Human Rights: a Media Guide to the new UN independent experts

By | 4 August 2010

Geneva – From summary executions and involuntary disappearances to freedom of religion or belief, education, toxic waste and the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a group of international human rights experts, took over their mandates on 1 August 2010, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to Special Procedures mandates.

Who are they? What is expected of them? And how can you contact them?

Freedom of religion:
Heiner Bielefeldt (Germany), the new Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, is currently Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and was the Director of the German Institute for Human Rights. Mr. Bielefeldt’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. He replaces Ms. Asmar Jahangir from Pakistan.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate:
Contact: Nathalie Rondeux (Tel: +41 22 917 9251 / email: ) and Michael Weiner (Tel: +41 22 917 9159 / email: ) or write to .

The new Special Rapporteur on the right to education is Kishore Singh (India). Mr. Singh holds a PhD in International Law from the Sorbonne University of Paris. He worked at the Division for Human Rights and the Education Sector of UNESCO, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on aspects of the right to education. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to ensure that this right is internationally recognized as a human right. He replaces Mr. Vernor Muñoz Villabos from Costa Rica.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate:
Contact: Thierry del Prado (Tel: +41 22 917 9232 / email: ) or write to .

Enforced Disappearances:
Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina/USA) is the new member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Mr. Dulitzky, who has a Master degree from the Harvard Law School, is currently the director of the Latin America Initiative and the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas. Mr. Dulitzky has worked with the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the International Human Rights Law Group, and the Center for Justice and International Law. He replaces Mr. Santiago Corcuera Cabezut from Mexico.

Earlier this year, Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina) joined the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Ms. Dzumhur, the first female member of the Working Group, has a Masters degree in Criminal Science from the University of Sarajevo. She is currently the Ombudsperson of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and previously worked for the International Commission on Missing persons and a number of international, regional and national bodies. Ms. Dzumhur has extensive experience in the field of missing persons and women’s rights. She replaces Mr. Darko Gottlicher from Croatia.

The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances:
Contact: Giovanna Zucchelli (Tel: +41 22 917 9189 / email: ) and Matías Pellado (Tel: +41 22 917 9336 / email: ) or write to .

Summary Executions:
Christof Heyns, the new Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, is Dean and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights for 6 years, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues. Mr. Heyns’ research interests include international human rights law and human rights law in Africa. Mr. Heyns replaces Mr. Phillip Alston of Australia.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate:
Contact: Ugo Cedrangolo (Tel: +41 22 917 9286 / email: ) and Pasipau Wadonda-Chirwa (Tel: +41 22 917 9252 / email: ) or write to .

Toxic Waste:
Calin Georgescu (Romania) is the new Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. Mr. Georgescu is the Director of the National Centre for Sustainable Development of Romania and a member of the Romanian National Committee for the UN Environment Programme. He also worked at UN Development Programme in Romania coordinating draft plans for sustainable development, and the Romanian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment. He replaces Mr. Okechukwu Ibeanu from Nigeria.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate:
Contact: Stefano Sensi (Tel: +41 22 917 9107 / email: ) or write to .

Faiza Patel (Pakistan) is the new member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. Ms. Patel studied International law at New York School of Law and was also Fellow of the Centre of International Studies at the University.  She worked in the Judges Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Ms. Patel replaces Ms. Shaista Shameem from Fiji.

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries:
Contact: Karin Lucke (Tel: +41 22 917 9134 / email: ) and Julie Tetard (Tel: +41 22 917 9603 / email: ) or write to .

People of African Descent:
Earlier this year, Verene Shepherd (Jamaica) joined the Working Group on People of African Descent. Ms. Shepherd has a PhD in History from Cambridge University and is a Professor of Social History at the University of the West Indies. She has published on slavery and gender issues. Ms. Shepherd established the Jamaica Centre for Research on Slavery, and is a board member of the Association for the Study of the World Wide African Diaspora. She presents the radio programme “Talking History,” a vehicle for airing human rights and other issues of interest to the Jamaican people. She replaces the late Mr. Ralston Nettleford of Jamaica.

The Working Group on People of African Descent:
Contact: Richard Clarke (Tel: +41 22 928 9874 / email: ) or write to .

Arbitrary Detention:
Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine) joined the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention earlier this year. He is a former professor in Criminal Procedure at Mechnikov National University in Odessa, and has authored over 30 professional publications on various subjects, including human rights. Mr Tochilovsky was an advisor for the Preparatory Committee for the International Criminal Court, and worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. His main area of interest is in human rights and criminal justice with a particular focus on persons deprived of their liberty. He replaces Mr. Aslan Abashidze of the Russian Federation.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:
Contact: Miguel de la Lama (Tel: +41 22 917 9289 / email: ) or write to .

Fatsah Ouguergouz (Algeria), the new Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi, holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Institute of International Law, Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Ouguergouz is currently a judge at the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania. He has worked at the International Court of Justice and the UN Office of Legal Affairs, and lectured at Yale Law School and other universities in Geneva, Paris, Washington. Mr. Ouguergouz is the author of numerous publications on international law, human rights, and the mechanisms for human rights protection in Africa, and has advised the African Union in this regard. He replaces Mr. Akich Okola of Kenya.

The Independent Expert on Burundi:
Contact: Françoise Mianda (Tel: +41 22 928 9591 / email: ) or write to

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:
Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, served for more than 20 years as a Member of Parliament in his country. Mr. Darusman has extensive knowledge on human rights protection mechanisms at the regional and international levels, and co-chairs the ASEAN Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. He is a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, and has served in various capacities at the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission. Mr. Darusman is a Law graduate from the Catholic University of Parahyangan Bandung, Indonesia. He replaces Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand.

The Special Rapporteur on DPRK:
Contact: Ajith Sunghay (Tel: +41 22 928 9353 / email: ) or write to .


“Special procedures” is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 31 thematic and 8 country mandates. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfillment of their mandates.

Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council:

Thematic mandates:

Country mandates:

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