UN Committee Rewards Countries for Protecting Human Rights Despite COVID-19

By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) — The Human Rights Committee periodically scrutinizes the implementation of the legal obligations of countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite the challenges to its work brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee was able to hold online follow-up reviews of 12 countries during its three regular sessions in 2021.

To date, 173 countries have ratified the Covenant. An additional six countries have signed the Covenant but have yet to ratify it, while 18 have taken no action.

The Committee has awarded top grades to five countries. These include Jordan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, the Republic of Moldova, and New Zealand that all received at least one ‘A’s during the Committee’s follow-up examination.

Jordan was awarded an A for efforts made around combatting violence against women, including domestic violence, by undertaking research on the root causes of violence against women and using that research as a basis for enhanced awareness-raising efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women.

Liechtenstein received an A for its response to recommendations on the prohibition of torture. Liechtenstein held a public consultation on the revision of its Criminal Code and plans to propose legislation based on the consultation.

Mauritius received two A’s for the implementation of recommendations linked to its treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons residing in its territory. Mauritius collected data and published on these groups. The country also provided information on the measures it had taken regarding juvenile justice, including training police officers to handle cases relating to juvenile justice.

A representative from the Permanent Mission of Mauritius to the United Nations expressed its appreciation for the recognition of its works and efforts by the Human Rights Committee for the promotion and integration of the rights of children, with a special focus on juvenile justice.

The upcoming promulgation of the Children’s Act 2020, the Children’s Court Act 2020 and the Child Sex Offenders Register Act 2020 would reinforce our efforts and commitment to further enhance and uphold Human Rights which encompass Children’s Rights in the juvenile justice system, the representative added.

Moldova was also graded A for the implementation of its recommendations issued in its adoption of the new National Human Rights Action Plan in consultation with stakeholders, in accordance to the Committee’s recommendations linked to National Human Rights Frameworks.

New Zealand was awarded an A for strengthening its efforts to combat all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, particularly in relations to Māori and Pasifika women and girls, as well as women and girls with disabilities; and for enforcing its criminal legislation on domestic and gender-based violence across its territory.

A few years ago, the Committee held constructive dialogues with these countries after which it adopted its concluding observations. The Committee selected between two to four of these concluding observations for each State party and they were asked to provide information on their implementation. The Committee assessed the information received from the State parties, as well as from civil society organisation, where submitted, and adopted follow-up reports in 2021.

This follow-up procedure has been used by the Committee since 2013. Grades from ‘A’ to ‘E’ are assigned to countries based on their action on the Committee’s recommendations. The ‘A’ grade reflects “largely satisfactory” action taken towards implementing recommendations. The other grades are: ‘B’ “partially satisfactory”; ‘C’ “not satisfactory”; ‘D’ “no cooperation with the committee or no follow-up report was received”; and ‘E’ “measures taken in response to the recommendation are contrary to or reflect a rejection of it”.

Country follow-up also benefits from the participation of civil society organizations and national human rights institutions that also submit information, thus offering important contextual insight about the domestic civil and political rights situation and the impact of the actions taken by countries to implement the Committee’s recommendations.

Vasilka Sancin, the Committee’s Special Rapporteur for follow-up on concluding observations said: “It is particularly noteworthy that, not only did five States parties receive A grades during the 2021 follow-up processes, but also that there were no D or E grades issued for any of the 12 States parties assessed this year”.

She added: “This demonstrates remarkable commitment to cooperating with the Human Rights Committee, the great importance and added value of continuous dialogue on the implementation, and unwavering respect for the standards set in the Covenant regardless of the additional challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“While a number of recommendations still remain to be satisfactorily implemented”, Sancin noted, “such a positive trajectory signals a promising opening of possibilities to rebuild better in the years to come”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 January 2022]

Photo source: Human Rights Committee.

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