Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
15 March 2018
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Guatemala, Switzerland and the Republic of Korea. It also concluded its general debate on human bodies and mechanisms.
Jorge Luis Borrayo Reyes, Presidential Commissioner and Coordinator of the Executive Policy on Human Rights of Guatemala, informed the Council about the various steps that the Government of Guatemala had taken to implement recommendations. Those concerned the death penalty, ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, enforced disappearances, spread of ideas based on racial superiority and hate, the selection of national candidates to United Nations bodies, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, consultations with indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, reform of the justice system, election of judges, fighting impunity, reducing poverty, guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health rights, conditions for abortion, and the rights of persons with disabilities.
Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala also spoke.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers appreciated Guatemala’s efforts to promote women’s rights and the rights of children, as well as efforts to combat teenage pregnancies and the prevention and rehabilitation programmes for victims of sexual violence. Some speakers reminded of widespread sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking, and called on Guatemala to adopt recommendations on guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly for adolescents and young people. Others highlighted the climate of criminalization and impunity with respect to attacks on human rights defenders.
Speaking were United Nations Population Fund, Algeria, Armenia, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Philippines and Sierra Leone.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Plan International, World Organization against Torture, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES (in a joint statement with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco), Education and Development, Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH), Action Canada for Population and Development, Advocates for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, and International Humanist and Ethical Union.
The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 205 recommendations received, Guatemala accepted 150 and noted 55. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Guatemala.
Valentin Zellweger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that Switzerland had not undertaken recommendations where there was no political will. In terms of popular initiatives, three mechanisms were in place. Switzerland had decided against accepting those, as popular will overrode international law. The right of citizens to modify the Constitution was a fundamental part of Swiss law. With regard to the recommendation to establish binding mechanisms for companies when they carried out activities abroad, Switzerland was of the view that a global legally binding mechanism for diligence of multinational companies and other business enterprises would be too restrictive at this stage.
In the discussion, speakers hailed the favourable human rights situation in Switzerland, as well as its engagement for the promotion and protection of human rights at the international level. However, they pointed out to discriminatory aspects of the new nationality law, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and the existence of gender inequality.
Speaking were Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Bahrain, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Gabon and Madagascar.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Centre for Global Nonkilling, Psychological Study of Social Issues, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Africa Culture Internationale, World Barua Organization, and NGO Coordination Post Beijing Switzerland.
The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 251 recommendations received, Switzerland accepted 160 and noted 91. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Switzerland.
Choi Kyonglim, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that over the past several months the Government had held a public hearing and had invited civil society to exchange opinions about the recommendations. The Government planned to accede to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and it continued to prohibit discrimination of non-citizens. With regard to contentious objections and alternative service, the unique security circumstances of the Korean peninsula and the importance of ensuring military service obligation had to be considered so the Government would conform to the decision of the Constitutional Court ruling. Abolition of the death penalty needed a careful approach.
The National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea also spoke.
In the discussion speakers commended the Republic of Korea’s ongoing efforts to increase official development assistance, and the establishment of a new immigration policy aimed at protecting the rights and social integration of foreigners. They also commended its intention to strengthen the national mechanism for the follow-up to the recommendations of international human rights bodies. Nevertheless, speakers expressed concerns about the abolition of the death penalty, adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, and allowing civilian service as an alternative to military service.
Speaking were Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Albania.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco (in a joint statement with International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, CIVICUS- World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and United Nations Watch.
The President said that out of 218 recommendations received, 121 enjoyed the Republic of Korea’s support, while 97 were noted. The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Republic of Korea.
At the end of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on human bodies and mechanisms. Parts of the general debate have already been held on Wednesday, 14 March and on Thursday, 15 March in the morning, and summaries can be found here and here.
In the general debate, speakers drew attention to the shrinking space and the restraints placed on the work of civil society and human rights defenders, States that ignored communications and recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies, the need for improved cooperation between States and mandate holders, inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, and violations of minority rights. They also raised concern about the plight of BBC journalists in Iran, the persecution of Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests in Baluchistan at the hands of the Government of Pakistan, and the plight of the Shia minority in the Middle East.
Speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, World Muslim Congress, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, Africa Culture Internationale, Indian Council of South America, World Barua Organization, Association of World Citizens, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, Liberation, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, VAAGDHARA, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, Center for Organization Research and Education, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Association pour l’intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Alliance Creative Community Project, Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France, Prahar, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, International Solidarity for Africa, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, Jssor Youth Organization, Association Thendral, Le Pont, Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie, Action of Human Movement, International-Lawyers.com, New Human Rights Cameroon, European Coordination for Association and Individues for the Freddom of Conscience, Servas International, and International Federation of Journalists.
