Written statement by the Transnational Radical Party, a non-governmental organization in General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, on item 18.


Written statement by the Transnational Radical Party, a non-governmental organization in General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, on item 18. Effective functioning of human rights mechanisms: (a) Treaty bodies; (b) National institutions and regional arrangements; (c) Adaptation and strengthening of the United Nations machinery for human rights

Over the last 50 years, the most important international and regional organizations, first and foremost the United Nations, have drafted, negotiated and adopted universal declarations, international treaties and declarations of intent sanctioning human, civil and political rights for humanity. Those rights are oftentimes violated by Governments that are members of the UN. In recent years, after the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed an alarming and systematic erosion of democracy through the violation of the rule of law, the very foundation of real democracies, also in those countries that constructed the International Human Rights bill.

Military interventions, sometimes necessary to ensure international peace and security, and which may be carried out by individual states, regional or international organizations, are no longer the most suitable tool for the promotion of democracy and freedom in countries under totalitarian, dictatorial and authoritarian regimes. Real democracies should combine the analysis and development of traditional military strategies and weapons with the choice of promoting democracy through nonviolent means, as a priority strategic instrument to combat and defeat once and for all those who attack international peace and security.
A world organization of democracies should be promoted to lead to the eventual establishment of a World Democracy Organization as a tool able to actually enforce international legal provisions on human rights, which, if they continue to remain dead letter, foreshadow new human and humanitarian tragedies for a large part of the inhabitants of this planet.
The war in Iraq, once again, raised starkly the question of the international order, in particular about the role of the UN. Many regard its role as the guarantor of international law and legitimacy. But to be a genuine locus of international legitimacy, the UN should probably become a different organization, one secure in its own legitimacy and able to function without endless delays, vetoes, indecisiveness and unwillingness to ensure respect for its decisions.

The Transnational Radical Party (TRP) notes the contribution made by the UN General Assembly by adopting almost every year one resolution on some aspects of democracy; and appreciates the work of the Commission on Human Rights, in particular, in establishing natural links between human rights and democracy, so as to evolve democracy as a human right. Although the word “democracy” per se is not to be found in the UN Charter, the latter contains the fundamental principle of democracy; the will of the peoples. UNGA’s landmark achievement in adopting Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights not only proclaims, but provides, legal basis of individuals’ participation in democracy process.
The TRP also welcomes the adoption of the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2001/41 on the “Continuing dialogue on measures to promote and consolidate democracy” and the decision to organize the “Seminar on the interdependence between democracy and Human Rights, whose report has been submitted to the 2003 session of the Commission of Human Rights.

The TRP welcomes the 2000/116 decision taken by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of human rights at its 53rd session, to entrust Mr. Manuel Rodríguez-Cuadros with the task of preparing a working paper on the measures provided in the various international human rights instruments for the promotion and consolidation of democracy. Furthermore the TRP welcomes the 2002/116 decision of the Sub-Commission to request Mr. Rodríguez-Cuadros to prepare an additional expanded working paper for submission to the Sub-Commission at its 55th session.
The TRP fully shares the Commission’s beliefs that democracy, development, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing; and that free and fair elections are an essential feature of democracy and must be part of a broader process that strengthens democratic principles, values, institutions, mechanisms and practices, which underpin formal democratic structures and the rule of law.
The TRP has long been working for individual’s rights, freedom and democracy, and of late, has raised the same issues at the Second Conference of the Community of Democracies (held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, from 10 to 12 November 2002) and at the parallel NGO forum. The Community is a process that started in Warsaw in 2000, where over hundred governments met for a first ministerial meeting, to affirm and adopt what has since been known as the Warsaw Declaration; a comprehensive set of democratic principles and practices.

At TRP’s 38th Congress (Tirana, Albania, 31 October - 3 November 2002), a general motion was adopted to affirm the link and interdependence of human rights and democracy and to make concrete proposals to globalize democracy (TRP documents are available at:
http://servizi.radicalparty.org/documents/index.php?func=detail&par=284).

The TRP remains concerned at the lack of efficacy of UN Human Rights treaty mechanism as a whole, and the fact that the international legal norms and obligations of human rights, which represent the legal basis of an effective democratic society, are disregarded, without consequences by a large part of the Member States of the Organization that voluntarily ratified these treaties.

One of the main unresolved issues of the international human rights law is the lack of effective compliance mechanisms to enforce international norms, capable to ensure the respect of human rights and the right of democracy. The TRP believes that this issue should receive serious attention and be analysed during the Commission.

