Crazy Treaty Bodies at Heart of Abortion LGBT Battles at UN

By | October 18, 2019

NEW YORK, October 18 (C-Fam) The General Assembly isn’t yet scheduled to take up treaty body reform until next year. But progressive states that want to advance Western liberal norms through the UN human rights system are moving fast to frame the issue on their own terms. Of special interest to them is abortion and LGBT issues. Other UN member states object.

“International human rights treaties, and jurisprudence by treaty bodies, constitute the legal backbone of the entire human rights protection architecture,” said Michele Bachelet, the head of the UN human rights office in her annual informal exchange with the General Assembly earlier this week.

Bachelet, who is a known pro-abortion politician and the frontrunner to be the next Secretary-General, highlighted the work already carried out by UN treaty bodies and supportive member states in her report to the UN General Assembly.

A Russian delegate took issue with this. He said such proposals for treaty body reform “had not been discussed” and that treaty body reform was a process that was led by all UN member states, not by the treaty bodies themselves with a select group of states.

He went on to highlight the priority for Russia; “that the treaty bodies are undertaking functions that are not in their mandates,” referring both to the broadening activities of the bodies and the controversial recommendations they issue.

Bachelet replied that she was “aware” of this and that “we have been very prudent not to interfere.” But she pointed to the premature proposals of treaty bodies themselves as well as some UN member states as if they were already on the table.

The reforms will affect ten UN treaty bodies of purportedly independent human rights experts. They are tasked with recording the efforts of states to implement human rights. The treaty bodies also issue non-binding recommendations to states. The office likes to call these “jurisprudence” even though it is a misleading term that suggest they are binding.

The General Assembly concluded a round of UN treaty body reform talks in 2014. As a result, it increased funding for treaty bodies and broadened the mandate of the UN human rights office to support the work of UN treaty bodies, including by increasing the media visibility of UN treaty bodies and supporting political interventions of treaty bodies in intergovernmental negotiations.

The experts who serve on the treaty bodies rely heavily, if not entirely, on the technical and logistical support of the UN human rights office led by Bachelet to review the records of states and draft recommendations. Her office will also be in charge of implementing any reforms.

The UN human rights office exercises significant control over the entire treaty body process.

It helps countries draft the reports to the treaty bodies. It drafts the recommendations of treaty bodies. It also trains lawyers in countries to use treaty body opinions in local courts. The UN human rights office in Tanzania for example works with the Center for Reproductive Rights to train lawyers and judges to advance abortion rights in the East African country.

Bachelet was also challenged for the inclusion of “Sexual orientation and gender identity” as a priority issue in her report to the General Assembly. The African Group characterized it as a “non-consensual issue.” Bachelet did not reply to these objection.