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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

30 November 2009 (afternoon)
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 Cyprus this afternoon, during which thirty-five Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of Cyprus was LEDA KOURSOUMBA, Law Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, who said the Government was committed to working continuously for the full implementation of its international obligations and responsibilities; regrettably, the Government was not in a position to ensure implementation of all its international obligations, including ensuring universal application of human rights to all individuals, throughout the territory, and this was due to the fact that since 1974, the Government was prevented from exercising effective control over one third of the territory.

The issues of gender equality were dealt with at the highest level, and the most significant development in terms of national policy was the adoption of the first Five Year National Action Plan on Gender Equality in 2007, incorporating a holistic approach to gender equality in addressing six priority areas, namely: employment, education, decision-making, social rights, violence, and gender stereotypes. The National Action Plan gave particular emphasis to the elimination of gender stereotypes. In relation to domestic violence, the concerted actions of Governmental and non-governmental agencies were based on the relevant Law, and the State authorities and NGOs carried out awareness-raising campaigns on domestic violence. Despite the increasing numbers of women actively involved in public and political life, women were still under-represented at the decision-making level. Women's participation in the political arena was increasing at a stable pace. 

The Law providing for the European Parliamentary Elections enabled all Cypriot citizens to exercise their electoral rights, irrespective of the fact that they may be residing in the area not under the effective control of the Government. Without doubt, a major challenge faced by Cyprus was the constant influx of irregular immigrants. Migration and asylum seekers had been of major concern for the Government, and placed extreme pressure on financial and human resources. Nevertheless, Cyprus would continue to honour its relevant international commitments, and was fully conscious of the need to ensure that individuals ought to receive respect and enjoy dignity. The Government was further determined to prevent and combat the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation. The Government shared the collective obligation of continuing to protect and promote international human rights standards, and, at the same time, of demonstrating the required determination to comb at all forms of human rights violations. Cyprus recognised that, despite the substantial progress achieved so far, additional and continuous effort was required by all stakeholders to meet the constantly-arising new challenges in the field of human rights. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; that Cyprus' standing invitation to the United Nations human rights mechanisms reflected a positive stance which other countries could do well to adopt; that Cyprus had looked to address the issue of integration of refugees; Cyprus' commitment to combat gender discrimination; that the process of preparation of the report included the cooperation of numerous organisations, including representatives of civil society; and that Cyprus was a State Party to all the core human rights instruments and to over one hundred regional and other instruments.

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, what were the policies and safeguards adopted to protect the rights of migrants, in particular illegal immigrants and whether there was any training and education provided to officials dealing with these migrants; that a number of the outstanding human rights issues could be addressed by a comprehensive and early settlement agreed by both sides ensuring, among other things, that all internally-displaced were given access to their rights; that trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children still prevailed throughout the island despite national legislation prohibiting such practices; and what measures the Government intended to take to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and racial origin, and hate speech based on these grounds.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations, including that the Government study measures to remove discrimination between pay levels for men and women and to bring them into line with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, as well as to fully implement the National Action Plan on Gender Equality; to accede to the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and step up efforts to eliminate discrimination against this category of the population and adopt an effective policy for their integration and to inform them of their rights; take steps to ensure effective access to basic education for all; that Cyprus take concrete measures to follow up the recommendations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with regards to trafficking in human beings; and that the Government accelerate the steps to make the National Institution for the Protection of Human Rights in line with the Paris Principles.

Additionally, Cyprus was asked to increase cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot community with the aim of protecting and promoting the rights of all inhabitants of the island and that it engage with civil society groups in this process; the need to evaluate measures taken to combat gender stereotypes and attitudes, including within the family and to strengthen methods to combat domestic violence as well as increasing shelter capacity and reinforce existing legislation and protection methods; to ensure full control of the work permit system in order to combat trafficking and exploitation, including sexual exploitation, to a greater extent; that Cyprus continue to take the necessary measures to increase the participation of women in public and political life, as well as of the three religious minority groups and their participation in the formulation of policies including with regards to education, and the need for awareness-raising within society as to their traditional role; and that the Government adopt the necessary regulatory and inspection framework to ensure the same protection for domestic workers as for other citizens. 

Responding to questions and issues raised, the delegation said a letter would be sent to the President of the Human Rights Council responding to the statement made by Turkey during the meeting and this would be circulated as an official document. The Government paid extensive attention to recommendations made by international bodies. The Government also worked to ensure fair treatment for migrants, focusing on the need to control illegal migration. Ms. Koursoumba added that Cyprus intended to honour all its obligations under international Covenants that it had signed and ratified.

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Egypt, Brazil, United Kingdom, Mexico, Netherlands, France, Norway, Chile, Slovenia, Argentina, Italy, India, China, United States of America, Slovakia, and Jordan.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Turkey, Sweden, Canada, Morocco, Serbia, Ukraine, Israel, Spain, Australia, Germany, Greece, Democratic Republic of Congo, Czech Republic, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bulgaria, Armenia, Mauritius, and Burundi.

The ten-person delegation of Cyprus consisted of representatives from the Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Health. 

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Cyprus are Senegal, Philippines, and the Netherlands.

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 Cyprus can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Cyprus on Wednesday 2 December in the afternoon.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Dominican Republic.

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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