ESCR-Net letter to the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On 23 September, ESCR-Net sent a letter to the Coordinating Committee of the United Nations Special Procedures to express concern regarding statements issued by members of the parliament (MPs) of the United Kingdom following a preliminary report from an official mission to that country by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik.

The letter, sent on behalf of ESCR-Net's collective membership, denouced the personal, petty, and in some cases racist and sexist, attacks against the Special Rapporteur amplified by some popular British news outlets (for example, The Guardian and The Daily Mail) and argued that public statements like these threaten to undermine the Special Procedures mechanism and the critical work of its mandate-holders, who should be recognized in their capacity as human rights defenders.

ESCR-Net called on the Coordinating Committee to issue a strong statement to the Government of the UK regarding recent remarks made against Ms. Rolnik following her official mission, in recognition that these statements contribute to an environment that enables States to ignore the diligent work of reputable human rights experts. The letter also called attention to a troubling new trend, reflected in positions stated by several representatives of higher-income countries, that suggests that economic and social rights are issues of concern only for developing countries, and not for affluent states.

Noting that these statements are particularly troubling in light of the upcoming appointments of new mandate-holders, and risk discouraging qualified candidates, ESCR-Net called on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  (OHCHR) to take all necessary steps to defend Ms. Rolnik and other human rights defenders who are carrying out their mandates under the Human Rights Council.

Following the transmission of this letter, the Chair of the Coordinating Committee replied, thanking ESCR-Net for its communication and providing assurances that steps are being taken by the OHCHR to address this troubling incident.

ESCR-Net transmitted this collective letter consistent with the Guidelines for Urgent Action Appeals which  specify the protocols for certain procedures followed under ESCR-Net's System of Solidarity and Support (SOS).

 For more information, see the full letter here.