Setback to universal review of human rights records

At a recent organizational meeting of the Human Rights Council, President Costea unwillingly agreed to postpone the drawing of the lots for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) troikas, at the request of the African Group.

The UPR, regarded by some as the gem of the new council, is scheduled to examine the first countries in April 2008. Each country will be reviewed by a panel of three rapporteurs (the Troika), each of whom will come from a different member state, according to rules agreed in the Institution-Building package and further detailed by the Secretariat. A country will be able to veto a rapporteur, if not happy with his or her country of origin or qualifications.

Egypt, on behalf of the African Group requested the postponement of the drawing of the lots, “until agreement has been reached on the scope and nature of their role.” Pakistan, on behalf of the Islamic group, supported this proposal.

A number of States from Asia, the Western group and Latin America expressed their uneasiness with the postponement, arguing that they need time to prepare for the process and appoint the relevant experts who will conduct the examination. President Costea said that the request was in fact a “back door” effort to change the Institution-Building package that was just approved by the Third Committee. Focusing too much on details and technicalities would mean the end of the UPR process.

Although UPR is not set to begin until April, several countries have already opened a campaign to undermine it.

— Reporting by Toby W. Frankenstein

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