Universal Periodic Review
Second session meeting highlights
15 May 2008 (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 Romania this morning, during which 39 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 Ukraine following the review of the country on Tuesday, 13 May.
Presenting the national report of Romania was RĂDUŢA MATACHE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, while noting that her country was proud of what it had achieved thus far in the field of promotion and protection human rights, stated that Romania was aware that the scope of these rights was ever expanding; the work to meet the challenges was never complete; and that there was hardly any excuse for self-complacency. It was the firm belief of Romania that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism could fulfil its task by setting new targets, raising stakes and stirring energies to the benefit of all countries and, most importantly, to the ordinary individual. As a full member of the Human Rights Council, Romania had supported its activities from the very beginning and as a State under review in the Universal Periodic Review exercise, gave further proof of Romania’s strong support for this mechanism. The active and increasingly committed civil society that had developed in Romania after 1989 had been a constant and valuable partner to all Romanian governments in the process of building and consolidating democracy and in ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The approach to human rights had fundamentally changed in Romania since the Revolution of December 1989. The democratic transition in Romania, from the Communist authoritarian regime to a democratic system, governed by the rule of law and respect for the citizen’s rights, had unfolded as a societal endeavour. The respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the dignity of the human person was now at the core of the constitutional, legislative and institutional framework, in line with Romania’s international commitments. The comprehensive process of raising awareness and developing the sense of responsibility among all citizens was ongoing in Romania. The State paid special attention to striking the right balance between promoting and protecting civil and political rights and ensuring respect for economic, social and cultural rights.
In Romania, the protection and promotion of human rights were secured through a wide-ranging network of judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative institutions, she added. The competencies, responsibilities, composition and methods of operation of the Advocate of the People and of the National Council for Combating Discrimination were in full compliance with the Paris Principles. Both institutions could receive complaints filed by petitioners, hear persons and request documents necessary to assess situations related to their competence. Inspired by the model of Sweden, Romanian authorities were to launch a comprehensive National Plan of Action for Human Rights to be reviewed annually. Several measures adopted by the Romanian Government were intended to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. The Strategy for 2005-2007 outlined the coordinates of a reform process, focused on increasing the authority of the Superior Council of Magistracy, as a guarantor of the independence of the judiciary. Over the past years, the legal and institutional framework for preventing and sanctioning all forms of discrimination in Romania had been steadily improved. Romania now had comprehensive legislation, which banned and punished all forms of direct or indirect discrimination, as well as associated forms, based on a number of 15 explicit criteria provided by the law. The National Council for Combating Discrimination had the authority to ascertain and punish cases of discrimination, either based on complaints and notifications submitted by individuals or legal persons or ex officio.
The situation of the Roma minority remained a special concern for the Government of Romania, she stated. In 2001, the Romanian Government adopted a specific Strategy for the Improvement of Roma Situation, which was the result of collaboration between the governmental structures and Roma NGOs. Afterwards, the Government designed a General Master Plan of Measures, to speed up the implementation of the Strategy. A complex network of special institutions, including a National Agency for Roma, was created with a view to implementing the Strategy and the Plan. The housing legislation of the State provided for free access to housing for Roma. To address instances of segregation in schools affecting in particular Roma pupils, the Ministry of Education, Research and Youth issued an order formally banning such practices and, subsequently, approved the Methodology for preventing and eliminating school segregation of Roma children. Concrete measures were also adopted in order to solve the problem of Roma individuals without identification documents.
