Human Rights Council
18 March 2011
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the United States and held a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.
Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser of the Department of State of the United States of America, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a useful tool to assess how the United States Government could continue to achieve civil society goals. The United States received 228 recommendations on the Universal Periodic Review and he would group them into 10 thematic areas. The United States’ Government did not support recommendations that urged particular action in pending judicial cases nor would it support certain other inappropriate or politically motivated recommendations.
In the discussion on the United States, speakers regretted that a large number of recommendations made during the Working Group had been rejected by the United States, including on the death penalty and the creation of an independent human rights institution and were disappointed that the Government did not take concrete actions to ratify a number of treaties. The democratic tradition of the United States provided positive examples in the promotion and protection of human rights on national and international levels.
Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of the United States were Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Algeria, China, Russian Federation, Egypt, Bolivia, Morocco and Botswana. Human Rights Watch, Indian Council of South America, Word Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, Movement Contre le Racism and Pour L’amitie entre les Peuples, of Iranian Elite Research Centre, Charitable Institute for Protection of Social Victims, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Sudwind, Network of Women’s Non-governmental organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Action Canada for Population and Development also took the floor.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the United States.
During the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review, speakers agreed on the fact that this mechanism provided a unique opportunity for self evaluation with regard to human rights protection and helped determine gaps and identify challenges in this regard. It was also important to make good use of the interval between periodic reviews and improve performance in line with the recommendations received. A clear response by States to all the received recommendations, whether accepted or rejected, and the possibility for mid-term reporting on implementation efforts would strengthen the effectiveness of the Universal Periodic Review. A speaker noted that the new possibility of an implementation plan would facilitate the mobilization of support by potential donors. Some speakers also encouraged Governments to raise the rate of reply to communications received through Human Rights Council procedures to the same heights and welcomed the voluntary submission of mid-term updates from a number of States and regions. A speaker was disappointed about the adopted outcome of the Council review of its work and functioning and said that it had not introduced major improvements in any area, including the Universal Periodic Review.
Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review were: Hungary, Mauritius, Poland, United States, Cuba, Ukraine, China, Malaysia, Republic of Moldova, Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Colombia and Canada.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Geneva for Human Rights, International Indian Treaty Council, Colombian Commission of Jurists, International Disability Alliance, Sudwind, International Service for Human Rights, World Union for Progressive Judaism, United Nations Watch, Franciscans International, Amnesty International, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru, International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (INCOMINDIOS) Switzerland, Arab Lawyers Union, Indian Council of South America, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la région des Grandes Lacs, and Comite International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peoples (CIRAC),
The next meeting of the Council will be at 9 a.m. on Monday, 21 March 2011 for a full-day meeting which will be divided into three segments. Under its agenda item on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, the Council will first hold an interactive dialogue with the Committee of Experts. The Council will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Thereafter the High Commissioner will present her reports submitted under items 2 and 7 which will be immediately followed by a general debate.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on the United States
HAROLD HONGJU KOH, Legal Adviser of the Department of State of the United States of America, said society was transformed for the better by working to promote the rights of everyone. The Universal Periodic Review was a useful tool to assess how the United States Government could continue to achieve civil society goals. During the process there were a dozen listening sessions with civil society organizations and a town hall gathering for civil society institutions was held in Geneva last November. Among the more than 12 federal agencies that had made a contribution to the Universal Periodic Review, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division had played a critical role in every step. The United States received 228 recommendations on the Universal Periodic Review and the Legal Adviser would group them into 10 thematic areas. The first group concerned recommendations regarding civil rights and discrimination, with members of civil society asking the Government to do more to address discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and in 2010 the Government took an important step by enacting the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act which would allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The Government continued to prosecute violations of the federal hate crimes law. In the second area of recommendations, criminal justice, the United States continued to work to ensure protection under the Constitution and laws of the rights of those accused of committing crimes and held in prisons or jails.
