7 October 2020

A geographically representative group of 527 Civil Society Organisations, including RTE, has this week called for the resumption of the state monitoring procedure of the international human rights treaty bodies, which have been postponed since March due to COVID-19 restrictions. In a letter to the Treaty Bodies and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society raised concerns about the growing human rights protection gap created when these independent international human rights monitoring mechanisms are not able to carry out their vital mandate. Civil society called for the scheduling of state reviews no later than 2021.

The letter, initiated by TB-Net, ISHR and Amnesty International, acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge to the functioning of the Treaty Body system and makes clear its sincere appreciation of the efforts that Treaty Body members have made to continue their important work. The large number of signatories to the letter reflects the high regard in which Treaty Body activities are held by civil society.

Civil society believes that reviewing countries online or in a hybrid manner is far from ideal and a practice that should not be normalised. However, it is important to recognise the reality that travel restrictions may remain in place a long time into the future and therefore, it is necessary for online/hybrid reviews to be adopted as a temporary and exceptional practice. The system must move forward and there is an urgent need to resume the Treaty Bodies’ monitoring work which produces country-specific and targeted recommendations to states.

As such, the letter urges the Treaty Bodies and their Secretariats to schedule State reviews no later than 2021 and OHCHR to prioritise resources and tools for this.

This joint civil society letter follows previous interventions by TB-Net which have underlined the need to strengthen the capacity of the Treaty Bodies to work online and outlined recommendations for how online work can proceed whilst ensuring meaningful engagement with civil society.

The full civil society letter, translated into French, Spanish and Russian, and with the signatories listed, can be found HERE. The letter has been sent to each of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies and to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.