Header image for news printout

Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Bahrain, Ecuador and Tunisia

MORNING

GENEVA (21 September 2017) - The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain, Ecuador and Tunisia.

Abdulla Bin Faisal Aldoseri, Assistant Foreign Minister of Bahrain, reaffirmed the commitment of Bahrain to promote and protect human rights in close cooperation with all relevant mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council. Bahrain was committed to its democratic reform process launched under the auspices of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, and it had made significant progress on its human rights record based on its constitutional text.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended Bahrain for its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Delegations particularly welcomed the fact that Bahrain had adopted most of the recommendations issued by Member States after the Universal Periodic Review. Speakers condemned Bahrain’s serious crackdown on civil society and the media, noting that many journalists and human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and placed under travel bans. Bahrain was encouraged to strengthen its legal protection for expatriate workers and migrants as well as for human rights defenders and religious minorities.

Speaking were India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship, Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc., Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, and Iraqi Development Organization.

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

Guillaume Long, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reminded that the Universal Periodic Review process was based on the principles of equality, objectivity, impartiality, universality, non-selectivity, dialogue and cooperation. The Government of Ecuador had made tangible commitments to protect human rights. The human being was more important than capital. Mr. Long stressed that peace was not just the absence of war but the presence of justice, development and human rights. Human rights could not depend on the cult of the individual of the neo-liberal philosophy.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations welcomed the steps taken by Ecuador to promote and consolidate human rights. Speakers particularly valued the efforts made by Ecuador to drop the poverty rate through increased access to employment, education, social security, water and housing. However, more effort needed to be done to strengthen the rights of teenage mothers and to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of women resorting to abortion. There were concerns about human rights violations related to the freedom of the press and media, and the independence of the judiciary.

Speaking in the discussion were Venezuela, Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany and Haiti.

Ecuador’s Ombudsman took the floor as did the following non-governmental organizations: Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH), International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Action Canada for Population and Development, Human Rights Watch, and FIAN International e.V.

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

Mehdi Ben Gharbia, Minister for Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society and for Human Rights of Tunisia, confirmed Tunisia’s commitment to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms, as well as of those of the African Union. Tunisia had recently implemented measures to combat corruption, and had revised the Criminal Code to ensure that it was in line with international standards and to guarantee the fight against impunity. The country still needed to strengthen its migration laws in order to accede to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations welcomed the adoption of a substantial number of recommendations by Tunisia, which had worked to thoroughly improve its human rights situation and to ensure the rule of law. They encouraged Tunisia to achieve even better results and called on the international community to provide Tunisia with the necessary resources. Tunisia’s lack of acceptance of recommendations to ensure protection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community was regretted. It was urged to take measure to fight youth unemployment, and to ensure that anti-terrorism efforts preserved human rights.

Speaking in the discussion were Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Madagascar, Qatar and Oman.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES (in a joint statement), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Article 19 – The International Centre Against Censorship, Amnesty International, World Organization Against Torture, Jssor Youth Organization, Human Rights Watch, Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme - RADDHO, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale, and International-Lawyers.Org.

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

The Council will next consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco, Indonesia and Finland.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain

ABDULLA BIN FAILSAL ALDOSERI, Assistant Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, reaffirmed the commitment of Bahrain to promote and protect human rights in close cooperation with all relevant mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council. The Universal Periodic Review process deserved full support. Mr. Aldoseri outlined that Bahrain had submitted its third periodic report to the Universal Periodic Review on 1 May 2017; 175 recommendations had been submitted by Member States. Several meetings were held with civil society organizations. Over 20 organizations had attended. Consultations and studies of the recommendations had been held and many of them had already been achieved; 139 recommendations had been accepted, while 36 had been considered contrary to Islamic law or the national legislation.

