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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OUTCOMES OF CAMEROON, BANGLADESH AND UZBEKISTAN

20 September 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Cameroon, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. 

Lejeune Mbella Mbella, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, informed that out of 196 recommendations, Cameroon had accepted 135 and rejected 38.  The accepted ones related to policies or measures already applicable in Cameroon, whereas the noted and rejected ones were those that were not in conformity with its cultural and religious values.  Some of the rejected recommendations related to abolition of the death penalty, although it had to be noted that Cameroon was a de facto abolitionist country and had not applied the sentence for three decades.  Cameroon faced numerous challenges, including Boko Haram terrorist activities, which still undermined the security of citizens and caused a major flow of refugees and internally displaced persons.  For that reason, the Minister called on the international community to show solidarity in managing refugee flows.  As for the crisis in the south-west and north-west of the country, President Paul Biya had recognized the legitimacy of demands and had instructed the Prime Minister to set up a framework for dialogue.  To date, individuals were being manipulated to bring up grievances and to commit violence and atrocities of all kinds, which revealed a scheme to partition the country. 
The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon called for the continuous implementation of the National Action Plan for Human Rights, and expressed hope that the steps currently being taken to restructure and reinforce human, material and financial sources in Cameroon would be strengthened.  The adoption of a human rights-based approach would help.  The Commission also expressed hope for the return of peace and security in the Anglophone regions. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers appreciated the efforts made by Cameroon, such as the adoption of the new Penal Code and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  They also welcomed the serious approach Cameroon had outlined to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.  However, they were concerned about the increasing violence in Cameroon, namely in the Anglophone regions.  They also remained concerned about the general deterioration of the situation of human rights, aggravated by anti-terrorist laws, restrictions on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture in prisons, and violence against women and sexual minorities.

Speaking were Angola, Burkina Faso, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Madagascar, Senegal, Sudan, and the United Kingdom.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of Cameroon, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Center for Global Nonkilling, Action Canada for Population and Development, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme and New Human Rigths Cameroon. 

The President of the Council informed that out of 196 recommendations, Cameroon had accepted 134, noted 59, and provided additional clarification on another three recommendations.  The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Cameroon.

Shameem Ahsan, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that out of the 251 received recommendations, Bangladesh had accepted 167, noted 60, and deferred 24 for further examination.  Following several consultations and extensive discussions with the National Human Rights Commission, the Government had accepted 11 more recommendations, which meant that in total it had accepted 178 out of 251.  With respect to the recommendations on accession to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, Bangladesh reiterated that despite not being a party, Bangladesh had always adhered to the core principles of the international protection regime, including the principle of non-refoulement, in hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.  The death penalty remained a valid form of punishment and deterrence from the most serious and heinous crimes, whereas the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was a religious, social, cultural, moral and ethical issue in the country. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers acknowledged Bangladesh’s continued efforts towards the promotion and protection of human rights, namely to address adverse impacts of climate change, and promote a people-centred development agenda with particular emphasis on women, children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable sections of society.  They also appreciated its progress and achievements in the domains of health and education.  However, restrictions on democratic freedoms, and the need to combat intolerance, gender-based violence, discrimination against sexual minorities, and rising religious intolerance remained of deep concern. 

Speaking were Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Nations Population Fund, and Uzbekistan.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: World Organisation Against Torture (in a joint statement with Asian Legal Resource Centre and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues), International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanist Association, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, International Save the Children Alliance , Center for Global Nonkilling, Ain O Salish Kendro Ask Law and Mediation Centre (in a joint statement with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative), International Service for Human Rights , Action Canada for Population and Development (in a joint statement with Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)) and Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship.  

The President of the Council informed that out of 251 recommendations, Bangladesh had accepted 178 and noted 73.  The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Bangladesh.

