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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


2 February 2009 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group began its fourth session this morning during which it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the fourth session of States under this new mechanism. The fourth session of the Working Group will last from 2 to 13 February.

· During its morning session the Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Germany, during which 46 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· Presenting the national report of Germany was GERNOT ERLER, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, who noted that Germany had been a supporter of the Human Rights Council when it was created by the General Assembly in New York in March 2006. The report of Germany provided an overview of the importance Germany attached to human rights in various sectors. At the same time, Germany was faced with various human rights challenges everyday. Instances of discrimination and exclusion persisted in the country; the Government did not tolerate such crimes. Where such cases occurred they were addressed by the Government’s relevant bodies. The Government strived to react quickly and comprehensively to such problems.

The report of Germany was categorized according to five areas: asylum and integration policies of the States, xenophobia and racism, gender equality, human rights and terrorism and economic, social and cultural rights. The report also consisted of an overview of numerous actions and programmes initiated by the government and also addressed the deficits which remained. The integration of migrants in Germany remained a challenge, he added. The State had adopted a national plan to address their needs and had made additional strides to implement migrants in the country. Racial discrimination and xenophobia also was problem being addressed and considered a priority by the Government. In this regard, the Government had adopted a national action plan against racism recently. Improving equal opportunity for men and women was also a priority of the Government, as was combating terrorism while respecting the basic human rights. It was also noted that the State had recently signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Addressing questions posed in advance, a member of the delegation noted a series of measures taken to help immigrants integrate into German society. The State had also implemented new European Union directives as regards the rights of migrants. The Government also initiated an inter-faith dialogue and held an integration summit to promote the integration into society of migrants in the country. As to the right to education, there existed disadvantaged for migrants due to language barriers. To address this problem the Government had taken several steps to ensure German language training was afforded to this portion of the population. To address the issue of low school attendance rates of migrants the Ministry of the Interior had imposed a number of legal measures to ensure that the children of migrants and illegal immigrants would be able to benefit from the same education.

As to the right of residence for victims of forced marriages, Germany had implemented European directives addressing such cases to ensure that the rights of these victims were fully protected and provided. On the right of street children, the delegation noted that there were between 5,000 to 7,000 street children in Germany who were catered to through Government programmes and hence provided with basic social services. As to discrimination, per an amendment to the law of 2001 legal provisions were now available to address such acts. As to the specific cases of the excessive use of by the police, the delegation noted that these cases did not refer to violence committed by police officers. When there were allegations of such acts they were properly investigated. Moreover, prison facilities were regularly monitored and basic human rights standards were implemented.

In conclusion, a member of the delegation noted that there was a good level of understanding among the public on human rights issues and there was a vibrant civil society. In the preparation of the State’s UPR national report the Government of Germany had held extensive consultations with members of civil society.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the emphasis given by the Government to integrate migrants and the national integration plan; the provision of high quality free education and efforts to improve language skills for migrant children; the implementation of various anti-discrimination policies; the State’s commitment to fighting racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia; the enactment of the anti-discrimination act of 2006; achievements made in realizing gender balance; the progress made in combating discrimination against the Sinti and Roma people in Germany; the accession to core human rights international instruments; and Germany’s contribution to international humanitarian and development efforts.

· 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 overall situation of foreign migrants in Germany; the measures in place to address the issues of school attendance of asylum-seeking children, refugee children or children without proper documentation; information about the steps intended to address the treatment of migrants who were victims of forced marriage, forced prostitution or human trafficking; cases of the ill treatment of persons by the police; whether NGOs representing the migrant population were consulted in the preparation of the UPR national report; and the activities of the German Institute for Human Rights.

Other issues pertained to the activities of the Jugendamt as regards the rights of children; the growing number of street children; the State’s plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Children dealing with the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution; measures to respect and promote the rights of migrant women; measures taken to prevent and suppress human trafficking and to address the needs of victims of such crimes; and steps taken to oversee the implementation of the Government’s gender mainstreaming strategy.

