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Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Netherlands and South Africa

MIDDAY

GENEVA (22 September 2017) - The Human Rights Council at its midday meeting adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Netherlands and South Africa.

Monique T.G. Van Daalen, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that most of the recommendations received by the Government had focused on the human rights institutional infrastructure and many legislative and policy measures.  Many recommendations concerned non-discrimination, children’s rights, migrants’ rights and hate crime.  The Netherlands was urged to continue the strategic and systematic approach to tackling discrimination and hate crimes on the grounds of race, ethnic origins, nationality and religion.  With the further implementation of the National Action Programme against Discrimination, the Government aimed to give specific follow-up to among others these recommendations with both preventive and repressive measures. 

The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights spoke.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the Netherland’s achievement in advancing human rights, in particular efforts to prevent ethnic profiling and to increase awareness about the importance of the economic independence of women.  Some speakers expressed hope that the Netherlands would accept accountability for human rights violations and environmental damage resulting from the global or overseas operations of Dutch companies.  Others noted with concern the recent amendments to expand the powers of special services and allow them to access information on the Internet. 

Speaking were Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tunisia, Albania, Bahrain, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Estonia, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Philippines and Russian Federation. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Defence for Children International, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc. Education Fund, Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland, International Commission of Jurists, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, International-Laywers.Org, Endeavour Forum Inc., and Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Netherlands.

John Jeffrey, Deputy Minister at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, said South Africa had accepted 187 of the 243 recommendations it had received from the Working Group, all of which received the attention of the Government and were at various phases in the planning and implementation process.  Many of the recommendations had focused on the elimination of hate speech, hate crimes, racism and other forms of discrimination.  The Government was fully committed to eliminating racism in all its forms.  Many recommendations had also focused on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women.  In this respect, the Government was endeavouring to improve the operation of many initiatives and programmes already in existence.

The South African Human Rights Commission took the floor.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed South Africa’s efforts to eradicate poverty, improve living standards, and combat racism, as well as the implementation of social inclusion programmes and improvement of medical care.  They also welcomed the adoption of special laws to combat torture and human trafficking.  They encouraged the Government’s efforts to eliminate hate speech and related intolerance through legal measures, and to prosecute crimes committed against persons with albinism under the hate speech bill. 

Speaking were Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Botswana, China, Côte d’Ivoire and Cuba.  

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Bar Association, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, Action Canada for Population and Development, Edmund Rice International Limited, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme - RADDHO, United Villages, and International-Lawyers.Org.   

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of South Africa.

The Council will next hold a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, to be followed by a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.  At 5:30 p.m., the Council is scheduled to hold a closed meeting of the Complaint Procedure. 

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of the Netherlands

MONIQUE T.G. VAN DAALEN, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that the representatives of all four countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, namely, the Netherlands, Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curacao, had been part of the delegation to engage in the interactive dialogue on behalf of their Governments as each of the countries was responsible for the implementation of its obligations stemming from the different human rights conventions.  The Kingdom had received 203 recommendations.  Most of them concerned the country of the Netherlands of the Kingdom.  They focused on the human rights institutional infrastructure and many legislative and policy measures.  Many recommendations concerned non-discrimination, children’s rights, migrants’ rights and hate crime.  The Netherlands had been urged to continue the strategic and systematic approach to tackling discrimination and hate crimes on the grounds of race, ethnic origins, nationality and religion.  With the further implementation of the National Action Programme against Discrimination, the Government of the Netherlands aimed to give specific follow-up to among others these recommendations with both preventive and repressive measures.

Some recommendations were related to business and human rights.  The Netherlands was committed to preventing and remedying the involvement of Dutch companies in human rights abuses and would continue its efforts in this regard.

Ms. Van Daalen recalled that the horrible hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten recently.  Due to these extreme circumstances, the Government of Sint Maarten could not participate in finalizing its response of the Kingdom to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  The Kingdom of the Netherlands had accepted 105 recommendations and another 97 recommendations were noted.  For instance, three recommendations related to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were noted because the Government was currently studying the advice it had requested from the Council of State on an enabling draft law on this subject.  Other recommendations had been accepted, for instance recommendations aimed at strengthening national policy to decrease the gender wage gap.

Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, in a video statement, stated that it was pleased to see that the most important human rights issues were addressed in the recommendations made during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.  They could be very well used for the new action plan on human rights that the Government of the Netherlands had said it would develop.  The Institute encouraged the Government to use the lessons learned from the previous action plan on human rights to develop an effective instrument with quantifiable objectives to realise the implementation of the recommendations.  Such measurable human rights objectives were regrettably not included in the Government’s response to the recommendations.

Sierra Leone welcomed the Netherlands’ efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and to combat child sex tourism.  But it was disappointed that only one recommendation submitted by Sierra Leone had been accepted by the Netherlands.  It encouraged the Government to consider removing its reservations to various articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sudan commended the ratification by the Netherlands of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016, and the adoption of a national action plan on businesses and human rights.  It encouraged the authorities to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls.

Tunisia welcomed the acceptance by the Netherland of the majority of recommendations, including those submitted by Tunisia.  It commended the adoption of a national action plan to fight discrimination in all its forms.

Albania took positive note of the fact that the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights had been awarded A status in 2014 and that gender equality remained a priority for the Government.  It remained confident that the Government would continue to give due attention to the rights of the child, and equal inclusion in the labour market.  

Bahrain appreciated the Netherlands’ engagement with the Council through the Universal Periodic Review process.  Bahrain was pleased that two out of its four recommendations had been accepted, particularly regarding training programmes for police officers to eliminate racial discrimination.  Bahrain recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of the Netherlands.

China welcomed the presentation of the Netherlands on its measures to protect human rights, including the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Netherlands was encouraged to strengthen its anti-discrimination legislation, combat xenophobia actively, and promote the rights of minorities, including Roma.

Côte d’Ivoire thanked the Netherlands for its responses in the Universal Periodic Review session and for the attention given to the recommendations.  Côte d’Ivoire was confident that the Government of the Netherlands would do everything to ensure equality for all citizens in their territory.

Egypt wished the Netherlands success in the implementation of all recommendations.  Egypt welcomed some positive developments in the field of human rights such as the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  However, Egypt was concerned about discrimination, persecution acts against minorities, and human rights violations committed by Dutch companies.

Estonia congratulated the Netherlands for its willingness to accept most of the recommendations.  Estonia had particularly appreciated the Netherland’s decision to launch a legislative process that would lead to the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

India commended the Netherland’s achievements in advancing human rights, in particular efforts to prevent ethnic profiling, and to increase awareness about the importance of the economic independence of women. 

Iran called on the Netherlands to combat the prevailing systematic discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality and religion; strengthen its efforts in law and practice to prevent discriminatory attitudes and actions; and combat stereotypes and hate speech against Muslims, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Iraq welcomed the report of the Netherlands and appreciated the acceptance of the two recommendations submitted by Iraq.  It called on the Council to adopt the report of the Netherlands.

Libya highly valued the acceptance by the Netherlands of a number of important recommendations and commended measures taken in the field of human rights, such as the adoption of the 2013 national action plan for human rights.  Libya expressed hope that the Netherlands would continue its efforts to reduce hate speech. 

Philippines voiced hope that the Netherlands would consider supporting the proposal to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Philippines expressed hope that the Netherlands would accept accountability for human rights violations and environmental damage resulting from the global or overseas operations of Dutch companies.

Russian Federation noted with concern that the majority of the recommendations made by the Russian Federation had not been accepted by the Netherlands.  It was worried about the recent amendments to expand the powers of special services and allow them to access information on the Internet.  The Government should ensure privacy and prevent cases of unjustified access of special services to private information of citizens.  There should also be greater transparency and oversight by civil society over migration issues.  

Defence for Children International welcomed the Government’s efforts to continuously improve the protection of children’s rights through improved legislation, policies and national strategies.  Defence for Children International particularly commended the Netherlands for ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
 
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc. Education Fund was disappointed that the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Netherlands made no mention whatsoever of the growing and troubling practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands.  The annual number of euthanasia or assisted suicide deaths had more than doubled since 2009.

Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC
Nederland said that despite positive steps, much remained to be done to equally address discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.  There was room for improvement on access to full legal gender recognition.

International Commission of Jurists was disappointed by the use of the term “check-box diplomacy” in reference to States that formally engaged with the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva but did not take the necessary steps to implement human rights at home.  Dutch civil society had yet to see any new action by the Government designed to implement the recommendations.

Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the acceptance of the recommendations pertaining to comprehensive sexuality education and to paternity leave.  It noted that the Government gave the impression that these recommendations had already been fully implemented, however there was more room for improvement in order to fully meet its obligations

Amnesty International said the number of people in immigration detention in the Netherlands was on the rise after years of decline, in a detention regime that maintained its punitive character, routinely depriving irregular migrants of their rights.  Therefore Amnesty International regretted the rejection of recommendations to reduce immigration detention, to prioritize the use of alternative measures, and to ensure that vulnerable individuals and children were excluded from detention. 

International-Laywers.Org welcomed the report of the Netherlands.  It noted with concern the growing number of instances of xenophobia, and urged the Government to implement the consensually adopted Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Endeavour Forum Inc. said non-discrimination was the corner stone of international human rights.  The Netherlands blindly ignored the rights of babies.  Babies were violently torn from their mother’s womb through abortion, mutilated, arms and legs torn off, tortured, beheaded, or poisoned.  Abortion was the very worst form of child abuse.

Islamic Human Rights Commission welcomed the move in 2015 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urging the Netherlands to get rid of the Black Pete festival because it had racist elements.  The Black Pete Festival was based on a legend that every December 5th, St. Nicholas travelled to the Netherlands from Spain to reward or punish children, accompanied by an army of helpers or “black petes,” clownish and acrobatic figures dressed in Moorish page suits.

The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 203 recommendations received, 104 had been adopted while 98 had been noted.  Additional clarification had been provided on 1 recommendation, indicating which parts of the recommendation were supported and which were noted.

MONIQUE T.G. VAN DAALEN, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked State representatives and representatives of civil society for their contribution, and noted their constructive comments and concerns.  It was key to ensure proper follow-up of the Universal Periodic Review process and accordingly the Netherlands would organise a multi-stakeholder follow-up conference in November 2017 with workshops on different themes discussed during the Universal Periodic Review.  Following the recent elections in the country, a cabinet was currently being formed and it would come with new policies.  The outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review and the follow-up conference could also feed into those deliberations.  The Netherlands remained strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review. 

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Netherlands.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of South Africa

JOHN JEFFREY, Deputy Minister at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, said the Universal Periodic Review was a constructive process and an experience that enriched South Africa and its people.  September marked the fortieth anniversary of the death of struggle icon, Steve Biko, who had died in police custody on September 12, 1977 for fighting a horrendous litany of human rights violations that included enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and State sanctioned murder, that were all too common in Apartheid South Africa.  He had paid the ultimate price – his life – in the struggle to ensure that all South Africans could be free. The best way to honour his legacy was to ensure human rights for all.  South Africa had accepted 187 of the 243 recommendations it had received from the Working Group, all of which received the attention of the Government and were at various phases in the planning and implementation process.  At least one of the recommendations was beyond the scope of South Africa to implement as it fell within the purview of the institution building text of the Human Rights Council.  Many of the recommendations had focused on the elimination of hate speech, hate crimes, racism and other forms of discrimination.  Mr. Jeffrey assured that the Government was fully committed to eliminating racism in all its forms, including through the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, and the National Action Plan on Racism, Racism Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was in the process of finalisation.  Many recommendations had also focused on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women.  In this respect, the Government was endeavouring to improve the operation of many initiatives and programmes already in existence, such as progressive legislation, protection orders, and the work of the Thuthuzela Care Centres and the Sexual Offences Courts.

