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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OUTCOMES OF CANADA, CUBA AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

21 September 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Canada, Cuba and the Russian Federation. 

Rosemary McCarney, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Canada viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important tool among United Nations mechanisms to promote and protect human rights around the world.  The Government recognized that challenges remained in many areas, and the received recommendations would inform its decisions on how to address those challenges.  As enshrined in the Constitution, some of those issues fell under the federal jurisdiction and provincial and territorial jurisdiction, and in some cases, they were a shared responsibility between governments in Canada. The Government had undertaken a multi-pronged approach to engagement with civil society and indigenous peoples, including cross-country engagement sessions co-hosted by civil society representatives and indigenous peoples to identify priority recommendations.  

Canadian Human Rights Commission, in a video statement, recognized and commended Canada’s efforts to put human rights back on the agenda.  However, millions of Canadians did not have equal opportunities for success.  There was still much poverty and inequality.  Indigenous communities still lived without drinking water and people with physical and mental disabilities still had difficulty accessing education.  The Commission stressed that public consultation with all concerned groups would be a step in the right direction.

In the ensuing discussion, Canada was urged to do more when it came to the rights of migrants and refugee.  Concerns were raised about the increasing racism and hate crimes against Muslims as well as racism against people of African descent and indigenous peoples.  It was noted, however that Canada had a strong commitment to gender equality, evidenced by the appointment of the first federal minister on gender issues.  Canada was addressing the wage gap and acknowledged the barriers brought about by gender-based violence.  Canada should join human rights instruments that it had not yet become party to, particularly the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.  Attention must also be given to the activities of Canadian companies abroad, particularly in Latin America, where they had a negative impact on the environment, human rights, and a socio-economic impact on indigenous peoples.

Speaking were the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chile, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, and Iran. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Canadian Human Rights Commission, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES, in a joint statement with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Franciscans International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, United Villages and Africa Culture International..

The President of the Council informed that out of 275 recommendations received, 205 enjoyed the support of Canada and 70 were noted.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Canada. 

Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that the Government valued the results of its third Universal Periodic Review and recognized its use for the promotion and protection of human rights.  It had studied each recommendation from the judicial, political and institutional points of view.  It had also conducted consultations throughout the country in order to decide on its position on the recommendations, many of which were already being implemented or formed part of future priorities of the Government and of the Cuban people.  Cuba was satisfied to hear the recognition of its universal coverage of free-of-charge healthcare and educational systems.  The Government also appreciated the denunciation of the negative impact on human rights of the United States’ economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba, which constituted a massive, flagrant and systemic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.  The death penalty had not been carried out since 2003.

In the ensuing discussion, there was concern about the impact of the continuing economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba.  There were calls for the embargo to be lifted.  Cuba’s efforts to provide the necessary resources to ensure quality education for all were also mentioned as well as efforts to strengthen programmes aimed at protecting children, young people, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  There were also challenges to Cuba’s claim that no restrictions and barriers stood in the way of religious associations to exercise their rights freely.

Speaking were Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, China, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nicaragua and Nigeria.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: World Evangelical Alliance, Europe-Third World Centre, National Union of Jurists of Cuba, International Association of Democratic Lawyers (in a joint statement with Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas), Indian Council of South America (CISA), Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, United Nations Watch and Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas.

The President of the Council informed that out of 339 recommendations received, 224 enjoyed the support of Cuba and 113 were noted; additional clarification was provided on another two recommendations, indicating which part of the recommendations was supported and which part was noted. 

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Cuba. 

