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Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Togo, Syria and Venezuela

Human Rights Council

MORNING

16 March 2017

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Togo, Syria and Venezuela.

Kokouvi Agbetomey, Minister for Justice and Relations with the Institutions of Togo, thanked the Council for providing Togo with this opportunity to present supplementary information.

Polo Nakpa, Secretary of State in charge of Human Rights at the Justice Ministry of Togo, said that out of 195 recommendations, the delegation had accepted 162, out of which 26 had already been implemented at the time.  As for the 11 postponed recommendations, five met the approval of Togo, whereas six had been noted.  The authorities were aiming to achieve by 2030 a structurally transformed nation and to improve the living standards of the people of Togo.  Improving wellbeing, increasing productivity, and improving the infrastructure and environment were the main goals. 
 
Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme du Togo said that when it came to the recommendations on violence against women, the criminal code took care of most of the concerns raised.  Regarding standing invitations to mandate holders, Togo had never refused any mandate holder a visit, and regarding the promotion of women in electoral and administrative posts, the law on quotas would provide greater opportunity for women.
 
In the ensuing discussion, delegations welcomed Togo’s measures taken to counter torture and noted that the country was persevering despite challenges in several fields.  Togo’s actions to improve conditions in prisons in line with international standards were taken note of by several delegations.  Some noted that although recommendations on decriminalizing same-sex relations had not been accepted, the frank and open dialogue on the issue was welcomed.  Some speakers also focused on the issue of discrimination based on gender and sexual identity, calling on Togo to amend legislation to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity were included as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
 
Speaking were Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, China, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Iraq and Kenya.
 
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Amnesty International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, World Organisation against Torture, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco and International Catholic Child Bureau. 
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Togo.
 
Hussam Edin Aala, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in spite of the exceptional circumstances, Syria had engaged with the mechanisms of the Universal Periodic Review, providing its second Universal Periodic Review report in full transparency and honesty, by virtue of its commitment to dialogue, cooperation and enhancement of the instruments of human rights to which the country belonged.  Expressing dismay at some countries’ refusal to cooperate, he said the best manner of dealing with those recommendations was refusing them, while also confirming Syria’s readiness to enter into any dialogue on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty. 
 
During the ensuing discussion, some delegations welcomed Syria’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and commended the country for making progress despite challenges the country was facing from both internal and external factors that affected peace and security.  Congratulating Syria on the positive steps undertaken, these countries recommended the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Syria.  Other countries noted that six years of conflict had had a devastating impact on all groups in Syria, and expressed concern about the massive loss of civilian lives.  Some questioned the Syrian Government’s sincerity in promising to consider implementing some Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  The Universal Periodic Review could not work in isolation of other human rights mechanisms.
 
Speaking were Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Turkey, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and Algeria.
 
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Conseil International pour le soutien a des process equitable et aux Droits de l’Homme, Africa Culture International, Amnesty International, International Association of Democratic Lawyers (in a joint statement) Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiatives pour le Dialogue and Agence pour les droits de l’Homme.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Syria.
 
Maria Iris Varela Rangel, Minister of People’s Power for the Penitentiary Service of Venezuela, said Venezuela was moving forward with political, social and economic democratization despite internal and external pressures and actions that bordered on terrorism.  Venezuela had accepted the majority of recommendations made to it during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and 70 per cent of those were being implemented, and they concerned areas such as access to justice, gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights, and political participation in public affairs. 
 
During the ensuing discussion, delegations commended Venezuela for accepting the majority of recommendations and urged the country to accept further recommendations in areas such as ratifying conventions, including the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, and guaranteeing judicial independence.  Venezuela’s efforts to ensure full health care coverage for all its citizens by 2017 was also commended.  However, areas for improvement were also noted, with delegations expressing concern about political, economic and security challenges, with some submitting specific suggestions such as a call for the Government  to announce an election timetable for elections in 2017 and to release all political prisoners.  Some expressed concern about the situation of human rights defenders subjected to intimidation and harassment.  
 
Speaking were Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Cuba, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam, Algeria Angola and Belarus.
 