Social cohesion, nation building and the prevention of sporadic attacks on foreign nationals were high on the Government’s agenda, and various inter-ministerial task teams had been established to address this.  Other measures being put in place included the establishment of an alternative dispute resolution process; the promotion of socio-economic rights; the commitment to pro-poor programmes which covered 91 per cent of the eligible children and 95.5 per cent of the eligible old age persons; the National Student Aid Scheme; and significant achievements in the area of health, such as the National Health Insurance White Paper, and the biggest antiretroviral programme in the world which targeted the 3.9 million people on antiretroviral treatment.  There was a myriad of legislative, policy and other measures ensuring achievement of socio-economic, political and civil rights.  With regards to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, an agreement on the structure and the location of the national preventive mechanism had to be reached before ratification.  The Government employed ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking, including a National Inter-Sectoral Committee on the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons.  Mr. Jeffrey assured the Human Rights Council that South Africa remained fully committed to ensuring that it remained a peaceful, stable, productive and thriving nation that was focused on improving the quality of life of all those who lived in the country, and the promotion and protection of human rights for all.

South African Human Rights Commission, in a video statement, commended the South African Government for its extensive participation in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and noted the significant advances made since the last review process.  The Commission recognized and supported the many recommendations on the issues of inequality, racism and xenophobia as those phenomena continued to impede the country's social cohesion and nation-building efforts.  It also supported the recommendations concerning the realisation of socio-economic rights, gender-based violence, the prevalence of hate crimes, challenges faced by persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and the need for full recognition of children’s rights.  The Commission reiterated the recommendations that South Africa should ratify outstanding international human rights instruments, namely the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  It urged the Government to expedite efforts towards the establishment of a monitoring mechanism under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

Senegal welcomed the delegation and thanked it for the information provided.  South Africa’s history had included challenging times, and the South African Government had developed measures.  The national development plan had been adopted recently, and Senegal shared the vision aiming to combat intolerance.

Sierra Leone welcomed South Africa and thanked the delegation for its presentation.  South Africa was urged to accede to various relevant international treaties.

Sri Lanka extended its appreciation to South Africa for its work, and wished the Government success in implementing all its accepted recommendations.  South Africa was encouraged to continue its efforts to eliminate hate speech and related intolerance through legal measures. 

South Sudan commended developments such as the prevention and combatting of trafficking in persons act, and noted with appreciation the majority of recommendations which had been accepted.  South Sudan wished South Africa all success in the implementation of its recommendations.

Togo thanked South Africa for its full participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and the renewed commitment to protecting human rights in the country.  The Government of South Africa had accepted a number of the recommendations given, and the Council was invited to adopt the report.

Tunisia thanked South Africa for the updated report, and welcomed South Africa’s acceptance of the majority of recommendations submitted.  Tunisa also welcomed the adoption of special laws to combat torture and human trafficking.  The Human Rights Council was recommended to adopt the report.

Uzbekistan noted the serious approach and constructive work by the South African Government and hoped that the recommendations would further strengthen the system of human rights in South Africa.  It recommended the adoption of the report and wished South Africa every success in the implementation of its recommendations.

Venezuela was satisfied by the answers provided by the Government of South Africa, including its efforts to achieve the highest quality of life for its people, including in the domains of education and health.  Venezuela strongly commended the excellent report to the Universal Periodic Review and recommended that the Council adopt the report.

Albania noted with appreciation that South Africa had accepted a considerable number of recommendations during its review and particularly appreciated the positive consideration that South Africa gave to the recommendation by Albania regarding the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

Algeria thanked the delegation of South Africa for presenting additional information and welcomed the steps taken by South Africa in its commitment to promoting human rights for all.  It recommended the adoption of the report.

Azerbaijan congratulated South Africa for its continuous efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, and commended the institutionalized and committed approach that the Government pursued with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Belgium took note with appreciation that the recommendation made by Belgium on protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual persons against harassment and discrimination had been adopted.  It noted with regret that the recommendations on the revision of the Law on Children establishing a minimum age of 18 for marriage, and the recommendation on the Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons had not been accepted.

Botswana welcomed South Africa’s continued efforts to ensure human rights and to give them full effect.  It commended its developments in the sector of education with a view to increasing access, and the draft national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.  

