Human Rights Quarterly








The forty-seventh session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights met from 28 January to 8 March 1991. The session, overshadowed by the then ongoing Persian Gulf War, was the last before Commission membership was raised from forty-three to fifty-three to remedy the under-representation of developing countries. Discussions about a restructured agenda, as well as the possible need for additional meetings and more financial resources, were held in connection with this future enlargement of the Commission. The Commission adopted eighty-two resolutions and ten decisions, of which sixty-six resolutions and nine decisions were by consensus.(1) Among the most significant were resolutions on Afghanistan, Albania, Chad, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, the Israeli-occupied Arab Territories, Myanmar, Romania, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Lebanon, Sudan, the Israeli-occupied Syrian territories, and Western Sahara. The Commission also broke new ground by establishing the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. On the other hand, the Commission failed to give adequate attention to the human rights situations in a number of countries, including Brazil, China (relating to Tibet and events following the suppression of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square during June 1989), Colombia, Indonesia (relating to East Timor), Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Zaire. In addition, the Commission made little progress in developing an optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Members of the Commission subjected its Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to considerable criticism and urged changes in the latter's work methods. The Commission heartily endorsed the upcoming 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, the first such conference to be held since the Teheran Conference of 1968. Several country delegations suggested matters to be discussed at the World Conference, a preparatory meeting was scheduled for September 1991, and at least two countries, Hungary and Morocco, lobbied actively to become the Conference host. Before and during the session groups continued to work on draft declarations on the rights of human rights defenders, mentally-ill persons, and minorities.


Copyright © 1991 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Human Rights Quarterly Journal, 13:4 (1991), 573-613. Reprinted with permission by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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