HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOMES OF THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OF SAUDI ARABIA AND SENEGAL
19 March 2014
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia and Senegal. The adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of China was postponed to 20 March in the afternoon.
Bandar Bin Mohammed Alaiban, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said that of the 225 recommendations received, Saudi Arabia had accepted 188 and rejected 37. The recommendations dealt with more than 12 areas of human rights, including accession to international human rights instruments, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, upholding of the principle of public hearings, protection of the rights of migrant workers, and others. In the fight against domestic violence, the Kingdom issued a regulation on the protection of women, children and elderly from abuse, and women would participate in the coming municipal elections.
During the discussion on Saudi Arabia, speakers commended the openness of the Government and welcomed the reforms, including in the justice sector. They noted the establishment of the national human rights institution and the efforts to protect the rights of women, including through the criminalization of all forms of violence against women. Other speakers expressed concern about the persisting deplorable situation of women. The newly enacted terrorism law was too vague and allowed for restrictions on freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia should strengthen its legislative framework for the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground, improve the situation of women, and adopt a moratorium on the death penalty.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Montenegro, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Senegal, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Egypt spoke during the discussion on Saudi Arabia.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, Centre for Inquiry, Indian Council of South America, Amnesty international, United Nations Watch, Organization for Communication in Africa and Promotion of International Economic Cooperation, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, and Rencontre Africain pour la defense des droits de l’homme.
Sidiki Kaba, Minister of Justice of Senegal, said that during its second review Senegal received 185 recommendations, of which it accepted 142, rejected 14 and postponed 19. The pending enactment of the new criminal code and criminal procedural code would align Senegal’s legislation with international standards, and would considerably improve the protection of human rights, including the freedom of the press. Senegal was committed to further promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including their access to education, healthcare, transportation, employment, and social assistance services.
Speakers welcomed the various measures adopted by the Government of Senegal, in particular the rollout of the compulsory education and universal health care and the efforts to implement policies to address violence against women, improve the conditions of persons with disabilities and tackle impunity. The rate of maternal mortality was particularly high and it was critical that the Government took action to ensure the protection of women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights. A speaker expressed concern that the 2004 amnesty law deprived victims and their families from their right to redress, while another called for the abolition of corporal punishment, particularly against talibé children.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Senegal.
Speaking in the discussion on Senegal were Niger, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana and Burkina Faso.
Save the Children International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme also took the floor.
The adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of China was postponed to Thursday, 20 March in the afternoon, replacing Israel whose outcome has been postponed to Thursday, 27 March in the afternoon.
The Council will meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 20 March for a full-day of meetings. It will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria, Mexico and Mauritius during the morning meeting, followed by the consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Jordan, Malaysia and Central African Republic during the midday meeting, and the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of China, Belize and Chad in the afternoon.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia
BANDAR BIN MOHAMMED ALAIBAN, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said that Saudi Arabia had received 225 recommendations which had been submitted in more than 12 human rights areas; they had been studied first by the Human Rights Commission and then by a specifically established high-level panel, by academia and by men and women. Those consultative meetings had crystallized the national vision of human rights and had led to the full or partial acceptance of 188 recommendations, while 37 had been rejected. Of the accepted recommendations, 88 had been either implemented or were being currently implemented. Saudi Arabia had acceded to the International Labour Organization Convention N° 138 on minimum age for admission to employment and was considering accession to a number of other international instruments. Amendments had been made to the Criminal Procedure Code and the legal and Board of Grievances proceeding systems to provide sufficient guarantees to establish fairness and protect the rights of everyone. The judicial system gave great attention to the principle of public hearing which it considered one of the most important factors for achieving justice, so the Human Rights Commission continued to attend trials, together with the National Society for Human Rights and the media.
In the area of women’s and children’s rights and the fight against domestic violence, measures undertaken included the issuance of the regulation on protection from abuse. Women would be participating in the coming municipal elections which would contribute to the promotion of their role in political, economic and social life and would allow women to participate in decision-making. Several regulations had been adopted to promote the role of civil society, and a draft project on civil society organizations was under study. A comprehensive national plan had been prepared to ensure dissemination of a culture of human rights and programmes had been launched to raise the awareness on the rights of the most vulnerable such as women, children, migrant workers, the elderly and the disabled. The Kingdom appreciated the role of migrant workers and their contribution to the overall development and so was keen to create an appropriate and convenient working environment through laws, regulations and mechanisms to define their rights and duties. The most important development in this respect was the regulation of domestic workers and the like which clearly set the relationship between the employer and domestic worker. In closing, Saudi Arabia reiterated that human rights were the backbone of the holistic development policy adopted by the State and the efforts to protect human rights revealed its determination to consolidate those rights internally, regionally and internationally.
