20 September 2018
The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Azerbaijan, Tuvalu, Colombia, and Djibouti.
Khalaf Khalafov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that of the 259 received recommendations, Azerbaijan had accepted 179 and would set up a working group at the level of deputy ministers to ensure their implementation. One of the key priorities was the fight against corruption, said the Deputy Minister, who explained that Azerbaijan was actively working on increasing the number of lawyers, and today there were 1,535 lawyers. The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Office of the Prosecutor were cooperating to ensure the full investigation of incidents of torture and accountability of perpetrators, and a number of legislative proposals were being discussed concerning the registration of non-governmental organizations and their funding, as defined by the Council of Europe Plan of Action. The protection of Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia remained a challenge after 30 years, and the Council was asked to take effective measures to restore their rights.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers applauded the important steps that Azerbaijan had taken to promote and protect human rights in all areas of life, in particular in ensuring social justice for all its citizens, the commitment to strengthen its national human rights institution, and the attention given to the fight against domestic violence and the promotion of gender equality. Azerbaijan should update the national action plan for children with a strong focus on children most at risk of violence, discrimination and exclusion, and adopt legislation to remove the remaining barriers that prevented children with disabilities from accessing mainstream quality education. Concern was raised about the repression against non-governmental organizations and about harassment and intimidation of independent lawyers working on human rights cases.
Speaking were the United Arab Emirates, United Nations Children’s Fund, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Brazil.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Human Rights House Foundation, Lawyers for Lawyers, Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland (in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association), International Bar Association, International Commission of Jurists, Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship, Amnesty International, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Human Rights Watch and International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The Vice President of the Human Rights Council said that out of 259 recommendations, Azerbaijan had accepted 179 and noted 80. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Azerbaijan.
Aunese Makoi Simati, Ambassador of Tuvalu to Belgium, Head of the Mission of Tuvalu to the European Union, at the outset, stressed that the unfolding climate change and sea-level rise were detrimental to the enjoyment and pursuit of fundamental human rights in Tuvalu, and that increasingly, those challenges, caused by human activities from external sources, were beyond Tuvalu’s internal capacity to cope. During its Universal Periodic Review, Tuvalu had received 127 recommendations and had accepted 78; 15 of the noted recommendations appeared to conflict with some of the long-held cultural and traditional values and Christian principles which were foundational to Tuvalu’s Constitution. In 2017, Parliament had passed the National Human Rights Institution Act, which would provide a mechanism for the protection and promotion of human rights of all, the Constitutional Review had included gender and disability in non-discrimination clauses, and a policy for children in educational institutions and a child protection and welfare bill were being drafted.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers recognized the unprecedented vulnerabilities facing Tuvalu due to the effects of climate change, particularly for women and girls, and welcomed the adoption of the law for the protection of the family and the prevention of family violence. They welcomed the establishment of a national human rights institution and the adoption of a national human rights plan, and urged the country to improve the food habits of its people to ensure a healthy society. Recalling the threat of the rising sea levels, which could lead to the disappearance of Tuvalu, some speakers called on the international community to provide the necessary assistance to the people of Tuvalu.
Speaking were Algeria, Fiji, Haiti, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, United Nations Population Fund, and Venezuela.
The non-governmental organizations Centre for Global Nonkilling, and United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation also took the floor.
The Vice President of the Human Rights Council said that out of 127 recommendations, Tuvalu had accepted 78 and noted 49. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tuvalu.
Beatriz Londoño Soto, Permanent Representative of Colombia to United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Colombia was deeply committed to the cause of human rights, and on this basis had accepted 183 of 221 recommendations, and had entered into five voluntary commitments as well. The commitment to protecting life was unwavering, and was realized through measures aimed at prevention, protection and non-repetition. Colombia was taking proactive steps to address the situation of human rights defenders, including by the creation of the National Commission on the Guarantees to Security; there was no amnesty for war crimes; and the focus was on human rights, accountability, legal certainty, contribution to coexistence, and the non-repetition of the conflict.
Defensoria del Pueblo de Colombia, in a video statement, expressed deep concern about murders of human rights defenders and social leaders, and called upon Colombia to double the efforts to ensure access to health and education, particularly in rural areas and in areas where there were considerable protection gaps.
