Human Rights Council: Hold States accountable to basic membership standards


The Human Rights Council must pressure States to abide by basic and fundamental membership standards, by demanding a prompt and substantive repsonse to experts' allegations of rights violations, ISHR and the HRLC said to the Council's September session. 

(Geneva) - The Human Rights Council must pressure States to abide by basic and fundamental membership standards, ISHR and the Human Rights Law Centre said in joint statement delivered to the Council's September 2015 session, including by protecting against reprisals and demanding full cooperation with rights experts. 

As documented in a new report discussed by the Human Rights Council's 30th session, many States simply ignore serious allegations of human rights violations brought to their attention by the UN's human rights experts. This finding comes 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, in which the international community called on States to step up their cooperation with these experts. 

The UN's independent human rights experts, known as Special Procedures or Special Rapporteurs, play a key role in bringing human rights violations to the attention of the Council and individual States, but this role is often overlooked, the statement said. 

'It is unacceptable that 48 States failed to respond to communications in the current sessions’ joint report alone, and particularly galling that 18 among them are Council members and as such sworn to fully cooperate with the UN's rights experts,' said Michael Ineichen of ISHR. 

'The allegations raised by UN experts are serious, and range from the kidnapping, beating, and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Sudan, to the intimidation of a defender and their family in Oman, to the strangulation of civil society by a new law in Cambodia,' Mr Ineichen said. 'The fact that many countries do not even dignify the UN with a response is shocking,' he said. 

The Human Rights Council members that have not responded to some of the allegations in the current session include Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, South Africa, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

According to the joint statement, being a member of the Council, or seeking election to the Council, should go hand-in-hand with protecting those who cooperate with the UN's rights experts, and enable those experts to effectively carry out their mandate.

'It is essential that persons who communicate, cooperate or seek to cooperate with the UN's human rights experts are safe from intimidations, threats, reprisals and prosecution for exercising this right,' said Mr Ineichen,

Legislation, such as Australia’s Border Force Act, which could result in the prosecution and imprisonment of persons who cooperate with or submit information to special procedures violates this obligation, the statement said, as is the failure to facilitate safe and unhindered access to and by the special procedures, such as in the context of persons in detention. Full cooperation with special procedures, and guarantees against reprisals, should be the absolute minimum standard we demand and expect from Council members or candidates, the statement concluded.

Download the full statement here.

For more: see video of ISHR's joint statement to the Human Rights Council on cooperation with Special Procedures.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, Head of Human Rights Council Advocacy, ISHR, on


  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Algeria
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Ethiopia
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Nicaragua
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • South Africa
  • Venezuela