Short Review of the 138th HRC Session

On July 26, the 138th session of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) came to a close. Under its rules of procedure, the Committee convenes just three regular sessions each year.

Even though Belarus denounced the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, its commitments under the Covenant itself, which is a distinct international treaty, remain intact. These commitments encompass the necessity to take due actions that uphold the rights enshrined in the Covenant. Ensuring the effective realization of human rights entails giving due consideration to the Committee's interpretations of specific Covenant provisions, including its elucidation of the standards in its General Comments and its communications on individual cases. While there may not be a direct path to filing a complaint against the Belarusian state, monitoring the Committee's activities remains crucial for a more comprehensive understanding of the existing standards.

Furthermore, Belarus is obligated to engage in good faith interactions with the Committee, including the regular submission of progress reports on the Covenant's provisions. In this regard, the HRC reviewed Belarus' fifth periodic report in 2018 and issued corresponding concluding observations. In December 2022, the Committee received an Interim Alternative Report from Belarusian human rights advocates, documenting Belarus' compliance with Covenant obligations during the challenging period spanning from 2018 to 2022.

During the 138th session, the Committee received and considered similar reports from Brazil, Burundi, the State of Palestine, Colombia, Cyprus, Lesotho and Uganda.

The HRC also compiles lists of questions to be addressed by States in their preparation of the next periodic report. During the 138th session, Committee members developed and adopted such questions for Honduras and Suriname. Preliminary lists of questions were formulated for the Republic of Moldova and Jamaica.

It should be recalled that civil society can actively participate in the reporting process and in the Committee's assessment of States parties' compliance with their obligations. Non-governmental organizations can submit alternative reports containing information about Covenant provisions' implementation, comments on States' reports and their written replies to the list of issues, as well as information on the State's implementation of the Committee's previous concluding observations. This possibility is not exclusive to the HRC; various international human rights bodies also actively involve civil society organizations. Specific opportunities and relevant deadlines can be tracked here.

For a concise overview of the 136th session, during which the Committee rendered decisions on the merits of five complaints originating from Belarus, please refer to this link. An overview of the 137th session, where Committee members once again scrutinized Belarus' Covenant violations, can be found at this link.

*Article 40

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights:

(a) Within one year of the entry into force of the present Covenant for the States Parties concerned;

(b) Thereafter whenever the Committee so requests.
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