15 March 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Peru and Sri Lanka.
Luis Enrique Chávez Basagoitia, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Universal Periodic Review had allowed Peru to carry out a review of its public policies in the area of human rights and to identify remaining challenges. Out of the 129 recommendations received, 120 had been accepted immediately. The remaining nine had received careful consideration and a written response on those had been provided.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended Peru on its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and praised the adoption of policies to combat discrimination against women and domestic violence, and to improve the situation of persons with disabilities. The progress made by Peru in the area of education was also pointed out. Some speakers remained concerned about the development of indigenous and peasant communities, continuing discriminatory behaviour on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and limited access to reproductive health services.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Peru.
Romania, Venezuela, Algeria, Cuba, Ecuador, Malaysia, Morocco, Philippines and Republic of Moldova spoke on Peru. Also taking the floor were Amnesty international, Save the Children International, Franciscans International, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Association for the Prevention of Torture, and International Catholic Child Bureau.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights, said that Sri Lanka had achieved success in the humanitarian operation of rescuing the civilian population held by a ruthless group of terrorists. Sri Lanka had also actively engaged in removing military involvement in civil administration, demining, and rehabilitation, and had launched national reconciliation and peace-building initiatives. Sri Lanka had accepted 113 out of 204 recommendations received, and had also made 19 voluntary commitments. Sri Lanka was currently evaluating the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the acceptance by Sri Lanka of several recommendations and the ongoing implementation of 19 voluntary commitments. Speakers praised efforts made by Sri Lanka towards the consolidation of law enforcement and the resettlement of internally displaced persons. Some speakers expressed disappointment about the rejection by Sri Lanka of a large number of recommendations, and said that they remained concerned about existing restrictions on freedom of religion and expression, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, attacks on the independence of the judiciary, and incidents of sexual violence against women and children.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka.
Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Algeria, Belarus and China took the floor on Sri Lanka. Human Rights Watch, World Evangelical Alliance, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, United Nations Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Action Canada for Population and Development, Jubilee Campaign, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Liberation also spoke on Sri Lanka.
The Council will resume its work this afternoon with a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Peru
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ BASAGOITIA, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Peru acknowledged the importance of the Universal Periodic Review as a mechanism that encouraged dialogue at the national and inter-State levels, promoting the exchange of optimum and best practices on human rights all over the world. The experience of Peru during the first and second cycles of the Review allowed the State to carry out a review of its public policies in the area of human rights and to assess positive achievements and identify challenges still pending. Perhaps the best proof of Peru’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review was that it had immediately accepted 120 out of 129 recommendations made. The nine remaining recommendations had been analysed by the authorities and a response had been given in written form. It was with this same spirit of cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review that the delegation of Peru was here today to listen to statements from other States and civil society.
Romania said that Peru had approached the exercise in the spirit of openness and transparency and showed its commitment to the improvement of the human rights situation. The large majority of the 129 recommendations had been accepted by Peru and Romania was convinced that the implementation of those would mark concrete advances towards compliance with international human rights standards.
Venezuela appreciated the value Peru attached to the implementation of the recommendations from its first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, particularly the creation of new institutions. Over the past seven years, Peru had reduced poverty by more than a half and had made great strides in reducing extreme poverty. Venezuela welcomed the national policy for the elderly and the progress made in reducing their vulnerability, particularly for those living in extreme poverty.
Algeria appreciated the acceptance of the majority of the recommendations by Peru and the many initiatives to improve the human rights situation. Peru was committed to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights which had led to social integration and development. Algeria wished Peru all success in the implementation of the recommendations and recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of Peru.
Cuba said that it recognized the efforts made by Peru for the protection of human rights, especially in relation to vulnerable groups, and praised the adoption of the Equal Opportunities Plan for Persons with Disabilities 2009-2018. Cuba also noted with satisfaction Peru’s steps to combat domestic violence and discrimination. Concerning the field of education, the progress marked in the area of increasing literacy for the above 15-year-olds was commendable.
Ecuador acknowledged the high number of recommendations accepted by Peru and appreciated measures taken to improve the situation of persons with disabilities and to create equal opportunities for all. Policies aimed at combating discrimination against women and poverty were also noted with appreciation.
Malaysia said that it appreciated Peru’s transparent and constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process, and was pleased to note that Peru had accepted the recommendations proposed by Malaysia.