Alexandr Konovalov, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, reasserted Russia’s belief in the Universal Periodic Review as a procedure which provided a unique opportunity for countries to exchange their experiences on human rights issues.  The Russian Government had carefully studied all the received recommendations, and it was prepared to receive constructive criticism to improve its human rights sector.  Many of the proposals had already been implemented in practice or were currently being implemented.  Those recommendations that it had rejected ran counter to Russian laws or were repetitive, including those that referred to the annexation of Crimea.  The people of Crimea had freely decided to join the Russian Federation.  In the sphere of civil and political rights, the Minister noted that the topic was of great interest to many countries, which did not pay attention to Russia’s legal practice in that respect.  The Russian Federation was committed to protect civil society actors and it worked with them to improve its legal framework.  The obligatory registration of civil society organizations that received funds from abroad aimed to ensure transparency and openness about their activities.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation informed that his office had worked to secure pension rights for foreign citizens residing in Russia, to strengthen guarantees of legality of law enforcement bodies, to establish times-scales on keeping people in pre-trial detention, to assess availability of infrastructure to citizens, to complete registration on non-commercial organizations and foreign agents, and finally to allow visits of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights called for cooperation with all offices for the protection of human rights.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the fact that Russia had accepted 70 per cent of the recommendations.  They commended measures taken to protect women, children and other vulnerable groups in the country, including measures to encourage education in national languages and increased job opportunities for youth in rural areas and the preservation of the rights of indigenous peoples.  Other speakers reminded that the Russian Federation continued to introduce new restrictive norms to suppress and dissolve civil society organizations, block the activities of political opposition, and use blasphemy laws to criminalize those who peacefully expressed non-religious views.  They called on the Russian Federation to urgently repeal the law prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, and to enforce the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. 

Speaking were Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, China, Republic of Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, and Gabon.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: United Nations Watch, Human Rights House Foundation, Lawyers for Lawyers, International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanist Association, World Organisation Against Torture, International Service for Human Rights, Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship, Indian Council of South America (CISA) and Amnesty International.

The President of the Council informed that out of the 317 recommendations received, 192 enjoyed the support of the Russian Federation and 98 were noted; additional clarification was provided on another 27 recommendations, indicating which part of the recommendations was supported and which part was noted. 

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Russian Federation. 


The Council will next hold a general debate on human rights mechanisms. 


Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Canada

ROSEMARY MCCARNEY, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Canada viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important tool among United Nations mechanisms to promote and protect human rights around the world.  It contributed to the universality and impartiality of the United Nations human rights system and led to concrete improvements in the respect for human rights on the ground.  A key principle of Canada’s participation in that process was that human rights had to start at home.  The Government recognized that challenges remained in many areas, and the received recommendations would inform its decisions on how to address those challenges.  As enshrined in the Constitution, some of those issues fell under the federal jurisdiction and provincial and territorial jurisdiction, and in some cases, they were a shared responsibility between Governments in Canada.  Following Canada’s appearance at the Universal Periodic Review, the Government had undertaken a multi-pronged approach to engagement with civil society and indigenous peoples, including cross-country engagement sessions co-hosted by civil society representatives and indigenous peoples to identify priority recommendations.  Canada had accepted recommendations that called on it to ratify three treaties, namely the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.   A large number of recommendations pertained to indigenous peoples and the protection of their rights.  Governments across Canada were taking measures aimed at addressing the gaps in services for indigenous peoples in the areas of culture, health, standard of living, housing and access to justice.  The recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussions with indigenous peoples across the country were informing the reform of Canada’s laws, policies and practices to support recognition of a rights-based approach. 

Canada had also accepted recommendations in relation to measures to reduce poverty, to improve personal and family revenues, and to respond to housing needs in order to allow all Canadians to have a better quality of life.  The Government was working to put in place a national consultative council on poverty which would advise the Government on the reduction of poverty.  On 11 June 2018 the Government had announced its Strategy to Combat Homelessness, which aimed at reducing chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.  Within the framework of the National Housing Strategy, Canada was taking measures to ensure the progressive realization of the right of all Canadians to adequate housing.  The Government also collaborated with civil society, the private sector and indigenous organs to elaborate a nutrition policy for Canada.  The Government had accepted the majority of recommendations which called on it to redouble efforts to fight violence against women and children.  Canada’s approach to the integration of immigrants was based on the principle of an open and welcoming society, a society that favoured diversity, active citizenship, and engagement towards multiculturalism.  In terms of combatting racism and promoting non-discrimination, key priorities included cross-country engagement to assess the barriers faced by minority groups, and the development of a new federal anti-racism strategy.  Canada had also accepted the recommendation on addressing racism and religious profiling, discrimination in the justice system, use of force by law enforcement, and trafficking.

