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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

8 May 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 Chile this morning, during which 51 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 the Republic of Congo, following the review of the country on Wednesday, 6 May.

· Presenting the national report of Chile was JOSE ANTONIO VIERA-GALLO, Minister Secretary-General of the Presidency of Chile, who recalled that in 1990 his country embarked on the reconstruction of a democratic system based on respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural -, valuing their universality, indivisibility and interdependence. Accordingly, the Government of Chile adopted a policy aimed at balancing economic growth and human development, providing a fruitful equilibrium between market and State. Simultaneously, Chile set off the search for truth, justice and reparation with regard to the massive and systematic human rights violations perpetrated during a dictatorship which lasted for 17 years. A thorough modernization of the judicial system was carried through, including the Penal Process Reform, the reform of the juvenile justice, the family court reform and the labor law reform, the elaboration of a new Penal Code, and a Prison System Improvement. A project for a new Code of Military Justice was also being prepared. Other significant reforms were the abolishment of the death penalty in the Penal Code and in the Code of Military Justice in times of peace; norms on freedom of expression, the new cult law that warranted religious freedom, and the norms on transparency and accountability with the subsequent creation of the Transparency Council as autonomous Government institution. A bill against discrimination was also being discussed in Congress. The recent typification of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes will allow the ratification of the Rome Statute. The approval process of the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Forced Disappearance by the Parliament was also at a very advance stage.

The democratic governments of Chile have made endeavours to deepen the recognition of their rights and promote their identity, establishing the historical truth about their contribution to the development of the nation and redressing the unfair treatment they have been given during centuries, the Minister stated. Constitutional recognition of the indigenous populations was a process under discussion in Congress subject to wide consultation with the indigenous communities. A Social Pact for Multiculturality, under the name "Re-Conocer" ("Re-Cognition") has been put into place. A land restitution program has been established: 500,000 hectares of land handed over to indigenous communities, for the benefit of 22,000 families. A law on the rights of indigenous communities in coastal areas has also been adopted. The Government of Chile was working on the implementation of the recently ratified ILO Convention number 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Populations in Independent Countries. Chile has strongly progressed in legal, political and cultural aspects of the gender issue: a National Women’s Service has therefore been created and there and there was an increase of women’s participation in the labour market reaching over 40% of the labour force. It was recalled that for the first time in history a woman occupied the post of Head of State and Government.

The Social Protection System in place has permitted Chile to face the present economic and financial crisis with solidarity, the Minister said. In this regard, President Bachelet explicitly committed herself to maintaining and increasing the resources attributed to this system. The laws on increasing unemployment insurance and on encouraging employment of young people with a special subsidy grant were evidence of Chile's affirmation. Poverty fell from 38.6% in 1990 to 13.7% in 2006 and the population below poverty line fell from 13% in 1990 to only 3.2% in 2006. These figures reflected the progress of Chilean families. The Government was set to create a National Human Rights Institute, based on the Paris Principles and was also elaborating a National Human Rights Plan. The Minister also announced that his country’s decision to extend an open and permanent invitation to all special procedures of the Human Rights Council to visit our country.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts to investigate and bring to trial those responsible for committing human rights violations during the military dictatorship; the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; security reforms underway in the country; the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; efforts to overhaul the prison system; Chile’s demonstration of judicial independence; ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; efforts to respect the human rights of women and to combat discrimination and violence against women; the establishment of the National Service for Women; efforts to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples; the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples; the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; steps to reduce poverty; and the standing invitation extended to the United Nations Special Procedures.

· 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, to what degree the ILO Convention 169 on indigenous peoples had been implemented; measures taken to promote the rights of indigenous peoples and their situation; measures envisages to address land property rights issues for indigenous peoples; information about the pending anti-discrimination law; whether current legislation covered acts of discrimination against persons based on their religion or belief; steps to guarantee the right to freedom of expression and assembly; the experiences of Chile in seeking truth and reconciliation; experiences in handling the balance between truth and justice on the one hand, and reconciliation on the other; clarification was sought on the issue of reparation to victims of human rights abuses committed during the military dictatorship; steps ahead in upgrading detention facilities; when the State would ratify the Convention on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the 1967 Minors Act; and steps to improve prisons conditions, given cases of overcrowding in prisons.

· Other issues and questions pertained to efforts being take to decrease the number of incidents of domestic violence; the current status of Chile’s efforts to address the issue if human trafficking; measures being taken to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights of women; the ratification process of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW; efforts underway to reduce the level of domestic violence against women; specific experiences that could be shared with other countries as regards achieving the MDGs; measures to reduce the discrepancies on living standards between urban and rural areas; measures to improve health services in-country; areas where technical assistance could be welcome; steps underway to designate and establish an effective National Preventive Mechanism in Chile; an evaluation by the Government of cooperation with the performance of the local office of the OHCHR; and steps towards establishing an independent national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles; to approve the National Plan of Action on Human Rights; to strengthen efforts to promote the human rights culture in schools; to continue to strengthen efforts in poverty alleviation; to guarantee effective access to education for all children, especially those from indigenous communities, living in rural areas and living below the poverty line; to increase budget allocations to education; to review and modify legislation to ensure that all forms of discrimination were prohibited; to implement laws that prohibited any type of discrimination against women; to ensure that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity be prohibited; and to take further steps to address discrimination against women and people belonging to vulnerable groups including children, minorities and indigenous people.

