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Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of the Czech Republic, Argentina and Gabon

AFTERNOON

13 March 2013

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of the Czech Republic, Argentina and Gabon.

Katerina Sequensova, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that following a thorough consideration of all its Universal Periodic Review recommendations, it had accepted 129 recommendations and refused seven. Many of the issues underlined in the report were already being acted upon, such as gender equality, inclusion of foreigners, access to education and others. Regarding the investigation of the alleged Czech involvement in rendition flights operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, no such evidence had been found.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the Czech Republic on accepting the majority of the recommendations submitted, welcomed the adoption of the law on criminal responsibility of legal persons, and applauded the progress achieved in combating human trafficking and child trafficking in particular. Some speakers remained concerned about hate crimes committed against the Roma and the lack of legal protection, the Czech Republic’s refusal to respond to allegations regarding Central Intelligence Agency rendition flights, and the lack of a clear response to the recommendation to adopt a comprehensive national action plan on the prevention of racism and xenophobia.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Czech Republic.

Belarus, Botswana, Cuba, Iran, Morocco, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Algeria spoke on the Czech Republic. Amnesty International and Open Society Institute also took the floor.

Alberto D’Alotto, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Argentina saw the process of the Universal Periodic Review as a tool for strengthening the capacity of States to promote and protect human rights. Argentina had accepted 89 of the 119 recommendations it had received and had rejected nine. It also made some voluntary commitments, including continuing to work with sub-regional, regional and international human rights mechanisms and increasing accessibility of treaty bodies to citizens who had suffered human rights violations. Argentina was committed to expanding freedom of expression in the country.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the progress made by Argentina on recommendations since its last Universal Periodic Review, particularly in relation to improving standard-setting and its constitutional framework, and noted with satisfaction Argentina’s voluntary commitments to expand access to information and support compliance with international and regional organizations. Some speakers were concerned about remaining challenges with regard to trafficking in persons and compliance with ratified instruments, and expressed hope that recommendations relating to the rights of the child would be implemented across all provinces.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Argentina.
Cuba, Malaysia, Venezuela and Algeria took the floor on Argentina, as did the United Nations Children’s Fund. The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Amnesty International, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Save the Children International and Franciscans International.

Baudelaire Ndong Ella, Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Gabon had received 114 recommendations of which it had accepted 104. A national human rights institution had been established and a national campaign on the prevention of human rights violations had been implemented in the Central Prison of Libreville. The recommendations deferred by Gabon fell into two categories: the ratification of international treaties and the alignment of national legislation with all the obligations arising from the Rome Statute.

In the discussion on Gabon, speakers noted with satisfaction improvements in access to health and education, the establishment of human rights training programmes for law enforcement officials, and efforts made to tackle ritual crimes. They also welcomed the measures in the domain of child protection and the prevention of child labour and exploitation. Speakers expressed the hope that Gabon would review legislation about discrimination against women in order to strengthen further its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

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

Togo, Venezuela, Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, and Sudan took the floor on Gabon. Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme also spoke.

The Council will meet on Thursday, 14 March at 9 a.m. to consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Ghana, Ukraine and Guatemala. During its midday meeting, the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Benin, Republic of Korea and Switzerland. In its afternoon meeting, the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan, Zambia and Japan.

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Czech Republic

KATERINA SEQUENSOVA, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Czech Republic considered the Universal Periodic Review to be an effective mechanism and thoroughly considered all of its Universal Periodic Review recommendations, which had been examined by an expert group that proposed solutions, particularly in regard to implementation. The Government had accepted 129 recommendations, and refused seven. Many of the issues underlined in the report were not new to the country and its civil society, and many issues were already being acted upon, such as gender equality, inclusion of foreigners, access to education and others. Other recommendations would go into future national strategies for inspiration. In relation to the points which were not accepted, she said that when considering whether to adhere to certain treaties as recommended such as the International Convention on Migrant Workers, the Czech Republic comprehensively considered its ability to implement them as well as their concordance with national laws, in order to take its responsibilities seriously. The seven recommendations which were not supported were due to the long-term negative position of the Czech Republic on those topics, such as the ban of corporal punishment for children in all situations, which was currently not seen negatively in the country, providing it was not excessive. In relation to the point on investigation of Czech cooperation on rendition flights operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, no evidence had been found of the country taking part in such actions.

Belarus said that Belarus had studied recommendations and noted the broad range of obligations that had been accepted. However, it regretted that the authorities had refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, and Convention 196 of the International Labour Organization. Belarus also regretted the Czech Republic’s refusal to respond to allegations regarding Central Intelligence Agency rendition flights.

