United Nations Human Rights Council
Topic: A. Ban on homosexuality in military
B. Preservation and abolition of capital punishment
Introduction of the committee
Brief introduction of UNHRC
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations System. The UNHRC is the successor to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR), and is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly. The council works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the United Nations' Special Procedures.
The General Assembly established the UNHRC by adopting a resolution (A/RES/60/251) on 15 March 2006, in order to replace the previous CHR, which had been heavily criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
According to human rights groups, the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China, Cuba and Russia, who protect each other from criticism. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson have criticized the council for acting according to political considerations as opposed to human rights. Specifically, Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki Moon, the council's president Doru Costea, the European Union, Canada and the United States have accused the council of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The United States boycotted the Council during the George W. Bush administration, but reversed its position on it during the Obama administration.
On 18 June 2007, one year after holding its first meeting, the UNHRC adopted its Institution-building package, which provides elements to guide it in its future work. Among the elements was the Universal Periodic Review. The Universal Periodic Review will assess the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States. Another element is an Advisory Committee, which serves as the UNHRC’s think tank, and provides it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues, that is, issues which pertain to all parts of the world. Another element is a Complaints Procedure, which allows individuals and organizations to bring complaints about human rights violations to the attention of the Council.
The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC's forty-seven seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms. The seats are distributed among the UN's regional groups as follows: 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven for the Western European and Others Group. The previous CHR had a membership of 53 elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) through a majority of those present and voting. Members of the Council undergo a new universal review mechanism during their term of membership. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership. The suspension process requires a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly. The resolution establishing the UNHRC states that "members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights."
Members of the UNHRC are elected to staggered three-year terms. The first election of members was held on 9 May 2006. The current members, with the year that the mandate expires in parentheses, are the following:
Introduction of topics
Topic A: Ban on homosexuality in military >>>
Topic B: preservation and abolition of capital punishment>>>