UNHRC

 

Introduction

    • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world
    • The Council has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis
    • The headquarters of the Council is in Geneva, Switzerland
    • The Council was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
    • The Council investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in United Nations member states, and addresses thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities

 

Structure

    • The members of the United Nations General Assembly elect the members who occupy 47 seats of the United Nations Human Rights Council
    • The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
    • The seats are distributed among the United Nations regional groups as follows:
      • 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia
      • 6 for Eastern Europe
      • 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and
      • 7 for the Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
    • 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

 

Working

    • The UNHRC executes its mission through the following working components:
      • Universal Periodic Review Working Group
        • An important component of the Council consists of a periodic review of all 193 UN member states, called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
          • The mechanism is based on reports coming from different sources, one of them being contributions from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
          • Each country’s situation will be examined during a three-and-a-half-hour debate.
      • Advisory Committee
        • This was created in 2007, with 18 members with mandate to conduct studies on discriminatory practices and to make recommendations to ensure that racial, national, religious, and linguistic minorities are protected by law
      • Complaint procedure
        • This was set up for reporting of consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world and under any circumstances
        • The UNHRC set up two working groups for its Complaint Procedure:
          • Working Group on Communications (WGC) consists of experts, which determine whether a complaint deserves investigation, in which case it is passed to the WGS
          • Working Group on Situations (WGS) to examine the communications transferred to it by the WGC
      • Other subsidiary bodies
        • These include:
          • Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
          • Forum on Minority Issues, which is a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities
          • Social Forum, a space for dialogue between the representatives of Member States, civil society, including grass-roots organizations, and intergovernmental organizations on issues linked with the national and international environment needed for the promotion of the enjoyment of all human rights by all

Noteworthy actions by UNHRC

IssueAction taken
Myanmar Rohinga Issue·         In 2018, the UNHRC released a research report concluding that six generals in Myanmar armed forces should be prosecuted for war crimes as related to the genocide against the Rohingya Muslims

·         The UNHRC conducted 875 individual interviews as part of this research, confirming that the Myanmar army led a program that claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Rohingyas

Israel, human rights Abuse·         In 2015, UNHRC voted Resolution “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”

·         Since 2006, the council has been voting for a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel

2006 Lebanon conflict·         At its Special Session in 2006, the Council announced the establishment of a High-Level Commission of Inquiry charged with probing allegations that Israel systematically targeted and killed Lebanese civilians during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
Climate change·         The Human Rights Council has adopted the Resolution about human rights and climate change

·         At it’s 48th the Council, it recognized the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment

 

India and UNHRC

    • In 2021, India was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the 2022-24 term and vowed to continue to work for the promotion and protection of human rights through “Samman, Samvad and Sahyog”
    • In 2021, India abstained from a crucial vote on Sri Lanka’s rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva
    • In the recently concluded session at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), India abstained on one resolution on the human rights situation in Palestine but voted in favour of three other resolutions condemning Israel on the Golan Heights, its expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and in support of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people
    • At the 48th session of the human rights council, India said Pakistan has been globally recognised as a country openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists including UN prescribed terrorists as a matter of state policy
      • Also, India hit out at Pakistan as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for raising the Kashmir issue at the UN Human Rights Commission