Delegations noted with satisfaction the acceptance of a large number of recommendations and commended Colombia’s commitment to upholding s transparent and constructive dialogue on human rights. The peace agreement fully incorporated a human rights perspective, they said and were pleased by the efforts for its full implementation with a broad participation of women at all its stages. They welcomed the strengthening of the programme to prevent violence and protect victims of the armed conflict, as well as to protect human rights defenders and journalists, and hoped that voluntary commitments would lead to true reconciliation. Impunity was a structural problem, they said, which must be addressed through justice reforms aiming to guarantee access to protection.
Speaking were the United Nations Population Fund, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, and the Philippines.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Office for Human Rights - Action on Colombia, Oidhaco , International Catholic Child Bureau, Peace Brigades International Switzerland (in a joint statement with Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF) ), Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco (in a joint statement with International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES), Lawyers for Lawyers (in a joint statement with Lawyers Rights Watch Canada), World Organisation Against Torture (in a joint statement with Colombian Commission of Jurists), International Lesbian and Gay Association, Center for Global Nonkilling (in a joint statement with Conscience and Peace Tax International), Swedish Association for Sex Education and Action Canada for Population and Development.
The Vice President of the Human Rights Council said that out of 211 recommendations, Colombia had accepted 183 and noted 28, and it had also entered five voluntary commitments. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Colombia.
Maki Omar Abdoulkader, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice of Djibouti, reassured the Council of Djibouti’s commitment to cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms. The Government was currently carrying out an in-depth revision of major legal texts, including the civil and criminal code, in support of the justice system reform, which, inter alia, aimed to increase access to justice in rural areas. The domestic legal system guaranteed equal rights for all, which was strengthened by the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As for the recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders and political opponents, Djibouti had engaged in a dialogue with the opposition which had resulted in a law on the juridical status of the members of the opposition, while the labour legislation guaranteed the protection of trade unionists and the protection of workers’ rights.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed Djibouti’s efforts to improve its healthcare system and increase the role of women in political life and the economy. The country also took measures to guarantee equal access by boys and girls to quality education. Speakers further commended the creation of a national commission to combat corruption, and the fact that Djibouti had raised the minimum salary, as well as efforts to combat poverty. Other speakers, however, reminded that Djibouti had not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They regretted that anti-terrorism measures continued to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space.
Speaking were Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Botswana, Burkina Faso, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, and Madagascar.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Center for Global Nonkilling, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation (in a joint statement with East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues) and United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation.
The Vice President of the Human Rights Council said that out of 203 recommendations, Djibouti had accepted 177 and noted 26. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Djibouti.
The Council will next consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and time permitting, Canada.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, expressed gratitude to the Members of the Council as well as observer States during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. Delegations that had noted progress made by Azerbaijani in protecting human rights were particularly thanked. The Universal Periodic Review was an important forum allowing States to build on previous achievements. Out of 259 recommendations, 179 had been accepted, while the position on remaining ones had been submitted in a separate document. In order to ensure implementation, a working group at the deputy minister level among concerned ministries and agencies would be created and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs would coordinate the process. Azerbaijan would continue to provide interim reports on the implementation of recommendations. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had mentioned in the thirty-eighth session that Azerbaijan was one of 19 countries that were actively cooperating with the Special Procedures.
The fight against corruption was a big priority for Azerbaijan and the institute of lawyers had been developed so that 300 new lawyers had been admitted to the bar, so there were now 1,535 lawyers in the country. The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of the Prosecutor were cooperating to ensure the full investigation of incidents of torture as well as accountability of perpetrators. Currently authorities were discussing a number of legislative proposals to address registration and transfer of finances by non-governmental organizations, developed under the Council of Europe plan of action. Three years ago, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted and Azerbaijan was part of the global initiative. In May, a detailed report was provided on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.
Healthcare had improved in Azerbaijan, education levels had also improved, gender equality had risen, and poverty had decreased. Economic growth and social development continued. Literacy levels were 100 per cent and pre-school education was over 90 per cent. There was a mandatory medical insurance and the national strategy for reproductive health was being developed. The draft law on reproductive health was under consideration in Parliament. Concerning discrimination against women, the Government would undertake appropriate measures. A State plan on preventing domestic violence had been developed and there was a State programme for child care. The law on the rights of persons with disabilities had been adopted, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Thirty years later, the protection of Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia was still a challenge and the Council was asked to take effective measures to restore their rights. Armenia continued to ignore resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly and the latest statements from Armenia undermined peace negotiations.
United Arab Emirates applauded the important steps that Azerbaijan had taken to promote and protect human rights in all areas of life, in particular in ensuring social justice, and recommended that the Council adopt the outcome report on Azerbaijan.
