14 March 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Ghana, Ukraine and Guatemala.
Hannah Nyarko, Chargé d’affaires and Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that out of 148 recommendations, 123 enjoyed Government support, relating to the promotion of women’s and children’s rights, further strengthening of the domestic violence support unit, and combating harmful traditional practices and trafficking in persons, among others. Ms. Nyarko assured the Council that the Government took these recommendations seriously and would take necessary measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations. Those recommendations that Ghana had not supported related to abolition of the death penalty and decriminalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults. Ghana reaffirmed its commitment to uphold human rights in the country.
In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Ghana’s cooperation and commitment in the Universal Periodic Review Process and its acceptance of 123 recommendations out of 148 made at the recent review. However, some expressed concerns about conditions in public psychiatric hospitals, overcrowding in prisons, the need to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse, including social and economic exploitation, and disappointment at the rejection of recommendations to decriminalize same-sex relations.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Ghana.
Togo, Viet Nam, Algeria, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Gabon, Morocco, Philippines, South Africa, and Sudan spoke on Ghana. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Edmund Rice International, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Association for the Prevention of Torture, World Vision International, and Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme also spoke.
Nazar Kulchytskyy, Government Agent before the European Court of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, said that Ukraine’s position on recommendations took into account the proposals of civil society. Out of the 145 recommendations made, it had fully accepted 115, and partially accepted three. Ukraine had not accepted 27 recommendations after careful consideration. Non-acceptance did not in any way minimise the value of human rights and Ukraine had pledged to work on all issues highlighted in the second Review. It welcomed civil society participation and its contribution to the implementation process. Only in working together could positive changes be achieved for everyone.
Valeriya Lutkovska, Ombudsman from the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted the problem of domestic violence and urged Ukraine to accept recommendation 11 on that issue.
In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Ukraine’s acceptance of several recommendations made, including those on human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, on respecting the rights of migrants, and on respect of the principle of non-refoulement. Speakers were also concerned about non-acceptance of recommendations on incitement of racial hatred, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and dropping of homophobic laws.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine.
Russia, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Philippines, and Romania spoke on Ukraine. Amnesty International, COC Netherlands, and Human Rights Watch also spoke.
Antonio Arenales Forno, Secretary of Peace of Guatemala, said that it had received 138 recommendations of which it had accepted 111 and took note of 27, and had also entered into five voluntary commitments. The death penalty had not been applied in the country for over 10 years. A considerable increase in the budget for the police and judiciary had been made to increase the implementation of the Act against Femicide, and a court that functioned 24 hours had been established as well. Guatemala had created the Guatemalan Coalition for International Law, which was currently in the process of drafting legal amendments to align national legislation with international obligations, including with the Rome Statute; draft amendments would soon be presented to the Congress. The National Dialogue Institute was holding continuous dialogue with the indigenous peoples to look into negotiated solutions for the land conflicts.
Two members of the delegation of Guatemala also spoke about voluntary commitments concerning the reduction of the number of violent deaths of young people, and on combating violence against women.
Jorge de Leon Dugue, Ombudsman on Human Rights of Guatemala, said that there were structural problems such as in the penitentiary system and on corruption within prisons walls. The public prosecutor’s office had stepped up efforts against impunity and the State had taken an important step forward in ratifying the Rome Statute. The situation of femicide was alarming.
In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Guatemala’s acceptance of a number of recommendations and some of the noteworthy progress made, including in the area of the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous populations and on efforts to sanction and eradicate domestic violence. However, it was unclear whether Guatemala supported the recommendations concerning impunity, strengthening the justice system and ensuring investigation of all crimes. Insufficient application of the Act against Femicide contributed to perpetration of insecurity and social violence and impeded indigenous women from benefitting.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala.
Cuba, Gabon, Morocco, Philippines, Venezuela and Algeria spoke on Guatemala. Amnesty International, COC Netherlands, International Commission of Jurists, Action Canada for Population and Development, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Plan International, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, and Lutheran World Federation also spoke.
