HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOME OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW ON BAHRAIN, ECUADOR AND TUNISIA
Concludes Interactive Dialogue with Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and Starts Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
19 September 2012
The Human Rights Council today adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain, Ecuador and Tunisia. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and started it general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that Bahrain put into good use the 176 recommendations it received in its second Universal Periodic Review, of which it fully accepted 145 recommendations and partially accepted 13 recommendations. Bahrain had put in place a number of participatory schemes to jumpstart a national dialogue and expected all parts of the society to join in and move away from the politics of the street to the politics of the table.
In the discussion on Bahrain, delegations appreciated the acceptance of the majority of the recommendations from the second Universal Periodic Review, the undertaking of the necessary reforms, and the important strides achieved in difficult circumstances. Several speakers noted the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and they called on the Government to end the ongoing abuses and implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Austria, United States, Yemen, Algeria, United Kingdom, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam and China spoke on Bahrain. Also taking the floor were the non-governmental organizations: International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Reporters without Borders International, Amnesty International, Union of Arab Jurists in a joint statement, Indian Council of South America, World Wide Organization for Women and CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain.
Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Ecuador received 67 grouped recommendations; it accepted 64 and took note of three and also assumed five voluntary commitments. Ecuador was a pioneer country in the rolling out of public policies on human rights, such as the recognition of the human rights to water and to nature.
In the discussion on Ecuador, speakers commended Ecuador for accepting the majority of the recommendations on voluntary commitments it had undertaken, particularly the establishment of a system for monitoring the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Ecuador should create a society in which independent journalists could operate without fear and ensure equal access to education for its indigenous peoples.
Speaking in the discussion were the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba, Iran, United States, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Commission of Jurists, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, North-South XXI, Federation of Cuban Women, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, and Plan International.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Ecuador.
Samir Dilou, Minister for Human Rights and Transitional Justice of Tunisia, said that the country was laying the foundations of a State with respect for human rights; it held free and fair elections for the people’s representatives and was preparing for elections on the system. The Government was also tackling social problems that had developed over decades. The implementation of some of the recommendations of the Second Universal Periodic Review was deferred, because they required detailed discussion amidst the drafting of the Constitution at the national level.
In the discussion on Tunisia, speakers noted the great strides in building a new and democratic Tunisia in the wake of political transformation. The acceptance of the majority of the recommendations demonstrated Tunisia’s commitment to cooperate with the international community and its human rights system. It was regrettable that Tunisia had rejected several key recommendations which aimed at preventing a sliding back to authoritarianism, and the recommendations regarding the equality between men and women and the abolition of the death penalty.
Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Togo, United Nations Children Fund, United Arab Emirates and Benin took the floor on Tunisia. The following non-governmental organizations also participated in the discussion: Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Reporters without borders, Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, Association for the Prevention of Torture, International PEN and Arab Human Rights Commission.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Tunisia.
In the interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, some speakers called upon the Human Rights Council to respect its own mechanisms and to reject attempts at this session to devalue the work of the Advisory Committee in pursuit of a narrow political agenda that would undermine human rights. Others
said that ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ were invoked in all societies by those with power to deny the rights of people living in marginalized communities. Ideas about tradition were easily manipulated to suppress dissent and freedom of association and expression. States should comply with the Council’s procedures and base decision-making on those issues with the guidance of the Advisory Committee’s report.
In his concluding remarks, Jean Ziegler, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, commenting on claims that the Advisory Committee had overstepped its mandate and that its work duplicated that being carried out by other bodies, reiterated the seriousness with which the Advisory Committee had carried out its work and in full respect for its mandate.
In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers urged all States to extend standing invitations to Special Procedures and further cooperate with them. Reprisals and intimidation were not only human rights violations. They undermined the human rights system and could not under any circumstance be tolerated. Others said Special Procedures should abide by their mandate and the working principles of objectivity and impartiality to enhance dialogue and cooperation. They should avoid using unsubstantiated allegations in order to preserve their own credibility and promote dialogue with States.
Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Cyprus on behalf of the European Union,
Latvia on behalf of a group of States, China, Hungary, Republic of Moldova and the Council of Europe took the floor in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
The Council today is holding a full day of meetings. At 3 p.m. the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Morocco, Indonesia and Finland. The general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms will resume on Friday, 21 September.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain
KHALID BIN AHMED BIN MOHAMMED AL KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that Bahrain had put into good use the 176 recommendations it had received in its second Universal Periodic Review. Bahrain had fully accepted 145 recommendations and partially accepted 13 recommendations, which mainly related to criminal justice, prevention of torture, rights of women, protection of children and minorities, and the fight against human trafficking. The rule of law was an essential condition for a society that respected human rights and Bahrain welcomed peaceful expression of disagreement but not incitement to hatred and violence which damaged the social fabric of a nation.
Bahrain did not shrink from bold initiatives and had undertaken unprecedented reforms, which included the establishment of a Special Investigations Unit to investigate police misconduct to achieve accountability; setting up of ombudsman functions with the National Security Agency; payment of compensation to victims; drafting a new labour law; and amending the definition of torture in the Penal Code. Bahrain faced challenges in reforming Government structures and restoring the culture of tolerance; this was difficult and took time. Further, some believed that continued unrest on the streets afforded them political advantage and they fuelled extremism and violence and rejected dialogue. The Government had put in place a number of participatory schemes to jumpstart a national dialogue and expected all parts of the society to join in and move away from the politics of the street to the politics of the table.
Qatar said that it believed in the willingness of Bahrain to interact positively with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Qatar welcomed the acceptance of both the recommendations it had made to Bahrain. Following the review of the report, it also welcomed amendments to the law concerning the structure of national human rights institutions. Qatar wished the Kingdom of Bahrain all the very best and called on the Council to adopt the report.
Saudi Arabia said that it noted Bahrain’s firm resolve to promote human rights and respect and apply recommendations made in the report. Bahrain worked to cooperate with all United Nations bodies that dealt with human rights and indeed stuck by all its commitments. Saudi Arabia commended the Kingdom for its efforts and encouraged it to continue.
Sudan appreciated the efforts made by Bahrain to implement recommendations. It also greatly appreciated Bahrain’s spirit of cooperation and dialogue in doing so. Also appreciated was Bahrain’s acceptance of the majority of the recommendations, including the recommendation issued by Sudan during the second Universal Periodic Review, bearing witness to its attachment to the enjoyment of freedoms and human rights.
Thailand was pleased to learn that a majority of the recommendations received by Bahrain had been accepted, including the recommendation to fully implement the recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Thailand hoped that this would constitute an inclusive process and commended the establishment of a specialised unit headed by the Minister of Justice to follow up on the Commission’s report.
United Arab Emirates was convinced of Bahrain’s will to implement its commitments and appreciated national efforts to promote and respect human rights. The measures taken by Bahrain reflected the sincere resolve to continue with long-lasting efforts to strengthen the protection of human rights and the legislative reforms, and to strengthen governance and the rule of law.
Austria had expected to see Bahrain clearly indicating its position on all the given recommendations, including on the transfer of the Danish citizen Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to Denmark for medical treatment. Serious allegations of torture and irregularities in the trial had not been taken into account and Austria called on Bahrain to release all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
United States said that during the review of Bahrain in May this year, several States called for the investigation and prosecution of official abuse during the period of unrest in early 2011. The Government needed to do more to end the ongoing abuses and implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, as it seemed that it was losing momentum on their implementation.
Yemen commended Bahrain for accepting the recommendations, embracing the issues raised and undertaking the necessary reforms. Bahrain was prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations and was investigating allegations of torture. Yemen recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain.
Algeria said that Bahrain had fully accepted 145 recommendations from its Universal Periodic Review which was evidence of its cooperation with the mechanism. Algeria welcomed the draft law giving Bahraini mothers the right to give their nationality to their children from non-Bahraini fathers and the establishment of the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
United Kingdom said that today’s presence of two Ministers was tribute to the seriousness with which Bahrain was rightly approaching the Universal Periodic Review. Bahrain had made important strides in difficult circumstances but there was still much to be done. The human rights of all Bahrainis should be respected in practice and in principle. The United Kingdom shared Austria’s concern about sentencing.
