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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OUTCOMES OF SAUDI ARABIA, SENEGAL, THE CONGO AND NIGERIA

14 March 2019

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the Congo and Nigeria.

At the beginning of the meeting, Harald Aspelund, Vice President of the Human Rights Council, recalled that the implementation of recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review provided an important basis for achieving greater results in both the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and of human rights protection at the country level.  He recalled that the Council strongly rejected any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals or groups who cooperated or had cooperated with the United Nations and its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. 

Bandar Bin Mohamed Al Aiban, President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review, as testified by its adoption and implementation of most of the recommendations.  The authorities had lifted reservations on certain recommendations, namely those related to combatting terrorism and financing of terrorism, in order to ensure the fairness of the judicial mechanisms.  The system to combat terrorism allowed Saudi Arabia to meet its commitments under international law.  As for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the authorities were horrified and had taken measures to resolve that heinous crime.  Justice in Saudi Arabia operated pursuant to international law and in all transparency.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers appreciated Saudi Arabia’s constructive engagement in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and its adoption of the 2030 Vision, which promoted the protection of the rights of the vulnerable sections of society, including women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Some speakers called upon the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals detained for having exercised their fundamental freedoms and to drop all charges against them.  Women human rights defenders were only detained because they had fought for their right to exist equally as men.  Speakers also urged the Government to revise its definition of terrorism, and to fully cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  There was no freedom of religion or belief, and the Government prohibited the public practice of any religion other than Islam. 

Speaking were United Kingdom, Tanzania, Venezuela, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation), British Humanist Association, Human Rights Watch, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Amnesty International, Ertegha Keyfiat Zendegi Iranian Charitable Institute, and Organization for Defending Victims of Violence.

The Vice President informed that out of 258 recommendations received, Saudi Arabia had accepted 182 and noted 76.  The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Saudi Arabia. 

Martin Pascal Tine, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, said that Senegal was keenly aware of the importance of the adoption of this Universal Periodic Review report and it had already started the process of implementation of various accepted recommendations.  Those included a series of meetings with State actors and non-State actors to share information about the Universal Periodic Review process, the recommendations made and the way forward as they approached the fourth cycle.  The Government was conscious of the challenges ahead but its commitment to the ideal of human rights which guaranteed lasting peace led them to believe that they would meet the targets of the report.  To that end the authorities had revamped the State reporting agencies, which allowed Senegal to make up for the back log in its treaty obligations. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed Senegal’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, namely its efforts to fight torture, reduce prison overcrowding, and improve the conditions in prisons, as well as its constitutional reform with respect to elections and presidential terms.  Some speakers noted that Senegal had taken no particular measures to implement the recommendation on the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  They expressed concern that the Government had adopted a strategy to restrict civic space, which included arbitrary arrests.  Since 2015, four activists had been arrested and peaceful assembly by the opposition had been dispersed with tear gas.     

Speaking were Iraq, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone and Sudan. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Service for Human Rights , CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, Amnesty International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Association of World Citizens, and Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea.

The Vice President informed that out of 257 recommendations, Senegal had accepted 229 and noted 28.  The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Senegal.

Jean-Claude Gakosso, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Congolese Abroad of the Congo, reiterated the Government’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review.  The Congo was willing to cooperate with all international mechanisms and special mandate holders, and thus did not consider the recommendation on international human rights obligations justified.   As for the recommendation on adultery, it could lead to destabilization of traditional attitudes.  The authorities also rejected the recommendation on freedom of opinion as the Congo had already abolished all kinds of censorship and those incarcerated were not detained for dissenting opinions.  The Government rejected the recommendations on sexual orientation and gender orientation because it had deemed them completely inappropriate given that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were able to participate in society without discrimination.  The authorities also rejected the recommendation to establish an independent commission of enquiry for justice, truth and reconciliation because the Congo had already received the technical support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to that end.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the Congo for having domesticated the international human rights instruments that it had ratified.  They also congratulated it for having accepted the recommendations regarding the fight against all forms of discrimination and violence against women, and the improvement in the protection of children from torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane or degrading treatment.  Some speakers were concerned about the use of torture and ill-treatment, and they called on the authorities to establish a national mechanism for the prevention of torture.  They also voiced concern about restrictions on freedom of expression and called on the authorities to unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.  In addition, speakers drew attention to the humanitarian crisis in the region of Pool where entire villages had been bombed, their population displaced, houses burnt down, with many cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings reported.