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Amnesty International, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Lesbian and Gay Association, CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, American Association of Jurists, Indian Council of South America, International Service for Human Rights (joint statement), World Organization against Torture, and Human Rights Watch.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela.
 
The Council has a full day of meetings scheduled today.  At noon, it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Iceland, Zimbabwe and Lithuania.
 
Opening Statement
 
JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, underlined the important role of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process, which provided additional clarification to the issues under discussion.  The Council strongly rejected any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals who cooperated with the Council, and urged States to provide adequate protection against such acts.  States under review needed to clearly communicate their position on all recommendations.  All interventions made during the Universal Periodic Review would focus on outcome documents and should not reopen the debate during the negotiations. 
 
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Togo
 
KOKOUVI AGBETOMEY, Minister for Justice and Relations with the Institutions of Togo, thanked the Council for providing Togo with this opportunity to present supplementary information.  He introduced the speaker who would make the presentation.
 
POLO NAKPA, Secretary of State in charge of Human Rights at the Justice Ministry of Togo, said that out of 195 recommendations, the delegation had accepted 162, out of which 26 had already been implemented at the time.  As for the 11 postponed recommendations, five met the approval of Togo, whereas six had been noted.  The five noted recommendations concerned the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child; setting up a quota for women for electoral posts; the adoption of a quota for persons with disabilities; and organizing a referendum on setting a limit for the presidential mandate.  The roadmap for elections was continuing.  The Government was creating conditions for democracy at the grass-root level.  The next local elections should be organized in the next 15, at most 18 months.  Togo had started a participatory programme moving towards a new national development programme, in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals.  The authorities were aiming to achieve by 2030 a structurally transformed nation and to improve the living standards of the people of Togo.  Improving wellbeing, increasing productivity, and improving the infrastructure and environment were the main goals.  The Government had set up a strategic follow-up unit on the Sustainable Development Goals to monitor progress.  For example, one of the ongoing processes was the drafting a new health development plan.  The fight against corruption occupied the particular attention of the Government.   The determination of the authorities to uphold human rights was irreversible.
 
Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme du Togo said that when it came to the recommendations dealing with the setting up of a communications procedure, ratification of that instrument would show the determination of Togo.  When it came to the recommendations on violence against women, the criminal code took care of most of the concerns raised.  Regarding standing invitations to mandate holders, Togo had never refused any mandate holder a visit, and it was for the Government to judge how relevant that was.  Regarding the promotion of women in electoral and administrative posts, the law on quotas would provide greater opportunity for women.
 
Algeria thanked Togo for presenting information and welcomed measures taken to counter torture, to raise awareness and to counter discrimination against women.  Wishing every success to Togo, Algeria hoped the Council would adopt the outcome of the second Universal Periodic Review of Togo.
 
Angola welcomed the fact that Togo seemed to have accepted most of the recommendations, and commended their commitment to ratify the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on abolishing the death penalty.  Despite challenges, it had been noted that Togo had made progress in the farming sector, and Angola took note of the measures taken to improve conditions in prisons in line with international standards.  Angola invited the Council to adopt its report.
 
Benin welcomed the delegation of Togo and congratulated the country on their outcome report.  Benin appreciated Togo’s cooperation with the Human Rights Council and their acceptance of most of the recommendations, which demonstrated Togo’s openness.  Benin invited the Human Rights Council to adopt the outcome report. 
 
Botswana commended Togo for the public policy reforms and the establishment of institutions such as the High Authority to Combat Corruption.  It encouraged and urged Togo to continue its cooperation with human rights mechanisms and development partners to address challenges in relation to birth registration, health in prisons and the implementation of social programmes, as mentioned during its review in October.
 
Brazil acknowledged the acceptance of its recommendation on freedom of expression and of assembly, as well as on the protection of journalists.  Although its recommendation on decriminalizing same-sex relations had not been accepted, Brazil welcomed the frank and open dialogue on the issue.  The Government’s efforts towards advancing human rights, such as envisaging to abolish the death penalty, deserved the highest respect and encouragement by the international community.
 
