Cameroon’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by U.N. Human Rights Council: Background

This year Cameroon’s human rights record is the subject of its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. This post reviews basic information about the Council and its UPR process. Future posts will look at the pre-hearing papers for Cameroon’s current UPR and then its UPR hearing and then finally the results of the UPR.

The  Human Rights Council[1]

The Council since 2006 has been an important arm of the United Nations in recognizing and helping to enforce international human rights norms in the world.

The Council is made up of 47 U.N. Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the U.N. General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.

The Council’s Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The seats are allocated on the following geographical basis:

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats

The current African members are Angola, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

The UPR Process[2]

One of the ways the Council seeks to encourage universal compliance with international human rights standards  is its UPR of individual U.N. member states. The UPR is universal in that all 193 U.N. members and all human rights norms are reviewed and it is periodic because it done every four years. Such reviews are to be “based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States.” This is to be done with “a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned.”

The UPR process involves (a) the state’s submission of a report to the Council; (b) submission of written questions and recommendations to the state from other states and stakeholders (human rights NGO’s, etc.); (c) the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ summary of U.N. information about the country; (d) questions submitted to the country in advance by the Working Group; (e) the hearing by the Council, (f) the preparation of a draft report on the state by a Council working group, (g) the state’s comments on that report, (h) another hearing before the Council and (i) the Council’s adoption of the final report on the outcome of the UPR.

Council’s UPR Working Group for Cameroon’s UPR[3]

The UPRs are conducted by the Council’s 47 members acting as an UPR Working Group. In addition, any other U.N. Member State can take part in the review.

Each State’s review is assisted by a groups of three States, known as a “troika,” who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State is done through a drawing of lots following elections for the Council membership in the General Assembly. For Cameroon’s third UPR the Troika members are United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Iraq and South Africa.

The UPR Hearing

The May 16 hearing lasted three and a half hours, during which the state under review was given 70 minutes to present its report, as well as answer questions made by other states and present concluding remarks. The remaining 140 minutes were allocated to states participating in the review to ask questions, make comments and recommendations to the state under review.

The second stage of the process will take place during the Council’s 39th period of sessions in September 2018, at which time the final report will be presented by the Troika.

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[1] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Membership of Council; U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Current Membership.

[2] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Basic Facts about the UPR

[3]  U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Cameroon’s human rights record to be reviewed by Universal Periodic Review (May 11, 2018).

 

 

 

International Criminal Court: New States Parties, Judges and Prosecutor

By the end of this year the International Criminal Court (ICC) will have at least five new States Parties to its Rome Statute, six new judges and a new Prosecutor.

New States Parties. So far this year two additional African states (Tunisia and Cape Verde), two additional Asian states (Maldives and Philippines) and one Latin American/Caribbean state (Grenada) have joined the ICC.[1] The following shows the current geographical makeup of the States Parties to the ICC’s Rome Statute:

 ICC States Parties?

  Yes No Total
Africa[2]    33 14   47
Asia[3]    17 35   52
Europe[4]    40   4   44
Latin America/Caribbean[5]    26   7   33
Middle East[6]      2 13   15
North America[7]      1   1     2
TOTAL[8] 119 74 193

 New Judges. This December at a meeting at the U.N. the States Parties will elect six new judges of the Court. The statutory criteria for these positions are the following:[9]

  • High moral character;
  • Impartiality;
  • Integrity;
  • Possessing the qualifications required by their States for appointment to their highest judicial offices;
  • Excellent knowledge of the Court’s two “working languages” (English and French) and fluency in at least one of these languages;
  • Established competency in either (a) “criminal law and procedure, and the necessary relevant experience, whether as judge, prosecutor, advocate or in similar capacity, in criminal proceedings” (the List A candidates) or (b) “relevant areas of international law such as international humanitarian law and the law of human rights, and extensive experience in a professional legal capacity which is of relevance to the judicial work of the Court” (the List B candidates);[10] and
  • At least some of the judges need to have “legal expertise on specific issues, including, but not limited to, violence against women or children.”