The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting will consider the outcomes of the reports of the Universal Periodic Review of Benin, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Ghana
HANNAH NYARKO, Chargé d’affaires, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Government viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important platform for examining the human rights situation in the country, assessing the Government’s work on the promotion and protection of human rights, and sharing experiences and views. It was a continuous and unending process. A peaceful transition of power on 7 September 2012 demonstrated the importance of strong national institutions for Ghana. At its review last October, 76 States had actively participated and some made recommendations while others had commended it on the progress of the first cycle of the review. Out of 148 recommendations, 123 enjoyed Government support, relating to the promotion of women’s and children’s rights, further strengthening of the domestic violence support unit, and combating harmful traditional practices and trafficking and persons, among others. Ms. Nyarko assured the Council that the Government took these recommendations seriously and would take necessary measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations. Ghana was determined to implement the recommendations. The recommendations that Ghana had not supported related to abolition of the death penalty and decriminalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults. The death penalty was an entrenched provision in the constitution and could only be changed by the people of Ghana, and the Government could not impose an official moratorium prior to a referendum. Unless and until an issue was sufficiently advanced in the moral consciousness of the citizenry and an unequivocal demand was made, any action counter to this would be counterproductive. Ghana reaffirmed its commitment to uphold human rights in the country.
Togo took note of the progress made by Ghana in combating inter-familial and sexual violence, the administration of land, and combating HIV/AIDS. It encouraged Ghana to continue its efforts to improve the quality of education. Togo called on the international community to provide Ghana with the necessary assistance to allow it to complete the implementation of its recommendations.
Viet Nam welcomed the remarkable efforts made by Ghana and the steps taken to promote and protect human rights. As a fellow developing country, Viet Nam supported and encouraged Ghana to make further efforts to promote socio-economic development and human rights, not only in Ghana but also throughout the world. Viet Nam recommended that the Council adopt the outcome document of the Universal Periodic Review of Ghana.
Algeria greatly appreciated the acceptance by Ghana of a large number of recommendations made by several members, including Algeria. Algeria highlighted the tangible efforts made by Ghana through a programme of constitutional reform, particularly in relation to promoting children’s rights and eliminating laws which were discriminatory against women.
Botswana welcomed the decision of Ghana to accept many of the recommendations made by Member States. Also as a developing country, Botswana appreciated that Ghana faced some challenges. It was appreciative of Ghana’s expressed intention of ratifying instruments relating to the rights of the child. Botswana applauded Ghana for its commitment to the work of the Council.
Côte d’Ivoire said that the implementation of recommendations would no doubt contribute to the consolidation of the rule of law and compliance with human rights in Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire noted with satisfaction Ghana’s determination to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms and to resolutely work for peace and stability, also in the sub-region.
Cuba congratulated Ghana on its spirit of cooperation in both cycles of the Universal Periodic Review. In recent years, Ghana had taken huge strides forwards in combating domestic and gender-based violence and addressing HIV/AIDS. It was grateful that Cuba’s recommendations were accepted.
Gabon congratulated Ghana on an excellent presentation and was satisfied to note Ghana’s commitment to implementing the recommendations it had received, including providing access of all members of society to justice and improving education at all levels. Gabon encouraged Ghana to make further efforts in combating HIV/AIDS.
Morocco said that Ghana had demonstrated its commitment by drafting a national action plan for human rights and by identifying five priority lines of action in order to implement recommendations in a comprehensive manner. Efforts to improve education had also been noted. Morocco welcomed Ghana’s commitment to implementing laws and programmes which had a positive outcome on the citizens of the country.
Philippines said that Ghana had shown its commitment to engaging with its partners in order to improve the welfare of its people. The Philippines welcomed Ghana’s commitment to improving the situation of migrant workers and had noted measures taken to combat trafficking in persons. The Philippines wished Ghana well in its efforts to continue implementing its recommendations.
South Africa commended Ghana’s continued commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process. Ghana had acknowledged challenges but remained steadfast in ensuring the enjoyment of all human rights for its citizens. South Africa wished Ghana well in the continued promotion and protection of human rights, and in the implementation of all recommendations.
Sudan said that the Ghanaian people’s participation in elections clearly reflected the commitment of the Government of Ghana and its openness to the democratic process. Sudan welcomed the acceptance of 123 recommendations made, some of which had already been implemented. It noted with satisfaction the adoption of two recommendations made by Sudan.
Human Rights Watch said that the Government of Ghana should act immediately to improve conditions in public psychiatric hospitals, monitor prayer camps and other non-orthodox mental health service providers, and develop the necessary legislative instrument to implement the new mental health law as a matter of priority, inter alia.
