jeudi 24 mai 2007

Open-ended Session on institutional Building of the HR Council, 24th May 2007, 10am-13pmALG

In the heart of this open-ended session was the discussion on the consultations made so far by Ambassador De Alba, the President of the HR Council. He presented the work done on the Expert Advice Body, on the Complaint Procedures and on the rules of procedures, and handed out two documents, one on the Expert Advice, the other on the Complaint Procedures.

Expert Advice:
- Name proposed: Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (HRCAC)
- Size: 16+1 (4 African Group, 4 Asian Group, 3 WEOG, 3 GRULAC, 2 Eastern Group; 1 seat is alternating between African and Asian Group)
- Gender balance, balance in cultural diversity and among legal systems required
- Candidates: all member States of UN can present a candidate, civil society should be consulted, candidates should be professional experts in HR, independent, impartial
- More probable that elections will take place instead of nominations

Complaint Procedure:
- First WG: Working Group on Admissibility, it will be elected by the HRCAC, one of each regional group. This group should meet twice a year for 5 working days each
- Second WG: Working Group on Situations, 5 members nominated by the regional groups
- HR Council shall examine the reports of the Working Groups at least once a year
- Timeframe for consideration by HR Council should not exceed 24 months

Working methods:
- 1 organizational meeting at the beginning of each session of the Council
- Reports and summary: which language?
- Possibility to hold private sessions should be maintained
- Composition of bureau should be maintained

Rules of procedures:
- Cycle begins first Monday of July, this should not be changed now, as General Assembly begins 20th of June
- Seat of Council: meetings outside Geneva are not excluded (I did not understand this, isn’t Geneva meant to be the seat of the HR Council?)
- Ambassador De Alba prefers to let the issue on the 2/3 majority requirement for country resolutions decisions to be left pending, because time is not favourable for such a complex question now (nevertheless a lot of delegations mentioned this issue)
- Cycle of Council Sessions: 1 organizational session for whole cycle
1st substantial session in September
2nd substantial session in November / December
3rd Main Session in March / April

Further more, the President presented his intention to continue some days with consultations and to submit the drafts documents on the institutional building on the 4th of June 2007.

The debate was then opened for the delegations.

All in all, the delegations were quite satisfied with the proposals of the President. There was a debate about the composition of the Expert Advice body (HRCAC). Algeria, Cuba, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, South Africa, Egypt and Russia were all arguing that the proposal of the President does not feature a proportional representation of the regional groups. They required that the HRCAC was proportional to the amount of seats that every regional group has in the Council.

Regarding the complaint procedure, China and Pakistan demanded an absolute confidentiality, whereas Germany (in the name of the EU as well), UK and Canada argued that confidential complaint procedure presupposes cooperation of the country concerned. If the State concerned does not cooperate, the procedure should get public.
China, Egypt and Pakistan even required naming it Confidential Complaint Procedure to make sure that it is fundamentally confidential.
Cuba and Algeria claimed that only the Council should have the right to lift the confidentiality (and not the WG).

Another issue that was highly debated, even if the President regarded it as a pending issue that should not be discussed today, was the question of the 2/3 majority in country resolution decisions.
Cuba, China, Pakistan, Iran were for a 2/3 majority. The German Ambassador contended that this would also apply to the Palestine question. Cuba, China etc. responded than that the Palestine question was a special case of occupation that did not exist elsewhere and that therefore it would not be under this 2/3majority condition.

UK, Germany and USA argued that all the decisions should be done in the same way. UK said that the 2/3 majority had never been applied to country resolutions. Germany wished not to open this Pandora box yet, because this would engender consequences for other areas (like Palestine) and it was not the time for that.

The open debate was to be continued in the afternoon and the President wished to begin with the preparations of the 5th Session of the Council.

vendredi 18 mai 2007

consultations on agenda /programme of work AND selection of mandate holders

• selection process mandate holders
• agenda/programme of work:
o two main issues separate delegations:
 Palestine
 Right to development:
• National situations
• Cross-cutting issues

An additional efforts should be made!

