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NGO Coalition Urges Creation of Credible UN Human Rights Council

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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 :

November 1, 2005

H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson
President of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly
Office of the President of the General Assembly
United Nations
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.

Sincerely,

Yvonne Terlingen
AI Representative at the United Nations Amnesty International

Bani Dugal
Principal Representative Baha’i International Community, UN Office

Dr. Wajeeha S. Albaharna
President Bahrain Women’s Society

Emma Bonino
Member of the European Parliament (Italy)

Karin D. Ryan
Senior Advisor for Human Rights The Carter Center

Denis Caillaux
Secretary General CARE International

Lene Schumacher
Director of Programs Center for Development of International Law

Charlotte Bunch
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

Ted Piccone
Executive Director Democracy Coalition Project

Sidiki Kaba
President, Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de 1’Homme (FIDH)

John Quigley
Executive Director, Franciscans International

Jennifer Windsor
Executive Director, Freedom House

Gay McDougall
Executive Director, Global Rights

Sergio D’elia
Secretary General, Hands Off Cain (Italy)

Neil Hicks
Director of International Programs Human Rights First

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director Human Rights Watch

Nicholas Howen
Secretary-General, International Commission of Jurists

Gareth Evans
President and CEO, International Crisis Group

Bob Arsenault
President, International League for Human Rights

Gorel Bogarde
UN Representative International, Save the Children Alliance

Chris Sidoti
Director, International Service for Human Rights

Hussain Sinjari
President, Iraq Institute for Democracy

Daniela Colombo
President, Italian Association for Women in Development, AIDOS

Felice D. Gaer
Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Thach Thach
President, Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, Vietnam

Walid Salem
Coordinator, MECA (Middle East Citizen Assembly)

Kok Ksor
President, Montagnard Foundation, Vietnam

Robin Phillips
Executive Director, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights

Nader Nadery
Commissioner, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

Sergio Stanzani
No Peace Without Justice (Italy)

Morton H. Halperin
Director of U.S. Advocacy Open Society Institute

Marco Pannella
Member of the European Parliament (Italy)

Leonard Rubenstein
Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights

Kenneth H. Bacon
President, Refugees International

Matteo Mecacci
UN Representative Transnational Radical Party

Vina Nadjibulla
UN Representative United Methodist UN Office

Marino Busdachin
UNPO General Secretary, The Netherlands

Vo Van Ai, President
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vietnam

William R. Pace
Executive Director, World Federalist Movement

Eric Sottas
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

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