6 June 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of France, Tonga and Romania.
Nicolas Niemtchinow, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed the commitment of France to the Universal Periodic Review. In considering which recommendations to accept or reject, France looked to provisions already made under its Constitution and the European Conventions it was party to. It welcomed recommendations concerning its penal system, combating racism and violence against women, and its protection of religious freedoms, while noting measures already taken in the pursuit of these matters.
Michel Forst, Secretary General of the National Consultative Human Rights Commission of France, regretted that there was not more consultation with the National Commission, particularly over the treatment of prisoners, the treatment of the Roma people, and the law concerning the wearing of religious symbols.
In the discussion on France, speakers took note of the progress achieved in respect of international obligations on human rights by France and France’s good will to implement the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review and its positive response to the majority of recommendations made. France was encouraged to adopt measures to eliminate discrimination against minorities. Speakers also hoped that France would improve the conditions of detention in prisons.
Speaking in the discussion were Togo, Viet Nam, Algeria, Belarus, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Council of Europe, Cuba, Ecuador, Gabon, Iran, Kuwait, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic and Libya. The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Open Society Institute, Human Rights Watch, European Centre for Law and Justice, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de la Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Franciscans International, Inclusion International, and L’école Instrument de Paix.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of France.
Sonata Tupou, Charge d’affaires, Embassy of Tonga in London, said that the establishment of a national human rights institution continued to be difficult given Tonga’s very limited human and financial resources, although it did intend to establish a human rights desk within a government department. The participation of women in the legislature was not prohibited by law. Tonga accepted persons with different sexual orientation or gender identity and there was no policy of discrimination. Tonga was considering reform of its land tenure system with respect to women. It would retain the death penalty as the ultimate criminal sanction but would continue to implement United Nations rules with respect to prisoners.
In the discussion on Tonga, speakers welcomed the exemplary cooperation shown by Tonga during the Universal Periodic Review process and congratulated Tonga on efforts made to establish an independent office for the promotion and protection of human rights and on its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms. Speakers implored Tonga to abolish the death penalty, recognize the right to clean drinking water, and improve its record on gender equality.
Taking the floor were Morocco, New Zealand speaking for itself and the Solomon Islands, Viet Nam and Algeria. Also speaking in the debate on Tonga were the following the non-governmental organizations World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace and Amnesty International.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Tonga.
Maria Ciobanu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that it was aware that further actions were needed in promoting and protecting human rights in Romania and it was determined to spare no effort to this end. Of 157 recommendations made, 131 were accepted and 26 were rejected. Those not accepted were already being implemented. The legal system regarding human rights and non-discrimination was complex, complementary and one that respected the separation of powers. On the non-acceptance of the recommendation about a detention centre run by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States in Romania, it was stressed that a parliamentary enquiry had found that no such detention centre existed. Romania remained fully committed to the protection of all vulnerable groups, including Roma and migrants.
In the discussion on Romania, speakers said Romania had shown its determination to strengthen its legislative framework in order to promote and protect human rights and had demonstrated its commitment to engaging in a constructive dialogue with international human rights mechanisms. Speakers regretted that Romania had not adopted recommendations on acceding to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.
Speaking in the discussion were Libya, Morocco, Republic of Moldova, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Algeria, Belarus, Benin, Council of Europe, and Iran. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: COC Nederland, Save the Children International, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Amnesty International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Franciscans International, Federation for Women and Family Planning, and Romani CRISS – Roma Centre for Social Intervention and Studies.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Romania.
The Human Rights Council will consider outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Mali, Botswana and Bahamas at its noon meeting. At 3 p.m. the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi, Luxembourg and Barbados.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of France
NICOLAS NIEMTCHINOW, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said France was wholly committed to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. It had carefully studied the questions and recommendations of States and non-governmental organizations. The decision to accept or reject a recommendation reflected a thoughtful process. Recommendations that did not reflect the spirit of the Universal Periodic Review were not accepted by France. France had cleared up various technical and typographical problems in the document. On substantive matters, France did not accept the recommendation on the rights of migrants for legal reasons. France provided protection of “regular migrants” under its normal provisions, while “irregular migrants” were protected by the European Convention. Moreover the French Constitution did not recognize special categories of rights for certain groups, and France believed equality under the law was universal under its system.
