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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
26 June 2015

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.  It also concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms. 

In the debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers stressed their commitment to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and highlighted its unique contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide.  They underlined the importance of implementation of the recommendations.  Speakers expressed views regarding ways to strengthen the process, including mid-term reporting as a mean to provide further accountability, concrete and action oriented recommendations, and limitation of the number of recommendations made by States. 

Joachim Ruecker, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the participation of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review was well-established and condemned any acts of reprisal against civil society organizations.  Such cases were taken extremely seriously by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was in contact with concerned Member States. 

Speaking were Latvia on behalf of the European Union, Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Morocco, Montenegro, China, Paraguay, Maldives, Albania, India, Iran, Trinidad and Tobago, Angola and Burkina Faso. 

UPR-Info, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, International Service for Human Rights, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Sudwind, Alsalam Foundation, Amnesty International, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Indian Council of South America, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Maarij for Peace and Development and International Fellowship of Reconciliation also took the floor. 

Maldives spoke in a right of reply. 

At the beginning of the meeting, the Human Rights Council concluded its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms. 

Speaking were Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Federacion des Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Agence Internationale pour le Développement, Il Cenacolo, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Associazione Papa Giovanni XVIII, International Muslim Women’s Union, Rencoutre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Indian Council of South America, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Servas International, Association of World’s Citizens, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grands Lacs, Human Rights Law Center, International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and Organization for Defending Victims of Violence.

The Council will resume its work on Monday, 29 June at 9 a.m. to hold an individual interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, followed by a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture regretted the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen and the suffering of 21 million Yemenis as a result of the catastrophic deterioration of humanitarian conditions.  Yemen was a step away from experiencing a real famine because of the coalition’s blockade.  The Council should give its full attention to the situation in Yemen.

Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos drew the attention of the Council to the need for the right to peace to be respected.  That point should receive the fullest attention.  Western Sahara had been on the decolonization list since 1963.  The European Union through Spanish companies continued to illegally exploit maritime resources of Western Sahara. 

Arab Commission for Human Rights said the work of the business and human rights forum was lagging.  No accredited president had been elected to chair it.  Western countries refused to adopt a declaration on the right of people to self-determination.  The most notable example of a people that had been denied self-determination was the Palestine people.

Agence Internationale pour le Développement said that there was a need to improve overall cooperation between States and mandate holders.  Women living in Indian-occupied Kashmir were victims of violence at the hands of Indian forces and were subjected to rape and other cruel practices; more than 9,000 women of all ages were victims of this violence.

Il Cenacolo said that in the vast territory of Western Sahara everything had to be built to overcome the challenges of the desert.  Since 1976, Morocco had set up a number of programmes to overcome the backwardness of the region, and had provided electricity and roads for all, making it a place in which it was good to live.

BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights expressed deep concern about the illusory access to justice that Palestinian victims of business-related violations had in the Israeli domestic legal system, and said that companies operating within Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories might be accomplices in violations of international law. 

Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, on behalf of severals NGOs1, said that the United Nations’ seventy-year anniversary was a historic opportunity to recognize the right to peace and urged all States to approve the adoption of an instrument on the right to peace as a fundamental human right.  Pope Francis had said that with all the conflicts going on, the world had stepped in a third world war, thus making the right to peace all the more important.

International Muslim Women’s Union said that the situation of women and children in Kashmir was deplorable.  More than 9,000 women of all ages had become victims of gang rape and molestation.  This situation had started from Kunan Poshpora, a village in the northern district of Kupwara, where on 23 February 1991 troops had gang raped 53 women. 

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme said that access to medicines was a human right, however many medicines were overpriced and therefore out of reach for many citizens in the developing world.  Creating a policy of divide and rule would not bring peace or success in negotiations.  In Sri Lanka, people did not enjoy their right to peace. 

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain referred to the situation of women in Saudi Arabia and to recommendations made by Special Procedures of the Council in this regard.  Women suffered discrimination, guardianship, lack of public representation, and prohibition of driving, among others.  Saudi Arabia should take seriously recommendations made to it during its Universal Periodic Review.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom referred to the draft declaration on the right to peace and regretted that the involvement of women was not sufficiently addressed.   It regretted that some States did not recognize the right to peace as a human right, and underlined the importance of the right to peace to address the root causes of conflicts. 