As regards gender equality, the Government adopted the National Strategy for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (2006-2009) which provided for actions to promote women’s rights, she added. The Government adopted a Law on equal opportunities for women and men and set up the corresponding Agency that, since 2007, had its own network of county offices to monitor the implementation of the gender equality principle at the local level. With regard to women’s situation in the labour market, differences between women and men have diminished in the last years. Special attention was also given to categories exposed to multiple discrimination especially for Roma women. The issue of preventing and combating domestic violence and violence against women received special attention in the Government Programme for 2005-2008. Moreover, the Government established the National Agency for Family Protection, which collected and updated a database of domestic violence cases. In the field of promotion and protection of the rights of children, Romania had to cope with the daunting problem of the large number of children in State-run institutions, which were under-funded and poorly staffed. The extensive reform undertaken over the past years required the adoption and enforcement of a new legal framework. Priority was given to switching from the “institution”-orientated system to the family-centred system. The newly established National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child was authorized to intervene in administrative and judicial procedures in order to ensure the observance of the rights of the child in Romania.
Among other measures taken in the area of human rights, the Romanian authorities adopted a number of legislative and organization measures designed to address the whole range of problems related to the functioning of the penitentiary system, the Minister said. As to mental health, the newly created National Centre for Mental Health set the priorities regarding the development of relevant policies, provided technical assistance in the process of implementing related programmes, coordinated and monitored services and carried out information campaigns in the respective field. With regard to the situation of HIV/AIDS in Romania, the National Network for Health Promotion and Health Education was implementing programmes aimed at educating the public and the medical personnel about accepting and preventing discrimination against HIV positive persons. The State had also instituted a National Programme for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the creation of the National Council to Combat Discrimination; various efforts to combat discrimination against the Roma minority; efforts made to promote the rights of the child and the priority given by the State in this regard; the State’s policy framework for the equality between women and men; the State’s progressive anti-trafficking laws; efforts to improve prison conditions; efforts to improve the economic condition of the country; the decreased rates of maternal mortality and abortion since the 1990s; efforts to combat negative attitudes against people living with HIV/AIDS; the exemplary manner in which Romania has endeavoured to combat climate change; and Romania’s strong commitment to human rights values, in general, and the Universal Periodic Review process, specifically.
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 the status of the Strategy to combat discrimination against the Roma minority; steps taken to ensure that the Roma community benefited fully from European Union Structural and development funding; steps taken to protect the rights of persons belonging to minority religious communities; how the new legislation on religious freedom ensured equal religious freedom for all religious denominations; the concrete improvements in protecting the Roma community, particularly in view of the National Agency for Roma; and how NGOs of the Roma community working to improve within the Government framework the situation of Roma, especially Roma women and children.
Additional information was sought on the National Strategy to Combat Discrimination and concrete results of the strategy and efforts in fighting, monitoring and sanctioning all forms of discrimination; how the State facilitated the participation of civil society in the national strategy to combat discrimination and whether there were any indicators to measure progress therein; measures taken by the Government to tackle faith issues; the status of the law on property restitution of 2005 and why the Government failed to persuade the Romanian Orthodox Church to cooperate in this process; and measures taken to investigate attacks on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual activists during the Gayfest in Romania.
Other issues pertained to the main sources of problems limiting and countering acts of human trafficking and measures adopted to fight this crime; whether the Government would invite the Special Rapporteur on human trafficking; public awareness measures taken on human trafficking; the existence of a national policy to address the problem of the massive migration of Romanians within European borders leaving behind a high number of children in the care of grandparents, other relatives or without care; efforts undertaken to address the issue of street children; the achievements of the National Authority of the Protection on the Rights of the Child; and measures undertaken in line with the recommendations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Other questions raised concerned the measures taken to improve the independence of the judiciary; the provision of social benefits for minorities; progress to bring about equality and rights in rural communities, especially among ethnic minorities, women and children; steps to address the gaps that remained as regards the State’s gender equality policies; the state of affairs about the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education; and general efforts to raise public awareness about human rights.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. A number of delegations recommended that the Government take further appropriate effective measures to eliminate discrimination against Roma, in particular Roma women and children, in the areas of access to education, housing, healthcare and employment; to undertake to better integrate the Roma community into society; and to enhance measures aimed at improving women’s rights through education in particular for the Roma and rural women.
