The Reporting Cycle to the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies: Creating a Dialogue between the State and Civil Society - the Israeli Case Study

By Levin, Ayelet | The George Washington International Law Review, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Reporting Cycle to the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies: Creating a Dialogue between the State and Civil Society - the Israeli Case Study


Levin, Ayelet, The George Washington International Law Review


INTRODUCTION

The reporting process to the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies and the implementation of their concluding observations represents a major mechanism in international human rights law, aimed at the promotion and implementation of the human rights conventions by the state parties. States and civil society around the world have different perspectives and views on their respective roles in the reporting and implementation process, and on the possibility of working in cooperation towards promoting human rights in their country. This Article explores the reporting process to the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, the roles played by states and civil society in the process, and the dialogue between them. As a case study, this Article focuses on the Israeli reporting process to the Treaty Bodies and the role of the state and domestic civil society in it. The findings are based, inter alia, on the Author's experience working in the Israeli Ministry of Justice and her involvement in the Israeli reporting process, and are also based on interviews that the Author conducted for the purpose of this Article with Israeli scholars (former and current members of the UN Human Rights Committee), former and current government officials, and domestic NGO' representatives.

Part I begins with an exploration of the reporting process to the Treaty Bodies and the roles played by states and civil society in this process, as well as in the follow-up to this process. Due to extensive existing legal scholarship on this topic, the analysis in this Part focuses on the roles played by states and civil society in the process rather than focusing on the Treaty Bodies themselves. Part II focuses on the Israeli experience with the reporting process, elaborating on the reporting in Israel, with emphasis on the role of the government and domestic civil society in the process and the discourse between them. Part II utilizes interviews with a number of actors working in the field of human rights law in Israel in order to provide insight into the unique perspectives of those actors with regard to the reporting process, and to draw a comprehensive and complicated map of power distribution among them. Part III suggests ways to improve the reporting process in Israel by establishing mechanisms for consultation and cooperation between domestic civil society and the government. The ultimate goal proposed is to foster an enhanced dialogue between the state and domestic civil society in the framework of the reporting process, focusing on information exchange and possible modification of existing methodology, and to assist in the implementation of some of the Treaty Bodies' concluding observations.

I. THE REPORTING SYSTEM TO THE TREATY BODIES: ROLES OF STATES AND CIVIL SOCIETY

A. International Human Rights Law

Human rights law is a unique regime in international law. Rather than regulating the relationships between states, it regulates the relationships between states and the individuals under their jurisdiction.1 However, the enforcement of human rights is, first and foremost, a domestic political, constitutional, and legal issue.2 Accordingly, states are the most important actors in the field of human rights, acting as both rights violators and/or rights protectors.3 Nonetheless, in the current world of global governance, civil society4 and international human rights institutions also play a leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights;5 human rights law, by its very nature, allows for politics to play a more prominent role.6

Assessing or quantifying the effectiveness of human rights bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies is a complex task.7 Some studies have found that international Human Rights Conventions and institutions alone lack the clout required to alter state behavior and prompt state compliance,8 and that compliance with international norms is often a result or "by-product" of domestic politics and institutions. …

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