Third were recommendations regarding indigenous peoples? The Government had stressed the importance of tribal consultation and supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The President had directed that consultations with tribal officials be re-enforced throughout the Government. The fourth area concerned national security and while Mr. Koh noted that it was legal under the law of war to use detention to prevent adversaries from re-engaging in the conflict, the Government would not tolerate torture or inhumane treatment of detainees in custody. The President announced steps to ensure a lawful, sustainable, and principled regime for the handling of detainees at Guantanamo: a continued commitment to civilian trials in federal courts, the resumption of prosecutions by military commission, the safe transfer of detainees from Guantanamo and a reaffirmed commitment to humane treatment of detainees in custody. Mr. Koh announced that the Government would seek advice and consent for the Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions. The fifth area was immigration and the Government accepted the recommendations and stated that the contribution of immigrants was an important element of every chapter of American history. The Government was reviewing its handling of emergent refugee cases to improve accessibility and efficiency in the programme.
In the sixth area of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, the United States continued to protect the environment and took significant action to address freedom from want as illustrated by the Department of Education’s announcement of an Equity and Excellence Commission to examine disparities in educational opportunities and the needs of children in distress and in high poverty communities. The seventh area dealt with workplace protections and the fight against human trafficking. The United States’ Customs and Border Protection Agency launched the “Don’t be Fooled” media campaign which offered information on the dangers of human trafficking and how to avoid becoming a victim. Regarding the eighth goal on robust domestic implementation of international human rights obligations, the United States was bound to comply with its obligations to international treaty bodies at federal, state and local levels. The ninth and largest group of recommendations concerned treaty ratification and Mr. Koh stated that under the United States Constitution there was a high threshold for ratification, however the Government had announced its intent to seek Senate advice and consent to ratify Additional Protocol II to the 1948 Geneva Conventions and the Government also declared that out of a sense of legal obligation it would treat principles set forth in Article 75 as applicable to any individual it detained in an international armed conflict. The United States’ Government did not support recommendations that urged particular action in pending judicial cases nor would it support certain other inappropriate or politically motivated recommendations.
MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA CASEIRO (Cuba) noted with concern the high number of recommendations that were rejected by the United States without providing reasons. They were dismayed at the United States’ refusal of the recommendations. Cuba made 13 recommendations and noted with deep disappointment that only one was accepted. The United States was failing to pay attention to the appeal of the entire international community and they rejected the release of five Cuban political prisoners unjustly imprisoned and had refused their appeal to put an end to impunity. Cuba required that the United States revise its position and take into account the recommendations that it had rejected.
SEYED MOHAMMAD REZA SAJJADI (Iran) took note of the United States’ responses to the recommendations made by their delegation during the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. Iran regretted that a large number of recommendations made during the working groups had been rejected by the United States. They regretted that the United States had failed to accept the various recommendations made to that country to ratify the basic human rights instruments. It was also disappointing that the United States’ had resisted the requests to amend and bring its domestic laws and regulations in line with international human rights standards. They particularly expressed their dismay at the United States refusal of their recommendations to abolish extrajudicial laws and refrain from the application of unilateral measures against other countries.
JUAN ARIAS PALACIO (Venezuela) expressed Venezuela’s deep disappointment at the lack of will demonstrated by the United States to remedy systematic violations of human rights denounced during this Universal Periodic Review. The response of President Obama had been the establishment of the military court for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the refusal to close that shameful detention centre. Recommendations concerning the abolition of the death penalty for minors and persons with diminished mental capacity had been rejected. The recommendation to declare maternity leave compulsory, which it was in 120 other countries, had been rejected. From the record 228 recommendations fewer than 40 had been accepted by the Government, which was shameful for a Government that had received the Nobel Peace Prize.
SIM MELLOUH (Algeria) said Algeria warmly welcomed the delegation of the United States and appreciated the responses provided on various recommendations. Algeria had submitted five recommendations related to ratification of the core international instruments, the review of alternative ways to handle petty crime, the smartening of security checks, and the campaign on the moratorium on the death penalty. Algeria was pleased that three of those were accepted, but asked for clarification on the position of the delegation on the recommendations that had not been accepted.
LUO JIANPING (China) said China noted the replies of the United States but was disappointed the Government did not accept many of the recommendations or take concrete actions to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Social Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There were no effective measures taken against the use of excessive force in detention centres such as Guantanamo and there was still discrimination against minorities such as Muslims in the United States.