Burundi welcomed and congratulated Togo for having accepted the majority of the recommendations.  It congratulated the Government for making the struggle against poverty a priority, and for having adopted a range of policies to achieve this.  It congratulated and encouraged the Government on its efforts in reducing the gender inequality index and improving access to health care, and wished it success in implementing the recommendations.
 
China welcomed Togo’s constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and thanked it for having accepted China’s recommendations, notably with respect to the 2030 Agenda, reducing maternal mortality, improving health services, and strengthening the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.
 
Congo noted the significant progress made by Togo in the normative domain with the promulgation of many legal texts.  It encouraged Togo to harmonize legislation with international legal instruments.  Congo invited technical and financial partners to continue to support Togo in the area of welfare for its people.
 
Cuba highlighted the 11 recommendations still waiting for Togo’s reply, voicing hope that Togo would adopt them.  It encouraged Togo to continue to improve national policies in the human rights field, in particular those combatting poverty. 
 
Djibouti was pleased to see the commitment of Togo to improve the human rights situation by accepting most of the recommendations.  It welcomed its cooperation with international and regional human rights mechanisms.
 
Egypt welcomed Togo’s acceptance of recommendations and its effort to improve economic, social and cultural human rights, as well as that the country’s legislation was in line with international human rights instruments.  Egypt called on the Government to continue to promote fundamental human rights and freedoms. 
 
Ethiopia welcomed the delegation of Togo and commended it for engaging constructively with the Human Rights Council and accepting a significant number of recommendations, including those of Ethiopia, on the strengthening of the quality of education by building and equipping school facilities, and on the implementation of the national development plan for generating resources.  Ethiopia commended Togo for the accelerated growth and employment creation strategy 2013-2017.
 
Gabon welcomed the Togolese Government’s willingness to give effect to the recommendations, in particular on the improvement of the rights of vulnerable persons such as women, children and persons with disabilities.  Gabon welcomed the new family code which addressed issues of discrimination against women and encouraged Togo to continue the steps taken in the direction of combatting gender-based violence and inequality.
 
Ghana welcomed measures taken by Togo to consolidate the education system and make education accessible to all.  In particular it welcomed the promotion of inclusive education that addressed the needs of persons living with disabilities, namely the supply of textbooks in braille and the introduction of sign language in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on ensuring inclusive and quality education for all.
 
Iraq thanked Togo for its Universal Periodic Review and for steps taken to protect human rights in the country.  It welcomed the fact that Togo had accepted Iraq’s recommendations on gender discrimination and equality between men and women.
 
Kenya noted with satisfaction that Togo had accepted the majority of the recommendations, including those suggested by Kenya.  It commended Togo for its steps to ratify several international treaties and to mainstream them by passing various legislation. 
 
Amnesty International raised concern that law enforcement authorities used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, and torture and other ill-treatment against arrested or detained persons.  It also raised concern over the curtailment of freedom of expression and space for human rights defenders.   It called on Togo to end discrimination based on gender and sexual identity.
 
Action Canada for Population and Development voiced great concern about the fact that the Government of Togo had not accepted any recommendations on the decriminalization of same-sex adult consensual sexual relationships.  It called on Togo to amend legislation to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity were included as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
 
Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme commended Togo’s encouragement of the involvement of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process.  However, it was still concerned about the persistence of sexual violence, maltreatment of girls, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, child labour, and the high number of forced and early marriages.  It encouraged Togo to intensify efforts to improve the rights of women.
 
World Organization against Torture welcomed Togo’s efforts to combat torture and ill-treatment, in particular the adoption of the new law to this effect.  However, it was concerned about continuous impunity of perpetrators, prison overcrowding, lack of independence of justice, and the use of force during demonstrations.  It urged that the Government ratify the Rome Statute and attend to victims of torture to have access to a lawyer and doctor, at all stages of the procedure.
 
Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco welcomed the constructive engagement of Togo, but noted the persistence of very serious discrimination against vulnerable children, including children affected by HIV-AIDS, children with mental and physical disabilities, and children in street situations.  It recommended that the Government eradicate all forms of discrimination, and carry out awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of free birth registration.
 
International Catholic Child Bureau noted that the majority of the recommendations had been accepted.   It regretted however that the recommendation on the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child had not been accepted, and urged that those recommendations regarding children be accepted.  It welcomed the adoption of the Decree on the National Children’s Committee and recommended the allocation of the necessary financial resources to this body.
 
