Harvard Human Rights Journal








The United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities convened its 49th Session from August 4 through August 29, 1997, in Geneva, Switzerland. 1 Under the authority of the U.N. Charter, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established the Sub-Commission in 1947 as a subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights. 2 ECOSOC also created two other sub-commissions at the same time, one to focus on women's rights 3 and the other to deal with freedom of information and freedom of the press. 4 The original mandate of the Sub-Commission was to recommend standards in pursuit of the prevention of discrimination and protection of minorities. 5 To this end, the Sub-Commission helped to draft the early human rights instruments and undertook major comparative human rights studies. 6 The original mandate also recognized that the Sub-Commission should "perform any other functions which may be entrusted to it by the Economic and Social Council or the Commission on Human Rights." 7 Pursuant to this provision, the Sub-Commission has gradually assumed broader responsibility to undertake a wider range of studies, monitor developments in the field, particularly through its working groups, and pursue other tasks "far beyond its original terms of reference." 8 In particular, the Sub-Commission's functions have expanded substantially -- and not always without criticism -- to include action on gross violations of human rights. 9


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