Lebanon said that it commended the efforts of and interest shown by the authorities of Saudi Arabia. Lebanon welcomed the approach adopted for the preparation of the report, which was exemplary because it grouped recommendations by heading, which made it possible to study things transparently and easily.
Libya thanked the delegation of Saudi Arabia for the thorough presentation and commended its efforts in the implementation of accepted recommendations. This reflected the interaction and its positive and constructive attitude in its cooperation with the Council and other human rights mechanisms.
Malaysia appreciated Saudi Arabia’s transparent and forthcoming engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process. Malaysia was aware of the need for all countries to be afforded the necessary time and space in which to make improvements for the protection and promotion of human rights on the ground.
Montenegro commended the openness of the Government during the process and its acceptance of most of the recommendations. Saudi Arabia was encouraged to strengthen its legislative framework for the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground and was wished all the best in the implementation of all the recommendations.
Morocco said it was satisfied that Saudi Arabia was committed to pursuing efforts to protect and promote human rights by enhancing the relevant legislative and institutional national systems. Morocco also appreciated Saudi Arabia’s constructive cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as with civil society organizations. Morocco called on Saudi Arabia to continue working on the improvement of the situation of women.
Oman welcomed that Saudi Arabia had accepted most of the recommendations, and that Saudi Arabia had already undertaken reforms in several fields, including the justice sector, to further improve the human rights protection there. Oman encouraged all States to adopt the report of Saudi Arabia by consensus.
Pakistan welcomed that Saudi Arabia had accepted most of the recommendations as well as the country’s constructive cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms. Pakistan particularly welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to establish a national human rights institution and its accession to further international human rights instruments.
Philippines welcomed that Saudi Arabia had accepted a large number of recommendations, and said that Saudi Arabia and the Philippines had engaged in a bilateral dialogue on the rights of household service workers. The Philippines encouraged Saudi Arabia to continue its steps towards the ratification of international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
Qatar appreciated the clear responses given by the delegation regarding the Universal Periodic Review. During the discussion of the report, it had become clear that Saudi Arabia had taken many measures for the promotion and protection of human rights. Qatar welcomed Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of recommendations submitted by Qatar, and recommended the adoption of the report.
Senegal welcomed the constructive dialogue and cooperation shown by Saudi Arabia during the review, commending the efforts of the authorities to promote and protect human rights. Senegal recommended the adoption of the report and highlighted the measures taken in relation to the protection of women.
South Sudan congratulated Saudi Arabia for its election to the Council and the Government’s effort to promote human rights domestically and abroad, noting particular efforts in the areas of health and education. South Sudan was pleased that Saudi Arabia had accepted its recommendation formulated during the review.
Sri Lanka thanked Saudi Arabia for its constructive engagement during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and the acceptance of recommendations, including those proposed by Sri Lanka. The delegation noted efforts to empower women and to protect their rights, as well as the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and noted the clarifications provided by Saudi Arabia.
Egypt congratulated Saudi Arabia for its positive approach in general with regards to cooperation with human rights international mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, and this was reflected in its acceptance of a large number of recommendations, including those submitted by Egypt. Egypt recommended the adoption of the report.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues welcomed the acceptance of recommendations on access to shelter for victims of domestic abuse and measures taken for the criminalization of all forms of violence against women, but said that these would be meaningless if not followed by action.
Human Rights Watch said that the Universal Periodic Review came at a time of serious concern as there were intensified efforts in Saudi Arabia to silence human rights activists. In early February a new terrorism law was enacted that contained serious flaws. It was regretted that a recommendation on religious freedom had been rejected.
Centre for Inquiry said that the situation of women in Saudi Arabia remained deplorable and the lack of implementation of recommendations from the 2009 Review made the ones before them particularly urgent. Saudi Arabia was suffering gender apartheid. The cornerstone of this patriarchal abuse was the male guardianship system.
Indian Council of South America commended Saudi Arabia’s financial contributions to international organizations, and agreed that Saudi Arabia should continue its efforts towards adhesion to the International Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights. It recommended that Saudi Arabia continue to place women in positions of government, and adopt legal measures to combat violence against women. It also recommended that Saudi Arabia adopt a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and strengthen the situation of migrants.
