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Government position on ICESCR explained


In response to media enquires concerning views expressed by some members of the UN Committee on an article relating to the ICESCR hearing published in several papers today, Government spokesman gave the following reply.

"The informal meeting comprised exchange of views between Hong Kong NGOs and Members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. During the meeting, NGOs drew the Committee's attention to the Secretary of Home Affairs' article that appeared in local newspapers on 26 April. They asked the Committee to take particular note of the statement that the UN treaty monitoring bodies are not courts and that their recommendations are not binding in international law. Some Members of the Committee said that the UN Committees were established by the UN with authority to monitor and interpret the treaties under their purview. The legal effect of their interpretations and recommendations flowed from that authority.

The purpose of the article by SHA was to explain to the Hong Kong Community the nature of the obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the reporting process. It also emphasised the progress that has been made in protecting human rights under Hong Kong law since the last hearing.

Since not all of the Committee's previous recommendations have been implemented, the article also discussed the effect of this. The views expressed on the legal effect of the Committee's recommendations were based partly on statements contained in the UN Manual on Human Rights Reporting. The Manual statements include the following -

' must stress that the Committees are neither courts nor quasi-judicial bodies...The Committees, as a result of the dialogue, do not issue a judgement regarding the degree of implementation of the provisions contained in the relevant instrument in the reporting State.

'The purpose of the dialogue is rather to assist the reporting State in the implementation of its treaty obligations...It is in this spirit that the members of the Committees raise issues of concern to them, ask their questions, and formulate their comments accordingly at the end of the consideration of a report.'

SHA's article emphasised that this was not meant to be a disrespect to the Committee. The SAR Government remains fully committed to take steps, to the maximum of its available resources, to achieve progressively the full realisation of the rights recognised in the Covenant."

End/Thursday, April 26, 2001


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