Morocco welcomed the measures taken by Peru to promote human rights since the Universal Periodic Review examination last October, including the adoption of a new law on persons with disabilities. It took note with satisfaction that Peru had accepted 120 out of 129 recommendations made, including ones that Morocco had made on setting up a national torture prevention mechanism, and another on extreme poverty.
Philippines welcomed Peru’s readiness to join the international community to set the global standard of protection for migrant workers and their families. It also appreciated Peru’s acceptance of its recommendation to consider the ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families as well as its openness to pursue ratification of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
Republic of Moldova applauded the Government’s policies aimed at consolidating democracy and the rule of law to ensure a climate of stability and political cooperation, as well as its commitment to the international human rights protection system. Peru was commended for its efforts to combat discrimination against women and violence against children and all other forms of humiliating treatment against adolescents.
Amnesty International remained concerned about the aspects of the implementation of the Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Prior Consultation in Peru and about the failure to consult with local communities on development projects that on occasion resulted in mass protests across the country with reports of excessive use of force by the police. Amnesty International welcomed the acceptance by Peru to nominate the National Ombudsman as the national preventive mechanism.
Save the Children International, in a joint statement, expressed concern that the review of the Children and Adolescents Code did not include the principles of the Convention on the Right of the Child nor the general comments of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Peru should allow access to free sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents and review the laws on sexual crimes against boys, girls and adolescents.
Franciscans International, in a joint statement, urged Peru to analyze the impact of the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations on indigenous peoples, particularly those related to education. The Government should ensure that mining activities did not challenge the health and livelihoods of local communities and refrain from using emergency declarations and arbitrary application of criminal law to inhibit legitimate human rights activities.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that Peru should take steps to provide access to education for transgender persons, in accordance with a recommendation previously accepted by the country. Intimidation, harassment and other crimes were still perpetrated against persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, so it was encouraging that Peru had accepted a relevant recommendation made by Canada.
International Lesbian and Gay Association said that, even though the Constitution of Peru prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, nevertheless the law on sexual orientation and gender identity did not explicitly guarantee the freedom of choice of identity. Peru should elaborate public policies to put an end to the exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
Centre for Reproductive Rights commended Peru on accepting recommendations relating to sexual and reproductive health services, which were crucial for the fulfillment of reproductive rights in the country. In some cases women had been denied access to legal therapeutic abortions, which had had long-lasting effects on their health. Another matter of concern was that Peru had not accepted or rejected the recommendation on the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape.
Association for the Prevention of Torture said that the detention and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in Peru continued to be a matter of concern. It also drew attention to the urgent need for Peru to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
International Catholic Child Bureau welcomed the commitment of Peru under the Universal Periodic Review and the acceptance of recommendations. However, a recent 2012 law was planning to reduce the age of legal responsibility. Furthermore, apparently 656 boys were placed in the Lima rehabilitation centre, a number much higher than the capacity of the centre.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ BASAGOITIA, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations at Geneva, in concluding remarks thanked representatives of States for their comments which were unanimous in expressing their appreciation for efforts made by Peru in its human rights policy and in its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. That said, a few concerns had been heard from representatives of civil society and they were in many cases quite similar. On the issue of consultation of indigenous people, Peru was a pioneering country in the area of the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. It was the first country that had a law providing consultation and although it was in its initial stages of implementation, this should not lead to conclusions such as those that were heard saying that progress was not being made. The mining industry benefitted the country as a whole and Peru had a successful experience of compatibility between agriculture and mining. On concern about the alleged criminalisation of protests, in Peru this was a protected right, but the Government could not tolerate that its exercise should occur simultaneously with acts in violation of the law. On health policies and with respect to abortion, abortion was a crime and an offense in Peru, with the exception of therapeutic abortion. It was aware that the protocol for the implementation of a therapeutic abortion was still at a stage where it was being elaborated. However this did not in any way diminish the commitment to correct the situation as soon as possible. On gender identify a lot of progress had been achieved, and everyone was protected equally before the law. Peru reiterated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Peru.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka
MAHINDA SAMARASINGHE, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights, said that a year after its first Universal Periodic Review in 2008, Sri Lanka had finally achieved success in the humanitarian operation of rescuing the civilian population held by a ruthless group of terrorists. It had engaged since May 2009 in a period of consolidation, removing military involvement in civil administration, reconstruction, demining, rehabilitation and resettlement and had launched initial efforts and national reconciliation and peace-building. Sri Lanka had received a total of 204 recommendations during its second Review and had accepted 113, while 91 recommendations did not enjoy its support; Sri Lanka also made 19 voluntary commitments. Sri Lanka had accepted 12 recommendations specifically referring to the National Action Plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
Turning to the process of accountability, Sri Lanka said that the first issue to be addressed was that of the figures of the civilian victims, which had been repeated by several sources without once verifying the facts. Also, the military authorities had ongoing inquiries on civilian casualties during the humanitarian operation; a database on detainees was available to the next of kin and the investigations into cases of disappearance were ongoing though national mechanisms. The National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was a commitment that had grown from the initial Review in 2008 and Sri Lanka was currently engaged in the evaluation of the first year of its implementation; the National Plan aimed to consolidate gains and to systematically address the various human rights issues and challenges. Sri Lanka would now have to conceive of a mechanism that would take into consideration the accepted recommendations and pledges made during the second Review. Sri Lanka was confident that by its next Review in 2017 it would be able to demonstrate further progress in the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.
