Centre for Civil and Political Rights

UN Human Rights Committee 117th Session

20th June to 15th July 2016 - Geneva

Overview of the Session

In Brief

At its 117th session (20th June to 15th July 2016) the Human Rights Committee reviewed the reports of seven States on the implementation of the ICCPR: Denmark, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Ecuador, Burkina Faso and Argentina.

The Committee also adopted the Lists of Issues in relation to the reports of four States: Italy, Serbia, Thailand and Turkmenistan and the List of Issues Prior to Reporting in relation to three States: Belgium, Lithuania and Norway.

Furthermore, the Committee adopted a text on the Follow-up Concluding Observations which assesses the recent information received on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in relation to Germany, Hong Kong (China), Czech Republic, Bolivia, United States of America, Latvia and Sri Lanka.

In addition, the Committee held four public meetings to continue the discussion regarding the first draft of a General Comment on article 6 (Right to Life) of the ICCPR.

The Human Rights Committee also took part in a private meeting with the European Court.

The Committee held a further meeting with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the two Covenants.

I. Review of State Reports

Kuwait: Absence of NGOs at review highlights precarious human rights situation

During the review, Committee members discussed with delegates issues such as discrimination against women, foreign workers, stateless persons (“Bidoons”) and LGBT persons, as well as freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. There were additional questions regarding the absence of Kuwait NGOs in the debate, and the information that some NGOs and activists from Kuwait had renounced to participate in the review for fear of reprisals. The Committee also expressed concern around the issue of the death penalty, including the large number of offences for which it could be imposed.

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Denmark: Delegation describes the Committee as the “Flagship of UN Treaty Bodies” but is questioned on sensitive issues

The Committee expressed its concerns regarding the effective implementation of the ICCPR, the allegations of participation in the C.I.A. extraordinary rendition program, and migrants’ rights in the context of the so-called “European Migration Crisis”. Regarding the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, the Delegation explained that Denmark is bound by the international treaties it has ratified and that it was the government’s responsibility to therefore comply with them. The Committee expressed skepticism regarding the inconclusive reports of the two commissions set up to determine whether CIA rendition flights had been carried out in Danish airspace; indeed, one Committee member commented “how can you not be able to determine if a plane has crossed your airspace? It is obvious, isn’t it?”

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Kazakhstan: Discrimination, criminal justice and freedom of expression and assembly voiced as key concerns

A range of issues were discussed in the ensuing dialogue, key amongst which were the rights of women and LGBT persons; the use of torture in detention; and freedom of expression, association and assembly. Other issues included the role of the Ombudsman, education for children with disabilities, human trafficking and the rights of refugees and migrants in Kazakhstan. Laws on anti-extremism and the abolition of the death penalty were further popular topics of discussion.

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Ghana: The challenge of implementing the ICCPR, between tradition and modernity

In the review of Ghana by the HR Committee, the death penalty, the human rights abuses at prayer and camps, discrimination against the LGBT community and the criminalisation of abortion were discussed at length. Maternal mortality and women’s rights, particularly in relation to abortion, were also thoroughly covered in the dialogue.

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Argentina: The Committee recognises large-scale reforms but fears weakening of human rights institutions

Key issues raised by the Committee included various concerns regarding the implementation of the ICCPR, particularly in cases where domestic law has been used to justify failing to fulfil its obligations under the Covenant. Laws on abortion were also addressed, particularly in light of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling liberalising the practice of abortion in all cases of rape. The apparent ‘dismantlement’ of NHRIs in Argentina was also a hot topic, particularly due to Committee and civil society suspicions that such acts attempted to suppress revelations of crimes committed by the State in particular.

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Ecuador: Intense debate on freedom of expression, public protests and rights of indigenous peoples

The interactive dialogue between the Ecuadorian delegates and the Committee members covered a range of issues including the deterioration of freedom of expression, the excessive use of force by police agents during demonstrations, and the treatment of indigenous communities in Ecuadorian society. With regards to police violence in the context of public demonstrations, the Committee stressed the issue that “sometimes the violence of a few can be used as a pretext to take illegal action against the majority of peaceful demonstrators.”

[Read more and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

Burkina Faso: Presentation of the initial report to mark the “return to normal constitutional life”

The review of Burkina Faso by the Human Rights Committee highlighted several key issues, including the death penalty, lynching and the activities of militia groups such as the Koglweobo. Regarding the death penalty, the Delegation stressed a movement within government towards abolition, but cited strong public opinion as the main barrier to fulfilling this requirement of international law. Lynching carried out as a form of private justice amongst the wider public poses similar difficulties. Above all, the activities of the Koglweobo vigilantes groups was addressed as a major concern by the Committee in terms of human rights abuses, and the State’s responsibility to contain and control such groups.

[Read more (in French) and find out the recommendations of the Committee]

II. First reading of the draft of the General Comment on the right to life

The Human Rights Committee continued the first reading of the draft General Comment on article 6 (Right to life) of the ICCPR. After the first reading, the Human Rights Committee will call NGOs and State parties to submit material and comments on the draft General Comment.[Read more]

III. Next session (17th October to 4th November)

The Centre for Civil and Political Rights works to improve the implementation of the ICCPR by promoting and enhancing NGO engagement with the UN Human Rights Committee.

More information is available from the Centre's website.

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