Akmal Saidov, Chairman of the Committee of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis on Democratic Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations and Citizens' Self-Government Bodies of Uzbekistan and Director of the National Human Rights Centre, explained that together with the United Nations Development Programme representatives, the Government had held a briefing on the third Universal Periodic Review report, with the participation of representatives of civil society and the media.  Out of 212 recommendations, Uzbekistan had accepted 201 and noted 11.  Following a national consultation process, the Government had taken note of another three recommendations, meaning that in total it had accepted 198 recommendations.  The recommendations noted by the Government did not comply with the normative content of the national interests of the country. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers noted with satisfaction the establishment of the Working Group under the National Centre for Human Rights to prepare for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the presidential decree to support persons with disabilities, and the presentation of the eighth and ninth periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Some speakers remained concerned about reports of torture, ill-treatment and forced labour.  They were also worried about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and restrictions on the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Speaking were China, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Pakistan, Russian Federation, United Nations Population Fund, and Venezuela.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: World Organization Against Torture, Amnesty International, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Human Rights Watch, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, and Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association.

The President of the Council informed that out of 212 recommendations, Uzbekistan had accepted 198 and noted 14.  The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan.


The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Friday, 21 September, when it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Canada, Cuba and the Russian Federation.  It will then hold a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, to be followed by a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.


Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon

LEJEUNE MBELLA MBELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, said the Government of Cameroon had held a ministerial meeting to closely examine the 196 recommendations received.  The addendum presented in response to various inquiries was the result of those ministerial consultations.  Out of 196 recommendations received, Cameroon had accepted 135, rejected 38 and noted the rest.  The accepted recommendations related to policies or measures already applicable in Cameroon.  The recommendations that were noted were those that could raise certain reservations.  The rejected recommendations were essentially those that raised concerns on issues or offered options that the people of Cameroon found objectionable as a whole and were not in conformity with its cultural and religious values.  Some of the rejected recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty, although it had to be noted that Cameroon was a de facto abolitionist country and had not applied the sentence for three decades.  The commitment of President Paul Biya to promote and protect human rights was reiterated.  However, there were numerous challenges, including Boko Haram terrorist activities.  Although weakened, Boko Haram were still undermining the security of citizens and had caused a major flow of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Cameroon called for solidarity from the international community in managing refugee flows and burden sharing.  It noted the cooperation with neighbouring Nigeria in managing refugee flows.

The crisis in the south-west and the north-west had started in October 2016 following claims from associations of advocates and grievances of trade unions of teachers.  Since the outbreak of the crisis, President Paul Biya had recognized the legitimacy of demands and instructed the Prime Minister to set up a framework for dialogue.  To date, individuals were being manipulated to bring up grievances.  Violence and atrocities of all kinds had started occurring, revealing a scheme to partition the country.  Since then, violence included kidnapping for ransom, killing of members of the administrative services, arson attacks, and taking the education system as a hostage, including the killing of teachers.  Secessionists were known for their abduction of girls who they took for forced marriage.  Faced with such a situation, the Government was taking steps to restore order, security and peace.  Cameroon would remain a unitary, decentralized State.  Security forces were receiving training in ethics and human rights and in the event of violations of human rights, investigations would be launched. 

In response to the humanitarian crisis, an emergency plan for people in the south-west and north-west had been established amounting to 12.7 billion francs.  There was a plan to establish a platform bringing together the Government and the United Nations system.  Foreign journalists operating in Cameroon were subject to non-binding accreditation procedures.  Detention conditions had been improved and the number of healthcare professionals had increased.  Detainees were being held in line with international standards, were receiving family members for visits, and were able to communicate.  The Government maintained the wide dialogue and was committed to resolve the crisis.

National Commission of Human Rights of Cameroon, called for the continuous implementation of the national action plan for the promotion and protection of human rights.  They hoped steps currently being undertaken to restructure and reinforce the human, material and financial sources in Cameroon would be strengthened.  The adoption of a human rights based approach would help.  They also expressed hope for a return of peace and security in the Anglophone regions. 

Angola encouraged Cameroon to continue to implement good practices, with a view to improving the human rights situation throughout the country.  They welcomed Cameroon’s strengthened cooperation with the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.

Botswana said Cameroon’s efforts to improve access to education and health, including access to HIV/AIDS services, especially for women and adolescent girls and boys, were laudable.  Botswana believed that ratifying and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography would accelerate efforts to protect the rights of the child.

Burkina Faso was pleased about Cameroon’s efforts to implement more effective human rights.  Burkina Faso called on the international community to support Cameroon in the successful implementation of those efforts.

China commended Cameroon on its constructive dialogue during the review.  China hoped that the Government of Cameroon would continue poverty reduction and promote sustainable development, while taking positive measures to protect the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. 