Indian Council of South America welcomed the presentation of the Social Forum report and welcomed that civil society concerns had been taken into account, including regarding intellectual property.  It raised concerns about drug policies that criminalized indigenous medicines and called for the recognition of such medicine and of its potential benefits to humanity. 

Colombian Commission of Jurists stated that 10 million people died every year because they were denied access to medicine.  Measures should be adopted to improve supply chains, and to ensure that human rights were more important than trade.  The issue of access to medicine exhibited how trade and the right to life and health clashed.  The blockade of generic medicines had to be lifted.

Servas International spoke about the importance and priority of the right to peace in the promotion of human rights.  International cooperation was the only way to ensure the right to peace.  The right to peace was a necessity to give voice to everyone’s needs.  It was essential to foster an international environment without discrimination and xenophobia.

Association of World Citizens spoke of the need to involve private stakeholders in solving issues such as the famine in Sudan.  Pressure could be placed on corporations to prove that they were capable of practicing public affairs without self-interest.  The same could be done in dealing with the issue of access to water and sanitation.  

International Action for Peace and Development in the Great Lakes said that it regretted Norway’s failure to respect and follow procedures when initiating and implementing an investigation into Global Network for Rights and Development, an international non-governmental organization duly registered in Norway and working on human rights issues.

Human Rights Law Centre drew the Human Rights Council’s attention to Australia’s declining record in human rights, especially with regards to immigrants and human rights institutions.  Australian members of Government had verbally attacked the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, in response to his criticism of Australia’s violation of the rights of children in detention centres.

Comision Juridica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos - CAPAJ, said that there was no process of self-determination in the Human Rights Council and that the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council were not sufficient to address the denial of the right to self-determination.  It commended Pakistan’s recommendation that communications from indigenous peoples be given directly to the Committee and urged States to follow this example.

International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, in a joint statement with Global Network for rights and development (GNRD), welcomed the leading position of Norway in promoting and protecting human rights.   It however called on Norway to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption and to engage in global, regional and sub-regional cooperation among judicial, law enforcement and financial regulatory authorities in order to combat money laundering. 

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said the elimination of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction would contribute to the realization of the right to peace.  Israel continued its use of weapons to kill civilians, and was, with its allies, responsible for violating the right to peace in the Middle East.  This led to the creation of groups such as ISIS, which the international community had to stop through all necessary measures.  


Documentation

The Council has before it the report on the operations of the Voluntary Trust Fund for Participation in the Universal Periodic Review - Report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/29/21)

The Council has before it the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the operations of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/29/22)

Statement by the President of the Council

JOACHIM RUECKER, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the participation of civil society was well established in relevant Council resolutions, which strongly prescribed against any action against civil society organizations’ activities.  He added that he was seized of the new cases of reprisals which recently underwent the review process.  Those cases were taken extremely seriously by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was in contact with concerned Member States in order to ensure that no acts were taken against civil society organizations there.

General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

Latvia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, extended its strong support for the Universal Periodic Review as it had the potential to make a true difference on the ground and contribute to achieving the full realization of human rights for all.  European Union Member States were determined to ensure the implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations within their own borders, and were committed to raising those recommendations in bilateral relations. 

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, attached great importance to the participation of all States in the Universal Periodic Review.  The African Group remained committed to the Universal Periodic Review because it was the perfect mechanism for cooperation between States.  It should be transparent, objective and impartial, and the interactive dialogue should be only carried out to promote the goals of the process.  The African Group congratulated African countries which had regularly and systematically participated in the process.

Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, condemned terrorist attacks that took place today, and underlined the opportunity that the Universal Periodic Review constituted to promote dialogue on human rights, identify challenges and shortcomings, and lead to reforms.  The Arab Group stressed the importance of the mechanism in strict compliance with the rules of procedures and with the principles of neutrality and objectivity.  The implementation of recommendations was key, and relied not only on the quality of recommendations but also on political will. 