Botswana said that it was impressive that the Czech Republic had accepted the majority of recommendations. Its undertaking to produce a voluntary interim report on implementation of recommendations was also welcome. These undertakings and the positive approach adopted were a clear testimony of the Czech Republic’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, and Botswana wished it well for the implementation and follow-up phase.

Cuba said that a lot remained to be done in the Czech Republic. Cuba shared the concern with regards to discrimination vis-à-vis minorities in the country, particularly the Roma, and continued manifestations of racism and xenophobia. Cuba regretted that there was no prohibition on organizations that incited racial hatred. There also seemed to be increased overcrowding in prisons, bringing about increased violence between prisoners as well as suicides.

Iran reiterated concern about human rights violations occurring in the Czech Republic, particularly hate crimes against the Roma and lack of their legal protection. The efforts to combat all forms of intolerance and racism should be accelerated and the violation of the right of Roma children to education needed to be stopped. The law enforcement officials must be empowered to support children victims of commercial sex exploitation.

Morocco welcomed the high level of commitment of the Czech Republic to the Universal Periodic Review as evidenced through the acceptance of almost all the recommendations it had received. Morocco welcomed the adoption of the law on criminal responsibility of legal persons which would open the way to the ratification of a number of international treaties and commended the willingness of the Czech Republic to submit an interim report on the implementation of the recommendations of its Universal Periodic Review.

Republic of Moldova welcomed the transparent approach of the Czech Republic to the preparation of its national report and acknowledged the integration of gender perspectives in the Universal Periodic Review follow-up process. The Republic of Moldova also applauded the progress achieved in combating human trafficking and child trafficking by emphasizing prevention measures and welcomed the intention to submit an interim report.

Romania said national preparations by the Czech Republic for the Universal Periodic Review showed a good example to be followed and noted positive outcomes such as the national plan for education.

Algeria said it looked forward to the Czech Republic’s ratification of the first Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as this would further enhance child protection in the Czech Republic. It was also noted that the addendum contained no update on the recommendation to adopt a comprehensive national action plan on the prevention of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance and a clear reply in this regard was requested.

Amnesty International was concerned that Roma children experienced significant discrimination in their access to education by sending them to “practical schools”, offering a limited curriculum compared to their peers. The Council of Europe ruled that this violated the right of Roma children to an education free of discrimination and Amnesty International welcomed the commitment that equal opportunity was to be a central aspect of new education development strategies.

Open Society Institute said that it regretted that the Government’s clear statement to the Council during its Universal Periodic Review in October 2012 that it was committed to shutting down “practical schools” for Roma had not been explicitly reflected in its new education policy presented to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in December 2012. It urged the Government to collect disaggregated data by ethnicity, gender and disability.

KATERINA SEQUENSOVA, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks thanked everyone for their interesting and valuable comments. The Czech Republic deeply valued constructive remarks. With regards to ongoing and future work, she highlighted a new concept for Roma inclusion that was being prepared, and a complex strategy on education that would include chapters on inclusivity and equal opportunities. The Czech Republic had adopted a new National Action Plan supporting positive ageing, which was the major document dealing with population ageing and human rights of the elderly. It was committed to the effective work of the Universal Periodic Review. As announced during the review and in several interventions today, it would submit its interim voluntary report on implementation of recommendations.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Czech Republic.

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Argentina

ALBERTO D’ALOTTO, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Argentina was committed to the process of the Universal Periodic Review as it was a tool to strengthen the capacity of States to promote and protect human rights. Argentina had received 119 recommendations and had accepted 89; it took note of 17, rejected nine and four had become irrelevant. The accepted recommendations dealt with a range of issues, including memory, truth and justice; gender; sexual and reproductive rights; eradication of poverty; domestic violence; migration and others. Argentina also made some voluntary commitments, including continuing to work with sub-regional, regional and international human rights mechanisms and to develop the national mechanism to ensure implementation of their decisions; increasing accessibility of treaty bodies to citizens who were victims of human rights violations; and reaffirming the commitment to align minimum rules for treatment of prisoners in accordance with the United Nations and international human rights standards. Further, Argentina was committed to expanding freedom of expression in the country, ensuring full exercise of the right to information and designing a mechanism for a permanent dialogue between the Federal State and the Provinces, including on human rights issues.

Cuba congratulated Argentina for its progress on recommendations from its last Universal Periodic Review cycle, with its improvements in standard setting and its constitutional framework. Women, for example, had considerably increased their participation and steps such as the national plan for food security were also important. On unemployment, steps were being taken to improve support, and on education and health, facilities and reach had improved. Efforts taken to fight the spread of AIDS were also welcomed.

