UN Human Rights Commission: history, structure, competence

The United Nations (UN) is a large body with a complex and ornate structure. One of the highest priorities for which the organization was created is the protection of human rights in the world. To address this issue, a special unit was created - the UN Human Rights Commission.

The commission has a long history, which will be described in this article. The prerequisites for the creation of such a body, the main stages of its activities will be considered. The structure, principles and operating procedures of the Commission, as well as its competence and the most famous events that took place with its participation, were also analyzed.

Prerequisites for the creation of the Commission

In 1945, the largest military conflict in the history of our planet ended - the Second World War ended. Even the approximate number of dead people is still the subject of heated and lengthy debate among historians. Destroyed were cities, countries, families and human destinies. A myriad of people during these bloody six years have become crippled, orphans, homeless and vagrants.

The atrocities committed by the Nazis over people of other beliefs and nationalities shocked the world. Millions of people were buried in concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of people were eliminated as enemies of the Third Reich. The human body was used one hundred percent. While the man was alive, he worked for the Nazis physically. When he was dying, his skin was removed to cover the furniture, and the ash remaining after burning his body was carefully packed in bags and sold for a penny as fertilizer for garden plants.

The experiments of fascist scientists on living people were unparalleled in cynicism and cruelty. During such experiments, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, injured and received various injuries. People were tormented by the creation of artificial hypoxia, creating conditions comparable to being at an altitude of twenty kilometers, specially inflicted chemical and physical injuries in order to learn how to treat them more effectively. Amazingly large-scale experiments were carried out to sterilize victims. To deprive people of the opportunity to have offspring, they used radiation, chemicals and physical effects.

It was quite obvious that the concept of human rights clearly needed to be developed and protected. Such horrors could no longer be allowed.

World peace

Mankind was filled with war. It was saturated with blood, murders, grief and losses. Humanistic ideas and moods hung in the air: helping the wounded and the victims of military events. Strange as it may seem, the war united the world community and brought together ordinary people. Even in the relationship between the capitalist West and the communist East, there seemed to be a period of thaw.

The destruction of the colonial system of the world

In addition, the end of World War II put an end to the colonial era. England, France, Germany, Portugal, Holland, and many other countries that had dependent territories — colonies — in their subordination lost them. Lost officially. But the processes and patterns built over the centuries cannot be destroyed in a short period of time.

With the attainment of formal independence, the colony countries were only at the very beginning of the state development path. They all gained independence, but not everyone knew what to do with it.

Relations between the population of the colonial countries and former colonialists still could not be called equal. For example, the African population continued to be oppressed for a long time after the end of World War II.

Human rights

In order to continue to prevent the above horrors and world disasters, the victorious countries decided to create the United Nations, within which the UN Commission on Human Rights was created.

Commission Creation

The creation of the UN Commission on Human Rights is inextricably linked with the creation of the United Nations. The UN Charter was signed by representatives of participating countries in June 1945.

According to the Charter of the United Nations, one of its governing bodies was ECOSOC - the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The authority of the body included the entire list of issues related to economic and social development in the world. It was ECOSOC that became the progenitor of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

It happened in December 1946. The UN member states agreed unanimously on the need for such a commission, and it began its work.

Creation of the UN Commission

For the first time, the Commission officially convened on January 27, 1947, in the small town of Lake Sacks, near New York. The meeting of the commission lasted more than ten days and ended only on February 10 of the same year.

The first chairman of the Commission was Eleanor Roosevelt. The very Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the wife of the President of the United States of America Franklin Delano Roosevelt and niece Theodore Roosevelt.

Issues administered by the Commission

The competence of the UN Commission on Human Rights included a wide range of issues. The interaction of the Commission and the UN was reduced to the provision of analytical and statistical reports.

The commission was responsible for the fight against slavery, discrimination on the basis of gender and nationality, the protection of the right to choose a religion, the protection of the interests of women and children, and many other issues stipulated by the Convention on the Rights.


The structure of the Commission gradually changed and expanded. The Commission included several units. The main role was played by the apparatus of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the body for the maintenance and protection of human rights. In addition, to examine specific precedents and appeals, structural units of the commission were created in UN member countries.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is a position whose duties include monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration on the Protection of the Rights of People around the World. From 1993 to the present, 7 people have occupied this responsible post. Thus, the United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights managed to visit Jose Ayala Lasso from Ecuador, Mary Robinson from Ireland, Sergio Vieira de Mello from Brazil, Bertrand Ramcharan from Guyana, Canadian Louise Arbor and the representative of the Republic of South Africa Nevi Pillay.

From September 2014 to the present, the position has been occupied by the Jordanian prince Zeid al-Hussein.

Zeid Al Hussein

The Sub-Commission on the Maintenance and Protection of Human Rights is an expert body whose tasks include resolving specific issues on the agenda. For example, the subcommittee worked on issues such as forms of modern slavery, the protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism, on indigenous issues and many other issues.

The election of representatives from Member States of the United Nations to the Commission took place according to the following principle. There were no permanent members in the Commission, which implied an annual procedure for their selection. The election of representatives was handled by a higher body of the Commission, ECOSOC.

The last composition of the commission included representatives of 53 UN states distributed among the regions of the world in a certain ratio.

5 countries represented Eastern Europe: the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Armenia, Hungary and Romania.