POLO NAKPA, Secretary of State in charge of Human Rights in the Justice Ministry of Togo,
said she had taken note of all comments and remarks with great interest.  Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Government was determined to do everything for the development of the country and for the full enjoyment of rights by the people of Togo.  Rights were a vital factor towards achieving peace and stability.  She urged the international community’s cooperation in implementing the recommendations and expressed sincere gratitude to the development partners and the international community as a whole.
 
JoaquÍn Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council, stated that out of 195 recommendations, Togo had accepted 167 and had noted 28.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Togo.
 
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Syria
 
HUSSAM EDIN AALA, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in spite of the exceptional circumstances, Syria had engaged with the mechanisms of the Universal Periodic Review.  Syria had provided its second Universal Periodic Review report in full transparency and honesty, by virtue of its commitment to dialogue, cooperation and enhancement of the instruments of human rights to which the country belonged.  The second Universal Periodic Review report of Syria included a description of the reality and an analysis of the root causes of the situation.  Syria had engaged in the dialogue in order to advance human rights in Syria, and had worked on and studied in depth all the recommendations that had been presented during the Universal Periodic Review.  The report noted that Syria had an acceptance rate of over 60 per cent.  The Government was keen to implement the recommendations and thanked the countries for their recommendations after which it would be possible to push forward human rights in Syria.  Some accepted recommendations included the setting up of a structure by virtue of the Paris Principles, and the establishment of such a body was being prepared.  Regarding civil rights and other laws to remove discriminatory laws against women, they included laws on issues such as women passing on nationality to their children. 
 
Turning to recommendations regarding solving the current crisis in Syria, Mr. Aala said Syria continued to engage in national conciliation, and was adamantly combatting terrorism and would continue until terrorist groups had been wiped out all over Syria.   Reminding the assembled delegates of two terrorist attacks which had occurred yesterday, he noted that the explosions had been preceded by other bombings which had killed civilians.  Combatting terrorism was a priority.  Syria from the beginning had based itself on dialogue and participated in all talks, and was dismayed at some countries’ behaviour in refusing to cooperate.  The Universal Periodic Review process did not aim at confrontation with the concerned country.  Such behaviour was based on politicization, selectivity and double standards.  Syria saw that the best manner of dealing with those recommendations was refusing them, while also confirming its readiness to enter into any dialogue on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty.  Some of those countries ignored unilaterally enforced measures on Syria and their negative effect on the Syrian people.  Syria aimed at promoting peace, security and prosperity, and it would complete the process after the adoption of its report today.
 
Maldives stressed that the challenges faced by Syria and its people were almost unsurmountable.  Nevertheless, the existence of a situation of conflict did not relinquish Syria’s obligation towards the promotion and protection of the human rights of the people within its borders.  The gross human rights violations which occurred on a daily basis were appalling and needed to be addressed urgently.  Maldives called on all actors in the Syrian conflict to refrain from further violence, and to commit to a political solution for the security of the Syrian people. 
 
Israel deplored Syria’s rejection of Israel’s Universal Periodic Review recommendations, which had not come as a surprise.  It had been clear from the outset that for Assad’s Syria the Universal Periodic Review was nothing but a charade.  Instead of committing to immediately stopping the killing it was responsible for, Syria preferred to hide behind unconvincing excuses.  The Council should reject the Syrian Government’s attempt to divert attention from the atrocities it was perpetrating by referring to Golan.
 
Nicaragua welcomed the sovereign commitment of Syria to accept the majority of recommendations, including those proposed by Nicaragua regarding the preservation of peaceful coexistence of different religious communities and cultural identities, and to continue fighting extreme ideologies.  Nicaragua restated its support for the intra-Syrian dialogue, voicing hope that a peaceful solution would be found for the conflict in Syria, based on the will of the Syrian people and without foreign interference. 
 
Nigeria welcomed the delegation of Syria and commended its active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.  Nigeria noted that despite the challenges that Syria was facing, caused by internal and external factors that affected the peace, security and sovereignty of the country, the Government had reaffirmed its determination to observe the principles of international law and international humanitarian rights instruments.
 
