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Human Rights Committee discusses progress reports on Follow-Up to Views and on Follow-Up to Concluding Observations

Human Rights Committee

20 March 2017

The Human Rights Committee today discussed an update by the Interim Rapporteur on Follow-up to Views, as well as a progress report by the Rapporteur on Follow-Up to Concluding Observations.

Photini Pazartzis, Committee Member and the Interim Rapporteur on Follow-Up to Views, presenting her draft report, informed about a new, simplified grading system, which included grades A, B, C, D, and E.  She informed that the current report concerned  18 communications related to ten States parties: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Nepal  Spain, and Turkmenistan.  Sarah Cleveland, Committee Member and the Rapporteur on Follow-Up to Concluding Observations, presented a draft report on follow-up on the following States parties: Chile, Georgia, Ireland and Russian Federation.

The Committee adopted both draft reports.

The Committee will next meet tomorrow, 21 March at 10 a.m. to adopt its annual report and discuss methods of work.

Report on Follow-up to Views

PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Committee Member and the Interim Rapporteur on Follow-Up to Views, presented updates to the progress report on follow-up to views dated from 30 January 2017.  The general remarks included information provided by States parties between March and December 2016. 

A new simplified grading system was presented.  The assessment of the responses of the States parties and evaluation via a new grading system included : A – response largely satisfactory; B – action taken, but additional information of measures required; C – response received, but actions or information not relevant or do not implement the recommendation; D – non-cooperation with the Committee and no follow-up report received after reminders;  E – response indicates that the measures taken are contrary to the Committee’s recommendation.  The previous system included subgrades, and the decision had thus been taken to simplify the evaluation scale.

The Interim Rapporteur informed that the current report concerned  18 communications related to ten States parties.  She recommended to keep the follow-up dialogue ongoing, underlining that the Committee was reactive to the responses provided by States parties.  She said that the primary topics in individual communications were related to arbitrary detention, detention of refugees, deportation, termination of pregnancy, amongst others.

The Interim Rapporteur started by presenting the situation in Algeria.  She explained that there were four cases related to enforced disappearances.  The Committee observed the violation of several articles and, as a remedy, proposed an effective investigation of the disappearances of the authors of the communications, informing their families and prosecuting the perpetrators.  Ms. Pazartzis informed that there was no response to any of the cases from the State party since it was due on 6 April 2015, and that the Committee had requested a meeting with the Government; the State party was asked to respond by 23 March 2017.  The follow-up was ongoing in all  four cases.

The Chairperson added, as an explanation to the new Members, that there was no assessment, since there was no response from the State party.  The Interim Rapporteur informed that there was no limit as to the length of the dialogue; she asked the Secretariat how many follow-up letters were sent and how many of them did not receive any reaction from the State party.  Ms. Pazartzis expressed her reluctance to closing the dialogue without having any response from the State party, but thought that the State party had to be made aware of the Committee’s concerns, which in this case were serious.  The situation could be assessed with a D, and that the dialogue should remain open.

Turning to Australia, the Interim Rapporteur informed that there were four communications which concerned arbitrary detention, in which case the remedy proposed by the Committee was to find an appropriate compensation and rehabilitation.  In one of the cases, the State party disagreed with the decision of the Committee, stating instead that it had fulfilled its legal obligation, and not agreeing with the observation of the Committee that it had to prevent similar situations.  Another case concerned an indefinite detention of refugees, based on communications with a series of authors.  The State party informed the Committee that the authors had been released from detentions, except for one case, which was still being reviewed.  The Interim Rapporteur informed that State party remained in the breach of the Covenant, since some of the authors were detained and the released persons were not given any compensation.  She added that there was a separate submission, specifically requested by Australia not to be made public.  It was decided that an assessment would be made and published, but only the submission itself would not be published.  The Committee agreed to ask for a meeting with the State party’s representatives in the next session. 