From Asia, the Commission included representatives from countries such as the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, Nepal, and others. Altogether, 12 countries represented Asia.

Ten countries of Western Europe and other regions - France, Italy, Holland, Great Britain, Germany and Finland. This group also included the United States of America, Canada and Australia.

The eleven representatives of UN Member States to the Commission were from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The African continent represented 15 states. The largest of them are Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria and the Republic of South Africa.

Creation of the regulatory framework of the Commission

For successful work to protect human rights, a single document was needed establishing such rights. The problem was that the views of the participating countries involved in the work of the Commission diverged too much on this issue. Affected differences in the standard of living and ideology of states.

They planned to name the upcoming document in different ways: the Bill on Human Rights, the International Bill of Rights, and so on. Finally, the name was chosen - Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The year 1948 is considered the year of adoption of this document.

Human rights declaration

The main purpose of the document is to fix human rights at the international level. Previously, in many progressive states, such as the United States of America, England, France, internal documents regulating these rights were developed, now the problem has been brought to the international level.

Representatives of many countries took part in the work on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt and George Humphrey, the Chinese Zhang Penchun, Lebanese Charles Malik, Frenchman Rene Kassen, as well as Russian diplomat and lawyer Vladimir Koretsky actively worked on the declaration.

The content of the document combined excerpts from the constitutions of the participating countries establishing human rights, specific proposals of interested parties (especially the American Institute of Law and the Inter-American Legal Committee), and other documents in the field of human rights.

Human rights convention

This document has become the most important regulatory act to protect the rights of people. The importance of the Human Rights Convention, which entered into force in September 1953, is extremely high. Reevaluating it is really difficult. Now any citizen of the state that ratified the articles of the document has the right to seek help from a specially created interstate human rights organization - the European Court of Human Rights. Section No. 2 of the Convention fully regulates the work of the court.

Human rights convention

Each article of the Convention enshrined a certain right, inalienable to each person. Thus, such basic rights as the right to life and freedom, the right to marry (article 12), the right to freedom of conscience and religion (article 9), and the right to a fair trial (article 6) were enshrined. Torture (article 3) and discrimination (article 14) were also prohibited.

The position of the Russian Federation in relation to the Convention

Russia has ratified all articles of the convention, signing up to their strict observance since 1998.

At the same time, some amendments to the Convention have not been ratified by the Russian Federation. We are talking about the so-called protocols No. 6, 13 (the restriction and the absolute abolition of the death penalty as a capital punishment, in Russia today there is a temporary ban), No. 12 (general prohibition of discrimination) and No. 16 (advising the domestic courts with the European Court on human rights before making a decision).

Milestones of the Commission

Traditionally, the Commission decided to distinguish two stages. The main criterion by which they are distinguished is considered to be the transition of the body from a policy of absenteeism to active participation in proceedings on violations of human rights. In this case, absenteeism is understood as the theoretical declaration of human rights and freedoms and the dissemination of such ideas without any specific actions.

Thus, the Commission at the first stage of its existence (from 1947 to 1967) essentially did not interfere in the affairs of independent states, only publicly expressing its opinion on a particular issue.

Commission completion

The history of the Commission in 2005 ended. This body was replaced by another - the UN Human Rights Council. The process of stopping the work of the Commission was facilitated by several factors.

UN Human Rights Council

The greatest role in deciding on the liquidation of the commission was played by criticism of it. The commission was accused mainly of not fulfilling the functions assigned to it in full. The reason for everything was that, like any body in the field of international law, it was constantly subjected to political pressure from the leading countries (including groups of countries) of the world. This process led to an extremely high level of politicization of the Commission, which gradually led to a decline in its authority. Against the background of these processes, the UN decided to close the Commission.

This process is quite natural, since the world has changed significantly. If after the end of World War II many states really thought about maintaining peace, after several years a fierce struggle began for world hegemony, which could not but affect the United Nations.

The Human Rights Council has retained the previous principles of the Commission, making some changes.

Council mechanisms

The work of the new body was based on the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. Consider the main ones.

Visiting countries is one of the procedures. It comes down to monitoring the situation on the protection of human rights in a particular state and preparing a report to a higher authority. Arrival of the delegation is carried out on a written request to the leadership of the country. In some cases, some states give delegations a document allowing unhindered visits to the country at any time if necessary. When the visit of the delegation ends, the host state will receive expert advice on how to improve the situation regarding the protection of human rights.

The next procedure is to accept messages. It is expressed in the reception of reports on acts of violation of human rights that have been committed or are being prepared for commission. Moreover, the rights of both a specific person and a wide range of persons may be violated (for example, the adoption of a regulatory legal act at the state level). If representatives of the Council find the reports substantiated, then they attempt to rectify the situation through interaction with the government of the state where the incident occurred.

UN system

Three structural units of the Council - the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women - have the right to independently investigate the information received. Mandatory conditions for the implementation of this procedure are state participation in the UN and the reliability of the information received.

The UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee is an expert body that has replaced the Sub-Commission on the observance and protection of human rights. The Committee consists of eighteen experts. Many call this organ the "think tank" of the Council.

Criticism of the work of the Council

Despite UN efforts to maintain the reputation of a human rights body, criticism of its work continues. In many ways, the current situation is explained by the tense situation on the world political scene. For example, many countries speak out negatively for participating in the work of the Council of the Russian Federation.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/A11908/

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