The programme of work will have to be approved by council once the new Council is elected.

There are two meetings on 24 and 25 of may. Early in June, they will we able to see various documents. Any additional comments are welcomed, need to work for compromise.

Next week pending issues:
- advisory body organs
- complaints system
- rules of procedures / methods of work


Welcomes the proposal…

Selection of mandate holders: what would be situation if regional representatives don’t have agreement on certain points.
Few more issues are remaining that divide countries in the agenda. Example role of the High Commissioner. Some points have to be clarified to avoid politicization.

De Alba:
sees a great deal of consensus to be reached. Need for president to hold consultation with regional groups. Several pending agenda items, none of them should be excluded.

Selection issue of mandate holders: non-paper helpful. Minimum criteria: …
Agenda: maintain a simple agenda, meeting essential tasks. Not too much enumerating sub-items. Specificity is accurate in the programme of work. Notion of organizational meeting a fortnight before each session.

Willing to support the agenda. Agenda should be inclusive and open for unpredictable circumstances.

Two comments on question of the review of mandates: they will continue to read and study carefully the papers. Agenda: misuse of certain concepts, they have to re-open the debate. They would like a structured agenda: inclusive, balanced, etc. If everything is left to the programme of work, that doesn’t work. Programme is the expression of compromise. Two controversary issues are not negotiable! Right to development is the request of 2/3 of the mankind.

De Alba:
Facilitator did a good job, his draft represents a balanced effort.

Selection of mandate holders: should be member driven, transparent, sense of accountability.
Pre-selection of eligible candidates: in order to assure independence of experts: exclude those who have political functions. Hesitant of the present draft stressing only one particular point. Shares the view of Cuba. Council need structured and predictable agenda. Council needs some flexibility – special session already fulfilled this flexibility. Agenda is totally different from the programme of work.

De Alba:
Clarification concerning the consultative group. Final text would refer to five government members. Work by cycles: cycles for presentations of resolutions.

South Africa:
How do groups work? What if one candidate rejected?
Selection of mandate holders, item 3: do office members have possibility to propose candidates?
Agenda and Programme of Work: issues still need further consideration. Other fundamental differences remain!

De Alba:
Criteria for the list. Criteria to have a list of candidates not excessive. Minimum criteria. Profile of mandate holders on a list, choice could be made according to the list, but problem: good candidates often don’t want to be on such a list! Transparency of fundamental importance.

3 questions or comments about selection of mandates: avoid experts holding a political function  this is an imperative requirement! Candidates must not have a diplomatic or political function!
Still have doubts about appropriateness of a phrase… Codes of conduct: no informal or unlimited consultations considered.

Something that is not in the paper regarding review of mandates. Point 1: list updated by whom? Idea of consultative group: how would others know that meeting is taking place? Question of transparency is not a detail, institutions should be built correctly.
Selection of mandate holders: notion of consultations: in deciding on any process, observers are given a sense of ownership. The greater this sense, the greater the credibility. Importance of observers: ultimately, it is important for all states. Need for open-ended consultations.

De Alba:
If group proposes a list of three or five candidates, should be a public event. Transparency should be pursued, president should have a basis for his position. Participation by members and non-members: consultative group should consist only of MEMBERS of the council. That’s their right.

Fundamental points: question of the choice of mandate holders. Process of selection should be member-driven: this gives the process the authority and credibility. If this is the case, the African Group is prepared to go towards a consensus. There should be a constant updating for jobs coming up.
Consultative group: should be called five-member consultative group. They want a sense of ownership. Members of the groups would come up with raster and presidents would choice. Hypothetical case of no consensus: there would be a dead-line by which time the consensus achieved…

De Alba:
Prefers to leave some room for ambiguity. Time frame of the session: two weeks before the session that should be known.

Option of vote should not be excluded in case cannot be excluded.

