UN Commission on Human Rights Closes Down

News March 2006

Final Commission meeting in process

Geneva, Switzerland… The United Nations Commission on Human Rights concluded its work today, March 27, in a final session that reviewed its sixty year history.

The Commission is to be replaced by a new Human Rights Council that is intended to have greater accountability and transparency, and will meet more frequently. 

Calling the transition "a quiet-or maybe not so quiet-human rights revolution," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, acknowledged the many achievements of the Commission, while accepting that they had not been perfect.

Other speakers also pointed to the problem of politics and double standards that have plagued the Commission, which, in the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has been "undermined by the politicization of its sessions" and its "declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole."

Attending this closing session was International Religious Liberty Association UN representative Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, who regretted the purely procedural nature of the last meeting. 

"It is regrettable that the Commission gave no attention to human rights issues at all in its 62nd session," he observed. "All the delays and postponements caused by the backroom negotiations meant that no one had the opportunity to make any presentations on substantive issues. We came prepared to speak out on several issues, especially religious freedom violations, and were denied any chance to speak. We agree with the Ambassador of Brazil who spoke of his deep dissatisfaction over a session stripped of all substance, with no opportunity to deal with issues of concern. Similarly we echo the words of the Ambassador of the Netherlands who called for the role of non-government organizations to continue to be emphasized."

It is planned that the new Human Rights Council will take over all the work and mechanisms of the former Commission, and is expected to begin its work on June 19. [IRLA News]

Dr. Gallagher in conversation with the Ambassador of Albania, encouraging the ongoing development of religious freedom

Rebekah Gallagher observes the final session