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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

4 December 2009 (morning)
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 Portugal this morning, during which forty-six 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 Norway, following the review of the country on Wednesday 2 December.

Presenting the national report of Portugal was PEDRO LOURTIE, Secretary of State for European Affairs, co-head of the delegation along with JOSE CONDE RODRIGUES, Secretary of State for Internal Affairs. Mr. Lourtie said there was no such thing as a perfect human rights record- there was always work to be undertaken in the quest for higher human rights standards, but one thing was certain: Portugal's commitment to improve it's situation was clear and consistent, and it was in such light that it welcomed this exercise, being proud of achievements that would have been unthinkable little more than a generation ago. The Government was considering a proposal to create a National Human Rights Commission, which would coordinate the interministerial work in the field of human rights. A Secretary of State for Equality had been appointed, and her priorities would be to promote women's entrepreneurship, also in the context of fighting the global financial and economic crisis. Portugal had been recognised by the United Nations as the highest-ranked country in the world regarding the provision of support services and access to rights by immigrants. 

Domestic violence and violence against women and children remained a challenge, but one the Government had been addressing firmly. A Law had been enacted on compensation to victims of violent crimes and domestic violence, and a separate Law on the legal regime applicable to the prevention of domestic violence and the protection and assistance to its victims. There was also the III National Plan Against Domestic Violence. On the use of force by security, judicial and prison officers, all officers received specific training in human rights throughout their careers. Police forces were subject to the law and to the strict respect of human rights as established in the Constitution, and any violation of human rights would give rise to criminal liability. On gender equality in work, Portugal recognised that a gender pay gap still persisted in the private sector, but statistics indicated a positive trend, and, in light of the strong political commitment to gender equality, measures had been taken to improve the situation. 

On the national application and implementation of the principle of non-refoulement, Portuguese law provided for sufficient and adequate protection of the principle, and the system was in full compliance with the international obligation to ensure protection from torture. On follow-up to the National Plan against trafficking in human beings, its implementation was being monitored by an independent entity which would conduct an impact assessment. On the question of Integration of Persons with Disabilities, the Plan of Action promoted a policy of inclusion of students with permanent special education needs in the regular educational system. The Universal Periodic Review review had set the stage for what had probably been the most in-depth and comprehensive analysis ever of the human rights situation in Portugal, identifying achievements but allowing to pin-point challenges that needed to be tackled, including the need for stronger and sustained inter-Ministerial coordination. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the positive commitment to economic, social and cultural rights in the context of the world financial and economic crisis and Portugal's commitment to the universality and indivisibility of all human rights; the Government's policy to promote the successful integration of migrants in society and to promote cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue; the experience acquired in working on violence against the child and gender equality; improving criminal legislation on, inter alia, trafficking, and improving the rights of the trafficked persons; the tremendous efforts made to ensure and protect the rights of disabled persons; and the comprehensive approach of the Government to combat the negative impacts of the current financial and economic crisis on all human rights by adopting policies aimed at achieving renewed social commitment that combined economic competitiveness with enhanced social justice and cohesion.

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, whether Portugal was considering the recommendation to introduce a provision in criminal law to the effect that committing an offence with a racist motivation or aim constituted aggravating circumstances; what effects were foreseen as a result of the Law on domestic violence and what resources were attributed to it; the situation of Roma, who continued to suffer discrimination in housing and employment and what additional measures the Government planned to implement to remedy this situation; de facto discrimination against those living in rural areas; that the number of street children continued to be alarming, further so as they were subject to the worst forms of child labour as well as other dangers; and what measures were appropriate to put in place to ensure better access to rights by people with disabilities.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that Portugal continue to build up comprehensive efforts to eliminate trafficking in persons both at the national and international levels; to strengthen efforts to prevent, combat and punish violence against women; to strengthen measures aimed at combating racial profiling and discriminatory practices towards racial/ethnic minorities and immigrants, in particular by police and border control authorities; that Portugal seek to ensure the effective participation of the Roma in efforts to ensure their equal and non-discriminatory treatment; that the Government continue efforts to raise public awareness of human rights and effectively combat racial discrimination and intolerance; that Portugal ensure the full implementation of related laws and legislation on trafficking; and that it ensure non-discrimination against children, including Roma, rural, and street children. 

Other recommendations included: that Portugal intensify efforts to implement its express commitment to establish a National Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles; that the Government accede to the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers; to ensure that victims of trafficking were entitled to residency permits and could stay in Portugal; the need for a comprehensive national strategy to implement the recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and for an over-arching body to oversee the implementation of recommendations of treaty bodies and report back to the latter; that training be strengthened for all police staff and that reports of excessive use of force be rapidly investigated; to improve the relationship between the Roma community and the forces of law and order; to improve effective access to education of people with disabilities; to ensure better health provisions in prisons; and facilitate prosecution of domestic violence and to implement improved measures for protection of victims. 

Responding to questions and issues raised, Mr. Lourtie said that the creation of the new National Human Rights Commission should be announced next March at the Human Rights Council session. Several measures had been adopted to support education, including through extending obligatory schooling to the age of eighteen. There was a national commission to combat discrimination and racial discrimination and to promote inter-cultural dialogue at all levels, and there were national and local immigrant support offices that provided integrated support and information to all immigrants. With regards to street children, this phenomenon had been gradually diminishing in Portugal, thanks to considerable efforts. The budget for non-discrimination had also considerably increased, and there was training to build capacities to work for gender equality, fight domestic and gender-based violence, and promote women's entrepreneurship. 

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were China, Brazil, Philippines, Cuba, Egypt, Netherlands, India, Mexico, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium, Pakistan, Chile, France, Russian Federation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Japan, Angola, Ukraine, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Norway, Argentina, Mauritius, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Bangladesh.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Belarus, Finland, Canada, Azerbaijan, Germany, Malaysia, Algeria, Turkey, Iran, Czech Republic, Libya, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Australia, Morocco, and Bulgaria. 

The twenty-five-person delegation of Portugal consisted of representatives from the Secretariat of State for Internal Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministries of Justice, of Foreign Affairs, of Internal Administration, of Labour and Social Solidarity, the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, the Judiciary Police, and the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Portugal are Qatar, Belgium, and Hungary.

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 Portugal can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Portugal on Tuesday 8 December.

Adoption of report on Norway: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Norway are Pakistan, Ukraine, and Nigeria. Introducing the report, MartinI. Uhomoibhi (Nigeria) said the delegation of Norway had demonstrated a positive spirit throughout the process. Representing the State under review, BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN said that without the cooperation of all States, this mechanism would be far less credible. Norway came to the meeting committed to an open and frank discussion of the actual situation in the country, and appreciated the results of that discussion, as behind the insightful and constructive comments lay commitment and hard work. 

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Bhutan.

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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