The Philippines and China spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will not be meeting on Friday, 16 March because of a strike at the United Nations Office at Geneva. It will resume its work on Monday, 19 March, at 9 a.m. when it will hear a debate on promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combatting racial discrimination, followed by the consideration of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Benin, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Ukraine and Sri Lanka.
Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala
JORGE LUIS BORRAYO REYES, Presidential Commissioner and Coordinator of the Executive Policy on Human Rights of Guatemala, reminded that out of 205 received recommendations, Guatemala had accepted 150 and had taken note of 55. With respect to the 15 recommendations regarding the death penalty, the Constitutional Court had abolished on 24 October 2017 the death penalty for the crimes covered by the Law on Narcotic Activity. As for the recommendations on the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the consultative process with relevant institutions was ongoing, as was the process of consultation on the recommendation to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance. Congress was discussing the establishment of the National Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons. The Government had adopted a law to punish the spread of ideas based on racial superiority and hate.
As for the recommendation for the selection of national candidates to United Nations bodies, the Government followed the relevant rules and processes. On the recommendation concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, the Constitution recognized that all Guatemalan citizens were free and equal in their rights and dignity. With respect to consultations with indigenous peoples, the President of the country had launched a process for the drawing up of a guide for implementing consultations with indigenous peoples in October 2016. The Government had also taken measures to protect human rights defenders, undergo a reform of the justice system, regulate the election of judges, fight impunity, respect the division of powers, reduce poverty, guarantee sexual and reproductive health rights, define conditions under which abortion was permitted, and it was working to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala stressed that when corruption was generalized people did not have access to justice and could not enjoy their fundamental freedoms. The State identified corruption as a serious institutionalized problem. Such recognition led to the commitment by Government agencies to address the problem. The State must bring its legislation in line with international obligations and enshrine the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.
United Nations Population Fund noted the commitment of Guatemala to the Universal Periodic Review. Continual progress on the issue of teen pregnancy and sexual and reproductive health must be a priority. Health services must be decentralized and mechanisms must be put in place to protect women from acts of violence.
Algeria welcomed efforts in Guatemala to combat racial discrimination. Algeria noted the State’s efforts to cooperate with the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review and wished it every success in the implementation of recommendations.
Armenia took note that both of its recommendations on the rights of indigenous peoples and on ensuring access to education were accepted by Guatemala.
Brazil recognized and valued efforts in Guatemala to ensure the enjoyment of human rights by all citizens. Brazil noted that Guatemala did not accept its recommendations and called on the country to take additional efforts to combat discrimination and sexual violence. Greater synergy was needed for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Chile welcomed the progress made by Guatemala to promote human rights. Chile recognized pending challenges and expressed concerns about racial discrimination and inclusion for indigenous persons. It welcomed that Guatemala had accepted 150 recommendations, including two made by Chile concerning the freedom of expression of journalists and human rights defenders.
Egypt thanked Guatemala for replies provided regarding the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review. Efforts made by Guatemala and acceptance of most of the recommendations reflected a spirit of cooperation with the Council and its Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Egypt recommended the adoption of the report
Haiti thanked Guatemala for the clear and concise account of the 150 recommendations which had been made. Haiti had offered three recommendations which had been accepted, but regretted that recommendations on universal income had not been accepted.
Honduras congratulated Guatemala for its transparent and constructive approach and particularly for introducing a gender approach in public policy for eliminating racial discrimination and for adopting measures in line with the 2030 Agenda. Guatemala was wished success in implementing its recommendations.
Philippines congratulated Guatemala for supporting a large number of the recommendations, and appreciated its efforts to promote women’s rights and the rights of children. The Philippines called on all Member States to support the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Guatemala.
Sierra Leone noted the importance which Guatemala placed on bilateral and multilateral cooperation, as well as the strategies it had established to better promote and protect human rights. Notable were efforts to combat teenage pregnancies and the prevention and rehabilitation programmes for victims of sexual violence. Sierra Leone encouraged Guatemala to consider ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Plan International, Inc, in a joint statement, called on Guatemala to adopt recommendations on the vulnerability, stigmatization, discrimination, criminalization, and non-guarantee of sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly for adolescents and young people.
World Organization against Torture emphasized that in 2017 many human rights defenders had been attacked and even killed in Guatemala. The climate of criminalization and impunity made it very difficult to implement protection mechanisms to protect human rights defenders. There was political will on the part of the State to do so, but implementation was problematic.
International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES, in a joint statement with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, expressed concern about the situation of young boys and girls in indigenous areas in Guatemala. Youth in State institutions required greater protections and violence against women remained frequent. Guatemala must pursue an inclusive education policy, especially in indigenous communities, and guarantee the physical integrity of people in State institutions.
Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH) said journalists working far from the capital faced acts of violence but perpetrators were not brought to justice. Officials from various State departments were blocking access to information. Recommendations accepted by the State must result in an open dialogue with the media, not confrontation.
Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, welcomed the acceptance of recommendations on sexual and gender identity and on violence against women. Implementation of those recommendations called for a comprehensive approach by all State actors. Guatemala must implement the recommendations while respecting international obligations.
Advocates for Human Rights noted that violence against women remained a serious problem in Guatemala. Reports were received of police officers refusing to respond to calls of domestic violence. Widespread impunity led to the decision of victims to flee the country. Guatemala was commended for accepting recommendations to address cases of violence against women and was urged to further strengthen existing legislation.
Amnesty International welcomed Guatemala’s support of 21 recommendations related to strengthening protection measures for human rights defenders. Intimidation and attacks against judges were deeply concerning. Amnesty regretted that Guatemala had rejected six recommendations addressing enforced disappearances, considering there had been 45,000 disappearances caused by the internal armed conflict.
Peace Brigades International Switzerland said that a worsening of the security situation had been observed in Guatemala as well as shrinking of space where human rights defenders could operate in. Following 80 community consultations, the Government had developed guidelines without including fundamental principles for indigenous persons. The recommendations concerning comprehensive protection policy were welcomed.
Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund reminded that defending and promoting truth and justice for past crimes was vital in the country. The emblematic cases of enforced disappearances had been brought to public attention. The State’s efforts to provide justice and compensation to victims of safe houses for children had been limited.
International Humanist and Ethical Union emphasized that Guatemala remained one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women and girls, having one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. Sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking were widespread. In addition, violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was pervasive, whereas all abortion was criminalized.
The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 205 recommendations received, Guatemala accepted 150 and noted 55.
JORGE LUIS BORRAYO REYES, Presidential Commissioner and Coordinator of the Executive Policy on Human Rights of Guatemala, said Guatemala was encouraged to continue strengthening its democracy and rule of law. He noted efforts to ensure implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Guatemala was seeking to consolidate the rule of law by showing the international community that nobody in Guatemala was above the law. Those who did not obey the law were subjected to it. Guatemala was struggling to move forward following decades of internal armed conflict. The country was working to meet its international obligations but implementing all accepted recommendations in one year was unrealistic.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Guatemala.
Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Switzerland
VALENTIN ZELLWEGER, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said he was pleased that Switzerland had been able to participate in the process with the cantons which had a crucial role in promoting human rights. Switzerland was convinced of the potential of the Universal Periodic Review and had supported this process since the outset. Mr. Zellweger reiterated his gratitude to States who had spoken during the dialogue. A total of 251 recommendations had been addressed, of which Switzerland had accepted 121 and had taken note of 67. Today, Switzerland presented its decision concerning the 63 remaining recommendations, of which 40 had been accepted and 23 noted. The decision to accept or note a recommendation had been done after an in-depth analysis. An internal decision-making participative process had been established taking into account the opinions of the cantons. Switzerland had not undertaken recommendations where there was no political will, while at the same time the country worked towards implementing human rights. In terms of popular initiatives, three mechanisms were in place. Switzerland had decided against accepting these, as popular will overrode international law. The right of citizens to modify the constitution was a fundamental part of Swiss law. Switzerland continued to promote the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex community. It was of the opinion that it was more effective to support specific organizations and projects at the local level. With regard to the recommendation to establish binding mechanisms for companies when they carried out activities abroad, it was of the view that a global legally binding mechanism for diligence of multinational companies and other business enterprises would be too restrictive at this stage.
Regarding violations of acts of racial discrimination, and specific acts of discrimination based on gender identity, Mr. Zellweger said the criminal code already provided protection against discrimination. Numerous measures along those lines had been implemented, including the law on gender equality and on persons with disabilities which was directly applicable. Switzerland was of the opinion that all grounds for discrimination had their own characteristics and required a specific approach. The law on registered partnerships offered same sex couples the same rights as married couples. Another law adopted in 2016 allowed these couples to adopt children. These were thus specific instruments responding to these specific situations. Switzerland continued to commit to gender equality and to women’s rights. Regarding migrant policy, it had a system that allowed protection to refugees recognized as such. Switzerland had already accepted recommendations related to unaccompanied minors. Currently there was no national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, but a draft law on this was underway.
Viet Nam reiterated its appreciation for Switzerland’s efforts and contributions to international cooperation, and commended its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, and its promotion and protection of human rights.