United Nations Children’s Fund strongly urged Azerbaijan to update its national action plan for children and put a strong focus on children most at risk of violence, discrimination and exclusion. Welcoming the recent establishment of the State programme on inclusive education, the United Nations Children’s Fund urged the adoption of legislation to remove the remaining barriers that prevented children with disabilities from accessing mainstream quality education.
Uzbekistan was pleased that Azerbaijan had accepted Uzbekistan’s recommendation to strengthen the capacity of the national human rights institution and asked the Council to adopt the report.
Venezuela welcomed the renewal of more than 500 health centres, the increase in literacy rates, and the achievement of 100 per cent primary education enrolment rate, which was the result of a successful social policy.
Algeria welcomed the adoption of the law which guaranteed access to education to all children and wished Azerbaijan all the best in the implementation of the accepted recommendations.
Bahrain stressed that enhancing the role of women ensured the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and wished Azerbaijan all the best in the implementation of the accepted recommendations.
Bangladesh thanked Azerbaijan for having accepted its recommendations, and commended it for continuing with the positive experience of allocating adequate funds for the welfare programmes of internally displaced persons. Bangladesh also appreciated that the Government of Azerbaijan had designed a national mechanism under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for implementing the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.
Belarus expressed satisfaction that Azerbaijan had accepted the majority of the recommendations, including those of Belarus on the further improvement of national legislation, the rights of women and children, and of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
Belgium thanked Azerbaijan for having accepted its recommendation on the rapid adoption of a national strategy for the prevention of domestic violence. It regretted, however, that Azerbaijan had rejected its two other recommendations on the freedom of expression and the development of a dynamic civil society through simplified funding rules.
Bolivia welcomed the commitment of Azerbaijan to the Universal Periodic Review process and its progress in the supply of drinking water, education, and poverty reduction policies in rural areas, particularly in support of small-scale sustainable farming.
China commended Azerbaijan’s acceptance of its recommendations and expressed hope that Azerbaijan would continue to promote sustainable development, improve people’s standard of living, and provide assistance to low-income families.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea welcomed the fact that Azerbaijan had accepted many recommendations, which was a full demonstration of its will to make further efforts in the field of human rights. It recommended that Azerbaijan’s Universal Periodic Review outcome be adopted by the Human Rights Council.
Brazil acknowledged the positive engagement of Azerbaijan with the international human rights system and welcomed the prohibition of corporal punishment, psychological violence and other forms of abuse, including at school, as well as the attention given to the fight against domestic violence and the promotion of gender equality.
Human Rights House Foundation said that since its last review, Azerbaijan had adopted additional repressive legislation against non-governmental organizations, and that the legal environment for civil society had reached a severely repressive stage, with hard limitations in accessing funding, especially foreign funding.
Lawyers for Lawyers stressed that an independent judicial and legal profession was indispensable for the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and was concerned about the intimidation, harassment, and interference in the work of lawyers in Azerbaijan.
Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, regretted the non-acceptance by Azerbaijan of recommendations concerning violence, discrimination, and ill-treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Azerbaijan must provide human rights for all, and do its utmost to combat violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons committed by State and non-State actors.
International Bar Association urged Azerbaijan to ensure that the principle of the independence of the legal profession was implemented in practice, and in particular ensure the de facto independence of the Azerbaijani Bar Association from the executive. The Government should end the harassment of independent lawyers working on human rights cases.
International Commission of Jurists regretted that Azerbaijan had not accepted to end all interference in the work of lawyers through disbarment or other disciplinary measures on improper grounds such as expressing critical views, and that it had only noted the recommendations calling for the amendment of the Law on Advocates to ensure the effective independence of the Bar Association of Azerbaijan.
Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship reminded that the adoption of Azerbaijan’s Universal Periodic Review outcome was taking place amidst an ongoing and widespread assault on the right to freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. The constitutional amendments approved by the referendum in 2016 had marked a watershed moment: the weakening of democratic checks and balances, and the consolidation of Presidential powers, had facilitated a new crackdown on journalists, activists and political opponents.
Amnesty International underlined that politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of Government critics and other dissenting voices on politically motivated charges was one of its longstanding human rights concerns in Azerbaijan. Currently, over 100 victims of politically motivated prosecutions languished in Azerbaijan’s jails. The organization profoundly regretted that Azerbaijan had rejected more specific recommendations to prevent torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik recalled that Azerbaijan had received many recommendations to ratify or accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The organization was concerned that the special attention of the Baku authorities was solely on the exploration and exploitation of the Caspian Sea, but not about the oil pollution it produced. It was a priority to pay attention to the protection of the Caspian Sea for the benefit of all of the Caspian coastal countries.
