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Statement by Mr. Lukáš Machoň Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations in Geneva

Statement on behalf of the Government of the Czech Republic at the session of the 3rd Committee of the 58th Session of the General Assembly of the UN on Implementation of Human Rights Instruments (item 117 a), 7 November 2003

Statement on behalf of the Government of the Czech Republic at the session of the 3rd Committee of the 58th Session of the General Assembly of the UN on Implementation of Human Rights Instruments (item 117 a), 7 November 2003

Distinguished Mr. Chairman, Members of the Bureau,
Distinguished Delegates,

As I take the floor under item 117 a) - Implementation of Human Rights Instruments, I would like to reiterate that the Czech Republic aligned itself with the general statement of the EU on the item 117 - Human Rights Questions. On this occasion I would therefore like to present my Government´s observations on the topic of the treaty bodies (TBs) reform.

In general, the Government of the Czech Republic considers the TBs system being successful in the protection and promotion of human rights. Nevertheless, we feel that there is a scope for improvement of its efficiency, which is in our view possible without changes of the respective treaties. In this respect, I would like to refer to the review of the TBs system, which has been prompted in the Secretary General´s report "Strengthening of the UN: an Agenda for Further Change". In his report the Secretary General called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult with TBs on new streamlined reporting procedures as well as on developing harmonised working methods.

To that end, the OHCHR has engaged in commendable wide range of consultations with the human rights TBs, States Parties, UN entities and civil society. In this process, the Government of my country held the position that the TBs, States Parties as well as the Secretariat should all contribute significantly and on an equal basis to improve functioning of the system. As the coordination is of a crucial importance, we particularly appreciate that the reform has regularly been on the agenda of meetings between TBs and States Parties, among TBs themselves as well as of the meetings of their Chairs. An ad hoc international meeting of experts in Malbun, Lichtenstein, held in May this year, had also positively contributed to answering some of the pertinent questions.

Under this process we shared the view that harmonised working methods of the TBs and standardisation of their varied reporting requirements would be helpful to overcome some of the shortcomings of the current system. These changes may, for example, help to eliminate duplications in drafting and considering the reports of the States Parties.

My Government commends that such across-the-board consultations resulted in concrete recommendations for streamlining of reporting to human rights TBs.
We welcome, for instance, the recommendation to allow States parties to submit to all TBs an expanded "core document" which would contain the information of common interest, and to accompany such a core document with a focused treaty-specific report. The focused reports may better ensure the identification of key problems in fulfilling the obligations arising from the particular treaty as well as their implementation through addressing the concluding observations of the TBs.
The concrete and tailored concluding observations and, where possible suggestions of some best practices for implementation, are essential in this respect. The Government of the Czech Republic is pleased to learn that the Secretariat is currently redrafting guidelines for preparation of the expanded core documents and is also further exploring possibilities for better harmonisation of the treaty reporting guidelines. We look forward to discussions on these draft guidelines by the individual TBs, at the 3rd inter-Committee meeting and at the sixteenth meeting of the chairpersons of the TBs.

The Czech Republic shares scepticism expressed during the process of consultations with regard to the possibility of one single report which would summarise the States adherence to the full range of international human rights treaties. We are of the opinion that such a solution would not be helpful for solving two crucial problems - the one of non-reporting and the other one of the reporting burden for States and the TBs. Changing the periodicity of respective treaties or maybe even merging of all TBs into one single body would not bring improvement to the protection of human rights.

As you are all aware, the further measures towards the TBs reform, as they have been recommended by the 15th meeting of the Chairs of the TBs, include streamlining of servicing of TBs by the OHCHR, cross references to the concluding recommendations of other TBs, creation of national human rights databases or development of follow-up procedures to the observations made by the TBs.

Despite all these aspects, we can still see major shortcomings of the current treaty system. These need to be addressed. Especially the non-reporting by States Parties seriously undermines the credibility of the whole system. The fact that a State Party does not report to the treaty body for a considerable period of time may raise serious doubts about implementation of its human rights obligations. The Czech Republic sees two possible ways of handling this problem:
• making technical co-operation available, in order to assist States to cope with their reporting obligations in the broader sense. This co-operation might cover preparation of reports as well as implementation of treaty obligations, for example through the drafting of relevant measures or capacity building.

Another way could be
• the wider application of already existing practice of some TBs to discuss implementation of respective treaty obligations in the country even without submitting its report for a considerable period of time. We would not see such a measure as sanction against a State Party. We understand it rather as a last resort to monitor protection of human rights of individuals provided by a specific treaty, ratified by the State voluntarily, and to make recommendations for improvement of further implementation. Such a measure, even not being foreseen in the treaties, would in our view be fully in conformity with their spirit and basic purpose.

The question of resources cannot be set aside the reform debates. We agree that additional resources from the regular budget are needed to ensure better functioning of the TBs. On the other hand, significant resources may be spared through implementation of other reform proposals such as less-page and more comprehensive reporting.

To conclude, Mr. Chairman, let me extend my Government´s appreciation to the OHCHR, the TBs and their individual members as well as to the States Parties, to the UN entities and the civil society for their efforts vested into the exercise of improving the TBs system, in order to improve its smooth and efficient functioning.

Thank you for your attention.