Oman said that Sri Lanka had accepted most of the recommendations made, which demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with the Council and showed its determination to comply with human rights obligations.
Pakistan said that it was encouraging to see that Sri Lanka had made 19 voluntary commitments, including for the protection of the rights of women and children, the advancement of the reconciliation process, and the reintegration of ex-combatants in society.
Philippines said that Sri Lanka had shown deep commitment to the advancement of human rights. The Philippines welcomed in particular acceptance by Sri Lanka of the recommendation pertaining to the National Action Plan and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Concern was expressed at the situation of migrant workers and their families, and the Philippines looked forward to the ratification by Sri Lanka of International Labour Organization Convention 189.
Russia said that Sri Lanka’s second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review had again confirmed its readiness and openness to engage in open dialogue. Sri Lanka had agreed to the majority of recommendations made and those accepted were truly constructive and non-politicised in nature. Russia appreciated Sri Lanka’s list of voluntary commitments on many aspects of human rights.
Sudan said that Sri Lanka had accepted a great number of recommendations, most of which were positive and constructive. Sudan welcomed the acceptance of two recommendations on consolidation of law enforcement and resettlement of internally displaced persons. It was important to create an environment that made it possible for citizens to enjoy their rights.
United Arab Emirates welcomed positive measures undertaken by the Government to implement the recommendations from the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. The United Arab Emirates took note of Sri Lanka’s statement on giving new impetus to the human rights system and promoting human rights. It was fully confident that Sri Lanka would move forward and hoped it would be supported in this.
United Kingdom expressed serious concern about freedom of expression in Sri Lanka and asked why the recommendation to invite the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion to visit the country was rejected. Sri Lanka gave no justification for the rejection of the recommendations relating to the independence of the judiciary. The impeachment of the Chief Justice ran contrary to the clear rulings of Sri Lanka’s highest courts and contravened principles of fairness, due process and respect for the independence of the judiciary.
United States welcomed the acceptance of recommendations to combat gender-based violence and investigate breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The United States was disappointed that Sri Lanka had rejected the implementation of the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and nearly all recommendations to engage with the United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders.
Venezuela welcomed the spirit of openness and cooperation that Sri Lanka had demonstrated in the second Universal Periodic Review process and urged it to implement the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Venezuela recognized the efforts of Sri Lanka to implement recommendations from its first Review, notably those relating to the improvement of the enjoyment of human rights and those related to peace.
Viet Nam said that serious efforts had been made by Sri Lanka in relation to the national reconstruction and reconciliation process, and noted with satisfaction the ongoing implementation of 19 voluntary commitments made by Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, challenges and hardships remained to be overcome, for which an environment favourable to creating a stable and peaceful Sri Lanka was crucial.
Algeria said that Sri Lanka had actively shown it was willing to further advance human rights by intensifying the policies it was undertaking for the protection of the human rights of women and children in particular.
Belarus commended Sri Lanka on the adoption of a National Action Plan and the measures taken to reform and enhance national legislation, and said that Sri Lanka had shown strong commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
China said that it appreciated Sri Lanka’s important achievements in advancing domestic reconciliation. China called on the international community to respect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, objectively look at its advancements, provide constructive assistance, and avoid interfering in its domestic affairs. China supported the adoption of the outcome.