Belarus welcomed the fact that Bahrain had accepted the overwhelming majority of recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. It had taken unprecedented steps including work on national legislation, and the establishment of a human rights body. This testified to the fact that the Kingdom of Bahrain was attached to its international obligations and national capacity-building to promote and protect human rights.
Brunei congratulated Bahrain on its cooperation and constructive engagement with the United Nations human rights mechanism. Brunei welcomed measures taken in the field of empowering women socially, economically and politically. Also appreciated was Bahrain’s cooperation with all relevant stakeholders in its commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights.
China appreciated the constructive attitude of Bahrain to the Universal Periodic Review and its active measures to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women, children and persons with disabilities. China understood that Bahrain still faced challenges and believed that on the basis of the joint efforts of the Bahraini Government and people, progress would be achieved. China called for the adoption of the report.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that the Government continued to deny fundamental rights and to exercise excessive use of force. Non-governmental organizations had documented a rise in the repression of human rights defenders since the last Universal Periodic Review session and this upward trend of repression was undeniable when one considered the escalating criminalisation of human rights defenders.
Human Rights Watch said that Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review came at a time when the Government continued to suppress peaceful protests, harass and prosecute human rights defenders, and arbitrarily arrest and detain numerous opposition leaders and protesters. Human Rights Watch called on Bahrain to release all individuals convicted solely for exercising their basic rights.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that many human rights violations had been reported since the first Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain and perpetrators of those violations enjoyed impunity. The rejection of Bahrain to fully align its national legislation with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was regrettable.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that the human rights situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate and the Government was failing to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry. Arbitrary arrests, use of excessive force on the street and systematic torture in prisons were still ongoing.
Reporters Without Borders International drew the attention of the Council to the fate of human rights bloggers from Bahrain, one of whom had disappeared. Bahrain had not implemented the most important recommendation by the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry: release from prison of those detained for expressing their views and prosecuting those responsible for torture and grave violations of human rights.
Amnesty International said that it remained concerned that despite repeated assurances to respect the right to freedom of expression and association, those rights continued to be denied in Bahrain. Despite recent charges brought against several officers for alleged mistreatment of prisoners, Amnesty International remained deeply concerned that true justice and accountability had not been achieved.
Union of Arab Jurists in a joint statement said that the delay of the media law was somewhat disconcerting and urged the Government to act swiftly. Serious violations against children who had been used in protests and demonstrations had been witnessed. The Government should implement stronger laws to protect those children. The changes to the judicial system in Bahrain were slow and it had to implement them more efficiently.
Indian Council of South America called upon Bahrain to drop charges and harsh sentences in accordance with its acceptance of the recommendation to reform the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, and commended Bahrain’s decision to drop charges in relation to freedom of speech and expression. Though it did not accept all the recommendations pertaining to the death penalty, the Indian Council of South America called upon Bahrain to reconsider to reform those laws, in line with international norms and standards.
World Wide Organization for Women said that the cases of the doctors and medics who were detained, tortured and tried in military courts were still pending. The World Wide Organization for Women asked that human rights defenders who came to Geneva last May be allowed to continue to work without harassment, especially as attacks were now directed at their families.
CIVICUS lamented that after State security forces asked crowd control forces to directly shoot at protesters, some, including women, had suffered from humiliation, harassment and arrests and were not even allowed to protect their children. CIVICUS called for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, including activists and opposition members, for a permanent United Nations human rights office to be based in Bahrain, and for the Council to hold a special hearing on Bahrain.