Speaking were Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, United Nations Population Fund, Tanzania, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations Human Rights and Prison Universe Association, Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland (in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association), Auteuil Foundation, Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, and Association of World Citizens.

The Vice President informed that out of 194 recommendations, the Congo had accepted 188 and noted six.  The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Congo.  

Mustapha Lawal Sulaiman, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, stressed that the Universal Periodic Review constituted an integral and principal platform of the United Nations human rights system.  There were efforts to formalize a voluntary moratorium on the death penalty.  With respect to same sex marriage and sexual orientation, Nigeria did not support those recommendations because same sex marriage was against its national values.  Nigeria supported the recommendation concerning the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention).  Nigeria had ratified the Kampala Convention and a bill to domesticate it was before the National Assembly.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the recent positive developments in Nigeria to improve the effectiveness, accessibility, accountability, transparency and fairness of the justice system.  They reminded of the hundreds of deaths and the thousands of internal displaced persons as a result of clashes between herdsmen and tribes in Nigeria.  Speakers welcomed Nigeria’s support for the recommendations on legislative measures to address gender-based violence.  Women continued to experience persistent discrimination in the public and political spheres.  Speakers also called on the authorities to curb police brutality, guarantee religious freedom, fight corruption, prison overcrowding, domestic violence and exploitation of children, and to better protect sexual minorities.

Speaking were Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Namibia, Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Edmund Rice International Limited, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights , CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Asociacion HazteOir.org, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, and Federation for Women and Family Planning.

The President informed that out of 290 recommendations, 240 were supported and 50 were noted by Nigeria. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Nigeria.

The Council will next consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan and Malaysia.

Opening Statement

HARALD ASPELUND, Vice President of the Human Rights Council, recalled that the current cycle of the Universal Periodic Review provided an opportunity to take stock of developments that had occurred during the previous reviews, in particular with regard to implementation of recommendations received during the previous two cycles.  As emphasized by the United Nations Secretary-General in his reports, those recommendations provided an important basis for achieving greater results in both the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and of human rights protection at the country level.  The Vice President underlined the important role that national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations played in the Universal Periodic Review, and recalled that the Council strongly rejected any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals or groups who cooperated or had cooperated with the United Nations and its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.  The Vice President urged States to prevent and ensure adequate protection against such acts. 

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia

BANDAR BIN MOHAMED AL AIBAN, President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, said that Saudi Arabia granted huge importance to the Universal Periodic Review and had been actively involved in its three sessions.  Its adoption and implementation of most of the recommendations testified to its commitment to the process.  Saudi Arabia had received 258 recommendations, which had been submitted to Government bodies and civil society organizations.  It had adopted fully 182 recommendations and partially adopted 31 recommendations.  With respect to the recommendations on which it had reservations, all of them referred to reservations to conventions.  Those reservations were periodically reviewed.  The authorities had decided to lift reservations on certain recommendations, namely those related to combatting terrorism and financing of terrorism, in order to ensure fairness of the judicial mechanisms.  The system to combat terrorism allowed Saudi Arabia to meet its commitments under international law.  On strengthening of the judicial system and the right to a fair trial, Mr. Al Aiban stressed that there were no secret detentions in Saudi Arabia, and that there was monitoring of prisons and custodial centres.  As for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the authorities were horrified and had taken measures to resolve that heinous crime.  The stakeholders in Saudi Arabia had been tasked to punish perpetrators in the case and they were currently detained.  They were entitled to legal counsel and had been informed of their rights.  The alleged perpetrators had been interrogated by the Prosecutor’s Office in the presence of their legal counsel.  The court had sat three times and the proceedings were ongoing, pursuant to national and international law.  Justice in Saudi Arabia operated pursuant to international law and in all transparency.  The authorities did not accept that the case of Jamal Khashoggi should be internationalized because Saudi Arabia was a sovereign State, with a fully capable judicial system. 

As for the recommendations on the dissemination of the human rights culture, Saudi Arabia had launched awareness raising campaigns.   With respect to rights of women and children, and persons with disabilities, Saudi Arabia had accepted all recommendations.  On the operations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia was convinced that it was necessary to strengthen international humanitarian law and enforce it in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia had provided an additional $500 million to that end.  As for the death penalty and corporal punishment, they were used as a measure of last resort for the most serious crimes.  Saudi Arabia had considered the recommendations on trafficking in persons and had accepted all of them.  It had rejected two recommendations on freedom of expression because they were not part of the mandate of the Universal Periodic Review or because they were based on erroneous information.  It had accepted all the recommendations on labour rights.