A member of the delegation of Sri Lanka, in response to a statement made by the United Kingdom with reference to the impeachment of the Chief Justice, stated that the Constitution and procedural matrix involved in the impeachment of judges of the Superior Court was not some process invented on a person-centric, ad hoc manner. In that context it was correct to state that the invocation of that procedure to meet requirements that emerged consequent to facts to the case concerned was justifiable. However, the entire process and a ruling by a division by the Supreme Court on the matter had now been brought under the judicial review.
Human Rights Watch said that Sri Lanka had rejected the recommendations to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. As further evidence of its lack of commitment to accountability, the Government had turned down basic recommendations focusing on the need to end impunity and investigate serious allegations of human rights violations.
World Evangelical Alliance welcomed the acceptance of recommendations to promote reconciliation and inter-religious dialogue, but was puzzled that religious freedom was still an issue in Sri Lanka. In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, the rule of law was fostered by a strong civil society, practiced tolerance and celebrated diversity. Pluralism was not a problem, it was the solution.
Amnesty International presented the case of Mr. Ragihar Monaharan, one of five university students murdered by Sri Lankan security forces on 2 January in 2006; his family had been forced to flee the country when their lives had been threatened because they sought justice for their son’s murder.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, in a joint statement, said that it was extremely disappointed that Sri Lanka’s recommendations had been amended so that they focused on the National Action Plan, which included only a fraction of the recommendations originally made. The rejection of a large number of recommendations by Sri Lanka, for example to investigate enforced disappearances, demonstrated Sri Lanka’s limited commitment to the reconciliation process.
United Nations Watch said that forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence against women, and restrictions on freedom of expression remained prevalent in Sri Lanka. It was regrettable therefore that Sri Lanka had rejected many valuable recommendations made in that respect. Moreover, attacks on the independence of the judiciary and reported cases of child rape and violence against women were particularly alarming.
International Commission of Jurists said that Sri Lanka had failed to uphold its pledge to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of gross human rights violations during the war. Furthermore, the recent removal of the legal Chief Justice of Sri Lanka through an impeachment process declared unconstitutional by the country’s Supreme Court was particularly alarming. This was the latest in a long series of attacks against the independence of the judiciary.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that it was disappointed with Sri Lanka’s lack of engagement or acceptance of recommendations on non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity. It was also concerned about the lack of response on recommendation 128.24 on decriminalizing homosexual relationships between consenting adults.
Jubilee Campaign expressed grave concern that the period since the end of the war in Sri Lanka had been marked by State-sponsored Sinhala Buddhist triumphalism, the weakening of democratic institutions and the rule of law, the constriction of civil and political rights, abductions and forcible disappearances, and a widespread climate of fear among human rights defenders and journalists.
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that the rejection and delayed implementation of crucial recommendations had shown a lack of commitment to addressing serious human rights concerns. Several prominent human rights activists had been subject to slanderous campaigns instigated by the Sri Lankan Government portraying them as traitors for raising concerns about human rights violations.
Liberation said that the refusal of Sri Lanka to ratify a number of international instruments such as the Rome Statute spoke loudly about its commitment to address accountability and torture in the country. The Human Rights Council should take measures to address accountability and impunity in Sri Lanka, given the evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the lack of will of the Government to address them.
MAHINDA SAMARASINGHE, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka on Human Rights, in his closing remarks, thanked the delegations expressing their support to Sri Lanka and stressed that the conflict was 30 years long and involved ruthless terrorists, causing the suffering of many thousands of people. During this period, many civilians had been murdered by the Tamil Tigers; thousands and thousands of Muslims had been forced out of their homes and Buddhist places of warship had been targeted. All the talk about killings and atrocities must be balanced and include also those committed by the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka was diverse society in which freedom of religion or belief was guaranteed and the Government did not condone any attacks on places of worship. The investigation into the death of five university students had commenced; Sri Lanka needed time and space to deal with such gruesome events and with the challenges ahead and had not absolved itself from responsibility. Sri Lanka was committed to achieving national reconciliation and sustainable peace and asked all to be balanced and impartial.
For use of the information media; not an official record