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Context: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his top Ministers are responsible for probable crimes against humanity, including extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture, the International Fact-Finding Mission, created by the United Nations Human Rights Council a year ago, said in its first report.

Analysis

  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system.
  • It can mandate independent inquiries into specific situations.
  • It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. 
  • It meets at the UN Office at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • To do all the work, the Human Rights Council gets help from groups of experts. They are called ‘Advisory Committees’.
  • Sometimes, the Human Rights Council also works with other experts who know a lot about 1 right or 1 country. When this happens, we call it ‘Special Procedures’.

HRC Meetings

  • The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year.
  • If one-third of the Member States so request, the HRC can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

Membership

  • The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UNGA through a direct and secret ballot. 
  • The General Assembly takes into account the contribution of the candidate states to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
  • Seats on the Council are distributed as follows:
  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats
  • Members of the Council serve for a period of three years, and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. 
  • Both India and Pakistan as the members of UNHRC.
  • The HRC has a Bureau of one President and four Vice-Presidents, representing the five regional groups. They serve for a year, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.

Human Rights Day 

  • It is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. 
  • It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
  • The Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document. 

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

  • Also known as VDPA, it is a human rights declaration adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993 in Vienna, Austria. 
  • The position of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was recommended by this Declaration and subsequently created by General Assembly.

What are human rights?

  • Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. 
  • They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.
  • These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence. 
  • These values are generally defined and protected by law.