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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

4 May 2009 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group began its fifth session this morning during which it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the fifth group of States under this new process. The fifth session of the Working Group will last from 4 to 15 May.

· During its morning session the Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Central African Republic, during which 43 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· Presenting the national report of the Central African Republic was HENRI MAЇDOU, former Vice President of the Central African Republic and Personal Adviser of the Head of State in charge of human rights and good governance, who, at the onset, expressed thanks for the special attention paid to the Central African Republic by the Human Rights Council and the international community with the view to assisting the country overcome difficulties, in particular in realizing its human rights policies and programmes. The country was undergoing a military and political crisis which had paralyzed all State facilities and institutions and the financial and economic crises made the mobilization of funds and resources to address ongoing challenges even more difficult. The National Assembly had been working in earnest to overcome the difficulties facing the country, chief among them to resolve the current political and military crises.

Recalling the dialogue that was held in Bangui in December 2008 which established an ongoing political dialogue between the Government and its partners, the speaker expressed hope that this dialogue would serve well to resolve the crises. Among the progress thus far achieved was the establishment of a tri-partite commission and demobilizing of former rebels, both of which have brought about a rebirth in trust between the national army and the people. The deployment of United Nations forces in the northeast of the country had made it possible to allow IDPs and refugees to return. The reactivation of the permanent military tribunal had also helped stabilize the country. Other notable achievements had been the decrease in the armed robbery rates and the establishment of the National Mediation Council.

The Government was resolutely committed to the path towards democracy and was determined to rebuild the country, consolidate peace and enhance national cohesion, Mr. Maïdou added. Towards that goal, the Government of the Central African Republic had decided to take the following voluntary measures: to rehabilitate between now and 2012 the national commission for human rights; to ratify Convention 169 of 1989 of the International Labour Organization addressing the right of indigenous peoples; to prepare and adopt a national plan of action on the promotion and protection of human rights between now and 2010; to adopt a new penal code and code for criminal procedures for military justice, drafts of which are already in place; and to combat impunity for those who commit human rights violations and other crimes and related offences. While the Government was determined to implement these measures, among others, this determination was not enough, he added. To implement these measures additional assistance was required. It was further noted that the Government of the Central African Republic was working towards holding elections in 2010.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts undertaken which led to a reconciliation plan; the inclusive political dialogue held in Bangui in December 2008; the progress achieved and the stability maintained in the country since the restoration of the institutions of the country with the 2004 Constitution; the de facto moratorium on executions; efforts to combat discrimination; the national policy on the promotion of equality between men and women; health polices under preparation, in particular in the area of vaccination programmes; the recent law on reproductive health; the development of the National Health Development Plan; efforts taken to overcome poverty and to respect human rights; the national policy to combat poverty; the setting up of a national committee to draft human rights reports; and the institution of a national plan of action on human rights as well as the National Action Plan to combat domestic violence 2007-2011 and the National Plan of Action on women’s rights 2007-2011.

· 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 issues, the national action plan to combat violence against women; efforts to prevent discrimination against women in the area of education; steps to comply with recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on extra judicial killings to eliminate all acts of killings of women charged with acts of witchcraft; action being considered to prevent all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls; whether the Government was considering to take additional measures to combat female genital mutilation; strategies applied to combat discrimination against girls and children with disabilities; measures being taken to facilitate the return of IDPs to their localities of origin and to improve their living conditions; the scope of the national policy to combat poverty; concrete action taken to prevent HIV/AIDS and malaria, in particular; and practices and norms in place to guarantee the enjoyment of fundamental rights for the population.

Other issues pertained to measures taken to combat impunity at all levels; steps being taken to prevent extrajudicial killings and to bring those responsible to justice; plans in place to improve prison conditions; allegations of torture and enforced disappearances; steps taken to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings; steps taken by the Government to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers currently serving in government-sanctioned self-defense militias; steps to create a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for child soldiers currently serving in various rebel groups or the self-defence militias; steps taken to re-establish security in the north of the country; measures envisaged to enhance security measures for journalists and to ensure that they were able to work without intimidation; steps to ensure that the security forces respected their obligations per international human rights and humanitarian law; and measures taken to ensure the protection of civilians from road bandits.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To request for technical assistance from the international community, particularly from United Nations bodies and programmes, to assist it in implementing human rights polices and programmes and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; to extend an open invitation to all Special Procedures; to continue collaboration with the OHCHR and other United Nations bodies engaged in its reconstruction efforts; to create a national commission for human rights in close cooperation with the United Nations; to continue extensive reforms with a view to addressing institutional shortcomings, in particularly illiteracy eradication and poverty reduction; to devote more resources to programmes that combat poverty and illiteracy in the country; to continue putting in place strategies to combat poverty, especially in rural areas; to take further measures to combat maternal mortality and to make available free medical assistance to pregnant women; to guarantee the right to education of all children and to take additional measures to increase the rate of school enrolment rates in primary schools; and to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Other recommendations included for the Central African Republic to consider acceding to the Convention against Torture; to strengthen efforts to guarantee within police custody the minimum conditions within international standards and to follow up on recommendations of United Nations bodies in this regard; to continue to strengthen its courts of justice; to implement a thorough training and awareness programme in international humanitarian and human rights law for members of the security forces; to ensure that the revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure is used to eliminate all provisions relating to the death penalty as a criminal sanction; to consider abolishing the death penalty; to prevent extrajudicial killings by members of the military, including the presidential guard, and bring those members of the military responsible for extrajudicial killings to justice; to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the civilian deaths and injuries that took place in the country between 2005 and mid 2007; and to implement legal sanctions against those who committed human rights abuses in the security forces, in additional to administrative sanctions such as dismissal.

The State under review was also encouraged to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Children on children in armed conflict; to prevent the unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by directing the Ministry of the Interior to systematically monitor self-defense militias; to implement measures to promote the reintegration of child soldiers into society; to adopt laws based on the International Criminal Code Statutes that would criminalize war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity; to take necessary measures to safeguard the rights of IDPs and refugees and ensure the protection of the civilian population according to international standards; and to enact a national law on internal displacement and to address the basic needs of those affected by internal displacement.

Additionally it was recommended that the Central African Republic prohibit female genital mutilation and take further steps to address the occurrence of this practice; to improve women’s political participation, educational opportunities, and status in marriage relationships; to amend domestic legislation to protect children for all forms of violence; to ratify the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; to amend the Penal Code to decriminalize witchcraft; to modify legislative provisions that may be discriminatory for women and in particular to speed up the process of bringing the Family Code in line with international instruments; and to enhance awareness-raising campaigns to combat and eradicate female genital mutilation.

Other recommendations included to accede to the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; that State authorities gave human rights defenders legitimacy and to ensure they were protected and free to carry out their work; to ensure that humanitarian workers were able to carry out their work freely and unhindered; to take tangible and concrete steps to deliver free and fair presidential elections without due delay; to abolish polygamy; and to review all relevant national legislation to ensure it complied fully with international legislation in terms of eliminating all forms of discrimination.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Brazil, Netherlands, Nigeria, Djibouti, Italy, France, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, China, Canada, Egypt, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Ghana, Argentina, Angola, Gabon, Japan, Senegal, Cameroon and Bangladesh.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Sweden, Portugal, the United States, the Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Chad, Viet Nam, Norway, Austria, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Tunisia.

· The six-person delegation of the Central African Republic consisted of representatives of the Office of the President of the Republic, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Good Governance, the Permanent Military Tribunal and the Permanent Mission of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Central African Republic are Gabon, Bolivia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

· 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 Central African Republic can be found here.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Central African Republic on Wednesday, 6 May.

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

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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