Oman expressed its gratitude for the presentation of the Syrian delegation.  It congratulated Syria on the positive steps undertaken and the engagement in the Universal Periodic Review, and welcomed international efforts to establish peace and stability in the region.  It invited the Council to adopt the Universal Periodic Review report of Syria.
 
Pakistan welcomed the delegation of Syria and thanked it for presenting the update on the accepted recommendations.  It commended the Government of Syria for accepting the majority of the recommendations, including those by Pakistan.  It wished every success to Syria and requested the Council to adopt the report of Syria with consensus.
 
Russia thanked the delegation on its presentation and commended Syria on its efforts in the implementation of human rights despite the challenges and the crisis.  Russia welcomed the efforts by the authorities to resolve the complex humanitarian challenges and provide medical attention and education to citizens.  It recommended the adoption of the report on the Universal Periodic Review cycle.
 
Sierra Leone noted with increasing concern the massive loss of lives as well as the continued destruction of basic facilities in Syria due to constant bombardments and the shelling of homes, markets and hospitals in the country.  It encouraged Syria to eliminate child, early and forced marriage and modify its penal code to abolish honour killings.  It recommended the adoption of the report.
 
Sudan welcomed the commitment of Syria to the Universal Periodic Review process despite the ongoing conflict.  It urged all parties to end the violence and to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.  It recommended that the Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review of Syria.
 
Turkey was strongly disturbed that the standard Universal Periodic Review session held in November 2016 was used to politicize the process.  The suffering of the Syrian people continued and the regime was responsible for it.  Turkey categorically rejected the baseless allegations by the Syrian delegation during the process. 
 
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees urged the Government of Syria to accept all the Universal Periodic Review recommendations received, and to adopt measures to improve the availability of efficient civil, administration and documentation services, including to Syrians living in areas outside of Government control.  As for the issue of statelessness, further action was required to resolve the situation of all those who were ineligible to apply for nationality.
 
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that six years of conflict had left a devastating impact on children in Syria.  Grave violations of child rights and the laws of armed conflict continued to be documented on a daily basis.  During 2016, UNICEF had documented over 850 cases of recruitment and use of children in Syria by all parties, double that of the previous year.  Increasingly children were fighting children.  The children in Syria had to be given a chance to regain their childhood and their fundamental rights.
 
United Kingdom noted that the Syrian regime continued to enforce siege and starvation tactics by obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.  The United Kingdom noted the regime’s promise to consider implementing some Universal Periodic Review recommendations, but given its track record, its sincerity was questionable.  To achieve lasting peace, the Syrian regime should engage constructively in the United Nations-led negotiations to achieve transition to an inclusive, representative and democratic Government.
 
United States remained appalled at the human rights situation in Syria.  There were brutal tactics used, including targeting civilians and vital civilian infrastructure.  The offensive on Aleppo involved violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  The Syrian Government and the Iran-supported and trained militias that increasingly made up the ground forces were urged to cease the use of lethal violence against civilians immediately and to implement a political solution to the conflict.
 
Venezuela welcomed the presentation and said that despite the aggression against Syria since 2011, Syria’s Government stood firm in its commitment to human rights.  Venezuela restated its support for Syria to achieve a political solution to the conflict without outside interference.
 
Algeria commended Syria’s efforts and cooperation with human rights mechanisms.  The valuable efforts made by the Syrian Government in the field of promoting development in the country were noted despite the deployment of terrorist groups.  The Council was encouraged to adopt the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Syria. 
 
Conseil International pour le soutien a des process equitable et aux Droits de l’Homme said the review of the Syrian report was a challenge because of the presence of terrorist groups funded and supported by foreign terrorist powers.  It expressed solidarity with the Government of Syria.  This was an international war against Syria, where terrorists supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others were violating the country.  Many countries recognized the difficulties to accept the recommendations to Syria under the guise of human rights.
 