Côte d’Ivoire wished a warm welcome to the delegation and thanked the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the additional information.  It was hoped that the implementation of the recommendations would go smoothly.  The efforts of the Government of Cameroon in strengthening the rule of law were acknowledged.

Egypt was pleased to welcome the delegation from Cameroon.  Egypt welcomed that Cameroon had accepted the majority of recommendations, including on the ratification of international documents.  Efforts to establish national human rights institutions were welcomed as well as activities to combat discrimination against women

Ethiopia thanked Cameroon for the oral update and commended it for the successful implementation of technical programmes.  Cameroon was encouraged to continue with programmes to promote the rights of children and women.

Iraq wished a warm welcome to the delegation.  Iraq was a member of the troika and thanked Cameroon for its open and full cooperation.  All recommendations made by Iraq had been accepted.

Madagascar wished a warm welcome to the delegation of Cameroon and thanked the Minister for the oral update.  Cameroon had accepted the majority of the recommendations.  Cameroon’s ratification of the African Union convention on the protection of displaced persons was welcomed.

Senegal appreciated the clear information provided by Cameroon on measures taken to improve the human rights situation.  The ratification of the International Labour Organization convention 155 was welcomed.  Senegal recognized the efforts made by Cameroon and urged it to continue reforms of prison services and the judiciary.

Sudan recognized the efforts of Cameroon to promote and protect human rights across the country.  It welcomed the implementation of the previous recommendations and cooperation with the Council and its mechanisms. 

United Kingdom was concerned about the increasing violence in Cameroon and welcomed the announcement that the Government would fully investigate reported human rights violations.  It welcomed the serious approach that Cameroon had outlined to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.  The United Kingdom remained concerned about the growing humanitarian challenges in Cameroon.

United Nations Population Fund commended Cameroon for the creation of the National Programme for the Reduction of Maternal, New-born and Child Mortality, and the creation of an operational plan on family planning.  The United Nations Population Fund expressed concern about harmful practices at the community level, such as child, early and forced marriages, and female genital mutilation.

International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement, noted that even though Cameroon had accepted the recommendation to cease the arbitrary arrests of persons on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation, the Association had documented 137 such cases.  The organization’s hope that the law that criminalized same-sex relations would be repealed had been in vain. 

Centre for Global Nonkilling welcomed the fact that Cameroon had accepted the recommendations to ratify the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.  The organization also called attention to the ambiguities concerning the death penalty, noting that since it was not practiced, it should not be kept on the law books. 

Action Canada for Population and Development was concerned by how little progress Cameroon had made in combatting violence against women, improving access to health and working towards the realisation of sexual and reproductive rights.  Gender-based violence, discrimination and harassment of minority groups and violations of workers’ rights, particularly in the informal sector, persisted

Women’s International League for Peace and Women welcomed the adoption of the first national human rights plan.  With the upcoming elections, the Government had to support dialogue towards restoring peace across the country and ensuring the inclusion of women.  Following the violence in two regions, the Government had to address the issue of women who were displaced.  Psycho-social and medical support had to be extended to women.

Amnesty International said that since the beginning of the conflict in the far north region in 2013, systematic human rights abuses by Boko Haram had been documented as well as by the security forces, including arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, torture, death in custody and unlawful killings.  Hundreds of people had been sentenced to death in military courts, due to accusations they were supporting Boko Haram.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada said there were an estimated 411,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon after 122 villages had been burned.  Cameroon was urged to release all Anglophone activists, leaders, lawyers and journalists detained and to guarantee the safe return of more than 50,000 Anglophone refugees and internally displaced persons. 

Human Rights Watch said that numerous human rights violations had been documented by both separatist and government forces.  In 2016 and 2017, the Government had used excessive force to break up at least five demonstrations organized by members of the Anglophone minority.  The Government’s initial crackdown against demonstrations had been followed by an escalation of the violence. 

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative drew attention to the occurrence of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture, and regretted that Cameroon had rejected the release of prisoners detained following peaceful protests.  The ongoing violent crackdown by the security forces in the Anglophone regions had resulted in numerous arbitrary arrests and killings, whereas more than 400,000 people had been internally displaced. 

Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme appreciated the efforts made by Cameroon, such as the adoption of the new Penal Code, and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  It remained concerned about the general deterioration of the situation of human rights, aggravated by anti-terrorist laws, restrictions on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, torture in prisons, and violence against women and sexual minorities. 

New Human Rigths appreciated Cameroon’s efforts to improve human rights, but was sceptical with respect to the crisis in Anglophone regions.  The dialogue among the parties still had not been organized, whereas serious human rights abuses continued to be recorded in the region.  The documentation of human rights violations reflected the gravity of the situation.  Freedom of assembly continued to be suppressed.

The President noted that out of 196 recommendations, 134 had been supported, 59 had been noted, and additional clarification had been provided on another three recommendations.

LEJEUNE MBELLA MBELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, thanked those who had provided recommendations during this review.  The majority of non-governmental organizations had made allegations that Cameroon could not accept, and were full of errors and unfounded accusations.  The Government did not start the use of force, it was individuals who broke the law and tried to attack the State with a view to create a secessionist state.  The human rights defenders in Anglophone regions were on an equal footing with other regions.  In Anglophone regions, the army carried out its duties with great professionalism to protect the people.  That same army allowed Cameroon to contain the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.  However, there were currently organizations that attacked schools and members of the authorities and those same people who committed atrocities published things on social networks.  They were killing children to stop them from going to school in Anglophone regions.  He stressed that the Government could not have talks with people like that, who would have terror prevail.  The rule of law was exercised in Cameroon; it was a State focused on modernity and progress. 
 
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Cameroon. 

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh

SHAMEEM AHSAN, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that Bangladesh was encouraged as States had appreciated its commitment to promote human rights, in spite of many challenges.  Out of the 251 received recommendations, Bangladesh had accepted 167, noted 60, and deferred 24 for further examination.  Following several consultations and extensive discussions with the National Human Rights Commission, the Government had accepted 11 more recommendations, which meant that in total it had accepted 178 out of 251.  The Government recognized the importance of Optional Protocols under core human rights instruments, which allowed citizens to lodge complaints directly to the respective treaty bodies, and in that spirit, it had ratified the Optional Protocols under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  However, for such direct communication to be useful, Bangladesh should have in place appropriate legislation, action plans and strategies.  The Government had already started establishing several mechanisms, including a central cell to address issues related to violence against women and children.  With respect to the recommendations on accession to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, the Government reiterated that despite not being a party, Bangladesh had always adhered to the core principles of the international protection regime, including the principle of non-refoulement, in hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.  Bangladesh still kept its borders open for Rohingyas to be able to safely enter the country after fleeing persecution in Rakhine state. 

The Permanent Representative clarified that the national Constitution did not recognize any particular minority group or community as “indigenous peoples” because all citizens were considered indigenous.  Eliminating child marriage was a high priority for the Government.  As for the minimum age of criminal responsibility, Bangladesh had already raised it from seven to nine years through amendments of the 1860 Penal Code.  The Government had also enacted the Torture and Custodial Death Prevention Act in 2013.  The death penalty remained a valid form of punishment and deterrence from the most serious and heinous crimes.  However, there were multiple layers of safeguards before its final execution.  On the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, Mr. Ahsan clarified that it was a religious, social, cultural, moral and ethical issue in the country.  The Government took into account the views, sentiments and religious beliefs of the majority of the population when dealing with that issue.  Turning to the role of civil society, he said that the Government acknowledged it and to that end it had enacted the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act of 2016.  Under that act, civil society organizations had to register reception of foreign donations.  Finally, Bangladesh was committed to strengthening the National Human Rights Commission. 

Nepal was pleased to note that both recommendations that Nepal had made had been accepted.  The initiatives taken by Bangladesh in strengthening the national human rights institution and promoting gender equality, and the generosity displayed in hosting a large number of refugees on humanitarian grounds, were particularly commendable.  

Nigeria acknowledged Bangladesh’s continued efforts towards the promotion and protection of human rights.  Nigeria commended Bangladesh for its establishment of the Climate Change Trust Fund, an initiative aimed at addressing the adverse impacts of climate change. 

Oman welcomed the delegation of their brother country and congratulated Bangladesh for the human rights progress made.  Oman had taken part in the Working Group’s discussion, which had been very open.  Oman called on the Council to adopt the final report on Bangladesh.