ROMAN KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said it noted that the United States had accepted a large number of recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review. Russia would like to know how much progress had been made to the ascension to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and would like the Government to clarify its concerns on the International Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Russia was concerned about the number of rejections of recommendations, including on the death penalty and the creation of an independent human rights institution. Russia said it was concerned by the United States Government’s withdrawal from the moratorium on special courts on persons detained in Guantanamo and urged the Government to renew the moratorium.
HISHAM BADR (Egypt) welcomed the delegation of the United States and its acceptance of the recommendations to continue to create a climate of religious tolerance and to take measures to ban racial profiling in law enforcement. However, they accepted only in part the recommendation to ban racial discrimination and religious profiling and the recommendation to close the Guantanamo Bay facilities. Egypt noted the affirmation that the United States called for vigorous prosecution of any violation of international obligations. They welcomed the United States’ support to end the use of military technology; however more restraint should be exercised.
MAYSA URENA (Bolivia) thanked the delegation of the United States, but regretted that the recommendations they made in the field of discrimination in employment and housing had been only partly accepted. Bolivia recommended that the United States review the definition of discrimination in their national legislation in order to bring it into compliance with international standards. Bolivia reminded the United States that the country had a high level of responsibility towards the planet and urged them to reconsider the partial acceptance to ratify the 12 international instruments that they had not ratified yet. In connection with the blockade of Cuba, they asked the United States how they could give a human rights explanation to maintain this measure which violated the principles of the United Nations Charter.
MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said Morocco thanked the delegation of the United States for their exhaustive explanation and additional information on recommendations and the efforts at the national and international levels to promote and protect human rights. Morocco had made recommendations concerning economic, social and cultural rights, including access to housing, the strengthening of social protection for vulnerable groups and international development aid. The American commitment to human rights was perfectly illustrated in taking new initiatives on human rights, including their participation in the Human Rights Council. The democratic tradition of the United States provided positive examples in the promotion and protection of human rights on national and international levels, Morocco concluded.
OMPHILE RHEE HETANANG (Botswana) said Botswana welcomed the additional explanation on recommendations provided by the delegation of the United States. Botswana was encouraged by the acceptance of the recommendations to ratify core human rights instruments the United States still was not party to. Botswana looked forward to the leadership of the United States on various issues taken up by the Human Rights Council, including combating racism and the right to development.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said that any invitation extended to Special Rapporteurs would be hollow if the United States denied access to detainees and certain facilities at the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay as it had before. Human Rights Watch noted with disappointment the rejection of recommendations related to the death penalty. The Government should urgently assert its responsibility to reform the immigration system so as to prevent the mistreatment of immigrants occurring at the state and local level.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said self determination for Alaska and Hawaii had been denied in the process of becoming states of the United States. The Indian Council of South America said there was unjust incarceration of political prisoners and called on the Government to accept the rights of self determination of Alaska and Hawaii and to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples.
AJAMU BARAKA, of Word Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, in a joint statement, said that they were aware of the United States’ administration’s wish to assert its moral and political leadership in the area of human rights enforcement. However, State leadership in the area of human rights suggested that a State was acting to uphold international norms and standards at home and abroad. For the United States to assert leadership it had to banish to the dustbins of history its claim for United States exceptionalism, which was based on a national narrative that was more myth than reality.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said that they joined those who called on the United States to become party to the different international instruments related to human rights and humanitarian law, lift all their reservations, recognize the competence of various international mechanisms and comply with their decisions. They expressed concern about the large numbers of Afro and Latino Americans in detention centers, they exhorted the United States to establish a moratorium on all capital executions, and they called upon the judicial authorities to prove their innocence through DNA testing. The blockade imposed on the State of Cuba was unjustified and illegal, and they believed that the number one world global military power could not be above the law. They urged the United States to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
AHMED GHAZI, of Iranian Elite Research Centre, said since the creation of the United Nations the international community had strived to respect human beings. Despite international debates in favour of human rights, the United States did not want just peace to be established throughout the world, as was seen by the imposition of sanctions against Iran. The Iranian economy had already been hard hit from three decades of sanctions. Bankruptcies and loss of jobs were frequent consequences of this situation. What kind of peace was the United States talking about while at the same time killing thousands in Afghanistan in the name of combating terrorism in Iraq to realize peace?