Amnesty International was gravely concerned about long and systemic human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, as well as its refusal to welcome international monitoring and to ratify key international human rights instruments. Amnesty International had documented increased reprisals against political dissent. The anti-terrorism legislation was too vague and allowed for restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International was also deeply concerned about the restrictions on freedom of religion, as well as the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
United Nations Watch was deeply concerned that several countries had commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights. The truth was that there were zero human rights in Saudi Arabia, and that Saudi Arabia was implementing a gender apartheid. Saudi Arabia should have never been elected a member of the Human Rights Council.
Organization for Communication in Africa and Promotion of International Economic Cooperation welcomed initiatives and progress made by Saudi Arabia to promote and protect the rights of women and children. Women occupied positions of responsibility in the public sector. The organization was still concerned by interfamily violence, particularly against women, and it encouraged Saudi Arabia to withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence expressed concerns about restrictions on freedom of religion on the Shia population, and the new anti-terrorism law imposed the greatest restrictions on freedom of speech and granted greater freedom to the police to carry out arrests against suspects without judicial supervision. The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence called on Saudi Arabia to protect the rights of religious minorities and to promote inter-faith dialogue.
Rencontre Africain pour la defense des droits de l’homme recognized Saudi Arabia’s accession to a number of human rights conventions and international instruments. Concerning the exploitation, abuse and discrimination of Asian and African domestic and migrant workers, and discrimination against women, Rencontre Africain urged Saudi Arabia to ratify the main human rights instruments, in particular the two Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
BANDAR BIN MOHAMMED ALAIBAN, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said he had listed with attention to all the interventions made by States and civil society organizations and reaffirmed that Saudi Arabia was proud to abide by Islamic Sharia and was proud to be a member of the Council, which affirmed the necessity of protecting and promoting human rights. Saudi Arabia, abiding by Islamic Sharia, which had been chosen by Saudi people as a way of life, guaranteed rights for all people and established their obligations. The history of the Kingdom demonstrated its commitment to promote and protect human rights in accordance with Sharia, its social values and costumes and its international obligations. Saudi Arabia would continue to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, as well as on the basis of the memorandum of understanding signed with the Office of the High Commissioner. Concerning the role of women, Mr. Alaiban recalled the achievements made in this field and the opportunities for participation granted to Saudi women, including in education, trade and the economy. Women led corporations, were doctors, scientists, lawyers and, while the process was not finished, Saudi Arabia continued to establish institutions to allow women to live in dignity and continue to make achievements. A country’s cultural diversity should be taken into account and attempts to impose certain cultures brought more harm than good. Saudi Arabia adopted 151 recommendations and noted the remaining ones.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Senegal
SIDIKI KABA, Minister of Justice of Senegal, reiterated Senegal’s commitment to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Since its independence, Senegal had been committed to consolidate democracy and the rule of law as well as the respect for and protection of human rights. One hundred and eighty five recommendations had been addressed to Senegal during its second review. Senegal had accepted 142 of those recommendations and had rejected 14. For the 19 remaining recommendations, Senegal had asked for further delay to make its decision. Senegal wished to provide further clarifications for some recommendations among those 19. Senegal had decided to accept in principle the recommendations to ratify further international human rights instruments and to harmonize its criminal law with international standards.
Senegal would soon ratify its new criminal code and criminal procedural code, which would align the Senegal legislation with international standards, and would considerably improve the protection of human rights, including freedom of the press. The press offense would indeed be abrogated. Senegal had recently undertaken initiatives to further promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including their access to education, healthcare, transportation, employment, and social assistance services. Senegal was well aware of its responsibility to protect and promote human rights, and was committed to ensure that the daily life of its citizens were guided by the rule of law and human rights. The President of Senegal was committed to this vision, as illustrated by the adoption of the “Plan Senegal Emergent”.
Niger noted Senegal’s efforts to accede to the relevant international human rights instruments, which demonstrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Niger urged the Council to adopt the report.
Republic of Moldova welcomed the various measures adopted by the government to promote and protect human rights, in particular those concerning women and children. This demonstrated the constructive work adopted by the Senegalese Government. The Republic of Moldova wished Senegal success in the implementation of the recommendations.