Nineteen individuals have been nominated for these positions; 16 were the List A candidates while 3 were List B. All of them were evaluated by the Independent Panel on ICC Judicial Elections which found that three of the 16 List A candidates were unqualified for lack of criminal law experience while one of the three List B candidates was unqualified for lack of experience in humanitarian law or human rights.[11] The following 15 were found to be qualified:

List A


1. BANKOLE THOMPSON, Rosolu John (Sierra Leone)
2. BOOLELL, Vinod (Mauritius)
3. BRIA, Modeste-Martineau (Central African Republic)
4. CARMONA, Anthony Thomas Acquinas (Trinidad and Tobago)
5. CATHALA, Bruno (France)
6. CIFUENTES MUÑOZ, Eduardo (Colombia)
7. EBOE-OSUJI, Chile (Nigeria)
8. FREMR, Robert (Czech Republic)
9. HERRERA CARBUCCIA, Olga Venecia (Dominican Republic)
10. KAM, Gberdao Gustave (Burkina Faso)
11. MINDUA, Antoine Kesia-Mbe (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
12. MORRISON, Howard (United Kingdom)
13. NOUHOU, Hamani Mounkaila (Niger)

List B


1. CZAPLIŃSKI, Wladyslaw (Poland)
2. DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, Miriam (Philippines)

Observers have criticized these candidates as lacking substantial international reputations of excellence.[12]

The Independent Panel also made suggestions for improving the Court’s judicial selection process. Nominating governments should provide a description of their nomination process and should be promptly notified of any missing information in the nomination papers. The Assembly of States Parties (ASP) should advise nominating governments whether nominees may continue professional activities that might create conflicts of interest if they are elected. The ASP also should consider (i) what to do if there are two judges from the same country as a result of some current judges continuing in office past the term to complete court business; (ii) whether there should be a practice of not nominating candidates who would exceed a certain age or who were not in good health if they were to serve their full nine-year term; (iii) establishing a code of conduct for candidates; and (iv) establishing an advisory committee on judicial nominations.[13]

New Prosecutor. This December at a meeting at the U.N. the States Parties will elect by consensus a new Prosecutor of the Court, and consensus is expected to be reached by November 28th. Four individuals have been recommended for this position by the Search Committee, and the New York Times reports that the favorite is Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, the current Deputy Prosecutor for the Court. She clearly has the most extensive and most recent experience in the Office of the Prosecutor, a very valuable credential.[14] She also is an African, and there is a lot of pressure from the African States Parties to select an African for this position since all of the initial investigations and prosecutions come from Africa. The fact that she is a woman is also seen by many as important.[15]


[1] ICC, States Parties to the Rome Statute, www2.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ASP/states+parties.

[2] The principal African states that are notICC members are Algeria, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. (Compare id. with U.N., List of Member States of United Nations,http://www.un.org/en/members/index.shtml.

[3] The principal Asian states that are not ICC members are China, Democratic Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Viet Nam. Id.

[4] The principal European states that are not ICC members are Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Id.

[5]  The principal Latin American and Caribbean states that are not ICC members are Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.  Id.

[6]  The only Middle Eastern states that are ICC members are Cyprus and Jordan.  Id.

[7]  Canada is the only North American state that is an ICC member. The U.S.A. is the only North American state that is not an ICC member.  Id.

[8]  There are 192 members of the U.N., and a non-member of the U.N. (Cook Islands) is an ICC State Party. Thus, the total number of states in the table is 193. Id.

[9] Rome Statute, Arts. 36(3), 38(8)(b), 50(2); Post: International Criminal Court: Basics of Its Upcoming Judicial Election (June 23, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Required and Recommended Qualifications for ICC Judges (June 24, 2011).

[10] List A judges are supposed to be at least nine in number; the List B judges, at least five. (Rome Statute, Art. 36(5).) All six of the retiring judges came from the A List. Of the six to be elected this December at least two must come from the A List while no one has to be from the B List. (See Post: The International Criminal Court: Basics of Its Upcoming Judicial Elections (June 23, 2011).)

[11] ICC, Election of six judges–December 2011 (Oct. 14, 2011), www2.icccpi.int/Menus/ASP/Elections /Judges/ 2011/2011.htm; Independent Panel on ICC Judicial Elections, Report on International Criminal Court Judicial Nominations 2011 (Oct. 26, 2011), http://www.iccindependentpanel.org/sites/default/ files/ Independent%20Panel%20on%20ICC%20Judicial%20Elections%20-%20Report%2026%20October%202011.pdf [Independent Panel Report]; Van Schaack, Independent Panel on ICC Judicial Elections, IntLawGrrls (Nov. 1, 2011);

[12] Binham, The Hague struggles to find judges, Fin. Times (Sept. 14, 2011); Amann, How to deepen shallow ICC judges pool, IntLawGrrls (Sept. 19, 2011).

