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Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Iceland, Zimbabwe and Lithuania

Human Rights Council

MIDDAY

16 March 2017

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Iceland, Zimbabwe and Lithuania.

Hogni S. Kristjansson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that human rights situation in Iceland was generally good, but added that there was room for improvement.  He explained that the ratification of the Optional Protocols on a communications procedure to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, deserved a thorough analysis of the domestic and international implications and a discussion, both at the political level and among domestic experts.  Such a broad-ranging domestic consultation process would be necessary in order to reach a sufficiently well-founded position.  The same applied to the recommendations concerning the decriminalization of defamation, the exact mandate of a national human rights institution, and the withdrawal of reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
In the ensuing discussion delegations appreciated the acceptance of the recommendations to address gender pay disparity through the full implementation of the equal pay system standard, to improve access to justice for women victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence, and to strengthen addressing of child abuse cases.  However, they expressed concern about the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and the lack of a national human rights institution which would combat racial discrimination.  Iceland’s policy towards migrants needed to uphold the principle of family reunification and to strengthen migrant integration.  Speakers were also concerned about the increase in hate crime and discrimination against persons with disabilities in housing, employment and social and political participation.

Speaking were Albania, Council of Europe, Egypt, Estonia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
 
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Centre for Global Nonkilling, Amnesty International, International Humanist and Ethnical Union, and International Lesbian and Gay Association.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Iceland.
 
Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, Vice-President and Minister of Administration, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe, underlined Zimbabwe’s ardent support and appreciation for the Universal Periodic Review process.  Notwithstanding the current efforts of the Government to promote and protect human rights, Zimbabwe’s ability to implement social and economic rights was adversely affected by severe weather conditions, as well as by the debilitating effects of economic sanctions imposed by some Western countries.
 

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission commended the openness of the Government and the strides it had made in the area of human rights, including the adoption of a progressive Constitution with an expanded Bill of Rights in 2013.  The Human Rights Commission continued to independently monitor and investigate human rights issues without interference.  Some of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations had undertaken the findings of the Human Rights Commission, such as the ratification of the Convention against Torture, and the improvement of conditions in detention and police cells.

 
Speakers welcomed Zimbabwe’s active participation in the Universal Periodic Review, and the adoption of a large number of recommendations, in particular the establishment of the Universal Periodic Review National Steering Committee to conduct public awareness campaigns on human rights, and the establishment of a Constitutional Court to outlaw child marriages.  They also commended Zimbabwe’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable population in the context of adverse climate conditions and economic sanctions.  In addition, they encouraged the Government to put in place a comprehensive strategy to modify or eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminated against women, in particular the persistence of the wage gap between men and women.
 
Speaking were Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Burundi, China, Congo, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq and Kenya. 
 
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Africa Culture Internationale, Amnesty International, Action Canada for Population and Development, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, International Service for Human Rights, United Nations Watch, Human Rights Watch, and COC Nederland.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe.
 
Andrius Krivas, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations at Geneva, said that the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review had already yielded important wins for Lithuania in the realm of human rights, including an ongoing dialogue between the Government and civil society organizations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons’ community.  Lithuania had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  It had also been fighting the complex phenomenon of human trafficking, providing training to law enforcement officers, and had made steps to improve gender equality and to combat violence against children. 
 
In the ensuing discussion, delegations appreciated Lithuania’s constructive engagement and acceptance of the majority of recommendations.  Nevertheless, they noted that a coherent legal framework and a comprehensive strategy for the protection of the persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities were missing in Lithuania.  Persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and children were not sufficiently protected.  Corruption was another challenge and there was a need for Lithuania to ensure that existing legal norms prevented and fought corruption among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors.   
 
Speaking were Albania, Belarus, Council of Europe, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone and Venezuela. 
 
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Action Canada for Population and Development, and International Lesbian and Gay Association.  
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Lithuania.
 
At 3 p.m. the Council will proceed to consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Uganda, Timor-Leste and the Republic of Moldova. 
 
 Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Iceland
 
HOGNI S. KRISTJANSSON, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said it was an honour to address the Human Rights Council on the consideration and final adoption of the outcome of the second Universal Periodic Review of Iceland.  The process was an important pillar of the Human Rights Council, and had proved to be instrumental in promoting and strengthening human rights universally, providing a unique opportunity to address both achievements and challenges at the domestic level, with the aim of improving the protection of national human rights.  The human rights situation in Iceland was generally good, however, there was room for improvement, and indeed the Universal Periodic Review process and its preparatory stages had highlighted the need for improvements.  During the review, 167 recommendations had been received.  The authorities had adopted the majority of the recommendations, but 41 had been left for further consideration.  In total, 133 recommendations had been accepted, and 34 had been noted.
 