Chile was also encouraged to undertake measures to enact necessary legislation to combat violence against women and to ensure equal remuneration and their enhance participation in public decision-making; to combat the problem of human trafficking and prostitution, including through national legislation; to take concerted efforts to eliminate any obstacles that prevented women from entering the labour market; to include the principle of equal pay for equal work in national polices; to take further efforts to decrease the number of incidents of domestic violence; to work with relevant NGOs to educate law enforcement officials on domestic violence; to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW; to take further efforts to develop and implement appropriate legislative and administrative measures to provide equal employment opportunities for men and women and to address the wage gap.

Additionally, States recommended that Chile ensure that the right of the Mapuches were fully respected; to pay special attention to the indigenous population when implementing poverty reduction strategies; to intensify work to improve the situation of indigenous populations; to guarantee the participation of indigenous people in political life; to take all necessary steps to implement all provisions of ILO Convention 169; to continue to promote a constructive dialogue with members of indigenous communities; to review anti-terrorist law and their application so that they cannot be abused for persecution of persons from the Mapuche community for their political or religious activity; to ensure that indigenous children were provided with identity documents; to tackle the problem of street children and child labour, as well as discrimination against indigenous children; and to continue efforts to solve the problems of indigenous peoples, in particular their land issues.

Other recommendations included to continue to reform and upgrade the detentions system in order to improve the situation of inmates in prison; to consider ratifying the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; to ratifying the Convention on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and accept the competence of the standing committee on enforced or involuntary disappearances; to adopt a definition of torture; to continue efforts to combat impunity; to seek accountability for abuses by police and ensure that civilian authorities investigate, prosecute and try human rights abuses by police; to establish an effective National Preventive Mechanism within the one year deadlines established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and hold early civil society consultations on the sort of mechanism that would be most appropriate; to continue efforts to modernize the justice system; to ensure that persons below the age of 18 were tried by a specialised juvenile justice system; and to provide specific human rights training to all law enforcement officials.

The State under review was also encouraged to put an end to trials of civilians by military courts; to fully investigate alleges cases of torture and excessive use of force committee by police and security forces and bring the perpetrators to justice; to expedite the investigation and trial of the gross human rights violations committed during the past military dictatorship to ensure adequate compensation and reparations for the victims and their families; to adapt the military justice system in line with international standards and to guarantee that civilians were not tried through military justice; to strengthen the compensation process through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; take further efforts to ensure that abortion laws were brought in line with Chile’s legislation; to continue to adhere to the cultural and religious values which made up the identity of the country; to review legislation to criminalize the termination of pregnancy; and to ensure full compliance with all obligations assumed by Chile under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as under all other international human rights treaties and to revise domestic legislation that may still be incompatible with these obligations.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were China, Malaysia, Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Germany, India, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Bolivia, Argentina, France, Italy, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Ghana, Slovenia and Canada.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Syria, Austria, New Zealand, Finland, Turkey, the United States, Morocco, Guatemala, the Holy See, Lebanon, Palestine, Peru, Uzbekistan, Spain, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, Latvia, Colombia, Uruguay, the Czech Republic, Ecuador and Viet Nam.

· The 25-person delegation of Chile consisted of representatives of the Office of the Presidency, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the Office of the National Programme for Human Rights, the National Council on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Office of Immigration, the Ministry of Family Planning and the Permanent Mission of Chile to the UN Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Chile are Cuba, Qatar and Senegal.

· 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 Chile can be found here.

· Adoption of report on the Republic of Congo: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Republic of Congo are Bahrain, Madagascar and the Netherlands. Introducing the report ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) welcomed the level of commitment of the Congolese delegation during the preparation of the review and drafting of the report, which was a signal of the importance the State attached to the UPR process. The troika hoped that the Republic of Congo would be able to take positive encouragement from this process by continuing to promote and protect human rights constructively and apply all recommendations which have gained its support. Representing the State under review, JEAN-MARTIN MBEMBA, Minister of State of Public Function and Reform, said his country was aware that the sustainable development of the Republic of Congo would only be possible through an all-inclusive dialogue throughout the country. Of the 59 recommendations mentioned in the report, the Republic of Congo accepted 50, while one was being considered further and 8 have been rejected, as they have already been taken into account by the Congolese authorities. The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, was firmly committed to strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, he added.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Chile on Tuesday, 12 May.

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

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