CYIL vol. 12 (2021)

CYIL 12 (2021) States ’ reports under UN hr treaties: how to read overdue reports? treaty body is a much softer instrument of compliance than inquiries of concrete cases or dealing with complaints alleging violations of human rights in a particular case. However, it is an instrument available universally, anchored as compulsory in fundamental treaties (not in optional protocols), not challenging the sovereignty as others 7 , and widely accepted and answered by states in practice. Hellen Keller 8 marks the state reporting system as the “lowest common denominator” of compliance control. 9 The self-reporting lies on a regular basis; the reporting periods are between two and five years under all eleven human rights conventions. Overall, and if everything works perfectly, hundreds of state reports should be submitted to treaty bodies every year. In practice, the number of reports submitted every year is astonishing, 10 although not as high as it should be. Since the first years after the earliest reporting obligations were formulated, a discord called “late and non-reporting” can be observed. 11 In 2009, the High Commissioner for Human Rights initiated a Treaty Body Strengthening process (so called Dublin process). 12 In 2014, the process was completed by the adoption of General Assembly resolution 68/268, which introduced a new element in the review mechanism (a biennial report by the UN Secretary- General on the state of the treaty body system) 13 and in its paragraph 41 set the further milestone in the strengthening process to 2020. 14 However, the 75th General Assembly passed over this particular question (see UN GA resolution 75/174 from 16 December 2020). 7 KELLER, H. Reporting Systems. Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law . Oxford Public International Law, para. 3. 8 Professor Helen Keller (University of Zurich) was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (2008-2011) and a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (2010–2020). 9 See Keller, op. cit. 10 The UN database shows number of reports due to submit in respective years. Following numbers are for year 2020. The list of individual treaties includes first the reports prescribed in 2020 and then the reports actually submitted. However, the submitted reports are not necessarily prescribed for the given year, therefore where it makes sense, the third figure consists of submitted overdue reports from previous years. CERD – 26/14/2; CAT – 7/2; CCPR – 8/4; CED – 1/1; CEDAW – 18/5; CESCR – 19/7; CMW – 7/1; CRC – 14/7; CRC-OP-AC – 1/0; CRC-OP-SC – 1/0; CRPD – 9/1. 11 Altston and Crawford (2000) p. 5., presented impressive data on overdue reports. A table 1.2 based on Alston’s Final Report (E/CN.4/1997/74) brings interesting data on six human rights treaties (the CERD, ICESCR, ICCPR, CEDAW, CAT and the CRC), number of their parties and number of parties with overdue reports. There is a positive trend among 1993 and 1998 in number of parties, who grew through the years. Unfortunately, the number of parties in respective treaties with overdue reports grow as well, with only one exception, the ICCPR. The huge number in total overdue reports exceeds even the number of parties and the reason is a different method of calculation, where overdue reports were registered for the states according to the prescribed schedule. If the state did not submit more than one report in a row, all of them were counted. At present, if the state owes one report, the following prescribed reports are not registered. The largest number of overdue reports is associated with the CERD with total number of parties in 1998 being151 parties with overdue reports 124, and total overdue reports 390. 12 See major initiatives for strengthening of the UN human rights treaty system. accessed 31 May 2021. 13 The first report of the Secretary General was submitted in 18 July 2016 (UN Doc A/71/118), the second report on 6 August 2018 (UN Doc A/73/309) and the last report (UN Doc A/74/643) was submitted on 10 January 2020. 14 “ … to consider the state of the human rights treaty body system no later than six years from the date of adoption of the present resolution, to review the effectiveness of the measures taken in order to ensure their sustainability, and, if appropriate, to decide on further action to strengthen and enhance the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system ”.


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