Mr. Kristjansson noted that all recommendations related to the ratification of the Optional Protocols on a communications procedure to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, did not entail the final view of the State on the matter.  The ratification deserved a thorough analysis of the domestic and international implications and a discussion, both at the political level and among domestic experts.  Such a broad-ranging domestic consultation process would be necessary in order to reach a sufficiently well-founded position.  The same applied to the recommendations concerning the decriminalization of defamation, the exact mandate of a national human rights institution, and the withdrawal of reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
On a positive note, the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Human Rights Steering Committee was well under way.  It built on the experience of the Icelandic Universal Periodic Review working group and would enhance and coordinate the implementation of human rights commitments and follow-up on the outcome of this review.  On March 8 – International Women’s Day – the Government had announced its intention to propose a new law that would require State institutions to have an equal pay system certified.  This was part of the gender-gap commitment by 2022.  The Government also placed importance on the improvement of the health care services, especially for the elderly.  The Government intended to focus on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The fight against violence, in partuclar domestic violence, would be strengthened by the authorities.  Preparations for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention were under way.
 
Albania was pleased that Iceland had accepted the recommendations made by Albania, including to continue to make progress towards the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
 
Council of Europe expressed concern about the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and the lack of a national human rights institution which would combat racial discrimination.  Iceland’s policy towards migrants needed to uphold the principle of family reunification and to strengthen migrant integration.  The Council of Europe welcomed the commitment of Iceland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women and domestic violence.
 
Egypt was concerned about the increase in hate crime and discrimination against persons with disabilities in housing, employment and participation.  Egypt welcomed Iceland’s acceptance to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the setting up of the national human rights institution, and strengthening the protection of families.  Iceland should strengthen the protection of migrants.
 
Estonia was pleased by the acceptance of a large number of recommendations by Iceland and welcomed the commitment of the Government to continue to strengthen gender equality and empowerment of women, and to take further steps on the protection of the child.  It was regrettable that the recommendation to decriminalize defamation in accordance with international standards was noted. 
 
Haiti had made two recommendations to Iceland, to follow up on the 2012 referendum and to study the introduction of a universal salary, but regrettably those were only noted by Iceland.  Haiti urged Iceland to continue its Constitutional reform in accordance with international standards, and wished it all the best.
 
Iraq appreciated the acceptance of the recommendations to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Iraq recommended the adoption of the report.
 
Libya highly commended the acceptance of more than 100 recommendations and urged Iceland to continue the process to promote and protect human rights.  Libya congratulated the election of the new Government and the formation of the new Parliament and urged the Council to adopt the report.
 
Maldives appreciated the acceptance of the recommendations to address gender pay disparity through the full implementation of the equal pay system standard, to improve access to justice for women victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence, and to strengthen addressing of child abuse cases.  Maldives was encouraged by efforts to improve the position of women in the society.
 
Pakistan commended the acceptance by Iceland of many recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review process, and the progress the country had made in gender equality and empowerment of women, as well as migrants, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.  Pakistan recommended the adoption of the report.
 
Philippines welcomed the delegation of Iceland, and congratulated Iceland for adopting a large number of recommendations.  The commitment to establish a national human rights institution and a national human rights plan was commendable.
 
Sierra Leone commended Iceland for its efforts to ensure that gender was mainstreamed, including in all policy and decision-making processes as well as through the revision of the Gender Equality Act.  It noted Iceland’s commitment to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in the near future, and the recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 
Sudan commended the delegation for the comprehensive presentation, and congratulated it for the legislative developments since the previous review in 2011, and the adoption of a number of action plans to promote and protect human rights, such as the national action plan against trafficking in persons, and the adoption of measures to address violence and sexual abuse against children.
 
Centre for Global Nonkilling said that Iceland was a gender champion and ranked first on the Global Peace Index.  It was unfortunate that no State had raised the issue of suicide, which was the second cause of all violent deaths globally.
 
Amnesty International urged Iceland to complete the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment without delay.  The global refugee crisis demanded that States accepted more refugees and Iceland was yet to make a detailed commitment with regard to the number of refugees to accept.  Iceland should expedite the efforts to establish a national human rights institution in close collaboration with civil society.
 
