A key test of whether the United Nations Human Rights Council is working better than its derided predecessor will be the functioning of the “universal periodic review,” the new mechanism that will allow the records of all countries to be scrutinized, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said today.
Presenting her annual report to the Council in Geneva, Ms. Arbour said the universal periodic review must be applied to each country impartially and objectively, and in such a way as to answer any criticisms of selectivity.
The mechanism was introduced last year after the Human Rights Council was established to replace the Commission on Human Rights, which had long been criticized for ignoring serious abuses in many countries. It allows all countries to be evaluated on a regular basis on their rights record.
Ms. Arbour told delegates attending today’s Council session that the strength of universal periodic review is that it has the potential to be not just a pro-forma assessment of a situation, but a detailed analysis highlighting a country’s shortcomings, difficulties and setbacks, drawing on the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups.
She stressed that each nation being examined must show total transparency and open-mindedness to ensure that the Council emerges with the best possible report, particularly in the drafting of solutions to any identified problems.
In her report Ms. Arbour also said that two essential themes guided the work of her office: economic, social and cultural rights, and the issue of equal rights for women. She noted that regional bureaux are being opened soon in Central Asia, North Africa and West Africa. Later the High Commissioner held an interactive dialogue with Council delegates.
Earlier in the day, the Council concluded its high-level segment after hearing speeches from 15 representatives concerning a broad range of issues, including the universal periodic review mechanism.