HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOME OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW ON THE NETHERLANDS AND SOUTH AFRICA
Hears Address by Foreign Minister of Australia and Human Rights Minister of Burkina Faso, Continues Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
21 September 2012
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the Netherlands and South Africa, thus concluding the adoption of the outcome on States examined at the thirteenth session of the Working Group in May 2012. The Council also heard addresses by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia and by the Minister of Human Rights and Civic Participation of Burkina Faso, and continued its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, Bob Carr, said that Australia was proud to be a nation of many cultures and that all Australians had the right to practice and share their cultural, lingual and religious traditions within the law and free from discrimination. Australia was on the track to be the world’s sixth largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance by 2016 and would deliver over 20 billion Australian dollars in development assistance over the next four years.
Albert Ouedraogo, Minister of Human Rights and Civic Participation of Burkina Faso, outlined the efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country, which included the setting up of a Human Rights Ministry, crafting of the national human rights policy and combating maternal mortality and morbidity. Burkina Faso was also active in promoting human rights at the regional level, and its President was appointed a mediator for the Mali crisis, which had a considerable humanitarian impact in the region.
Roderick van Schreven, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that international solidarity and tolerance and the promotion of and respect for human rights had long been embedded in the society of the Netherlands. The Netherlands remained strongly committed to ensure the equality of all citizens, promoted the full enjoyment of all rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and combated discrimination on all grounds.
In the discussion on the Netherlands, delegations welcomed the establishment of the National Human Rights Institute and recognized the priority accorded to combating discrimination. Speakers encouraged the Netherlands to prevent and suppress manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and close the legal gaps towards full equality of all its citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Speaking in the discussion were the Philippines, Thailand, Algeria, Belarus, Benin, Cuba and Egypt, and the non-governmental organizations: COC Netherlands, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the Netherlands.
Andries Nel, Deputy Minister, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, said that remarkable progress had been made in the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, but it was still a highly unequal society where too many people lived in poverty. Of the 152 recommendations received, South Africa accepted those related to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals; empowerment and protection of vulnerable groups; elimination of racism, violence against women and domestic violence; criminalization of torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, and a number of others.
The South African Human Rights Commission said it would continue to work on preventing and combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and to advocate for the development of a national action plan, hate crime legislation, and programmes that supported social coherence and tolerance, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In the discussion on South Africa, delegations noted with satisfaction the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the previous Universal Periodic Review in terms of the normative framework, the institutional framework and the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. They commended South Africa for the progress it made addressing socio-economic development, social cohesion and national reconciliation. Speakers urged South Africa to review its current policy towards improving learning in the country, to break the cycle of sexual and xenophobic violence and to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
Speaking in the discussion were Viet Nam, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran and Kenya. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Human Rights Watch, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Save the Children International, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco in a joint statement, North-South XXI, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme and Association for the Prevention of Torture.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on South Africa.
In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, which the Council started on 18 September, the following non-governmental organizations took the floor: International Service for Human Rights, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Tupaj Amaru, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Liberation, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, World Barua Organization and Tchad agir pour l’environment.
The Council will reconvene at 2 p.m. this afternoon to hold a panel on International Nelson Mandela Day on how values of reconciliation, peace, freedom and racial equality can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights within the United Nations system and other international organizations. At 4 p.m., it will continue its general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms and on the Universal Periodic Review.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on the Netherlands
RODERICK VAN SCHREVEN, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations, said that international solidarity and tolerance and the promotion of and respect for human rights had long been embedded in the society of the Netherlands. The Hague had become the international capital of peace and justice and hosted the world’s leading international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice. In the everyday life of its citizens, the Netherlands cherished respect for human rights and schoolchildren of different origins defined themselves by various sources of identity, and they grew up in an environment characterized by tolerance and respect. The Netherlands remained strongly committed to ensure the equality of all citizens and promoted the full enjoyment of all rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and combated discrimination on all grounds. The Netherlands should persist in efforts to bring national human rights policy to a higher level and was satisfied with the long-awaited opening of the National Human Rights Institute, as had been recommended during the 2008 review.