Afghanistan commended Switzerland for its constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and appreciated Switzerland’s support for Afghanistan’s recommendations, notably to ensure full application of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and to ensure the minimum reception standards in federal and cantonal reception centres.
Albania took note of its recommendation which Switzerland had accepted, namely regarding activities to undertake systematic sensitization to fight stigmatization, clichés, stereotypes and prejudices against non-Swiss nationals. Albania recommended that the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Switzerland be adopted.
Armenia was pleased that Switzerland had accepted most of the recommendations, including one made by Armenia. It hailed the favourable human rights situation in Switzerland, as well as its engagement for the promotion and protection of human rights at the international level.
Bahrain highly valued the positive attitude taken by Switzerland on the promotion and protection of human rights. Bahrain affirmed that Switzerland must more seriously consider the adoption of laws and executive measures on the protection of the political and social rights of migrants.
Egypt noted the five recommendations it submitted on the adequate representation and protection of legal minorities and other matters. Recommendations were also made for Switzerland to address gender equality and on monitoring the conduct of Swiss corporations abroad.
Haiti expressed pleasure at the clear, concise presentation by Switzerland. Haiti regretted that recommendations on regulatory frameworks to assess the environmental record of Swiss corporations operating abroad were not fully accepted.
Honduras noted that Switzerland was committed to adopting a plan of action against human trafficking. Switzerland was urged to approve recommendations to promote cantonal policy to combat violence against women and violence against people based on sexual and gender orientation.
Iran noted it had presented three recommendations, one of which was fully accepted. Still, concerns remained over racial discrimination and xenophobia in Switzerland.
Kenya thanked Switzerland for its constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process. It hoped that Switzerland would consider taking measures to protect the family and marriage. Kenya supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Switzerland.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic appreciated that Switzerland had accepted its recommendations concerning efforts to ensure equal access to education of vulnerable, persons, including women, children and persons with disabilities, and regarding empowering women at all levels of decision-making, and ensuring their participation in politics, economy and social life.
Gabon welcomed the commitment of Switzerland to follow up on its obligations and noted the actions to improve the human rights situation in the country. Gabon also welcomed efforts to combat human trafficking and the ratification of the Protocol of the International Labour Organization on Forced Labour in 2017.
Madagascar commended Switzerland’s adoption of a new law on asylum in 2016, and the implementation of the National Plan of Action on Human Trafficking 2017-2020. However, the new nationality law contained a form of discrimination against non-Swiss citizens who had worked in the international setting in Switzerland.
Centre for Global Nonkilling thanked Angola, Lebanon, Mexico and Switzerland for accepting recommendations on suicide. Suicide was the second killer after car accidents in the world. Noting that there were as many suicides as people killed during homicide and war, it recognized that it was important for the international community to make progress in this regard, including through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal to this effect. Switzerland had a suicide prevention programme which had drawn a reduction in the number of deaths.
Psychological Study of Social Issues noted with appreciation that Switzerland engaged in anti-discrimination measures against women. However, after 47 years of civil rights of women to vote, it regretted the status quo. Women earned 20 per cent less than men in the private sector, and 17 per cent less in the public sector. Higher salaries and positions were systematically in favour of men. It recommended the strengthening of the Gender Equality Act, known among Swiss lawyers as a weak instrument and its alignment with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Council of Europe Law (147.52).
International Lesbian and Gay Association said Switzerland had received 12 recommendations on trans-people who continuously encountered human rights violations. Switzerland had noted 8 of these recommendations, including the implementation of a National Action Plan in cooperation with these organizations. This plan was the only way to make trans-human rights a reality. The Association asked Switzerland to accept the recommendations made by Honduras and Slovenia. It stood ready to work with the Swiss Government to ensure all rights for trans-people in Switzerland.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc. Education Fund called on Switzerland to prohibit assistance to suicide, the number of which had been on the rise since 2008. People including those with dementia and depression were being assisted. The number of non-terminally ill patients who were assisted to commit suicide was growing. Under the lax Swiss law, assisted suicide of foreigners was also growing unabated.
Action Canada for Population and Development congratulated Switzerland on accepting a number of important sexual and reproductive health rights recommendations, including on preventing and combatting violence against women, domestic violence and fighting human trafficking. Acceptance of recommendations addressing discrimination, including those against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, was welcomed.
Amnesty International welcomed that Switzerland had agreed to introduce coordination between confederation, cantons and civil society to implement recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty regretted that Switzerland had not accepted the recommendation for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as its refusal to adopt a law on anti-discrimination.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development noted that migration policies implied the provision of assistance to victims of torture and an integration policy meant welcoming migrants and providing them with social services. Cantonal programmes were appreciated for the measures they had provided.