With regard to Canada, there was one case, which concerned the deportation of a mentally-ill individual from Canada to Jamaica.  Canada disagreed with the Committee’s views.  A meeting had been requested with representatives of the State party, and the Interim Rapporteur suggested to continue the dialogue since no response was provided from the State Party.

As for Denmark, the Interim Rapporteur informed the three cases concerned the violation of Article 7, and were all deportation cases.  She suggested the dialogue should remain ongoing since there were no further submissions by the State party.

Turning to Estonia, there was only one case, concerning the violation of Article 14, ensuring a right to a legal representation of their choice to a detained person.  The Interim Rapporteur suggested to keep the dialogue open. 

The Interim Rapporteur then introduced the report on Ireland, which included one case, concerning the termination of a pregnancy.  The State party had responded to the Committee as to the general measures, acknowledging the views and informing that compensation had been given to the person concerned.  It was decided to keep the dialogue ongoing.

The Rapporteur informed there was one case for Lithuania, and since there were no further submissions from the State party, it was decided the dialogue would remain open.

Turning to Nepal, the Interim Rapporteur informed about the open case concerning an enforced disappearance.  A submission had been made previously by the State party and addressed by the Committee and since no further submissions followed, it was decided to keep the dialogue ongoing.

On Spain, Ms. Pazartzis reminded that the case concerned an extradition to Morocco and that a previous assessment had been made.  Since no further submissions were made by the State party, the Interim Rapporteur recommended to keep the dialogue ongoing.

Finally, regarding Turkmenistan, the case concerned freedom of religion.  The Interim Rapporteur reminded that the case followed a series of similar ones in the past.  Since no answer had been provided by the State party, the Rapporteur recommended to keep the dialogue open, and to send a letter to the State party.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the draft report on Follow-up to Views of the Human Rights Committee, as presented by Ms.  Pazartzis.  

Report on Follow-up to Concluding Observations

SARAH CLEVELAND, Committee Member and Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations, presented a draft report on follow-up on the following States parties: Chile, Georgia, Ireland and the Russian Federation.

Starting with Chile, the Rapporteur said that  one of the follow-up topics concerned the Counter-Terrorism Act, recommending the State party to amend the Act and adopt a clear and precise definition of terrorism offences in order to ensure that the law enforcement personnel did not use the counter-terrorism efforts against specific individuals, based on their ethnic origin, for example against the Mapuche.   Ms.   Cleveland reported that a draft law had been submitted in November 2014, and that the civil society criticised its long periods of pre-trial detention, high penalties for terrorism offences and the fact that the defence lawyers could know the identity of protected witnesses.   The law had been invoked only in one case involving a Mapuche person, but no one was prosecuted.   The Rapporteur acknowledged the action from the State party.   

In terms of voluntary termination of pregnancy, there was a comprehensive criminalisation of abortion in Chile, which forced women to opt for backstreet abortion.   The Committee had recommended the State party to establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion  and ensure an easier access to reproductive health services in all parts of the country.   In its reply, the State party informed the Committee that it had decriminalised the abortion in January 2015 in three cases, of foetal abnormality, when pregnancy  resulted from rape (but not if a woman was more than 12-week pregnant, or 14 weeks pregnant for a 14-year-old girl), and when it represented a risk to the mother’s life.   The Rapporteur noted the efforts by the State party in terms of sexual and reproductive health access and education. The Rapporteur reminded that the Committee had recommended the State party to redouble its efforts to prevent and eliminate torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure that such cases were investigated and sanctioned.  The State party informed that it  had initiated an investigation to determine responsibility of violence and abuse by the police during public demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, and that those who were found guilty, were penalised.  The Rapporteur requested more information on the training dedicated to prevention of torture and ill-treatment in the curriculum for Carabineros, the content of such training and the number of persons trained, as well as on the instances of non-compliance with relevant operating protocols during police interventions.  The Rapporteur recommended that a letter be sent to reiterate the Committee’s recommendation. 