United Kingdom welcomed that Saudi Arabia had accepted the recommendation on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and expected the trials to proceed in line with international standards.  It was disappointed that Saudi Arabia did not adopt the recommendation on the use of the Specialized Criminal Court, remaining concerned that diplomats were unable to observe trials therein

Tanzania commended the Saudi Government for improving the environment for the enjoyment of human rights, including the revision of the Sharia code procedure act and for putting in place measures to empower Saudi women, who now had the right to vote and stand as candidates for local council.

Venezuela welcomed the frank and constructive dialogue with Saudi Arabia, that the largest budget was directed to education, and the progress made to empower women.  These were encouraging steps towards strengthening social policies. Venezuela recommended that the report be adopted.

Yemen welcomed the efforts made by the Government of Saudi Arabia to improve the human rights situation in the country, and the participation of women in the society.  Yemen thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all the aid that it had provided to Yemen.

Afghanistan noted with appreciation that Saudi Arabia had accepted all the recommendations made by Afghanistan.  They appreciated the Kingdom’s willingness to consider accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, amongst other instruments.

Algeria welcomed the Saudi decision to adopt two recommendations Algeria had proposed, on education and on improving the rights of women.  Algeria recommended that the Council adopt the report of Saudi Arabia in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

Bahrain commended the systematic and continuous work to implement the recommendations by Saudi Arabia, which reaffirmed the attention granted by the Kingdom to that important procedure.  Bahrain particularly appreciated the creation of an international centre to combat extremist thought.

Bangladesh appreciated Saudi Arabia’s constructive engagement in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and welcomed its adoption of the Vision 2030, which had interlinked the Kingdom’s policies, programmes and initiatives to promote and protect the rights of the vulnerable sections of society, including women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. 

Belgium appreciated that Saudi Arabia had accepted the recommendation on gender equality in law, and on the release of all persons who had been detained because they had exercised their freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  However, Belgium regretted that the recommendation on the Law on Associations and Foundations had not been accepted. 

Bolivia noted that Saudi Arabia had enacted several laws to improve access to fundamental rights and freedoms and to combat extremism and corruption.  It recommended that the Council adopt the report

Botswana commended Saudi Arabia on the advancement of women’s rights, but encouraged it to step up its efforts to criminalize violence against women and to combat forced labour.  Botswana supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Saudi Arabia.

Burkina Faso welcomed the legislative reform in terms of justice and action taken to fight against extremism, terrorism and corruption, and wished Saudi Arabia success in the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted.

Burundi welcomed the various measures taken by the Government to combat trafficking, and in so far as possible to fight climate change, such as the adoption of a national environment policy.  Burundi welcomed the various measures taken by the Saudi authorities to improve the right to work, and the conditions of workers in the workplace.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues called for the immediate release of human rights defenders currently on trial, and regretted that the crack down on journalists had intensified on the pretext of fighting terrorism.  Regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, they regretted that the Kingdom had refused to cooperate, and called for the creation of a monitoring mechanism over the Saudi human rights situation.

Right Livelihood Award Foundation called for the immediate release of human rights defenders such as Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, and Waleed Abu al-Khair imprisoned on false charges.  In a gross distortion of reality, Saudi Arabia claimed that no one had been arrested for defending human rights, though this was an indisputable practice. 

International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, called upon the Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals detained for having exercised their fundamental freedoms and to drop all charges against them.  It urged the Government to revise its definition of terrorism, and to fully cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.

British Humanist Association reminded that in 2018 Humanists International’s Freedom of Thought Report had ranked Saudi Arabia as the most repressive country in the world.  There was no freedom of religion or belief.  Blasphemy and apostasy remained crimes, with the latter carrying the death sentence.  The new anti-terrorism legislation defined atheism as terrorism. 

Human Rights Watch called for the immediate release of all detained human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, and reminded that despite allowing women to drive, other limitations on women’s movement remained in place.  While the Government had accepted the recommendations on the investigation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it had rejected that international experts participate in the investigation. 

International Humanist and Ethical Union was heartened to see the commitment of the Saudi Government to abolish the guardianship laws but deeply regretted the rejection of the recommendation to withdraw its reservation giving precedence to Sharia law.  It was concerned about Saudi’s overly broad definition of terrorism and its anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws.

Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims said that human rights defenders were detained or sentenced to death after unfair trials in Saudi Arabia.  In addition, Shia Muslims faced discrimination as did girls and women in both law and practice.  The presence of Saudi Arabia as a major perpetrator of human rights abuses in this Council undermined its legitimacy.

Amnesty International called for the release of various human rights defenders unfairly detained and facing trial for their peaceful human rights work.  Systematic discrimination against minorities, women and minority workers persisted.  It called for a moratorium on the death penalty. 

Ertegha Keyfiat Zendegi Iranian Charitable Institute urged the Kingdom to ensure that aid reached all children in Yemen, supported construction, and prevented the destruction of schools so the 2 million children without education could have access once again.  They called for the removal of the blockade of Yemen to allow access to medicine.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence urged Saudi Arabia to guarantee a safe environment for freedom of expression, and explain how it intended to guarantee an independent investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  They called on Saudi Arabia to amend the legal definition of terrorism so it did not prosecute human rights defenders for merely defending their rights. 

The Vice President informed that out of 258 recommendations received, Saudi Arabia had accepted 182 and noted 76.

BANDAR BIN MOHAMED AL AIBAN, President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, reminded that several diplomatic delegations had attended the sessions of the trial for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  The claim that persons were held for having exercised their freedom of expression was not true.  They had been detained because they had committed acts against the laws of Saudi Arabia.  Saudi legislation criminalized torture and ill-treatment, and those who claimed to be victims of torture could access all forms of redress.  Mr. Al Aiban expressed gratitude for the professional and objective recommendations.  He looked forward to the Council taking up the role that it had been attributed to it, noting that the Council should be guided by the principle of dialogue based on the sovereignty of States. 

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Saudi Arabia. 

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Senegal

MARTIN PASCAL TINE, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, said Senegal was keenly aware of the importance of the adoption of this Universal Periodic Review report and had already started the process of implementation of various recommendations which it had already accepted.  This included a series of meetings with State actors and non-State actors to share information about the Universal Periodic Review process, the recommendations made and the way forward as they approach the fourth Universal Periodic Review session.  This was a chance to have a fruitful dialogue on human rights and for the State of Senegal to hear concerns from all stakeholders.  These concerns were prioritized and dovetailed with the recommendations and priorities of the Universal Periodic Review.  The Government was conscious of the challenges ahead but its commitment to the ideal of human rights which guaranteed lasting peace led them to believe they would meet the targets of the report.  To this end, Senegal had revamped the State reporting agencies which had allowed Senegal to make up for the backlog in its treaty obligations.  Senegal would spare no efforts in continuing this positive momentum to ensure that human rights were respected throughout the world.  Finally, Senegal committed to make progress in all areas in which they had received recommendations. 

Iraq had actively participated in the Universal Periodic Review process of Senegal and commended the State for having taken and accepted all of the recommendations.  Iraq hoped these would be implemented by Senegal.

Lesotho applauded Senegal for accepting all of the recommendations, and for its commitment to participate in international human rights mechanisms.  They welcomed measures to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities through policy formulations, and encouraged Senegal to consider ratifying all outstanding human rights instruments. 

Madagascar noted with satisfaction steps taken by Senegal to counter torture, and welcomed the increased independence of the justice system as a result of the January 2017 law.  They also welcomed measures to provide universal clean water, and invited the Council to adopt the report.

Mali welcomed Senegal’s efforts to implement the recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, namely efforts to fight torture, reduce prison overcrowding, and to improve the conditions in prisons.  Mali also commended Senegal’s constitutional reform with respect to elections and presidential terms.

Mauritania commended Senegal’s full commitment to the Universal Periodic Review, particularly its progress on ensuring the rights of children, detained persons, and persons with disabilities. 

Namibia appreciated Senegal’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and to the Universal Periodic Review, which had resulted in many commendable achievements in the field of human rights.  Namibia reiterated its call that technical assistance be provided to Senegal. 

Nigeria commended Senegal for its strong commitment to the Universal Periodic Review, namely its measures adopted to combat torture, ill-treatment, and prison overcrowding.

Oman congratulated Senegal on its work in the field of human rights, and the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process.  Oman thanked Senegal for accepting its recommendations and for its positive interaction in the process.  Oman called for the report to be adopted.

Pakistan welcomed the recent positive developments in Senegal, including work to improve women’s empowerment and gender balance.  They also appreciated efforts to enhance the capacity of the National Unit to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the National Observatory on Gender Parity, among others.