Amnesty International welcomed Ghana’s support of recommendations to improve prison conditions and to reduce overcrowding in prisons, but was very disappointed at Ghana’s rejection of recommendations to decriminalize same-sex relations, which were punishable by up to 25 years’ imprisonment, and to combat the climate of homophobia and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
Edmund Rice International Limited welcomed Ghana’s commitment to improve education, but remained concerned about the high level of incidence of drug abuse, especially among young persons and adolescents. Ghana should take further measures to reduce child exploitation and to ensure the full participation in education and employment of all, especially persons from vulnerable groups.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik was concerned about the high number of child labourers who sometimes were as young as five years old. Children were chronically exposed to toxic elements directly through dermal contact and inhalation and through contaminated food and water. Ghana should take urgent steps to protect those children and provide medical assistance to them and their families.
Association for the Prevention of Torture said that in the second Universal Periodic Review of Ghana, seven States had recommended that it ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Torture, and this was not the first time. In the past, Ghana had either accepted or said that it was in the process of implementation. Ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol ought to be a matter of national priority.
World Vision International highlighted the need to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse, including social and economic exploitation. It also called upon the Government to expedite efforts to establish a telephone hotline for child victims and informants in centralized areas, and to examine how this could eventually be established in the more remote areas of the country.
Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme voiced its deep concern about the continuing practice of female genital mutilation in Ghana, and the ongoing violence against women in the rural areas of the country, as well as police brutality. It called upon the Government to enhance its efforts in the campaign to stop traditional practices affecting women in rural areas.
HANNA NYARKO, Chargé d’affaires, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Council, Member States and civil society for their comments, all of which had been noted. Ghana would do all it could to address the issues raised. The new administration in Ghana had demonstrated its commitment to upholding human rights in the country and was going to make efforts to continue the implementation of the recommendations.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Ghana.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine
NAZAR KULCHYTSKYY, Government Agent before the European Court of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice, said that Ukraine had benefitted from its constructive engagement and expressed its utmost respect for the Council and the Universal Periodic Review. It was obvious that the Universal Periodic Review had long-term potential. Ukraine’s position on recommendations took into account the proposals of civil society. Out of the 145 recommendations made, Ukraine had fully accepted 115, and partially accepted three. Ukraine had not accepted 27 recommendations after careful consideration. With regards to recommendations concerning the request of ratification of some international instruments, the decision was in most cases due to serious doubts on Ukraine’s ability to implement the relevant recommendations. Non-acceptance did not in any way minimise the value of human rights and Ukraine had pledged to work on all issues highlighted in the second Review. New Ukrainian legislation established principles of non-discrimination. Ukraine also believed that every person on the territory enjoyed the right to a fair, transparent and impartial tribunal. With regards to refugees and asylum seekers, non-refoulement was established in the relevant area of Ukrainian legislation. It welcomed civil society participation and its contribution to the implementation process. Only in working together could positive changes be achieved for everyone.
VALERIYA LUTKOVSKA, Ombudsman of the Ukrainian Parliament and Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the acceptance of several recommendations by Ukraine was an important step towards combating discrimination. However, she highlighted the problem of domestic violence and urged Ukraine to accept recommendation 11 on that issue.
Russian Federation said that Ukraine’s Universal Periodic Review report had confirmed that the country was taking measures to promote and protect human rights. The Russian Federation was pleased to see that many recommendations had been accepted by Ukraine, but noted with disappointment that one of the Russian recommendations on the incitement of racial hatred had not been accepted.
Uzbekistan noted with satisfaction that Ukraine had accepted both recommendations made by Uzbekistan concerning HIV/AIDS and the protection of human rights with regard to the environment. Uzbekistan had noted the measures Ukraine had taken with regard to the judiciary and the legislation it had adopted to ensure the protection of children.
Algeria attached great importance to preserving the credibility of the Universal Periodic Review and commended Ukraine for its constructive engagement with the process and for accepting most of the recommendations received. Algeria highly appreciated that the two recommendations presented by Algeria including on human trafficking were accepted by Ukraine.
Cuba congratulated Ukraine for its efforts to implement the recommendations from its first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and the efforts to promote gender equality in various forms of life. Preventing and combating domestic violence was a priority and Cuba took positive note of measures taken in this regard, together with those aiming to increase child protection and to curb violence against children.
