General Assembly Adopts Resolution to Strengthen Human Rights Treaty Body System, by Vote of 85-0-66; Elects Three Judges to United Nations Appeals Tribunal

23 February 2012
GA/11209

General Assembly Adopts Resolution to Strengthen Human Rights Treaty Body System, by Vote of 85-0-66; Elects Three Judges to United Nations Appeals Tribunal

23 February 2012
General Assembly
GA/11209
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

98thMeeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Resolution to Strengthen Human Rights Treaty Body System,

by Vote of 85-0-66; Elects Three Judges to United Nations Appeals Tribunal

 

The General Assembly today adopted a resolution on reform of the human rights treaty body system and elected three judges from a pool of six candidates to the United Nations Appeals Tribunal for terms of seven years, beginning 1 July.

The Assembly re-elected Judge Jean Courtial ( France) and chose two new Judges, Rosalyn M. Chapman of the United States, and Richard Lussick of Samoa.  All three were elected in the first round of voting by secret ballot.  The terms of Judges Courtial, Kamaljit Singh Garewal (India) and Mark Painter (United States), who were appointed by drawing lots in 2009 for an initial term of three years, are due to expire on 30 June.

The Tribunal’s justices are elected by obtaining an absolutely majority in the Assembly from among persons of high moral character around the world.  Each person has at least 15 years of judicial experience in the field of administrative law, or the equivalent within one or more national jurisdictions.  No two judges can be from the same country.  (For additional information on the composition of the Tribunal and election of new members, see document A/66/682; for profiles of the candidates, see document A/66/664.)

As part of the new framework for the system of administration of justice within the United Nations, the General Assembly established the Internal Justice Council, which contains the United Nations Appeals Tribunal and the United Nations Dispute Tribunal.  The Appeals Tribunal is an appellate court that reviews appeals against judgements rendered by the United Nations Dispute Tribunal.  It also hears appeals on decisions taken by the Standing Committee acting on behalf of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board and by those agencies and entities that have accepted jurisdiction of the Appeals Tribunal (document A/66/664).

The Appeals Tribunal is composed of seven judges, who normally review appeals in three-member panels.  Their judgements are final and binding on the parties.  The court holds sessions in New York, Geneva or Nairobi, as required by caseload.  The remaining four judges sitting on the Tribunal include three whose terms will end in 2016:  Sophia Adinyira (Ghana); Luis Maria Simón (Uruguay) and Inés Weinberg de Roca (Argentina); and one whose term expires in 2018:  Mary Faherty (Ireland), who was appointed in 2011 following the resignation of Judge Rose Boyko (Canada).

First Round

The results of the first round of voting were as follows:

Number of ballot papers:

170

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid ballots:

170

Abstentions:

0

Number of Members present and voting:

170

Required majority:

86

Number of votes obtained:

Rosalyn M. Chapman ( United States)

112

Richard Lussick ( Samoa)

97

Jean Courtial ( France)

94

Moses Chinhengo ( Zimbabwe)

78

Alessandra Greceanu ( Romania)

64

Vagn Prusse Joensen ( Denmark)

47

Having received the required majority of the vote, Ms. Chapman, Mr. Courtial, and Mr. Lussick were elected for a seven-year term beginning on 1 July.

In other action, the Assembly took note of the information contained in document A/66/668/Add.4, in which the Secretary-General informed the Assembly President, Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou (Benin), that, since the issuance of his communication contained in document A/66/668/Add.3, Palau had made the payment necessary to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

Then, by a vote of 85 in favour to none against, with 66 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a resolution entitled “Intergovernmental process of the General Assembly on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the Human Rights Treaty Body System” (document A/66/L.37).

By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly President was asked to launch, within the Assembly framework, an open-ended intergovernmental process that would conduct open, transparent, and inclusive negotiations on how to strengthen and enhance the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.

Also by the text, it was decided that the open-ended intergovernmental process, in its deliberations, should take into consideration the relevant proposals on strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system.

The Assembly President called the outcome “a success story”, noting that one of the purposes of the United Nations was to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights for all, without distinction to race, sex, language or religion.

“It is high time to give the lead to Member States and the General Assembly, given its universal membership,” he said.  “It is unquestionable that the Assembly is the best possible forum to ensure the effective functioning of the treaty body system.”

Introducing the draft resolution today — previously considered in a plenary meeting on 2 December 2011 — the representative of the Russian Federation called it a “common and joint” work, believing that the text would serve to strengthen the human rights body.

Several delegations explained their reasons for abstaining, including Switzerland’s representative, who said he regretted that a number of significant concerns had not been taken into account.   Switzerland had always defended human rights and was convinced that effective principles must be defended and strengthened by making available financial resources, he said.  It was also important to avoid duplication.  The treaty body system was unique in nature and must be “defended at all costs”.  The representative from the United States raised particular concerns, reflecting disappointment with the lack of flexibility and the rejection by a number of countries that backed the resolution of several constructive proposals, which would have allowed its adoption by consensus.

The representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Union, said the delegation’s abstention from voting stemmed from reservations it had had from the outset.  He had proposed that action be postponed until after the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had been released, and he regretted that it was not done so.  He also regretted that it had not been possible to reach agreement, and he remained concerned that the text did not sufficiently ensure that the process would be inclusive and transparent.

The representatives of Mexico, Liechtenstein, Costa Rica, Canada, Norway, Chile and Guatemala outlined similar reasons for their delegation’s abstentions.

Among those voting in favour of the text was the representative of Suriname, who, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the establishment of an intergovernmental framework to consider the challenges at hand was long overdue.  It was high time for the Assembly to launch a structured, open and inclusive discussion on the matter, he said.  Member States were the beneficiaries of the outcomes of that work and the realization of human rights obligations was their primary responsibility.

Also explaining their votes in support of the resolution were the representatives of El Salvador, Uruguay, and Argentina.

General statements were made by the representatives of China, Indonesia and Belarus, who had co-sponsored the draft resolution.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.