[13] Independent Panel Report.

[14] Post: International Criminal Court: Its Upcoming Prosecutor Election (June 25, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Four People Recommended for Election as ICC Prosecutor (Oct. 25, 2011). Mrs. Bensouda recently made a presentation about lessons learned in the ICC’s first trial. (Bensouda, Update on Trials and the Closing of the First Case (Oct. 5, 2011), www2.icc-cpi.int/nr/exeres/2386f5cb-b2a5-45dc-b66f-17e762f77b1f.htm; Post: International Criminal Court: Recent Developments in Other ICC Investigations and Cases (Nov. 17, 2011).) Mrs. Bensouda is now in Libya with the Prosecutor to discuss with Libyan officials the sensitive subject of where the two remaining ICC Libyan suspects will be tried. (Comment: ICC Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor in Libya To Discuss Future Trials (Nov. 22, 2011).)

[15] Simons, The Hague: Four Prosecutor Finalists, N.Y. Times (Oct. 26, 2011); Amann, ICC consensus this week?, IntLawGrrls (Nov. 20, 2011).

International Criminal Court: Issuance of Libyan Arrest Warrants and Other Developments

On June 27th, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued warrants of arrest for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from 15 February 2011 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces.[1]

The Chamber concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the three suspects committed the alleged crimes and that their arrests appear necessary in order to ensure their appearances before the Court; to ensure that they do not continue to obstruct and endanger the Court’s investigations; and to prevent them from using their powers to continue the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.

Apprehending the suspects will be a particular challenge for the ICC and its supporters. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 that referred the situation to the Court obligates the Libyan authorities to cooperate with the ICC. However, Gaddafi and the Libyan leadership have given no indication that they would cooperate at all with the Court. The warrants could also make it more difficult for Gaddafi to negotiate an exit into exile since he has few friends globally and all current 114 ICC States Parties are under an obligation to arrest him. Moreover, it is clear from this and other cases that the ICC Prosecutor and judges believe that they are obliged to proceed with a case referred by the Security Council if the evidence justifies it.

This challenge to the international community could prove an important opportunity for U.S. leadership and support to the Court. The U.S. has been working publicly to engage with the Court and support ICC cases. In particular, it has backed the Court’s effort to investigate and prosecute recent crimes in Libya. The arrest warrants issued today provide a new and concrete opportunity to advance U.S. national interests and to support international criminal justice. For this reason and since July 17 is International Justice Day, the American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) has created an International Justice Day alert action. It urges President Obama to help fulfill the mandate of Resolution 1970 by helping to carry out the arrest warrants issued today. Please sign and submit the letter to the President: http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-president-obama-to-support-the-icc-on-libya-and-help-arrest-gaddafi.

Two other recent developments should be mentioned.

Last week, on June 24th, Tunisia filed its documents acceding to the Court’s Rome Statute. Effective September 1, 2011, it will be the 116th State Party to the Statute.[2]

On June 23rd, the ICC Prosecutor announced that he had made a formal application to the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Ivory Coast since November 28, 2010.[3]


[1]  ICC Press Release, Pre-Trial Chamber I issues three warrants of arrest for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdulla Al-Senussi(June 27, 2011); Simons, Hague Court Issues Warrant for Qaddafi for War Crimes, N.Y. Times (June 27, 2011). See Post: International Criminal Court: Investigations and Prosecutions (April 25, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Libya Investigation Status (May 8, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Three Libyan Arrest Warrants Sought (May 16, 2011); Post: International Criminal Court: Investigation of Gang-Rape in Libya (May 17, 2011). The Libyan situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council. (Id.)

[2] ICC Press Release, Tunisia becomes the 116th State to join the ICC’s governing treaty, the Rome Statute (June 24, 2011).

[3]  ICC Press Release, ICC Prosecutor requests judges for authorization to open an investigation in Cote d’Ivoire (June 23, 2011).