UN Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council
Protection and promotion of human rights is one of the fundamental goals of the UN Millennium Declaration and agenda of the UN bodies – the UN Human Rights Council, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and General Assembly Third Committee.
The establishment of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) was one of the reform measures within UN in 2006. Created by the UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 on 15 March 2006, HRC replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights. In contrast to the Commission, which was one of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, HRC is a subsidiary body of General Assembly. Efforts of the EU to make HRC one of the main UN bodies, however, were not accepted. After five years, General Assembly shall evaluate activities and results of HRC and eventually transform it into a main UN body.
The Council holds its sessions in Geneva and works as a standing body in contrast to Commission that assembled once a year for a 6-week session. It has at least 3 sessions per year in the minimum length of 10 weeks. According to the official information, the Council and its subsidiary bodies assembled 32 weeks in the period June 2006 – June 2007.
The Council has 47 members (the Commission used to have 53 members) elected by UN General Assembly on the regional basis. Membership in the Council is considered a prestigious matter and is time-limited.
The Council’s mission is to find effective and innovative solutions to the new and long-running crisis situations. The bearing idea is to foster the culture of cooperation and dialogue; HRC should leave behind the former Commission style of work that was often criticised as regionally unbalanced and politicized. A new mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review that is to be undertaken by all member and non-member countries should be instrumental to this idea.
The UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 provides the Council with necessary resources for monitoring and evaluation of human rights situation and for adopting decisions. The Council should promptly react to grave or systematic violations of human rights and seek suitable ways of rectification. Recommendations of the Council should focus on practical measures and lead to improvements carried out in cooperation with other UN bodies, international organizations and affected countries.
HRC has a standing agenda and at the beginning of each Council year, the Council holds an organizational meeting to elect its Bureau and to consider and adopt the agenda, programme of work, and calendar of regular sessions. From the view of the EU the most important issues are as follows:
- Prohibition of the death penalty, arbitrary executions and abbreviated death sentences
- Prohibition of all forms of discrimination
- Freedom of speech and opinion
- Religious tolerance
- Rights of vulnerable groups, mainly children and women
- Human rights defenders
- Prohibition of torture
- No discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation
Besides thematic questions, the Council deals with the country- and territory-specific situations:
- Mandates created under item 4 of the Council agenda (human rights situation that require attention of the Council): Myanmar, the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea and Sudan
- Mandates created under item 10 of the Council agenda (technical assistance and capacity-building): currently special rapporteurs for Burundi, Cambodia, Haiti, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Somalia
More information available at: The Human Rights Council
The Slovak Republic in the UN Human Rights Council
The Slovak Republic achieved a significant diplomatic success when elected a member of the Human Rights Council in secret ballot on 21 May 2008, during the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Slovakia achieved this success in the competitive environment of the Central and Easter European countries (other candidates for the two vacancies were Ukraine and Serbia). Slovakia gained support of 135 UN member states.
The main ambition of Slovakia as a HRC member is to play a positive and constructive role in the development and protection of human rights in the world. Slovakia was never a member of the former Commission on Human Rights and has not served in the current Council so far. Resolutions and recommendations adopted by the Council should encourage the concerned countries to achieve concrete improvements and progress in protection of human rights. Slovakia will point out the significance and equal position of categories of human rights, including civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights.
The Slovak Republic is fully committed to the universal promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Since its establishment in 1993 the Slovak Republic has been a strong defender of compliance with the objectives and principles of the Charter of the United Nations in the area of human rights, the equality of large and small nations, the implementation of international norms and standards arising from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents. Our country is a Party of almost all core international treaties in the field of human rights and humanitarian law.
When presenting the candidature for membership of the HRC, Slovakia presented the voluntary pledges and commitments in the area of human rights, prepared in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251. Voluntary pledges and commitments of the Slovak Republic are published as UN official document available at:
The letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly
The Slovak Republic pledged inter alia to:
- Take an active part in activities and negotiations of the Council in order to promote the universal respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,
- Enhance genuine dialogue and cooperation among all Member States of the Council in order to achieve real progress in human rights protection on the ground,
- Contribute to the consolidation of the new Council mechanisms, including the system of special procedures, the complaint procedure and the Advisory Committee
- Actively engage in the universal periodic review, which Slovakia would like to see developed as a cooperative and inclusive process whose results would include constructive recommendations for Member States, adopted on the principle of equal treatment and identifying areas where there is room for capacity-building and technical assistance
- Uphold the highest human rights standards and fully cooperate with the Council and its bodies affirming the validity of its standing invitation to the special procedures mandate-holders
- Cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and support its activities
- Promote cooperation between the government sector and civil society, by making use of the involvement of non-governmental organizations in the Council’s activities
- Advocate universal ratification of the United Nations human rights treaties and actively encourage third countries to become parties to the treaties if they have not yet done so
- Participate in the preparation of new international norms and instruments in the field of human rights, including improvements in the functioning of the existing mechanisms
- Cooperate with the United Nations treaty bodies and strive for a timely submission of national periodic reports concerning those treaties by which it is bound
- Complete, during its membership in the Council, the ratification process related to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Share its experience with the building of democratic structures and human rights institutions and transfer its know-how in this field to other transforming countries that so wish
During the regular and special sessions of the Council, Slovakia has an opportunity to express its positions on current human rights issues, interact with Special procedures of the Council during the plenary sessions, or present its contributions to the reports of The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Slovakia participates in the preparation and voting on all resolutions of the Council. For example, during the 7th session in March 2008, the Council approved 36 thematic and country-specific resolutions. According to the standing rule, there are several rounds of informal consultations on each resolution allowing member states to make a detailed analysis of the text and to put forward their amendments and proposals.
Supporting the EU positions, as coordinated and agreed under the umbrella of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, is a priority high on the list of the Slovak membership of the Council. This often implies unanimous voting of the EU member states for/against HRC resolutions. EU often coordinates its positions with regards to co-sponsoring of tabled resolutions.
Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/OEWG/index.htm
Universal Periodic Review
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new and unique mechanism of the United Nations and consisting of the review of the human rights practices all States in the world, once every four years.
More information available at:
Universal Periodic Review
On 13 May 2009 the Slovak Republic presented the national report on human rights. The delegation was led by Ms. Diana Štrofová, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
Press release on the presentation of the Slovak Republic:
Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
Statement by the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic (rtf; 28,5 kB)
Documentation on the UPR of the Slovak Republic available at:
Universal Periodic Review