KHALID BIN AHMED BIN MOHAMMED AL KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, in his concluding observations reiterated that no one was being detained in Bahrain for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association. All such cases had been cleared of this charge and remaining cases were now criminal in nature. The Minister underlined that Bahrain had never lost momentum in the implementation of the recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry; the Cabinet was meeting several times a week to discuss the progress and way forward in their implementation. Bahrain was aware that further progress was needed concerning the prosecution of some members of the police force; it was dealing with the human rights situation, and was strongly committed to upholding universal human rights. Bahrain was undergoing change, was growing and developing and its Government was committed to look forward and not look back. Bahrain had accepted the visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur and was now discussing the dates for the visit.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Ecuador
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Ecuador was one of the few countries that had given an immediate response to recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review. Ecuador had received 67 grouped recommendations, of which it had accepted 64 and taken note of three. In other works, Ecuador had accepted 96 per cent of recommendations made and had demonstrated a genuine and transparent commitment to expanding and deepening its work on human rights. Ecuador had also assumed five additional voluntary commitments.
Ecuador was a pioneer country in the rolling out of public policies on human rights which were now considered to be fundamental. Its constitution recognised the right to water as irrefutable and it was regulating its use to ensure it was accessible to all. Perhaps one of the most important legal achievements in the political process was the recognition of the right to nature, which should be fully respected. Ecuador had taken significant steps to ensure the vital right to food. Over the last five years it had boosted strategic programmes to ensure the right to food. On the right to education, education was obligatory up to secondary school level and free until the end of tertiary education. Ecuador had created an unprecedented public framework in favour of various social groups, such as disabled persons, whose care coverage had exceeded the international limits of Latin America and other continents. Since the end of May, Ecuador had taken concrete steps to institutionalise mechanisms for the monitoring of implementation of the recommendations and voluntary commitments of the Universal Periodic Review. Once the report was adopted, Ecuador planned to begin a comprehensive process of diffusion and socialization of the recommendations and commitments both with the public service and civil society.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commended Ecuador for upholding the fundamental principles of international human rights law and for the positive efforts made to further protect and promote human rights. Ecuador had adopted positions of principle during the recent international crises, denouncing attempts to manipulate the Council politically or for geopolitical ends, or to legitimise military intervention.
Cuba commended Ecuador for accepting the majority of the recommendations and for achievements made in all areas of human rights, in particular the implementation of policies for poverty eradication and ensuring the right to health and education. Cuba and Ecuador faced common challenges and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a valuable space for economic and financial integration on the basis of cooperation and solidarity.
Iran said that the active participation of Ecuador in the second Universal Periodic Review cycle constituted a step towards the promotion and protection of human rights. A number of recommendations had been accepted, including the continuation of policies for the protection of children, economic and social policies, and efforts to improve the quality of life of people living in rural areas and suffering from exclusion.
United States welcomed the acceptance of the recommendations to combat domestic violence and to strengthen efforts to eradicate child labour. The United States was concerned about the ongoing pressure on journalists and attacks on freedom of expression, and urged the Government to create a society in which independent journalists could operate without fear.
Lebanon commended Ecuador for the promotion of human rights in the country and for accepting most of the recommendations it had received during its Universal Periodic Review. The efforts of Ecuador in the field of combating poverty were laudable.
Malaysia appreciated the transparent and forthcoming engagement of Ecuador in the Universal Periodic Review process and its setting up of the specialised body for violence against women and domestic violence. All countries, including Ecuador, needed time and space to continue making improvements in the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground.
Morocco took note with satisfaction of the renewed commitment of Ecuador and the strategy to ensure that its people enjoyed human rights. Morocco also commended Ecuador for voluntary commitments it had undertaken, particularly the establishment of a system for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations it had received.
Myanmar thanked Ecuador for updating the Council on recent achievements and progress and for accepting two recommendations made by Myanmar. This constituted proof of Ecuador’s seriousness and its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.
Philippines commended and congratulated Ecuador for its commitment to implement measures to strengthen its policies for basic human rights, especially of vulnerable groups. The Philippines appreciated Ecuador’s acceptance of its recommendation to consider ratifying ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers.
Russian Federation noted with satisfaction that Ecuador had accepted most of the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review, and which covered a wide range of problems that many countries faced. It was a clear testimony of Ecuador’s resolve to strengthen its human rights system and Russia wished Ecuador success.