Canadian Human Rights Commission, speaking in a video statement, recognized and commended the Canadian efforts to put human rights back on the agenda.  However, millions of Canadians did not have equal opportunities for success.  There was still much poverty and inequality.  Indigenous communities still lived without drinking water and people with physical and mental disabilities still had difficulty accessing education.  They stressed that public consultation with all concerned groups would be a step in the right direction.

Philippines welcomed the achievements made by Canada in promoting human rights, especially in the area of improving services to indigenous peoples, including education, clean water, housing and health care.  Canada also had a multi-faceted approach to gender based violence.  The Philippines thanked Canada for accepting recommendations concerning protecting indigenous women against discrimination, and ensuring that Canada’s mining, oil and gas companies were held accountable for negative human rights impact of their operations.

Sri Lanka was pleased that Canada had accepted 208 out of 275 recommendations, including three recommendations made by Sri Lanka.  Measures taken to advance the rights of marginalised populations, including poverty reduction of indigenous peoples, were appreciated.  Further measures aimed at reducing the gender wage gap were encouraged. 

Belgium noted with appreciation that Canada had accepted the recommendation made by Belgium to strengthen the protection of indigenous women by systematically conducting investigations and ensuring data collection on violence against indigenous women.  However, another recommendation to draft an action plan for implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights had not been accepted.

Botswana said that during the review, Botswana had reiterated its concerns regarding the continued incidences of racial profiling and urged Canada to prevent over-incarceration of African Canadians.  Canada had accepted this recommendation.  Canada’s commitment to gender equality was evidenced by the appointment of the first federal minister on gender issues, addressing the wage gap and acknowledging the barriers brought about by gender-based violence.

Burkina Faso wished a warm welcome to the delegation and acknowledged Canada’s commitment to strengthen intergovernmental dialogue and public dialogue on human rights to elaborate a protocol on the follow-up of recommendations.  Canada had accepted the majority of the recommendations.

Chile noted with appreciation the decision to draw up a protocol for the follow-up to the recommendations.  Such innovation could represent a good practice to follow.  Canada’s policies to improve service delivery to indigenous peoples, including education, clean water, housing and health care, were noted.  Canada was urged to do more to ensure the rights of migrants and refugees.

Republic of Congo welcomed the delegation of Canada and noted the presentation of the report.  Canada’s readiness to maintain a high level of protection of human rights was appreciated, particularly through voluntary commitments in addition to the recommendations accepted.

Egypt emphasized that Canada should address discriminatory processes in the country against people of African descent, particularly Muslims.  Canada should put into place more protection measures for those populations to allow them to freely practice their religions.

Gabon welcomed Canada’s commitment to combatting gender-based violence, particularly against indigenous women and girls.  Gabon wished Canada success in implementing its recommendations. 

Haiti noted that certain recommendations that Haiti made were not accepted by Canada, in particular a recommendation to increase Canada’s public aid to reach 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product and to put in place a national action plan to follow-up on the recommendations of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent after their 2016 visit.

Honduras respectfully encouraged Canada to join human rights instruments it had not yet become party to, particularly the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.  Honduras also urged Canada to revise its national legislation to protect migrant workers.

Indonesia welcomed Canada’s voluntary pledges and commitments made during the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, which served as an exemplary model for Member States of the Council.  Indonesia thanked Canada for accepting its recommendations regarding measures to address hate crime, racial profiling, and gender-based violence, and to improve the situation of refugees.

Iran regretted that five of their recommendations were noted by Canada.  They were concerned about increasing racism and hate crimes against Muslims as well as racism against people of African descent and indigenous peoples in Canada.  Racial profiling by border police and other authorities added to these concerns. 

International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES, in a joint statement with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, welcomed the fact that Canada had committed itself to ensure that indigenous children received the same healthcare and social services as other Canadian children.  It regretted that Canada had merely noted the recommendation to put an end to the detention of refugee and asylum-seeking children.  That detention violated the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

Franciscans International regretted that Canada had not accepted the recommendations to change legislation in order to protect water and ecosystems by prohibiting extractive and mining industries from conducting activities that threatened the wellbeing of Canadians and First Nations.