Support for Cuba, matters of the structured agenda: question of right of development, Palestine. Not national HR situation, should not be linked to country situations. Applies also to the Rapporteur, which is not a national Rapporteur.

Mandate holders: good proposals, support the regional composition. However, nomination process have to be as transparent as possible. Preference for an inclusive approach. Time limit could be given to the council. Balance between predictability and flexibility required.

Congratulations to newly elected members of the Council. Question of the agenda: extremely important. Consensus on this matter is decisive. Palestine issue of great importance should have their place on the agenda. Programme of work should have a link to agenda items.
Question of mandate-holders: paper is a very helpful one. African group has made a significant step forward: still a few basic points left. Office of work of the OHCHR should be purely technical. Regions involved: presidents of the Council would be working hand in hand with representatives of each geographical region. If consensus cannot be achieved, an election could be made (however, this would be a rare case).

Non-paper is constructive and provides a good bases. Key issue: selection of mandate holders. Idea of Singapur should be explored further.

Inclusion of a separate agenda-item: occupied territories in Palestine. Not a HR situation, but general issue. Continuation of agenda item 4: right to development. Principle of transparency and structure is criticial for OIC. Absence of the right to self-determination, which has suddenly disappeared from agenda and programme of work! Where would this be discussed?

Selection of mandate holders: lack of clarity, what happens if there is no consensus?

Thanks for the proposal.

Selection process of mandate-holders: selection should be mainly the task of the president. Support swiss proposal. Consultative group consisting of five independent experts, acting in their personal capacity. Issue of confirmation: as a compromise could be made. Support the argument of Singapur. If there is no consensus, proposals should be withdrawn by the president. Key to consensus for agenda / programmes of work… add a new issue: specific HR situations, to ensure that the process is non-selective.

Western countries interpreted and manipulated the agenda proposal. Support for Cuba and proposals. Agenda should be structured, inclusive and allow for flexibility. Support for right to development, Palestine, etc. Close the door to double standards and politicization. Question of mandate-holders: might have to be done by voting.

Russian Federation:
Proposal of pre-selection and selection of mandate-holders: Russian delegation feels that there is need for precise criteria. With respect to 3: would like to see work continue. Not very clear. Voting or not? Confirmation of the decision?

Transparency, accountability. Point of pre-selection is a good one, but they cannot remaine there, have to go further. Point: not sure what would be the interpretation of the Council. Ambiguity should be avoided. Still not aware of regionalization.
Want a structured agenda.

By supporting the agenda, they are supporting what they’re considering a good proposal. By not including Palestine, they don’t include the most heavy violation of HR. right to development one of the most fundamental rights.

Reaction to discussions of the two topics. Still open questions to solve. Resolution says absolutely clearly address situations of violations of HR. No doubt about the fundamental element of art.3. From legal standpoints: special sessions are foreseen, but regulated elsewhere. Problem of predictability and flexibility. There are organizational meetings to solve this problem.
Selection of mandate-holders: independence of experts. Very carefully drafted. Just avoiding that someone who is an expert hold governmental functions at the SAME TIME. Just to avoid conflicts of interests. Consultative groups should be able to act in flexibility. Not wise to spell out a solution.
Process can be clarified. Updating of raster list should not only happen every 6 months.

Sri Lanka:
Agenda: support what Cuba said. Right to development and Palestine have to figure as separate agenda items.
Selection process: cancel of the word “conformation” from the list. Creates more confusion than clarification. Conflicts of interests of experts, also valuable for NGO representatives.

Syria, Australia and some NGOs also added some comments.

When the representative of Israel took the floor some minutes AFTER 1pm., a little scandal happened. He first stated that a separate issue of Palestine was absolutely inacceptable (comme d’habitude). After that, he started quoting a loooong part from the rapport of the Special Rapporteur to Palestine, John Dugard. When he was interrupted by President de Alba, he just continued quoting. After de Alba’s third intervention he stopped and took off his headphones.. Finally everybody was relieved to go the pause… 