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Statement of Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures at the Human Rights Council, Second session Geneva, 18 September – 6 October 2006

28 September 2006

I am honoured to provide these reflections on behalf of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures mandate-holders. 

The term Special Procedures refers to a system of individuals – independent experts – established by the United Nations to monitor key human rights situations, to submit reports on these situations, to communicate with the relevant authorities to protect the rights of the victims, and to activate the world community to address pressing human rights concerns.  They range from thematic to country mandates.  For over a decade, the mandate-holders of the Special Procedures have met annually under the United Nations umbrella to exchange information and experiences.  At their annual meeting in 2005, they decided to set up a Coordination Committee so as to facilitate the work of the mandate-holders.   

This year, at the crossroads of United Nations reform and the establishment of the Human Rights Council, the mandate-holders, under the auspices of the Coordination Committee, prepared a joint position addressed to the Council, which I had the honour of delivering on 23 June 2006.  Copies are available in the room and on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 

I would like to use this opportunity to underline some key messages from that statement, which remain important for mandate holders in view of recent developments, and the current Human Rights Council session.  We would like to invite the Council to:

-     Recognize the Special Procedures’ system as an indispensable mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights;
-     Encourage strengthened cooperation with the Special Procedures by calling on States to extend invitations, and preferably standing invitations, to the Special Procedures; to promptly respond to requests for country visits, and to facilitate access to victims, rights-holders and non-governmental organizations;
-    Encourage States to promptly provide substantive replies to Special Procedures’ communications, and to respond to each specific recommendation made by mandate-holders in their reports;
-    Urge States’ implementation of recommendations emerging from mandate-holders’ visits, mission reports and communications, including enhancement of follow-up mechanisms;
-    Provide an opportunity to the Special Procedures to directly and effectively interact with the Council by

  • Responding swiftly to early warnings of  impending egregious violations and systematically involving the mandate-holders in the Council’s early warning initiatives as well as in thematic debates and emergency sessions,
  • Providing, during its plenary sessions, for at least one-hour interactive dialogue with each mandate-holder.

In this context, I wish to bring to your attention a recent constructive development.  As you will be aware, the Manual of the United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures was revised, and its latest draft is now available on the website.  It clarifies the methods of work of the Special Procedures and offers operational guidance to their work.  As stated on the website and in the Note Verbale sent out by the OHCHR, comments are welcome before the end of December 2006 so that the revised version can be made available next year.

In light of the recent informal consultations on the inter-sessional working groups to be established by the Council, I would also like to reiterate several key points.  As noted in our earlier statement, we would be grateful to the Council if it could:

-    Ensure that the views of the Special Procedures are reflected substantively in the process of reform;
-    Ensure the active participation of the Special Procedures in the review of mandates and mechanisms through the participation of the Coordination Committee or its designated representative(s) in the Working Groups on the review of mandates and mechanisms, and on the Universal Periodic Review;
-    Make the work of the Special Procedures central to the system of Universal Periodic Review, by

  • Focusing the Universal Periodic Review on assessing States’ effective implementation of the findings and recommendations of  independent expert bodies, rather than duplicating their efforts;
  • Making the findings and recommendations of  the Special Procedures and treaty bodies an essential element;
  • Ensuring that the measure of  cooperation given to the Special Procedures is a central criterion used to assess States in the spirit of  cooperation and constructive dialogue called for in General Assembly Resolution 60/251 on the Human Rights Council;

In conclusion, I am grateful to the Council for giving me this opportunity to outline the priorities and suggestions of the Special Procedures mandate holders.  As chair of the Coordination Committee, I will do my utmost to ensure that the mandate holders make a contribution to the task ahead of you, as outlined by the Assembly resolution, namely to maintaining the system of Special Procedures.

I look forward to close cooperation between the Council and the Special Procedures with a view to strengthening the system, with effective follow-up measures and adequate resources.

The Special Procedures stand ready to reinforce the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.

Thank you.