Human Rights Council orders study on impact of casualty recording

The UN Human Rights Council held its 50th regular session from 13th June to 8th July 2022. This session marked a particular milestone for the field of casualty recording, as it resulted in the adoption of a resolution requesting a detailed official study into the impact of casualty recording on human rights.

ECC has been working for several years with diplomats in Geneva to raise international awareness of the importance of casualty recording, and to build support for organisations involved in this field of work. These efforts have resulted in references to casualty recording being included in several previous Council resolutions, including in relation to Syria, Myanmar and prevention of genocide. Growing political support also led to the creation of a Core Group on Casualty Recording. This is a small, cross-regional group of states committed to leading international discussion on the topic.

The resolution on Importance of casualty recording for the promotion and protection of human rights (A/HRC/50/11) is a major step forward in international political recognition of casualty recording as a field. It explicitly recognises the direct relevance of casualty recording to various internationally recognised human rights. This is the first step towards ensuring casualty recording itself is recognised as a legal obligation of all states. This would create clear, verifiable requirements for states to support, facilitate and conduct casualty recording.

The Core Group on Casualty Recording, led by Costa Rica, Croatia, Liechtenstein and Sierra Leone, conducted extensive outreach on the draft text of the resolution before the Council session began. ECC also participated extensively in the process of developing the draft and in the debates on the text. There were three informal negotiation sessions over the course of two weeks, which were all well-attended and collaborative.

There was a high level of support for the text and the overall concept of casualty recording, despite some diverging views regarding whether it was a human rights issue or a matter for international humanitarian law. Some states were concerned that these two fields of international law should be kept distinct. However, the majority view was that casualty recording was clearly a matter relevant to both fields of law and it was entirely appropriate for the issue to be addressed at the Council. Some delegations also expressed hesitations concerning language in the text recognises the Right to Truth. However, expert diplomacy by the Core Group meant that the resolution was adopted by consensus by the Council.

The resolution requests that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) prepare a study on the impact of casualty recording on the promotion and protection of human rights. In preparing the study, OHCHR has been asked to consult with states, UN entities, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, and national human rights institutions. The study will be conducted over the coming year and will be presented to the Council at its 53rd regular session, scheduled for June 2023.

The purpose of the study is to formally bring the work of casualty recorders to the attention of the international community, and to demonstrate its importance and impact. Once the study is published, it will support advocacy to secure further commitments from states to support casualty recording and casualty recording organisations. This is a critical opportunity to strengthen work in this field.

ECC will be conducting a series of webinars and other events to facilitate the involvement of CRN members in the study. We are in contact with OHCHR staff regarding their plans and timeline for the study and will share more information with CRN members soon. If you have any questions in the meantime please send them to .

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