Human Rights Watch noted that it was disappointing that the Government of Azerbaijan had relegated for further study a series of recommendations on the need to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from discrimination, to reform restrictive regulations governing the registration and financing of non-governmental organizations, and to reform legislation on libel. The Government had also rejected recommendations related to politically motivated prosecutions.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation reminded that in the mid-1990s when Azerbaijan had been admitted to the Council of Europe, one of the conditions had been that it adopt legislation on alternative civilian service. Azerbaijan had never adopted such legislation. In 2018, two Jehovah’s Witnesses had been convicted for their refusal to serve in the military service, and three more cases were under way.
The Vice President said that out of 259 recommendations received, 179 enjoyed the support of Azerbaijan and 80 were noted.
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, in concluding remarks, conveyed his appreciation to all countries that made comments or proposals during this Universal Periodic Review. He believed that many of the recommendations accepted by Azerbaijan would aid in promoting and protecting human rights in the country and would form a basis for the improvement of legislation. There had been criticisms of the country, which were noted. Those criticisms would serve as a stimulus to continue the Government’s dialogue with interested stakeholders and human rights mechanisms. There were needs, for example, to improve legislation and implement laws, which would be discussed with the Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights and treaty bodies as well as the Council. In discussing the Universal Periodic Review’s results, the President of Azerbaijan had created a Working Group for the implementation of recommendations, that would be made up of representatives of all administrations and agencies that were appropriate, as well as the Ombudsman’s office. Azerbaijan was open to dialogue and would continue to operate with human rights mechanisms. Azerbaijan thanked the Council for its constructive dialogue and supportive atmosphere.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Azerbaijan.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Tuvalu
AUNESE MAKOI SIMATI, Ambassador of Tuvalu to Belgium, Head of the Mission of Tuvalu to the European Union, at the outset, reiterated Tuvalu’s commitment towards meaningful engagement with the international community in the Universal Periodic Review process, and to the noble values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The unfolding climate change and sea-level rise, continued the Ambassador, were detrimental to the enjoyment and pursuit of fundamental human rights in Tuvalu, as a people and a sovereign State. Increasingly, those challenges, caused by human activities from external sources, were beyond Tuvalu’s internal capacity to cope. The current commitments were not sufficient to halt the increase in the global average temperature. For Tuvalu, these were existential issues. Tuvalu had received 127 recommendations during its Universal Periodic Review and had accepted 78, and it would pursue the remaining 49 in due course within its capacity and resources. Fifteen of the noted recommendations appeared to conflict and contradict some of the long-held cultural and traditional values and Christian principles which were foundational to Tuvalu’s Constitution. A new legal and coordinating department within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism and Labour would monitor the compliance with ratified international treaties.
Turning to the accepted recommendations, the Ambassador said that Parliament had passed in 2017 the National Human Rights Institution Act which would provide a mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights of all. The Constitutional Review, expected to be completed by the end of 2019, had included gender and disability in non-discrimination clauses. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been ratified in 2013 and Tuvalu was working on its progressive implementation. A policy for children in educational institutions and a child protection and welfare bill were being drafted, and several amendments had been introduced to harmonize the legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Support Scheme for the Most Vulnerable Persons with Disabilities, managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, provided financial assistance to disabled persons.
Tuvalu, a small island developing State and a least developed country, had specific absorptive, technical and capacity issues. Therefore, particular importance was placed on partnerships and collaboration with development partners, especially in conducting nation-wide consultations and targeted training and advocacy, which in an island-nation of dispersed communities spanning the Pacific Ocean represented a particular challenge.
Algeria congratulated Tuvalu on its adoption of the law for the protection of the family and the prevention of family violence as well as the National Action Plan on human rights. They also noted the country’s improved access for people living in far off islands. Algeria wished Tuvalu success in its efforts to implement the recommendations of the Council.
Fiji noted Tuvalu’s reservations on certain recommendations due to possible conflicts and contradictions with long-held cultural values, a shared concern among many Pacific Islands. In Fiji, many concepts and practices which were thought to be culturally acceptable had been abolished or modified as a result of the use and acceptance of universal human rights, an exercise that all nations had to consider.
Haiti regretted that the recommendation calling for the introduction of new food practices to reduce obesity had not been accepted. Haiti urged Tuvalu to improve the food habits of its people to ensure a healthy society.