Certain recommendations concerned the March 2004 law on the wearing of religious garb and symbols in schools. This law had been accepted and understood, and prosecutions under it were rare. It had been demonstrated that the law was in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights. Meanwhile the French Constitution provided for equality under the law without favour and it guaranteed the right to worship and the freedom of religious belief. Another recommendation concerned combating discrimination and violence against women. In May 2012 a Ministry of Women was established to address just these concerns; attention was paid by the French Republic to the pursuit of gender parity and equality in public and private spheres. Combating xenophobia and racism was a priority. A plan of action had been adopted that covered these areas, including anti-Semitism, and focused on education, training, strengthening prevention strategies and tackling the spread of racist materials on the Internet. France paid attention to the topic of preventing repeat offenders in its justice system in order to reduce its prison population. No-one could deny that France upheld the highest ideals in respect of human rights but there was no room for complacency; thus France welcomed the Universal Periodic Review as a tool that could lead to improvements. It committed itself to sharing its experience of the Universal Periodic Review with other States.
MICHEL FORST, Secretary General of the National Consultative Human Rights Commission of France, regretted that the steps taken by the French authorities had not been subject to greater consultation with the National Commission, particularly with regard to the treatment of prisoners. It found that the ban on facial coverings was not consistent with the law on religious symbols and hoped for answers about this from the French authorities. While the National Commission welcomed France’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review, it wished to express its concern on certain details, for example the treatment of Roma people in France.
Togo took note of the progress achieved in respect of international obligations on human rights by France. Togo thanked France for having accepted its recommendation aiming to use more measures that did not deprive persons of their liberty and commended France on its renewed commitment to the Universal Periodic Review.
Viet Nam took note of France’s good will to implement the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review in January and its positive response to the majority of recommendations made. Viet Nam was a friendly long term partner and would like to see France consolidate progress made in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Algeria said that it encouraged the adoption of measures to eliminate discrimination against minorities. Algeria welcomed France’s acceptance of its recommendation on detention conditions. Algeria highly appreciated France’s reconsideration of accession to the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrants and their Families.
Belarus said that it was pleased that France had accepted a number of recommendations, including one put forward by Belarus, and hoped that France would improve the conditions of detention in prisons, which had led to the suicide of detainees. It also called on France to ban same-sex couples from adopting children.
Benin said that France’s approach derived from its commitment throughout history to protect and promote human rights, and hoped that France would pay attention to issues relating to immigration and would improve the situation of migrant workers.
Burkina Faso encouraged France to continue to work on the promotion and protection of human rights and wished it every success in implementing its recommendations.
Côte d’Ivoire said that during France’s Universal Periodic Review it had encouraged France to pursue efforts on the situation of migrant workers and their families. Côte d’Ivoire was delighted that this concern was reflected in the recommendations accepted by the French delegation. It remained convinced that France would spare no efforts to ensure effective implementation.
Council of Europe welcomed the productive dialogue which went hand in hand with the Universal Periodic Review of France. It commended the cooperation between the Council of Europe and France and France’s adoption of a national plan of action on racism and anti-Semitism. It was concerned about discrimination against Roma and noted with regret that the relevant recommendation was not accepted.
Cuba said that during France’s Universal Periodic Review the progress achieved was highlighted, in particular the improvement in the normative and structural framework for the protection of human rights. Moreover, the challenges were also identified. Cuba appreciated that France had accepted its recommendation concerning continuing efforts to ensure the prohibition of all forms of racial discrimination.
Ecuador congratulated France on the high number of recommendations it had accepted and hoped to see many recommendations implemented in the near future. Nevertheless, Ecuador remained alarmed about France’s expulsion of Roma and the non-acceptance of the recommendation about ratifying the Convention on Migrant Workers.
Gabon welcomed France’s efforts to step up cooperation with international mechanisms in order to promote and protect human rights, and it encouraged France to continue along those lines. It was pleased that progress had been made in combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination against women.