Morocco addressed condolences to Tunisia, Kuwait and France for terrorist attacks today.  The Universal Periodic Review should lead to constructive debates on human rights.  It was a transparent mechanism based on cooperation.  Morocco welcomed the positive outcomes of the two first cycles and the improvements they led to worldwide.  Morocco underlined the importance of States making only two recommendations per intervention.  Morocco supported the issuance of a mid-term review by States, on a voluntary basis. 

Montenegro strongly believed that the Universal Periodic Review enabled human rights to be treated globally in a fair and equal manner, and underlined the importance of concrete and action-oriented recommendations, of avoiding duplication and overlap of recommendations, and of limiting the number of recommendations made by States.  Mid-term reporting was becoming an important part of the mechanism, providing further accountability. 

China said the Universal Periodic Review was the best channel and platform to discuss human rights differences among countries.  China supported the principles of non-confrontational spirit and non-politicization in this process, as well as full and prior consultation with countries.   China urged the Human Rights Council and Member States to look at the specificities of small island States.  While improving efficiency, China hoped that a more robust budget would be ensured for the Universal Periodic Review in order to ensure the smooth promotion of human rights.

Paraguay reiterated its support of the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity when considering the human rights situation of a State.  There were two elements that would strengthen the Universal Periodic Review.  The first was national follow-up of the recommendations, and the second was the capacity of States to show a systematic picture of progress.  Funds were essential, and therefore Paraguay urged States to support the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance. 

Maldives said that it had recently completed its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review which was an important achievement for a country facing huge challenges.  Maldives welcomed the assistance provided to States through the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.   It encouraged small island developing States and least developed countries with limited resources and capacity constraints to utilize these funds in implementing their Universal Periodic Review commitments.
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Albania shared the opinion that the Universal Periodic Review was a universal mechanism during which human rights records of all countries were reviewed in the spirit of constructive dialogue and cooperation, adding value to the mandate of the Human Rights Council.  It commended the engagement of States to submit mid-term reports as an excellent additional opportunity to continue dialogue between different stakeholders.

India reiterated the usefulness of the Universal Periodic Review and that it should be kept vibrant by treating all countries equally.  It commended the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting States in their engagement with the process.  India would continue to participate in the process and expressed hope that all attempts of projecting political agendas during the process would be avoided. 

Iran noted that the Universal Periodic Review was a cooperative mechanism, based on interactive dialogue, universal coverage and equal treatment of all States.  It should be carried out with the full involvement of the countries under review.  While rejecting the selectivity and manipulation of United Nations human rights machinery, Iran believed that the Universal Periodic Review was a unique mechanism to monitor human rights situations across the globe.

Trinidad and Tobago presented progress it achieved since its first Universal Periodic Review, including relating to gender equality and access to health.  The second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review would take place in May 2016.  The Government of Trinidad and Tobago was already conducting consultations and would engage fully in the process. 

Angola said the Universal Periodic Review was a mechanism that had special importance as it was a non-selective mechanism.  Angola supported strengthened cooperation with human rights mechanisms, and welcomed technical support provided by the Office of the High Commissioner as well as initiatives to support Portuguese-speaking countries’ engagement in the process. 

Burkina Faso said the Universal Periodic Review was an important tool, and encouraged States to follow-up and implement recommendations they had accepted.  Burkina Faso underlined the importance of sharing good-practices for the implementation of recommendations.  Burkina Faso would submit a mid-term review, and explained that it had put programmes in place for following-up on recommendations. 

UPRInfo stated that reports were important tools to ensure a fair and objective review of a country’s human rights situation, and contained useful information and updates on the implementation of previous recommendations.  UPRInfo had analyzed 84 national reports from Session 13 to 19 in order to identify best practices.  Only half of the States actually reported on all accepted recommendations, however, and only one third of countries reported on voluntary pledges.  UPRInfo encouraged States to do better in reporting on implementation and in meeting with civil society actors and reporting on these consultations.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan welcomed the Universal Periodic Review as an additional tool to ensure States’ compliance with international human rights standards, but wished to emphasize that there were still many challenges that had to be overcome to make it an effective mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Of key concern was the lack of follow-up on States’ implementation of recommendations after adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes.