Iraq said it had actively participated in the discussion of the report and welcomed the fact that two recommendations from Iraq were accepted, including ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on child pornography. Iraq was pleased to note Tuvalu’s acceptance of a majority of the recommendations and wished them well in their implementation.
United Arab Emirates valued the constructive approach that Tuvalu had displayed during the review. They called on the international community to help Tuvalu with capacity building and provide them with technical support to achieve their goals. They hoped the General Assembly would take into account the progress achieved by Tuvalu.
United Nations Population Fund said that Tuvalu continued to face unprecedented vulnerabilities due to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, cyclones, erosion, salinity in freshwater and long droughts. During periods of natural disaster, women and girls were particularly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and neglect. The Fund asked the Government to include gender and disability as grounds for discrimination in the Constitution.
Venezuela said that considering the great challenges which Tuvalu faced, such as geographical dispersion and climate change, it appreciated its efforts to implement and accept the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. Venezuela welcomed Tuvalu’s adoption of the National Action Plan for Human Rights 2016-2020, and the establishment of a national human rights institution. It called on the international community to offer Tuvalu all possible technical assistance.
Centre for Global Nonkilling welcomed the fact that Tuvalu had accepted the recommendation to ratify the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This represented progress as a similar recommendation had been noted in the previous cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation recalled the threat hanging over Tuvalu, namely the rising sea levels, with negative effects on crops. The archipelago was faced with the threat of disappearance. The citizens of Tuvalu would be the first climate change refugees in the world. The organization therefore invited the international community to provide the necessary assistance to the people of Tuvalu in the face of that crisis.
The Vice President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 127 recommendations, Tuvalu had accepted 78 and had noted 49.
AUNESE MAKOI SIMATI, Ambassador of Tuvalu to Belgium, Head of the Mission of Tuvalu to the European Union, said that Tuvalu would work together with the international human rights mechanisms to implement the recommendations, given the country’s constraints. He thanked all delegations and participants for their comments and interest.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tuvalu.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Colombia
BEATRIZ LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the 86 delegations that had participated in the review. Colombia had made significant progress with regard to human rights. Deeply committed to this cause, Colombia had accepted 183 of 221 recommendations to uphold human rights in their territory and protect the rights of vulnerable groups. They also noted 28 recommendations and entered into five voluntary commitments as well. It was important to highlight the unwavering commitment to protect life in Colombia, which had deepened adoption measures on three levels: prevention, protection and non-repetition. Colombia was analysing the situation of human rights defenders through the creation of the National Commission on the Guarantees to Security. The Integral Programme of Security and Protection for Communities and Organizations in the territories had been launched. They also had a new system on prevention with an early warning mechanism.
The jurisdiction for peace and measures to build peace were interconnected mechanisms that worked coherently. The system did not grant amnesty for war crimes; rather, Colombia was focused on human rights, accountability, legal certainty, contribution to co-existence, and non-repetition of the conflict. In that vein, virtually three million victims of the conflict had received reparations. Colombia had also guaranteed the rights of indigenous peoples by handing back land; four million hectares had already been returned.
National police and military forces were also deploying a culture of respect for human rights. The policies covered essential components: education for ethnic diversity of those forces; support from legal advisors so that when missions were carried out, they fell in line with international expectations; and a commitment to the human rights action plan, including following up on recommendations of human rights mechanisms. Colombia referred to recommendations that it took note of concerning the ratification of international instruments, stressing that it had not ratified them because those rights were already protected by national laws. Colombia was committed to making progress, their conviction being real progress made towards the effective implementation of human rights. They appreciated that the Universal Periodic Review was non-confrontational in nature and followed the principles of transparency, impartiality, non-selectivity, non-politicisation and objectivity. Protecting human rights was a State policy to which they were deeply committed, enriched by the debate with civil society.
Defensoria del Pueblo de Colombia, in a video statement, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a fundamental exercise to uphold human rights in Colombia. Expressing deep concern about the murders of human rights defenders and social leaders, the Defensoria said it was working with authorities to develop guidelines for the institutions working on their protection. Colombia should double the efforts to ensure access to health and education, particularly in rural areas and in areas where there were considerable protection gaps. Furthermore, the Defensoria welcomed the initiatives to reduce the gender gap and to guarantee fundamental human rights to communities with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.
United Nations Population Fund said it would continue to support the implementation of the national policy on sexuality, sexual and reproductive health in order to reduce maternal mortality, adolescent pregnancy rates, the unmet needs for contraception, and HIV prevalence, especially among youngsters. Also, it would support the realization of the public policy for the prevention of gender-based violence.
