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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

3 December 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 the Cote d'Ivoire this afternoon, during which fifty-four 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 Cambodia, following the review of the country on Tuesday 2 December.

Presenting the national report of the Cote d'Ivoire was TIA KONE, President of the Supreme Court, who said there was a national framework that was conducive to the exercise of all rights: civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, and solidarity rights. Cote d'Ivoire was fully aware that it still had a lot to do to bring its legislation fully into line with the national instruments the country had ratified. It had also accepted certain international commitments, and had made sure it was able to implement its international commitments to human rights, with Constitutional guarantees for the separation of powers and recognition of human rights. The judiciary had repeatedly been trained in human rights. 

As soon as the country was out of the crisis, it intended to focus on reinforcing the rule of law, through establishing peace and ensuring the application of rights. Cote d'Ivoire was constantly seeking to invest in health, training, education, and health infrastructures, and was seeking to create an appropriate curriculum at regional level, with a genuinely valuable education system for all. The country was particularly concerned by rights connected to gender, and children's groups. There was legislation forbidding all forms of gender discrimination in employment, and also forbidding all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation. The Government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the ILO on the issue of eliminating child labour, and it hoped that Cote d'Ivoire would continue to be supported in eliminating this scourge, in particular with regards to the exploitation of children in agriculture. There was also a Ministry for Solidarity which sought to aid those who had been internally displaced.

Successfully emerging from the crisis required an open and fair electoral process, and the international community should support the Integrated Command Centre, which was the body in charge of ensuring safe and fair elections in Cote d'Ivoire. It was only after free and fair elections that Cote d'Ivoire could consider itself truly a part of the community of nations. Cote d'Ivoire now envisaged expanding the area of its international obligations, and appealed to the international community to continue to provide support in order to help Cote d'Ivoire to emerge from the difficult situation in which it had found itself. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included important programmes that had been carried out to promote the rights of the most vulnerable groups; efforts to provide all citizens with primary health care, as well as initiatives to combat maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS infections; the Government's efforts for social development for children and other measures aimed at protecting and furthering childhood, including the elimination of exploitation and trafficking in children; the efforts to emerge from the crisis; the achievements of the Ministry for Women and Family Affairs and its efforts with regards to children; that there was a National Human Rights Commission; the constructive relationship with the United Nations organisations in Cote d'Ivoire and with civil society organisations; and the reforms in the Criminal Code, strengthening justice and family law, as well as efforts to eliminate racism. 

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, the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of sexual violence and what were the specific measures that it had implemented in order to prevent such acts and prosecute and bring to trial those responsible of these acts; would the authorities allow the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to carry out a visit to Cote d'Ivoire and carry out inquiries there; that more could be done to combat impunity and that free and fair elections were the best possible way of ensuring peace; the high number of people who were currently stateless within Cote d'Ivoire; and what was the situation on the law aiming to eliminate religious and racial discrimination. 

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: the need to continue and deepen programmes aimed at eliminating exploitation and trafficking of children; that a Plan of Action be put into place to eliminate violence; that Cote d'Ivoire amend its nationality code to avoid cases of statelessness; that it ratify the chapter in the African Charter on women's rights and sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; that the electoral process be implemented as soon as possible; that the Government take action to improve the efficiency of the judicial system; and that conditions in prisons remained seriously inadequate, with overcrowding, malnutrition, and lack of separation between juveniles and adults, with reports of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and that the Government therefore take action to improve the situation.

Other recommendations included: examining the possibility of establishing a framework for providing compensation to war victims; that the National Commission on Human Rights be amended in order to uphold the Paris Principles particularly with regards to pluralist election; that there be no discrimination against persons of the South in services provided due to a lack of resources; that specific measures be taken so that primary education be both free and obligatory; that the Government commit to establishing judicial procedures to establish the rights of those accused of crimes and detained; that all necessary measures be taken to provide internally-displaced persons with needed assistance; that access to justice by citizens be improved by reviewing the system of judicial assistance and opening up new courts; and that action be taken to strengthen and harmonise the legal framework protecting children. 

Responding to the questions, issues, and recommendations, Mr. Kone said there were national instruments in place, including the Constitutional law itself, which set forth that physical integrity must be respected. There were also criminal laws on the books which provided for cases of sexual violence. All criminal offences would be prosecuted, and these cases would not end in impunity. With regards to statelessness, the Nationality Code that had been put in place ensured that every child that had a mother or father that were Ivorian also became Ivorian- jus sangae and not jus solis was applied. On female genital mutilation, Cote d'Ivoire had signed a number of agreements, and generally speaking, Constitutionally, once violence was repressed and prosecuted in the land, then female genital mutilation would come under the rule of law. With regards to excision, some efforts were being undertaken by the Ministry of Women, the Family and Social Affairs to sensitise people to this problem. It would be easy to harmonise legislation with the Paris Principles, which were not in conflict with domestic laws. On poverty and illiteracy, there was growing awareness at the national level that poverty was one of the scourges that must be combated. Education was strongly encouraged for girls, and energetic measures had been taken in this regard. With regards to the holding of oft-postponed elections, this was because the right time should be selected. 

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Cuba, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Chile, India, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Mexico, Angola, Egypt, Bangladesh, Slovakia, China, Slovenia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Norway, United States of America, South Africa, Djibouti, Gabon, Argentina, Ghana, and Senegal.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Canada, Belarus, Algeria, Ireland, Austria, Czech Republic, Republic of the Congo, 'Turkey, Holy See, Spain, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Viet Nam, Luxembourg, Libya, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Latvia, and Burundi.

The nineteen-person delegation of Cote d'Ivoire consisted of representatives from the Permanent Mission of Cote d'Ivoire to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the National Commission on Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Social Affairs, and the Coalition EPU Cote d'Ivoire.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Cote d'Ivoire are Slovenia, Gabon, and Japan.

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 Cote d'Ivoire can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Cote d'Ivoire on Monday 7 December.

Adoption of report on Cambodia: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Cambodia are Cameroon, Bahrain, and Nicaragua. Introducing the report, Carlos Robelo Raffone (Nicaragua) said the draft report reflected the discussion which took place on Tuesday 1 December, which took place in a spirit of cooperation. Representing the State under review, SAN SUON, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said it had been a rich and productive dialogue, and it was an opportunity to see how the international community saw the developments in the country, and Cambodia also appreciated recommendations on how to advance human rights.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Portugal.

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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