American Bar Association Urges Reforms of United Nations Human Rights Process
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 15, 2005 — The American Bar Association is urging fundamental reform of the United Nations human rights process, including replacing the Human Rights Commission with a streamlined standing Human Rights Council.
The Council would be composed of U.N. member states that have good human rights records and have agreed to adhere to obligations of human rights compliance and cooperation as set forth in a Code of Conduct. It would protect and promote fundamental human rights by focusing world attention on conflicts that may result in ethnic cleansing or genocide.
The ABA Board of Governors adopted recommendations of a blue-ribbon task force chaired by David Birenbaum, former Ambassador to the U.N. for U.N. Management and Reform. The task force, convened by Kenneth B. Reisenfeld, chair of the ABA Section of International Law, also included Reps. Jim Leach and Tom Lantos, and Richard Schifter, former U.S. Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
“The Commission’s increasingly politicized nature has compromised its ability to respond to serious human rights violations,” said ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr. “Countries with poor human rights records have become Commission members and leaders and have prevented exposure and criticism of their own records,” he said.
The ABA policy, developed over 18 months, comes while preparations are underway for a September summit in New York City of the heads of state of the 191 member states, gathering to review the mission and structure of the United Nations system for the 21st century.
The ABA policy calls for measures to enhance the effectiveness of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; establish a highly professional investigative process; strengthen the capacity, credibility and professionalism of rapporteurs; strengthen the “Democracy Caucus” at the U.N.; and improve relationships between the Council and non-governmental organizations.
To view the Task Force report go to www.abanet.org/intlaw/ReportFINAL.pdf
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.