I am in Geneva today, attending the Human Rights Council session. Something very exciting is about to begin. I am referring to the Universal Periodic Review process, which was originally called for by Kofi Annan in his report entitled In Larger Freedom.
A first group of countries, including India, the UK, Bahrain and others is scheduled to begin presenting their reports as part of the Universal Periodic Review process in two weeks. Check out the website for this: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/Pages/HumanRightsBodies.aspx.
The country itself submits a report. The Office of the High Commissioner prepares a brief compilation of UN materials on the country, including material from the special rapporteurs and so on. And they also prepare a 'stakeholders' summary, which is UN speak for what we mere mortals know as non-governmental organisations (well, it includes national commissions too). All of it is available on the website. I am told that they also post the submissions by NGOs, but I couldn't find this.
These documents constitute a fabulous resource for studying the human rights situation in a given country. Over the next four years, every State will have to submit. The basis is human rights obligations in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and specific treaties. Which means just about everything. In other words, the US will have to talk about economic and social rights (even though it has refused to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), and China will have to talk about the death penaltz (even though it has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
The next big step is the actual presentation of the reports, which will be shown live on the UN website. We will see how robust the discussion is, and whether it really puts the country on the spot. When the UK comes up, on 10 April, the test will be to see whether it makes the first few pages of The Guardian and The Times. We will expect to see the government being grilled about using Diego Garcia and other places for CIA rendition flights. There is no issue of jurisdiction, really, although I'd be surprised if anyone asks the British about Iraq.