MARYAM SAFARI, of Charitable Institute for Protection of Social Victims, said that the enjoyment of rights in the United States was affected by factors such as race, nationality, ethnicity, indigenous status, income and gender. Extensive inequalities for racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities having access to housing, education, employment, health care and criminal justice had an effect on the increase in cases of rights violations of minorities within the United States justice system. The percentage of African Americans in prisons was six times higher than the white population; rape and sexual abuse among Native American women was higher, but was dealt with less than crimes in the white population. The United States had not accepted the right to development as a human right and by not ratifying six core human rights instruments, especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in practice it had released itself from having to provide a vast area of rights to its citizens.
GOLSHAN PAZHOOH, of Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said although the Government had committed itself to closing Guantanamo and to preventing all acts of torture by United States officials, the Government had resumed military commissions for detainees at Guantanamo after a two year ban. The Organization urged the United States to put aside its exceptionalism on the Convention against Torture and to comply truly and really with its obligations under at least the few international conventions and treaties it had ratified.
NAYEB HASHEM HASSAN, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said it acknowledged that the United States Government had undertaken some investigations and corrective actions against torture, but there was impunity for officials involved in torture which was unacceptable in a democratic society. Sudwind urged the Government to accept the Universal Periodic Review recommendations including ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to ensure implementation through enabling legislation and concrete changes in policy and practice. The Government should increase efforts to abolish the death penalty and should place a moratorium on all federal death penalty trials.
HAMIDY ZADEH, of Network of Women’s Non-governmental Organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said that establishing a society based on peace, security and equal human rights had long been the common ideal of all religions and freedom-seeking nations. Merciless killings of women, children and civilians did not only confront the sense of human rights and conscience of all nations but was also condemned in all kinds of religions and traditions. Nowadays, the international society had shown great sensibility to the crimes that the Government of the United States committed on the occupied lands of Afghanistan and Iraq, crimes which were mainly directed toward homeless women and children. They strongly demanded that the Government of the United States put an end to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the violation of human rights in these two countries.
DARBY HICKEY, of Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, congratulated and thanked the United States delegation for accepting recommendation 86. They believed that it was the first instance of affirmation of sex workers’ rights in this forum. Due to stigma and criminalization, sex workers and those profiled as such, were subjected to violence and discrimination, and were often barred from necessary services and the right to equal protection under the law. State agents themselves, specifically police officers, committed physical and sexual violence against sex workers. They were deeply appreciative of the respect for, openness to, and engagement with civil society that the United States Government had shown throughout this Universal Periodic Review process.
HAROLD HONGJU KOH, Legal Adviser of the Department of State of the United States of America, in concluding observations, said that the United States recognised the Universal Periodic Review as an opportunity to engage with civil society and other States to see how to engage in a common process of making the Universal Periodic Review a continuous process. The United States studied all 228 recommendations and urged the delegations to step back from a single recommendation and look at the overall picture and the progress made in the justice system, human trafficking, treaties, immigration, and a number of others. The United States did not engage in false rhetoric, it included civil society in real dialogue on gaps and how to face them. Speakers needed to be aware of the democratic processes in the United States; the constitutional process took more time to reach a recommended outcome. The recommendations also shaped the agenda for future work and the United States sought to focus on substance and would not allow the political agendas of some to derail the process. For the United States, the Universal Periodic Review was an ongoing process that did not end today. Democracy and human rights were core and founding values of the United States and were the core messages of this first Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on United States of America.
General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review
ANDRAS DEKANY, (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. The European Union was willing to support any initiative which made the process stronger and more efficient while at the same time maintained its transparent, objective, non-selective and constructive manner. Although the European Union was not in favour of a longer reporting period, it accepted it as a compromise solution with the understanding that other elements of the package would act as a counterweight. States under review should clearly indicate in a written format their position on all received recommendations. The European Union supported the notion that States should provide interim reports to ensure a more transparent process and a continuous, regular and more meaningful dialogue. The integrity of the Universal Periodic Review process was affected when States carrying out the review did not engage in an objective assessment of the facts on the ground. Taking into account the important role national human rights institutions were playing, the European Union was pleased that those who were in full compliance with the Paris Principles could have a separate section for contributions and they could intervene right after the State under review.