Action Canada for Sexual Health, in a joint statement with the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Reform, welcomed Canada’s acceptance of the recommendation to ensure equal access to abortion and comprehensive sexuality education across all provinces and territories.  Many systemic barriers across the country prevented individuals from accessing the abortion services to which they were entitled.  Those barriers often intersected with a person’s age, immigration status, race, class, sexuality and gender. 

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom called attention to the activities of Canadian companies abroad, especially in Latin America, where they remained of major concern due to their negative consequences for the environment, human rights, and socio-economic impact on indigenous peoples. 

Amnesty International said the Canadian Government’s assertion that it was working in partnership with indigenous peoples to operationalize free, prior and informed consent fled in the face of continuing approvals of major resource projects without consent.  The existence of various measures to address violence against women did not reduce the need for a comprehensive national action plan.   

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada said that Canada had failed to adequately address three important human rights issues.  Those were inequality suffered by indigenous people, the need to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the need for effective measures to prevent rights abuses by Canadian corporations operating abroad and to ensure the right of foreign victims to seek remedies in Canada. 

United Villages appreciated Canada for accepting its responsibilities on promoting and protecting human rights.  The reforms in criminal justice were a landmark achievement.  The Government had undergone a broad review of criminal justice, trying to address a number of important issues, and had held a series of roundtables across the country as part of its efforts to reform the justice system.

Africa Culture welcomed efforts made by Canada to accept recommendations.  Canada was a wealthy country but this wealth was not enjoyed by all, so a poverty reduction strategy was needed.  Local governments were implementing such strategies and Canada was developing policies with local governments.  Greater inclusion of persons with disabilities was needed and a new law on accessibility had to be adopted.

The President said that out of 275 recommendations received, 205 enjoyed the support of Canada and 70 were noted.

ROSEMARY MCCARNEY, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva, underscored that all governments across Canada shared a common goal to improve the lives of Canadians.  Work was well under way to implement new commitments.  In response to comments made by Iran, it was clarified that Canada had accepted all of their recommendations.  There were also many comments made concerning responsible business enterprises and human rights violations abroad.  Ms. McCarney informed that Canadian businesses had two dispute resolution mechanisms to deal with issues concerning human rights violations.  With those efforts in mind, she ensured that Canada would update the Council on progress made before the fourth Universal Periodic Review.  Canada thanked Member States, civil society and indigenous peoples’ engagement in Canada’s Universal Periodic Review.  They had great confidence that the recommendations would allow Canada to have tangible action on human rights.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Canada.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Cuba

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reaffirmed Cuba’s resolve to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.  The Universal Periodic Review as an instrument of universal application allowed for the consideration and assessment of human rights situations in all countries, based on the principles of equality, mutual respect, constructive dialogue and cooperation.  The Government valued the results of its third Universal Periodic Review and recognized its use for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Government had studied each recommendation from the judicial, political and institutional point of view, and it had conducted consultations throughout the country in order to decide on its position on the recommendations.  The Government had accepted the majority of the 226 received recommendations.  Many of them were already being implemented or formed part of future priorities of the Government and of the Cuban people.  A smaller number of the recommendations, namely 30 of them, did not enjoy the support of the Cuban Government because they were politically motivated and did not correspond to the reality in the country.  Some of them sought to discredit Cuba as part of hegemonic ambitions which negated the right to self-determination of the Cuban people, and the diversity of political, economic, social and cultural systems worldwide.  Those recommendations were not compatible with the constitutional principles and legal order of Cuba, and in their content, they were contrary to the spirit of cooperation and respect which had to underpin the Universal Periodic Review.  In addition, Cuba had noted 83 recommendations which it, at the moment, could not implement. 