Pakistan welcomed the people-centred development agenda adopted by the Government of Bangladesh with particular emphasis on women, children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable sections of the society.  Pakistan also appreciated the progress and achievements in the domains of health and education.

Philippines thanked Bangladesh for accepting outright three recommendations related to poverty reduction and migration measures.  They also commended the Government on its efforts on women’s political empowerment and literacy programmes as well as on adaptation projects to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. 

Russian Federation noted that Bangladesh had accepted more than 70 per cent of recommendations made during the third round of the Universal Periodic Review.  They hoped the implementation of the recommendations would add further protections for the human rights of their citizens, which also fulfilled international commitments in the human rights sphere.

Saudi Arabia expressed their thanks to Bangladesh for accepting the recommendations made by Saudi Arabia.  Bangladesh had a great spirit of cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, proof that they sought to promote and protect human rights.  Saudi Arabia commended their achievements and wished Bangladesh progress and prosperity.

Sri Lanka said that Bangladesh continued to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to the promotion of human rights, rule of law and economic development, while extending humanitarian efforts to more than half a million Rohingya refugees.  To further human rights, Bangladesh had also strengthened the National Human Rights Commission.

Sudan welcomed the delegation of Bangladesh and thanked it for the report presented.  Sudan recognized the efforts of Bangladesh in promoting human rights, in particular the progress made since the last cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.  Bangladesh was cooperating with the Council’s mechanisms despite the crisis caused by the Rohingya refugees.

United Arab Emirates noted that Bangladesh was promoting human rights on the ground, seeking to improve the situation.  Bangladesh was on the good road toward the rule of law and good governance.  The United Nations Emirates hoped that those efforts would continue.

United Kingdom thanked Bangladesh for its continued engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and its support for two recommendations made by the United Kingdom: to combat religious intolerance and work with civil society to protect freedom of expression.  Restrictions on democratic freedoms remained of deep concern and the United Kingdom wanted to see a free, fair and inclusive election process. 

United Nations Population Fund acknowledged that the Government had introduced policies to combat gender-based violence.  Still, there was a need to address the lack of enforcement of existing frameworks as well as social stereotypes contributing to the persistence of gender-based violence.  It was good that the Government had accepted recommendations on gender-based violence on which the United Nations Population Fund would provide support.

Uzbekistan was grateful to the delegation of Bangladesh for the presentation of the report.  Steps taken by Bangladesh to uphold human rights and freedoms were acknowledged, as well as measures to develop cooperation with the United Nations system.  Bangladesh had adopted the majority of recommendations and Uzbekistan wished it success in their implementation.

World Organisation Against Torture, in a joint statement with Asian Legal Resource Centre and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, remained concerned about the repressive political climate in Bangladesh, before their next elections.  Extrajudicial killings occurred frequently, particularly as part of the Government’s crackdown on drugs.  There were also arbitrary arrests and subsequent ill-treatment of students. 

International Humanist and Ethical Union was disappointed that recommendations on penal code articles regarding defamation had not been accepted.  They welcomed Bangladesh’s acceptance to publicly commit that journalists and bloggers could carry out their activities without fear of arrest or retribution.

British Humanist Association was concerned that religious intolerance was on the rise in Bangladesh.  Since 2013, there had been a large number of attacks against humanist bloggers and other activists.  At the same time, the law of Bangladesh criminalised blasphemy, and the Government had jailed a number of humanists on that basis.  They called on the Government to repeal its laws that criminalised blasphemy.  

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia regretted that the Government had not shown a genuine commitment to meaningfully address long-standing concerns related to the freedom of expression, assembly and association and protecting human rights defenders.  They were also concerned that the Government did not accept a number of recommendations on enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, denying the crimes.

International Save the Children Alliance encouraged the Government of Bangladesh to establish a national system for the protection of children, enact legislation prohibiting corporal punishment of children, draft rules of procedure for the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017, continue to work with the international community and Myanmar to find a sustainable solution enabling Rohingya refugees to return to their places of origin, and increase the investment in quality education for all.

Centre for Global Nonkilling asked that Bangladesh change its policy and ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.  They recalled that the right to life was also the absolute duty not to kill, and asked Bangladesh to abolish the death penalty.