Africa Culture Internationale congratulated Switzerland for the progress made in developing internal legal infrastructure to facilitate human rights promotion, through ratifying international conventions and adhering to international mechanisms. The Swiss Government was urged to continue with the promotion of gender equality and combatting racism against asylum seekers.
World Barua Organization said Swiss policy indicated that the realization of human rights was prioritized. The organization welcomed the indivisible character of human rights, including of minorities, in Switzerland. The Government was strengthening civil society organizations, both at home and abroad.
NGO Coordination Post Beijing Switzerland said the Universal Periodic Review accurately reflected flaws in the Swiss human rights mechanism. The group did express pleasure that all recommendations referring to a national human rights institution were accepted. The protection of minority groups continued to suffer a major implementation gap in Switzerland. Despite the great need for free legal aid, the recommendation on the matter was rejected.
The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 251 recommendations received, Switzerland accepted 160 and noted 91.
VALENTIN ZELLWEGER, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks, said the Universal Periodic Review dialogue had offered Switzerland the possibility to intensify its internal dialogue. Thanks to the specificities of federalism, it had been possible to consolidate the three levels of government, including on the level of the confederation and the canton. The process had opened the way to in-depth discussion about human rights in Switzerland and their implementation. He was sure that the cantons would provide all that was needed to implement the recommendations. He was also aware that the adoption of the report and this Human Rights Council meeting did not mark the end of the Universal Periodic Review process. Quite the contrary, Switzerland would continue to work on the promotion and implementation of human rights.
Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Korea
CHOI KYONGLIM, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, extended his sincere appreciation for all those who had worked so hard in the Universal Periodic Review process. Special gratitude was extended to the members of the Troika, Mongolia, Hungary and Congo for their invaluable cooperation. Following the Working Group review in November when 95 Member States had made 218 recommendations, the Government had supported 85 recommendations and noted 3 upon the adoption of the Working Group report. Over the past months the Government had had a public hearing and had invited civil society to exchange opinions over recommendations. After deliberations with relevant ministries on the remaining 130 recommendations, the Government had decided to support 36 recommendations and to note 94 recommendations.
Many recommendations related to areas of equality and non-discrimination and cooperation with international human rights norms and mechanisms, and those areas enjoyed the Government’s support. The Government planned to access the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and it continued to prohibit discrimination and protect the rights of non-citizens. With regard to contentious objections and alternative service, the unique security circumstances of the Korean peninsula and the importance of ensuring military service obligation had to be considered so the Government would conform to the decision of the Constitutional Court ruling. Abolition of the death penalty needed a careful approach. Last year the Republic of Korea went one more step forward through the so-called “candlelight revolution” ushering a new area for democracy and was willing to share that experience with other countries.
National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea said the recent Universal Periodic Review process provided a good opportunity to enhance the Republic of Korea’s domestic human rights situation. The Commission welcomed the number of recommendations accepted. The Government must actively pursue and review recommendations on the ratification of conventions and optional protocols not yet ratified. The effectiveness of the Universal Periodic Review must be founded on a clear understanding of the human rights mechanisms of the reviewed country.
Egypt said it had proposed five recommendations to Korea, including on the implementation of a law to combat incitement to xenophobic speech, protect foreigners against discrimination, and to set up a national plan for the implementation of the United Nations guidelines on commercial enterprises. It hoped the Republic of Korea would implement these in due time.
Honduras was grateful for the support of the Republic of Korea for its recommendations, and in particular on the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. It hoped the Republic of Korea would reconsider its position on the abolition of the death penalty, and on the general legislation to combat discrimination to prohibit discrimination on any ground, in particular race, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Iran welcomed the Republic of Korea’s report. It remained concerned about a number of human rights issues in the country, including the situation of persons with disabilities. It called on the Government to ensure cooperative engagement with organizations for persons with disabilities, and in particular psychological disabilities. The Government had accepted two of three recommendations submitted by Iran.
Iraq had submitted three recommendations to the Republic of Korea. It appreciated the Republic of Korea’s acceptance of these recommendations and wished it the best success for their implementation. It hoped the Council would adopt the outcome on the report for the Republic of Korea.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic commended the Republic of Korea’s active participation in the work of the Council and the Universal Periodic Review. Progress on promoting the rights of vulnerable groups, including women and children, and strengthening the right to health and education had been welcomed.
Philippines acknowledged the constructive engagement of the Republic of Korea and appreciated the commitment of the Government to consider the concerns of the Member States about its human rights situation. The Council was advised to adopt the report.
Republic of Moldova appreciated the Republic of Korea’s efforts in promoting human rights and welcomed the acceptance of two recommendations which the Republic of Moldova had made concerning strengthening of the national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.