Cuba was grateful for having had an opportunity to listen to the opinions of many delegations, and it was satisfied to hear the recognition of its universal coverage of free-of-charge healthcare and educational systems, as well as of its international cooperation in many spheres.  The Government also appreciated the denunciation of the negative impact on human rights of the United States’ economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba.  The blockade constituted a massive, flagrant and systemic violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.  Cuba considered the ratification of international instruments with rigour and seriousness.  It was a process that required consultation with all relevant institutions and thorough study of the legal framework in order to assess whether the country met relevant conditions for implementation.  For those reasons, it was Cuba’s position not to ever ratify international instruments under pressure.  While the Government understood the reasons behind the international movement for the abolition of the death penalty, no one in the country had been sentenced to death and the death penalty had not been carried out since 2003.  Cuba had in place an effective inter-institutional system to allow for the participation of non-governmental organizations.  The Government gave high priority to the promotion of the freedom of expression and assembly, and access to information.  The country’s judicial system was transparent and impartial, with necessary guarantees for the rule of law.   

Haiti congratulated Cuba for the oral update.  Cuba had accepted the recommendations of Haiti, including better integration of Cubans of African descent, as well as strengthening of cooperation with Member States of the Caribbean community.

Indonesia appreciated that Cuba had accepted the recommendation of Indonesia, to continue implementing policies aimed at fostering a greater culture of tolerance and non-discrimination in the education sector.  Hopefully in the future, the Government would consider other recommendations, including to consolidate the framework for the promotion of human rights through ratifying the two international covenants.

Iran stressed that in considering the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, one could not turn a blind eye to the adverse impact of the economic, commercial and financial blockades imposed on Cuba.  As acknowledged by relevant resolutions of the human rights bodies, people’s rights were violated by such measures.

Iraq thanked Cuba for its presentation.  Cuba had accepted two recommendations made by Iraq, on combatting trafficking and on ensuring equal access to education for both genders.

Kenya warmly welcomed the Government of Cuba that continued to strengthen its legal, policy and institutional framework for the support of the Universal Periodic Review process both nationally and multilaterally. 

Lao People’s Democratic Republic warmly welcomed the delegation Cuba and thanked them for the oral update.  Efforts to promote the rights to full equality and strengthen programmes aimed at protecting children, young people, the elderly and persons with disabilities were recognized.  Cuba had accepted three recommendations of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

China commended Cuba for its successful engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.  Cuba had accepted the recommendations of China.  Cuba was applauded for its human rights efforts in different spheres, suited to their own context.  Countries concerned were urged to lift the embargo on Cuba.

Lesotho was concerned about the impact of the continuing economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba.  Lesotho called for the embargo to be lifted.  It also hoped that Cuba would consider their recommendations, including ratifying human rights instruments that it was not yet party to.

Libya welcomed Cuba’s efforts in giving priority to providing the necessary resources to ensure quality education for all.  They recommended the adoption of Cuba’s report. 

Madagascar commended steps taken by Cuba to strengthen legislative and institutional frameworks to protect human rights.  They encouraged Cuba’s authorities to step-up efforts to make human rights a reality. 

Nepal thanked Cuba for accepting its recommendations to establish an independent national human rights institution and to ratify the core human rights treaties.  Cuba’s continued efforts in legal and institutional reforms showed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Nicaragua recognized Cuba’s efforts in light of the fact that they were up against unilateral coercive measures.  Nicaragua recognized the greater participation by civil society to prevent trafficking in persons in the country.

Nigeria commended Cuba for its continued engagement and cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review process as well as strengthening its legal and institutional frameworks for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Nigeria acknowledged Cuba’s commitment to strengthening people’s participation in its decision-making process.

World Evangelical Alliance challenged Cuba’s claim that no restrictions and barriers stood in the way of religious associations to exercise their right freely.  In 2015, 2,000 places of worship of a single church union had been threatened with demolition and several places had been destroyed.  Freedom of conscience and the possibility of non-participation in the obligatory military service should also be maintained.

Europe-Third World Centre noted that despite the continued economic blockade, Cuba had continued to demonstrate satisfactory results in the area of economic and social rights.  The organization also pointed out to significant legal advances, such as the passing of the new national Constitution in July 2018, which signalled the willingness of Cuba to continue its road to build a society that was more just and egalitarian.  