Iran said that it appreciated the recommendations accepted by France but also noted with concern that minority groups, particularly Muslims and Roma, continued to face difficulties in France. Iran expected that France would take all the necessary measures to implement the accepted recommendations.
Kuwait welcomed the presentation made by the Permanent Representative and commended France for accepting the recommendations made by Kuwait in respect of racism, xenophobia and the treatment of migrants.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic noted that France was party to many human rights agreements and supported the adoption of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review by France.
Libya said it was pleased that France had accepted the recommendations made in the Universal Periodic Review, particularly with regard to actions taken with respect to cultural diversity and women’s issues.
Open Society Institute welcomed France’s acceptance of four Universal Periodic Review recommendations to end the use of ethnic profiling by the police. It encouraged the Government of France to swiftly pass legislation that explicitly banned racial profiling during identify checks.
Human Rights Watch welcomed the acceptance of the recommendation to stop racial profiling during identity checks and urged France to swiftly implement them. It deeply regretted the rejection of the removal of the law banning students from wearing ostentatious religious symbols in public schools. It was concerned by reports of continued forced evictions of Roma.
European Centre for Law and Justice drew the attention of the Council to serious events taking place in France, which included racial profiling during identity checks, numerous cases of arbitrary detention and acts of repression. It asked the Council to take note of the violations in the country that was supposed to be exemplary in terms of human rights.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de la Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale expressed concern about the human rights situation of migrant women, especially in the areas of education and employment. France must make efforts to protect women from rape, murder and kidnapping and ensure that perpetrators were punished.
Franciscans International noted that France had ratified a number of international instruments on trafficking in humans, but said that France should step up efforts to combat the problem. A national procedure should be introduced to identify victims and better care should be provided to them. France should also raise public awareness about trafficking in humans.
Inclusion International noted with concern that restrictions still existed on the basis of disability under French law. A recent resolution of the Council recognized that any exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability constituted an act of discrimination. Therefore, further measures had to be taken by France to amend its legal framework.
L’école Instrument de Paix welcomed the adoption by France of a national plan of action against racism and anti-Semitism. France should also tackle the human rights violations experienced by the Kanak people of New Calendonia. No public information was available on the nuclear tests carried out in Tahiti and how those had affected the health of local people.
NICOLAS NIEMTCHINOW, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said in concluding remarks that comments made by States and non-governmental organizations would be taken into account and welcomed the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of France.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Tonga
SONATA TUPOU, Charge d affaires of the Embassy of Tonga in London, said that the establishment of a national human rights institution continued to be a difficult proposition given Tonga’s very limited human and financial resources. In comprise, Tonga intended to establish a human rights desk at either the Attorney General’s office or the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It recognised that this arrangement may be challenged. However, this was the best option for now. The participation of women in the legislature was not prohibited by law nor discouraged in any way by any national policy, practice or procedure. Like other countries in the Pacific region, Tonga had enduringly and openly accepted persons with different sexual orientation or gender identity and there was no discrimination policy of activities against such persons. The decriminalization of consensual sex between same sex adults was an issue that Tonga still wished to consider further. Tonga was still considering the issue of access of women to land under Tonga’s 138 year-old land tenure system. Such a process was delicate and extensive, as it went to the core of the Tongan culture.
Tonga would continue to retain the death penalty as the ultimate criminal sanction under its criminal justice system for the crimes of murder and treason. It reserved its position on utilization of the death penalty only to be used in the rarest of cases, where violence had been at its most abhorrent. Whipping was the only form of corporal punishment that was available under the criminal justice system, but it too would be retained as a deterrent, and used only at the most extreme cases when alternative sentences were not appropriate in the interests of the criminal justice system. Tonga would not ratify the second Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which required the abolishment of the death penalty, but would continue to advance the civil and political rights provided for in the Covenant. Tonga accepted that the minimum age of 7 years old for criminal responsibility of a child was appropriate for Tonga. It would continue its efforts to incorporate and implement the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non Custodial Measures for Women Offenders in its prison regime. Tonga hoped that the international community would continue to show its support in this journey, especially through the provision of training and technical assistance to continue dialogue, in order to advance Tonga’s human rights responsibilities.