Philippines acknowledged Senegal’s commitment to further enhance human rights protection, especially fighting trafficking in persons.  The Philippines also commended the Government’s efforts to address violence against women and children, as well as gender based violence in schools.

Russian Federation welcomed and noted the success achieved by the Government in establishing human rights.  Russia noted Senegal’s agreement to accept the majority of recommendations and called for the adoption of the report.

Sierra Leone noted Senegal’s continuing commitment to promote human rights, as notable in the human rights education and training which was provided to schools, the police and prison services.  Sierra Leone supported Senegal’s efforts aimed at the implementation of all the accepted recommendations.

Sudan commended Senegal’s efforts to promote and protect human rights, and its acceptance of the recommendation submitted by Sudan on the improvement of human rights mechanisms and strengthening of human rights institutions.

International Service for Human Rights noted that Senegal had taken no particular measures to implement the recommendation on the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  The organization expressed concern that the Government had adopted a strategy to restrict civic space, which included arbitrary arrests. 

CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation encouraged Senegal to take concrete action to implement the recommendations on civic space.  Under the 2017 Press Code, authorities could prosecute activists and journalists simply for expressing dissenting opinions.  The use of excessive force against protests, including against students at University Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, was worrying.

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme said Senegal was a point of reference for democracy in Africa and was surprised by the violation of democratic practice during the election on 24 February 2019 and the shrinkage of public space.  Prison overcrowding also required immediate attention.

Amnesty International said there was little tolerance for dissent in Senegal as demonstrated in the recent election when opposition members were arbitrarily detained.  It regretted Senegal’s rejection of all recommendations relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, abortion and marital rape and noted its failure to implement recommendations from previous cycles.

Action Canada for Population and Development commended Senegal for approving access of young people to sexual and reproductive health services.  However, maternal mortality remained high in part due to unsafe abortions, with structural barriers for women to access abortion rights. 

Association of World Citizens welcomed Senegal’s steps to abolish the death penalty, as well as steps taken to combat child marriage and female genital mutilation.  Polygamy should be eliminated in law and practice in order to fulfil Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda.

Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea welcomed Senegal’s adoption of a constitution by referendum in 2016, which included rights for a clean environment and better sharing of land.  They welcomed measures taken to enhance gender equality as well as the provision of universal healthcare cover.

The Vice President informed that out of 257 recommendations, Senegal had accepted 229 and noted 28.

MARTIN PASCAL TINE, Director of Legal and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, expressed gratitude to all the countries that had made comments, statements and recommendations during Senegal’s Universal Periodic Review.  He recalled that the Government was attached to social peace and mutual respect.  The highest authorities in the country had expressed their wish to have dialogue with all parts of society in order to build a strong and peaceful society.  Senegal had made progress on the universal healthcare coverage, prison conditions, the right to education, freedom of the press, and the rights of persons with disabilities and of women.  Senegal believed that human rights were key for the achievement of peace and stability.

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

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Congo

JEAN-CLAUDE GAKOSSO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and of Congolese Abroad of the Congo, welcomed the Congo’s third Universal Periodic Review cycle, and reiterated its commitment to the mechanism.  The Congo had examined all 194 recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, accepted 188 and noted 6.  The contributions of civil society and other non-governmental organizations were seriously considered and noted in the addendum of the report.  The recommendations that the Congo was not in a position to implement or was unable to implement for legal reasons were discussed in some detail.
Recommendation 130.27 dealing with international human rights obligations called on the Congo to extend open invitations to all Special Procedures, but given the openness and willingness of the Government to cooperate with all international mechanism and special mandate holders, as exemplified by the large number of positive visits detailed in the addendum, this recommendation was not considered justified.  Recommendation 130.94 on adultery was not adopted as rescinding this law could lead to destabilization due to traditional attitudes.  Recommendation 130. 97 on freedom of opinion was also rejected as the Congo had already abolished all kinds of censorship and those incarcerated had committed crimes against common law and were not detained for dissenting opinions.  Recommendations 130 61-62 on sexual orientation and gender orientation were rejected as they were deemed completely inappropriate given that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were able to participate in society without discrimination.  Recommendation 130.92 to establish an independent commission of enquiry for justice, truth and reconciliation was rejected as the Congo had already received the technical support of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to set up a commission of enquiry and setting up a competing commission was not justified.

