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Deutscher Bundestag
Parliamentary bodies dealing with human rights :
Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid

Type of parliamentary body Multifunctional
Nature Permanent
Related to chambers Deutscher Bundestag
Date of creation Permanent Committee of the German Bundestag since 1998 (previously - a sub-committee of the Committee on Foreign Affairs).
Last renewal date
Mandate Its aim is to help stop violations and avert threats to human rights - both in Germany and also at the international level. The Committee also discusses ways of ensuring respect for minority rights and the persistent challenges that are associated with humanitarian aid.
Membership The Committee is composed of 16 members of the Bundestag. All of them are nominated by their parliamentary groups, according to their respective numbers of seats in the Bundestag. The SPD and CDU/CSU parliamentary groups each have six members, while the FDP parliamentary group has two members, the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary groups have one member and the leftist parliamentary group has one member as well. All of them are members of the Committee for the legislative term.
Working methods The agenda is set by the Chair. Like all the other committees of the German Bundestag, it discusses draft laws and motions put forward by parliamentary groups, the Bundesrat or the Federal Government. Other major items of business are government reports and documents for the attention of the Bundestag. While the Committee normally meets behind closed doors, it can also hold public hearings. The committees are relatively free to organise their work and draw up their agenda. There are, however certain common rules of procedure which every committee must follow; for example rapporteurs must familiarise themselves thoroughly with the content and main political points of the bill. They must also consider statements relevant to the bill, read specialist literature in the relevant field and take into account the wishes and demands of interest groups as well as opinions in the press concerning the bill.
Relations with other parliamentary bodies There is close interaction with other parliamentary bodies for draft laws and motions but these are discussed both in the committee responsible and other (sub-)committees which have been asked for an opinion. As a result, the Committee makes a recommendation which is discussed and put to vote in a sitting of the German Bundestag.
Relations with external bodies From the outset the Committee has met with a positive response from politicians at home and abroad, as well as from national and international human rights groups. These non-governmental organisations (NGOs) seek to engage in dialogue with Committee members in order to inform them about the human rights situation in individual countries or specific issues. These exchanges take place either in the form of private hearings in the course of a regular Committee meeting, or in detailed discussions held outside Committee meetings with MPs interested in specific issues. The members of the Committee were involved in intensive discussions with human rights and other experts on all central topics. In addition to the four public hearings listed below (topical issues) and to regular briefings given to the Committee by government representatives, more than 100 discussions with experts were held both inside and outside the Committee meetings. The close and target-orientated cooperation with human rights organisations and humanitarian aid agencies was of major importance. A lively and effective exchange of ideas took place, with, amongst others, numerous non-governmental organisations, UN organisations, diplomats and well-known figures. Alongside numerous high-ranking guests, for instance, the Committee welcomed the Dalai Lama in June 1999. The results of this discussion were fed into the cross-party motion on "human rights and developments in Tibet" (Printed Paper 14/8782), which was adopted by the German Bundestag on 18 April 2002.
Subjects dealt with The Committee's work covers a broad spectrum of topics. In the 92 meetings held during the legislative period 1998 - 2002 and in 66 meetings held during 2002 - 2005, the members of the Committee deliberated on items of both international and domestic policy. In general terms, the Committee is involved in further developing national, European and international instruments to safeguard human rights, as well as examining the political and legal implications of human rights infringements, non-State persecution (public hearing on 29 November 1999), economic, social and cultural rights (public hearing on 23 October 2000), instruments and measures to combat torture (public hearing on 17 October 2001), human rights in the war against terrorism (public hearing on 12 June 2002), the death penalty, women's rights (with particular emphasis on female genital mutilation, honour killings), the reinforcement of children's rights (sex tourism, child prostitution), national immigration policy, racism, national and international conditions of custody and press freedom. The deliberations of the Committee also focused on humanitarian aid in crisis regions (including Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Southeast Asia after the tsunami). The deliberations further covered international and national conditions of custody, as well as an international ban on the death penalty. Observation of the humanitarian and human rights situation in individual countries and regions plays a central part in the Committee's work. In this context, the Committee ensures that it is regularly briefed on the current situation in Afghanistan, China, Latin America, the Middle East and Turkey, for instance. The Committee's efforts to achieve a moratorium on the deportation of Chechen refugees can be regarded as successful. In April 2002, the Committee called on both the Berlin Senate and the Conference of Ministers of the Interior to order a suspension of deportations until the domestic situation in Chechnya had stabilised and clarifications had been achieved with regard to alternatives for those seeking refuge. The Committee also played a decisive role in the establishment of the German Institute for Human Rights. The following are but some examples of where the Committee's action was crucial: the Parliament, on the basis of the opinion of the Committee regarding the first report on arms exports, called on the Federal Government to, inter alia, to include information on the export of dual use goods and potential torture implements in its report in future. A major success was achieved in the area of non-State and gender-specific persecution. The Committee's recommendation for a resolution helped to ensure that a clause with special rules for hardship cases was included in the Immigration Act and that this Act recognised gender-specific persecution as grounds for asylum. The Committee's opinion and judgement were also fed into the parliamentary resolutions regarding the Bundeswehr deployment in Macedonia. The original mandate did not adequately ensure the protection of civilians. The comments of the Committee led to appropriate provisions being included in the mandate. The motion on the "worldwide fight against and banning of torture" (Printed Paper 14/8488) was deliberated upon by the Committee in March 2002 and adopted unanimously by the Bundestag. This resolution was the result of an expert hearing held by the Committee following calls by Amnesty International for an anti-torture campaign. As the result of a visit by a delegation to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Committee was able to secure an increase in the budget funds allocated and also underlined the urgency of the situation with regard to basic health care and education measures, in particular for women and girls. On a more general note, it has become obvious that increased attention is being paid to issues of human rights and humanitarian aid in parliamentary deliberations. Public awareness of the Committee's work has grown significantly as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the escalating conflict in the Middle East and, in particular, the developments in Afghanistan. It should also be noted in this regard that in many areas, the Committee examined subjects before they attracted public interest. As early as May 2004 for instance, a Committee delegation drew attention, on its return from Afghanistan, to the disastrous humanitarian and human rights situation there. The situation in Sri Lanka, Tibet and Guantanamo Bay as well as the ICC, reports to UN human rights conventions and the human rights report of the government of Germany. Other issues that have been dealt with recently are : child soldiers, homophobia, gay and lesbians, human rights situation in Uzbekistan and Cuba, humanitarian aid, human rights situation of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities in Iran and Iraq, free press, national policies on human rights, condemnation of Laogai camps in China, human rights situation of homosexuals in Nigeria.
Main address Deutscher Bundestag
Ausschuss für Menschenrechte und Humanitäre Hilfe
Platz der Republik 1
11011 BERLIN
Phone +49 (0) 30 22 73 35 50
Fax +49 (0) 30 22 73 60 52
E-mail menschenrechtsausschuss@bundestag.de
Website http://www.bundestag.de
Name Ms. Herta Däubler-Gmelin
Notes Chairwoman
Name Mr. Holger Haibach
Notes Deputy Chairman
Name Ms. Andrea Kerstges
Notes Secretary
Address (if different from above)
Phone +49 30 22 73 35 50
Fax +49 30 22 73 60 51
E-mail menschenrechtsausschuss@bundestag.de
web site: ...
Name Mr. Rainer Büscher
Notes Assistant Secretary
Address (if different from above)
Phone +49 30 22 73 78 39
Fax +49 30 22 73 60 51
E-mail rainer.buescher@bundestag.de
web site: ...

Information on this page was last updated on 9 March 2009
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