Letter to U.N. President: Proposed U.N. Human Rights Council
November 1, 2005
H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson
President of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly
Office of the President of the General Assembly
United Nations
New York, N.Y. 10017
Dear President Eliasson,
At the September 2005 World Summit, heads of state and government took a historic step towards strengthening the protection of human rights worldwide by agreeing to establish a Human Rights Council. The challenging task of implementing that decision through negotiations at this year’s General Assembly was placed in your capable hands. At this crucial moment in the negotiations process, the undersigned organizations and individuals, all deeply committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, would like to emphasize our shared view regarding the key elements of a new Human Rights Council that we would consider indispensable to a credible outcome.
We start from the premise that the result of this reform must be substantially more than a change in name.  The Human Rights Council must significantly enhance the U.N.’s existing capacity to protect and promote human rights. We would also stress that the key elements of the council should be adopted by the end of this year in order to allow it to begin its work in early 2006.
We believe that the following essential points must be included in the resolution creating the Human Rights Council:
Status:  The HRC should be elevated to principal organ status within five years and should have transitional status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly in the meantime.
Mandate:  The HRC should address any matters relating to the protection and promotion of all human rights in any country, including specific situations of gross, systematic, continuing or urgent violations. The HRC should be empowered to make recommendations and report on all such matters to member states and bodies within the United Nations system, including to the Security Council and the General Assembly.
Composition:  At a minimum, states seeking election to the Human Rights Council must commit to abide by the highest standards of human rights and to cooperate fully with the HRC and its mechanisms, and should put forward a platform that describes what they seek to accomplish during their term of membership.
Elections and Voting:  Members of the HRC should be elected by an individual and direct vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly. Regional groups should be required to put forward more candidates than the number of seats allocated to their region.  When voting, member states should give due regard to the positive contribution which the member state seeking election has made to the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as to the pledges it makes.
Working Methods:  The HRC should be a standing body which meets regularly throughout the year and is able to respond in a timely fashion to any matters involving the protection and promotion of human rights. Meetings of the HRC in addition to the regular sessions could be called by one-third of HRC members, the HRC chair, the Secretary-General, or the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Special Procedures:  The system of special procedures should be transferred to the HRC with enhanced coherence and support, as well as greater participation in HRC meetings.
NGO Participation:   The HRC should ensure a level of participation by NGOs at least as high as that at the Commission on Human Rights by retaining the existing rules and practices for participation by NGOs.
We believe that by incorporating each of the above elements the Human Rights Council will be able to fulfill the promise that engendered this reform. Given the inter-relationship of many of these issues, failure to secure any of these key points would compromise the entire effort.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and the co-chairs to support the establishment of an effective, credible, and authoritative Human Rights Council.
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director
Access Info Europe (Spain)
Yvonne Terlingen, AI Representative at the United Nations
Amnesty International
Albert Musliu, Executive Director
Association for Democratic Initiatives (Macedonia)
Roberto P. Saba, Executive Director
Association for Civil Rights (Argentina)
Bani Dugal, Principal Representative
Bahá'í International Community, UN Office
Dr. Wajeeha S. Albaharna, President
Bahrain Women's Society
Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament (Italy)
Karin D. Ryan. Senior Advisor for Human Rights
The Carter Center
Denis Caillaux, Secretary General
CARE International
Lene Schumacher, Director of Programs
Center for Development of International Law
Charlotte Bunch, Executive Director
Center for Women's Global Leadership
Charles J. Brown, President and CEO
Citizens for Global Solutions
Richard C. Rowson, President
Council for a Community of Democracies
Réné Plaetevoet, Chair of the Board of Directors and Coordinator
Ted Piccone, Executive Director
Democracy Coalition Project
Ilona Mihaies, Executive President
Euroregional Center for Democracy (Romania)
Sidiki Kaba, Président
Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
Marie-Jo Cocher, Executive Secretary
FIACAT (International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition
of Torture)
John Quigley, Executive Director
Franciscans International
Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director
Freedom House
Gay McDougall, Executive Director
Global Rights
Layla Rajab Zayed, Chairperson, Board of Trustees
Gulf Centre for Democratic Development
Sergio D'elia, Secretary General
Hands Off Cain (Italy)
Tolekan Ismailova, Director
Human Rights Centre "Citizens Against Corruption" (Kyrgyzstan)
Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs
Human Rights First
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director
Human Rights Watch
Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General
International Commission of Jurists  
Gareth Evans, President and CEO
International Crisis Group
Bob Arsenault, President
International League for Human Rights
Gorel Bogarde, UN Representative
International Save the Children Alliance
Chris Sidoti, Director
International Service for Human Rights
Hussain Sinjari, President
Iraq Institute for Democracy
Daniela Colombo, President
Italian Association for Women in Development, AIDOS
Felice D. Gaer, Director
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Thach Thach, President
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, Vietnam
Walid Salem, Coordinator
MECA (Middle East Citizen Assembly)
Kok Ksor, President
Montagnard Foundation, Vietnam
Robin Phillips, Executive Director
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Nader Nadery, Commissioner
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
Sergio Stanzani
No Peace Without Justice (Italy)
Morton H. Halperin, Director of U.S. Advocacy
Open Society Institute
Marco Pannella, Member of the European Parliament (Italy)
Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director
Physicians for Human Rights
Liz Scurfield, Joint Representative
Quaker Council for European Affairs
Kenneth H. Bacon, President
Refugees International
Jan Mortier, Executive Director
Researchers without Borders
Matteo Mecacci, UN Representative
Transnational Radical Party
Vina Nadjibulla, UN Representative
United Methodist UN Office
Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary, The Netherlands
Vo Van Ai
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vietnam
Joy Olson, Executive Director
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
William R. Pace, Executive Director
World Federalist Movement
Eric Sottas, Director
World Organisation against Torture
cc: H.E. Mr. Ricardo Alberto Arias, Co-Chair, Human Rights Council negotiations
      H.E. Mr. Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Co-Chair, Human Rights Council negotiations
      Mr. Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General
      Ms. Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights