New IBAHRI report calls for greater involvement of legal professionals in the UPR

On Thursday, 17 March 2016, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) published a report calling for greater involvement of the legal profession within the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in order to maximise the impact of the UPR on the ground and ensure that the administration of justice is at the forefront of human rights protection.

The role of the Universal Periodic Review in advancing human rights in the administration of justice, analyses 38,928 recommendations made by States to the UPR between 2008 and 2014 and addresses two interrelated issues: the involvement of legal professionals in UN human rights mechanisms and reference to legal professionals in international recommendations. In addition, the study provides an analysis of the role of the UPR in advancing human rights in the administration of justice in ten countries.

It was found that only over 3% of the recommendations relate to the independence of judges, lawyers and prosecutors (over 1,300 recommendations). The study raises big concern regarding this finding: on the one hand, the administration of justice has an impact on the realisation of all human rights. On the other hand, countries facing major challenges in administrating justice pay little attention to the role of legal professionals. Finally, the IBAHRI notes with concern that the number of recommendations addressing the independence of lawyers, judges and prosecutors has been decreasing since the 7th session of the UPR.

Furthermore, the IBAHRI found no information on the implementation of almost 40 per cent of action-oriented recommendations and concluded that the monitoring focused on the measures implemented rather than on the actual impact of these on the administration of justice.

As underlined in the study, the role of the legal professionals in the protection of human rights and their need for specific protection were put in the international agenda as key priorities three decades ago, but for the moment, it has not been echoed in the UPR recommendations. The study highlights two main challenges in this regard: for the Recommending States, the need to draft specific, action-oriented recommendations that identify specific shortcomings in the justice system; the main challenge facing States under Review is to develop a monitoring system that focuses on the impact of the measures they implement in the justice system on the realisation of human rights, and to support a self-performance assessment process by the legal professions.

The report underlines the idea that UPR recommendations should be guided by the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines –a body of UN documents on the Rule of Law-, as well as the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. The IBAHRI further encourages States to set up a monitoring system based on the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines.

Having assessed the role played by the UPR so far in advancing human rights in the administration of justice, the study puts forward a number of recommendations to Recommending States, to States under Review, to lawyers and lawyers’ associations and to the OHCHR, with a view to improving the UPR mechanism and ensuring that appropriate standards and relevant stakeholders inform the process and states’ recommendations.

The new publication of the IBAHRI can be found here