The accepted recommendations were not referred to in a detailed fashion but some brief comments on some key themes were made.  The Congo had launched legislative ratification for the reduction of cases of statelessness.  During the One World Congress on the abolition of the death penalty, the Congo had committed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty.  A Network of Women Leaders Congo Branch was set up with the support of UN Women, and progress was made in the economic empowerment of women, including draft laws that were in place to support small and medium enterprises.  The Congo committed to presenting a mid-term report on its progress by 2021, to share best practices with other States and to promote the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

Sudan thanked the delegation from the Congo and paid tribute to its efforts to promote and protect human rights.  The Congo had accepted most of the review’s recommendations, including those from Sudan.  Sudan invited the Council to adopt the report.

Togo thanked the Congo for the additional information provided, and also commended the Government for the abolition of the death penalty.  Togo commended the Congo’s acceptance of almost all the recommendations made in the review, particularly Togo’s recommendations on setting aside increased resources for health and environmental protection. 

Tunisia welcomed decisions taken to comprehensively strengthen the human rights system in the Congo, and to reduce violence against women.  They called upon the Council to adopt the report.

United Nations Population Fund congratulated the Government on its commitment to promote rights to all.  The 2015 Constitution promoted gender equality and equality of rights.  Efforts to prevent gender-based violence were noted, as well as trainings carried out in this regard.  The Fund supported the Government in programmes on preventing early pregnancy.

Tanzania commended the Congo for work undertaken to implement recommendations received in the past.  The Congo was improving its normative framework by ratifying a number of instruments.  The right to education was ensured and equal access to instruction and training for all children.  Tanzania supported the adoption of the report.

Venezuela noted that the Congo’s 2015 Constitution expressed a need to build the country on the principles of solidarity and equality of human rights.  The establishment of the General Directorate to promote the rights of indigenous peoples was welcomed.  The Government was urged to address the needs of vulnerable populations.

Afghanistan appreciated efforts made by the Congo towards inclusive education for all children, including vulnerable children.  Afghanistan commended the Congo for continuing reforms in their national legal framework with international and regional human rights instruments.

Algeria commended the Congo for having domesticated the international human rights instruments that it had ratified.  It also congratulated the Congo for having accepted the recommendations regarding the fight against all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

Angola encouraged the Congo to set up gender-based awareness raising campaigns and training workshops, including workshops for police officers and gendarmes through the country, aimed at empowering women.  Angola hoped that the so-called “Path to Development” would play a key role in strengthening the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights.

Bolivia welcomed the Congo’s efforts to fully domesticate the international human rights instruments which it had ratified.  Bolivia also appreciated the country’s efforts made to advance human rights through the implementation of received recommendations, and it urged the Congo not to abandon the progress made thus far.

Botswana commended the Congo for ratifying international human rights instruments and reforming its constitutional framework.  During the review, it had recommended that the Congo strengthen institutional capacity to fight corruption, and to work to protect vulnerable children, which were accepted.

Burkina Faso noted the extra information provided by the delegation.  The Universal Periodic Review process demonstrated the Congo’s commitment to reform.  Burkina Faso welcomed the fact that the Congo was countering gender-based violence and protecting children against economic and social exploitation.

Burundi welcomed measures taken by the Government to improve the rights of
persons with disabilities, and for the adoption of the national development plan 2018-222.  They noted with satisfaction the ratification of a number of international instruments since the last Universal Periodic Review, and supported the adoption of this report.

Human Rights and Prison Universe Association noted that many instruments ratified by the Congo were not incorporated in the national legislation, detention conditions were still bad in prison, and there was excessive use of force, as well as lack of protection of asylum seekers.  Access to justice was crucial.

Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, said the Congo had noted recommendations concerning the protection of individuals against violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  As long as article 331 of the Penal Code was in place, law enforcement bodies would continue to extort homosexuals. 

Auteuil Foundation welcomed the determination of the Government to work closely with civil society.  This was particularly true in the case of the Ministry of Social Affairs.  The Congo was urged to address the question of minors in prisons.  All violations of the rights of children had to be addressed and awareness needed to be raised on this matter.

Amnesty International was concerned about the use of torture and ill-treatment, and called on the authorities to establish a national mechanism for the prevention of torture.  Amnesty was also concerned about the restrictions on freedom of expression and called on the authorities to unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme drew attention to the humanitarian crisis in the region of Pool where entire villages had been bombed, their population displaced, houses burnt down, with many cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings reported.  The authorities must cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms with a view to setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.