International Humanist and Ethnical Union welcomed the removal of anti-blasphemy provisions from the Criminal Code and the steps taken to guarantee the human rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression.  Iceland should continue the efforts to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.
 
International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation, raised concern about medical treatment on intersex infants who were unable to give consent to “normalise” their sex characteristics.  Those practices amounted to torture and cruel and ill-treatment, and the children did not have a possibility to complain as the statute of limitations of medical malpractice was only 10 years.
 
HOGNI S. KRISTJANSSON, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all the delegations for their remarks and for their contribution to the constructive process of the Universal Periodic Review in which challenges and successes had been pointed out.  Iceland had received valuable advice and recommendations, which it would take seriously and do its utmost to implement.  Iceland would take the inputs of States and non-governmental organizations seriously.  With regard to the issue of refugees, Iceland maintained an open policy and in 2016 had received the highest number of refugees ever, who were already integrated in the society.  Iceland had concluded framework agreements with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs which defined Iceland’s long-term financial contributions.  The Universal Periodic Review had proven to be a valuable tool which allowed all States, even those who deemed themselves beyond reproach, to listen to comments and opinions of others about their human rights record.
 
The Vice-President said that out of 167 recommendations received, Iceland accepted 133 and noted 34.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Iceland.
 
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe
 
EMMERSON D. MNANGAGWA, Vice-President and Minister of Administration, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe, noted that Zimbabwe was an ardent supporter of the Universal Periodic Review process and it fully appreciated the importance of that mechanism.  The Government of Zimbabwe would continue to engage with the Human Rights Council and would participate in the Universal Periodic Review which provided an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they had taken to improve human rights.  Zimbabwe had received 260 recommendations, 142 of which it had accepted, noted 18 and deferred 100.  Nine out of 100 deferred recommendations had been supported by the Government of Zimbabwe, while six had been partially supported.  The noted recommendations were mostly those inconsistent with the national policies and values. 
 
Recommendations 132.67 and 132.68 pertaining to ensuring the independence of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission had been partially supported.  The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission was independent and it enjoyed financial autonomy as it received funding directly from the treasury.  Regarding recommendation 132.69 on ensuring that humanitarian agencies could operate in all parts of the country without undue restrictions, Mr. Mnangagwa explained that the national law guaranteed that those agencies had the freedom to operate freely, provided that they operated within the confines of the law.  As for the recommendation to provide free quality health care services for all children, abolish corporal punishment of children in all settings, strengthen child protection systems in full compliance with international human rights obligations, including the implementation of national child programmes by December 2018, that recommendation was partially supported by Zimbabwe.  The Government was already pursuing efforts to ensure that all children were progressively afforded free quality health care, and various child programmes were being implemented.  However, the Government could not accept the part of the recommendation concerning corporal punishment because that matter was pending before the Constitutional Court. 
 
The Government would consider the recommendation to issue an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on its own merits.  It was clarified that the national legal framework prohibited torture and the infliction of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  The Government noted the recommendations on standing invitations to mandate holders of the United Nations Special Procedures and it would extend them on a case by case basis.  It was noted that Zimbabwe had been affected by the EL Nino weather phenomenon, which had adversely affected the implementation of social and economic rights, leaving the population vulnerable to famine and related challenges.  The negative impact of the 2016 drought had been putting pressure on the Government to redirect resources from national social programmes towards feeding more than 800,000 vulnerable households.  The country was also experiencing the devastating effects of cyclone Dineo, which was destroying infrastructure, crops and livestock.  A state of emergency had been declared.  Zimbabwe also continued to be challenged by the debilitating effects of economic sanctions by some Western countries.
 
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said it had been recently accredited with A-status by the Global Alliance, as in accordance with the Paris Principles.  It was laudable that the Government was open and bound by the Universal Periodic Review process, which witnessed the determination of the Government towards the promotion of human rights.  It noted the strides made by the Government in the area of human rights, including the adoption of a progressive Constitution with an expanded Bill of Rights in 2013. The Commission continued to independently monitor and investigate human rights issues without interference.  Some of the recommendations had undertaken the findings of the Commission, such as the ratification of the Convention against Torture, and the improvement of conditions in detention, and in police cells.  It welcomed the recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review and urged the Government to accept some of the recommendations that it had noted.
 
Venezuela recognized the efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe to comply with its commitments concerning human rights, especially the programme which had led to the construction of more than 1,000 homes and which aimed to construct over 3,000 more homes.  It congratulated the Government for the well-targeted social programmes.  It appreciated the will demonstrated by the Government despite the unfair, unilateral, illegal and coercive measures imposed by some powers.
 
