The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and 41 personalities and NGOs send the following letter to the President of the UN General Assembly to urge that the UN Human Rights Council will significantly enhance the UN’s existing capacity to protect and promote human rights :
President of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly
Office of the President of the General Assembly
New York, N.Y. 10017
Dear President Eliasson,
At the September 2005 World Summit, heads of state and government took a historic step towards strengthening the protection of human rights worldwide by agreeing to establish a Human Rights Council. The challenging task of implementing that decision through negotiations at this year’s General Assembly was placed in your capable hands. At this crucial moment in the negotiations process, the undersigned organizations and individuals, all deeply committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, would like to emphasize our shared view regarding the key elements of a new Human Rights Council that we would consider indispensable to a credible outcome.
We start from the premise that the result of this reform must be substantially more than a change in name. The Human Rights Council must significantly enhance the U.N.’s existing capacity to protect and promote human rights. We would also stress that the key elements of the council should be adopted by the end of this year in order to allow it to begin its work in early 2006.
We believe that the following essential points must be included in the resolution creating the Human Rights Council :
Status : The HRC should be elevated to principal organ status within five years and should have transitional status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly in the meantime.
Mandate : The HRC should address any matters relating to the protection and promotion of all human rights in any country, including specific situations of gross, systematic, continuing or urgent violations. The HRC should be empowered to make recommendations and report on all such matters to member states and bodies within the United Nations system, including to the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Composition : At a minimum, states seeking election to the Human Rights Council must commit to abide by the highest standards of human rights and to cooperate fully with the HRC and its mechanisms, and should put forward a platform that describes what they seek to accomplish during their term of membership.
Elections and Voting : Members of the HRC should be elected by an individual and direct vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly. Regional groups should be required to put forward more candidates than the number of seats allocated to their region. When voting, member states should give due regard to the positive contribution which the member state seeking election has made to the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as to the pledges it makes.
Working Methods : The HRC should be a standing body which meets regularly throughout the year and is able to respond in a timely fashion to any matters involving the protection and promotion of human rights. Meetings of the HRC in addition to the regular sessions could be called by one-third of HRC members, the HRC chair, the Secretary-General, or the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Special Procedures : The system of special procedures should be transferred to the HRC with enhanced coherence and support, as well as greater participation in HRC meetings.
NGO Participation : The HRC should ensure a level of participation by NGOs at least as high as that at the Commission on Human Rights by retaining the existing rules and practices for participation by NGOs.
We believe that by incorporating each of the above elements the Human Rights Council will be able to fulfill the promise that engendered this reform. Given the inter-relationship of many of these issues, failure to secure any of these key points would compromise the entire effort.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and the co-chairs to support the establishment of an effective, credible, and authoritative Human Rights Council.
AI Representative at the United Nations Amnesty International
Principal Representative Baha’i International Community, UN Office
Dr. Wajeeha S. Albaharna
President Bahrain Women’s Society
Member of the European Parliament (Italy)
Karin D. Ryan
Senior Advisor for Human Rights The Carter Center
Secretary General CARE International
Director of Programs Center for Development of International Law
Executive Director Center for Women’s Global Leadership
Charles J. Brown
President and CEO Citizens for Global Solutions
Richard C. Rowson
President, Council for a Community of Democracies
Executive Director Democracy Coalition Project
President, Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de 1’Homme (FIDH)
Executive Director, Franciscans International
Executive Director, Freedom House
Executive Director, Global Rights
Secretary General, Hands Off Cain (Italy)
Director of International Programs Human Rights First
Executive Director Human Rights Watch
Secretary-General, International Commission of Jurists
President and CEO, International Crisis Group
President, International League for Human Rights
UN Representative International, Save the Children Alliance
Director, International Service for Human Rights
President, Iraq Institute for Democracy
President, Italian Association for Women in Development, AIDOS
Felice D. Gaer
Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
President, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, Vietnam
Coordinator, MECA (Middle East Citizen Assembly)
President, Montagnard Foundation, Vietnam
Executive Director, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Commissioner, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
No Peace Without Justice (Italy)
Morton H. Halperin
Director of U.S. Advocacy Open Society Institute
Member of the European Parliament (Italy)
Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights
Kenneth H. Bacon
President, Refugees International
UN Representative Transnational Radical Party
UN Representative United Methodist UN Office
UNPO General Secretary, The Netherlands
Vo Van Ai, President
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vietnam
William R. Pace
Executive Director, World Federalist Movement
Director, World Organisation Against Torture
cc : H.E. Mr. Ricardo Alberto Arias, Co-Chair, Human Rights Council negotiations
H.E. Mr. Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Co-Chair, Human Rights Council negotiations
Mr. Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General
Ms. Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights