Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the Human Rights Council’s agreement setting out how its universal periodic review mechanism will work, saying it “sends a clear message” that the rights record of every country faces serious and meaningful examination.
“No country – big or small – will be immune from scrutiny,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement, adding that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups need to play an active role in the review to ensure the process works.
“The periodic review holds great promise for opening a new chapter in human rights promotion and underscores the universality of human rights.”
Council members agreed yesterday on the modalities for universal periodic review after several days of marathon discussions. Each year 48 nations, comprising a mixture of Council members and observer States, will be reviewed to assess whether they have fulfilled their human rights obligations.
The modalities were decided as part of a package of new measures and decisions that includes the continuation of the work of Special Rapporteurs and other independent human rights experts.
But in today’s statement, Mr. Ban voiced disappointment at the Council decision to single out Israel as the only specific regional item on its agenda, “given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”
The 47-member Council also agreed to end the mandate of the Special Rapporteurs on the situations in Belarus and Cuba, while retaining the other 39 mandates under the so-called “special procedures” system.
Mr. Ban noted “that not having a Special Rapporteur assigned to a particular country does not absolve that country from its obligations under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and every other human rights treaty.”
The statement from his spokesperson added that the Secretary-General “trusts that members of the Council will take seriously their responsibilities and continue to seek out ways to improve the Council’s work in the months and years ahead.” He also noted that Council members “worked hard to reach consensus on a number of issues.”
Meeting today in Geneva, the Council also adopted resolutions on the situation in Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Darfur.