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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


9 December 2008 (afternoon)
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 Burkina Faso this afternoon, during which 46 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Israel following the review of the country on Thursday, 4 December.

· Presenting the national report of Burkina Faso was SALAMATA SAWADOGO, Minister of the Promotion of Human Rights, who said Burkina Faso had supported the Universal Periodic Review since its outset with a view to ensuring the universality and interdependence of human rights. This process was similar to the African Union review process, through which Burkina Faso’s review was conducted. The Government of Burkina Faso brought together various representatives of civil society in preparation of its national report to the Universal Periodic Review. The Constitution of 1991 instituted a State governed by democratic law and enshrined the fundamental rights and duties of all human beings. Burkina Faso had ratified most of the international human rights instruments, after which they become superior to national laws. There was a National Commission on Human Rights whose main task was to provide advice on human rights matters; a Bill was currently being reviewed to bring this body in compliance with the Paris Principles. The Government was combating all forms of corruption as well as determining its root causes, such as poverty, illiteracy and improper governance. The fight against corruption had been one of the priority areas of the Government. Each year there was a national day organized facilitating a direct dialogue between civilians and government. Moreover the government had designed a plan to enhance access to justice. Many members had also undertaken to improve the working conditions and functioning of the judicial system. Efforts had also been taken to improve the independence of the judiciary. Other measures were being taken to improve the conditions of detention centres. Social rehabilitation was also an area being addressed.

It was expected that the death penalty would be abolished in Burkina Faso; not one execution was carried out in 20 years, she stated. As to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, measures were being taken so that it could be ratified in the next few months. The Government was preparing a formal request seeking technical assistance from the international community to enhance the human rights framework in the country. Among other things, a national gender policy framework was in its final stages and the aim was to adopt it in 2009. Measures were being taken to ensure that women had a better socio-economic situation and there was a micro-finance programme in place which aimed to benefit women; other strategies had been developed to combat violence against women. As to female genital mutilation, a national committee was working to eliminate this practice; to this end there was also a national action plan. The right to health was implemented by a hospital law that translates to free heath care for all. Human trafficking plans and polices were also instituted. A cooperation agreement was signed in 2006 between countries in the region to combat human trafficking of women and children. In 2005, Burkina Faso ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. In 1999, in partnership with the ILO, the Government of Burkina Faso engaged in a national programme to eliminate child labour. A special department had also been set up within the Government to ensure that women and children’s health were fully respected.

Despite the efforts made by the Government, difficulties persisted in the area of the promotion and protection of human rights, the Minister stated. The Government therefore called on the international community for support in this regard. Burkina Faso would live up to its efforts in promoting and protecting human rights in the country.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts undertaken to respect the freedom of religion; steps to respect of the rights of minorities and the rights of women and children; policies to promote the role of women; the steps to provide education; the State’s policy to combat poverty; the improvement of the human rights despite the challenges remaining; the appointment of a minister to promote human rights; the creation of the Commission on Information Technology and Freedoms; the establishment of a national ethics committee; the accession to most of the international convention on human rights; steps to consolidating democracy; the role of the Ombudsman; the involvement of civil society in the preparation of the national report; the creation of a fund for victims of political violence; and conducting human rights education in the country.

· 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 intention of the State to abolish the death penalty; measures being taken or considered for the reform of the judiciary as well as the penal system; measures taken to ensure a humane treatment of minors in case of arrest; the existence of private militia; the status of the national complaints procedure system; and measures intended to improve the freedom of the press.

Other questions pertained to the policies to promote gender equality; the functioning of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women; the rights of women and measures taken by the authorities to counter violence against women; steps to decrease the level of domestic violence; how the Government addressed the issue of forced and early marriage and steps to raise awareness to the rights of women; steps to address cases of social and cultural practices that discriminate against women, particularly in rural areas; the extent to which the views of children on human rights matters were considered, in light of the children’s parliament in Burkina Faso; steps to increase the legal minimum age of marriage; specific efforts to combat child trafficking; measures that could be taken to establish special detention centres for children; the steps to address the perceived discrimination towards educational opportunities for girls, children with disabilities, children from wedlock and children in rural areas; and concrete steps to combat child labour.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To adopt specific legislation to prevent and punish violence against women, including domestic violence; to eliminate discrimination against women and fully apply the CEDAW; to set up an anti-trafficking public campaign and to put in place measures to protect its victims and to provide them with the necessary legal and psycho-social assistance and societal reintegration; to implement the State’s national action plan to combat trafficking by bringing to justice those held responsible; to eliminate the practice of polygamy; to share best practices with other countries on combating female genital mutilation; to implement the various international instruments ratified focusing on the protection of the child and enjoyment of children’s rights; to take measures to protect the most vulnerable children; to combat all forms of child labour; and to take further efforts to ensure that social services for children remained a priority of the State.

Several States recommended that Burkina Faso adopt legislation aiming to abolish the death penalty. Other States encouraged the State to ratify the second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to invite the Special Rapporteur on torture to make a visit to the country; to intensify dialogue with the international community on issues of ill treatment; to submit to the Committee against Torture overdue reports; to take additional steps to ensure the independence of the judiciary; to take additional measures to combat corruption; to ameliorate detention conditions and overall detention conditions; to train law enforcement officials in the area of human rights; to take additional steps to improve the access to the justice system; to take all necessary measures to protect journalists who had been victims of intimidation and bring the perpetrators before the courts; and to ease restrictions currently in place to allow for a full and unhindered freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Other recommendations included to increase access to education; to accede to the 1960 UNESCO Convention on education; to take all necessary measures to ensure that employment of children did not interfere with their right to education; to continue to fight poverty to ensure that the benefits are reaped by all citizens; to continue to improve the health care system, and to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS; to take every possible measures to put an end to discrimination against all people with disabilities; to pursue efforts to combat discrimination based on customary and traditional practices; to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; and to ensure that the national human rights commission was in compliance with the Paris Principles. A number of States called on the international community and the OHCHR to support the calls of Burkina Faso by providing it with all the necessary technical and financial assistance to bolster its human rights programmes and policies.

· Working Group Members taking the floor during the interactive discussion were France, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Cuba, China, Mauritius, Angola, Malaysia, Djibouti, Zambia, Nigeria, Brazil, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon, Canada, Senegal and South Africa.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Turkey, Denmark, Viet Nam, Benin, Chad, Luxembourg, Albania, Algeria, Morocco, Sweden, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Latvia, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Syria and Australia.

· The 12-person delegation of Burkina Faso consisted of representatives of the Ministry of the Promotion of Human Rights, the National Commission of Human Rights, the Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Burkina Faso are Switzerland, Qatar and Madagascar.

· 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 Burkina Faso can be found here.

· Adoption of report on Israel: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Israel are the Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) thanked the Government of Israel for its commitment to the UPR process. The report reflected the discussion that took place on 4 December. The troika proposed oral amendments to the report. Representing the State under review AHARON LESHNO-YAAR, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN Office at Geneva, thanked the troika for their hard work and pertinent suggestions and for the delegations who approached the UPR of Israel in a spirit of cooperation. Israel would provide the Council with its reactions to the recommendations laid out in the report in time for the 10th regular session of the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Burkina Faso on Thursday, 11 December.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Cape Verde after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Liechtenstein.

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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