South Africa commended Ecuador for its constructive engagement during the Universal Periodic Review and the clear position on all recommendations it had received. South Africa also commended the progress made by Ecuador on poverty eradication and in creation of a just and equal society, as well as the voluntary commitments undertaken by Ecuador.
Sri Lanka congratulated Ecuador for the acceptance of 96 per cent of the recommendations, many of which had been either implemented or were in the phase of implementation. Sri Lanka commended the “good living approach” of Ecuador and welcomed the progress made in the protection of the rights of women and children and in advancing health and education.
Venezuela said that Ecuador had cooperated fully with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and welcomed the efforts in the fight against poverty. Ecuador had successfully completed the second cycle, which was a sign of the progress made in the area of human rights, particularly in supporting those most needy in the society.
International Commission of Jurists welcomed the ratification of several international instruments by Ecuador, and the support for recommendations ensuring access to justice, reform of the justice system and the protection of freedom of expression. It was regrettable that the recommendation concerning the establishment of the procedure for free consent by indigenous peoples was rejected.
UN Watch asked whether the offer of asylum to Julian Assange was in line with the country’s own record on freedom of expression and freedom of the press after an Ecuadorian watchdog group had accused the Government of a low-intensity war against its own journalists and sweeping changes in laws which made the country one of the most restrictive to the press in the region.
Amnesty International urged the Government to undergo consultation with indigenous peoples on issues affecting them. Robust mechanisms needed to be in place for this. Although the Government considered that human rights safeguards were in place, Human Rights Watch had reported 24 cases of indigenous leaders being held on unfounded charges. Evidence must be shown that this misuse of the judicial system was not to be tolerated.
Save the Children noted significant improvements in children’s education. However, Save the Children remained concerned about the exclusion of adolescents, particularly in indigenous groups. Child labour was also an issue and although the numbers had been reduced, 400,000 children were still working without a framework for occupational safety. Reintegration of these children into education and entrepreneurship should be proposed.
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco noted the disparities in terms of the level of education and the lower quality education available to indigenous peoples. Because of those deficiencies, young indigenous persons were often not accepted by universities.
North-South XXI hoped the example of Ecuador in recognizing the human right to water would be followed by other countries. Ecuador should play a leading role in encouraging respect for the right to nature and in creating the mandate on human rights and climate change.
Federation of Cuban Women commended the equal participation of women and men in political elections in Ecuador and said that the Constitution of this country addressed gender equality from a new perspective and established equal responsibilities of mothers and fathers in domestic life.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said measures adopted through the new constitution as well as the development of a poverty elimination strategy were good indicators of work towards a democratic society but concerns remained over violence against women and child exploitation. Acts of intimidation against journalists and human rights defenders were a problem, and corruption in the judiciary also needed to be addressed.
Plan International said Ecuador should update its education policy to include traditionally excluded groups. Teenage pregnancy rates were high and sexual education and access to services should be improved. Violence against children, including corporal punishment, was a major concern and it was important that, more generally, policies were developed and implemented with civil society and non-governmental organizations.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that there was still a lot to be done to achieve full human rights for each Ecuadorian. The delegation took note of the comments heard today and said they would be taken into account in the implementation of a just society for all. Ecuador would continue to support the efforts of the universal human rights system.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Ecuador.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Tunisia
SAMIR DILOU, Minister for Human Rights and Transitional Justice of Tunisia, said Tunisia was laying the foundations of a State with respect for human rights, while also respecting its cultural identity. The Government had had free and fair elections for the people’s representatives and was preparing for elections on the system as well as tackling social problems that had developed over decades. Consensus was to be the watchword as the Constitution and future legislation were drafted. Consultations and commissions were used, including members from civil society. A judicial and administrative review on corruption was being held, as were investigations into torture. Democratic transition required additional efforts on reforms which affected security and the administration. A temporary body to replace the judiciary, in line with international standards, should restore independence in this field. It was impossible to achieve transition with the current failings of the media and the Government had undertaken consultations with the unions and others to ensure the provision of free information with integrity. Tunisia had deferred implementation of some of the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review as they required detailed discussion amidst the drafting of the Constitution at the national level. Work to continue the dialogue was ongoing and synergy with international efforts was sought, such as the opening of field offices and steps towards the adoption of international instruments.