Algeria welcomed the efforts made by Zimbabwe, particularly in the framework of the new Constitution of 2013, as well as measures undertaken to combat corruption, protect children, and ensure access to education to all children, including underprivileged children.  It welcomed the acceptance of 156 recommendations, including those by Algeria on health services to children and persons with disabilities.
 
Angola supported Zimbabwe’s ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  Algeria deplored the imposed economic sanctions by countries which had counterproductive effects and which constituted a violation of social and economic rights.
 
Belarus commended the great deal of attention paid by Zimbabwe to the Universal Periodic Review, including the recommendations made by Belarus.  It wished Zimbabwe success in working to implement the accepted recommendations.
 
Belgium appreciated Zimbabwe’s commitment to amend its legislation and change the minimum marriage age to 18, and to take measures to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It encouraged Zimbabwe to re-evaluate its position and implement full equality of men and women, as well as to reconsider its position on the death penalty.
 
Botswana commended the fact that Zimbabwe had prioritized the sustenance of livelihoods of the most vulnerable population in spite of the negative economic environment.  It commended Zimbabwe for its resolute efforts to promote and protect human rights.
 
Burundi positively noted the progress made by Zimbabwe to promote human rights in spite of significant challenges posed by the drought and climate change.  The creation of the Zimbabwe Commission on Human Rights and the operationalization of the commissions on media and gender equality were encouraging.
 
China addressed the importance of improving living standards and providing more opportunities and commended the Zimbabwean Government for strengthening the infrastructure and promoting development.  China called on the international community to provide Zimbabwe with aid, and supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report of Zimbabwe.
 
Congo welcomed the delegation of Zimbabwe and welcomed the country’s commitment to upholding human rights, noting with satisfaction that Zimbabwe supported most of the recommendations made to it, including about adopting new legislation.  Congo encouraged the continued support of bilateral and multilateral partners of Zimbabwe.
 
Cuba welcomed the Zimbabwean delegation and noted that the country had challenges in the human rights area but those were exacerbated by unilateral coercive measures.  Cuba was delighted that Zimbabwe had accepted the recommendations made by Cuba.
 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea welcomed Zimbabwe and appreciated its sincere and constructive participation in the process.  The country had challenges due to economic sanctions imposed by Western countries.
 
Egypt welcomed Zimbabwe’s acceptance of a large number of recommendations, which reflected its serious commitment to promote and protect human rights. 
 
Ethiopia noted with satisfaction Zimbabwe’s acceptance of Ethiopia’s recommendations, and encouraged Zimbabwe to take all the necessary measures to fully implement the accepted recommendations. 
 
Ghana commended Zimbabwe’s establishment of a Universal Periodic Review National Steering Committee to conduct public awareness campaigns on human rights.  It also commended the establishment of a body to outlaw child marriages, and it encouraged the Government to put in place a comprehensive strategy to modify or eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminated against women, in particular the persistence of the wage gap between men and women.
 
Iran commended Zimbabwe’s active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process, and acknowledged its efforts and steps taken to promote and protect human rights, notably legislative measures.
 
Iraq thanked Zimbabwe for having adopted the recommendation on education and supporting vulnerable children to complete their education.
 
Kenya expressed appreciation for Zimbabwe’s presentation and commended the country for adopting the new constitution and developing the national action plan.  Kenya commended Zimbabwe for the steps taken despite resource constraints.
 
Africa Culture International welcomed the delegation of Zimbabwe and recognized that there were government inefficiencies in supporting freedom of expression.  The Government had also inefficiently implemented educational goals.  Zimbabwe was encouraged to allow freedom of expression and to cooperate with other Member States to improve the human rights situation in the country.
 
Amnesty International said harmonising domestic laws with treaties would guarantee individuals in Zimbabwe political and social rights.  But that process was not complete and old laws in contravention of the constitution were still being enforced.  Human rights defenders had disappeared, and those responsible should be brought to justice.  During the review, Zimbabwe had committed to end the use of excessive force, among other violations.
 
Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement with the Sexual Rights Initiative and Katswe Sistahood, said it was of deep concern that recommendations calling for the prohibition of discrimination against vulnerable groups of women did not enjoy Zimbabwe’s support.  Zimbabwe should guarantee free and safe abortion services to all women on demand.
 