Bolivia welcomed the strengthening of the programme to prevent violence and protect victims of armed conflict, as well as to protect human rights defenders and journalists, and hoped that voluntary commitments would lead to true reconciliation.
Botswana commended the commitment to building sustainable peace, and stressed in this context, the importance of a culture of human rights as a basis for reconciliation. Botswana was pleased that its recommendations to step up efforts to promote women’s rights, and to introduce a comprehensive definition of racial discrimination in the legislation, had been accepted.
Brazil commended the commitment to a transparent and constructive dialogue on human rights and the adoption of the peace agreement which fully incorporated a human rights perspective, and the efforts for its full implementation with the broad participation of women at all its stages. Brazil recognized the challenges in welcoming refugees and migrants in full dignity.
Burkina Faso noted with satisfaction the acceptance of a large number of recommendations by Colombia, particularly on combatting maternal mortality and morbidity. Burkina Faso invited the Council to adopt the report.
Chile commended the progress made by Colombia on measures to protect fundamental freedoms, noting that peace was the best way to guarantee human rights. It welcomed that Colombia had accepted most of the recommendations, including the one on continued negotiations with former combatants. Chile urged Colombia not to abandon the path it had taken in order to build an inclusive society.
China expressed hope that Colombia would continue to promote sustainable economic development, fight poverty, and improve the living standards of its citizens. China recommended that Colombia’s Universal Periodic Review outcome be adopted by the Human Rights Council.
Egypt praised Colombia for accepting a large number of recommendations by States, including those of Egypt. Efforts of the Government in undertaking reforms were praised, including the Peace Agreement, improvements in healthcare, and strengthening of the judiciary.
Honduras welcomed the delegation and urged Colombia had to continue its efforts aimed at improving the position of indigenous peoples and women. Honduras reiterated its support for to Colombia to continue with all its reforms.
Iraq thanked Colombia for the information provided on human rights in the Universal Periodic Review and expressed appreciation for efforts made to stop trafficking and ensure equal pay for men and women. Colombia was thanked for accepting the majority of the recommendations.
Philippines praised the poverty reduction efforts of Colombia which had translated to an over 14 per cent reduction. The Government was committed to providing access to free education in public schools across the country. Colombia was praised for accepting 143 recommendations out of 209 and for accepting the recommendation of the Philippines to ensure access to justice.
International Office for Human Rights - Action on Colombia, Oidhaco said that the best guarantee for human rights in Colombia was the continued implementation of mechanisms under the existing peace agreements. It was important to note the political and financial support for mechanisms for the transitional justice system. It was worried that the Defence Minister had indiscriminately referred to social protesters as criminals. Freedom of assembly and strengthening of protected space for civil society were needed.
International Catholic Child Bureau said prisons and detention centres needed to be improved. The adoption of the Children and Adolescents’ Code stated that the deprivation of liberty was a last resort, yet young offenders were disproportionately incarcerated in juvenile detention centres, where they experienced violence. Alternatives to juvenile detention had to be created, and the follow-up of children in conflict with the law also needed to be guaranteed.
Peace Brigades International Switzerland, in a joint statement with Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF), said peace was the best way to guarantee human rights. Aggressions on human rights defenders continued to be a challenge. Since the beginning of the year, they had noted 123 killings. They had verified 25 killings of human rights defenders, particularly those participating in gender-related activities. There was also sexual violence committed against those defenders with widespread impunity.
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, in a joint statement with International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES, emphasized the importance of Colombia’s ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Youth unemployment needed to be addressed as well through governmental structures, and school systems needed to be adapted in rural communities with appropriate resources.
Lawyers for Lawyers, in a joint statement with Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, said that despite the November 2016 peace agreement, there had been increased attacks against lawyers in Colombia. Lawyers defending vulnerable communities were subjected to threats and attacks. When the legal profession could not function, this gave rise to impunity and injustice. Colombia needed to protect lawyers in danger, prevent threats and attacks, and investigate those attacks to end impunity.
World Organisation Against Torture, in a joint statement with Colombian Commission of Jurists, said continued violence against different populations meant following-up on all recommendations from the review was essential. Colombia also needed to create a National Action Plan on human rights. Without a mechanism for follow-up, many recommendations would remain on paper. Impunity was a structural problem as well and justice reforms needed to guarantee access to protection.