The Netherlands also attached great importance to consultations and dialogue with civil society and was encouraged by the interest of a number of non-governmental organizations to speak in the Council today. Shortly before the Universal Periodic Review in May, the Dutch Government had resigned and the current Government had made every effort to react to recommendations received. The Netherlands had looked into all recommendations received and had voluntarily provided additional information to questions raised by delegations. The vast majority of recommendations had been accepted or were, in fact, in line with standing policy. Only a number of recommendations could not be supported and as a result of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review, the Netherlands had realized the international attention attributed to themes such as combating racism and xenophobia, migration and asylum policies, and the position of women in the labour markets, policies that had been highly placed on the national human rights agenda.
Philippines welcomed the establishment of the Netherland’s National Human Rights Institute as well as its acceptance of a large number of recommendations, including the Philippines’ recommendation to formulate a national human rights action plan.
Thailand recognised that the Government of the Netherlands had given high priority to combating discrimination. It hoped that the Netherlands would continue to enhance ways and means to undertake effective measures in preventing and suppressing manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Algeria noted and appreciated the Netherlands’ acceptance of a large number of recommendations made. Algeria had been pleased to take part in the debate which allowed it to make contributions regarding women’s participation in public life and on discrimination and was happy these had been taken into consideration.
Belarus said that it was a source of concern that the Netherlands had
placed a large number of reservations on recommendations on issues that it should be tackling. Belarus called upon to Netherlands to eliminate trading in children and their sexual exploitation and to invite the Special Raporteur on the rights of migrants to visit the country, along with experts on trafficking in children and child pornography.
Benin said that since its first Universal Periodic Review, the Netherlands had made qualitative and quantitative progress in the area of human rights for its citizens. Benin encouraged the Netherlands to continue reforms aimed at improving the enjoyment of human rights in line with international instruments.
Cuba welcomed that the Netherlands had accepted a significant number of recommendations but underlined that significant human rights challenges persisted in the country. A source of concern was the many racist and xenophobic incidents in the country, particularly with regards to the media. Cuba was also concerned by the increase in violence against women and cases of child abuse.
Egypt took note of the Netherland’s response to the recommendations during the review process but reiterated concerns regarding cases of discrimination against minorities, including racist and xenophobic acts. While discrimination was forbidden by law and everybody received its protection, the Dutch Government had not provided a concrete response to Egypt’s recommendation concerning the adoption of specific measures to target and prevent discrimination, including legislation to balance the freedom of speech and the prevention of racist and xenophobic speech.
COC Netherlands said that the Netherlands had come a long way in improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and commended the Government on the decision to make comprehensive sexuality education compulsory and the simplification of sex reassignment. However, legal gaps and social challenges towards achieving full equality remained and continuous attention was required.
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the responsiveness of the Netherlands to the recommendations made and echoed the need to include both sexuality and sexual diversity in the attainment targets for schools. The Netherlands had an obligation to protect people with disabilities from sexual violence and should ensure accessibility of comprehensive sexuality education and preventive measures to prevent and recognise abuse.
Amnesty International urged the Government to implement the recommendations made to develop a national human rights action plan and said that this was long overdue. It also called on the Government to implement recommendations to reduce immigration detention and to improve conditions in migrant detention centres.
International Commission of Jurists expressed disappointment that the Government had not consulted with civil society on the substance of the Review and had not been transparent about its intentions regarding positions to be taken on the recommendations of the Review Working Group during today’s session.
RODERICK VAN SCHREVEN, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks, said that the Netherlands supported the rights enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and applied it on the ground. The problem concerned the social and economic rights of irregular migrants because, in its opinion, an individual that did not contribute to the system could not expect to access its benefits and it was because of this reservation that it could not ratify the Convention. The Government did not establish a hierarchy in rights and considered discrimination as an aggravating circumstance in front of a court. Tackling discrimination and xenophobia was very high on the Dutch agenda. It was important to have tolerance in a society with people coming from different backgrounds. Sexuality, disability and education training for those working with persons with disabilities were also very high on its agenda.
