United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

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Summary

In 2006 the The United Nations Human Rights Council replaced the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN human rights system made up of 47 States elected by the UN General Assembly responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. Its main purpose is addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. Its mandate was established by General Assembly resolution 60/251 from 15 March 2006.
The Council meets in regular session three times annually and in special session as needed, and reports to the General Assembly.

In 2007 the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” which established a system of four subsidiary mechanisms, of which the following two are most relevant for NGOs and individuals working on conscientious objection to military service:

  • The Universal Periodic Review mechanism assesses the human rights situations in all 192 UN Member States.
  • The UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Council.

For a list of all member states please go to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/membership.htm

On 5 July 2012, during its 20th session, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution on conscientious objection to military service, “recalling all previous relevant resolutions and decisions, including Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, and Commission on Human Rights resolutions 2004/35 of 19 April 2004 and 1998/77 of 22 April 1998, in which the Commission recognized the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as laid down in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 (1993) of the Human Rights Committee”.

Interpretations

Title Date
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2013/24) 23/09/2013

The resolution recalls the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and previous Human Rights Council and Commission resolutions on the subject of conscientious objection to military service, and:

  • Encourages all States, relevant United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner by providing relevant information for the preparation of the next quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service, in particular on new developments, best practices and remaining challenges";
  • "Welcomes the fact that some States accept claims of conscientious objection to military service as valid without inquiry;";
  • "encourages States to allow applications for conscientious objection prior to, during and after military service, including reserve duties";
  • "Emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting individuals to imprisonment solely on the basis of their conscientious objection to military service and to repeated punishment for refusing to perform military service, and recalls that repeated punishment of conscientious objectors for refusing a renewed order to serve in the military may amount to punishment in breach of the legal principle ne bis in idem";
  • "Also encourages States, as part of post-conflict peacebuilding, to consider granting and effectively implementing, amnesties and restitution of rights, in law and in practice, for those who have refused to undertake military service on grounds of conscientious objection to military service";
  • "Invites States to consider including in their national reports, to be submitted to the universal periodic review mechanism and to United Nations human rights treaty bodies, information on domestic provisions related to the right to conscientious objection"

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