Thank the UN's human rights champions

UN Human Rights Council, Geneva
7 December 2012
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Human Rights Day 2012 – thank the UN’s human rights champions!

This Human Rights Day, UNA-UK is publicising the important role of the UN's human rights experts, and asking its members and supporters to help us show appreciation for their work.

Independent experts from around the world draw attention to human rights violations, provide analysis on issues such as freedom of expression, and monitor whether states are fulfilling their international human rights obligations.

These experts include the 'Special Procedures’, who work on thematic issues such as the right to food, and on specific countries where systemic or egregious human rights abuses persist. At present, there are 36 thematic and 12 country-specific experts. Their work is prodigious - in 2011 they produced 162 substantive reports documenting situations and making recommendations.

There are also independent experts who serve on the monitoring committees of 10 major human rights treaties, such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These experts monitor the extent to which countries comply with their international obligations. They are also able to consider, where appropriate, complaints.

All of them work without remuneration in support of human rights for all.

UK experts

Many people in the UK will be unaware that there are currently four UK experts working within the UN’s human rights system:


Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

Mr Emmerson is a practicising barrister with more than 25 years of experience in domestic and international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law. He was Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and Special Adviser to the Appeals Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. His work as Special Rapporteur involves reporting annually to the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and relevant entities established by the Security Council. He also conducts country visits and reports, and provides technical and other advice to States.


Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

Professor Evans is a member of the UK Foreign Secretary's Advisory Group on Human Rights, a member of the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Advisory Council of Freedom of Religion and Belief and has worked extensively with numerous international organisations on a broad range of human rights issues. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Professor Evans has a mandate which is purely preventive, focused on an innovative, sustained and proactive approach to the prevention of torture and ill treatment. The Subcommittee was established under the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture.


Member of Human Rights Committee

Sir Nigel Rodley is Chair of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. From 1993 to 2001 Sir Nigel served as Special Rapporteur on Torture of the UN Commission on Human Rights and was elected Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists in 2003. Sir Nigel has been a member of the Human Rights Committee since 2001. Established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee monitors implementation of the treaty through states parties reports as well as considering inter-state and individual complaints and compliance with the Second Optional Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty.


Member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Professor Thornberry has published widely in the field of public international law and human rights, specialising in the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, and racial discrimination. He has also been chairman of Minority Rights Group, the international human rights NGO, and maintains links with a range of NGOs and organisations of indigenous peoples. As a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Mr Thornberry monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and examines the reports of states parties.

For all the excellent work done to date there is still more that can be done.

When putting forward candidates for such roles, the UK should endorse as diverse a field as possible. UNA-UK welcomes, for example, the election earlier this year of Diane Mulligan to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In 2011, UNA-UK conducted a review of the Human Rights Council. This included recommendations on the Special Procedures, such as the introduction of a general fund for all mandates with the allocation decided by OHCHR, and a ‘code of conduct’ on the obligations of states, for example, to provide access and respond to reports and letters of concern.

This Human Rights Day we’re calling on you to show your support for the exceptional British citizens working with the United Nations to further the cause of human rights, both at home and abroad.

Click here for an update on this initiative.


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