Malaysia said it was pleased with the responses of Argentina concerning the Government’s commitment to human rights and its ratification of almost all international human rights instruments, though it recognised that challenges remained on trafficking of persons and compliance to ratified instruments. Argentina, and all countries, needed time and space to continue making improvements in the promotion and protection of human rights.

United Nations Children's Fund welcomed Argentina’s endorsement of recommendations related to child rights, though it noted these were concentrated in the area of public policies’ implementation and hoped the recommendations accepted would attune legislation across all provinces. Also welcome were Argentina’s Voluntary Commitments to expand access to information and strengthen dialogue, as well as those to support compliance with international and regional organizations.

Venezuela said that Argentina had actively shown its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Venezuela particularly appreciated the detailed description of measures taken to transform the structures of a formerly unequal society. Active policies had boosted employment in Argentina. The process of democratizing information and communication in the country should also be praised. Venezuela commended Argentina on the steps it had taken to promote economic, social and cultural rights.

Algeria congratulated Argentina on accepting most of the recommendations received. Algeria was especially pleased about the acceptance of the Algerian recommendations about the improvement of the detention facilities in Argentina and about the combat of violence against women. Algeria stressed that Argentina had already made huge progress since the end of the military dictatorship in the country and recommended the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Argentina.
Amnesty International called on Argentina to commit to strengthening universal and regional systems for the protection of human rights. Argentina still sanctioned abortion in certain circumstances, so it was recommended that in 2013 there be a consultation on the matter. Amnesty International regretted the fact that Argentina had rejected recommendations relating to housing and other issues facing indigenous groups.

Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, in a joint statement, was concerned that poor people and children of indigenous origin suffered from de facto discrimination. Trafficking in persons was a recommendation that was accepted by Argentina, but nevertheless they noted a high number of children and adolescents victims of such practices. They also expressed concern on the implementation of the right to adequate housing in the country.

Save the Children International said that implementation of the recommendations including allocation of sufficient resources would have a significant impact on children in Argentina. However there was a need to reform the juvenile justice system. The Universal Periodic Review recommendation 13 of 2008 called on the Government to adopt a penal system in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, no such recommendation was put forward by the Review at the last session.

Franciscans International called attention to recommendations of particular relevance to the rights of indigenous and peasant communities. It regretted Argentina’s rejection of three related recommendations, and its assertion that current policies were already adequate. These persons’ rights demanded adequate legal mechanisms and deserved to be regulated accordingly. The vulnerability of communities of the so-called soy frontier was also highlighted.

Action Canada for Population and Development said Argentina was not complying with its responsibility to cut maternal mortality and violence against women was also very high. Norms on sexual and reproductive health should be seen throughout the territory without exception, as they currently were not widely implemented. Young people were entitled to information about this and Argentina’s Sexual Education Plan should be rolled out across the country.

Association for the Prevention of Torture said Argentina was moving towards a national mechanism for the prevention of torture and called on authorities to set up the relevant mechanisms as required, including the participation of civil society in this. Resources to carry this out independently were also needed. The announcement of a series of strategies to improve conditions in prisons was welcome and further details of studies and outcomes on this were requested.

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales said Argentina needed to appoint members to its national mechanism for the prevention of torture. Also, steps were needed to provide deeds to property owned by indigenous people. Action must be taken on access to abortion in cases of rape as well as the national act on mental health, including an independent body on involuntary committals. Argentina’s voluntary commitments were appreciated, though it was making these functional that would have an impact on the scope for human rights across the country.

ALBERTO D’ALOTTO, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations at Geneva, said that Argentina had identified over 300 indigenous communities in the country and had set up 72 legal services to deal with land issues. Regarding gender violence, an amendment had been made to the Criminal Code to provide for more severe punishments for gender violence. The Public Prosecutor’s Office had also highlighted the need to achieve gender equality. Concerning torture, a new programme involving educational and training activities had been established.