Russia noted that most of the recommendations of Russia had been accepted. The Republic of Korea was advised to invest efforts into addressing the issue of publication on the Internet of material that incited to racial and religious intolerance. Russia hoped that an effective mechanism to detect human trafficking would be set up soon.
Sierra Leone commended the Republic of Korea’s ongoing efforts to increase official development assistance, and the establishment of a new immigration policy aimed at protecting the rights and social integration of foreigners. Sierra Leone encouraged the Republic of Korea to consider ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
Sri Lanka noted the acceptance by the Republic of Korea to continue the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan to Prevent Domestic Violence, including through awareness raising. It particularly commended the efforts taken to support mine victims by providing medical subsidies and compensation by the enactment of the Special Act on the Support for Mine Victims in 2014.
Sudan commended the fact that the Republic of Korea had acceded to many international human rights instruments, and that it had accepted the right to individual complaints under four human rights treaties, including the extension of a standing invitation to all thematic Special Procedures in 2008.
Albania appreciated the intention of the Government of the Republic of Korea to strengthen the national mechanism for the follow-up to the recommendations of international human rights bodies, including of the Universal Periodic Review. Albania also welcomed the measures taken by the Government to strengthen the role of the Consultative Group on human rights policies, which comprised members of civil society.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomed the more positive approach to conscientious objectors by the Republic of Korea, and in particular the undertaking of the Constitution Court on this matter. There were good reasons to believe that the atmosphere was finally improving and that conscientious objectors could start performing civilian duties. It thanked the unprecedented number of States which had made a recommendation on this issue.
Centre for Global Nonkilling recalled that its founder was a Korean veteran, and that he had searched for the value of each life. Conscientious objectors were defenders of peace. The Centre regretted that the Republic of Korea had noted the recommendations to this effect. It recalled that the right to life and equality before the law required due identity and that this started with inclusive birth registration – a right that could only be guaranteed by the country in which the birth took place.
International Lesbian and Gay Association commended the Republic of Korea for its effort to engage with civil society organizations on the issue of gender-based discrimination. It deeply regretted that none of the 22 recommendations to this effect had been accepted. This regrettably came with the current political landscape, which gave reason to question the newly elected Government’s will on these issues. Persons of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex orientation faced daily marginalization.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia appreciated the Republic of Korea’s efforts, but regretted that some deep concerns had been ignored, including the abolition of the death penalty, adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, and allowing civilian service as an alternative to military service. The Forum welcomed the commitment to protect human rights defenders, and to investigate the excessive use of force against trade unionists.
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, in a joint statement with International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES, regretted that the Republic of Korea had not accepted recommendations concerning the universal registration of birth. Children of migrants had been deprived of registration, so the Government was urged to address this matter. Corporal punishment was still present and the authorities were invited to prohibit corporal punishment.
Amnesty International encouraged the Korean National Police Agency to implement reforms, including adopting a clearly regulated framework for policing assemblies and for the use of force in line with international law. Regret was expressed that recommendations to give conscientious objectors the option to perform an alternative civil service, or to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming to abolish death penalty, had not been accepted
Human Rights Watch noted that the Government of the Republic of Korea had adopted 131 recommendations and urged it to fully implement them. However, the Government chose to only note rather than accept 97 recommendations because they had been considered incompatible with national law. These concerned the abolition of the death penalty, decriminalization of defamation, decriminalization of abortion and the National Security Law.
CIVICUS- World Alliance for Citizen Participation regretted the Government’s decision not to accept a number of recommendations to promote the rights essential to civic space. Specifically, it regretted the Republic of Korea’s refusal to amend the National Security Law to ensure it was not used arbitrarily to restrict the freedom of expression. The Government was urged to consult with civil society during implementation of the recommendations.
United Nations Watch had hosted a conference with military defectors of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who had witnessed detention camp horrors. It was this Council's own Commission of Inquiry that had stated that people in this country had witnessed public executions, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, complete denial of freedom of thought, and other horrors. The situation of women was particularly dire. Women prisoners faced physical violence, rape and abortion.
The President said that out of 218 recommendations received, 121 enjoyed the Republic of Korea’s support, while 97 were noted.
CHOI KYONGLIM, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review would serve as valuable sources for the Government to further strengthen its willingness to achieve higher standards in the relevant areas of human rights. The country had gone through a broad consultation process with relevant stakeholders from the preparation of the national report to the consideration of the recommendations.
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Republic of Korea.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme said Gulf countries, with the exception of Oman, committed ethnic cleansing against people with specific beliefs. There was a genocide against the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and across the Gulf region. Across Syria and Yemen, the Shia minority was being killed but the international community had not reacted.