National Union Jurists of Cuba reminded that Cuba had improved the legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights.  It also recognized the widening of the space for civil society and consultation with society, which demonstrated genuine democracy on which the Cuban system was founded.  Cuba had been hindered in its protection of human rights by the longstanding economic blockade.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers, in a joint statement with Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas, commended Cuba for its efforts and progress made in the promotion of human rights.  Cuban civil society was in an ongoing dialogue on an equal footing with the authorities to promote the freedom of expression, opinion, thought, religion and assembly.  The organization criticized the economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.

Indian Council of South America (CISA) reminded that many countries had called on Cuba to ratify the two covenants.  Yet many Western countries had never called on the United States to stop its economic, trade and financial blockade of Cuba.  Those States that called on Cuba to ratify the two covenants had not done much to implement them.  States should live up to their own expectations in order to improve the United Nations human rights system.

Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba was bringing together creative elements of Cuba’s society, seeking to promote ethical and civil values.  They were working in provinces, addressing different parts of culture and providing support to culture objectives, including development of the community, citizens’ participation and a culture of expression.

Amnesty International said that Cuba had published its response to the recommendations only a few days ago, undermining the credibility of the review.   Decree 349 censored artists who needed authorization to work.  Cuba was the only country in Americas that was closed to Amnesty International.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted that Cuba used a range of measures against religious leaders and human rights defenders.  Arbitrary detention remained a common tactic.  Cuba was called on to stop the harassment of religious leaders and human rights defenders.

United Nations Watch said that the Universal Periodic Review was a very important process but asked if it was used properly?  During the last report of Cuba, 20 non-governmental organizations had provided reactions.  However, none of the joint communications were duly examined.

Associacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas said that young Cubans were living in a socialist country which was allowing them to fully enjoy their rights.  Cuba was developing every day in spite of the blockade imposed for over 50 years.  Over 70 per cent of the current population was born after the blockade was imposed.  Still, they were all proud to be Cuban.

The President said that out of 339 recommendations received, 224 were accepted and 113 were noted, while additional clarification was provided on another 2 recommendations, indicating which part of the recommendations was supported and which part was noted.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the adoption of the Working Group’s report opened up a new stage to follow-up the results of the exercise and apply the recommendations.  Only true, open and respectful dialogue, based on impartiality and non-selectivity, could protect human rights for all.  The Council should not be a forum to launch attacks, spread false information, or make recommendations that intervened in a State’s sovereignty.  The constructive remarks from Member States and civil society were appreciated.  In speaking about civil society’s contributions, he stated that some were ignorant of Cuba’s reality, particularly comments from the World Evangelical Alliance and Christian Solidarity Worldwide; they were invited to visit and study the situation in more detail. 

Concerning the freedom of expression and religion, they already represented part of the constitutional rights contained in the draft constitution currently being discussed by Cubans.  Regarding the comment from Amnesty International and Cuba’s refusal to accept monitors in the country, Cuba did not require such instruments.  It was also said that United Nations’ Watch was systematically opposed to the rights of Palestinians and so that organization had a lack of standing to make comments on Cuba.  Cuba had a proud history of human rights and the revolution made it a reality for all Cubans, with the inclusion of self-determination and human dignity.  Enormous efforts had been made to achieve those rights, particularly considering the challenges posed by the genocidal blockade of the United States against Cuba.  Cuba reaffirmed its readiness to promote human rights for all through strengthened international cooperation.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of the Russian Federation

ALEXANDR KONOVALOV, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, reasserted Russia’s belief in the Universal Periodic Review as a procedure which provided a unique opportunity for countries to exchange their experiences on human rights issues.  The Universal Periodic Review relied on a depoliticized and constructive dialogue to support national efforts to implement human rights.  The Russian Government had carefully studied all of the 317 received recommendations, and it was prepared to receive constructive criticism to improve its human rights sector.  Many of the proposals had already been implemented in practice or were currently being implemented.  The Russian Federation had agreed to work on the vast majority of the recommendations.  Those recommendations that it had rejected ran counter to Russian laws or were repetitive, including those that referred to the annexation of Crimea.  The people of Crimea had freely decided to join the Russian Federation.  The Government was prepared for a dialogue with special agencies to discuss human rights issues, in line with their mandates.  As for the recommendations on accession to certain international treaties, the Minister explained that there was no urgent need for their ratification because they duplicated the existing national legal provisions.  The Russian Federation continued to study possibilities to expand its legal obligations.  With respect to recommendations on Russia’s international cooperation, some recommendations were incorrect presentations of the situation in the country. 

