Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
11 December 2008 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record
· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Uzbekistan this morning, during which 55 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
· This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Turkmenistan following the review of the country on Tuesday, 9 December.
· Presenting the national report of Uzbekistan was AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Centre for Human Rights, who noted that on 1 May 2008, the Presidential Decree on the “Action Programme dedicated to the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights” was launched in Uzbekistan. Among the significant steps taken since January this year was the abolishment of the death penalty, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to ICCPR, the introduction of “habeas corpus”, and the entry into force of the constitutional law on enhancing the role of political parties in the democratization of society. The Government of Uzbekistan also declared 2008 as the “Year of Youth”. Moreover, the Research Centre on the Democraticization and Liberalization of Judicial Legislation and Guaranteeing of Independence of the Judicial System was created under the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan. In April 2008, the Parliament adopted the Law “On Combating Trafficking in Persons” and ratified the Optional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
The head of delegation noted that the State policy of Uzbekistan in the field of human rights was being carried out in several ways. Among the steps taken was to reform the legislation system; Parliament had passed over 15 Codes and more than 400 laws regulating fundamental rights and freedoms. An institutional system of protection of human rights was also established. The national monitoring of observance and protection of human rights and freedoms was in place and there was also a continuous system of education in the field of human rights. Measures had also been taken to liberalize the judicial and legal system; in this regard, several steps had been taken which aim at guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary for criminal proceedings. In the area of criminal legislation, conditions in penitentiary centres have also been improved and reconciliation measures had been introduced into legislation.
As regards civil society, he noted that the activities of NGOs in Uzbekistan were expanding and to support them the National Association on NGOs and the NGO support Fund were established. Some 40 round tables devoted to the results of civil society control with participation of NGOs and law enforcement agencies were held in various regions in Uzbekistan from May to August 2008. On the mass media, it was noted that there were around one thousand non-State newspapers and magazines in Uzbekistan and 42 TV and Radio stations, plus four news agencies and websites in the country. Significant attention was devoted by the mass media to human rights issues. Moreover, it was noted that international cooperation was carried out in the field of human rights and that Uzbekistan paid a great deal of attention to the implementation of its international obligations in the sphere of human rights. As a State party to more than 70 international documents on human rights, including six of the core UN treaties, Uzbekistan consistently implemented its international obligations and took concrete measures on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Responding to questions submitted in advance, a member of the delegation noted that Uzbekistan established a system of national institutions for human rights which yielded an institute for monitoring current legislation, the national institute for human rights and the office of the Ombudsman. The Uzbekistan model fully complied with the Paris Principles. The Ombudsman considered complaints submitted by citizens, improved human rights legislation, provide human rights advice, developed international cooperation, and monitored the degree to which human rights were observed. The Office of the Ombudsman was an independent body and a law was adopted last month which strengthened the independence of the Office. A national centre for human rights was also established in 2006 which coordinated human rights activities in the State and developed national plans and programmes in the areas of human rights. Moreover, Uzbekistan was actively developing its cooperation with civil society. A special status was also granted to human rights defenders. Responding to another set of questions, another member of the delegation stated that religious freedom was guaranteed in Uzbekistan and was a priority of the State. A very large number of ethnicities were represented in the country. Religious education was provided throughout the country and all religious festivals could be celebrated in Uzbekistan, she noted.
· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the bolstered role of the Parliament; the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman; the enhanced role of civil society; efforts to strengthen the role of political parties; the abolition of the death penalty; the adoption of a law on habeas corpus; the resumption of visits to prisons by the ICRC; the recent release of political prisoners in Uzbekistan; the accession to most of the core international human rights treaties; the accession to two ILO Conventions 138 and 182 dealing with child labour; steps taken towards guaranteeing women and children’s rights; progress in human rights education and progress made in achieving universal primary education; efforts to tackle domestic violence; efforts to combat human trafficking; and measures to combat and prevent HIV/AIDS.
· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and observers participating in the interactive discussion related to steps to release human rights defenders still in prisons; steps to ensure that NGOs and the media were able to operate freely in Uzbekistan; the mandate of the national association of non-profit NGOs mentioned in the report; measures to implement the habeas corpus law; statistics available on the use of habeas corpus; steps to guarantee the independence of the judiciary; effective measures taken to combat impunity; when the Government intended to adopt a definition of torture; human rights training for law enforcement officials; and steps taken to ensure the fairness of criminal investigations and trials, particularly access to a lawyer, adequate legal representation of accused persons in court and the respect of all legal provisions relevant to proceedings.
Other questions covered the timing to accede to the Optional Protocol to Convention against Torture; steps to address the reported continuing cases of torture and mistreatment by law enforcement officials; whether there was a state of emergency in Uzbekistan; the plans to cooperate with Special Procedures on issues of torture; the existence of special courts for juveniles; measures taken to eliminate child labour and to prevent children from going into the labour market; the plan to create the post of a Children’s Ombudsman; problems faced in achieving health care for children; plans to improve the living conditions for children and to improve the protection of children, given the growing number of abandoned children and street children; and specific measures taken to combat human trafficking.