Iran said that six out of seven recommendations made by Iran were accepted by Ukraine and expressed hope that the Government would take legal and effective measures in the implementation of those recommendations, particularly on the identification of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and counter racial discrimination and xenophobia.
Philippines welcomed Ukraine’s acceptance of recommendations it had made, including on the allocation of adequate resources to ensure implementation of its trafficking in persons act. It was concerned but understood the rationale for not accepting the ratification of the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families, as well as the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
Romania said that the participation of Ukraine in the process emphasised its willingness to participate and preserve and apply human rights standards. Romania also welcomed Ukraine’s acceptance of the recommendations it had formulated and it was confident that the next Review exercise would be a good opportunity to assess the progress of their implementation.
Amnesty International welcomed Ukraine’s acceptance of recommendations on torture and police impunity. Its research showed that there was a culture of impunity in Ukraine and Amnesty International called on the Government to act on this as a matter of priority. It also welcomed acceptance of recommendations to protect the right of migrants and respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland regretted that Ukraine had not recognized the need to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Violence had increased in Ukraine, peaceful public demonstrations against homophobic legislation had been banned, and human rights defenders had been arrested.
Human Rights Watch regretted that Ukraine had rejected several recommendations to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to drop homophobic laws. Recent attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons underlined the urgent need for strengthening anti-discrimination legislation and the police response to such attacks.
NAZAR KULCHYTSKYY, Government Agent before the European Court of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice, in his closing remarks, said that Ukraine was aware of its human rights challenges and remained open to advice and suggestions received during the dialogue today. Addressing those challenges was among the human rights priorities for the country and communication was crucial in this regard. In closing, Ukraine said that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism created an environment in which genuine contribution to human rights worldwide could be made.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala
ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO, Secretary of Peace of Guatemala, said that during its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review last October, Guatemala had received 138 recommendations of which it had accepted 111 and took note of 27; it had also entered into five voluntary commitments. The death penalty had not been applied in the country for over 10 years. A considerable increase in the budget for the police and judiciary had been made to increase the implementation of the Act against Femicide, and a court that functioned 24 hours had been established as well. Guatemala had created the Guatemalan Coalition for International Law, which was currently in the process of drafting legal amendments to align national legislation with international obligations, including with the Rome Statute; draft amendments would soon be presented to the Congress. The Constitution of Guatemala prohibited the turning of State assets into private property, and this prohibition extended to substances such as minerals found in subsoil. In granting the mining licences, Guatemala applied international environmental protection standards and took the interests of indigenous peoples into consideration. The National Dialogue Institute was holding continuous dialogue with the indigenous peoples to look into negotiated solutions for the land conflicts. Land property was regulated by the Constitution and indigenous territories were considered part and parcel of national territory, rather than a land belonging specifically to indigenous peoples.
A Member of the Delegation of Guatemala spoke about Guatemala’s voluntary commitment concerning the reduction of the number of violent deaths of young people and said that the Government had established the Covenant for Security, Justice and Peace which included all institutions of State to ensure protection and security for the population. The Government was strengthening institutions for young people and had put in place the Youth Policy 2012-2020 which had been designed on a participatory basis. Community prevention of violence had been strengthened as well and the Social Advancement Ministry had been created for the advancement of young people.
Another Member of the Delegation of Guatemala said, concerning the voluntary commitment to combat violence against women, that the Act against Femicide had been passed in order to eradicate violence against women; and specialized courts had been put in place as well to deal with crimes of femicide, violence against women, sexual crimes and trafficking in persons, which operated 24 hours a day. Those courts were also in charge of providing protection to victims.
JORGE DE LEON DUGUE, Ombudsman on Human Rights of Guatemala, said that the human rights situation in Guatemala had progressed. However, there were structural problems such as in the penitentiary system and on corruption within prisons walls. The public prosecutor’s office had stepped up efforts against impunity and the State had taken an important step forward in ratifying the Rome Statute. The situation on femicide was alarming. Despite advancements in combating discrimination and racism, the signature of the peace accords was still subject to discussion by indigenous peoples on issues that concerned them. There was no true system of dialogue taking into account different views, which did not allow for progress.
