Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
Third session meeting highlights
5 December 2008 (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 Liechtenstein this morning, during which 26 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 Barbados following the review of the country on Wednesday, 3 December.
Presenting the national report of Liechtenstein was RITA KIEBER-BECK, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who affirmed that human rights had been defined as one of the priorities of Liechtenstein’s foreign policy when the country joined the UN 18 years ago. Since then Liechtenstein had become a State party to the large majority of human rights treaties of this organization and had strived to live up to its obligations under those treaties. These include the regular reporting to the treaty bodies and an active follow-up to their recommendations. The national report was the result of transparent and close cooperation between different parts of the national administration as well as of an active participation from civil society. Among the recent developments in the area of human rights was the drafting of a the new Children and Youth Act, which paved the way for the Government’s proposal for accession to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. Parliament will consider the accession to this Convention next week. The State also created the Independent National Preventive Mechanism for the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture which had legal basis in the revised Execution of Sentences Act. This Act also incorporated several improvements which reflected recommendations issued by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture. Since the submission of its national report Liechtenstein’s Parliament had also adopted the new Naturalization Act and the Foreigners Act. Moreover, in November this year Parliament approved the budget for 2009, which included a further increase in expenditure for development cooperation activities.
Responding to a series of questions posed in advance, the Minister noted that the inter-office Equal Opportunity Commission and its operation Office of Equal Opportunity were established in 2005. The Commission defined strategies on questions of equal opportunity with social relevance, developed recommendations for action, observed developments, monitored implementation measures, and advised the Government. The Liechtenstein Gender Equality Act was introduced in 1999 since which it had amended several times in order to transpose relevant EU legislation into the Liechtenstein legal order. The equality of women and men at the legal level had almost been completely achieved. The many projects launched by the Office of Equal Opportunity covered areas such as education, work, compatibility between family and job responsibilities, violence against women and politics. The next opportunity to measure the effect of these activities will be the Parliamentary elections to be held in February 2009. Currently the Liechtenstein Parliament had a share of 24% of female members. As regards the setting up of a coherent system of data collection for the fight against racism, the independent Liechtenstein research institute was currently in the process of elaborating a concept for the improvement of data collection and evaluation with regard to different forms of discrimination.
As regards the questions in respect of detention, the Minister pointed out that the Liechtenstein Government had considered very seriously the recommendations issued by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture after its two latest visits and had taken the necessary steps to ensure that the right of access to a lawyer was formally guaranteed to all persons from the outset of their deprivation of liberty. As to measures addressing right-wing extremist activities, it was noted that in 2003 the Government appointed the Commission on Protection from Violence chaired by the National Police which, among other things, monitored more closely the evolution of persons adhering to such ideologies, to prosecute criminal offences linked to right-wing extremism, and to take all necessary measures to prevent activities of the radical right. Concerning human trafficking, at the national level, a Round Table on Human Trafficking was established in 2006 in order to improve cooperation among law enforcement authorities, the Victims Assistance Unit, and other involved offices in uncovering cases of trafficking. In 2007, the members of the Round Table prepared a guideline on the handling of cases of trafficking of persons in Liechtenstein. The Round Table was currently developing a prevention project for the nightclub dancers in Liechtenstein who were considered to be the most vulnerable group for human trafficking.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the participation of non-nationals in local politics; the establishment of the Working Group on the Integration of Muslims in 2004; the adoption of a National Action Plan aimed at implementing the conclusions of the Durban Conference against Racism; the State’s efforts to combat racism, intolerance and xenophobia and the establishment of the five-year action plan against racism; the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission; steps taken to combat domestic violence; the creation of the Ombudsman for Children; efforts to safeguard the rights of detainees; cooperation with civil society in the production of the national report; Liechtenstein’s accession to several international human rights treaties; the creation of the Round Table to combat human trafficking; and the abolition of the death penalty in Liechtenstein.
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 measures taken at enhancing raising awareness to eliminate stereotyping and attitudes regulated traditional roles for women; specific difficulties encountered in achieving a gender balance in decision-making bodies; measures taken to ensure gender equality and the steps taken to implement to recommendations of CEDAW with regard to gender-based discrimination in the workplace; and measures taken to follow up on the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner to address the situation of foreign spouses that were victims of proven domestic violence, in particular allowing resident permits of foreign spouses to be independent form marital relationship.
