UN Human Rights Committee nomination a first for Namibia

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Alvine Kapitako

WINDHOEK – The nomination of professor Nico Horn to the United Nations Human Rights Committee is historical in the sense that no Namibian was previously nominated to the committee. Horn is a University of Namibia (UNAM) law lecturer and constitutional expert.

“No Namibian was ever nominated to serve on a Human Rights Committee so it is quite historical for me and for the country as well,” said Horn who explained the nomination and election process in an interview with New Era.
The election is on June, 14 at the UN headquarters in New York and preparations are underway to lobby a seat for Namibia on the Human Rights Committee. The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the treaty body for which the Human Rights Committee takes responsibility, has 169 member countries, explained Horn.
Horn who was nominated by the Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala further explained that he was nominated for one of eight seats.

The human rights committee, to which Horn was nominated, administers the Covenant on Civil and Political rights. In the human rights system there are two covenants, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Social and Economic rights.

“Those are the two main ones because they are the cornerstones for the rest of the conventions. All the rights that you can think of are either from socio economic issues or political and civil issues so it is an important body. There are eight vacant posts. They have eighteen members and every four years, eight people resign from their positions,” explained Horn.

The eight new members will only start in January 2019 after the election in June.
There are 169 countries belonging to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and each country has one vote. “It is an open vote. There must be at least two thirds of the countries that ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political rights present on election day at the United Nations in New York City,” Horn said.
Last year, Horn was nominated for the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and lost by two votes.

“We did not have much time to organise anything because I was nominated about two weeks before the elections so we quickly had to make arrangements to get to New York to lobby there, and I did not have much time to speak to Namibians. This year, we thought it is just important that the Namibian people at least know what’s going on,” said Horn.

The people in Namibia do not understand the process, he explained.
“Everybody wanted to know how they could vote but its countries that vote. So our ambassador will be there to vote on behalf of Namibia,” he said.

He also explained the functions of the human rights committee, saying it deals with issues related to civil and political rights. That includes civil issues, he stated.
The committee observes voting rights in the member countries, they observe political freedom in member countries, and limitation of civil rights, amongst
others.

“One of the functions of the committee is also to release papers on relevant issues. There are always questions on for example, when do you break a covenant. There is a reporting system where the Human Rights Committee has the opportunity to evaluate progress of new democratic countries and the consistency of all democratic countries,” said Horn.

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