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Human Rights Council –Universal Periodic Review

13 May 2009 (morning)

For use of information media; not an official record· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Comoros, this morning, during which 31 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 Uruguay, following the review of the country on Monday, 11 May.

· Presenting the national report of Comoros was MOHAMED JAFFAR ABBAS, Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Civil Service of the Administrative and Institutional Reforms and of Human Rights of Comoros, who noted that Comoros was a newly independent country with a varied culture which stemmed from Africa, from the Arabic culture, as well as from Iran. Ever since it gained its independence in 1975, the State had endeavoured to uphold the human rights of all persons without any kind of discrimination. There were three types of laws in Comoros – customary law, Islamic law and civil law. He noted that his presentation would not take into account the situation of Comorians living in Mayotte, a French colony where human rights violations were being committed. Some 50% of the islands of Comoros were under French administration where families were separated by force. It was impossible for Comorians citizens to obtain visas to visit Mayotte, where, he said, some 70,000 Comorians lived. Among some steps made, as regards the protection of the right to the child, the State had ratified the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had enacted several pieces of legislation.

On the rights of the women, there was a department for the rights of the women, a ministry of gender equality and other government structures in place to uphold women’s rights, Mr. Abbas noted. Child abuse centres were also established, in cooperation with UNICEF. More violence against children was being observed in the Comoros; however, progress had been made at the regional level at raising awareness to this problem. Early marriages often took place. Since 2008 the Government had made every effort to combat and prevent acts of child abuse. For the time being, there was no special court for minors or detention centres. It was also noted that a number of new strategies had been put in place to provide adequate facilities for victims of violence which aimed to create a specialized police to protect children and to develop a national policy for children in conflict with the law and by providing legal assistance. In Comoros, women enjoyed the same rights as men, although some inequalities existed in the country, particularly as regard women’s representation in political life and in the work force, he added. As regards violence against women, some 70% of women had encountered violent acts, most often acts domestic violence. In 2008, the Government adopted a policy through which support would be provided to women to allow them to enjoy their rights, to promote gender equality and to combating violence against women. In the area of health care, women living with HIV/AIDS was a very serious problem and in response the Government had taken a number of steps to remedy this scourge.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the holding of free and fair elections of 2006; the establishment of the development plan to improve health standards; the reduction in infant mortality rates; the adoption of a national policy on gender equality; the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, the National Plan of Action for Education for All; the decrease of the gender gap in schools; steps taken to establish democracy; and the advancements made in the area of human rights despite the various challenges and difficulties facing the country.

· 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, among other things, steps taken to submit overdue report to the United Nations human rights treaty bodies; whether Comoros intended to establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles; whether technical cooperation was request by Comoros for it to prepare a report for the UPR; measures adopted to ensure gender equality, in particular in political, economic and social spheres; information on the lack of legal protection and initiatives aimed at facilitating the development and full integration of children in society; measures being taken to prevent the ill-treatment of children within the family, at school, and in other institutions; and steps to comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Additionally, issues and questions raised pertained to the measures to combat corruption; plans to review restrictions on religious minorities; measures taken to ensure free and transparent approach to the electoral campaign and operations in terms of voting, including by guaranteeing freedom of access to the media; plans and steps taken to remedy the situation of the reportedly hundreds of individuals who were detained as a result of the reestablishment of constitutional order in Anjoun in March 2008; steps to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights of those affected; and measures taken to address the challenge of access to safe drinking water.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to review legislation to ensure the removal of discriminatory provisions based on gender; to continue measures to promote women’s participation in society; to promote gender equality by taking specific measures including through employment, and registering cases of such acts of discrimination; to take further measures to address violence against women, domestic violence and sexual abuse and harassment; to set up a criminal policy to punish those responsible for violence against women; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; and for the international community and the OHCHR to support Comoros to uphold the rights of women and children.

Other recommendations included: To improve the system of protection for children and justice for minors; to build on progress made as regards the implementation of the Family Code; to consider enacting legislation to prohibit the use of corporal punishment to children within the family and at school; to set up a national strategy to combat the sexual abuse of children with a view to prevent and combat this phenomenon; to ensure that children with disabilities were fully integrated into society; to take into consideration the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child as regards school enrolment rates; to pursue efforts to ensure the universalization of education for all in view of the Millennium Development Goal in that regard; and to develop a national strategy to guarantee better access to education for all children.

Comoros was also encouraged to intensify efforts to enter into international cooperation to address the effects of climate change; to step up efforts to provide citizens with the necessary information and education regarding the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation; to take concrete measures aimed at reducing poverty rates and to increase further access to education and healthcare; with the assistance of the international community, to strengthen the nationwide health system and infrastructure; to continue efforts to promote maternal health; and to consider ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Other recommendations included: To ensure that those belonging to religious minorities were able to practice their faith and that Muslims were allowed to convert to other religions; to ensure and protect the freedom of religion, both in legislation and in practice and that the Government take measures to prevent discrimination on the ground against persons from all religions and belief, including non-Muslims; to take measures to ensure the effective protection of journalists and investigate and punish perpetrators of threats and attacks; to consider ratifying and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to review provisions of the criminal law penalizing same sex activity between consenting adults; to implement a system of budgeting monitoring, accountability, and transparency for each of the three islands and the Union government as a whole; and to implement a public information campaign alerting citizens of their rights, and the laws governing the role and actions of government officials with regard to corruption.

Additionally, Comoros was encouraged to consider establishing a national human rights institution; to extend a standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; to identify the specific needs required in order for the Government to uphold its human rights obligations; to develop a national plan of action aimed at fostering a genuine human rights culture and raising human rights public awareness among the society; to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms and Treaty Bodies by submitting periodic reports and obliging by their recommendations; to continue to integrate international human rights standards into domestic legislation; to speed up the ratification process of the core international human rights treaties; to consider ratifying the Convention against Torture; to reconsider the position on the death penalty by initially establishing a moratorium on executions; to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; and to review prison conditions so they were in line with international standards.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Qatar, Bahrain, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Senegal, Jordan, Malaysia, France, Italy, South Africa, Bangladesh and Mauritius.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Iran, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Morocco, Chad, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Syria, Lebanon and the United States.

· The one-person delegation of Comoros consisted of a representative of the Ministry of the Civil Service of the Administrative and Institutional Reforms and of Human Rights of Comoros.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Comoros are Ghana, the United Kingdom and Mexico.

· 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 Comoros can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Uruguay: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Uruguay are Nigeria, Jordan and Argentina. Introducing the report ALBERTO DUMONT (Argentina) said the delegation of Uruguay demonstrated openness to the recommendations and comments made during the interactive dialogue and had subsequently accepted all recommendations put to it, which was a clear demonstration of the commitment to human rights in Uruguay. Representing the State under review, ALEJANDRO ARTUCIO RODRlGUEZ, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the recommendations posed will make it possible for Uruguay to fill the gaps in its efforts to implement human rights obligations in the country. One major priority area was the protection and promotion of the rights of children. Uruguay would continue to work with the OHCHR and with the Human Rights Council, and would also be happy to receive the Special Procedures to visit the country. Uruguay accepted all 88 recommendations put forth and the Government was committed to comply fully with them.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Comoros on Friday, 15 May.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work on this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Slovakia after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Yemen.

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