Moreover, question raised pertained to the steps to ensure gender equality and steps to increase women’s representation in senior government posts; the possibility of adopting a law on gender equality; steps to guarantee the rights of disabled persons; the intention to accede to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers; measures taken to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS; measures to provide the highest level of health; steps taken to ensure that education services for provided to all groups; how the 60th Universal Declaration on Human Rights was being celebrated in Uzbekistan; problems in dealing with poverty and high unemployment rate; and areas where technical assistance would be particularly welcomed.
· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To adopt adequate measures for the promotion and protection of religious freedom; to refrain from the prosecution of those seeking to exercise their right to freedom of religion and to safeguard personal access to, and use and ownership of, religious literature and materials; to introduce a simpler registration process for religious organizations; to broaden the area of freedom of the press and to eliminate restrictions on international and national journalists; to adopt measures to ensure the freedom of expression and of the media; to investigate all reports of assaults of harassment on human rights defenders and bring those responsible to justice; to adopt a national legislation in line with international human rights norms; to ensure the freedom of assembly and guarantee human rights organization to carry out their activities freely; to implement safeguards to prevent human rights defenders from being persecuted; to release human rights defenders who were still in prison; to ensure that human rights defenders were protected from unjust imprisonment, intimidation and violence; and to ensure that all registration procedures for NGOs were applied fairly and without discrimination and in conformity with international standards.
Other recommendations included: To implement the recommendations of the High Commissioner of Human rights to establish an independent commission of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the events of May 2005 in Andijan; to comply with article 4 of the ICCPR as regards the state of emergency; to take further measures to prevent ill treatment and torture; to adopt a definition of torture in line with the Convention; to step up efforts to eradicate impunity for torture; to investigate all cases of torture and ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice; to issue an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on torture; to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to provide adequate reparations for victims of torture; to ensure punishment of persons responsible for serious abuses of criminal law for human rights violations; to take appropriate legislative and policy measures in order to guarantee full respect of human rights including in the fight against terrorism; to set up an independent mechanisms to monitor all penitentiaries; and to ensure that the ICRC was granted full access to all detention facilities.
Additionally, delegations encouraged Uzbekistan to combat all forms of child labour; to ensure regular inspection of the practice of child labour and guarantee full compliance with international labour standards; to cease all support for the employment of children in cotton harvesting; to take effective measures to ensure the full implementation of ILO Conventions 138 and 182; to allow independent investigation of labour rights abuses in Uzbekistan and ratify and implement ILO Conventions as regards the minimum age of employments and on the elimination of the worse forms of child labour; to adopt and strengthen effective measures to prevent and combat trafficking in women; to continue to dedicate resources to promoting the right to education and the rights of children; to take effective measures to combat violence against women and ensure full and equal enjoyment by women of all human rights without discrimination; to adopt a law on equal rights and equal opportunities to protect vulnerable groups, in particular children, women and people with disabilities; to introduce awareness raising programmes about the rights of people with disabilities; and to step up its poverty alleviation programmes.
Another group of recommendations included: To reopen the UNHCR Office in the country; to widely disseminate information on human rights throughout the county; to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; to consider ratifying the ICC Rome Statute; to accede to the Convention on the Status of Refugees; and to step up all efforts to implement human rights education and training across all levels of society.
· Working Group Members taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, France, Chile, the Netherlands, Italy, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Slovakia, Ukraine, Canada, Switzerland, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, the Republic of Korea, Qatar, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
· Observer States participating in the discussion were Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Belarus, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Latvia, Algeria, the Czech Republic, Syrian Arab Republic, Iran, Viet Nam, Norway, Palestine, Morocco and Afghanistan.
· The seven-person delegation of Uzbekistan consisted of representatives of the National Centre for Human Rights, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Uzbekistan are Egypt, Indonesia and Nicaragua.
· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Uzbekistan can be found here.
· Adoption of report on Turkmenistan: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Turkmenistan are the Philippines, Chile and Gabon. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika ERLINDA BASILIO (Philippines), after thanking the troika and the delegation of Turkmenistan, said the report accurately reflected the interactive dialogue held on 9 December. Representing the State under review, SHIRIN AKHMEDOVA, Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Democracy under the President of Turkmenistan, reported that of the 38 recommendations proposed by the Working Group, Turkmenistan had accepted 19, would consider 13 and rejected six. The Government’s efforts aimed to further develop human rights policies and programmes in line with international standards.
· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Uzbekistan on Monday, 15 December.
· When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2.30 p.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Tuvalu after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Burkina Faso.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx. To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp