Day 2 – Benedict Coyne – Human Writes Human Rights Blog – Trip to Geneva for Australia’s Second Universal Periodic Review November 2015

Flying into Geneva over the lake

Welcome to Geneva 🙂

Stunning view from Claire Mahon’s kitchen window over Palais des Wilson, the OHCHR, Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc in the background

Global Human Rights Clinic

Global Human Rights Clinic & Global Human Rights Consultants – Rue des Butini 16

Discussing international human rights strategies and the UPR with Claire Mahon (Australian lawyer and founder/director Global Human Rights Consultants/Clinic)


During the flight to Geneva I got thinking and wrote the reflections below (in the next post) on the Australian Government’s Report for its Second Universal Periodic Review in the hope to stimulate some discussion on this blog.

Flying in over Lake Geneva, the Swiss Alps featuring the magnificence of a snow capped Mont Blanc was simply spectacular – crystal clear air and the autumn sun shimmering on Lake Geneva below. Hard not to wax lyrical when coming in for landing at the heart of modern international civilisation when it looks so stunning.

I checked into my Air BnB at Rue des Vollandes right near the lake with a lovely Swiss family who live above the bibliotheque publique and went out to enjoy the Sunday afternoon sun with the throngs of people walking along the lake.

What excitement for this far-fetched antipodean to see street signs announcing “France” is just around the next corner J tres bien! Yet this lazy-Aussie-linguist wishes his French were un peu more polished – alas the tyranny of distance, (but that’ a well worn excuse including for our moral exceptionalism to the UN).

There was a tentative plan to catch up with Les Malezer (National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples) and Professor Sarah Joseph & Marius Smith (Castan Centre for Human Rights) and others from the Australian NGO contingent. I went directly to visit my wonderful colleague Claire Mahon, an Australian lawyer who started her own consultancy in Geneva some years ago, Global Human Rights Group, and related NGO, Global Human Rights Clinic. I had never met Claire in person but we have been in contact over the years of Facebook and Linked In and we worked on a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health about Australia opening a detention centre on Manus Island which is known to be home to one of the most aggressive forms of malaria amongst other highly significant health and human rights concerns.

Claire has been based in Geneva for about 12 years and often works on advising UN Special Rapporteurs and NGOs from various countries about strategic assessments of opportunities to use UN mechanisms and international organisations to address particular human rights concerns. Her apartment is equally inspiring with a kitchen window view over Palais des Wilson, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (the position currently occupied by Prince Zeid of Jordan), a panorama of Lake Geneva backed by the looming luminescence of Mont Blanc. Simply stunning!

Claire’s appartment is also a drop-in centre/Air BnB for various /academics/lawyers and students interning for international organisations – there was an Irish lady interning at UPR Info as well as an academic from Curtin University who is completing her PhD at UWA on a comparative analysis of the UPR versus other UN treaty body mechanisms.

We talked for hours about Australia’s UPR tomorrow as well as concocting other interesting and exciting plans going forward. We also discussed the Australian government’s ongoing recalcitrant disrespect for UN processes and mechanisms and embarrassingly they exceptionally never send Ministers as delegations to UN Treaty Bodies and the UPR whereas all other countries do, including the USA.

Apparently, the UN Treaty Bodies always make note of this when Australia sends its sub-par delegations to present before the Treaty Body Committees. It is a rather remarkable state of affairs and in fact apparently neither Attorney General Brandis nor Foreign Minister Bishop will be present at the UPR tomorrow and the Australian delegation is being led by DRAFT representative John Reid.

We also discussed setting up an international arm of ALHR and getting the ball rolling on obtaining ECOSOC status for ALHR as we increase our attendance at UN events in Geneva.

After a very exciting day and discussions I smacked straight into that pleasant wall of jet lag and had to alight into the night to catch some zees ready for an exciting day tomorrow.