Africa Culture International thanked the Secretary General and the Special Envoy for their efforts to assist the Syrian people, and in particular those who were victims of human rights violations.  It welcomed the Government attempts to implement the recommendations from the last Universal Periodic Review.  It called on all parties to the conflict to sustain a peaceful resolution in order to facilitate immediate humanitarian assistance to all those in need.
 
Amnesty International estimated that since 2011, 17,723 persons had died as a result of torture or other ill-treatment in detention centers across Syria.  As many as 13,000 individuals had been killed in a widespread and systematic practice of extrajudicial executions, carried out in weekly mass hangings in Saydanaya Military Prison.  In the past six years, tens of thousands had been subjected to enforced disappearance, the majority at the hands of Government forces.  It called on Syria to allow for an independent investigation.
 
International Association of Democratic Lawyers, in a joint statement with Union of Arab Jurists, appreciated the active cooperation of Syria with human rights mechanisms, particularly now that the country was facing the terrible threat of extremist organizations.  It welcomed the acceptance of the majority of recommendations by Syria, and encouraged the Government to continue its struggle against terrorist groups, which caused so much suffering and endangered the entire Middle East.
 
Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiatives pour le Dialogue noted that the reception of the report by Syria was a victory for the Council.  It welcomed the recommendations accepted on women and children.  However, that was not possible when the lives of so many children and women were endangered in Syria.  The Universal Periodic Review could not work in isolation of other human rights mechanisms.
 
Agence pour les droits de l’Homme drew attention to the suffering of the Syrian people perpetrated by non-Government actors.  It reminded of the recent terrorist attack in a popular restaurant in Damascus.  The nature of those crimes was no different from attacks perpetrated by ISIS in European capitals.  It highlighted the huge number of terrorist attacks against Syrian civilians. 
 
HUSSAM EDIN AALA, Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations at Geneva, thanked all for the statements made and took note of all recommendations and comments.  He reiterated the commitment of the Government of Syria to implement all recommendations, in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances.  Responding to the allegations of politicization of the Universal Periodic Review by Syria, Mr Aala noted that some delegations still insisted on using the term “regime” which was not acceptable in the international community.  He warned against slandering campaigns.  The Israeli delegation hinted that Syria had refused to implement recommendations, which was not true.  That kind of language would not make the Syrian Government forget about Golan and the fact that Israel was the occupying force there.  Responding to Turkey’s depiction of Syria as an “illegitimate regime,” Mr. Aala reminded of the human rights violations in Turkey.  It was clarified that the Government of Syria criminalized the recruitment of children by armed groups.   The Council should devote more attention to the situation of Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey.
 
The President of the Council stated that out of 231 recommendations, Syria had accepted 156 and noted 73.
 
The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review of Syria.

 
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela
 
MARIA IRIS VARELA RANGEL, Minister of People’s Power for the Penitentiary Service of Venezuela, reiterated Venezuela’s commitment to social justice, deepening of democracy and the effective realization of human rights in a comprehensive fashion.  The Universal Periodic Review was an excellent opportunity to put in practice ambitious mechanics provided under the Constitution to provide the enjoyment of all human rights by all people.  Venezuela was moving forward with political, social and economic democratization despite internal and external pressures and actions that bordered on terrorism.  Venezuela had moved from an authoritarian and oligarchic State of the past towards a popular democracy.  The national report detailed the achievements made in the promotion and protection of human rights in Venezuela.
 
Since 1999, Venezuela had been a pioneer in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Major steps had been taken to comply with international human rights obligations and Venezuela would continue to cooperate with the United Nations bodies and mechanisms, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights treaty bodies and the Special Procedures.  Venezuela had accepted the majority of recommendations made to it during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and 70 per cent of those were being implemented, and they concerned areas such as access to justice, gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights, and political participation in public affairs.  Measures to implement those recommendation were included in the National Human Rights Plan 2016-2019. 
 
The second cycle of Universal Periodic Review had been a true exercise in dialogue and cooperation, said Ms. Varela Rangel, adding that Venezuela would continue to maintain close cooperation with all the human rights bodies and mechanisms.  Venezuela had strengthened gender equality and equity policies, and the protection for children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.  Action was being taken to protect the right of indigenous peoples and all restrictions of fundamental freedoms and freedoms were prohibited, including the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in conformity with the Constitution and the laws.   
 