International Lesbian and Gay Association noted significant progress made by Colombia in recognizing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including accepting the recommendation that referred to those rights within the Universal Periodic Review. However, violence against them still prevailed. The peace agreement included a gender approach, but Congress had recently excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from transitional justice processes.
Center for Global Nonkilling, in a joint statement with Conscience and Peace Tax International, acknowledged that building peaceful societies required new practices, including prevention. The constitution of Colombia recognized a human right to peace and now was the time to implement it. Peace promoters were human rights defenders and they needed protection. Building peace required skills, means and funds. The Colombian authorities should establish, in the tax system, the possibility to pay taxes for peace only, instead of for the military budget.
Swedish Association for Sexuality Education welcomed the final agreement on ending the conflict, particularly the emphasis on recognizing the impact of violence that women and girls faced during the conflict. Openness to discuss the situation concerning sexual and reproductive rights was welcomed. The Government was urged to continue in this regard. The commitment to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community was welcomed.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that during this review, many recommendations were related to sexual rights, including violence against women, domestic violence and sexual violence. This urged a comprehensive approach in this sphere. However, information provided on rape and threats towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had not actually led to recommendations that comprehensively addressed the problem.
The Vice President said that out of 211 recommendations, 183 had been accepted, 28 had been noted and five voluntary commitments had been accepted.
BEATRIZ LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at0 Geneva, said she had listened very carefully to the discussion and the comments made. Everything was being done to improve the human rights situation, despite the decades of conflict. The Government had made a clear commitment to protect human rights and combat the scourge of violence. The implementation of the necessary policies was being carried out in cooperation with the Ombudsman’s office so that social leaders and human rights defenders could continue doing their work. During the visit of the Foreign Minister to Geneva this September, two points were reiterated: the commitment of the current Government to implement the peace agreement, and the invitation extended to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. All comments would be conveyed to the Government in Bogota.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia was then adopted.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Djibouti
MAKI OMAR ABDOULKADER, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice of Djibouti, reassured the Council of Djibouti’s commitment to cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms and said that its inter-ministerial committee in charge of reporting to human rights treaty bodies was studying the recommendations received during the Universal Periodic Review, with a view to prepare and adopt a plan for their implementation. Djibouti had accepted virtually all the recommendations - 177 out of 203 – and would soon be able to present the implementing timetable for the next four years. An in-depth revision of the major legal texts, including the civil and criminal codes, was ongoing, in support of the justice system reform, which, inter alia, aimed to increase access to justice in rural areas.
The domestic legal system guaranteed equal rights for all, which was strengthened by the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Djibouti was already cooperating with the human rights mechanisms, including the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. As for the recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders and political opponents, Djibouti had engaged in a dialogue with the opposition which had resulted in a law on the juridical status of the members of the opposition, while the labour legislation guaranteed the protection of trade unionists and the protection of workers’ rights. Human rights defenders were protected by the Constitution and the country’s laws, like any other citizens. Turning to the recommendations concerning the situation of women and children in the country, Mr. Abdoulkader said that Djibouti had adopted the national gender policy and the law on the quotas which guaranteed 25 per cent representation for women. As a result of this law, the number of women in Parliament had increased from seven to the current 17. Additionally, Djibouti had established a gender observatory to collect, analyse, and disseminate information and data on gender equality.
Algeria welcomed the efforts by Djibouti to improve its healthcare system as well as its promotion of the role of women in political life and the working world. Djibouti had accepted two recommendations from Algeria concerning the reinforcement of the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Djibouti had also taken measures to guarantee boys and girls equal access to quality education.
Angola commended the Government of Djibouti for the adoption of the “Djibouti 2035 Strategy” as well as relevant initiatives aimed at implanting a human rights culture in all levels of society. They encouraged Djibouti to strengthen measures in the sphere of human rights, which already showed positive signs.
Bahrain welcomed the delegation of Djibouti and efforts made since the adoption of the second Universal Periodic Review report to promote human rights. The creation of a national commission to prevent corruption was a positive development as was the fact that Djibouti had raised the minimum salary. Bahrain recommended that Djibouti continue efforts to combat poverty.
Botswana noted the strides made by Djibouti in the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly on legislative measures aimed at improving the lives of its people. The adoption of the Civic Code and reforms to the Criminal Code were worthy of support. Botswana also applauded efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable members of society.
Burkina Faso welcomed Djibouti’s acceptance of most of the recommendations made. Burkina Faso commended Djibouti’s ongoing cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms. Burkina Faso encouraged the Council to adopt the report.