The crisis of the Human Rights treaty system is in fact self-evident. In particular, the lack of a follow up procedure to the so-called “constructive dialogue” between the State and the Human Rights bodies is evident, and the effects of such situation are that, even in the cases in which it ascertained a very poor performance by the States in the implementation of the norms of the treaties or of the Covenants, the concrete consequences of the State reporting system on the States concerned are very little. This means that the effects of international norms on the enjoyment of human rights and democracy for hundreds of million of people are very little as well.
To have an idea of the prevailing situation of the human rights treaty system, it is sufficient to note the figures of the workload of the Human Rights Committee. As of the 1st of January 2000 the number of overdue States reports for the ICCPR was 144; from 1976 to the end of 1999 the Human Rights Committee examined 254 States reports. This means, there are an ongoing “structural” violations of the norms of the Covenant by many States parties and by the Committee itself.
So, in reality, over the years there has been massive violation of the reporting duties by the States parties. It has become an endemic problem, which affects all the Human Rights treaty bodies that deal with the implementation of human rights. Unfortunately, the condition of work and the productivity of the treaty bodies are such that even if the States parties would submit all their overdue reports in few weeks, it would not be possible for the Committee to guarantee a regular and periodic examination of the States’ reports.
The practice followed by the States on the submission of their reports has been substantially tolerated by the treaty bodies, and the reasons may be the lack of legal sanctions in the norms of the Covenant in case of violations by the States Parties of the reporting duties; and the deficiencies of the treaty bodies’ human and economic resources in the exercise of their functions.
This being the situation, in respect of the States reporting system obligations, it is not difficult to imagine that the enforcement of the substantive norms which affirm the existence of fundamental human, civil and political rights is much more difficult. In general, it is true that these norms cannot be enforced if the State party to the treaty is not willing to do so.

While the UN Human Rights treaty mechanism has failed to deliver, the demand for the respect of the basic human rights and democracy has increased massively in the last years, and the explosion of the number of international NGOs which dedicate themselves to advocating and promotion, and in particular the enforcement, of such values, testify the existence of a developed awareness of the international public opinion of the importance of human rights and democracy.
What is thus needed to the Human Rights treaty system and to democracy promotion procedures and mechanisms is a reform, or a process, which could improve the efficacy of the supervision on the implementation of the fundamental human, civil and political rights, which are the very basis of democracy.
There are examples of development of international mechanisms and procedures, and even setting-up of new bodies to enforce international norms. The International Criminal Court should be regarded as such an example. the TRP has been involved in cooperation with many democratic Governments and dozens of NGOs all over the world since 1993.

The UNGA indeed is the author of the universal democratic and human rights norms, and has developed the universal mechanisms, however unsatisfactory. Hence, the UNGA and the Commission as well, have legitimate interest, and right, to assess and examine not only the norms but also the mechanism of compliance. And this is precisely, TRP believes, why efforts should be concentrated to gain enough supports among member nations, or at least some that subscribed and endorsed the said Warsaw Declaration and the Seoul Plan of Action, or which are part of the UN efforts that carried out through the series of “Conferences on New and Restored Democracies”, to initiate a process at the UNGA in line with its resolution on Declaration on Democracy to explore possible democracy compliance mechanism. Principles, without compliance cannot have any legitimacy.
The process could be for the UNGA to constitute an independent Task Force to study and recommend a democracy compliance mechanism. It could either be carried out by the International Law Commission, which is mandated to assist in progressive development of international law, or an external-appointed body or even a single expert.

A global democracy compliance mechanism, in the final analysis, has to be a finely crafted governmental mechanism, since governments essentially have to observe the norms, but in consultation with, and inputs from others. But like many other processes, the momentum needs to be created and pressure generated. Non-governmental initiatives, in close coordination with some friendly governments, might provide the first fora for such a debate.
At the last session of the Commission there has been a first example of such a common dialogue and engagement aimed at fostering and unifying the different efforts which are already happening at the international level, such as the UN resolutions on promotion of democracy, the Ministerial Conferences of the “Community of democracies” and the UN “Conferences on New and Restored Democracies”. In fact on April 9, 2003, the TRP has co-organized, in cooperation with Freedom House and the Democracy Coalition Project, a panel on the issue of “Strengthening the democratic cooperation at the UN”, which was attended by over a hundred non-governmental and governmental delegates. Another notable event is the panel organized by the NGO No Peace Without Justice in July 2003 at the Italian Senate at the presence of dozens of human rights experts, advocates and defenders.

These events kick-started a process, at least at the level of NGOs, aimed at fostering the democratization efforts, which are taking place at the international level, starting with the Community of Democracies’s process. Over the Summer 2003 a set of recommendations for the 10 countries that are member of the Convening Group of the Community, has been adopted by an NGO Steering Group which was set up in New York, to promote the creation of a “Democracy Group” within the UNGA. This decision is in line with what decided at the Second Conference of the Community of Democracies, and could represent an ideal forum to discuss and promote a serious reform of the ways the international community usually deals with the issues of promotion of democracy and human rights.