Morocco said that in the wake of political transformation, Tunisia had made great strides in building a new and democratic Tunisia and in the promotion and protection of human rights. The number of recommendations accepted and measures taken to implement them were evidence of the engagement of Tunisia with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
Oman highly appreciated the positive engagement of Tunisia with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and the cooperation with all, especially Special Procedures and human rights mechanisms. Oman saluted the spirit of responsibility and cooperation shown in the implementation of all the accepted recommendations.
Pakistan appreciated the cooperative and constructive manner in which Tunisia engaged with the Universal Periodic Review process and the active work on the promotion and protection of human rights. Pakistan recommended that the Council adopt the report on Tunisia.
Palestine appreciated Tunisia’s acceptance of 110 recommendations out of 125 on their second Universal Periodic Review report, as well as the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the country’s efforts to adopt a new Constitution based on human rights, and thanked them for their cooperation in the process.
Philippines thanked Tunisia for its efforts in welcoming stranded migrants despite its limited resources, including Filipino migrants, and its commitment to consider accession and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Philippines was optimistic that Tunisian efforts to nurture and strengthen its democratic institutions would result in economic progress and the enjoyment of basic human rights.
Qatar said Tunisia was unstinting in its efforts to build a democratic State and they had out in place the appropriate policies to support it. Qatar applauded the country for the adoption of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and this showed a fully-fledged approach to human rights which would ensure freedom of expression and equality. Human rights organizations should support Tunisia in this work.
Romania noted the substantive commitment of Tunisia to the Universal Periodic Review process and said that this country had embarked on a broad process of transformation. Despite all the turbulence inherent to this stage, Romania was convinced of Tunisia’s commitment to human rights.
Saudi Arabia noted that Tunisia had accepted the majority of recommendations and so demonstrated to the whole world its cooperation with the international community and its human rights system. Tunisia had joined a number of international instruments on civil and political rights and torture and had set up a national human rights institution.
South Africa welcomed Tunisia’s initiatives to ensure gender equality, freedom of expression, eradication of poverty and the steps taken to ensure compliance with its human rights obligations. Tunisia should continue to strengthen efforts to guarantee the enjoyment of all human rights by its citizens.
Togo applauded efforts to turn a new page in Tunisia’s history based on pluralism, individual rights and democratic dialogue. Meanwhile Togo called on Tunisia to abolish its use of the death penalty and noted efforts to install methods of transitional justice. Efforts to reduce overcrowding in prisons were also welcomed.
United Nations Children's Fund underscored the importance of recognizing the underlying principles of the rights of the child, saying these should be considered in all decisions related to the child. UNICEF invited Tunisia to consider the creation of an independent institution to promote and protect children’s rights.
United Arab Emirates appreciated efforts to promote a culture of human rights through important measures taken to protect human dignity; steps to further these together with the international community were saluted and the United Arab Emirates hoped that steps taken during the compilation of this report would also be recognized.
Benin said that since its first review, Tunisia had made qualitative and quantitative advances in the promotion of human rights. Benin noted with satisfaction the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations from the first Universal Periodic Review cycle. Tunisia should continue with its reforms and the efforts on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Human Rights Watch said that Tunisia had rejected several key recommendations which aimed at preventing a sliding back to authoritarianism. The country still needed to take concrete steps to reform the judiciary, protect free speech and guarantee freedom of the media.
International Federation of Human Rights Leagues welcomed the adoption of the majority of the recommendations by Tunisia and noted a number of challenges this country faced in the crucial transitional period. The rejection of recommendations regarding the equality between man and women, and the abolition of the death penalty was deplorable.
Sudwind was worried by reactions and trends which limited the rights of women and called for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and their increased access to health and education. Sudwind encouraged the Tunisian Government to abolish the death penalty. A hesitation in taking legal measures concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community was also worrying.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that since the beginning of the year numerous attempts to control the media had been seen in Tunisia and journalists had been attacked. Justice was not yet independent and people were put on trial for voicing their opinions. Mixed groups of fundamentalists and criminals intimidated media workers.
