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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


4 February 2009 (morning)
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 the Russian Federation this morning, during which 55 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 Germany, following the review of the country on Monday, 2 February.

· Presenting the national report of the Russian Federation was Alexander V. KONOVALOV, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, who noted that his country was fully committed to implementing its international obligations in the area of human rights and that the Russian Federation was one of the key drafters in a series of key international human rights treaties, which had supremacy over domestic legislation in the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation had, over the years, invited several UN Special Rapporteurs to visit the country and had a close cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other international human rights bodies. The Office of the Ombudsman was recently created in the Russian Federation which had authority on human rights issues and was in full compliance with the Paris Principles. The Russian Federation was committed to broadening its international cooperation in the area of human rights and would develop its cooperation with the OHCHR, the Minster added.

Over the last decades the Russian Federation had undertaken a unique transition from a totalitarian to a democratic State. There were a number of important problems stemming from this transition, among them, the Russian Federation’s isolation from Europe. The Russian Federation was improving its basic institutional entities, particularly in the area of human rights, many of which did not exist some 20 years ago. Unprecedented measures were being taken to overcome corruption manifested in improvements to the police and judicial sectors. There was an acknowledgement that there was a need for increased monitoring and improvement of these sectors.

The Russian Federation was a huge country with a complex ethnic composition, the Minister stated. Among the various steps taken for the benefit of the population were measures to overcome poverty. While noting that the Russian Federation had a long-standing partnership with the European Union, he noted that there were new forms of exploitation of women, which were being tackled by the Government, largely in cooperation with neighbouring countries. Moreover, a series of measures were being taken to address the scourge of terrorism as manifested by the State’s counter-terrorism polices, which bore in mind human rights international standards.

The question of minorities was a vital one in the Russian Federation and religious groups were able to assemble and practice their faith without restrictions due to liberal laws in that regard, he said. In the Russian Federation there were a huge number of media outlets who were able to work freely in the country. As to the security of journalists, the Minister noted that there was no repression of journalists in the Russian Federation. In conclusion, the Minister stated that the most demanding requirements of human rights in the Russian Federation were being addressed in earnest by the Government. This was of utmost importance when guaranteeing the rights of those living in the country.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the efforts of the Government to combat racism; the national plans in place in the areas of health and education and strides made in these areas; progress made in reducing the rate of child mortality; efforts made in the area of freedom of religion; judicial reforms measures and to combat corruption; the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman; the overall progress made in human rights legislation and polices; cooperation between the Russian Federation and international human rights mechanisms; and the constructive engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

· 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 measures taken by the Government to ensure the personal security of human rights defenders; the impact of the recent assassination of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov in the streets of Moscow on the policy of the Government regarding human rights defenders; measures to extend media freedom and to improve working conditions for journalists in the Russian Federation; the status of implementation of the recommendation issued by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders; the status of the investigations into crimes committed against Ukrainian leaders between of 2000 and 2006; and steps taken to address the concerns voiced by the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances with regard to counter-terrorism operations.

Other issues raised pertained to the draft reforms on the penal system; the invitation of the Special Rapporteur on torture; measures to improve the conditions of prisoners; efforts made to punish law enforcement officials guilty of acts of torture; efforts made in the judicial reform process; best practices incorporated in the training of law enforcement officers; steps being taken to address the concern of the Committee against Torture; the time frame for extending a standing invitation to the Special Procedures to visit to the country; the status of ratification of Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights; experiences in launching the Social Forum and Public Council on Migration; and the allegations that NGOs were facing various obstacles in carrying out their activities as a result of the recently adopted legislation on NGOs.

Additional questions and comments covered the steps to safeguard the fulfilment of language rights for minority groups; existing policies with respect to the protection of persons with disabilities; steps taken to improve the situation for national minorities; measures in place to address racial discrimination issues comprehensively; steps taken to protect the rights of migrant workers; measures to minimize the adverse effects of the global economic crisis on economic and social rights; and awareness raising measures on the area of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Additionally, States raised issues on the measures to stop human trafficking and plans to enact specific legislation on human trafficking; measures taken to address the concerns of street children; the status of implementation of the National Plan of Action to increase women’s representation in decision-making positions; measures taken to combat violence against women; whether corporal punishment was prohibited in the family and alternative care settings; plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; the objectives to protect the rights of the family and the child; plans to protect children from all forms of violence; and policies to increase school attendance.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To accede to the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture; to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on torture; to review and improve prison conditions, in particular juvenile prisons facilities; to establish a juvenile justice system to help juveniles reintegrate into society, bearing in mind international standards in this regard; to provide law enforcement personnel with human rights training to become party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; to implement its announcement to abolish the death penalty, de jura; to ratify the Optional Protocol the ICCPR; to establish a special system of juvenile justice; to strengthen ongoing efforts to reform the judicial system in line with international standards; and to increase efforts to overcome corruption.

