New UN Experts begin work on their Human Rights Mandates

May 04 2011

Maina KiaiSeven human rights experts dealing with the freedom of peaceful assembly and association; discrimination against women in law and practice; and the particular situation of people of African descent began work this week on the mandates handed to them by the Human Rights Council.

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association

In September 2010, the Human Rights Council created a new post of Special Rapporteur to emphasize the importance of the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association towards the full enjoyment of all human rights. The Council recognized that these rights are essential components of democracy and called upon States to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely, including in the context of elections, and including persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others, including migrants, seeking to exercise or to promote these rights.

Among other tasks, the Special Rapporteur is called on to gather all relevant information, including national practices and experiences relating to the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, to study trends, developments and challenges in relation to the exercise of these rights, and to make recommendations on ways to ensure the promotion and protection of these rights in all their manifestations.

The expert

Maina KIAI (Kenya) is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Mr. Kiai has been Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy; Chair of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission; Africa Director of the International Human Rights Law Group; and Africa Director of Amnesty International.

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Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

The establishment of the Working Group by the Human Rights Council in September 2010 was a milestone on the long road towards women’s equality with men. Over the years, many constitutional and legal reforms to integrate women’s human rights fully into domestic law have occurred, but there remains insufficient progress. Discrimination against women persists in both public and private spheres in times of conflict and in peace. It transcends national, cultural and religious boundaries and is often fuelled by patriarchal stereotyping and power imbalances which are mirrored in laws, policies and practice.

The Working Group focus is to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned. It is also mandated to identify ways to cooperate with States to fulfil their commitments to eliminate discrimination against women in law and in practice.

The members

Emna AOUIJ (Tunisia) was a member of CEDAW for three consecutive terms between 1990 and 2002. Ms. Aouij also served as independent expert of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Chad from 1996 to 1997. She has been ambassador to the Netherlands and Denmark and was previously a judge.

Mercedes BARQUET (Mexico) has researched and taught extensively since 1988 on feminist theory, women’s human rights, gender and public policy, citizenship and democratic governance, institutions and gender equality. Ms. Barquet is a member of several academic committees, and has been adviser to a number of public institutions and civil society organizations in Mexico. She is currently adviser to Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission.

Kamala CHANDRAKIRANA (Indonesia) chaired the Indonesia’s National Commission on Women for six years. She was a member of the investigation team set up by the President of Indonesia on the death of a prominent human rights defender. She is also founder of several NGOs on women’s rights.

Frances RADAY (Israel/United Kingdom) is a former member of CEDAW and has taught extensively in various academic institutions in Israel and elsewhere. Ms. Raday is the author of numerous academic books and articles on human rights, labour law and feminist legal theory. She has acted as legal counsel on precedent-setting human rights cases in Israel’s Supreme Court, including women’s constitutional rights to equality in religious rituals at public sites and sex discrimination in retirement age. She is currently the Director of the Concord Research Centre for Integration of International Law, Haim Striks Law School, Colman.

Eleonora ZIELINSKA (Poland) has published extensively, including scholarly articles related to gender issues, abortion, HIV/AIDS, and medical law. She is currently professor, chief of the comparative criminal law section and director of the legal clinic at Warsaw University and a member of the European Network of Legal Experts in the field of gender equality. Ms. Zieliñska has been an active supporter of women’s rights in Poland, and has served as an expert with governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations.

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People of African Descent

Mireille FANON-MENDES-FRANCE (France) is the newest member of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Ms. Fanon-Mendes-France has worked with UNESCO and has been an academic in continuing education at the university Rene Descartes, Paris. She was also a member of the delegation of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers at the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerances and worked for the French National Assembly for eight years.

For more information on the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, please visit:

The full press release is available in English via OHCHR.




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