UN Human Rights Commission

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United Nations Commission on Human Rights
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Organization type Sub-organ of the ECOSOC of the United Nations
Abbreviation CHR
management not occupied
status inactive, was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006
Founded 1946
Headquarters Geneva , SwitzerlandSwitzerlandSwitzerland 
Upper organization United NationsU.N. United Nations

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (English: United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR) ) was in accordance with Article 68 of the UN Charter the Commission used the United Nations to promote and protect the internationally binding human rights . It existed from 1946 to 2006 and was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights should not be confused with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (English: Human Rights Committee ), the UN treaty body , the compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights monitored.

Origin and development

The appalling experiences of the genocide and warfare of World War II convinced the international community that there was a close connection between individual human rights, international peace and security. States that violated the natural, innate rights of their citizens, it was thought, endangered their neighbors and the international system as a whole. For this reason, it was believed that only an international peace and security system could ensure order in the future. The establishment of a human rights commission was the logical consequence of this new worldview, in which peace, security and human rights were viewed as interdependent. The body was founded in 1946 and was accountable as a sub-body to the UN Economic and Social Council . The meetings originally took place in New York and then alternately in Geneva and New York, until in 1974 the UN human rights department was relocated entirely to Geneva. With the increase in the number of member states of the United Nations , the number of members of the Human Rights Commission was gradually increased from 18 to 53 at the end. The members were elected by the UN Economic and Social Council for a three-year period according to a geographical regional key. That is, each region received a certain number of members. An immediate re-election of states was possible and temporarily unrestricted - so it was also possible for great powers to become quasi permanent members of the human rights commission. The Human Rights Commission was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 due to criticism that it could not effectively stand up for the protection of human rights.

Working method

The commission met annually for a six-week period from March to April. Due to the limited duration of the meeting, a timely response to acute human rights violations was not possible. In order to remedy this problem, the possibility of holding special meetings in cases of serious human rights violations has existed since 1990; Since 1993 there have also been special procedural rules for their calling and implementation. The HRC meeting was organized in an agenda with various items on the agenda, each of which covered a different specific thematic area related to human rights or procedural questions about the functioning of the HRC. At the end of each meeting, the HRC had to submit a report on the main results of the debates, sorted according to the individual agenda items, the resolutions and decisions passed as well as draft documents to the UN Economic and Social Council . The task of the commission was to assess the human rights situation in certain countries. There were repeated controversies within the body about the selection of the countries to which the special rapporteurs would ultimately be sent. In addition to these reports, she also followed up on indications from individual human rights complaints in accordance with the UN civil pact . The Human Rights Commission was able to show successes in the area of ​​the codification of human rights guarantees (the so-called “standard setting” phase). a. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights drawn up by the Commission.

However, there were limits to the control powers of its codifications under international law; it was only allowed to identify and publicly condemn human rights violations. Decisions on measures to enforce and safeguard rights have been and are made by the UN Security Council , if necessary with the participation of the UN General Assembly.

Almost all member states of the United Nations and around 200 non-governmental organizations were represented as observers at the annual meetings.


As it continued to exist, the commission fell under disrepute and numerous media, NGOs, government representatives accused the commission of a lack of credibility and efficiency, which mainly concerned 4 points:

  1. A selectivity in the selection of the states that were criticized in the resolutions let many states get away with it. Actually, the Human Rights Commission was responsible for dealing with all human rights violations and not only with those of the states that could not mobilize any or insufficient political countervailing power. By means of political agreements between the delegations, human rights violations were often ignored or only considered with recommendations. The means of non-referral motions were also valued in order not to have to deal with the human rights situation in certain countries. This, referred to in English as “no-action motion”, is a procedure to prevent the election and any debate related to a specific resolution. As soon as a country submits a motion for non-appeal and a majority vote is positive, no debate or resolution can come about. "The form in which the HRC is active in individual cases is often a question of political opportunity or the existing majority."
  2. A polarization between the groups of states increasingly paralyzed the HRC, i. In other words, a bloc was formed, with the western states on the one hand and the African and Asian states on the other. Many government representatives also criticized the increasing politicization of the Commission, by which was meant that many of the motions by the delegations were introduced not for factual considerations, but for political reasons. However, the delegates always spoke of politicization when topics or countries were addressed that were not wanted and that concerned themselves. The African, Asian group of states and Cuba accused the western states of pointing fingers against developing countries and judging human rights violations with double standards, while those themselves blocked decisions on serious human rights violations in their own states.
  3. The composition of the Human Rights Commission caused enormous criticism, if not often outrage. Any member of the UN could also become a member of the commission, provided they found sufficient support in their regional group to be nominated. Since each regional group usually put forward as many candidates as they were entitled to, the preselection in the UN Economic and Social Council was no longer necessary. The “High-Level Group on Threats, Challenges and Change” also criticized in its report that states did not seek membership in the Human Rights Commission because they wanted to strengthen human rights, but rather to protect themselves from criticism or to criticize others to practice.
  4. Another point of criticism is the inability to react to emerging, acute, massive human rights violations caused by the annual conference rhythm. Special meetings were rather the exception and only took place four times in the history of the MRK. As a rule, the reports of special rapporteurs stayed for months before being discussed in the six-week annual commission meeting.


As part of the reform efforts of the United Nations , the UN General Assembly decided on March 18, 2006 with an approval of 180 votes in favor of the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council as the successor organization to the UN Human Rights Commission. The commission was criticized from many quarters for not being able to effectively stand up for the protection of human rights.

The initiative to create the Human Rights Council stems from the High Level Group on Threats, Challenges and Change and its report, A Safer World: Our Shared Responsibility, which analyzed the institutional capacities of the United Nations. The High Level Group proposed that the Human Rights Council be established as a principal body of the United Nations, i.e. H. equated with the Security Council or the General Assembly. At the 2005 World Summit, the heads of state and government decided, among other things, to replace the Human Rights Commission and replace it with the Human Rights Council. Negotiations to establish the Human Rights Council then began.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Gordon Lauren: The Evolution of International Human rights: Visions seen, Philadelphia, 1998, p. 309
  2. Tobias IRMSCHER: The handling of private complaints about systematic and gross human rights violations in the UN Human Rights Commission: the 1503 procedure after its reform, Frankfurt am Main, 2002, p. 82
  3. Tilman Dralle: The reformability of the United Nations using the example of the Security Council and the Human Rights Commission ( Memento of the original from January 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 248 kB) August 2010, p. 6 f. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.tilman-dralle.de
  4. The entire list is based on Gunnar THEISSEN: More than just a name change. The New Human Rights Council of the United Nations, In: United Nations. Journal for the United Nations and its specialized agencies, Vol. 54, 4/2006, pp. 138–146.
  5. The no-action motion refers to Rule 65, Article 2 of the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council: E / 5975 / Rev.1
  6. Michael Schaefer: Bridge building: Challenge to the Human Rights Commission, In: BAUM, Gerhart / RIEDEL, Eibe / SCHAEFER, Michael (eds): Human rights protection in practice of the United Nations, Baden-Baden, 1998, pp. 57-84.
  7. Cf. A / 59/565, A more secure world: our shared responsibility, Report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, December 2, 2004