Other recommendations included: To take further measures to ensure the security of journalists and human rights defenders and to bring and perpetrators of crimes against them to justice; to take all possible measures to combat crimes committed against journalists; to improve conditions for the proper functioning of independent media; to respect and protect the ability of human rights defenders and lawyers to carry out their work without hindrance, intimidation or harassment; and to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation in to the assassinations of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov and bring those responsible to justice.

The Russian Federation was also recommended to provide access to Ingushetia and the North Caucasus for the UN Working Group on enforced disappearances and the Special Rapporteurs on torture and extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions; to ratify the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; to address the concerns expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the use of torture in the Chechen Republic as well as concerns by the Committee against Torture; to immediately de-occupy the territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, South Ossetia and, until remaining in the territories in question, to comply with the obligations incumbent upon the occupying power by the rules of international humanitarian law; to fully comply with the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice; to implement the relevant provisions of resolution 1648 (2009) adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; to halt forced distribution of passports certifying Russian citizenship among ethnic Georgians in the occupied territories controlled by the Russian armed forces; and to put an end to all practices limiting and/or violating the human rights of ethnic Georgians in the territories controlled by the Russian armed forces. A State also recommended that if no investigation had been launched into the crimes committed against Ukrainian leaders between of 2000 and 2006, to launch such an investigation.

Another set of recommendation included: To establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty; to create an environment to promote the freedom of assembly and to encourage citizens to express their views; to continue positive work achieved in the area of health and education; to withdraw reservation to core human rights instruments; to take measures to ensure that the rights of ethnic minorities were ensured; to take further efforts to address unemployment, socio-economic inequality and social vulnerability; to step up efforts to protect economic and social rights for the most vulnerable section of the population; to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the United Nations human rights; and to ratify the Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Additionally, recommendations included to establish shelters and safe house for victims of domestic violence; to adopt legislative measures to outlaw domestic violence; to adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat domestic violence; to continue efforts to promote equality between men and women; to take additional measures to combat human trafficking; to develop a range of measures to uphold the principles of Convention on the rights of the child; to enhance efforts to provide equal education opportunities for children with disabilities; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; to take further measures to combat to combat extremism and adopt specific measures in that regard; to continue work to combat discrimination and related intolerance; to pay special attention to racially motivated crimes; to develop strong institutional frameworks that will help to combat racism; to establish data on racially motivated hate crimes; to ratify the Convention on the rights of migrant workers; to increase efforts in order to promote tolerance and non-discrimination of LGTB persons; to set up a national mechanism to counter racial violence; to ratify the Convention on the persons with disabilities; to ensure full respect of the rights of persons belonging to minorities and indigenous groups; and to ratify the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Pakistan, China, Nicaragua, Cuba, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Africa, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Mexico, Argentina and India.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Czech Republic, Finland, Algeria, Austria, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Serbia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Palestine, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Montenegro, Belarus, Morocco, Georgia, Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

· The 40-person delegation of the Russian Federation consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Russian Federation are Ghana, Chile and Bahrain

· 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 the Russian Federation can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Germany: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Germany are Cameroon, the Republic of Korea and France. Introducing the report JEAN BAPTISTE MATTÉI (France), after making four oral amendments to the draft report proposed that the Working Group adopt the report of Germany. Representing the State under review, REINHOLD SCHWEPPE, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reaffirming the statement of the Deputy Minister of Monday, said that for the German Government and German Parliament, represented through its human rights committee and four German civil society, the comments, questions and recommendations raised during the interactive discussion were a most welcome moment for Germany to reflect about its commitment to human rights, in particular its efforts to improve on implementation. Germany accepted the draft report, as adopted ad referendum.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Russian Federation on Friday, 6 February.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Azerbaijan after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Djibouti.

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