The Council then adopted the outcome report on the Netherlands.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on South Africa
ANDRIES NEL, Deputy Minister, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, said that South Africa was addressing the Council at a time of national sadness and concern regarding the tragic events that had occurred at the Lonmin Mine. A Commission of Inquiry would be established to get to the real cause of the incident and to draw the necessary lessons. Mr. Nel said that attacking poverty and deprivation were the priorities of the Government of South Africa, which had adopted a National Development Plan since the presentation of its report to the Working Group in May this year. This Plan aimed to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality in South Africa by 2030. Remarkable progress had been made in the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy: access to services had been broadened, non-racial society had begun to emerge, poverty rates had declined and average incomes had grown steadily in real terms. Still, the Government was well aware that South Africa remained a highly unequal society where too many people lived in poverty and too few worked.
South Africa had given careful consideration to the 152 recommendations it had received during its Universal Periodic Review; they had been discussed at various levels of Government and considered by the Cabinet before being transmitted to the Human Rights Council. South Africa had accepted the recommendations made in relation to the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals; the attainment of social cohesion and social transformation; empowerment and protection of vulnerable groups; combating incitement to hatred and punishing hate crimes; elimination of racism, violence against women and domestic violence; criminalization of torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, and a number of others. South Africa was not able to accept or reject four recommendations which related to the legislation before the Parliament, and it rejected one recommendation.
LAWRENCE MUSHWANA, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, was pleased that the review highlighted many important matters on which the Commission was working with increased attention. In line with recommendations, the Commission would continue to work on issues relating to preventing and combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. The Commission would continue to advocate for the development of a national action plan, hate crime legislation, and programmes that supported social coherence and tolerance, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Commission welcomed recommendations regarding the ratification of a number of international instruments that would assist in formulating rights-based policies and programmes to address poverty and improve the enjoyment and realization of economic and social rights. The Commission also welcomed recommendations seeking to address the rights of vulnerable groups.
Viet Nam applauded the second successful review and was pleased to note that South Africa had accepted the majority of the recommendations, including Viet Nam’s two recommendations, and had responded in a constructive manner to all others. South Africa had spared no efforts to ensure the fulfilment and respect for human rights and freedoms. In spite of challenges faced as a multiethnic and multicultural society, remarkable achievements had been obtained and were widely recognised.
Algeria said that South Africa had demonstrated its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process and subscribed to the majority of the recommendations, and noted with satisfaction South Africa’s response to its recommendations concerning maternal and infant mortality. Algeria welcomed South Africa’s constructive spirit and its efforts for the full realisation of human rights.
Benin said that since its first Universal Periodic Review, South Africa had made qualitative and quantitative progress in the promotion and protection of human rights for its citizens. Benin noted with satisfaction the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the previous Universal Periodic Review in terms of the normative framework, the institutional framework and the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Benin encouraged South Africa to continue the reforms aimed at improving the people’s enjoyment of human rights.
Botswana said that given its long history of struggle against racial discrimination and hatred, South Africa must be commended for the progress it had made, especially in addressing issues of socio-economic development, social cohesion and national reconciliation. The fact that South Africa had pledged its commitment to sign and ratify all outstanding international instruments in the areas of human rights and humanitarian law, before the end of 2012, clearly demonstrated the country’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
Burkina Faso reiterated its congratulations to South Africa for the submission of its Universal Periodic Review report last May. The delegation of Burkina Faso noted with satisfaction that South Africa was committed to ensuring the enjoyment of human rights, notably through a dynamic that it had already set in motion to implement the recommendations made to South Africa, and Burkina Faso encouraged South Africa to pursue these efforts. Burkina Faso recommended that the report of South Africa be adopted.
Chad said that the acceptance of the many recommendations by South Africa spoke volumes about the commitment of this country to the protection and promotion of human rights. Chad invited the international community to extend all possible assistance to South Africa to overcome its challenges.
China welcomed the progress achieved by South Africa in the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly the rights of women, children and the elderly, and combating racism and xenophobia. China urged the Human Rights Council to adopt the outcome on South Africa.
Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the cooperation of South Africa with human rights bodies and mechanisms, and encouraged the Government to pursue efforts to eliminate inequalities and carry through reforms on the rule of law. The international community should provide support to South Africa to fulfil its commitments.
Cuba congratulated South Africa and acknowledged South Africa’s work on the promotion and protection of human rights at the national and international levels. Cuba welcomed the acceptance of a vast number of recommendations and said that the challenges faced by South Africa were not easy. Cuba knew this well and shared South Africa’s struggle against the Apartheid regime and welcomed its commitment to continue to work for the promotion of human rights.