SHREE BABOO CHEKITAN SERVANSING (Mauritius) said that the Universal Periodic Review was a gratifying exercise indeed and they had demonstrated an open attitude towards human rights norms. They reiterated that the promotion and protection of human rights was enshrined in their constitution. In addition to the human rights provisions enshrined in their Constitution, a series of measures had been adopted to ensure that citizens were able to exercise and enjoy their civil and political rights as well as their economic, social, and cultural rights. Since their Universal Periodic Review in 2009, other entities had ranked Mauritius in a good position according to various human rights indices. The Government was fully engaged in implementing the recommendations received during their Universal Periodic Review and they had submitted an interim report about the status of their implementation.
ANDRZEJ SADOS (Poland) said Poland considered the Universal Periodic Review to be an essential tool for ensuring respect for human rights through dialogue and cooperation. This mechanism provided a unique opportunity for self-evaluation with regard to human rights protection and helped determine gaps and identify challenges in this regard. It was also important to make good use of the interval between periodic reviews and improve performance in line with the recommendations received. The human rights situation in Poland had been reviewed in 2008 and Poland was pleased to inform the Council that significant steps had been taken in order to implement 29 recommendations. Poland had adopted or amended laws and launched new strategies, action plans, and awareness raising campaigns and had undertaken a number of measures in cooperation with and with the support of civil society. Poland expressed the hope that more countries would engage in presenting mid-term reports in the future and said that such practice would contribute to the strengthening of human rights protection and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism itself.
JOHN C. MARIZ, (United States) said that after having completed the exercise of responding to the 228 recommendations it received, the delegation was newly sensitized to the critical aspect of the proper formulation of recommendations. The United States asked all participating States to take extra care to ensure recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review were focused, action-oriented, implementable, consistent with international human rights law and designed to improve the human rights situation in the States under review. The United States was pleased that the second and future cycles of the Universal Periodic Review process would build upon the existing foundation and the review outcome underscored the importance of the quality of recommendations. The United States was pleased with the proposal to expand and rationalize the speakers list for the Universal Periodic Review. The United States appreciated the President of the Human Rights Council’s decision to postpone the consideration of Libya’s Working Group report and hoped that the complete adoption of the report would occur when a full and accurate report on the human rights situation on the ground would be presented to the Council.
JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba) said that no one could call into question the effectiveness of this mechanism. The Universal Periodic Review was a natural area to analyze the human rights situation in any part of the world; promotion of human rights could be made by removing politicization and double standards and through a genuine dialogue. The Universal Periodic Review was an innovative mechanism of the Council and some had attempted to change its intergovernmental nature during the Human Rights Council review process. Unfortunately, the principle of making the minimum adjustments to improve the functioning of the Human Rights Council had prevailed. With this achievement the Universal Periodic Review had been shown to be a useful tool for the promotion and protection of human rights. It was the responsibility for all to protect this mechanism.
OLEKSII HOLUBOV (Ukraine) said Ukraine was strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and believed that States bore the primary responsibility for implementing received recommendations. Ukraine had undergone the Universal Periodic Review process in 2008 and in 2010 had voluntarily presented its mid-term report on implementation of received recommendations. After five years had passed, Ukraine reflected on the achievements of the Universal Periodic Review and recommended further strengthening of this mechanism and committing to periodic reporting on the implementation of recommendations. Ukraine welcomed the modalities for establishing the list of speakers for the Universal Periodic Review Working Group and enabling all the inscribed delegations to take the floor. Ukraine also welcomed the fact that national human rights institutions with A status would be entitled to speak after the State under review during the adoption of the outcome of the review by the Council plenary.
HOU YANPING, (China) said China would like to congratulate all the States whose Universal Periodic Review reports had been adopted in this session. The Universal Periodic Review had completed ten rounds of reviews and even though there were still questions outstanding on the seventeenth session, there was no doubt that this mechanism would play an important role in supporting human rights. The Chinese Government attached importance to economic development and improving people’s livelihoods through investment in health and education and had paid attention to the development of the legal system and to the protection of minority groups. China, as a developing country, still faced many challenges, but would continue to engage in dialogue with other countries to contribute to a world full of peace and prosperity.
