Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to Switzerland and the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva

Membership of The Bahamas on the Human Rights Council

Human right councilWhile Geneva is known as the “Peace capital”, in some corners, it is also dubbed the “human rights capital”. This is because it is home to the Headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the UN Human Rights Council and to other human rights bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. The Council is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Bahamas was elected to the Human Rights Council on 12 October 2018 for a three-year term which began on 1 January 2019 and will conclude on 31 December 2021. The Bahamas is the first English-speaking Caribbean country and the first member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to serve as a member of the Council, since the body’s establishment in 2006. The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution. Seats are distributed as follows: African States: 13 seats; Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats; Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats; Western European and other States: 7 seats and Eastern European States: 6 seats. Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

The Bureau of the Council comprises the President and four Vice Presidents. The Council Bureau is elected annually on the basis of regional/geographic rotation. H.E. Ambassador Keva L. Bain is serving as Vice-President of the Human Rights Council Bureau for 2021. Ambassador Bain’s candidacy was endorsed by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) and she was elected by the Council by acclamation on 16 December 2020. She is the first CARICOM national to serve on the Bureau of the HRC.
Ambassador Bain has also been selected to serve as Chair of the Task Force on Accessibility within the Bureau for 2021. The objective of this role is to enhance the participation of persons with disabilities, in accordance with international standards, in the work of the Council and of its mechanisms.

The Council undertakes a variety of activities on an annual basis including three main Sessions held in February/March, in June/July and in September/October. These Sessions serve as a forum for dialogue and discussion on the global human rights situation. Emergency Special Sessions and Urgent Debates may also be held at the request of States in response to emerging human rights situations of concern. The Council also convenes three (3) annual Sessions of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States by peer States, approximately once every four years. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. The three two-week long Sessions of the UPR are convened annually, in January, May and November.

The Ambassador/Permanent Representative and Diplomatic officers of the Mission serve as The Bahamas’ representatives during the various ongoing Sessions and activities of the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms, with technical instruction and guidance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In some instances, senior delegations from the Foreign Ministry and/or other relevant line agencies also attend these meetings in Geneva, all in an effort to advance the national interests in these important international fora.

Human Rights Treaty Bodies

The Bahamas is a Party to nine (9) Human Rights Treaties, namely the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC-OP-AC); Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography (CRC-OP-SC) and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The implementation, by States Parties, of their legal obligations under each treaty is monitored by a dedicated Treaty Body, comprised of elected human rights experts from all regions of the world.

Bahamian national, Ms. Marion Bethel is currently serving her second consecutive term (2021-2024) as a Member of the CEDAW Committee, which monitors the implementation of that Convention. Ms. Bethel is the first Bahamian national to serve on a human rights treaty body.