Universal Periodic Review
First session meeting highlights
16 April 2008 (afternoon)
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 Argentina this afternoon, during which 32 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Poland, following the review of the country on Monday, 14 April.
Presenting the national report of Argentina was EDUARDO LUIS DUHALDE, Human Rights Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Security and Human Rights, who said the public policy of human rights in the State was linked not only to the respect for the human condition but also to improve the quality of institutions in the country. The current Presidency of Argentina considered that the social demands that arose as a result of the crises of the past warranted considerable changes. As a result the issue of human rights was given high strategic importance, which included reviewing the human rights abuses of the past. The fight against impunity was part of the present task of the State aimed at targeting future generations, to deepen the democratic system and improve the human rights system. It was noted that there were countless crimes committed by the former military dictatorship commuted between 1976 and 1983. The change that was taking place in Argentina was a result of the efforts of the State and human rights movements over the past 30 years. Argentina had taken on the duty of reminding the public of the crimes committed during the dictatorship while remaining committed to its fight against impunity. To this end, the State was working closely with civil society to build confidence. These objectives required short-, medium and long-term measures and led to a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights. Since 2003 the Secretary for Human Rights had been setting up human rights observatories in various parts of the country which provided links between the State and social actors and established human rights strategies at the local level. The Supreme Court of Justice removed all the legal obstacles in the fight against impunity. Moreover, the forensic anthropology team of the State had collected the remains of those killed during the dictatorship. Through the efforts of the “Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo”, which had been active since 1977, 88 children have been linked with their biological parents.
Among other human rights mechanisms in place was an inter-jurisdictional body, established by former President Kirchner in 2004, focusing on human rights issues, and a National Plan against Discrimination was also operational, the Secretary noted. There was also a national plan for assisting complainants and witnesses and a national programme for witness protection. As to the prison situation, Argentina was in the course of adjusting its penitentiary legislation according to international human rights standards. The minimum rules for the treatment of detainees laid down the fundamental standards to be adhered to. It was noted that as a result of a prison uprising in 2004 in the State of Mendoza, some 20 persons were killed. In November 2004 Argentina ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the State was working on its implementation. Measures had been taken to avoid the application of preventive detention. Per a recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court, preventive detention on grounds of discrimination was expressly condemned. The head of delegation noted that as a result of the economic crisis experienced in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the millennium, there had been an increase in unemployment in the country. There was still a high percentage of the population which suffered from social exclusion. While in 2001 the percentage of poor persons in the State had reached 57%, since then this figure had been steadily reduced and the overall socio-economic situation had been improving. The State had instituted several hands on plans to improve employment opportunities and to prevent social exclusion of groups and individuals. There was also a national food security plan in place aimed at assisting socially disadvantaged families.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the efforts to implement the rights of truth and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the various measures taken by the State to combat impunity and to investigate abuses during the military dictatorship; the efforts to respect the rights of women and indigenous peoples; the active role of the State in meetings of MERCOSUR to advance the human rights agenda; the efforts to respect the rights of migrants and the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Migrants and Their Families; the human rights-based approach to the treatment of refugees; efforts to provide decent working conditions; the national food security plan; various measures to combat discrimination; the national institution of human rights and the office of the Ombudsman; the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture; and the involvement of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process.
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 implementation of national policies related to the right to truth and memory; measures taken to combat impunity in relation to the crimes committed during the period of the military regime; the rights of migrants and the guidelines and challenges of the national programme to regularize the status of migrants; measures to protect witness to human rights violations; the protection of judges; measures to improve prison violence and overall prison conditions; the relation between the procurator of prisons and the ombudsman; actions to be taken in the case of five persons who were handed down life sentences when under the age of 18; steps taken to tackle the problems of delays in the judicial system that meant cases took years to be tried; the existence of a national register for detained persons; steps taken to implement the Optional Protocol to Convention against Torture and measures taken to adhere to the recommendations on the Committee against Torture as regards investigations into cases of sexual violence in prisons; and cases of police brutality.