Ain O Salish Kendro Ask Law and Mediation Centre, in a joint statement with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, commended the Government for accepting 178 recommendations, particularly on preventing violent extremism, eliminating trafficking, protecting media freedom and ensuring investigation of attacks on journalists.  However, 73 recommendations relating to the revision of the media laws, decriminalization of defamation and addressing impunity for violations by security agencies were only noted.

International Service for Human Rights said that Bangladesh had received two recommendations on the protection of human rights defenders and the eradication of impunity.  Both recommendations were crucial, given the disturbing human rights situation where defenders were persistently intimidated, abducted and killed.  Bangladesh was urged to repeal laws that violated the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement with Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), stressed that youth constituted one fifth of Bangladesh’s population.  The country had made great strides in ensuring reproductive health care services for women, but little attention had been paid to the sexual and reproductive health of young people.  Young people lacked access to comprehensive information about sexual health issues and to quality youth friendly services.

Article 19-International Centre against Censorship praised the constructive engagement of the Government in the review process, including consultations with civil society.  Twenty-five recommendations had been accepted relating to strengthening of freedom of expression, but the deteriorating situation in the country was concerning.  The Government was urged to allow freedom of expression, both online and offline.

The President said that out of 251 recommendations, 178 had been accepted while 73 had been noted.

SHAMEEM AHSAN, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all delegations and civil society organizations for engaging in the third cycle.  Words of encouragement were important for continuing efforts and critical remarks were taken in the right context.  The Universal Periodic Review was an important tool based on mutual respect.  Bangladesh had met all three criteria in its journey for graduation from least developed country status.  An inclusive development plan that left no one behind was closely linked to ensuring human rights for all.  The Government had pledged to build a “Digital Bangladesh” and to realize the right to an adequate standard of living.  1.4 million new jobs had been created since 2015.  The Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest provided a regular source of income to over 700,000 people, more than 30 per cent of which were women.  Capacity building of the judiciary was underway to combat a backlog of cases.  Pre-election periods were always marked by sensitivities in all countries in the world.  Political parties enjoyed full freedom of assembly. 

As regards the road safety movement of the students, protests had generated huge support, including from the Government.  The Government had enacted a new Road Transport Act 2018.  Initially peaceful, protests had turned violent when political opportunists infiltrated them.  Rumours had been spread in social media to mislead the students’ grievances and to turn the protests into an anti-government political movement.  As for the anti-drug campaign, it had recently been launched on huge public demand.  Law enforcement agencies had encountered armed resistance from drug dealers causing some deaths.  Bangladesh did not agree that there were numerous enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings.  Any violations of the law were dealt with within the existing system and there was no impunity for law enforcement agencies. 

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan

AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the Committee of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis (Parliament) on Democratic Institutions, NGOs and Citizens' Self-Government Bodies of Uzbekistan, and the Director of the National Human Rights Centre, at the outset stressed that, in a very short period of time, Uzbekistan had made tangible improvements in the field of human rights, and said that concrete steps had been taken to disseminate the outcomes of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review among the stakeholders in the country: political actors, civil society organizations, media, and international organizations.  The outcomes had also been discussed during a hearing in the lower house of Parliament in July and a meeting of the Advisory Council for Development of Civil Society in September 2018. 

During its third cycle, Uzbekistan had received 212 recommendations and had immediately supported 201, said Mr. Saidov, noting that three of the accepted recommendations had been noted after the national consultation process.  Thus, Uzbekistan had accepted 189 or 93 per cent of all received recommendations.  Mr. Saidov explained that 14 recommendations had been noted because they could not be implemented for legal or constitutional reasons; did not comply with the normative content, spirit and practice of the existing legislation; or were not in Uzbekistan’s national interest.  The implementation of the accepted recommendations had already begun, or was already in the process, stressed Mr. Saidov, who welcomed the comments from States and civil society organizations.

China commended Uzbekistan for its report and thanked them for accepting China’s recommendation.  China hoped that Uzbekistan would continue to take measures to promote gender equality, and protect the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.

Côte d’Ivoire stressed that the implementation of the accepted recommendations would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and encouraged it to continue to cooperate with the United Nations system in the protection of human rights.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that the dialogue with Uzbekistan was a useful opportunity to learn about Uzbekistan’s experiences in the promotion and protection of human rights, and welcomed the acceptance by Uzbekistan of the many recommendations, including those made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Egypt commended Uzbekistan’s efforts in the areas of constitutional reform, expanding the space for the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and human rights, and the establishment of the national human rights institution.  Egypt in particular welcomed the efforts to combat poverty, strengthen independence of the judiciary, and combat trafficking in persons.

