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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2016
Peer review mechanisms, such as the Universal Periodic Review, rely upon traditional sovereign state diplomacy for contemporary human rights implementation. This article argues that this is a positive development for several reasons. First, at a theoretical level, it reveals an evolving maturity of the human rights regime through its capacity to detach from exclusively legalistic approaches to human rights implementation. Second, at a policy level, there is enough evidence of measured positive outcomes of peer review mechanisms to suggest a preference for more co-operative approaches to ensuring human rights compliance as a first and complementary step to other more controversial legal/adversarial means of implementation (such as the third pillar of the R2P concept). Finally, peer review mechanisms offer a theoretical and pragmatic framework conciliating between universalist and relativist conceptual approaches to human rights, accommodating and integrating views that call for compliance with international human rights law as well as those emphasizing respect for sovereignty.
1 On the origin of the expression and its use by Martin Luther King, see Cohen, Joshua, The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010) at 17, n 4.Google Scholar A modern and interesting reformulation of the idea can be found in Keane, David, “Survival of the Fairest: Evolution and Geneticization of Human Rights” (2010) 30:3 Oxford J Legal Stud 467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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7 On the 1997 UN reforms, aimed at mainstreaming human rights, see Domínguez-Redondo, Elvira, “The Millennium Development Goals and the Human Rights Based Approach: Reflecting on Structural Chasms with the United Nations System” (2009) 13:1 Int’l JHR 29 at 31.Google Scholar In her 2011 annual report, the UN high commissioner for human rights highlighted the approval of the following policy documents as key components of the efforts to mainstream human rights: (1) Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (approved by the UN Secretary General in 2011); (2) the Joint Policies on Human Rights for Peace Missions (endorsed in September 2011 by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs, and the Department of Field Support); and (3) the Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism under the United Nations Development Group, United Nations Development Group, “UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism Operational Plan 2011-2013” (2011), online: <http://undg.org/docs/12173/UNDG-HRM OperationalPlanNov2011.pdf>. See Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR Report 2011 (2012) at 190. See also Domínguez-Redondo at 11–12, 42–43, 59–60, 70–72, 79–81, 92–94.
8 One example of this is demonstrated in McMahon, Edward R, The First Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council: A Work in Progress (Berlin: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2012) at 24–26, online: <http://www.fes-globalization.org/geneva/documents/08_2012_UPR McMahon.pdf>.Google Scholar See also Lempinen, Miko, The United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Different Treatment of Governments (Turku: Abo Akademi University, 2005) at 167–92.Google Scholar
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19 See ECOSOC Resolution 624B (XXII), ESCOR 22nd Sess, UN Doc E/2929 (1 August 1956) Suppl No 1 at 12; UN Commission on Human Rights, Annual Reports on Human Rights, Res I, UN Doc E/2844-3/CN/4/731 (1956). The most important reform to the reporting system was introduced by ECOSOC Resolution 1074C (XXXIX), ESCOR 39th Sess, UN Doc E/4117 (28 July 1965) Suppl No 1 at 23. See also ECOSOC Resolution 728B (XXVIII), ESCOR 28th Sess, UN Doc E/3290 (30 July 1959) Suppl No 1 at 18; ECOSOC Declaration 1596 (L), ESCOR 50th Sess, UN Doc E/5044 (21 May 1971) Suppl No 1 at 20; and ECOSOC Res 1978/20, ESCOR 1978, UN Doc E/1978/78 (5 May 1978) Suppl No 1 at 27. See further Alston, Philip, “Reconceiving the UN Human Rights Regime: Challenges Confronting the New UN Human Rights Council” (2006) 7:1 Melbourne J Int’l L 185 at 207–15.Google Scholar
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27 The possibility of inter-state complaints is foreseen in the Convention against Torture, supra note 18, art 21; the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 2220 UNTS 3 (in force 1 July 2003), art 74; the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 660 UNTS 195 (in force 4 January 1969), arts 11–13; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 999 UNTS 171 (in force 23 March 1976), arts 41–43; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, UN Doc A/61/488 (2006) (in force 23 December 2010), art 32; and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, supra note 18, art 10.
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32 “Universal Periodic Review: On the Road to Implementation” (2013) at 5, online: <http://www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/2012_on_the_road_to_implementation.pdf> [“UPR”].
35 The first ever UN resolution addressing human rights violations based on sexual orientation was adopted in June 2011. HRC, Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, UN HRC Res 17/19, UNGAOR, 17th Sess, UN Doc A/HRC/Res/17/19 (2011).
36 For an analysis of the treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals during the first eight sessions of the UPR, see UPR, “Issue Analysis: Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals” (2011), online: <http://www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/issue_analysis_lgbts.pdf>. Minority rights are among the top ten issues raised during the UPR process. See McMahon, supra note 8 at 20.
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133 Alvarez, supra note 117 at 36.
134 McMahon, Edward R, “Herding Cats and Sheep: Assessing State and Regional Behavior in the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council” (2010) at 1, 15, Table 5, online: UPR <http://www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/McMahon_Herding_Cats_and_Sheeps_July_2010.pdf>.Google Scholar
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139 Africa Peer Review Mechanism, Country Review Report of the Republic of Kenya (2006) at 325.
140 Africa Peer Review Mechanism, Country Review Report of Burkina Faso (2008) at 400.
141 Some related issues in UPR recommendations include asylum seekers, corruption, counter-terrorism, detention conditions, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, freedom of association and of the press, extra-judicial human rights violations by state agents, and internally displaced people.
142 For a seminal report on this subject, see Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, Preventing Deadly Conflict: Final Report (Washington DC: Carnegie Corporation, 1997).
143 See, for example, Pagani, Fabrizio, “Peer Review: A Tool for Cooperation and Change—An Analysis of the OECD Working Method” (2002) OECD Secretary General, online: <http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/16/1955285.pdf>;Google Scholar Herbert, Ross and Gruzd, Steven, The African Peer Review Mechanism: Lessons from the Pioneers (Johannesburg, South Africa: South African Institute for International Affairs, 2008)Google Scholar; Chene, Marie and Dell, Gillian, “Comparative Assessment of Anti-Corruption Conventions’ Review Mechanisms: U4 Expert Answer,” Transparency International (2008), online: <http://www.u4.no/publications/comparative-assessment-of-anti-corruption-conventions-review-mechanisms/ downloadasset/369>.Google Scholar
145 Gierycz, Dorota, NUPI Report: The Responsibility to Protect: A Legal and Rights-Based Perspective (Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 2008).Google Scholar
146 Malan, Mark, “Conflict Prevention in Africa: Theoretical Construct or Plan of Action? KAIPTC Paper 3 (2005) at 6. at 14, online: <http://www.kaiptc.org/Publications/Occasional-Papers/Documents/no_3.aspx>.Google Scholar
147 Tomuschat, supra note 75 at 71.
148 Domínguez-Redondo, supra note 10 at 703–5.
149 Lauren, Paul Gordon, The Evolution of International Human Rights (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).Google Scholar
151 Zemanek, supra note 109 at 16.
152 Simmons, supra note 69 at 375.
153 See, for example, the remarks of Laura Laserre, president of the Human Rights Council, “Closing Comments, UPR Report of Bahrain, 13th Universal Periodic Review,” Webcast (News and Media, United Nations Webcast, 25 May 2012), online: <http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2012/05/closing-com-ments-upr-report-of-bahrain-13th-universal-periodic-review.html>.
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