World Muslim Congress noted that certain governments across the globe had been restraining civil society activities, particularly India. Last week, a young journalist in Indian-occupied Kashmir was attacked by an Indian police officer. Another prominent human rights defender was prevented from boarding a flight to attend the Council’s session.
Japanese Worker’s Committee for Human Rights informed the Council about serious breaches of human rights of the Korean minority and activists which had been occurring in Japan. Japan had been asked by the Council to regulate hate speech, but the Government had not undertaken any action.
Africa Culture Internationale drew the attention of the Council to grave violations of human rights and suffering of civilians across the Middle East. Punitive measures affecting civilians were a real threat in the region, directly affecting women and children. The Council had to urge States parties to the conflict to put an end to violations of human rights.
Indian Council of South America informed the Council of the situation of indigenous peoples in Bolivia who were often imprisoned as if they were criminals. Political parties had resumed violence against indigenous and Indian peoples. The Council called on the Human Rights Council to urge Bolivia to free the Catache people.
World Barua Organization said dialogue would help all States grow. A group of countries disrespected treaty bodies and mandate holders. India was part of that group. In spite of 30 countries urging India to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it had not done so 20 years after signing it. The Government tortured its people by militarization. It asked the Council to urge India to ratify the Convention.
Association of World Citizens said improving health and reducing inequality were an ethical imperative. Social injustice killed on a large scale. Inequality and lack of health were widespread. This was seen with respect to HIV/AIDS. Governmental policies could either help or hurt. Urbanism without providing enough housing, transport and other facilities did not contribute to promoting health for all.
Guinea Medical Mutual Association said the United Nations bodies and mechanisms had been established to assist States to protect and promote responsibilities. However, instead of strengthening the domestic mechanisms, the Human Right’s Council was undermining them. It had subverted Sri Lanka's justice mechanism. Should a hybrid court be established in Sri Lanka as demanded by the United States in a Security Council resolution, it would seriously undermine the internal justice system.
Liberation echoed concerns over the lack of improvement in the number of replies to communications from Special Procedures. India had failed to respond positively to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, instead blaming existing problems on the feedback provided by the Special Rapporteur rather than learning from it.
Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea called for global condemnation of the LTTE terrorist group in Sri Lanka. Human rights organizations had forgotten that Sri Lanka had fought the most brutal terrorist organization. Human rights mechanisms were promoting constitutional changes against the will of the Sri Lankan citizens. The organization urged States to revisit resolutions on the matter as they were based on false evidence and weird assumptions.
Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters noted that the number of Special Procedures were increasing while at the same time conflicts were more prevalent. India had continually rejected appeals for a fact-finding mission in Jammu and Kashmir and was undermining the importance of Special Procedures. The Human Rights Council must pressure India to stop human rights violations.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee pointed to human rights violations against Sikh minorities in India’s Punjab region. There were serious educational and social problems in the region as resources were being exploited without compensating local communities. State authorities were operating without regard to human rights obligations.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA reminded that India was continuously ignoring many mechanisms and recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies. It had not ratified the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. The organization urged the Council to communicate to India the need to fulfil its human rights obligations.
VAAGDHARA noted that human rights activists from India had always received support from Special Procedures. Human rights defenders and indigenous peoples in India had high hopes from United Nations bodies and mechanisms, especially now that India was on the trail of fascism.
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) noted that there was need to improve cooperation between States and mandate holders. In the past four sessions of the Council, a United Nations fact-finding team to access Kashmir in India had been called for. India refused because it did not want the world to know about its massive human rights violations.
Centre for Organization Research and Education called attention to hate practices in some countries, noting that it was disturbing to know that States did not even respond to communications of United Nations bodies and mechanisms.
International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) said the important role played by non-governmental organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights had to be reflected in the Human Rights Council. In reality, the effective participation of non-governmental organizations was curbed. They did not even have Internet access. The organization called for the improvement of the online registration process, and to allow individuals who wished to participate to do so.
Association pour l’Intégration et le Dévelopment Durable au Burundi said India’s Constitution proclaimed the protection of fundamental rights. Since 1993, the protection of human rights as a right of dignity of individuals had been guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet still there were violations and killings inflicted on women and caste members. There were no human rights in India.
Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul welcomed the recent visit of the Special Rapporteur to Sri Lanka, who had urged the release of Tamil civilian land, and the establishment of a mechanism of review for those held in prison. He had called on the country to address the basic rights of Tamils in full. The highly polarized context compromised the right to truth and justice. Sri Lanka must immediately adopt a comprehensive transitional comprehensive justice strategy. Perpetrators must be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Alliance Creative Community Project said despite large-scale protests, Sri Lanka continued to infiltrate Hindi in the Tamil education system. Furthermore, mining and other companies were polluting and desecrating Tamil land. An infrastructural project put the lives of hundreds of thousands of fishermen families at stake. Criminal cases were filed against protesters included innocent women and children. As a signatory of the two international Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sri Lanka had an obligation to respect and protect peoples’ rights.
Association Culturelle des Tamouls en France said civil society organizations in Australia were facing restrictions. The Government’s migration policy was infringing on the rights of those seeking asylum. Offshore processing of migrants remained in violation of international obligations. The organization asked how Australia could keep supporting States that violated human rights and stressed that Australia was losing its moral authority.
Prahar said it was pathetic that certain Governments were not responding to calls and recommendations of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies. Lack of respect for rights mechanisms would lead to chaos. India was proceeding on such a path to chaos and had not responded to 10 communications from mandate holders.
Association de étudiants tamouls de France urged relevant United Nations entities to foment coordinated engagement with Sri Lanka to curb the abduction of Tamils in the country. Government forces viewed Tamils as enemies and the present Government was rewarding those who violated the rights of Tamils. The group called for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court to end the cycle of impunity.
International Solidarity for Africa said that in 2009 Sri Lankan communities had undergone atrocities akin to those in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. International organizations had failed to address the situation. This failure had emboldened perpetrators of crimes against Muslims, including in Myanmar.
Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” drew attention to the extreme poverty and exclusion of minorities, noting that the United Nations had failed to protect their rights. The descendants of the exterminated Armenians could not return to their historic lands. Turkey was currently attacking minorities in Syria, namely the Kurds. The Security Council should stop that military action.
Jssor Youth Organization said that the Council had done much to advance the cause of human rights. Still, it needed to call on Member States to consider ways to increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict.
Association Thendral noted that Tamil women and girls in Sri Lanka were particularly vulnerable. Australia’s legislation did not provide for the protection of Tamil rape victims from Sri Lanka. Australia did not monitor what had happened and sent Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka.
Le Pont reminded of the alarm of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the recent violence in Sri Lanka, which targeted religious and ethnic minorities, especially Muslims. There should be no impunity for such violence. Universal jurisdiction could be applied in a limited number of crimes, which Sri Lanka had committed. Sri Lanka should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Commission nationale des droits de l’homme de Mauritanie spoke about refugees from Sri Lanka that had still been living in Tamil Nadu in India. The land confiscated from Tamils had still not been returned to them and the armed presence had not been an incentive to return. Pressure had to be put on the Sri Lankan Government, otherwise they would walk out from their obligations on repatriation.
Action of Human Movement suggested that Special Procedures had to find a way to engage jointly with the Sri Lankan Government. Otherwise, the country would not continue with its human rights obligations. Families of the forcibly disappeared had been continuously protesting, demanding justice for over a year. Families of the displaced had not been able to return to their places of origin and residence.
International-Lawyers.Org noted that the anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had been marked by shrinking space for civil society. Technical complications and the accreditation system of the Council was not facilitating the access of civil society organizations to the Human Rights Council. The oral registration system needed to be more transparent.
New Human Rights Cameroon said that the atrocities committed in Balochistan were unimaginable. Extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests had been occurring for years. Pakistan had to be urged to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Committee against Enforced Disappearances had to be allowed to investigate.
European Coordination for Association and Individues for the Freddom of Conscience highlighted the case of the Church of Almighty God in China. The Church had been persecuted in China since 1995 and some members had died in custody under suspicious circumstances. It should be clear that Church members faced repression and the Human Rights Council was urged to act on the matter.
Servas International said that violations of minority rights were a form of discrimination and racism. The international community must combat discrimination and racism wherever the phenomena occur. The United Nations and the Human Rights Council must be shining examples in countering these tendencies.
International Federation of Journalists said that BBC Persian colleagues were being persecuted by Iran. Authorities systematically harassed BBC Persian staff. Families of employees received death threats while others were detained. Journalism was not a crime and Iranians had the right to receive impartial information free from State interference.
Right of Reply
Philippines, speaking in a right of reply, said that it had been cooperating with all mandate holders. On the case of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, the Council was informed that she had been put on the list of suspected terrorists because of her party affiliation, and the case had been discussed in court. Other Special Rapporteurs had been able to conduct their work in the Philippines and report back to Geneva.
China, speaking in a right of reply, said that some non-governmental organizations had attacked China on groundless reasons. Everyone was equal before the law and the non-governmental organizations were asked to stop making unfounded accusations.
For use of the information media; not an official record