Honduras was pleased that Uzbekistan had accepted the recommendation by Honduras to ratify human rights instruments to which it was not yet a party, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as to ratify the Rome Statute.

Iran noted with satisfaction several positive initiatives to promote and protect human rights, namely the establishment of the Working Group under the National Centre for Human Rights to prepare for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the presidential decree to support persons with disabilities.  Iran commended Uzbekistan for submitting its combined eighth and ninth periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Iraq thanked Uzbekistan for having accepted Iraq’s recommendations on civil society, enforced disappearances, and the rights of persons with disabilities, and recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of Uzbekistan’s Universal Periodic Review.

United Nations Refugee Agency was pleased that Uzbekistan supported the recommendations to ratify four key international instruments constituting the cornerstone of the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons, and appreciated the efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness, including the naturalization of over 1,200 persons in the past few years.  The United Nations Refugee Agency welcomed the intention to amend the Law on Citizenship to bring it in line with international standards.

Pakistan commended Uzbekistan for accepting a majority of recommendations, including those made by Pakistan, and also welcomed the recent positive developments in the country, including the legal and institutional changes to strengthen human rights and democracy. 

Russia urged Uzbekistan to include more information on the rights of persons with disabilities in its next report, and said that future amendments to the Constitution would further contribute to the protection of human rights in the country. 

United Nations Population Fund commended Uzbekistan’s efforts to promote and protect human rights and combat gender-based violence.  Sixty per cent of the population was under the age of 30, which was a golden opportunity to enhance development, and in this context, comprehensive sexual education was critical to avoid unplanned pregnancies and urinary tract infections.

Venezuela commended Uzbekistan on its open cooperation with human rights mechanisms and welcomed the efforts made to improve the situation of mother and child health.  Venezuela also commended the steps to provide healthcare for the elderly and to increase access to medical care in rural areas.

World Organization against Torture welcomed the release of human rights defenders who had been arbitrarily detained for their work, and remained concerned about the gap between Uzbekistan’s solemn declarations and their implementation on the ground.  Reports of torture, ill-treatment and forced labour continued to emerge, said the speaker.

Amnesty International was pleased that Uzbekistan had agreed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, to eradicate the use of torture and ill-treatment, and to investigate all allegations of torture.  It was regrettable that Uzbekistan had rejected the recommendations concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, including to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik lamented that Uzbekistan’s responses to the recommendations were available only in Russian.  Uzbekistan was oriented towards good governance, said the speaker, but they had missed the opportunity offered by this Universal Periodic Review cycle to improve the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Human Rights Watch said that this year the authorities had released several long-serving political prisoners, undertook steps to combat forced labour in the cotton sector, and held a number of local officials accountable for abusive or corrupt actions.  However, the authoritarian political system remained intact and competitive elections were still a distant dream.

CIVICUS- World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcomed the release of 28 prisoners, including activists, journalists and political opponents, and noted with concern the continued restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly.  Since August, at least 20 bloggers had been detained, while national legal mechanisms remained biased.  Torture was still used during detention.

United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that the situation in Uzbekistan remained catastrophic.  More than four million citizens had to leave their homes and go and pick cotton in dangerous circumstances for weeks on end.  Thousands died on an annual basis because of the heat, including children. 

Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, urged Uzbekistan to rethink its position on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and expressed their grave concern on the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uzbekistan.  Criminal Code article 120 criminalized same-sex conduct which was sanctioned by three years’ imprisonment. 

The President said that out of 212 recommendations, 198 enjoyed the support of Uzbekistan and 14 were noted.

AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the Committee of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis (Parliament) on Democratic Institutions, NGOs and Citizens' Self-Government Bodies of Uzbekistan, and the Director of the National Human Rights Centre, said that, with the agreement from two Parliament chambers, Uzbekistan would develop a roadmap to implement the accepted recommendations, together with international partners, including the United Nations Development Programme.  Mr. Saidov reassured the Council that Uzbekistan would fulfil all its international responsibilities.

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


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/18/143E