Bahrain was committed to its democratic reform process launched under the auspices of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. Bahrain had made progress on its human rights record based on its constitutional text. It was committed to upholding human rights in a democratic society that would provide equality for all. Many accomplishments had been made in recently to improve the rule of law. A family law was implemented in August 2017, reflecting the commitment of the Kingdom to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It reinforced the rights of individuals and represented an achievement for women. The law supported the family unit and thus ensured national unity. Law 18 was also issued regarding sanctions and alternative measures. It was intended to develop the sanctions policy in the Kingdom through sentencing as well as rehabilitation measures, thus providing protection against future threats. Another reform had improved the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Law 7 of 2017 had been issued to ratify the Arab convention to combat money laundering and financing terrorism. The working market had also been reformed. Foreign workers were allowed to work without a business sponsor. According to a survey, Bahrain was the best place for work and residency among 188 States. Article 20 of the Constitution guaranteed fair trials and the prohibition of torture. The independence of the judiciary was guaranteed by law. Decree 46 of 2002 provided guarantees for a fair trial. Detainees could receive visits. Freedom of assembly was guaranteed by the Constitution and ethnical or religious hatred speech was prohibited. Bahrain would deploy all efforts to improve the situation of human right in the country. All stakeholders in this field were considered as partners.

India thanked Bahrain for the detailed presentation of the report and commended its achievements in the promotion of human rights, especially the right to development. It also commended the programme “Towards the Justice Security and Wellbeing of Society” launched by the Government, as well as one of the largest labour market initiatives, namely the work permit initiative.

Iran had made two recommendations to the Government of Bahrain, namely to implement fully recommendations by the United Nations mandate holders which had asked for the release of all political prisoners and the end of impunity, and to engage in a genuine national dialogue with all stakeholders. While one of the recommendations had been accepted, the most important one had only been taken note of.

Iraq extended its thanks to Bahrain for accepting recommendations and for upholding the principles of human rights and promoting freedom, impartiality and justice. It recommended the adoption of the report on Bahrain which would further enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Bahrain.

Jordan welcomed the Assistant Foreign Minister and the delegation of the Kingdom of Bahrain and thanked them for the report. Jordan took note with appreciation of the fact that Bahrain had accepted the majority of recommendations, including those recommended by Jordan, and recommended the adoption of the report.

Kuwait warmly welcomed the Bahraini delegation, noting that it had taken good note of the steps taken towards the promotion and protection of human rights, and the acceptance of the recommendations, including those from Kuwait. The Human Rights Council should encourage the Kingdom to continue its efforts and adopt the report.

Lebanon warmly welcomed the Kingdom of Bahrain and its acceptance of 80 per cent of the recommendations, including those submitted by Lebanon on training for the judiciary and on freedom of the press. Bahrain had adopted a serious approach and this showed positive action and respect for the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

Libya extended a warm welcome to the Kingdom of Bahrain, mentioning that most of the recommendations submitted had been accepted. Libya welcomed the remarkable progress achieved by Bahrain, wished it further progress and prosperity, and recommended the adoption of the report.

Lithuania warmly welcomed the Kingdom of Bahrain and said that by accepting the vast majority of the recommendations, the Kingdom had shown its full commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Kingdom of Bahrain possessed the necessary ways and means to improve its human rights record, and Lithuania hoped it would work toward full implementation of the recommendations from previous cycles.

Maldives appreciated the support of Bahrain for its recommendations, and commended the National Plan for the Advancement of Women, in particular providing equal opportunities that empowered women. It also commended the initiative launched by the King on combatting hate speech.

Morocco welcomed the efforts of Bahrain to promote human rights and to bolster in practice the protection of human rights. It was heartened by the positive interaction shown by Bahrain during its review at the third Universal Periodic Review, which was reflected by the acceptance of a large number of recommendations, including those of Morocco.

Oman thanked the head of the delegation for presenting the praiseworthy efforts of Bahrain. A positive attitude had been displayed by Bahrain, reflected in its acceptance of the recommendations on human rights. Oman commended the Government’s launch of the national plan for the promotion of women and the rehabilitation of women in order to enable them to enter the business and entrepreneurial world.