Association of World Citizens regretted that polygamy and the payment of a bride price continued to be practiced widely and that such practices were not prohibited by law.  Special national programmes, budget and wide education on the issue of gender-based violence should be assigned for both men and women. 

The Vice President informed that out of 194 recommendations, the Congo had accepted 188 and noted six.

JEAN CLAUDE GAKOSSO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Congolese Abroad of the Congo, in concluding remarks, thanked members of the Human Rights Council and civil society organizations that had participated in the dialogue.  Although it was impossible to achieve perfection in the realm of human rights, it was nonetheless the aim of the Congolese Government to aim for perfection.  The Government of the Congo continued to work to be a beacon for human rights at the heart of Africa.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Republic of the Congo.  

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria

MUSTAPHA LAWAL SULAIMAN, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, stressed that the Universal Periodic Review constituted an integral and principal platform of the United Nations human rights system.  Following the presentation of Nigeria’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review report, a total of 290 recommendations were made.  Nigeria had supported 230 and noted 60 recommendations.  After extensive consultations it was agreed that Nigeria would support an additional 10 recommendations, in total now 240, testifying to its strong desire to enhance the protection of human rights.  The recommendations were now being processed by the relevant Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. 

The recommendations were grouped in the following themes: death penalty, sexual orientation and gender identity.  On the death penalty, Nigeria had noted the recommendation that it should ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed towards abolition of the death penalty, as the position of Nigeria remained the same.  However, there were efforts to formalize a voluntary moratorium on death penalty.  With respect to same sex marriage and sexual orientation, Nigeria did not support these recommendations because same sex marriage was against its national values.  Christianity and Islam, major religions in Nigeria, recognized marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.  The case of Ibrahim El Zakzaky was guided by the legal process and he was presently standing trial for multiple allegations of murder.  Nigeria had supported the recommendation concerning the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of internally displaced persons in Africa – Kampala Convention.  Nigeria had ratified the Kampala Convention and a bill to domesticate it was before the National Assembly.

Libya commended the efforts of Nigeria to implement the recommendations in order to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, and called for the adoption of the report.

Madagascar thanked the Nigerian delegation for the additional information provided, and welcomed the Government’s work to overcome difficulties to implement human rights policies.  They also welcomed the implementation of the 2017 law punishing law enforcement officials that committed torture and cruel treatment. 

Mauritania welcomed efforts made by Nigeria as part of its economics and growth plan 2017-2020, and the implementation of capacity building and information programmes on the promotion and protection of human rights.  They invited the Council to adopt the report, and wished the delegation success in implementing the recommendations suggested.

Namibia commended Nigeria for its significant achievements, including in its cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  It expressed hope that the 2019 general elections in Nigeria would be held in a free and peaceful environment.  Nigeria was taking steps to ensure that challenges were resolved by peaceful means and within the relevant national laws.

Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Nigeria’s support for the recommendations calling for action to ensure the protection of internally displaced women and children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.  It commended Nigeria for undertaking measures to facilitate equal political participation of internally displaced persons.

Oman commended Nigeria for progress made in the field of human rights, and congratulated Nigeria for having adopted Oman’s recommendations. 

Pakistan commended Nigeria for having accepted the majority of the recommendations, including those of Pakistan.  It welcomed the recent positive development in Nigeria to improve the effectiveness, accessibility, accountability, transparency and fairness of the justice system. 

Philippines thanked Nigeria for accepting recommendations by the Philippines on the protection of women and children in crisis affected areas and the implementation of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act.  The Government gave priority to areas of security, counter-terrorism, combatting trafficking in persons, and upholding the rights of children, women and persons with disabilities.

Saudi Arabia thanked Nigeria for its statement clarifying its position vis-à-vis the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  Measures taken to improve human rights standards were appreciated.  Nigeria had accepted 240 out of 290 recommendations.

Senegal welcomed measures taken by the Government to implement 172 recommendations received during the review.  The advancement of social and economic rights, expanding healthcare, elimination of poverty and access to education were welcomed.  Senegal wished success to Nigeria in implementing recommendations.

Serbia was pleased to acknowledge that Nigeria had supported the majority of the recommendations during its review, including those made by Serbia.  Nigeria was wished every success in their determination to implement accepted recommendations and further improve its human rights record.

Sierra Leone congratulated Nigeria on their recent presidential elections, which took place in February this year.  The Government was in the process of developing an action plan on preventing and countering violent extremism and on human rights and business.  Women’s participation in parliament had been set at 35 per cent. 