Reporters sans Frontieres said press freedom in Tunisia was still fragile and journalists were still regularly intimidated. The party in power tried to control media outlets by putting people close to them in positions of power and journalists had been attacked and investigations promised had been inconclusive. Laws to strengthen freedom of the press had not entered into force and although progress had been made it needed to be bolstered.
Amnesty International regretted the rejection by Tunisia of the recommendation to decriminalize defamation and urged that the draft law on the defamation of religion submitted to the Parliament not be passed. The rejection of the recommendations to abolish discrimination against women in inheritance and child custody raised questions about Tunisia’s true commitment to equality.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme encouraged Tunisia to undertake investigation into alleged cases of torture and to provide assistance to families of victims. Acts of violence between the police and demonstrators were an issue of concern and Tunisia should strengthen the legal framework to protect the rights of the child and include the youth into plans.
Association for Prevention of Torture said that Tunisia needed to take measures to abolish torture and welcomed the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. A national commission for the prevention of torture should be established, and should be independent, well resourced and have access to all places of detention in the country.
International PEN was alarmed about the increasing use of violence against journalists, artists and writers and the failure of the Government to put an end to this. Leaders were openly calling for violence against journalists and the Government had taken no action. A legal vacuum had been created which allowed the Government to control the press and there were clear delays when it came to legal reforms.
Commission Arabe de Droits Humain paid tribute to the martyrs of the revolution and paid tribute to the measures taken to prevent torture, which was not an individual crime but a crime against the people as a whole. An upsurge in cases of torture was therefore worrying and measures to adopt proper laws on the public media should be taken.
SAMIR DILOU, Minister of Transitional Justice and Human Rights of Tunis, said he had listened to the comments made, both negative and positive. Countries that went through a democratic transition could not change everything overnight. Regarding women’s rights, great importance was attached to equality and proposals were made to promote complementarity. Regarding freedom of expression, difficulties included a lack of understanding between the Government and members of the mass media. Responding to the Cairo Centre, he said Tunisia was in favour of an independent judiciary. He said the relationship with the media was not good and the unfortunate situations seen were hopefully part of the past. On the death penalty a clear dialogue was needed, leading to an expression of popular sentiment, where the will of the people would be respected. On torture, the changing of governance meant that torture was rejected as a violation of human rights and bodies and commissions were investigating incidents of previous decision makers. Those who were guilty were now in prison. The new Constitution would move on from constitutions of the past and would seek to make progress on equality, the rights of children and that of journalists and artists. Bodies would be created to ensure the exercise of these rights.
Interactive Dialogue with Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation said that it was deeply concerned about the profound disrespect for the work of the Advisory Committee evidenced in the draft resolution on traditional values being presented this session by Russia. The Federation called upon the Human Rights Council to respect its own mechanisms and to reject attempts at this session to devalue the work of the Advisory Committee in pursuit of a narrow political agenda that would undermine human rights.
COC Netherlands said that ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ were invoked in all societies by those with power to deny the rights of people living in marginalized communities. Ideas about tradition were easily manipulated to suppress dissent and freedom of association and expression. COC Netherlands encouraged States to comply with the Council’s procedures and to base decision-making on those issues with the guidance of the Advisory Committee’s report.
Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru said Mr. Ziegler had brought to the international community and the Council’s attention cases of human rights violations in their full dimension, and had looked at the cause and effect of problem areas. As to the mandate of the Advisory Committee, it believed that if the Committee had a broad-based mandate it could carry out work on renegotiation of a code of conduct for transnational corporations, financial institutions and States.