Additional questions and concerned covered the steps taken to ensure that Muslims were afforded equal protection to non-Muslims in Germany; steps being taken to ensure that the principle of non-discrimination and freedom of religion and expression were taken into account in Germany’s integration policies; the State’s efforts to consolidate and improve the country’s education system; and achievements made as a result of the State’s inter-faith dialogue efforts.

Another set of question related to the increase of racist violence against minorities; steps intended to strengthen the fight against racism and xenophobia; measures to expand the scope of discrimination within domestic law; steps to reduce the discrimination against same sex couples; efforts to ensure the equality of men and women in the labour market; the services offered by the State’s anti-discrimination office; and the progress made by the Government’s National Plan of Action Against Racism.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To undertake additional measures to support migrants and to implement the corresponding recommendations of the United Nations treaty bodies; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; to take necessary measures to avoid the stigmatization of migrants living in the country; to eliminate criminal sanctions against undocumented migrants; to consider adopting measures that would ensure that any law or regulation aimed at curbing irregular migration should not deny nor prevent migrants from accessing other fundamental human rights; to increase actions to education for children of migrant workers; to incorporate more content in school curricula on the contributions of the Roma and Sinti communities into German society; and to ensure that measures put in place to control irregular migration did not impede access to primary health care, education and justice.

Other recommendations included: To establish a form of effective judicial control over administrative decisions of Jugendamt, as regards the rights of children; to take additional steps to ensure the rights of women migrants; to take additional steps to overcome the disparity between the wages of men and women; to ensure that the basic needs of street children were provided for; to consider enabling children to move between streams at a later age, as regards the provision of education; to consider adopting a strategy to address inequalities for children at high risk of exiting the education system too early; to adopt time-bound measures to increase children with disabilities’ access to inclusive education in mainstream schools; and to allow the visit of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children.

Another set of recommendations were: To ensure the investigation of all racially motivated crimes; to adopt a clear and comprehensive definition of racial discrimination; to increase its efforts to prevent racially motivated offences and ensure that relevant criminal law provisions were effectively implemented; to continue to implement the National Action Plan on Racism; to implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; to ensure adequate cooperation and resources be available to the anti-discrimination office to enable it to carry out its functions effectively; to intensity efforts to contribute to the success of the Durban Review Conference; to continue to guarantee non-discrimination for all; to prohibit the establishment of any group promoting racial propaganda; to combat hate crimes based on sexual orientation; and to consider establishing a data base on qualitative and quantitative data provided by victims or witnesses of racist or xenophobic incidents that have been reported to counseling institutions.

Additionally, States recommended that Germany: Adopt the necessary measures to protect the freedom of Muslim women to belief and attire; to improve its effort to ensure the right of religious freedom and practice for Muslims; to consider taking more resolute action to prevent and punish perpetrators of racially motivated acts of violence against members of the Roma, Sinti, Muslim and Jewish communities; and to ensure that laws and policies were consistent with CEDAW and ICERD by revising or revoking laws and regulations which prohibited religious symbols or clothing for teachers and civil servants deemed to contravene freedom of religion and expression.

An additional group of recommendations included: To continue efforts in achieving the United Nations development assistance target of 0.7 % GDP; to share experience as regards its integration policies in line with respecting human rights; to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; to take additional efforts to combat corruption; to consider ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption; to fully respect the provisions of international human rights instruments including the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture when implementing its counter-terrorism policies; to repeal any legislation that infringed upon the right of individuals to privacy; and to ensure full access to primary health care, education and judicial recourse to all persons irrespective of their legal status.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Malaysia, France, China, Azerbaijan, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Mexico, Slovenia, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, India, Ghana, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Indonesia, Italy, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Argentina, Canada, Senegal and Chile.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Liechtenstein, Poland, Iran, Finland, Algeria, Turkey, Hungary, Benin, Spain, Colombia, Burundi, Ecuador, Palestine, New Zealand, Morocco, Chad, Belgium and Australia.

· The 21-person delegation of Germany consisted of representatives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Germany are Cameroon, the Republic of Korea and France.

· 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 Germany can be found here.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Germany on Wednesday, 4 February.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Djibouti.

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.

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