on-line information

7.   It may be recalled that pursuant to a recommendation of the
persons chairing human rights treaty bodies and Commission on Human
Rights resolution 1989/46, a Task Force on Computerization was
established to examine the question of computerization of the work of
the treaty bodies.  In its report to the Commission (E/CN.4/1990/39),
the Task Force recommended computerization as an essential measure to
facilitate compliance by States parties with their reporting
obligations and to increase the efficiency of the treaty bodies and it
urged that a database be developed for the treaty bodies.

8.   In accordance with Commission resolution 1990/21 of
23 February 1990 and other subsequent resolutions of the Commission on
Human Rights, the Economic and Social Council and the General
Assembly, the Secretary-General invited States Members of the United
Nations in 1992 and again in 1995 to make generous one-time
contributions for the establishment of the proposed database, costs
for which in 1990 had been estimated at US$ 508,500.  As at
1 July 1996, $111,643 had been received.  The contributions were used
to develop a full-text information retrieval and database system.  At
present the system contains information concerning the Convention on
the Rights of the Child and is operational only with respect to that
treaty.  The members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child were
given access to the database.

9.   The time-frame in which the system will become operational for the
other treaty bodies depends on the availability of resources for data
entry and downloading of full-text documents.  Funds available were
spent, in particular, to purchase equipment such as computers, compact
disk read-only memory (CD-ROM) facilities and other hardware, a
server, user licences and other software for the system, consultant's
fees to install the equipment and to develop the database system and
technical training for the staff members.


           B.  Measures to ensure that the Committee on the Elimination
               of Racial Discrimination and the Committee against Torture
               meet as scheduled (para. 6 of resolution 50/170)

10.  The General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to continue
to take the necessary measures to ensure that both the Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee against
Torture meet as scheduled until the amendments to the Conventions
under which they are established enter into force.

11.  It may be recalled that, in accordance with the amendments adopted
by the States parties to the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to the
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, as endorsed by the General Assembly in its
resolution 47/111 of 16 December 1992, the activities of the Committee
on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee against
Torture have been financed under the regular budget of the United
Nations since January 1994.

12.  The Secretary-General has reported to the General Assembly at its
fifty-first session on the financial situation of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination and on the arrears of States
parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination from the non-payment of previous
assessments (A/51/430).  In accordance with normal practice, States
parties to that Convention as well as States parties to the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment whose contributions due up to 1993 are still outstanding in
full or in part are regularly requested to fulfil their obligations.

13.  As at 20 August 1996, 17 States parties of the 86 required for the
entry into force of the amendment to the International Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and 17 States
parties of the 45 required for the entry into force of the amendment
to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment had notified the Secretary-General
that they had accepted the amendments.


      C.  Final version of the interim report (A/CONF.157/PC/62/Add.11/Rev.1)
          on possible long-term approaches to enhancing the effective
          operation of the treaty system (para. 9 of resolution 50/170)

14.  The General Assembly encouraged the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights to request Mr. Philip Alston, the expert
appointed to undertake the study, to finalize his interim report in
time for the final report to be considered by the Commission on Human
Rights at its fifty-second session.

15.  Owing to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Alston was unable to submit
his final report in time for the fifty-second session of the
Commission but intends to do so for the fifty-third session of the
Commission.


               D.  Revision of the Manual on Human Rights Reporting
                   (para. 10 of resolution 50/170)

16.  The General Assembly requested the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure, from within existing
resources, that the revision of the United Nations Manual on Human
Rights Reporting be completed as soon as possible.

17.  Action has been initiated to revise the Manual on Human Rights
Reporting and to include in the revised version a chapter on the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, as requested by the persons
chairing human rights treaty bodies.  Treaty body experts have been
consulted with respect to the revision of the manual, which is
scheduled to be published by the end of 1996.


                E.  Dissemination of documentation on human rights
                    (para. 17 of resolution 50/170)

18.  The General Assembly requested the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights to make every effort to ensure that
recent reports and the summary records of committee discussions
pertaining to them, as well as concluding observations and final
comments of the treaty bodies, be made available in the United Nations
information centres in the countries submitting those reports.

19.  Extensive consultations between the Centre for Human Rights and
the Department of Public Information took place to explore ways and
means to implement the General Assembly's request.  A procedure has
been put in place to ensure that reports submitted by States parties
to treaty bodies and the concluding observations of treaty bodies be
made available to the relevant United Nations information centres
prior to and after the consideration of treaty implementation in a
given State party.


F.  Further cooperation between specialized agencies and
    other United Nations bodies and the human rights    
    treaty bodies (para. 18 of resolution 50/170)       

20.  The General Assembly invited the specialized agencies, other
United Nations bodies and the treaty bodies to continue to pursue
further cooperation between them, bearing in mind the responsibilities
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the
desirability of avoiding unnecessary duplication.

21.  In 1995, the High Commissioner established contacts with the World
Bank, which led to consultations between the two institutions at
Washington, D.C., on 24 and 25 July 1996.  It may be recalled that the
idea of cooperation between the Bretton Woods and other financial
institutions and the United Nations human rights programme was
endorsed by the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights,
especially in the context of the right to development.  The adoption
by the High Commissioner of a comprehensive approach to human rights
and the World Bank's focus on sustainable development have provided a
sound basis for such cooperation between the two institutions, the
need of which was stressed during the meeting of the High Commissioner
and the President of the World Bank.

