Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
7 August 2009
Committee Also Adopts Report and Concludes Third Session
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this afternoon adopted a recommendation on the human rights of elderly people as a new priority within the framework of its agenda and annual programme of work, adopted its report ad referendum and concluded its third substantive session.
The Committee designated Ms. Chinsung Chung to prepare an initial working paper on the need to study the human rights of elderly people, including making practical recommendations with a view to promoting and protecting these rights, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its fourteenth session in June 2010.
Speaking this afternoon were the following Advisory Committee Experts: Mona Zulficar, Latif Huseynov, Halima Embarek Warzazi, Hector Felipe Fix Fierro, Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Purificacion V. Quisumbing, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Jean Ziegler, Vladimir Kartashkin, and Emmanuel Decaux.
Representatives of Pakistan, Morocco and the Philippines also took the floor this afternoon.
The Advisory Committee also approved its report to the Human Rights Council on its third session before closing the session.
The Committee will hold its fourth session from 25 to 29 January 2010.
Action on Recommendation to the Human Rights Council
In a recommendation on human rights of elderly people (A/HRC/AC/3/L.5), adopted unanimously as orally revised, the Committee designated Ms. Chinsung Chung to prepare an initial working paper on the need to study the human rights of elderly people, including making practical recommendations with a view to promoting and protecting these rights, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its fourteenth session in June 2010.
Mona Zulficar, Advisory Committee Expert, said the human rights of elderly people had not received the priority or interest that it should within the human rights world. It was better to ask Ms. Chung to prepare an initial working paper on the need to study the human rights of elderly people because there were no recent or serious studies on the human rights of elderly people, and before asking for a mandate, there was a need to show and decide whether there was serious need for this, that it had priority and was timely. Once the working paper was presented, giving an account of the timeliness and priority of the issue, then the Advisory Committee could ask for a mandate from the Human Rights Council.
LATIF HUSEYNOV, Advisory Committee Rapporteur, said that Ms. Chung’s mandate was supposed to expire in March next year, and according to the draft recommendation on the human rights of elderly persons she was supposed to be present at the fifth session of the Committee in August 2010. He highlighted that that should be taken into account.
Latif Huseynov, Advisory Committee Rapporteur, presenting the draft report on the third session, said the session had been constructive. The report contained a procedural description of the work, up to the meeting held on Thursday morning. The proceedings of today's meeting would be included in the report, along with the recommendations adopted today. During the session, new officers had been elected, and a wide variety of topics addressed. The format of the report was based on the mandate and programme of work. The annexes were: the agenda; the list of speakers; the adopted rules of procedure as revised; and the list of documents issued for the session, including all draft recommendations, Conference Room papers and non-governmental organization statements.
HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Advisory Committee Chairperson, said before closing the session she wanted to thank everyone for their patience and hard work during the session. She said it was a successful session and the discussions were fruitful.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said Pakistan attached great importance to the work of the Committee and did consider that this body could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights from an academic perspective in its advice to the Human Rights Council. It was a great education to listen to the views of the learned members of the Committee on issues dealing with human rights, which affected all in their day to day life. He highlighted the resolution 5/1 of the Human Rights Council which created and gave the Committee a mandate to be a body, and in particular stressed that paragraphs 75 and 77 were very important here. Therefore the work of the Committee should remain within the confines of those paragraphs. Four important tasks were given to the Committee by the Council. Pakistan welcomed the progress achieved on persons affected by leprosy and human rights education and training, and hoped that there would also be such progress on the other two. The discussion on the independence of the Committee was acknowledged by the delegation, but he said that this did not mean they could work the way they felt like. Pakistan had always voted in favour of the right of peoples to peace, and said with regard to the human rights of elderly people they only had procedural issues here.
HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Advisory Committee Chairperson, said she felt like they were school children, and the headmistress had told them off. She felt that they had been given a whipping here. This really bothered her.
MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said he was a simple apprentice in the face of the long and rich experience of Ms. Warzazi. He wished to thank her and all the Experts for their remarkable contributions to the debate, opening the way to useful and productive discussion in the Human Rights Council. The decision to consider the best practices concerning disappeared persons was welcomed. Should Morocco receive a questionnaire, it would answer it. Concerning the right of peoples to peace, he shared the view of the Expert about the politicisation of this concept, which should be dealt with exclusively from the humanitarian perspective. Morocco valued the attention given to human rights education and training, in particular the pre-draft prepared by Mr. Decaux.