Sudan valued the efforts of Nigeria to promote and protect human rights, as evidenced by the acceptance of the majority of recommendations, particularly those tabled by Sudan.  It expressed hope that Nigeria would be successful in the implementation of those recommendations, in spite of challenges related to terrorism. 

Edmund Rice International Limited reminded that in 2017 at least 549 persons had died and thousands of persons had become internally displaced as a result of clashes between herdsmen and tribes in Nigeria.  Women and children had been severely affected by the acts of violence. 

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom welcomed Nigeria’s support for the recommendations on legislative measures to address gender-based violence.  Women continued to experience persistent discrimination in the public and political spheres.  The electoral system still posed impediments towards women’s political participation.  Moreover, seemingly gender-neutral decisions could impact women disproportionately. 
  
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said that Boko Haram continued to be responsible for attacks, displacement and abductions in the northeast of Nigeria.  Leah Sharibu had been abducted along with 109 others from her school.  She remained in captivity for refusing to renounce her religious beliefs and the Government had failed to secure her release. 

International Humanist and Ethical Union was saddened by the delegation’s comment on same-sex relationships.  The views held by the majority of citizens, whether because of culture or religion, did not have any bearing on universally held human right to equal treatment and non-discrimination.  This right had been trampled upon by the act which codified homophobia and effectively legalized discrimination.

Human Rights Watch was deeply concerned about pervasive violence against women, including rape in camps for internally displaced persons.  Victims had to be able to seek legal redress.  Since the conflict in northeast Nigeria had begun in 2009, there had been systematic human rights abuses by Boko Haram and government security forces.

International Service for Human Rights stressed that security agencies and militia groups continued to carry out extra-judicial killings with impunity.  The Nigerian army had killed 45 Shiite Muslim protesters in Abuja in October 2018 but no one had been held accountable.  The Government continued to crack down on freedom of expression and numerous journalists had been attacked and detained. 
CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation called on Nigeria to curb police brutality through a comprehensive reform of the police force.  It was disappointing to note that despite the continued harassment of the press and civil society organizations, the national report of Nigeria had barely addressed the issue of restrictions on civic space.  Arrests, detentions and harassment of human rights defenders continued. 

Asociacion HazteOir.org called attention to the situation of religious freedom in Nigeria, urging it to reinforce the legal and political measures to guarantee religious freedom, to establish legal protections that protected religious freedom without discrimination against believers, to protect the lives of the girls and women kidnapped by Boko Haram, to guarantee the importance of marriage and family, and to fight trafficking in persons.

Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme commended the reforms taken by Nigeria for socio-economic progress, justice administration, healthcare, and children’s rights.  However, despite the authorities’ commitment to fight terrorism, the security situation in the northeast still remained precarious.  The services fighting terrorism should be fully aligned with human rights standards. 

Federation for Women and Family Planning was dismayed that the Government continued to note recommendations that sought to protect and fulfil the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.  It urged Nigeria to accept recommendations focusing on the rights of freedom of assembly and peaceful association for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.   

The President informed that out of 290 recommendations, 240 were supported and 50 were noted by Nigeria.

MUSTAPHA LAWAL SULAIMAN, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, expressed profound gratitude for the way the process had been organized.  He thanked the Secretariat and States for their close engagement as well as members of the troika.  Nigeria was strongly committed to defending human rights principles and remained dedicated to engage with the international community.  Recommendations would be diligently implemented to improve the human rights situation.  As for recommendations that were noted, they would be carefully reviewed.  The delegation was ready to listen and engage in a constructive manner.  Nigeria was compelled to respond to statements made by some organizations which were factually incorrect and contained unfounded allegations.  The issue of women empowerment was a top priority area.  Nigeria had outlawed all practices that had violated the human rights of widows, following Security Council resolution 1325.  Ill-treatment against women was addressed, including those living in internally displaced camps.  The counter-insurgency strategy adhered to international human rights.  As for alleged violations of human rights by security forces, the Government had set up a judicial commission of inquiry to bring perpetrators to justice.  The Government condemned all extra-judicial killings, which was why it had strengthened its national human rights institutions to provide oversight for law enforcement agencies.  Freedom of expression was well founded in Nigeria’s democratic culture, so it was perplexing that any entity would have issue with that.  No one ever threatened the press and media organizations, who operated freely.  This forum should not be misused by entities who had their own agendas.

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



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/19/39E