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The UK’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council

Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In May 2017 the UK will have its third regular human rights review by a group of other UN States, who will make recommendations under the UN’s ‘Universal Periodic Review’ (UPR) process. This Commons Library briefing paper provides a brief overview.

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What is the UPR?

The UPR is the UN Human Rights Council’s regular examination of the human rights record of each UN Member State. It applies equally to all UN countries, covers a wide range of human rights obligations, and results in a series of recommendations.

How does it work?

The process involves a group of UN Member States assessing written reports, questioning the State under review, and then making recommendations.

First, various written reports are submitted to the UN. National stakeholders such as human rights organisations can report on the State under review, and these along with reports from other UN bodies are summarised by the UN. Then the State under review submits its own National Report setting out developments since its last review.

A few months later, the UPR Working Group (the 47 Member States of the UN Human Rights Council) holds a half-day review of the State in Geneva. This includes an interactive dialogue with the State’s representatives. The UPR Working Group’s Member States will come up with recommendations for the State under review.

The review and recommendations are summarised in an ‘outcome document’, which the State under review can comment on but not reject. The Human Rights Council adopts the report a few months later.

The State is then expected to follow up the recommendations before its next review, four to five years later.

What is the timetable for the UK?

The UK’s third UPR cycle is under way. Stakeholders have made their submissions, and the UK has submitted its National Report to the UN.

The UPR Working Group review of the UK is expected on 4 May 2017, and the Human Rights Council might consider the outcome report in September 2017.

How are the Government and Parliament approaching it?

The UK Government usually likes to be seen as meeting the UPR requirements. It voluntarily published a mid-term report on its 2nd UPR cycle in 2014, and submitted its National Report for the 3rd cycle in February 2017 just a few days late (although it has not yet published this). Sir Oliver Heald, the Minister for Courts and Justice, will lead the UK delegation at the UPR Working Group review in May.

Parliament was not much involved in the UK’s previous UPRs, but it appears to be more so this time, following a recent spate of initiatives on involving national parliaments in human rights monitoring. For instance, the Joint Committee on Human Rights is holding an evidence session on the UK’s UPR on Wednesday 26 April 2017.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7933

Author: Arabella Lang

Topics: Equality, Human rights, International law, United Nations

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