NURHANA MUHAMMAD IKMAL (Malaysia) said that the Universal Periodic Review had also proven to be effective as it allowed for an open debate on human rights situations in all countries around the world on the basis of cooperation and constructive dialogue. In this regard, they were encouraged to note that the recently concluded review of the Human Rights Council had further paved the way for the Council to maintain the strength and integrity of the Universal Periodic Review process which focused on the principles of universality, objectivist and non-selectivity. In their view, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism had been a catalyst, not only for improving the performance of independent national human rights mechanisms and other stakeholders dealing with human rights, but also in bringing about positive changes to governmental approaches to policy making on human rights. From their own experience, Malaysia noted that the Universal Periodic Review exercise both at the national and international levels for States under review would inevitably create a significant momentum for self and mutual assessment.
VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) said that the Government attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which was one of the central pillars of the Human Rights Council. It ensured equal treatment of all members of the Council. The Republic of Moldova would be subjected to the Universal Periodic Review in October this year and had already initiated, in cooperation with other stakeholders, the preparation of the national report. The progress made following the debates on the Universal Periodic Review showed the good will of the Member States to further improve this mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Republic of Moldova also noted with satisfaction that States agreed on the functioning of this mechanism, including the list of speakers.
PETER GUSCHELBAUER (Austria) said the Government had accepted around 100 recommendations and was currently in the process of assessing those recommendations that needed further consideration and consultation. Austria was convinced that the intensive process of coordination with governments and civil society and non-governmental organizations had the potential to contribute positively to the promotion of a human rights based approach within any country. A clear response by States to all the received recommendations, whether accepted or rejected, and the possibility for mid-term reporting on implementation efforts, would strengthen the effectiveness of the Universal Periodic Review. For those seeking technical assistance, the new possibility of an implementation plan would facilitate the mobilization of support by potential donors and Austria also welcomed the creation of a new fund that would support the activities of small-island developing states and least developed countries.
SARA AGOAS (Portugal) said Portugal believed that the Universal Periodic Review represented one of the most relevant achievements of the Human Rights Council. Portugal would like to highlight some of the measures taken in the first year after its Universal Periodic Review. Portugal had recently submitted overdue reports to the Secretariat of the High Commissioner and had approved a second plan for immigrant integration. A Working Group on Justice and Health was created with a view to establishing a National Action Plan on Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases in Prison Facilities. The National Strategy for Disability was adopted in 2009, including 133 measures in five strategic pillars for the next two years.
PATRICK RUMLAR (Czech Republic) said the Czech Republic continued to focus on the elimination of discrimination against the Roma minority. Recently, the Agency for Social Inclusion aimed at overcoming the difficulties faced by the Roma community by establishing partnerships at the local level and helping to create a climate of mutual understanding. The Czech Republic did not remain passive and even now, in the aftermath of the financial crisis and under heavy budgetary constraints, allocated considerable funds to tackle the problem. With regard to the gender perspective, the Government of the Czech Republic annually approved the National Action Plan on the Promotion of Gender Equality. Another major issue the Action Plan dealt with was how to overcome stereotypical views of the position of men and women in the family, workplace and society. To enhance the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, the Government approved the National Action Plan on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities for 2010 to 2014, which established the obligation to complete preparatory works on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
CARLOS ENRIQUE VALENCIA MUNOZ (Colombia) reiterated Colombia’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review as one of the most important mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights. Currently, they were working on the fifth national report concerning the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review. In 2010 the National Congress had adopted the law enforcing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the National Commission of Human Rights had received a detailed implementation plan of the recommendations received by Colombia.
ANNE-TAMARA LORRE (Canada) said Canada wished to turn the attention of the Human Rights Council to the pamphlet made by Mauritius at the end of its Universal Periodic Review and said that the quality of that document had been an example for all members of the Human Rights Council. Canada also noted the positive mid-term review report of Poland and congratulated that country.
