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U.N. member states must work vigorously to make the new Human Rights Council a strong and effective protector of human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch said today. The Human Rights Council replaces the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and will begin work on June 19 in Geneva.

“The new Human Rights Council must be more than the dysfunctional old commission by another name,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The new members must reject business as usual and instead find new and more effective ways to help the victims of human rights violations across the globe.”

While this first session will primarily focus on procedural steps, it must lay the foundation for the council’s future work. During this session, the council should:

• Adopt the draft International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and transmit it to the General Assembly for adoption.

• Extend the mandates of all existing human rights experts appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to allow for the review of this system of “special procedures.”

• Establish transparent and participative working groups that will push forward the process for periodic review of the human rights situation within all U.N. member states, and will undertake the review of the system of special procedures.

The council must also adopt a program of work for the coming year to ensure that human rights experts appointed by the council will be able to report thoroughly and promptly on their activities and make recommendations for further action by the council. This program should also provide for an effective response to human rights violations at the country level, including ways to promptly address urgent human rights situations as they develop.

“Members must create a framework to tackle real human rights violations wherever and whenever they occur,” said Hicks. “And that must include a real role for human rights groups and civil society.”

The Human Rights Council session will begin with a “High-Level Segment,” at which representatives of more than 100 countries will speak. Human Rights Watch called for governments to move beyond rhetoric when addressing the council by making specific commitments to supporting the work of the council and improving protection of human rights at home.

The Human Rights Council was established by a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly adopted on March 15, 2006.

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