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HUMAN RIGHTS, SOCIETY & CULTURE

UN Expert Calls on U.K. to Address "Scourge" of Violence Against Women

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo has called for a greater government response in the U.K. to the country's "scourge" of violence against women, pinning part of the blame for such violence on British austerity measures.


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UN Treaty Watch

Since the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, drafted as "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations," United Nations member states have adopted a series of international treaties expressing basic human rights and, in most instances, appointing treaty body committees to monitor the implementation of the treaties. Because the basic rights articulated in these treaties are not explained in detail, the various treaty body committees have expanded their limited monitoring responsibilities to include the production of comments and interpretations regarding the nature and scope of the human rights that, as adopted, were only intended to express aspirations.

Coupled with the nine core international human rights treaties are eight human rights treaty bodies. Each committee is responsible for reviewing Member States' reports on how the rights contained in the treaty are being implemented domestically. These reporting sessions have been transformed into hearings at which the reporting government delegations are criticized for failing to realize various human rights to the extent desired by the committee experts and the outside non-governmental organizations, both domestic and international, that the committees partner with to investigate treaty compliance at the national level. In short, the committees and their Geneva and New York-based staffs housed in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights are attempting to sidestep the democratic process and globally govern economic, social, and cultural rights.

In addition to the monitoring and commentary activity of the human rights treaty body committees, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) engages in a Universal Periodic Review mechanism that assesses the human rights situations in all 192 member states. The HRC also appoints special representatives or rapporteurs to address either specific country situations or thematic issues under its Special Procedures mandate. Those persons appointed under the Special Procedures mandate are independent experts who are responsible for monitoring and reporting either on human rights situations in specific countries or "major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide."

Unfortunately, many of the 47 elected members of the HRC include known human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Thus, the Human Rights Council has evolved from an organization designed to report on human rights abuses to one that is used by human rights abusers to re-direct legitimate criticism of the human rights records of their own countries towards others, including the United States, Canada, and Israel. Moreover, the Council has repeatedly adopted resolutions that, while on the surface are designed to promote human rights, actually work to limit them. Most notably, the Council has annually adopted "defamation of religions" resolutions that are supposedly designed to limit negative stereotyping of all religions. However, these resolutions are widely criticized for attempting to limit freedom of expression by silencing worldwide denouncement of the intolerance of minority faiths that is prevalent in Muslim countries and/or violent actions taken by Islamic extremists.

With the goal of encouraging transparency and accountability, UN Treaty Watch monitors the work of the various human rights treaty committees and the HRC and its Special Procedures and reports on the resulting threats to national sovereignty, individual freedom, and the rule of law.

Charter-based bodies

Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review
Commission on Human Rights (replaced by the Human Rights Council)
Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council

Treaty-based bodies

There are eight human rights treaty bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties:
Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Committee Against Torture (CAT) & Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) - Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)