Ecuador congratulated South Africa on the decision to accept the majority of the recommendations and noted their decision to advance human rights using a non-discriminatory approach and to secure the necessary resources for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Ecuador noted the acceptance of its recommendation concerning migrants and endorsed the adoption of the report.
Indonesia was heartened by the acceptance of the majority of the recommendations, which showed South Africa’s conviction that the Universal Periodic Review provided an immense opportunity for the furtherance of common efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. Indonesia noted the acceptance of all recommendations concerning the fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Iran acknowledged the challenges that South Africa faced due to the legacy of colonialisation and apartheid, and commended the remarkable achievements in most socio-economic areas such as education, health care, economic growth and combating discrimination. While commending South Africa for the positive approach towards implementing the recommendations made to it, Iran encouraged the Government to implement all accepted recommendations, including the recommendations made by the Iranian delegation.
Kenya noted that South Africa had continued to achieve commendable progress in realizing the human rights of its people since the current democratic constitutional dispensation was entrenched in 1994. The national housing programme, for instance, had already delivered some 13 million housing units to needy South Africans, making the country a leader in the provision of subsidized housing.
Human Rights Watch commended South Africa’s progress in providing greater access for vulnerable communities who had historically experienced exclusion to services in areas such as education, housing, health and social security. However, Human Rights Watch was concerned that greater access had not necessarily been matched by progressive improvement in the quality of such services, therefore urging the South African Government to review its current policy towards improving learning in the country.
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed South Africa’s acceptance of recommendations concerning the combat of incitement to hatred and hate crimes. Gender- and sexuality-related violence against women and vulnerable people, sex workers, and gender non-conforming people and same sex relations constituted a national crisis.
International Commission of Jurists welcomed the acceptance of recommendations on the prevention and punishment of sexual and gender-based violence and South Africa’s pledge to ensure that its immigration laws and policies were consistent with its Constitution and human rights commitments. The International Commission of Jurists expressed concern that South Africa had not responded to several recommendations, including on a more integrated and effective approach to break the cycle of sexual and xenophobic violence.
Amnesty International welcomed South Africa’s acknowledgement of the need to strengthen the legal framework for combating torture and commended South Africa for conducting public hearings on the prevention and combating of torture. Amnesty International urged South Africa to increase its commitments to prevent the exercise and use of force and deliberate targeted killings by police and to uphold and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
Save the Children International called on the Government of South Africa to enhance the protection of particularly vulnerable groups, including by strengthening mechanisms providing redress to victims. South Africa should also continue to train personnel working in justice-administering structures and put in place more coordinated programmes reaching women and children, as well as taking steps for the prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings, and putting in place mechanisms to ensure that all children, including migrant children, were registered.
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice and International Voluntarism Organization for Women, Education, Development, in a joint statement, said that they remained concerned about persisting deficiencies in the implementation of several economic, social and cultural rights in South Africa, including the right to water and sanitation and the right to food. The organizations expressed their deepest concern regarding the poor quality of basic education and drop-out rates in secondary education. It was recommended that South Africa ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to improve the enforcement of these rights for all.
North-South XXI said that it had a longstanding and strong appreciation for the people of South Africa, who had been a beacon in the fight against racial discrimination. North-South XXI urged South Africa to continue to be so by leading a renewed effort to support and implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. While some wished to belittle this document, South Africa should champion it and encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to be a leading force in this effort.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme noted with satisfaction the progress made by South Africa since the first review cycle, including in the areas of reduction of poverty, water and sanitation in rural areas, housing, health care and education. Rencontre Africaine expressed concern about continuing cases of xenophobic violence, including on the basis of sexual orientation, the massacre of workers in the Marikana mine, and the disproportionate use of force.
Association for the Prevention of Torture called on South Africa to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture this year. South Africa had been an early leader in signing the Optional Protocol, then had been in the process of ratifying the protocol ever since. It was time for South Africa to demonstrate its commitment to preventing torture through ratifying the Optional Protocol and establishing a national preventive mechanism.
ANDRIES NEL, Deputy Minister, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, in his closing remarks assured the delegations that their very useful comments were noted and would be put to use by South Africa. The majority of the recommendations received in the Universal Periodic Review were useful and would help in the achievement of the Constitutional vision. The Government was resolute in its national agenda to ensure all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all its citizens, and it pledged its collaboration and inclusive manner in achieving those objectives.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on South Africa.
Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia
BOB CARR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, reiterated Australia’s commitment to human rights and said that countries like Australia needed to continually scrutinise their record and performance with all due modesty. All States must uphold the highest standards of human rights protection as one of the key responsibilities of sovereignty. Australia had signed Optional Protocols on core human rights treaties, on torture, discrimination against women, and the rights of persons with disability, and had opened itself to scrutiny on these matters. Australia was translating these instruments into domestic legislation and policies, embedding them into the fabric of the Australian way of life. In 2008 the National Apology to Indigenous Australians had been delivered by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Australian Parliament for past policies resulting in profound grief, suffering and loss by indigenous Australians. Australia was proud to be a nation of many cultures and all Australians had the right to practice and share their cultural, lingual and religious traditions within the law and free from discrimination. Australia was on the track to be the world’s sixth largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance by 2016 and would deliver over 20 billion Australian dollars in development assistance over the next four years.
Statement by Minister of Human Rights and Civic Participation of Burkina Faso
ALBERT OUEDRAOGO, Minister of Human Rights and Civic Participation of Burkina Faso, said that Burkina Faso had set up a Human Rights Ministry and developed a three pronged national policy to address the human rights situation in the country, which included the promotion of civic rights and citizenship and identifying the best strategies to guide the promotion and protection of human rights and make action more visible. Burkina Faso was also active in the region and had been appointed mediator for the Mali crisis by the Economic Community of West African States. The impact of this crisis on the humanitarian situation in the region, which was already suffering from drought and displacement, was considerable. Combating maternal mortality and morbidity remained at the heart of national action in Burkina Faso; together with Colombia and New Zealand, Burkina would present a draft resolution with a focus on the inclusion of the Technical Guide on the application of a human rights based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality, elaborated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In conclusion, Mr. Ouedraogo said that the number of crises in the world was high and that the international community must remain vigilant; its response must not be dictated by economic or nuclear powers, but be bolstered by this Human Rights Council and guided by cooperation and technical assistance to those who were in need.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
International Service for Human Rights in a joint statement welcomed the previous week’s landmark panel and the Secretary-General’s report on the issue of reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations. However, the ending of reprisals required more action, political will and creative responses by all stakeholders. It was crucial to maintain pressure on States that committed or tolerated reprisals.
Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in a joint statement expressed concern about the threats and aggression faced by the Qom community from the Government of the Formosa province, Argentina, due to land usurpation of community lands. The Permanent Assembly also urged national authorities to ensure that the Patae Napona Navogo indigenous community fully enjoyed its right to community lands.
Tupaj Amaru regretted that the Special Rapporteur on indigenous people did not truly engage with indigenous people, especially the Mapuche, and enquired as to what the Special Rapporteur meant by good practice. Tupaj Amaru had always argued for a binding code of conduct governing the activities of multinational companies.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said that at this very moment violations of the rights of Bahrainis were ongoing. Tanks were acting against demonstrators in flagrant violation of international instruments. The perpetrators enjoyed immunity. Arbitrary verdicts had been delivered by courts and some demonstrators had suffered from torture. The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence called for an inquiry and to bring perpetrators to justice.
Liberation said that indigenous communities in North East India had been suffering from human rights violations for over two decades, including non-recognition and non-inclusion in the Constitution of the Khasi language. Liberation called on the Council to urge India to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to recognise indigenous languages.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said indigenous groups often constituted one of the most marginalised segments and it was difficult to monitor poverty and the impact of corruption. As a disadvantaged group, they had less access to decision makers and fewer opportunities to participate in economic and political life. The International Buddhist Relief Organization requested the Council to urge India to take stringent and resolute steps to eliminate corruption.
World Barua Organization said that indigenous peoples remained to be the most discriminated against on the planet. In India’s North East region, the indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their land and were reduced to a microscopic minority by mega-development projects by the Government of India.
Tchad agir pour l’environment warned the Human Rights Council about the escalation of violence in Guinea and said that human rights violations committed in this country might lead to armed conflict. The Council should raise the awareness of the international community and ensure that the civil peace was not undermined.
For use of the information media; not an official record