Highlights of the Session
The 1997 session of the Sub-Commission marked a crucial point in its history. The Sub-Commission had been severely criticized by its parent body the Commission on Human Rights for neglecting its primary function as a think-tank as well as for its lack of independence and expertise. Some countries such as Germany and the United States had raised the possibility of doing away with the Sub-Commission. Furthermore, half of the members of the Sub-Commission had arrived at the end of their four-year mandate and some of them were concerned about being re-elected. These factors created a certain amount of tension within the Sub-Commission. It should be noted that
Mr. Jos BengoaÕs excellent chairmanship of the Sub-Commission allowed it to conduct its work with a certain degree of effectiveness.
In addition, the Sub-Commission was operating under new procedures by which it could not take action on country situations which already had been the object of action by the Commission on Human Rights (Commission resolution 1997/22 and Sub-Commission resolution 1996.115) This meant that the Sub-Commission could not take action on country situations such as those in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Burundi, Rwanda and former Zaire) which had been subject of action at the Commission.
Despite the new procedure, the experts from Cuba, India, Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria drafted a text on the situation in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel (already dealt with by the Commission) justifying their initiative as a consequence of the new serious events, which occurred in the region during the last months. It was only after long procedural discussions that the proposal was rejected by a secret vote.
Regional or ideological solidarity continued to pervade the debate on draft resolutions under agenda item 2(Question of human rights violations in all countries) especially the resolution on the Democratic PeopleÕs Republic of Korea. The resolution on Bahrain was adopted following the strategic absence of Mr. Guiss (expert from Senegal) at the time of the vote. This represented somewhat of a victory for the Western group of experts whose resolutions on Algeria and Turkey had been defeated.
The Sub-Commission recommended to the Commission on Human Rights the appointment of four new Special Rapporteurs to conduct studies on the following issues: privatization of prisons, right to leave any country including his/her own and to return, terrorism, implications of scientific progress on the human rights of the individual.