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Arab League specialized institutions on Human Rights

Author: Corina Gui

1)Permanent Arab Commission on Human Rights

The Permanent Arab Commission on Human Rights (not to be confounded with the Arab Commission for Human Rights – see the pin) (or Arab Standing Committee on Human Rights) was established in 1968 as a response to the international recommendations on Arab League to have a more participative contribution towards human rights (especially due to the increasing cooperation with UN organs).

Arab League participated to the celebration of the International Year of Human Rights (1968) - that marked the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and also to the to the International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran, Iran ( 22 April to 13 May 1968). The interventions shaped awareness among Arab States of human rights discourse. On 3 September 1968, the Council of Arab League has issued at its 50th session, the Resolution No. 2443 regarding the establishment of the Permanent Arab Commission on Human Rights on the recommendations of the Committee on Political Affairs “ to approve the establishment of a permanent regional Arab Committee for human rights within the Arab League as contained in the report of the Secretariat on the subject”

The Commission is one of those special committees created in accordance with Art. 4 of the Pact of the Arab League whose purpose is to advise the Council of the Arab League in their particular area, in this case, the protection of human rights, even if this field wasn’t distinctive mentioned in the Pact.

According to the rules of procedure, the Commission is composed not of independent experts serving in their personal capacity, but of governmental representatives from all member States, each State “having a single vote irrespective of the number of its representatives.”
The Chairman of the Commission is appointed by the Arab League Council for a term of two years, renewable.

The Commission’s duties are of preparatory nature, drafts being submitted to the League Council for approval as well as its  recommendations, suggestions or researches.
The Commission also recommends that a smaller committee of Arab legal experts be formed to examine intra-Arab agreements related to human rights to facilitate their implementation. At its third meeting held in December 2004, the sub-committee issued a number of recommendations including an appeal to the member States of the League to speed up the ratification of the Arab Charter on Human Rights.

Arab NGOs active in the field of human rights participate in the Commission meetings as observes with the aim of enriching discussions and promoting human rights in the Arab World. The Council of the Arab League determined also a number of criteria and requirements that these NGOs should meet, as, the necessity that these to be registered in an Arab country and bear its nationality and their activities be governed by the principles and rules stated in the international charters of human rights.

One of the most important achievements of the Arab Permanent Commission on Human Rights was to draft an Arab Charter on Human Rights which was concluded in 1994 and approved by the League Council in the same year. The Commission updated the Charter, and its revised version, approved by the Council during the Tunis Summit in 2004, entered into force in 2008.

2)The Arab Human Rights Committee

The Arab Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Charter is the treaty body that monitors the implementation of the revised Arab Charter of Human Rights in the States parties to the Charter. It was established in 2008 after the entry into force of the Charter with the deposit of the seventh ratification.
The provisional rules of procedure of the Arab Human Rights Committee are expressed in Article 45 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights

The Committee consists of seven independent members serving in their personal capacity elected by the States parties to the Charter by secret ballot, for a four – year term.  Only one national from a State party can be member of the Committee, such member may be re-elected only once.  The Chairman is elected from the members of the Committee for a two-year term, renewable once.

Art. 47 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights states that “The States parties undertake to ensure that members of the Committee shall enjoy the immunities necessary for their protection against any form of harassment or moral or material pressure or prosecution on account of the positions they take or statements they make while carrying out their functions as members of the Committee.”

Art. 48 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights establishes the working mechanism of the Committee: “The States parties undertake to submit reports to the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States on the measures they have taken to give effect to the rights and freedoms recognized in this Charter and on the progress made towards the enjoyment thereof. The Secretary-General shall transmit these reports to the Committee for its consideration”. The second paragraph from the Article establishes that the State parties submit the “initial report to the Committee within one year from the date on which the Charter enters into force and a periodic report every three years thereafter.” The Committee considers the reports in the presence, and with participation of the State in question, and may request additional information relating to the implementation of the Charter. The Committee then examines the report, discusses it with the delegation of the States party’s report and makes the necessary observations and recommendations, which are included in an annual report submitted to the Council of the League.

The Arab Human Rights Committee, has published on the official website (in Arabic) the reports submitted by Jordan, Algeria, Bahrain and Qatar as well as the concluding remarks and recommendations issued by the Committee (except for Qatar).  

Among the activities carried by the Committee, there was also the participation at the 13th session of the Universal Periodic Review (21 May 2012 – 4 June 2012) as an observer.

These two bodies operating in the field of human rights are created within the framework of the Arab League and must not be confounded with the Arab Commission for Human Rights, which is an NGO founded in 1998. (see the pin - Arab Commission for Human Rights).

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