Pakistan commended Bahrain for its efforts to build capacity and strengthen human rights. It wished Bahrain success for the implementation of the recommendations and proposed that the Human Rights Council adopt the recommendations.

Philippines commended Bahrain for adopting most of the recommendations issued after the submission of its report to the Universal Periodic Review. It particularly welcomed its new work permit system that would improve the well-being of migrant workers.

Saudi Arabia appreciated the efforts made by Bahrain to uphold human rights and cooperate with United Nations mechanisms. Saudi Arabia commended Bahrain for its accomplishments in the field of human rights, especially the efforts made to combat human trafficking. Saudi Arabia recommended that the Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Bahrain.

Sierra Leone commended Bahrain for its engagement and participation in the Universal Periodic Review process. Bahrain was encouraged to strengthen its legal protection for expatriate workers and migrants as well as for human rights defenders and religious minorities.

Sudan welcomed the delegation of Bahrain and thanked it for its exhaustive report. It particularly commended the efforts made to combat violence and the adoption of legislative reforms to allow the country to align itself with international obligations. Sudan took note that Bahrain had accepted most of the recommendations, including those made by Sudan.

Article 19 – The International Centre Against Censorship said that the sheer number of recommendations for Bahrain was representative of its serious crackdown on civil society and the media, noting that many journalists were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and placed under travel bans. Bahrain should be held to the commitments that it had made.

Alsalam Foundation expressed grave concern about Bahrain’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review, given its systematic violations of human rights. Where were the accomplishments in that field? Would Bahrain immediately investigate security officers for having tortured human rights activists?

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc. raised concerns over Bahrain’s declining engagement with the Universal Periodic Review. Since the mid-term of its second Universal Periodic Review cycle in 2014, the Government had not only failed to fully implement one of its 176 recommendations, but had actually regressed on the few reform areas that had seen nominal progress.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture emphasised that Bahrain had not implemented its Universal Periodic Review recommendations and the Government had closed the door to national dialogue and was engaged in sectarian practices. Had the Government not learned lessons of its failure and international condemnation? The organization called on the Council to take a firm position on Bahrain because leniency had helped it crush human rights defenders.

Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada asked the Council to directly call on Bahrain to release all arbitrarily imprisoned people, to bring its laws into full compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to allow the United Nations Special Procedure mandate holders to visit Bahrain and conduct the necessary investigations.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues drew attention to Bahrain’s torture and arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition members under its Anti-Terrorism Law, which was also used to censor the media. The organization urged the Government to respond to serious allegations of human rights violations.

Amnesty International said since June 2016 the authorities in Bahrain had dramatically stepped up their crackdown on voices of dissent. This included travel bans for human rights defenders coming to Geneva to participate in the Universal Periodic Review. Voices of dissent were imprisoned and tortured, and their families living outside had also been targeted, as a reprisal for their participation in the Human Rights Council. It welcomed the acceptance of the Government to release those detained for the exercise of their rights and called for their immediate release.

Human Rights Watch said the human rights situation in Bahrain had deteriorated dramatically in the period leading up to and since Bahrain’s third Universal Periodic Review in May 2017. The Government had accepted 158 of 176 recommendations from 2012, but had largely failed to implement the most substantive of them. It continued to deny access to the Special Procedures despite repeated request.

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development welcomed the recommendations made by States to Bahrain, in particular on family law and nationality. Bahrain had worked hard to meet these recommendations and build a society based on equality between men and women. The Foundation appreciated the publication of a set of brochures by the Government explaining the articles of the family law provisions.

Iraqi Development Organization drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the absence of meaningful implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations in Bahrain. Many of these recommendations were a repetition of previous recommendations, and this proved that there had been no genuine effort on the part of the Government to improve the human rights situation in the country.