SAIDA MANIEVA, of Geneva for Human Rights - Global Training, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said that in February 2011 the Human Rights Council had completed the review of its work and functioning, in which all stakeholders invested significant amounts of energy and resources towards a review that suggested promising results and created high expectations from civil society around the world. Unfortunately, in its final stages, the process had been diluted to a mere fine-tuning exercise as opposed to a thorough review. The adopted outcome of the review had not introduced major improvements in any area, including the Universal Periodic Review. There was no provision in the outcome to ensure inclusive and meaningful national consultation. The outcome failed to require recommendations to be specific and action-oriented in order to guarantee their meaningful implementation, and did not contain any mechanism for follow-up.
ALBERTO SALDAMANDO, of International Indian Treaty Council, said that if the Universal Periodic Review was to be an effective mechanism for human rights accountability, civil society consultations should promote dialogue. However, when the Indian Treaty Council called for the release of Mr. Leonard Peltier, a recognized political prisoner, the United States did not mention this concern and rejected the recommendation that he be released. Mr. Peltier had been imprisoned for more than 35 years and he suffered numerous beatings while in prison, most recently sustaining injuries from an attack in 2009 at Canaan Federal Penitentiary. The Indian Treaty Council urged that Mr. Peltier be released immediately.
ANA MARIA RODRIGUEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said that in compliance with the recommendations made to the Universal Periodic Review, the Colombian Government had submitted a human rights bill which had structural failures that would seriously limit the rights of victims. The bill did not point out the sources of income that would support the bill.
ELLEN WALKER, of European Disability Forum, said that the Universal Periodic Review was playing a positive role with regard to universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. Of the 16 countries reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group during its ninth session, seven had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, Maldives, Honduras, Croatia and Jamaica. Other countries reviewed during this session, such as the United States, Andorra, Liberia, Micronesia, Bulgaria and Lebanon were considering signing or ratifying the Convention. Jamaica accepted to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They recommended that States that had not signed or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities undertake all necessary legal actions to ensure the swift ratification of the Convention and the Optional Protocol.
NAYEB HASHEM HASSAN, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said that within the Universal Periodic Review process the principle that there were human rights issues which deserved discussion in all States led to an unprecedented rate of participation. They encouraged Governments to raise the rate of reply to communications received through Human Rights Council procedures to the same heights. Sudwind recalled the General Recommendations developed by Special Rapporteur Theo van Boven in 2003, calling upon the international community to establish a Global Fund for National Human Rights Protection Systems. In the follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review process it would assist States in their efforts to improve and reform national administrative and justice systems, including the judiciary, prosecutors, police and prisons.
MICHAEL INEICHEN, of International Service for Human Rights, said that the Universal Periodic Review had developed into a key entry point for human rights defenders to the international human rights system and had in some instances led to change on the ground. States engaging in the Universal Periodic Review in good faith had found it to be a useful tool in terms of substance and in terms of creation of national dialogue on human rights. It was therefore regrettable that States failed to seize the opportunity of the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council to build on this achievement and take steps to turn the Universal Periodic Review into a truly effective tool for the realisation of human rights on the ground. International Service for Human Rights welcomed the voluntary submission of mid-term updates from a number of States and regions. While the outcome of the review only encouraged the submission of such information, there was a clear expectation to go the extra mile and submit the mid-term import.
ROY BROWN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that the World Union for Progressive Judaism was gravely disturbed by the general level of self-satisfaction in the Universal Periodic Review process, particularity that shown to dictatorial regimes. In light of the appalling travesty of the Universal Periodic Review on Libya, the World Union for Progressive Judaism asked if it could hope that the delegates would adopt a more factual and less self-laudatory approach to the Universal Periodic Review process. The Member States of the Human Rights Council should always remain on the straight path of universality, refusing any form of cultural relativism and what were now called complementary standards.
HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said it noted with concern that the Universal Periodic Review of the worst abusers had been dominated by mutual praise. When members of large voting blocks granted each other immunity from scrutiny, the voices of victims were silenced. In 2009, United Nations Watch conducted a comprehensive study that measured how countries conducted reviews; points were given to the degree a State scrutinized the country concerned, identifying specific and genuine human rights issues, and challenging non-compliance. Of 55 countries examined, including all 47 Council members, only 19 had overall positive scores, including Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. United Nations Watch urged the Council not only to defer the Universal Periodic Review on Libya, but to create a new one.