Concluding Remarks by the Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
JEAN ZIEGLER, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, said that this interactive dialogue constituted a pioneering move which delegations had used well and had been very useful. It stood as a unique experience that would contribute to create an institutional basis for future work. Concerning the claims that the Advisory Committee had overstepped its mandate and that its work duplicated that being carried out by other bodies, Mr. Ziegler reiterated the seriousness with which the Advisory Committee had carried out its work and in full respect for its mandate. The United States had not provided any specific examples of this alleged duplication. The United States had argued that the Committee was duplicating the work of other bodies and, given that other bodies had been closely involved it its work, it was clear that this claim was simply absurd. Mr. Ziegler thanked Cuba for its contributions to different meetings organised in parallel to the work of the Committee during its last session. Mr. Ziegler also thanked the European Union and Bolivia for their contribution to the work of the Committee, including the recent session in August and previous consultations. The Republic of Korea had emphasised the importance of the new mandate on local governance and human rights, proposed by the Committee to the Council. This topic was of importance, for example, the Canton of Geneva had demonstrated its awareness of human rights and political will by the creation of a human rights committee within its local parliamentary assembly. Terrorism and the payment of ransom in hostage situations were on the rise and constituted a vicious system that should be broken. Algeria was working to this end and had contributed to the work of the Committee. Non-governmental organizations had expressed concerns about the work and final report of the Committee concerning traditional values and their possible use to justify repression. Mr. Ziegler would communicate these concerns to the Committee to ensure that they were addressed before the presentation of the final report. Mr. Ziegler also welcomed the proposal that additional mandates on the financial crisis and transnational corporation were given to the Committee by the Council.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, referred to resolution 18/10 on human rights and matters pertaining to hostage taking by terrorists, a resolution through which the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee asked that a study be carried out. The African Group had taken note of the preparatory work of the Committee, and of the related recommendations. The African Group confirmed its intent to submit a resolution, purely procedural in nature, to give flesh to the Committee’s request for more time to carry out the task given to it.
Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the work of the High Commissioner and her Office in strengthening the treaty body system. The participation of all stakeholders was of crucial importance for a successful outcome to that process. The European Union valued the work of the Special Procedures that played a crucial role in advancing the human rights agenda. The European Union urged all States to extend standing invitations to Special Procedures and further cooperate with them. Reprisals and intimidation were not only human rights violations. They undermined the human rights system and could not under any circumstance be tolerated.
Latvia, speaking on behalf of a Group of States, said that whilst aware that the commitment to receive thematic Special Procedures was voluntary, the group of States encouraged all countries that had not done so to extend a permanent standing invitation to the Special Procedures and once the commitment was made, to honour it. Standing invitations had to go hand in hand with States respecting the working conditions of the Special Procedures. The group of States noted with satisfaction the growing number of those States that had extended invitations, further strengthening the cross-regional nature of that initiative.
China welcomed the report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on international solidarity that contributed to the discussion of the Council on this issue. In the current international context, international solidarity had greater significant than ever before. China valued the role played by the Special Procedures of this Council and hoped that they would abide by the mandate and the working principles of objectivity and impartiality to enhance dialogue and cooperation. They should avoid using unsubstantiated allegations in order to preserve their own credibility and promote dialogue with States.
Hungary was convinced that the panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisals against those who cooperated with the United Nations and mechanisms had opened a new chapter in this field. Among other measures, focal points should be created within national administrations to help the proper investigation and follow-up of these cases. Practical information on how to avoid reprisals and intimidation should be readily available and a central registry of reprisals would be useful to ensure a proper follow up.
Republic of Moldova welcomed the commitment to strengthen the treaty body system, which was of crucial important for the promotion and protection of human rights. All stakeholders had an important role to play in this process and that of ensuring the effectiveness of the system. Special Procedures played a key role and States should fully cooperate by responding to information requests and extending invitations. The Republic of Moldova reiterated the importance of the independence of mandate holders in order to ensure their impartiality.
Council of Europe said that the Group of States against Corruption monitored the compliance of States with the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption instruments. The Council of Europe also had a unit entirely dedicated to assistance to national authorities in the fields of independence and efficiency of justice, human rights, and criminal justice reform, whose objective was to increase awareness of the Council of Europe’s standards to members of legal bodies and other professionals, and to enable them to apply such standards in their daily work.
For use of the information media; not an official record