Moving on to Georgia, Ms.  Cleveland reported on the recommendation that had been made to the State party to reform its system of administrative detention.  In response, the State party had presented alternative measures, which were welcomed by the Committee, which, nonetheless, requested further details as to their implementation in practice.  In addition, it asked for additional information on the temporary detention isolators.  On the topic of jury trials, the Committee had recommended a reform in order to ensure compatibility of the system with the fair trial guarantees enshrined in Article 14 of the Covenant. The Rapporteur informed that a draft law on jury trial system had been  submitted to the Parliament for adoption in 2016, and required information regarding its provisions for appeal of jury verdicts.  She recommended that a letter be sent to the State party to reflect on the evaluation of the Committee.

As for Ireland, the Rapporteur informed that more information had been requested regarding the institutional abuse of women and children in Magdalene Laundries.  The State party had not provided more information on the progress of the investigation, nor on the prosecutions and punishment of perpetrators.  The Committee thus reiterated its recommendations.  The Rapporteur welcomed the lump sum payments made to applicants under the redress scheme for victims of Magdalene Laundries and the measures in place to assist, advise and support applicants for redress.  The Committee reiterated its recommendation that the State party ensure that the victims receive the full range of reparation.  As to symphysiotomy, the original recommendation had been that the State party initiate an independent investigation to prosecute and punish the perpetrators and provide the survivors with an effective remedy.  The State party informed that a symphysiotomy payment scheme was established and 578 applications had been examined; an offer of an award was made to every woman who met the criteria under the scheme.  The Rapporteur evaluated positively the State party’s response in terms of compensation to victims, but reiterated the recommendation to allow women to challenge the payment offered under the Scheme by appeal or judicial review.

Turning to the conditions of detention in Ireland, Ms.  Cleveland reminded the State party had been asked to improve the living conditions and treatment of detainees, and to address overcrowding and the practice of “slopping out” as a matter of urgency.  She noted that progress had been made in reducing overcrowding and a new prison had been inaugurated in Cork.  However, the prison population still exceeded the capacity of the prisons in Cork and Limerick in May 2016.  Ms. Cleveland welcomed the in-cell sanitation in the new prison in Cork.  The Committee noted the lack of information on the establishment of a specific timeline for the achievement of a complete separation of remand and sentenced prisoners, juvenile and adult prisoners and detained immigrants and sentenced prisoners.  She concluded that a letter should be sent to the State party to reiterate the Committee’s recommendations.

As to the Russian Federation, the Rapporteur focused on the recommendations to the State party to ensure that all human rights violations committed during security and counter-terrorism operations in the north Caucasus federal area be investigated and sanctioned.  The Committee noted the response provided by the State party on the procedures of investigation, but also required more specific information  on measures taken since the concluding observations were adopted.  Also, the Rapporteur regretted that the State party had denied the practice of collective punishment of relatives and suspected supporters of alleged terrorists, and reiterated its recommendation.

Turning to the freedom of expression, the Committee had recommended to the State party to decriminalise defamation, which had not received a positive reply.  However, the Rapporteur welcomed the absence of any custodial sentences for defamation between 2013 and mid-2015.  Updated information on the number of prosecutions and convictions since the concluding observations had been issued was requested.  The Committee noted the information provided by the State party regarding the reiteration of the definition of treason, but regretted that no measures appeared to have been taken to implement its recommendation in order to ensure its conformity with the Covenant.  The Committee reiterated its recommendation.  With respect to the freedom of association, the Committee appreciated the information regarding applications for removal of non-commercial organisations from the foreign agents register and noted that steps had been taken to define “political activity” in the Act on Non-Commercial Organisations by way of a draft federal act.  The Rapporteur raised her concern vis-à-vis the consistency of the draft federal act with the Covenant regarding the definition.  Also, the Rapporteur regretted that the draft law banning undesirable foreign companies, organisations or groups had been signed into law and had entered into force.  Thus, more information on the compatibility of the Act with the Covenant was requested.

The Committee then proceeded to adopt the draft report on follow-up to the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee.

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