Source: The Hindu
Manifest pedagogy: UNHRC is an important international institution. It has been in news recently for reasons ranging from the US withdrawal of funding to its stand on the J&K issue. The static dimension of structure and functioning of UNHRC is important for us.
In news: The UN Human Rights council has said that J & K is an integral part of India.
Placing it in syllabus: UN and its agencies
- UN Human Rights council
- Comparison with earlier body Human Rights Commission
- Criticisms against Council and reforms needed
UN Human Rights council (UNHRC):
- UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.
- It has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis.
- Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.
- It was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 by a resolution to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights
- It works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
- The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September.
- It investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as
- freedom of association and assembly,
- freedom of expression,
- freedom of belief and religion,
- women’s rights,
- LGBT rights,
- rights of racial and ethnic minorities
- The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHCR’s seats.
- The term of each seat is three years.
- No member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
- The seats are distributed among the UN’s regional groups as follows:
- 13 for Africa,
- 13 for Asia,
- 6 for Eastern Europe,
- 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC),
- 7 for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).
- Members are eligible for re-election for one additional term, after which they must relinquish their seat.
- The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership.
- The suspension process requires a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly.
Comparison with earlier body Human Rights Commission:
- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) was a functional commission within the overall framework of the United Nations from 1946 until it was replaced by the UNHRC in 2006.
- It was a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
- It had a membership of 53 elected by the ECOSOC through a majority of those present and voting.
- From 1947 to 1967, it concentrated on promoting human rights and helping states elaborate treaties, but not on investigating or condemning violators.
- In 1967, the Commission adopted interventionism as its policy.
- Due to decolonization of Africa and Asia, many countries pressed for a more active UN policy on human rights issues, especially in light of massive violations in apartheid South Africa.
- The new policy meant that the Commission would also investigate and produce reports on violations.
- But it was not able to make the Commission as effective as desired, due to politicization of the body.
- It had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
- The Commission held its final meeting in Geneva on March 27, 2006.
Criticisms against Council and reforms needed:
- The United States had boycotted the UNHRC during the George W. Bush administration to protest the repressive states among its membership (In March 2009 the Obama administration reversed that position and decided to “re engage” and seek a seat on the UNHRC).
- Countries with questionable human rights records that have served on the UNHRC include Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia and Russia.
- It was criticized in 2009 for adopting a resolution submitted by Sri Lanka praising its conduct in Vanni that year, ignoring pleas for an international war crimes investigation.
- The UNHRC has been accused of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
- The Council voted on 30 June 2006 to make a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every council session (Agenda Item 7).
- On 19 June 2018, the United States pulled out of the UNHRC accusing the body of bias against Israel and a failure to hold human rights abusers accountable.