Printed in bold-face type, the conclusion of the press release all but jumps out at the reader: “There is therefore no valid reason for having postponed the beginning of the session of the Commission on Human Rights.”

Following the one-week suspension of the sittings of the Commission, three NGOs, active at the U.N. for years, did not mince their words. The American Association of Jurists (AAJ), the Europe - Third World Center (CETIM) and the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples (LIDLIP) joined forces to denounce what they see as a subterfuge to hinder - indeed, to prevent — the work of this body.

Quoting paragraph 13 of the draft resolution on the creation of the Human Rights Council, these NGOs point out that it recommends that “the Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC] request that the Commission on Human Rights finish its work during its 62d session and then proceed to dissolve the Commission on 16 June”.

“Violation” of the due process

As the Commission’s parent body, the ECOSOC is the only instance competent to authorize a deviation from the Commission’s set program. The decision of the Commission’s member states thus constitutes a serious violation of the due process provided for when the Commission was set up. Worse, according to the press release, the “technical” reasons cited such as the lack of preparation are only an excuse, especially since this preparation falls to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose secretariat has undoubtedly carried out the tasks assigned to it.

Malik Özden from the CETIM was furious. “They want to wait! But what about the work? Two of most important long-term subjects under consideration, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and indigenous peoples, risk being slowed up to a halt. And there is nothing to say that the suspension can’t be extended!”

In case of an extension, according to Özden, the world would find itself confronted with a shrunken “technical” session during which the Commission would “take note” of the reports and work of the special rapporteurs, without there being any debate or discussion whatever of the issues.

Avoiding the debate on Guantanamo

The guilty party, according to this triad, is the superpower, which sees in the suspension a means of avoiding a debate on the preliminary report recently published by five of the special rapporteurs on the situation at Guantánamo, a report that shows the United States in a highly unflattering light. The superpower is also far from kindly disposed toward the other two long-term subjects mentioned. Behind this stoppage is ferocious pressure exercised by Washington through an aggressive lobbying campaign.

Finally, the NGOs recall article 100 of the United Nations Charter which stipulates that “In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.”