Cuba said that despite challenges faced because of historic unjustness, Guatemala had nonetheless demonstrated considerable progress. Cuba highlighted the strengthening of national institutions and the creation of the Ministry for Social Advancement. Noteworthy progress had been made on the promotion and protection of indigenous populations. Cuba was willing to continue to assist Guatemala in the area of health.
Gabon congratulated the Government of Guatemala on efforts to sanction and eradicate domestic violence, as well as its policy to promote and encourage the development of women. It encouraged Guatemala in its efforts with regards to trafficking in persons. Gabon recommended that the international community back Guatemala in the implementation of recommendations.
Morocco appreciated the efforts made by Guatemala to strengthen the protection of civil, political, economic and other human rights and was satisfied to note the high number of recommendations which Guatemala had accepted. It also noted with satisfaction that Guatemala had demonstrated its commitment to promoting human rights in the country through concrete action and a number of initiatives, including institutional reform.
Philippines commended Guatemala’s commitment to implement measures to strengthen its policies for basic human rights, especially for vulnerable groups such as women and children. It also noted with appreciation Guatemala’s ready acceptance of the Philippines’ recommendation that it allocate the necessary financial and human resources to governmental human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Venezuela noted with satisfaction the readiness of Guatemala to engage in a positive interaction on the implementation of recommendations, and pointed out that noteworthy progress had been made in the past few years, particularly in relation to women’s rights and the rights of women from indigenous groups. The programmes of social advancement which Guatemala had set up were a positive development.
Algeria highly appreciated the acceptance of a large number of recommendations by Guatemala, particularly those made by Algeria on pursuance of the zero hunger programme and the increase of the administration of justice to women victims of violence. Algeria appreciated the efforts to promote economic, social and cultural rights for the population living in poverty and extreme poverty.
Amnesty International said that despite the progress made in bringing to justice those suspected of crimes under international law, the information which would enable survivors and relatives of victims to discover truth about what had happened had not been released. It was not clear from the responses of Guatemala if it supported the recommendations concerning impunity, strengthening the justice system and ensuring investigation of all crimes.
COC Netherlands said that Guatemala’s society continued to exist in a post-conflict context in which the number of femicides had increased. Insufficient application of the Act against Femicide contributed to perpetration of insecurity and social violence and impeded indigenous women from benefitting from its dispositions. All women, particularly indigenous women, continued to be subjected to violence, to be abducted, tortured and killed.
International Commission of Jurists expressed concern over the contradiction between Guatemala’s stated policy versus practice on the question of consultation with indigenous peoples. It called on the Government to reinforce the right against impunity in cases of gross human rights violations, ensuring that amnesties and clemency were not applied to such cases.
Action Canada for Population and Development noted the acceptance of Argentina’s recommendations to strengthen the necessary measures for the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. It requested the Government of Guatemala to comply with its commitments and to take any measures to protect their rights without any discrimination.
Association for the Prevention of Torture said that in ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Torture in 2008, Guatemala had committed itself to establishing a national prevention mechanism and it took note of progress made. However, it urged the National Congress to finalise the selection process of members of the new torture prevention mechanism.
Plan International, Inc. welcomed the recommendations relating to the rights of the child and Guatemala’s efforts to protect children’s rights. The acceptance and implementation of many recommendations, including through allocation of sufficient resources for their realization, would have a significant impact on children’s lives in Guatemala. Plan International called on Guatemala to increase its budget allocation for children and adolescents.
Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries said that on 19 March a trial for genocide had started in Guatemala and reported that there were still threats to truth and justice in the country. Some of Guatemala’s actions did not contribute to reconciliation, and nothing had been done about attacks on those who defended the rights of indigenous peoples. Guatemala should do more to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and guarantee the security of those who defended them.
Lutheran World Federation, in a joint statement, expressed concern about Guatemala’s reluctance to recognize the territories of indigenous peoples, which prevented the State from adopting policies to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Moreover, Guatemala was facilitating the removal of indigenous peoples from their territories, which had been done without prior consultation with those concerned.
ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO, Secretary of Peace of Guatemala, in his closing remarks said that Guatemala took note of the comments and observations made by the speakers today, which would enrich the human rights policy in the country. Guatemala would be providing regular periodic update on the progress made on the implementation of the accepted recommendations and the voluntary commitments.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala.
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