China commended South Africa for its constructive engagement in the Universal Periodic Review and the acceptance of recommendations.  It particularly welcomed South Africa’s efforts in the eradication of poverty, the improvement of living standards, and the combat against racism.  China appreciated the implementation of social inclusion programmes and improvement of medical care.

Côte d’Ivoire thanked South Africa for its report and welcomed the attention it had paid to the recommendations.  It encouraged the Government to give full effect to the enjoyment of human rights, in particular to the rights of women, children and vulnerable persons.

Cuba appreciated the rigour demonstrated by South Africa during its Universal Periodic Review, and the fact that the country had accepted Cuba’s recommendations concerning poverty reduction, inequality, and the adoption of a law to prevent hate crimes. 

International Bar Association welcomed the engagement of the Government of South Africa, but noted that the county had called for an African criminal court instead of the International Criminal Court.  High-profile individuals in the country continued to make statements which had the potential to inflame sentiments.  South Africa should ratify the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.

International Lesbian and Gay Association said organizations working on human rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in South Africa noted that all related recommendations had been accepted.  While welcoming civil society’s engagement in the process, barriers existed.  The United States, Chile, Belgium and others were thanked for raising issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Association for the Prevention of Torture said that in the context of implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the Government should ensure that ongoing law reform affecting the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and the Judicial Inspectorate for Corrections Services were part of a process to ensure a coherent overall system of independent oversight.

Swedish Association for Sexuality Education welcomed South Africa’s work toward ending discrimination against women and girls.  An estimated 50 per cent of abortions in the country were still performed by unsafe providers.  Acknowledging the Government’s commitment to sexuality education, South Africa’s Government was urged to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of all.

Action Canada for Population and Development said many recommendations made echoed the recommendations made in the previous cycle.  The Government of South Africa was called on to reform and align laws to assure accordance with the constitution.  That included the decriminalization of all adult sex work. 

Edmund Rice International Limited said South Africa had an alarming frequency of gender-based violence, with more than half of criminal cases collapsing through negligence.  Despite the Government’s investments, there were issues concerning education.  South Africa had failed in its humanitarian responsibility to its refugees.  The Government was called on to reconsider its xenophobic attitude to refugees.

Amnesty International said it had constantly raised concerns about high rates of gender-based violence in South Africa, including brutal attacks based on the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity.  It emphasised the need for a national strategic plan on combatting gender-based violence, and for an urgent improvement in conviction rates. 

Human Rights Watch urged the South African authorities to take action to fulfil all commitments on recommendations received during its third Universal Periodic Review cycle, including prevention of xenophobia or other forms of intolerance and violence against women.  The Government should finalize the national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and provide a mechanism for justice and accountability for xenophobic crimes.

Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme – RADDHO remained concerned by the increase in violence, hate, xenophobia, racism, discrimination and intolerance against African migrants in the country as well as the pillaging of their belongings and livelihoods.  It encouraged the Government to fight against corruption and sexual violence, and to investigate the use of excessive force by security forces.

United Villages congratulated South Africa on its full cooperation with the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review.  It encouraged the country in its clear and evident efforts to combat xenophobia, discrimination and violence against migrants and stateless persons.

International Lawyers.Org welcomed the approval of the law pertaining to hate crimes.  South Africa’s respected statesman Nelson Mandela had based his legacy on the end of racism.  Today, the struggle was based on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and in this respect, the Government was urged to follow it.

The President of the Human Rights Council informed that out of 243 recommendations received, 187 had been adopted by the South African Government, while 56 had been noted.

JOHN JEFFERY, Deputy Minister at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, thanked all those who had participated in the discussion.  Generally comments had been supportive, except for a few from civil society organizations that addressed areas where South Africa could not take further action.  Some of the issues were more complicated, for example the issue of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons.  This was a very complicated area that required international cooperation and burden sharing between sending and receiving States.  South Africa strongly supported the development of the Global Compacts on refugees and on migrants which would ensure the protection of their human rights.  The Universal Periodic Review mechanism was an important tool for cooperation and constructive engagement among States and all other stakeholders.  South Africa remained committed to effectively implement the supported recommendations and would thoroughly engage in consultations on outstanding ones.

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