22.  The purpose of the consultations was to explore, in the context of
the programmes aimed at promotion and protection of human rights and
sustainable development, various aspects of possible cooperation
between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights/Centre for Human Rights and the World Bank as well as between
the two institutions with other partners, including Governments,
international organizations, expert bodies, etc.  Four major areas for
cooperation were identified:  exploring cooperation on specific
country projects, cooperation in the field, exchange of information
and mutual training of staff on the activities of the two
institutions.

23.  On 18 July 1996, the High Commissioner arranged a meeting in New
York with the Executive Secretaries of the United Nations regional
economic commissions to discuss how the United Nations human rights
programme and the work of the regional commissions could be mutually
reinforcing in order to effectively promote the implementation of the
right to development and economic, social and cultural rights.  This
fruitful meeting will be followed by practical cooperation in the
discussed areas.  The Secretary-General also addressed the meeting.

24.  On 15 August 1996, the Bureau of the Committee for the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination and the Bureau of the Subcommission on
Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities held a joint
meeting to discuss a proposal to undertake a study of all aspects of
the implementation of article 7 of the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, concerning measures
against prejudices, which lead to racial discrimination and promoting
understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or
ethnic groups.  A joint working paper prepared by experts from the
Committee and the Subcommission will be submitted to the two bodies at
their respective sessions in August 1997.

25.  Furthermore, in accordance with a recommendation made by the
persons chairing human rights treaty bodies at their 6th meeting in
September 1995, the High Commissioner invited high-level officials of
specialized agencies and other United Nations bodies to meet with the
chairpersons during their 7th meeting held at the United Nations
Office at Geneva from 16 to 20 September 1996, in order to discuss
concrete proposals and practical arrangements to enhance cooperation
between United Nations specialized agencies and organs on the one
hand, and human rights treaty bodies on the other hand.

26.  Ms. Akila Belembaogo, chairperson of the 6th meeting of persons
chairing human rights treaty bodies, participated in the 3rd meeting
of special rapporteurs, representatives, experts and chairpersons of
working groups of the special procedures of the Commission on Human
Rights and of the Advisory Services Programme, held at the United
Nations Office in Geneva from 28 to 30 May 1996.  Mr. Bacre N'diaye,
chairperson of that meeting, was invited to address the persons
chairing the human rights treaty bodies during their meeting in
September.

27.  Ms. Elizabeth Rehn, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human
Rights on the situation of human rights in the former Yugoslavia,
participated in a meeting of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
during its eleventh session in January 1996.


          G.  Consultations of the United Nations High Commissioner for
              Human Rights with human rights treaty bodies (para. 19 of
              resolution 50/170

28.  The General Assembly invited the High Commissioner to consult the
human rights treaty bodies in his efforts to promote cooperation with
regional intergovernmental organizations where appropriate for the
promotion and protection of human rights.

29.  The High Commissioner regularly informs the human rights treaty
bodies about national, regional and subregional workshops, training
courses and seminars organized by the Centre for Human Rights for
interested government officials on the implementation of international
human rights instruments.  Treaty body experts are usually invited to
participate in those events as resource persons.  Additionally, the
High Commissioner invites regional intergovernmental organizations to
be represented at the meetings of persons chairing the human rights
treaty bodies.

30.  At present, the secretariat of the European Commission of Human
Rights has agreed to provide the Centre for Human Rights regularly
with information on its case-law.  Arrangements are being discussed to
make the databases of the European Commission of Human Rights, the
European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers of the
Council of Europe accessible to the Centre.


H.  Coordination and consultation by the United Nations High 
    Commissioner for Human Rights on measures by human rights
    treaty bodies (para. 23 of resolution 50/170)            

31.  The General Assembly requested the High Commissioner to coordinate
and consult throughout the United Nations system in regard to measures
that may be taken by human rights treaty bodies in response to
situations of massive human rights violations.

32.  It may be recalled that the question of measures that treaty
bodies may take in response to situations of massive human rights
violations and the coordination of action with other United Nations
organs and bodies in that regard was at the heart of a meeting between
the Secretary-General and the persons chairing human rights treaty
bodies which was held at United Nations Headquarters on 19 June 1995
with the participation of the High Commissioner.

33.  At their 6th meeting, in September 1995, the chairpersons
recommended that treaty bodies increasingly consult United Nations
organs and bodies, including special rapporteurs of the Commission on
Human Rights and the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and
Protection of Minorities, exchange information and utilize existing
expertise in order to detect and respond appropriately to situations
of massive violations of human rights.

34.  Those recommendations were brought to the attention of the third
meeting of special rapporteurs, representatives, experts and
chairpersons of working groups of the special procedures of the
Commission on Human Rights and of the Advisory Services Programme in
May 1996.  As referred to in paragraph 26 above the Chairperson of the
6th meeting of persons chairing human rights treaty bodies addressed
the participants.  They agreed that cooperation between the special
procedures system and the treaty bodies should be strengthened in
cases that call for the sending of urgent action appeals.


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