Morocco welcomed the exemplary cooperation shown by Tonga during the Universal Periodic Review process. The constitutional reforms made by Tonga were a positive sign. Morocco congratulated Tonga on efforts made to establish an independent office for the promotion and protection of human rights and on its willingness to cooperate with human rights mechanisms.
New Zealand said that Tonga had shown that it had closely considered the issues raised and encouraged it to reflect further on recommendations not accepted, particularly those relating to the death penalty. New Zealand congratulated Tonga on its efforts to combat violence against women, and said that progress in human rights issues was a process which required ongoing dialogue.
Viet Nam said that it was aware of the difficulties which Tonga, as a small island, was facing, and noted with appreciation Tonga’s full engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process and its acceptance of recommendations, including those made by Viet Nam.
Algeria said that Tonga had accepted the majority of the recommendations it had received, which demonstrated its commitment to the work of the Council despite difficulties relating to resources. Algeria wished Tonga every success in its implementation of accepted recommendations.
World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace said it recognized the barrier to the furtherance of the human rights agenda that a lack of resources represented for Tonga but praised its efforts. However it implored Tonga to abolish the death penalty, recognize the right to clean drinking water, and improve its record on gender equality. It offered its expertise to help with the establishment of a national human rights institution.
Amnesty International welcomed the engagement of Tonga in the Universal Periodic Review and said it was an example to other States, large and small, developing and developed, of how the Universal Periodic Review could work. It encouraged Tonga to abolish the death penalty and decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct among adults.
SONATA TUPOU, Charge d affaires of the Embassy of Tonga in London, in concluding remarks thanked the States that spoke in the Council in Tonga’s support and said it would take note of the remarks by Amnesty International.
The Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Tonga.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Romania
MARIA CIOBANU, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that it appreciated the spirit of good faith and cooperation that characterised its Universal Periodic Review session. It was aware that further actions were needed in promoting and protecting human rights and it was determined to spare no efforts in this regard. All recommendations were thoroughly analysed. Following this, out of 157 recommendations received, 131 were accepted and 26 were rejected. It was emphasised that almost all accepted recommendations were in the course of implementation. Those not accepted included those regarding ratification of the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families, the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, issues related to the institution of the Ombudsman, and issues related to the national strategy on the rights of the child. The reason for the rejection of recommendations in the majority of cases was because they were already being implemented.
Concerning the rejection of the recommendation on the adoption of legislation prohibiting corporal punishment on children, this was because Romania had already introduced legislation prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment on children. The legal system regarding human rights and non-discrimination was complex, complementary and one that respected the separation of powers. On the recommendation regarding the rights of migrants and members of their families, it was rejected as it was already implemented. Legally employed migrants had access to courts or mechanisms of dispute, in a manner not less favourable than for any other workers. On the national strategy on the rights of the child, Romania’s national strategy for 2008-2013 envisaged all children of Romania, in different sectors of interest. The main target groups were children with Romanian citizenship, children found on the territory of a foreign nationality, refugees, or the stateless. As for the non-acceptance of the recommendation on the alleged existence of a Central Intelligence Agency of the United States detention centre, it was once again stressed that a parliamentary enquiry had carried out an investigation between 2005 and 2008 and the conclusions were public, attesting that there was no evidence that such a centre had or did exist. The Government remained fully committed to the protection of all vulnerable groups, including Roma and migrants.
Libya said that Romania had shown its determination to strengthen its legislative framework in order to promote and protect human rights and had demonstrated its commitment to engage in a constructive dialogue with international human rights mechanisms. Libya encouraged Romania to continue to promote social and economic rights.
Morocco congratulated Romania on accepting most of the recommendations it had received, including two made by Morocco, and said that it appreciated Romania’s efforts to promote constructive dialogue between different religions of the country. It also commended Romania on adopting legislation to protect freedom of religion and to combat discrimination.
