Background Briefing

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Initial Questions

Frequency of Review

Review should occur at least every five years.  Human Rights Watch would also support a chamber system as some states have proposed, which might allow for more frequent review, possibly every three years.  If a chamber system is implemented, however, there should be at least three members from each regional group in each chamber.  In addition, the Council should have the ability to set an earlier date for the next review of a particular state, including the possibility of following through on particular subjects, before the next full cycle for UPR. Human Rights Watch would not support the proposal that countries should be reviewed with differing frequencies based on their level of development, an idea which is contrary to the principle of universality that is central to this review process. 

Standards for Review

There has been much discussion concerning the standards for review of each country’s human rights situation.  It is widely accepted that the standards set in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and customary international law, including for example Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, should apply to all states under review.  Human Rights Watch supports this approach which sets a minimum uniform baseline by which all states will be reviewed.  This standard should provide the degree of specificity required for the UPR process, and would help avoid duplication with the work of the treaty bodies.  However, the general human rights obligations of each concerned state in relation to international law must also be taken into account during the review process.  In particular, where treaty bodies or special procedures have made recommendations concerning the state under review, the review should also address whether those recommendations have been implemented and what can be done to assist the state in doing so.

Members of the HRC should be subject to a heightened level of scrutiny given the requirement under General Assembly resolution 60/251 that they “uphold the highest standards of human rights.”  In this context, the Council may look beyond customary international law and the UDHR to other instruments of international human rights law including the core human rights treaties to determine what constitutes the “highest standards of human rights.”

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>August 2006