The Vice-President of the Council said out of 175 recommendations, Bahrain had adopted 139 recommendations and taken note of 36.

ABDULLA BIN FAILSAL ALDOSERI, Assistant Foreign Minister of Bahrain, thanked the delegations for praising the efforts of Bahrain in improving the situation of human rights. Mr. Aldoseri said he would not respond to the false allegations made by certain non-governmental organizations that were intended to cast a shadow over Bahrain’s achievements. As for travel bans for activists, Bahrain had ratified a number of international instruments. The Constitution provided for freedom of movement via article 19. No one could be prohibited from travelling in the context of the law. There was no ban on travel unless a court order was issued in the context of ongoing criminal proceedings. Such cases were given individual consideration by the competent authorities.

As for the participation of civil society, Mr. Aldoseri noted that non-governmental organizations’ participation was necessary to consolidate political progress. Political organizations were allowed to work provided they complied with the rules on political groupings. A financial support system was in place for organizations operating in this field. Some associations did not accept and associated themselves with radical organizations calling for violent extremism and terrorism. Any political association could appeal against decisions taken in front of a court. Currently, at least 20 associations were involved in political activities according to the law. Regarding capital punishment, Mr. Aldoseri said it was applied in a very limited number of cases that were listed in the penal code. This sanction could often be commuted to life imprisonment. The law should soon be amended to allow children born from Bahraini women married to foreigners to access nationality. On the media and the press, a new bill was ongoing to guarantee freedom of journalists and prevent incitement to violence or religious hatred. The Kingdom was committed to respect the rights of journalists and there were sufficient guarantees to prevent their detention. The right to address complaints was completely guaranteed.

The Council then adopted the outcome of Bahrain.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Ecuador

GUILLAUME LONG, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reminded that the Universal Periodic Review process was based on the principles of equality, objectivity, impartiality, universality, non-selectivity, dialogue and cooperation. Out of 182 recommendations, Ecuador had adopted around 90 per cent, and it had entered into four voluntary commitments. For the first time in 11 years in Ecuador, a president elect had ceded power to another president elect. The Government had made tangible commitments to protect human rights. The human being was more important than capital. Ten years ago Ecuador had started a constitutive process through a wide national dialogue and had adopted new democratic rules of play, the so-called Buen Vivir (Good Living). That process had been dubbed the “citizen revolution.” Peace was not just the absence of war but the presence of justice, development and human rights. That often included working to uphold the rights of people.

Ecuador was very pleased to have managed to bring political participation peacefully. The Government had always guaranteed human rights as a fundamental pillar. True democracy had to be backed up by policies of inclusion and the empowerment of the most vulnerable population. Inequality was a major Latin American disease, which required policies to redistribute wealth and create equal opportunities. The neo-classical myth of free competition of individuals in fact biased one group against the other. It was fiction and human rights could not depend on the cult of the individual of the neo-liberal philosophy. The realisation of human rights could only be achieved through solid institutions guaranteed by the State. If human rights were to be protected, the State’s ability to build hospitals and schools needed to be strengthened. It was vital to move towards a global ethical pact and address tax evasion and other phenomena that undermined the capacity of States to protect human rights, Mr. Long concluded.

Ecuador’s Ombudsman, referring to teenage pregnancy in Ecuador, noted that more measures were needed to strengthen the rights of teenage mothers, including the provision of modern contraceptives. He highlighted that the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should be heeded and implemented. He also urged the Government to heed these recommendations, given the numerous cases of sexual violence. He called for the confidentiality and privacy of women when resorting to abortion. He also called for the rights of patients suffering from infectious diseases. Strong norms were required in this direction. Finally, it was necessary to update legislation promoting and protecting the rights of older people.

Venezuela welcomed the delegation of Ecuador and was pleased to see the frank dialogue that the Government was engaged in, welcoming the great majority of the recommendations put forward. Ecuador was a shining example of ways to combat poverty. In the last decade, more than half a million people had been lifted out of poverty.

