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Human Rights Council Advisory Committee continues its discussion on traditional values
Thursday, 09 August 2012 10:20


The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (the Committee) is currently holding its 9th session in Geneva (from 6 to 10 August).  The Committee held a debate on 6 August on the latest draft of its study on promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind (the study). The study has been extremely controversial. Indeed, many States did not vote in favour of the Russian led resolution 16/3 that gives the mandate to the Committee to prepare the study (the resolution was adopted with 24 in favour, 14 against, and 7 abstentions). The first draft of the study was presented at the 8th session by the rapporteur, Committee member Mr Vladimir Kartashkin. It was heavily criticised in several respects[1] by fellow Committee members, States, and NGOs, and it was decided that a new draft needed to be prepared for the 9th session before submission to the Human Rights Council (the Council) in its September session. Committee member Ms Chung Chinsung agreed to take the lead on redrafting the text.


The Committee’s discussion on the study relating to traditional values opened with the statement of the Chairperson of the drafting group, Mr Soofi, who presented the new study and gave an overview of the drafting process. In particular, he mentioned that the drafting group tried to take into account comments and feedback from Committee members, and thanked Ms Chung Chinsung for ‘her excellent input’ as new rapporteur of the study. He also noted that the revised draft includes a section that documents best practices in relation to the implementation of human rights through the use of ‘traditional values’.


Mr Kartashkin immediately took the floor to remind the Committee of the original mandate presented by the Council. He felt that the revised study does not answer the question asked by the Council resolution, that is, how a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom, and responsibility can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, and that the current version ‘is essentially dominated by one point of view’ with proposals and sentences that are ‘mistaken and erroneous’.


The focal point of the dialogue was the section of the report which discusses responsibility. Strongly opposing views were revealed between Committee members.  While Mr Kartashkin is a fervent activist for the inclusion of references to the notion of individual responsibility in promotion and protection of human rights, others were strongly against this.  Ms Boisson de Chazournes noted that individual responsibility is a subject of criminal law as opposed to human rights law, and suggested that a reference to individual responsibility could be made by mentioning the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court which provides for individual responsibility in cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crimes of aggression.[2]


The Russian Federation backed up Mr Kartashkin’s comments by noting that article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights provides for individual responsibility as well as the Convention of the Rights of the Child which contains a reference to the responsibility of parents. The representative felt that both instruments should be included in the study to illustrate the responsibility of individuals in case of human rights violations. Ms Quisumbing indicated that she would also welcome a reference in the responsibility section to the crucial role of family and community making sure ‘they live up to their responsibilities towards the child’. Mr Seetulsingh acknowledged that States are duty bearers but ‘citizens also have a responsibility to abide by human rights principles’.


Mr Soofi took a more careful approach explaining that even though the study underlines States as primary duty bearers under international law, it does not exclude the responsibility of non-state actors and individuals.  Mr Sakamato, along with Switzerland, and the United States, and NGOs such as ISHR and ICJ, expressed their worries regarding importing the concept of individual responsibility into human rights, stating that not only would this threaten the universality of human rights, but that in any case individual responsibility is not a concept that needs further development in international human rights law.


Russia also continued to stress its opinion that a difference has to be made between traditional values that may have a positive impact and harmful practices. It restated its point that the notion of ‘negative values’ does not exist and is paradoxical.


The drafting group will now have to consider the proposals made with a view to submitting a revised draft for adoption by the Committee by the end of the session on Friday, 10 August. While Mr Kartashkin suggested that the Committee should ask for an extension from the Council of the deadline for submitting the report, other Committee members expressed a preference for finalising the study at this session. ISHR will update this news piece once the session concludes on Friday 10 August, and provide a longer analysis of the session in the October edition of the Human Rights Monitor Quarterly.



Last Updated on Thursday, 09 August 2012 10:23

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