International Service for Human Rights said that the Universal Periodic Review provided an opportunity to States to accept recommendations and demonstrate serious intent to protect civil society.  The Service called on States to accept and implement recommendations for the protection and the investigation of violations against defenders.  It was crucial that States receiving recommendations implemented them as a matter of priority.  Therefore States were urged to regularly follow up on implementation, both bilaterally as well as through the Human Rights Council. 

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture drew the Council’s attention to the grave humanitarian situation in Yemen.  Due to the war and blockade, there was famine.  The military alliance led by Saudi Arabia prohibited the provision of medical supplies.  Therefore an investigation on that issue should be carried out.  Food stuffs and medicines should be allowed to enter Yemen. 

Sudwind encouraged the Council to actively work to ensure that the review process was free of politicization.  There were still some States that did not respond to their peers’ recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review session.  The recommendations were too often unclear as to what measures the accepting countries had to take into account.  Furthermore, States’ partial acceptance of recommendations made it difficult to ascertain their commitment.

Alsalam Foundation expressed concern over the Gulf Council countries’ implementation of recommendations made during the review process.   For example, although recommendations were made to Bahrain regarding torture and unfair trials, their implementation had worsened in the interim period.  There was harassment of human rights defenders.  They were tried in court on charges of terrorism.  A follow-up mechanism had to be introduced.

Amnesty International, in reaction to the fact that it was not given the permission to speak during the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Grenada, expressed its disappointment over this unexpected change of practice that caused it to lose its speaking slot.  It then referred to the human rights situation in Grenada, calling for the adoption of a de jure moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its abolition.  It also expressed concerns about discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Grenada.   

Arab Commission for Human Rights said the Universal Periodic Review was a major success of the Council.  The spirit for the creation of a national report had to include all stakeholders, including the government, parliament and civil society organizations.  It underlined the importance of increasing technical assistance and greater coordination between the Universal Periodic Review and other human rights mechanisms.  It demanded that a time-limit be implemented, and that outcomes be translated in all United Nations languages. 

Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said countries facing conflict situations faced challenges in engaging with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and implementing recommendations, and called for a coherent use of contribution funds.  It then welcomed the adoption of the outcome report of Turkey, and encouraged it to take further measures to address challenges faced by women, children, migrants, and other minorities. 

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said Oman had not implemented the recommendations that it had received four years ago.  It was concerned that Oman had failed to lift restrictions on public gatherings.  There was a growing trend of reprisals against prominent human rights defenders, and increased restrictions on freedom of expression and on public political participation of parliamentary candidates who were accused of moral misconduct. 

Indian Council of South America praised Pakistan for raising the case of Alaska and Hawaii and called upon the United States not to side-track its international law obligations by answering its deficiencies using domestic law. The violations of Alaska and Hawaii and the Dakotas violated the Constitution of the United States and its international obligations.  Alaska and Hawaii had been placed on the list of the General Assembly Resolution 66 (1) in 1946 and had been removed with a false and misleading report that was rife with violations of the United Nations Decolonization process that had been used.

Columbian Commission of Jurists said that Columbia had rejected a number of recommendations to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  Torture persisted in Columbia, and sexual violence against women and children was high.  There were also allegations about police mistreatment, and overcrowding in prisons, as well as weakness of health facilities there.  The use of punishment cells in detention centres for minors was also of concern.

Maarij for Peace and Development expressed concern over the latest incident concerning a strong and active human rights organization, Global Network for Rights and Development, which was raided by the Norwegian police.  Such actions could be expected in a country with a totalitarian regime, but not in a country with strong democracy.

International Fellowship of Reconciliation said it wanted to speak during the Universal Periodic Review of Turkey regarding the issue of conscientious objection to military service. Turkey was the only country which did not recognize that right.  It notoriously failed to take into consideration recommendations made to dealing with those cases where persons refused to perform military service.

Right of Reply 

Maldives, speaking in a right of reply, noted that the Government had placed no restrictions on the National Commission for Human Rights to participate in the review process, or on its ability to submit reports to the United Nations and other international bodies.  

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1Joint statement: Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of The Good Shepherd, Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Institute of Global education, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale – OCAPROCE Internationale, Pax Romana (International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs and International Movement of Catholic Students), and IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC15/090E