China commended Djibouti’s constructive engagement and their acceptance of recommendations from China. China stressed that Djibouti must continue its efforts to ensure sustainable development as well as continue to promote access to education and the eradication of poverty.
Côte d’Ivoire wished a warm welcome to Djibouti and was convinced that the implementation of recommendations would improve the human rights situation, in particular of women and children. Appreciation was expressed for all reforms carried out in Djibouti to improve the situation of the rule of law.
Egypt welcomed the brotherly delegation of Djibouti. Egypt appreciated Djibouti’s efforts to develop a legal framework and strengthen the national human rights commission, as well as activities to combat trafficking and improve education.
Ethiopia appreciated Djibouti’s commitment to the protection of human rights and commended the adoption of codes for the protection of minors. Initiatives to enhance the capacity of the national human rights institutions were appreciated and Ethiopia further encouraged the need to follow a participatory approach to human rights. Poverty reduction activities were acknowledged as well as activities to combat human trafficking.
Gabon welcomed the delegation of Djibouti and noted that Djibouti had accepted most of the recommendations. The efforts of the Government to combat trafficking of persons and of migrants, and improve access to drinking water and healthcare, were recognized. Gabon wished Djibouti all the best in its implementation of the recommendations.
Iran said it was unfortunate that out of 203 recommendations provided, the three made by Iran were noted. Concern was shared over reports raised by the Human Rights Committee over the human trafficking in Djibouti, particularly of women and children. The Government should put an end to all violations committed under the pretext of counter-terrorism activities, and pay special attention to the improvement of access to healthcare in rural areas.
Iraq commended Djibouti for having accepted its three recommendations related to trafficking in human beings, housing, and social coverage for all citizens. It expressed hope that Djibouti would swiftly implement those recommendations.
Madagascar welcomed the efforts of the Government of Djibouti to promote and protect human rights, as well as its commitment to implement the majority of the recommendations. It welcomed the adoption of a national strategy to combat poverty, and to improve access to drinking water and housing.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project regretted that Djibouti had not been able to give an open and permanent invitation to all Special Procedures. The organization also called attention to the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, and the excessive use of force by the security forces.
Centre for Global Nonkilling welcomed Djibouti’s readiness to ratify the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The organization added that it was awaiting the confirmation of those ratifications.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues urged Djibouti to implement the recommendations on freedom of expression and on access to information. It deplored that it was necessary to remind Djibouti of its obligations in that regard. The organization reminded that Djibouti had rejected the recommendation on an open invitation to human rights mechanisms.
Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme welcomed the efforts of Djibouti to welcome refugees and migrants from neighbouring countries, its adoption of a new strategy for the prevention of malnutrition, social protection, and its adoption of the law on the participation in political affairs. Given the country’s vulnerability, the organization called on the international community to assist the implementation of the Vision Djibouti 2035, which aimed to eradicate poverty.
CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, in a joint statement with East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, noted that Djibouti had not implemented any of the recommendations it had received relating to civic space. They regretted that anti-terrorism measures continued to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space. The Government claimed that “no human rights defender had been detained or even prosecuted”, yet they had documented evidence to the contrary.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said there had been reprisals against defenders of human rights in Djibouti. Authorities were jeopardizing public speech and fostering human rights violations in the country. There were an increasing number of unfair trials and journalists were prevented from travelling. Oversight needed to be implemented in the country.
The Vice-President said that out of 203 recommendations received, 177 enjoyed the support of Djibouti and 26 were noted.
MAKI OMAR ABDOULKADER, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice of Djibouti, said that it was important to put things in their context. Concerning recommendations from previous reviews that had their implementation deferred, the situation did not only depend on political will. The context that Djibouti confronted did not allow for the implementation of certain recommendations. They had only been deferred. The bordering country of Eritrea was in the process of reconciliation. There was a terrorist threat from neighbouring Somaliland. There were measures that had not been implemented for the simple reason that Djibouti had to prioritise, and they had to ensure other mechanisms were in place first. They reassured that they were ready to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms to protect and promote human rights. Other clarifications that were important included the recommendation for the ratification of the genocide convention. The criminal code in Djibouti remained in force and would be reformed, but it already defined genocide in the same terms as those used in the convention. In 2017, the National Council for Communication was established to provide oversight of the rights of professionals working in the communications sphere. But it was also established to protect the public, particularly the young public, from the dissemination of dangerous information. Continuing, he said that policies and programmes took into account political and civil rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. They would spare no efforts in implementing the accepted recommendations.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Djibouti.
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