Turning to the recommendations on the legislative and institutional framework, the Minister stressed that the Government was constantly working to improve its human rights regulatory framework.  With respect to equality and freedom from discrimination, the authorities prohibited any form of discrimination whatever the grounds were or whichever social group was targeted.  The Russian Federation had accepted most of the recommendations on the promotion of tolerance.  It was a multinational and multicultural State which combatted racism, discrimination and aggressive nationalism, including neo-Nazism.  It was a social welfare country and social protection was given priority by the Government when it designed its socio-economic policies.  The Government was focused on increasing life expectancy, fighting poverty, and increasing the standard of living.  It pursued policies to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and children.  The Russian Federation had thus accepted all the recommendations pertaining to the protection of children, as well as all those recommendations on improving its judiciary and penitentiary system.  In the sphere of civil and political rights, the Russian Federation had accepted most recommendations.  That topic was of great interest to many countries, which did not pay attention to Russia’s legal practice in that respect.  The Russian Federation was committed to protect civil society actors and it worked with them to improve its legal framework.  The obligatory registration of civil society organizations that received funds from abroad aimed to ensure transparency and openness about their activities.  Finally, the Government focused on protecting the rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, and it worked to safeguard the rights of migrants.   

High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation informed that they were working with the Universal Periodic Review on several aspects.  They had worked to secure pension rights for foreign citizens residing in Russia, to strengthen guarantees of legality of law enforcement bodies, to establish times-scales on keeping people in pre-trial detention, to assess availability of infrastructure to citizens, to complete registration on non-commercial organizations and foreign agents, and finally to allow visits of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation called for cooperation with all offices for the protection of human rights.

Viet Nam commended Russia’s acceptance of 70 per cent of the recommendations, two of which came from Viet Nam and concerned women’s rights, domestic violence and increasing measures for migrants.  Since the previous review, the Russian Federation had strengthened human rights frameworks, including protecting against discrimination, increasing tolerance and adopting strategies to protect vulnerable groups.

Afghanistan urged the Russian Federation to ensure access to healthcare for women and girls in rural areas.  They wished the Government and people success in the implementation process.

Algeria commended measures taken to protect women, children and other vulnerable groups in the Russian Federation, and welcomed the acceptance of two recommendations from Algeria to take measures promoting equal employment opportunities between men and women and providing better access to education for children in rural areas.

Angola commended the Russian Federation for its strengthened cooperation with the Human Rights Council, for improving national and international human rights mechanisms, as well as the progress it had made in implementing legal positions of the European Court in the Russian legal system. 

Belarus said Russia had a high degree of experience in human rights.  Russia had accepted the majority of the recommendations, which was a demonstration of their commitment to its international obligations.  Belarus said that the Russian Federation’s valuable financial support to United Nations’ agencies should be noted.

Bolivia congratulated the Russian Federation for providing information on implemented measures, particularly education, healthcare, housing and sustainable rural development.  They also mentioned achievements in national human rights, including measures taken to encourage education in national languages to preserve the unique peoples of the Russian Federation as well as increased job opportunities for youth in rural areas and the preservation of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Botswana noted that Russia had taken legislative measures to implement accepted recommendations from the last review.  Of particular mention was the ratification of the Convention of the Council of Europe on children’s rights, and measures taken to combat violence against women and against persons with disabilities.

Burkina Faso congratulated Russia on their presentation.  Burkina Faso was pleased to hear additional information that the delegation provided.  The Universal Periodic Review had as an aim to improve the human rights situation so Russia was called on to implement recommendations.

China commended Russia’s constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review.  Russia had addressed racial discrimination and violence against women, and it was protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, minorities and indigenous peoples.  China recognized the progress of Russia in judicial reforms and positive efforts to improve socio-economic wellbeing, particularly in remote areas.