MORSE FLORES, of Franciscans International, said, in referring to the Universal Periodic Review follow-up in Benin, that it continued to be concerned about the ritual infanticide of so-called ‘witch-children’ and the lack of concrete action by the Government to address traditional beliefs which resulted in the death of innocent children. Franciscans International urged the Government of Benin to reinforce measures to prevent and eliminate ritual infanticide. Franciscans International urged the United States to address the issue of trafficking in persons, including migrant workers who worked in slavery-like conditions.
MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG , of Amnesty International, regretted that better use was not made of the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council to strengthen the Universal Periodic Review. That the Universal Periodic Review had emerged from the review process more or less the way it went in was a missed opportunity and a sad statement about the unwillingness of States to improve the Council’s work and functioning. The Review was an opportunity to improve the Universal Periodic Review process by bringing in independent expertise, giving more prominence to the United Nations Compilation and Stakeholder Summary prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, devising a stronger role in the Universal Periodic Review for national human rights institutions, and developing modalities to better focus the dialogue in the Working Group and on the key human rights challenges in the State under review. Yet, not all was lost. Some of the agreed changes had the potential to continue in important ways to strengthening the Universal Periodic Review process.
MARK PARKINSON, of International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, said that the inclusiveness of the Universal Periodic Review process had played an important part in its development. States were encouraged to gather the information for their reports through national consultations with all relevant stakeholders. All credible information provided by stakeholders was summarized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for consideration by the Council. They urged the Human Rights Council to allow information from reliable non-governmental organizations to play a far greater role, and they also recommended an end to the exclusion of non-governmental organizations from the oral debate of review sessions.
LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, concerning the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review on the United States, said that this country had violated the rights of indigenous peoples and had committed crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia and was endangering the credibility of the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review. The selectiveness of the list of speakers was anachronistic. The new mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review should replace country mandates. Turning to the politicization of human rights, the speaker said that States, particularly the United States, were violating the independence, neutrality and non-selectivity laid down in the United Nations Charter.
LEON SIU, of International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (Incomindios Switzerland), said that the right to self-determination was particularly important to the situations in Alaska and Hawaii, which were examples of how the United States flagrantly manipulated and subverted the United Nations decolonisation process and continued to violate the right to self-determination. Regardless of the claim of the United States that the matter had been settled politically, the very political process used by the United States, namely the fraudulent plebiscites of 1958 and 1959 in Alaska and Hawaii respectively, utterly refuted the United States’ claim that Alaska and Hawaii were integrated domestic states of the United States. The International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (INCOMINDIOS) Switzerland hoped that the Human Rights Council and appropriate United Nations bodies would remedy the ongoing violation of human rights and secure justice, relief and freedom for the people of Alaska and Hawaii.
DEEB LOAI, of Arab Lawyers Union, in a joint statement with Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, said it was a source of concern that the Universal Periodic Review report of the United States only dealt with human rights within the United States and not the vast violations of human rights outside of the United States, including the Government’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret detention centres it had established all over the world. The United States should submit to the laws of the international community. The Arab Lawyers Union urged the United States to sign international instruments such as the Rome Statutes and to repeal bilateral agreements that were in contradiction with international instruments.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that it was necessary to address the participation of indigenous peoples, who were different from civil society as they were recognized with the right to self-determination. Indigenous people’s rights had been politicized and not given proper attention in treaty bodies and other United Nations mechanisms surrounding the Human Rights Council. Indigenous peoples should be able to participate in the Working Group and should be given specific time in the adoption of the report.
MAURICE KATALA, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (AIPD), said that they welcomed the return of the United States in the Council and they hoped that this would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation around the world. They noted with disappointment the rise of the Tea Party following the election of the first black president of the United States. The racist campaign of the Tea Party clearly violated the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, and social protection should not be undermined by the majority of the Congress.
MALUZA WASILUSDIO, of International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, said that they were deeply disappointed about the silence of the United States on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and on reparations for this. They reminded the United States that crimes against humanity were not subject to statutes of limitation. African descendents had not forgotten the sufferance their ancestors had undergone. They asked the United States to set a vast programme for reparations for the violence caused to black humanity during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Geneva for Human Rights - Global Training, International Save the Children Alliance, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Regional Center of Human rights and Gender Justice, and Baha'i International Community.
For use of the information media; not an official record