Other issues concerned human rights training for the Argentine security forces; measures implemented by the Government to curb discrimination based on religion or belief; efforts to ensure an inter-religious dialogue; concerns express by CERD [the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] on incitements to racial hatred expressed through the media and the Internet; strategies to effectively combat trafficking in persons in order to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and forced labor; the steps taken towards the protection of children; the impact of the law on the protection of children and adolescents; measures taken to ensure that the national regulation on contraception will be fully implemented to guarantee the reproductive rights of women; measures taken to guarantee equal treatment to sexual minorities in practice; efforts to safeguard the human rights of indigenous persons and women living below the poverty line; the national plans to eradicate violence against women, including domestic violence; steps to improve working conditions; the national food security plan; and social plans and programmes to assist marginalized groups and their impact.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To continue efforts to bringing national legislation in line with ratified international instruments; to continue its pursuit towards the realization of the MDGs; to include a gender perspective into the UPR process; to consider the integrating the recommendations of the UPR report into national legislation; to prohibit corporal punishment by law; to pursue efforts to counter discrimination in any form and, in particular to take further steps to address discrimination against women and vulnerable groups including children, minorities and indigenous peoples; to enhance dialogue towards the Durban Review process on discrimination; to continue efforts to combat discrimination against women in all its forms and that women be afforded adequate protection and redress from domestic violence and to ensure the perpetrators of such acts be prosecuted and punished, as recommended by CEDAW [the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women]; and to intensify measures in order to fully realize the rights of indigenous peoples in particular their representation in the civil service and public institutions.
Other recommendations included: To undertake all possible efforts to protect witnesses, particularly those testifying in human rights-related trials; to ensure that human rights defenders were protected from persecution; to address the issue of unduly protracted detentions on an urgent basis; to lift all cases of life imprisonment for those persons under the age of 18; to address the situation of overcrowded prisons; to implement a national mechanisms on the prevention of torture; to adapt the penal system to be compliant with the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to ensure the right to access of detainees to a lawyer immediately after detention; to ratify the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
One speaker also recommended that the Human Rights Council Secretariat set up a database on best practices expressed through the dialogues of the Universal Periodic Review.
The delegation of Argentina provided responses to a series of questions posed to it during the course of the discussion and beforehand in writing. A member of the delegation noted that a meeting was held recently between several agencies in Argentina and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights out of which came a document, which would serve as the basis for a national human rights plan. In May this year the second stage would begin with an institutional dialogue throughout the country culminating with the bicentennial anniversary of the country. On issues of discrimination, it was recalled that there was an anti-discrimination plan adopted two years ago which added to the struggle against racism and racial discrimination. The national institute against xenophobia and racism was set up as a result. Inter-religious dialogue was also taking place on a regular basis.
As to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, it was noted that Argentina was the first country in the region to ratify this instrument. In an effort to improve prisons conditions, the State undertook to demilitarize prisons, rehabilitate detainees and the improve security conditions in prisons. Mechanisms were also established to regularly monitor prison conditions. On human trafficking, the delegation stated that on 9 April this year the Argentine Congress adopted the law on the treatment of persons aimed to prevent and punish acts human trafficking and to protect victims. There was also a specific national prevention programme for trafficking of children as well as a new register and database established to collect information in missing children and adolescents. A regional data bank was also in place to track cases of trafficking.
In October 2002 there was a national law on sexual and reproductive health which supported the distribution of contraceptive devices and providing training at the community level. As to violence against women, in December 2006 a Bill was adopted creating the office on domestic violence. On children’s rights, there were a number of standards being set as regards the protection of children in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international; instruments. There was also a national commission for the eradication of child labor which would shortly be put before the National Congress for its approval. Concerning the witness protection programme, the delegation noted that there were 343 people who belonged to this protection programme.
Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Brazil, Cameroon, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, the Russian Federation, Guatemala, Mexico, China, the Netherlands, Peru, France, Malaysia, Canada, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, Uruguay, Egypt, the Republic of Korea and Nigeria.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Austria, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Chile, Venezuela, Syria, Norway and Sweden.
The 11-person delegation of Argentina consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Security and Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Argentina are Ukraine, Cuba and Cameroon.
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 Argentina can be found here.
Adoption of report on Poland: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Poland are Brazil, Japan and Angola. Introducing the report SERGIO DE ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO (Brazil) said the troika noted and encouraged the efforts of Poland to further strengthen the promotion of human rights and was grateful for their positive approach to the Universal Periodic Review process, as noted by the high-level and expertise of its delegation. Representing the State under review, ZDZISLAW RAPACKI, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the report on Poland adequately reflected the proceedings of 14 April and the recommendations therein were an immense value for the further improvement of the human rights situation on the ground. Poland was determined to study all recommendations very carefully. The many recommendations included in the report reflected the challenges that Poland had identified and was in the process of addressing. Poland would provide responses and comments on these recommendations shortly before or during the next regular session of the Human Rights Council in June.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Argentina on Friday, 18 April.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. it is scheduled to adopt the reports of the Netherlands, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Argentina, after which it will conclude its first session, which began on 7 April.
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