United Nations

Briefing to the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights

Held in Geneva each year from mid-March until late April, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is the world's most important annual forum for discussing human rights issues. This year’s session will be chaired by Australia. Members from fifty-three states hold discussions and adopt resolutions on various human rights issues such as civil and political rights regarding torture or summary execution; economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to development; and rights of women, children and displaced persons. In addition, the Commission examines human rights violations in various countries as well as thematic questions related to human rights issues. If the human rights situation in a given country is serious, the Commission may adopt a critical resolution and/or appoint an independent investigator known as a Special Rapporteur to investigate and report on violations. Special Rapporteurs and working groups have also been appointed to address cross-cutting thematic issues. Their reports, findings and recommendations are presented to the Commission and released publicly. The Commission also oversees the development of new international human rights standards, most recently the new Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, before their submission the UN General Assembly for adoption.

The so-called war against terrorism continues to pose a test to the Commission’s credibility. In many countries, governments have curbed civil liberties or cracked down on opponents in the name of counter-terrorism. Other UN bodies, such as the UN Security Council, have failed to integrate human rights concerns into their counter terrorism measures. Many governments have stopped criticizing human rights abuses by their allies in the fight against terrorism. This year, it will be essential that the Commission respond credibly to this trend by recommending the appointment of an expert to monitor, report and advise upon the protection of human rights in counter-terrorist measures.

The following briefing papers outline Human Rights Watch's priority concerns for the 60th Session of the Commission on Human Rights.

Abduction of Children in Africa
The Commission on Human Rights should strengthen its monitoring of the abduction and military recruitment of children in armed conflict, and request the personal intervention of the Secretary-General in particularly egregious situations.
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The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution condemning China’s violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion and belief, repression of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang and violations of the right to non-discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS. The resolution should urge judicial proceedings that meet international standards. It should also urge China to cooperate fully with UN monitoring mechanisms.
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The Commission on Human Rights should recommend the expansion of the United Nation’s human rights work in Colombia, including an increase in the number of permanent staff of the Office of the High Commissioner in Colombia, renegotiation of the Office’s mandate to allow regular public reporting in Colombia, and visits by thematic mechanisms to investigate specific aspects of Colombia’s human rights record.
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Côte d’Ivoire
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution on Côte d’Ivoire condemning violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by government security forces, government-backed militia and the Forces Nouvelles during and following the formal end of the country’s internal conflict. The Commission should call on both sides to immediately end abuses against civilians in areas they control and to cooperate in the full implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis peace accords. The resolution should specifically support the establishment of an international commission of inquiry, as specified in the accords, to investigate and document violations of international humanitarian law that occurred since September 2002.
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Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a further resolution on the protection of human rights in countering terrorism that would reaffirm the importance of the respect for international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in combating terrorism; request relevant mechanisms and bodies of the United Nations to continue monitoring counter terrorism measures; acknowledge the continuing gaps in the international human rights monitoring system with respect to these issues; urge that the Counter Terrorism Committee of the U.N. Security Council address human rights in its work; and establish a special mechanism to monitor the effect of counter-terrorism measures on human rights in countries worldwide.
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Democratic Republic of Congo
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution encouraging the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to implement reforms in its judicial system and to begin investigation and prosecution of violations of international law committed during the recent wars.
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The Commission on Human Rights should build upon the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution on the human rights situation in Iran by re-establishing a Special Procedure to monitor and report on Iran’s implementation of the resolution’s recommendations. The Commission should also call on the Iranian authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in its June report.
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The Commission on Human Rights should continue a special procedure with regard to human rights violations in Iraq. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iraq should be extended and broadened so that it expressly authorizes monitoring and reporting on current human rights concerns in the country; making recommendations to the Occupying Powers and Iraqi governing authorities; and monitoring the investigation and prosecution of abuses committed by the former government.
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Israel/Occupied Territories
The Commission on Human Rights should condemn continuing egregious violations by Israeli authorities and armed Palestinian groups. These violations include Israeli policies that amount to collective punishment, Palestinian attacks targeting civilians, and the severe humanitarian impact of the separation barrier on the Palestinian population.
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The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution on the situation in Liberia, condemning ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all factions; urging transitional authorities in Liberia to desist from granting a general amnesty and to ensure justice and accountability for abuses committed during Liberia’s internal conflict. The Commission should also urge the Nigerian government to hand over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone former president Charles Taylor, indicted for war crimes in association with his support of Sierra Leonean rebels; and urge the U.N. Security Council to ensure that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) deploys rapidly country-wide to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians.
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The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution calling on the Nepalese government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (Maoist)) to respect their international human rights and humanitarian law obligations in the conduct of armed hostilities.
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Russian Federation/Chechnya
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a strong resolution on the situation in Chechnya, condemning ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by both parties to the conflict; urging the Russian authorities to establish a genuine accountability process for these abuses; calling on Russia to desist from coerced returns of internally displaced persons and to ensure their well-being; calling on Russia to invite key U.N. thematic mechanisms, in particular the Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and urging Russia to agree to a new Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mandate for Chechnya.
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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution affirming that human rights cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Such a resolution is important not only to shed light on violations that are often shrouded in stigma and silence — but also to uphold the principle that all human rights must be enjoyed equally by all people.
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The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a strong resolution condemning human rights violations by the government of Turkmenistan. The resolution should reiterate the requirements in last year’s Commission resolution, including that the Turkmen government implement the recommendations of the report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) last year; and cooperate fully with the United Nations, including by issuing invitations to relevant thematic mechanisms. The resolution should also request the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the country.
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The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution condemning the Uzbek government’s appalling human rights record. The resolution should call on the Uzbek authorities to undertake a number of urgent steps required to bring the country closer to internationally recognized human rights standards, including: implementing the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on torture; releasing jailed human rights defenders; registering independent human rights non-governmental organizations and opposition political parties; ceasing informal censorship of the media; and inviting the Special Representative on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to visit Uzbekistan.
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