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation was saddened that, despite consistent participation by Zimbabwe in the Universal Periodic Review, the situation on the ground remained dire.  State authorities continued to show disregard for basic freedoms, particularly freedoms of assembly and expression.  It urged the Government to fully investigate human rights abuses and the disappearance of human rights defenders.
 
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues was concerned that human rights defenders continued to face harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture for exercising their freedom of assembly and expression.  State institutions, such as police, military and intelligence continued to be at the forefront of perpetrators of human rights violations with impunity.
 
Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme voiced concern over the insufficient resources allocated for the implementation of policies aimed at ensuring food security and sanitation, adding hope that the Government’s Programme of Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation would make a difference.  Given the current severe weather challenges, it hoped that the economic sanctions against Zimbabwe would be lifted. 
 
International Service for Human Rights called on Zimbabwe to improve the situation of human rights defenders.  Hundreds of defenders faced prosecution following their arrest for exercising their right to freedom of assembly and association.  It also urged the Government to safeguard the independence of the judiciary. 
 
United Nations Watch said that, instead of human rights scrutiny, no less than 70 per cent of the report offered praise for Zimbabwe’s human rights situation.  Security forces and the judiciary used a partisan application of the law.  The Government evicted citizens and demolished marketplaces, interfering with the judiciary.  Human rights advocates and Zimbabwe’s victims objected to the adoption of the report.
 
Human Rights Watch stated that the Government should ensure and respect the independence of the judiciary and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.  The Government rarely investigated allegations of torture by police or intelligence officers, and, in addition to ratifying the Convention against Torture, Zimbabwe should take steps to implement recommendations it received during the Universal Periodic Review.
 
Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland, in a joint statement with International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, sought the decriminalisation of all sexual acts between consenting adults, regardless of their gender.  The Government should adhere to international human rights standards and abandon unfair discrimination against any group, regardless of how popular or unpopular that group might be in society.
 
EMMERSON D. MNANGAGWA, Vice-President and Minister of Administration, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe, acknowledged all delegations’ interventions.  He explained that most of the issues raised had been addressed during the review.  As for the question of early and forced marriages, the Constitution of Zimbabwe stipulated 18 as the legal marrying age.  The Government was harmonizing all marriage laws in line with the Constitution, which prohibited early and forced marriages.  All perpetrators of sexual offences against minors were prosecuted.  As for the independence of the judiciary, it was stressed that the judiciary had complete independence under the Constitution.  Mr. Mnangagwa assured the Council and the international community that the Government would continue to work with civil society and all other stakeholders on matters concerning human rights issues.  The Government would continue to work to eradicate poverty and to empower people economically. 
 
The Vice-President said that out of 260 recommendations received, 151 were supported, while 103 were noted.  Additional clarification on six recommendations had been provided, including which parts of those were supported and which parts were noted.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Zimbabwe.
 
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Lithuania
 
ANDRIUS KRIVAS, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Lithuania had put a lot of effort into getting recommendations from its first Universal Periodic Review cycle implemented.  The second cycle had already yielded important wins for the country in the realm of human rights, including an ongoing dialogue between the Government and civil society organizations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons’ community.  Lithuania had also decided to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  The bulk of the new Universal Periodic Review recommendations were in line with Lithuania’s understanding of how to proceed further.  Out of the recommendations received, 153 enjoyed support and 19 had been noted.
Mr. Krivas then provided updates on some issues in the context of the accepted recommendations, beginning with gender equality, an area where Lithuania had been enhancing awareness-raising programmes and reducing the gender wage gap, among other measures taken.  Regarding combatting violence against children, Lithuania had amended its law on the rights of the child to include a prohibition on all forms of violence against a child, including corporal punishment.  With regard to the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, Mr. Krivas said that the status of such an institution should be decided on shortly.  Lithuania had also been fighting the complex phenomenon of human trafficking, providing training to law enforcement officers.  Lithuania was committed to improving its human rights situation fully in line with its international obligations, in close consultation with its civil society and international partners and institutions.
Albania appreciated Lithuania’s constructive engagement and the continuing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Albania encouraged Lithuania to further improve national legislation and practice related to human rights.
 
Belarus noted that the significant number of accepted recommendations demonstrated Lithuania’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights.  Belarus expressed hope that Lithuania would look closely into the recommendations regarding anti-discrimination legislation and hate speech.
 
Council of Europe noted that a coherent legal framework and a comprehensive strategy for the protection of the persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities were missing in Lithuania.  Persons with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and children were not sufficiently protected.  Corruption was another challenge. 
 