Other recommendations included: To strengthen efforts to combat violence against women; to undertake further measures to improve sexual and reproductive health especially for marginalized groups; to consider urgently improvements to conditions for psychiatric disabilities; to take effective steps to ensure the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ILO Conventions concerning child labour; to step up efforts to bring about equality and rights in rural communities, especially among ethnic minorities, women and children; and to intensify efforts to implement recommendations made by the Special Rapporteurs on the rights of children and the human rights of migrants.
Additional recommendations covered: To work on the negative attitudes and prejudices by the general public, in political discourse and media presentations, on police brutality and discrimination and to raise awareness of the need to improve the overall situation of human rights; to take additional measures to fight discrimination against minorities, including the Roma population, as well as homosexuals and persons living with HIV/AIDS; to combat the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among children; to pursue its efforts to ensure the best possible protection for children, especially vulnerable children; to enhance human rights education, in particular women’s rights; and to develop a national strategy for human rights education in the school system in accordance with the Plan of Action 2005-2009 of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
Additionally, delegations recommended: To ensure that all relevant Romanian legislation was in conformity with those international undertakings; to make vigorous efforts to persuade the Orthodox Church to stop obstructing property returns and abide by judicial rulings; to further harmonizing its legislation on religious freedoms in line with international standards; take steps to reassess the measures needed to ensure that the principle of freedom of religious of belief were was implemented without discrimination; to be more proactive in identifying, punishing and putting a stop to religious intolerance; to develop a coherent country-wide anti-corruption strategy and monitor its implementation; and to strengthen the capacity of the judiciary at all levels and accelerate legal reforms.
And other recommendations included: To take additional measures to combat human trafficking, including the provision of training for police in dealing with victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse, and the implementation of a system of witness protection in cases of trafficking; to continue to strengthen efforts to avoid ill-treatment of prisoners while ensuring that all cases of abuse and excessive use of force by authorities were investigated and appropriate measures taken; to improve living conditions ion places of detention; to take further action to improve mental health care facilities; to combat discrimination against people living with disabilities; and to accede to the Convention on the rights of person with disabilities, the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the rights of migrant workers.
Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Slovenia, China, Azerbaijan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Angola, France, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Senegal, Italy, Qatar, Bangladesh, Guatemala, the Philippines, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Japan, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Brazil, Jordan, Ukraine and Egypt.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United States, Denmark, Ireland, Sudan, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Colombia, Finland, Argentina, Chile and Australia.
The 24-person delegation of Romania consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Agency for the Protection of the Family, the Ministry of Education, Research and Youth, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and Administration Reform, the National Agency for Combating Human Trafficking the National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, the National Council for Combating Discrimination, the Department for Inter-Ethnic Relations, the National Agency for the Roma, the Office of the Higher Council of Magistrates, the National Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Romania are Angola, Canada and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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 Romania can be found here.
Adoption of report on Ukraine: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Ukraine are the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Guatemala. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika CARLOS RAMIRO MARTíNEZ ALVARADO, (Guatemala) said the report reflected well the interactive discussion which was held Tuesday last. The troika was grateful to all who contributed to the discussion and in the drafting of the report. Representing the State under review TETIANA KONDRATYUK, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Ukraine for Family, Youth and Sport, thanked the 26 delegations who took the floor during the interactive discussion whose contributions were reflected in the report, which was a reflection of a truly interactive dialogue. During the interactive dialogue, the delegation received more than 40 recommendations, most of which have been accepted by Ukraine and some of which had already been implemented, including on the inadmissibility of evidence received under torture during interrogations. It was recalled that the Ukrainian Government had been signed today the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court and that its legislation would soon be brought in line with the Statute. Five Other recommendations would be considered and reported on at the next session of the Council next month. Three other recommendations were rejected as they were in contradiction to the Constitution and legislation of the Ukraine. Ukraine hoped that there would be further fruitful cooperation in the UPR process and would its utmost to improve the human rights situation in the country.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Romania on Monday, 19 May.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Mali after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Sri Lanka.
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