Meeting of UN Human Rights Treaty Body Chairs, Washington DC, 31 January - 1 February 2014

On 31 January – 1 February the IBA’s North America Office will co-host a meeting of the Chairs of the United Nations’ ten Human Rights treaty bodies, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Together with the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and American University Washington College of Law, the IBA is providing a forum for the Chairs to discuss issues of considerable urgency to the UN human rights treaty body system.

Challenges the Chairs will address at the meeting will include how best to usher in wide-ranging reforms designed to strengthen the treaty body system, reforms the Chairs have been championing despite stiff resistance by several UN member states, including Syria and Zimbabwe. Another critical agenda item is how to stem the alarming rise in reprisals against citizens and human rights defenders who submit complaints and testimony to the ten treaty bodies. Torture, harassment and other abuses visited upon these individuals by repressive governments are designed to choke the flow of information on which the treaty bodies rely to issue reports about member states’ compliance with various human rights treaties they have ratified.

Commenting on the upcoming meeting, the Director of the IBA’s North America Office in Washington DC, Michael Maya, stated: 'Bringing the Chairs of the UN Human Rights treaty bodies together in this fashion is not only unusual, it is unprecedented. But that is precisely what the Chairs felt was needed given the challenges they and the broader treaty body system are facing at the moment.'

In addition to holding mostly closed-door working sessions, the Chairs will meet with US Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill and will attend a reception in their honour at ASIL’s Tillar House, providing US government officials, ambassadors, and representatives of the legal and human rights communities the opportunity to share their perspectives with the Chairs in an informal setting. In addition to ASIL, American University Washington College of Law and the IBA, the London-based Sigrid Rausing Trust provided significant financial support for the event.