Republic of Moldova commended Romania on its commitment to eliminate domestic violence against women and said that it appreciated the adoption of policies to promote and protect fundamental freedoms. The Republic of Moldova appreciated Romania’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons, especially children, and welcomed steps taken to enable minorities to interact with public authorities in their native tongue.
Sri Lanka appreciated Romania’s constructive approach and commended its adoption of more than 80 per cent of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations, noting that those not adopted were covered by measures already in place.
Viet Nam noted with satisfaction the adoption by Romania of two of its recommendations and appreciated the conduct of Romania in the Universal Periodic Review process. Viet Nam supported the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Romania.
Algeria said it had submitted a recommendation about the Roma people which it noted with appreciation had been approved by Romania. Algeria wished Romania every success with its continued engagement with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
Belarus expressed hope that Romania would invite the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons to visit the country. Belarus regretted that Romania had not adopted recommendations on acceding to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families. It appealed to Romania to step up efforts in relation to education.
Benin welcomed with satisfaction the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and welcomed its commitment to respecting the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Romania was encouraged to implement measures to improve the situation of minorities, especially the Roma.
Council of Europe welcomed the constructive dialogue that prevailed during the Universal Periodic Review and the systematic cooperation of Romania with the Council of Europe. The Council noted the resolve of the Government to establish the necessary institutions to improve the human rights situation in the most vulnerable areas. Strategies had to be backed up with human and financial resources.
Iran said that it had noted Romania’s dynamic engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process. Six recommendations had been submitted by Iran, of which five were adopted, including with regards to the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and challenges in access to justice for victims of violence and human trafficking. It was hoped that these would be implemented.
COC Nederland, speaking on behalf a Romanian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group, welcomed the measures taken by Romania to end discrimination against and promote justice for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Homosexuals were the second-most discriminated against group in Romania, while the legislative and institutional picture was bleak with respect to these minorities.
Save the Children International welcomed the recommendations made in the Universal Periodic Review as they related to the rights of children and urged Romania to take measures to make them a reality. Romania had to stick to the commitments it made in front of the European Commission in April with respect to its National Reform Programme 2014-2020 and its strategies to strengthen the rights of children in various contexts.
Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII highlighted the problem of children with HIV/AIDS and urged the Romanian Government to take action. It praised Romania for ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, in particular as it affected children, but there was more to be achieved.
Amnesty International welcomed that Romania had accepted recommendations on access for Roma to adequate housing and urged for their swift implementation. Despite assurances that this was a priority, it continued to hear reports of evictions. It was disappointed that recommendations had not been accepted regarding Romania’s involvement in United States Central Intelligence Agency operations.
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the acceptance of recommendations regarding sexual and reproductive rights and on comprehensive sexuality education and looked forward to monitoring implementation of these. It was concerned that no activity was being carried out to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Franciscans International welcomed Romania’s acceptance of recommendations related to trafficking in persons. It was convinced that a human rights approach to trafficking required the setting up of a comprehensive framework for victims. The Government was asked to dedicate the appropriate financial resources for this.
Federation for Women and Family Planning said it was concerned by the high rates of pregnancy among adolescent women and urged the Government to recognise this problem; there should be education on this matter in schools. The Government was also urged to take all appropriate measures to enable young girls to complete their education.
Romani CRISS Roma Centre for Social Intervention and Studies said that the Government had done nothing to remedy the situation of Roma informal settlements. A report by the Romanian Institute for Research on Minorities had stated that there were children of the Roma minority in Baia that had no clothing, shoes and which only fed to survive.
MARIA CIOBANU, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Romania took the recommendations in a very constructive manner and the capital would duly analyse every comment made today. In a specific response to the statement of Amnesty International, Ms. Ciobanu said she would again repeat what was written in the report regarding allegations relating to the existence of CIA detention centres in Romania, and that Romania had not rejected the three recommendations made, and that recommendations 109 and 156 had in fact been partially accepted. Specifically responding to the statement of the Roma Centre for Social Intervention and Studies, Ms. Ciobanu emphasized that, as written in the report, the National Council to Combat Discrimination in Romania had appealed the Romanian Court’s decision, resulting in a reversal of its initial ruling.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Romania.
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