The Human Rights Council: Missions and Challenges
The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system with the responsibility of supporting the promotion and protection of human rights across the world, while also dealing with and taking measures on human rights violations worldwide.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system with the responsibility of supporting the promotion and protection of human rights across the world, while also dealing with and taking measures on human rights violations worldwide. Since its establishment, the Council has had different missions around the globe. For example according to a report by Reliefweb (2021), the Council emphasizes the necessity of applying non-violent means and compliance with the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, precaution, and non-discrimination aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent against extreme use of force and other human rights violations. The Council also decided to establish an international independent expert mechanism for a period of three years, comprising three experts with law enforcement and human rights expertise, to investigate governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and all violations of international human rights law and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of these people.
Besides, the Council plays its role in different areas. The Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund supports the participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to ensure that these countries can participate and contribute to the work of the Council. HRC’s special procedures undertake country visits, act on individual cases and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to states and other actors bringing alleged violations or abuses to their attention. The thematic studies and convene expert consultation contribute to the development of human rights standards, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation. In addition to these contributions, HRC Complaint Procedure is a victim-oriented process which addresses consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested human rights violations evidenced in different parts of the globe and under any circumstances. HRC can also establish international commissions of inquiries, fact-finding missions, and investigations to respond to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It also produces evidence on war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous people covers issues such as education, the rights to participation in decision-making processes, access to justice, the role of language, cultures, and the identity of indigenous people. Another contribution of the Council is through the Forum on Minority issues, providing a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues related to national or ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities.
However, some experts have raised concerns that the HRC’s work is more and more influenced by countries that do not completely adhere to the international human rights norms and mechanisms. This means undermining the idea that human rights are universal and indivisible, suggesting instead that they are context-dependent or that some rights are subordinate to others . Another shortcoming is related to the issue of membership as it happens that member states elect candidates who do not meet the election criteria, even in the face of concrete evidence that they are not completely cooperating with the Council’s mechanisms. Protection of Human Rights Defenders from reprisals is another shortcoming of the HRC because of several problems experienced in this area. For example, NGO representatives invited to speak at the Council usually face interruptions with the harassing points of order from repressive delegations. Such reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the Council are frequently reported.
The United Nations Human Rights Council: Background and Policy Issues, 2020, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/RL33608.pdf
Assessing the United Nations Human Rights Council, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/assessing-the-united-nations-human-rights-council/