International Human Rights Day
FIACAT calls for the United Nations special procedures system
to be strengthened
“Christians are called to cooperate for the defence of human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against the human person in time of peace and of war. These practices are grave crimes against the human person, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and a scandal for the human family in the 21st century” This was the message given by Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at the end of a meeting with Ms Sylvie Bukhari–de Pontual, President of FIACAT.
To mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2007, the International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT) takes up these words from the Vatican and calls on the 192 Member States of the United Nations to uphold and bolster the UN special procedures system.
Established by the former Human Rights Commission, special procedures are regarded as one of the most effective of the United Nations’ many human rights mechanisms. They consist of independent experts entrusted with examining, monitoring and publicly reporting on the human rights situation in a given country or territory (country mandates) or major human rights violations worldwide (thematic mandates).
The Human Rights Council is currently negotiating a review of these special procedures, two of which have already been abolished in 2007. The great fear is that some countries will use this process to weaken them. The Human Rights Council’s main session in March/April 2008 will include an appraisal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture, whose prerogatives the Member States must at all costs maintain, and even strengthen further.
Let us not forget that the Human Rights Council succeeded the Human Rights Commission with the aim of making human rights protection mechanisms more effective. Failing to use this change to give the special procedures more teeth – or, worse still, agreeing to water them down – would be tantamount to betrayal of this reform on the part of the Member States; they would also be letting down the victims and all those involved in defending human rights. Hence FIACAT’s appeal to the Member States to see reason and avoid making these fears a reality.
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