Other questions concerned the State’s policies to address the needs of children whose parent(s) were incarcerated; provisions made for alternatives to custody for pregnant women and mothers of babies or young children; information on children born out of wedlock; measures taken or planned to address the problem of immigrant children who reportedly performed poorly in school compared to children of Liechtenstein origin and steps taken to promote the integration of these children; measures taken to enable children of immigrant origin equal opportunities in access to education, including high education and eventually in access to employment; and the status of the ratification of the Convention on Persons with Disabilities.
Additionally, the Working Group posed questions pertaining to measures for the protection of the rights of migrants, regardless of their migratory status and steps taken to integrate them into society regardless of their county of origin; the intention of the State to improve family reunification policies; measures to facilitate access to citizenship; interaction with the Working Group on the Integration of Muslims or other migrant groups about the impact of the existing procedures on family reunification and naturalization; steps taken with the aim of eliminating the phenomenon of xenophobia and intolerance against Muslims and persons of Turkish origin in Liechtenstein; and plans to create a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To implement the recommendations of CEDAW and the CESCR aimed at improving the situation of women; to continue exploring new policy measures to achieve a gender balance in decision making bodies; to enhance efforts to ensure the equality of men and women in the labour market; to step up efforts to eliminate domestic violence, punish offenders and provide assistance to victims; to pursue efforts in drafting and enacted a law to establish a register for same sex couples; to accede to the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to impose a legal ban on all forms of corporal punishment; and to set up a mechanism to implement the rights of the child.
Other recommendations included: To step up efforts to improve the rights of migrants in Liechtenstein; to consider granting voting rights to long-term resident non-citizens in local elections; to consider setting up a mechanism which would allow non-citizens to be consulted and participate actively in the political decision making process on the local level; to accede to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; to step up efforts to stamp out all forms of discrimination, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; to maintain efforts towards adopting its National Action Plan against Racism; to continue to take further steps with regard to the situation of minority groups into the education process; to continue monitoring closely tendencies that may give rise to racist and xenophobia acts in accordance with the recommendations of CERD and other treaty bodies; to reinforce efforts to promote ethnic and religious tolerance between people of different groups in Liechtenstein; and to set up a data collection system to evaluate the situation of different minority groups in Liechtenstein and to determine the extent of manifestations of racism and direct and indirect racial discrimination.
Another group of recommendations included: To accede to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; to consider ratifying the ILO core labour standard conventions; to pursue the commitment to provide 0.7% of its GDP to ODA Assistance; to consider establishing an independent human rights institution in compliance to the Paris Principles; and to continue to consult stakeholders in the follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review.
Working Group Members taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Argentina, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, China, Cuba, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Slovenia.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Sweden, Monaco, Norway, Turkey, Algeria, Romania, Iran and Guatemala.
The 11-person delegation of Liechtenstein consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Immigration and Passport Office, the Office of Education, the Office of Equal Rights and Opportunities, the Criminal Investigation Division of the National Police, the Office of Social Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN Office at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Liechtenstein are Germany, Mexico and Jordan.
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 Liechtenstein can be found here.
Adoption of report on Barbados: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Barbados are South Africa, Japan and the United Kingdom. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika SHINICHI KITAJIMA (Japan) said the report comprehensively reflected the dialogues made and recommendations proposed by many delegations in the review. The troika recognized that the review of Barbados was yet another successful outcome of the Universal Periodic Review. The report included 21 recommendations which the State of Barbados would consider in the coming months and report back to the Human Rights Council. Representing the State under review, CHRISTOPHER SINCKLER, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development of Barbados, said the Universal Periodic Review process presented his country with a platform to do even more for its citizens and to that end welcomed the opportunity to have taken part in this exercise. One of the crucial aspects of the review was that it allowed for recommendations to be coupled with technical assistance needs and requests. As the State under review, Barbados had the obligation to conduct a national process to determine which of the specific recommendations it should adopt immediately. Equally, the donor community and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had the responsibility to also take initiatives to support Barbados based on these recommendations.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Liechtenstein on Wednesday, 10 December.
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 Serbia after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Montenegro.
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