Pakistan welcomed Venezuela and commended the country for accepting the majority of the recommendations.  Pakistan recommended that the Human Rights Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Venezuela by consensus.
 
Philippines welcomed Venezuela’s setting up of committees for women, and noted the action taken to combat human trafficking.  It was hoped that Venezuela would ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.  The Philippines recommended that the Human Rights Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Venezuela.
 
Republic of Korea said Venezuela’s prompt investigation of allegations of arbitrary detention was welcomed, and urged Venezuela to support the Republic of Korea’s other recommendations to guarantee judicial independence.  The recommendations would contribute to the human rights of Venezuela.  The Republic of Korea urged the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome by consensus.
 
Russian Federation said Venezuela’s second Universal Periodic Review cycle was welcomed and most of the recommendations had been adopted.  Appreciating Venezuela’s legal instruments, Russia welcomed Venezuela’s success in bringing the country in line with the highest international standards.  The Russian Federation recommended the adoption of Venezuela’s Universal Periodic Review outcome.
 
Sierra Leone commended the efforts to promote computer literacy and the provision of five million computers to primary and secondary schools throughout the country.  Sierra Leone also commended the efforts to ensure full health care coverage for all its citizens by 2017 and the establishment of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2016-2017.  Venezuela should ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and adopt more programmes for the participation of women at all levels of decision-making. 
 
Sudan welcomed the steps taken in the areas of education, poverty reduction and social development, as well as the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.  Sudan recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Venezuela. 
 
Bolivia appreciated the efforts of Venezuela to comply with the accepted recommendations and recognized the deep transformation that had occurred as a result of social policies.  Bolivia welcomed the role of civil society and the establishment of the national human rights council, and also welcomed the role of the international commission to mediate and hold dialogue to uphold human rights.
 
Cuba remarked that despite the political and economic war waged against Venezuela, President Maduro had done all possible to guarantee the rights of the people in the country.  Cuba wished Venezuela all the best in the implementation of the recommendations and reiterated its support for the legitimate Government of President Maduro. 
 
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomed the initiative of the Government of Venezuela to create a national council of human rights and to elaborate, in a participatory manner, a national plan of human rights to address the challenges identified by the Venezuelan society.  It shared the concern of the Government about the impact of the current economic crisis on children and adolescents, and it stood ready to support the Government.
United Kingdom continued to be concerned by developments in Venezuela, particularly political, economic and security challenges.  It urged all sides to engage in a constructive dialogue.  It was disappointed that Venezuela had not been able to support either of the recommendations made by the United Kingdom and hoped it would reconsider its position and would engage in a constructive dialogue with the National Assembly.
 
United States remained deeply troubled by the worsening human rights situation in Venezuela, and by the failure to hold elections in 2016.  It called on the Government to engage in a dialogue with all Venezuelans and to announce an election timetable for elections in 2017, to release all political prisoners, to permit the elected National Assembly to carry out its constitutionally-mandated functions, and to permit peaceful protests and independent media reporting.
 
Viet Nam commended Venezuela’s constructive engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process and was pleased to note that Venezuela had accepted most of the recommendations.  It was pleased by Venezuela’s commitment to improve the lives of its people, especially the effective implementation of their economic, social, and cultural rights. Viet Nam wished Venezuela every success in the implementation of the recommendations.
 
Algeria thanked the Venezuelan delegation for the supplemental information presented, and encourage Venezuela to pursue social programmes for vulnerable people.  Welcoming the country’s cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review process, Algeria wished Venezuela success in all its efforts by way of the recommendations. 
 
Angola thanked Venezuela for accepting a large number of recommendations made, despite economic and social difficulties faced by the country.  Venezuela was urged to continue to protect the rights of all, particularly women and children.
 
Belarus welcomed the delegation of Venezuela and thanked them for their detailed comments, noting that the second Universal Periodic Review cycle showed the country’s commitment to improving its human rights situation.  The Government of Venezuela was wished every success and the report of the working group was commended to the Council for adoption.
 