Republic of Congo said that Russia’s commitment to the promotion of human rights was reflected by a large number of recommendations which were accepted.  Russia was congratulated for initiatives to undertake socio-economic measures for vulnerable groups, including older persons.  The Council was invited to adopt the report.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea welcomed Russia’s sincere participation in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.  It was a useful opportunity to get familiarized with Russia’s experiences for the promotion of human rights.  Russia had accepted many recommendations, including those made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Egypt welcomed Russia’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review and congratulated Russia on its efforts to strengthen national human rights mechanisms as well as for its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, Special Procedures and treaty bodies.  Russia was encouraged to continue to promote family values.

Gabon congratulated the Russian Federation on having accepted a large number of recommendations, which confirmed its willingness to promote and protect human rights.  Gabon particularly welcomed measures taken to fight domestic and sexual violence.

United Nations Watch challenged Russia’s statement about the independence of its judiciary as a pure fantasy.  There were no free and fair elections, and the real political opposition simply was not allowed to be active.  The mass media was in strict control of the authorities, and peaceful protesters were arrested and physically attacked by law enforcement forces. 

Human Rights House Foundation reminded that Russia continued to introduce new restrictive norms to suppress and dissolve civil society organizations, and it only accepted vague recommendations on creating an enabling environment for the work of non-governmental organizations.  Russia must repeal the law on mandatory registration of civil society organizations funded from abroad and restrictive legislation on peaceful assembly.

Lawyers for Lawyers called on Russia to implement the recommendation on the investigation of attacks and threats against lawyers without delay.  Lawyers working on sensitive cases were sometimes subjected to attempts by investigative authorities to harass and disrupt their work.  Authorities in those cases had failed to carry out prompt and thorough investigations into the threats and attacks.

International Humanist and Ethical Union drew attention to the bloggers arrested under the charges of incitement to hatred, religious blasphemy and terrorism, and to the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons remained vulnerable to discrimination and harassment under the law prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.

British Humanist Association urged the Russian Federation to urgently repeal the law prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations, and to enforce the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.  The organization was also concerned about the increase in the use of blasphemy laws to criminalize those who peacefully expressed non-religious views.

World Organization against Torture said that torture was not codified as an independent crime and the definition of torture included in domestic law was not in conformity with the Convention.  They expressed deep concern about the practice of torture and ill-treatment in Russia as well as widespread impunity.  They also noted concerns about the harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, in Chechnya in particular.

International Service for Human Rights said that in Russia, people born with variations in their sex characteristics experienced human rights violations, including the right to fully informed consent, bodily integrity and self-determination.  Intersex people were subjected to medically unnecessary, harmful “normalising” surgeries. There were no current laws in Russia to protect intersex people, however, the organization stood ready to work with the Government on this.

Article 19 – the International Centre against Censorship said there had been an intensifying of the clampdown on freedom of expression on the Internet.  The Government refused to repeal or reform legislation to allow free use of this right.  Since 2012, Russia had operated a black list of blocked websites, nearly five million pages were included.  Journalists were also under attack, facing smear campaigns and threats to their work.

Indian Council of South America said indigenous peoples were losing control of their land and natural resources because they were being taken away from them.  States were involved in clean-up operations that violated ancestral forms of managing land and territorial integrity.  Transnational corporations dug holes in indigenous lands to find oil and gas, which contaminated water and harvests.

Amnesty International was disappointed with Russia’s refusal to accept recommendations to protect freedoms of expression, association and assembly.  The recent arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force by police against peaceful protestors underscored the significance of the recommendations.  The Government was also conducting smear campaigns against human rights defenders.

The President noted that out of 317 recommendations received, 192 enjoyed the support of the Russian Federation and 98 were noted.  Additional clarification was provided on another 27 recommendations.

ALEXANDR KONOVALOV, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, noted that Russia was constantly working to develop a democratic state based on the rule of law and would continue to improve its legislation to promote and protect human rights.   This was the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in the last 10 years, and it had had a positive effect of exchanging good practices.  Russia was keen on learning from such exchanges and from experiences of other countries.  Some recommendations were not accepted, as they were based purely on emotions and political statements.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Russia.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/18/144E