The UN Human Rights Council: Its Roots and Evolution

Author: S. Lyapichev

There is nothing like dream to create the future.

Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow.

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, 1862

FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN YEARS ago, on 17 February 1600 Giordano Bruno, with an iron spiked gag in his mouth was brought to the Campo dei' Fiori to be burnt at the stake for free thinking.1 Chained to the stake he was tied with damp ropes which, having dried in the fire shrank and cut into the flesh.2 His death was no less shocking than his ideas.

Dying at the stake Giordano Bruno never suspected that in the 21st century "freedom of opinion and expression through any media" would be guaranteed by Art 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights3; Art 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 4 and Art 21 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic.5 He could never imagine that the Italian legislature would ratify Protocol 13 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms6 which completely abolished the death penalty for all crimes, a mere formality in the country in which capital punishment had been last administered in 1947. In 2007, Premier of Italy Romano Prodi and Marcello Spatafora, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN initiated a universal moratorium on the death penalty.7 Today, Italy would have been brought to the European Court on Human Rights for the execution of citizen Bruno and would have been held accountable by the Universal Periodic Review under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

At the turn of the 17th century, however, freedom of speech and a ban

Semyon Lyapichev, Third Secretary, Department for Ties with the Subjects of Federation, the Parliament and Public Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

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on capital punishment were unimaginable luxuries for the simple reason that the concept of human rights is developing ...

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