Rwanda welcomed the delegation of Senegal and thanked them for their active participation during the Universal Periodic Review. Rwanda was encouraged by Senegal’s collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner, as well as domestic measures taken to improve the promotion and protection of human rights.
Sri Lanka thanked Senegal for its constructive engagement during the second cycle of the review and noted that Senegal had accepted the majority of recommendations, including those put forward by Sri Lanka. The national strategy for economic development was pertinent in this respect, as well as the commitment to ensure women’s empowerment.
Sudan commended the efforts by Senegal to the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly to strengthening the role of schools and the initiatives that would allow 75 per cent of the population to enjoy health and sanitation services by 2017. The Human Rights Council should adopt the report of Senegal.
Togo welcomed the acceptance of most of the recommendations by Senegal and hailed the progress achieved in promoting democracy and ensuring the wellbeing of the population. Togo called upon the international community to lend support to Senegal in the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted.
Venezuela paid tribute to the efforts of Senegal to comply with its human rights obligations and was pleased by the rollout of compulsory education in the country. Venezuela encouraged Senegal to continue to beef up its social policy and recommended the adoption of the report.
Viet Nam appreciated Senegal’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review and the efforts to promote and protect human rights since the last meeting of the Working Group. Viet Nam noted progress made in the country in areas such as school attendance rates for girls and access to clean water and sanitation.
Algeria welcomed efforts made by Senegal in standard setting and institutional measures in the field of human rights, including regarding gender equality, human trafficking and the abolition of female genital mutilation. Algeria also welcomed efforts made by Senegal for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.
Angola commended Senegal’s commitment to human rights, including its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms and the ratification of international instruments. Angola wished every success to Senegal for the implementation of all the recommendations it had accepted.
Benin noted with satisfaction that progress had been made, and encouraged Senegal to continue its efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in the fields of education, health, women’s empowerment, and the fight against child trafficking.
Botswana welcomed Senegal’s cooperation with United Nations mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review. Botswana also welcomed Senegal’s efforts to implement multi-sectorial policies for addressing violence against women and improving the conditions of persons with disabilities.
Burkina Faso congratulated Senegal on its report that had highlighted numerous good practices in the promotion of human rights and noted the measures taken in the areas of education and health, and appreciated efforts to improve the situation of women, tackle impunity and decriminalize press activities. Senegal should continue its efforts on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Save the Children International said that the rollout of the universal healthcare project was a significant achievement that needed to be accompanied by the increase in the number of health clinics. There was a need for an action plan for the implementation of recommendations, particularly those related to the rights of children, and it should contain clear indicators that would ensure monitoring of progress. Corporal punishment should be abolished, especially with regard to the talibé children.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that the rate of maternal mortality was particularly high and it was critical that the Government took action to ensure the protection of women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights. Senegal should also revisit the recommendations related to the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
Amnesty International raised concerns about the excessive use of force by security forces in cases of public disorder and was disappointed that Senegal had rejected the recommendation on the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Amnesty International was also concerned that the 2004 amnesty law deprived victims and their families from their right to redress.
Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples welcomed Senegal’s efforts to implement recommendations made during its first Universal Periodic Review. It encouraged Senegal to continue its efforts to implement recommendations made with regard to violations against begging children, human trafficking and prison overcrowding.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme welcomed that previous recommendations made to Senegal were being implemented, and encouraged Senegal to improve access to health services. It welcomed Senegal’s efforts to achieve peace in the Casamance region.
SIDIKI KABA, Minister of Justice of Senegal, thanked the delegations that had noted efforts made to implement the recommendations, which was a priority of both the national authorities and of civil society. He also thanked the delegations of non-governmental organizations for their statements. The Minister then made several clarifications. It was true that the 37 prisons in the country were overcrowded, he said, but a policy was in place to address the issue which included arranging sentences by parole process. Penal Code reform now meant that provisional detention could not exceed three years, and a new prison had been constructed that could house 1,500 detainees. The State responded rapidly to all cases of police misconduct and those responsible were punished. Concerning begging, the Minister reiterated the commitment of the authorities to deal with the issue, particularly with regard to the talibé children. Measures to tackle trafficking in persons had been further strengthened. Moreover, by 2017 the authorities planned to adopt a Charter of Equal Opportunities that would support some 50,000 persons with disabilities. The Minister concluded by saying that his country had already provided answers on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons - there were laws against "acts against nature" in the public domain but the State did not intervene in the private sphere.
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