HECTOR FELIPE FIX FIERRO, Advisory Committee Expert, thanked the Secretariat and officers for the hard work in this session. He said the Committee did important and satisfactory work.
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, Advisory Committee Expert, said after hearing the words of Pakistan, he felt it was vital to say a few things, particularly since he referred to a decision taken today on work to be entrusted to Mr. Alfonso Martinez. The representative of Pakistan should recall various aspects in recent history as to the work the Human Rights Council had done so far. At the first session, the Committee had elected Mr. Alfonso Martinez as Chairperson for the first two sessions. The Committee had to ensure, formally in its agenda and in practice, that it reacted to the explicit requests directed to it by the Human Rights Council. When talking about priorities under item 4, these were not priorities that were going to endanger the primary and essential priority owed to the explicit requests of the Human Rights Council asking the Committee to produce documents or take action for the purposes of the Council. When the Committee referred to new priorities, this could not and would not harm the absolute priority that it had given since its first days to the requests of the Council. If there was any margin for initiative, the Committee did not wish this to remain a dead letter. There would be more time available when item four came into play in the future. There was no reason for Pakistan to be concerned that the tasks given to Mr. Alfonso Martinez and to Ms. Chung would endanger or imperil the priorities, tacit or explicit, given to the Committee by the Council.
LATIF HUSEYNOV, Advisory Committee Rapporteur, said those who had followed his presentations might know what he was about to say. His position was clear, they were independent and impartial, and should be independent and impartial. Independence meant being independent from whoever. As an expert he had to fulfil his responsibilities and in order to do so had to be independent from the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and others alike. In order to effectively promote human rights and provide expertise, which was inherent in the mandate of the Committee, he should be impartial - free from any political considerations. If his Government decided to submit his candidacy in two years he would take the same perspective here. With all due respect to Pakistan, he put aside his personal affiliation, and said he did not like being told and taught. You should not teach experts, if you did they would be subordinates. Another issue raised was with regard to the draft recommendation to launch a study on human rights of elderly people, this was in accordance with resolution 5/1 and specifically paragraph 77. Furthermore, he reiterated that the delegate of Pakistan said that “priorities should be determined by the Council”, and reminded the delegate of Pakistan that they in fact understood this, but stressed that Experts could advise on which issues constituted priorities. Moreover, he underscored that they adopted their rules of procedure and did not need any final adoption by the Human Rights Council.
Mona Zulficar, Advisory Committee Expert, said she wished to express her appreciation for all Observer Governments and Member Governments of the Human Rights Council who supported the creation of the Advisory Committee and its work. The Committee appreciated their support. However, this was a group of Experts who had been elected because of their independence, track record, expertise, and years of practice in the field of human rights. The Committee was fully determined to respect the scope of competence of the Committee, and would not exceed these - it was too experienced to breach the limitations. The Members wished to spend their hours, days, and years in the Committee for a good cause – to help the people all over the world suffering from human rights violations. The Experts wanted to help defend human rights, and many had spent years doing this in their communities. They would not risk losing the support of the Council and those who had supported their work. They would work towards the causes and targets which they and the Council wished to achieve, in the context of the mandate given in the context of resolution 5/1. The Experts did not wish to break the rules, nor undermine their work. All Observer Governments were assured that when the Committee asked a Member to give a needs assessment, it was out of caution that the Committee did not send a request for a mandate to the Human Rights Council without being sure that there was a priority and an actual need for the study. This was why the Committee had decided it was better to first have a needs assessment working paper before a study was begun. If the Committee was convinced, then it would ask for a mandate as an institution, and not as individual members.
PURIFICACION V. QUISUMBING, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said she believed that she spoke for the Asian group and expressed her best sentiments to the Chairperson for her leadership and keeping time. She had taken most of the burden and as such they gave her their full support. Additionally, she said that the dynamics between the Council and the Committee were still evolving and no one knew how it would go. Those who had been in the system for some time knew that the relationship between experts and Governments was always evolving, but stressed that Governments should keep their confidence in them. There were in fact pitfalls, but there were no pitfalls where they would stumble permanently. The bureau had done very well, despite being part of it, she wished the Chairperson the best of luck until they met next.
Bernards Andrews Nyamwaya Mudho, Advisory Committee Expert, said he admired the work of Ms. Warzazi, and thanked her from the bottom of his heart.
DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Advisory Committee Expert, on behalf of the African Group, said he wished to thank Ms. Warzazi for chairing the Committee with so much brio and charm, and this was why she had been chosen as Chairperson of the Committee. She had not disappointed the Committee, and had guided their work well, bringing it to agree all together on the recommendations. He knew that she would speak on the Committee's behalf when presenting the report to the Council, and ensure that the Committee would move forward with its work, and would lobby the Council Members to ensure that greater attention was given to its work.
WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Advisory Committee Expert, said he was very grateful and expressed his gratitude for the leadership of the Chairperson. She was a very strong woman and led the discussions in a very constructive way. It was very positive that the group was able to find quickly solutions, rather than taking a lot of time on rules of procedure such as was the case with other bodies. He was even happier that they rarely referred to the rules of procedure. There was an open eye with respect to responses from some Governments who criticized the Committee. He hoped under the Chairperson’s leadership that the future work of the Committee would continue to bring such quality to their discussions.
Jean Ziegler, Advisory Committee Vice-Chairperson, said this was a very interesting debate. There was absolutely no question with regards to the quality of the Chair and the way in which she had worked throughout the entire session, which deserved thanks. The delegate of Pakistan was not, however, fully wrong. There was a paper entitled Human Rights Council Advisory Committee addresses five recommendations to the Human Rights Council. When talking about recommendations on human rights education and training and the right to food, this was based on an existing mandate, whereas what the Committee was asking now for Mr. Martinez to do was something else. The Committee was working on an entirely different basis therein. A name other than "recommendation" should be found with regards to the decisions on the right to peace and the right to education in order to distinguish the differing natures. Pakistan had supported the creation of the Committee, and the objective on the wording was an admissible criticism.
VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Advisory Committee Expert, speaking on behalf of the group of eastern European States, thanked the Secretariat and those who made this session a success, and in particular thanked the Chairperson, with her great knowledge and objectivity that allowed the Committee to complete the work done. In conclusion, he thanked the representative of Pakistan. The questions flagged by the delegate were matters which had been looked at for a long time in the Council and the Committee and sooner or later these questions would be raised. He was thankful for the possibility of looking at this question. There was a unanimous decision within the Committee with respect to its rules of procedure. The discussion they had, which was stressful at times, was quite useful both to the Committee and the Council.
Emmanuel Decaux, Advisory Committee Expert, said he agreed with what had been said by previous speakers including Ms. Zulficar. What the Committee had tried to do was rationalise work - the press release put all the recommendations in one bag. They had been adopted under different agenda items, so there was a difference in their nature.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said he had not intended to take the floor again, as this was not a family matter, and he did not need to get emotional and respond to everything that had been said. However, there were some things that required a response. Pakistan appreciated the work of the Committee and attached great importance to it. His poor English had been taken very wrongly by some of the distinguished Experts. Every single word in paragraph 77 and 79 had been fought for by Pakistan, who had crafted it. It was with the core of his heart that he said, no whipping, no scolding, that he wished to say what he did understand from the text that Pakistan had fought for, to give the Committee the maximum ability to deliver. Pakistan acknowledged the work of the Members, and wanted their intellectual input to help the Council. But the Committee was not the Council's teacher - it was a group of Experts, asked to produce reports based on that expertise, and provide that with thematic recommendations to the Council. There was no political dimension. The Experts came here through a political process, and that should remain in their mind - they had not been placed here by heaven. He kept his position on the Rules of Procedure - it would come to the Council, and they would take a decision on it. He was very happy to hear the views of the distinguished members - he was not suggesting something out of the world. The Advisory Committee was not to adopt resolutions or decisions. He had nothing else to say, except to say please do not misconstrue anything that had been said - it was all in sincerity, Pakistan would continue to work for the betterment of the Committee and the Council.
JESUS ENRIQUE GARCIA (Philippines) said the Committee did great work throughout the week and the Philippines attached great importance to their work. He wanted to add his voice to the fact that the delegate of Pakistan was not “whipping” or “talking down” to Experts of the Committee. He was merely addressing the relationship between the Committee and the Council. There was nothing wrong with dialogue between the Committee and Governments; and a balance between independence and impartiality of the Committee had to be struck. The Committee and Governments should work in spirit of mutual trust and respect. In their view all recommendations put forth would have to go to the Council for adoption first, based on the rules in the institutional building text. This was an evolving process and therefore they should continue to engage with one another in a constructive and respectful way.
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