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

Consideration of the Outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Gabon

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that during its Universal Periodic Review process, Gabon had received 114 recommendations of which it had accepted 104. The national human rights institution had been established and enjoyed larger budgetary allocations than before, allowing it to extend the range of its activities. A national campaign on the prevention of human rights violations had been implemented in the Central Prison of Libreville; it targeted detainees and police officers and aimed at preventing acts of torture, illegal investigation techniques and arbitrary detention. The reform process initiated by the President included establishment of various structures, including a national human rights institution, the National Observatory on the Rights of the Child, the National Observatory on the Protection of Family Rights and others. The National Social Aid Fund was participating in the national programme in favour of disadvantaged persons and had been endowed with a budget of more than $ 4 million. The recommendations deferred by Gabon fell into two categories, the ratification of international treaties and the alignment of national legislation with all the obligations arising from the Rome Statute. A Commission for the reform of the Criminal Code had been put in place in 2012 with the aim of integrating into national legislation the provisions of all international instruments, notably the Convention against Torture, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Rome Statute.

Togo said Gabon’s improvements in access to health and education were well noted, as were efforts to reinforce the protection of vulnerable groups such as women and children, and to involve women in public life. Togo encouraged Gabon to continue its efforts in economic and social spheres related to the recommendations it had accepted.

Venezuela noted efforts made to ensure all sectors took part in the preparation of Gabon’s Universal Periodic Review report and was satisfied with its responses such as its efforts to ratify human rights instruments, despite economic challenges. Gabon’s commitment to increase school enrolment rates was also praised and Venezuela encouraged Gabon to further increase its social protection policies.

Algeria said it appreciated that a lot of recommendations were accepted, noting as an example human rights training programmes for law enforcement officials, and efforts to tackle ritual crimes. The progress achieved in several spheres was encouraging, as was Gabon’s cooperation with human rights mechanisms. This progress could be seen both nationally and internationally.

Botswana welcomed the decision by Gabon to accept many of the recommendations made by Member States and hoped that Gabon would review legislation about discrimination against women in order to strengthen further the country’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Botswana praised Gabon’s involvement in the Council both as a member and as a representative of the African Group.

Burkina Faso commended Gabon’s willingness to fully cooperate with the Council, and encouraged Gabon to continue to implement the recommendations it had received.

Côte d’Ivoire congratulated Gabon on the recommendations which it had endorsed and noted with satisfaction that Gabon was working both domestically and regionally for the promotion of human rights issues. Further support should be provided to Gabon to encourage it to continue its engagement in this process.

Cuba congratulated Gabon on the spirit of cooperation it had kept alive and for implementing the recommendations accepted during the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. Cuba welcomed the establishment of the national human rights institution and the strategies to combat lack of security, and the public policies concerning civic education, combating human trafficking and the rights of the child.

Morocco welcomed the reaffirmation of Gabon to strengthen the legal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights and the alignment of the national legislation with its international obligations, particularly with regard to human trafficking. Morocco appreciated the measures to protect children from violence, particularly the establishment of juvenile courts.

Republic of Moldova congratulated Gabon on preparing its national report with the participation of civil society and the strides it made in ensuring gender equality and especially in access of women to health, education and employment. The Republic of Moldova welcomed the measures in the domain of child protection and the prevention of child labour and exploitation.

South Africa acknowledged the consultative process undertaken in preparing the Universal Periodic Review report and recommended that this approach be continued through in its implementation. South Africa commended the acceptance of the recommendations as well as the explanations provided in relation to those that did not enjoy the support of the delegation.

Sudan welcomed Gabon’s active participation in the interactive dialogue during the Universal Periodic Review and the role played by civil society in drafting the report. Gabon accepted Sudan’s recommendation regarding education, training and research and called on international bodies to help Gabon to make capacity strengthening easier.

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme commended Gabon for its abolition of the death penalty and its mainstreaming of women in work. However, its openness to the Human Rights Council needed to be seen in specific achievements such as a framework to address trafficking in humans, steps to tackle the ongoing tendency to carry out ritual crimes, and punishment of offences of rape in the home.

BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks, said that statements made by various delegations reassured it about its current efforts to implement not only Universal Periodic Review recommendations, but above all to promote and protect human rights. He reiterated the attachment of Gabon to the Universal Periodic Review as a mechanism to strengthen national mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights. One speaker touched on points of high priority, in particular ritual crimes and trafficking in human beings. Gabon had hosted the Special Rapporteur who came to Gabon last year and her report would be presented at the twenty-third session in June. Gabon’s legislation in particular emphasised trafficking in children. Currently, efforts were underway to broaden this legislation to cover persons in general and progress had been made. As to freedom of the press, Gabon said yes to freedom of the press but no to violating the law. The Government had asked for a commission to work to ensure that members of the press and the media at large that were in fact accused of violating the professional ethics of the press, could not or should not immediately be subjected to a sentence that deprived them of their liberty. Mr. Ndong Ella wished to reassure everyone that the Government was making an effort to improve the situation.

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