Amnesty International said human rights defenders continued to face intimidation and harassment as they carried out their legitimate activities, and peaceful protests had been met with the use of force by security forces.  It was concerning that Venezuela had rejected recommendations to end arbitrary detention.
 
Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the announcement of the voluntary commitment to prevent early and unwanted pregnancies, but regretted that Venezuela did not accept the recommendation to decriminalize abortion, which was the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.  Measures must be taken to strengthen sexual education in school curricula, ensure access to contraception and decriminalize abortion.
 
International Lesbian and Gay Association regretted that Venezuela had noted the recommendations aimed to protect the right to identity of transgender persons, decriminalize relations between same sexes, and legally recognize same sex marriages.  Venezuela should adopt a legal instrument to guarantee the protection of rights and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
 
CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation expressed concern about the repression of freedom of expression and assembly and the violence against journalists and stressed that the jurisdiction of military court over civilians must cease.  It was of concern that 82 per cent of the population lived in poverty and one in 10 children was severely malnourished and that the situation was a complex humanitarian emergency.
 
International Association of Democratic Lawyers said that important progress in Venezuela had been achieved thanks to the Bolivarian mission set up by President Chavez and which was continued by President Maduro.  In 2016 Venezuela held a record in allocating 71 per cent of its budget to social progress.  Venezuela should continue to set the right example in the promotion and protection of human rights.   
 
American Association of Jurists condemned the foreign interference in Venezuela since 2002 and the internal destabilization of national institutions.  Venezuela was undergoing a serious economic crisis.  It urged the Government to pursue an inclusive dialogue with the whole society, to prevent and prosecute human rights violations, and to pursue dialogue with countries and regional organizations in Latin America, as well as with the Vatican.
 
Indian Council of South America stated that consultations with indigenous peoples must mean free, prior, and informed consent with a view to protecting their environment. It recommended the continuation of the implementation of recommendations for the management of natural resources in line with the rights of indigenous peoples, including their ancestral rights and their right to self-determination.
 
International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with Front Line, The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; and World Organisation Against Torture was highly concerned that human rights defenders were exposed to discrimination, use of force, and other violations.  It was also concerned regarding the absence of impartiality of judges and prosecutors, the high levels of impunity, and the non-acceptance of a number of recommendations to this effect.  It called on the Government stop stigmatising defenders and to adopt a public policy to protect them.  
 
World Organization against Torture welcomed the recommendations accepted with regard to torture.  It was deeply concerned at the militarisation of the country.  The new Security Strategy which called for all security forces in the streets was troublesome.  Corpses had been found with signs of torture at the end of November.
 
Human Rights Watch said that the situation in Venezuela had drastically worsened since 2011 and the Government had used brutal force against its citizens demonstrating against it.  Venezuela continued to jeopardize the rights of journalists, activists and all those who criticized the Government.  Venezuela today was experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in its history, with acute food and medicine shortages. 

 
MARIA IRIS VARELA RANGEL, Minister of People’s Power for the Penitentiary Service of Venezuela, in concluding remarks, said that some of the recommendations made to Venezuela during the Universal Periodic Review were politicized and not constructive, and those were not accepted.  It was clear that there was vested political interest which went against the Universal Periodic Review.  With regards to the allegations about loss of life as a result of excessive use of force by the armed forces, Ms. Varela Rangel said that those responsible had been brought to justice.  Venezuela was at war, with blockades and sabotages having important impacts on the price of food and medicines, and this led to illegal trafficking.  The policies of international financial institutions also had a negative impact on food prices in Venezuela.  Venezuela had submitted 24 voluntary commitments which was an evidence of the country’s will to promote and protect human rights, and would allow Venezuela to strengthen its public policies in accordance with the Constitution and the national human rights action plan.  Some of the voluntary commitments regarded the implementation of the new penitentiary regime, implementation of a comprehensive policy to ensure citizen security, and training of civil servants and the police in human rights.  In closing, Venezuela reiterated its commitment to the implementation of the 193 accepted recommendations, and the 24 voluntary commitments.
 
The President said that out of the 274 recommendation, Venezuela had accepted 193 and noted 91.
 
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review for Venezuela.
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For use of the information media; not an official record

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