Egypt recognized positive developments in Lithuania, including the amendments in the domestic violence and wage disparity laws, and said that concerns about intolerance and xenophobia remained.  Egypt commended Lithuania for agreeing to establish an independent national human rights institution and to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
 
Estonia commended the commitment of Lithuania to continue to strengthen gender equality and empowerment of women, and to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women and domestic violence.  Estonia positively noted the progress in strengthening the protection of the child and welcomed the acceptance of the recommendation to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.
 
Georgia highlighted the human rights achievements and the progress in child protection, combatting discrimination against women and ensuring the participation of non-governmental organizations in decision-making processes.  Georgia welcomed the efforts to address domestic violence and the acceptance of large number of recommendations.
 
Iraq welcomed the progress in Lithuania, particularly concerning child protection and reduction of poverty, and commended Lithuania for accepting the recommendations to improve services for the registration of foreigners and to increase the support to migrants with special needs.
 
Kyrgyzstan noted that the majority of recommendations had been accepted, and commended Lithuania for accepting the recommendations made by Kyrgyzstan to further address all forms of gender-based violence and to take additional measures to protect children from corporal punishment and sexual crimes.
 
Libya welcomed Lithuania’s active participation and noted the progress which had been achieved since the first cycle.  Libya wished Lithuania every success in implementing the accepted recommendations.  The Council was recommended to adopt the outcome.
 
Maldives appreciated the support of Lithuania on the three recommendations made by Maldives.  Maldives was encouraged by Lithuania’s efforts in furthering gender equality, combatting discrimination against women and increased women’s participation at all levels of governance.
 
Pakistan commended Lithuania for accepting the majority of the recommendations that were made during the Universal Periodic Review working group session, and welcomed the establishment of the national mechanism to protect and promote human rights.  Pakistan also commended the development of various national plans to implement the rights to health and education.
 
Philippines congratulated Lithuania for having accepted the majority of the recommendations, especially those on the establishment of a national human rights institution, and to eradicate domestic and gender-based violence. 
 
Romania commended Lithuania’s strong commitment to protect and promote human rights at the national and international levels, and expressed its support for the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review.
 
Russian Federation welcomed Lithuania’s acceptance of Russia’s recommendation on the elimination of discrimination based on language in education and employment, and on the adoption of a relevant law on ethnic minorities.  The Russian Federation was concerned that the Lithuanian authorities were still not ready to restore the status of ethnic minorities, especially with respect to education and language rights.
 
Sierra Leone encouraged Lithuania to accelerate efforts to accredit the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office and modify its status into a national human rights institution in full compliance with the Paris Principles.  Additionally, Lithuania should address acts of racism and xenophobia and better promote the integration of refugees and migrants.
 
Venezuela said that Lithuania had demonstrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights through its full engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.  Venezuela recognized that persons with disabilities received partial subsidies from the State, and encouraged Lithuania to continue with its social programmes.
 
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the acceptance of recommendations on sexual and reproductive health, and voiced concern that access to a comprehensive range of contraceptives was still not available, which put the youth and women at risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.  It was regrettable that the resistance of conservatives to safe and legal abortion continued.
 
International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation, said that Lithuania had accepted a significant number of recommendation concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in its Universal Periodic Review cycles.  It was of concern that Lithuania was one of two countries in the world with effective “anti-gay propaganda” legislation in place.
 
ANDRIUS KRIVAS, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all who had taken the floor both for their acknowledgements of Lithuania’s progress, but also for their critical remarks, which he would take back to the capital for further reflection.  Several speakers had referred to hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and sex.  The laws of Lithuania had provisions designed to target and combat those manifestations of discrimination.  On a practical level, implementation was a challenge.  The Government was developing, with civil society, an action plan on non-discrimination.  The action plan encompassed all categories of discrimination that had been brought up by delegates.  Regarding the national human rights institution, consultations were in progress, and a decision was expected shortly.  The Ombudsman’s Office would get the accreditation.  Regarding non-accession to some international instruments, Mr. Krivas said that the Government was not yet prepared to undertake the commitments contained in those recommendations, but they remained under consideration.  Regarding remarks made by the Council of Europe on the corruption index, he said that fighting corruption was a top priority for Lithuania’s Government, and systemic efforts were made in that regard.  Lithuania valued the Universal Periodic Review and took the recommendations made very seriously.
 
The Vice-President said that of 172 recommendations, Lithuania accepted 153 and noted 19.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Lithuania.
 
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