Afghanistan reaffirmed the importance of economic, social, and cultural rights as much as civil and political rights, and firmly believed in the connection between poverty reduction and the enjoyment of human rights. Therefore Afghanistan valued the efforts made by Ecuador to drop the poverty rate through increased access to employment, education, social security, water and housing by which 1.5 million people had been lifted out of poverty.

Algeria welcomed the steps taken by Ecuador to promote and consolidate human rights, and in particular to modernize the prison infrastructure. Ecuador had accepted most of the recommendations, including those made by Algeria. Algeria wished every success to Ecuador for the implementation of the recommendations and recommended that the Human Rights Council adopt the report.

Azerbaijan commended the achievements of Ecuador in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the results achieved in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. It congratulated Ecuador for its successful and productive Universal Periodic Review process.

Belarus welcomed the delegation of Ecuador and thanked it for the detailed presentation. It agreed with Ecuador that respect for human rights could not be assured if there was poverty. It wished Ecuador every success in implementing the recommendations and recommended the adoption of the report.

Belgium welcomed Ecuador’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review and its progress in upholding human rights and combatting poverty. It appreciated that Ecuador had accepted its recommendations on the protection of journalists and the fight against impunity for harsh treatment and sexual violence against minors. However, it regretted that Ecuador had not revised Presidential decrees and the Criminal Code in line with international standards.

Bolivia commended Ecuador’s progress in the promotion and protection of human rights, notably the drop in poverty from 27 to 16.9 per cent, as well as improvements in access to labour, education, social protection, water and accommodation on the basis of the “Good Living” policy.

China took positive note of Ecuador’s acceptance of most of the recommendations, notably improving living standards and investment in education. It called on the international community to provide assistance to that country and called for the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review outcome.

Côte d’Ivoire thanked Ecuador for its acceptance of the recommendations and saluted its efforts to improve human rights and encouraged it to continue full cooperation with the international community in that matter. It invited Ecuador to pay particular attention to the recommendations it had not accepted.

Cuba commended Ecuador for having accepted three recommendations made by Cuba on the matter of transnational companies and human rights, and the promotion of human rights of persons with disabilities. It reiterated its support to the people of Ecuador in their efforts to promote and protect all human rights.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appreciated Ecuador’s acceptance of the many recommendations, including the one made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as a demonstration of its will to make further efforts in the field of human rights. It called for the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Ecuador.

Egypt thanked the delegation of Ecuador for its presentation regarding the recommendations of the last Universal Periodic Review. Egypt highly appreciated that the Government had accepted most of the recommendations, including those proposed by Egypt. It was a proof of its will to uphold human rights at all levels. Egypt recommended the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Ecuador.

Ethiopia noted with appreciation Ecuador’s acceptance of a significant number of recommendations, including those aimed at continuing to ensure equal access to justice and equal treatment for all Ecuadorians in the courts and continuing efforts to eliminate the gap between rural and urban areas.

Germany reiterated its support for the Universal Periodic Review process. Germany regretted that its recommendations focused on ending criminalization against human rights defenders and the media had not been adopted. It commended the commitment of Ecuador to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and to foster dialogue with indigenous populations. The reforms should continue.

Haiti thanked the delegation for taking into account their recommendations about the programme for persons of African descent. Haiti wished the delegation success in implementing the recommendations and recommended the adoption of the outcome by consensus.

Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH) commended Ecuador for its work to improve the situation of human rights and combat inequalities. However, there were concerns about human rights violations related to the freedom of the press and media. The independence of the judiciary was also under ongoing threat.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) underscored the progress made in the areas of inequality reduction and health education. It also welcomed the public policies adopted in order to promote the concept of “Buen-Vivir”. Finally, it welcomed the fact that Ecuador had granted political asylum to Julian Assange who had been prosecuted for his journalistic activities.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues regretted that the recommendations related to free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples had not been adopted. There were concerns about ongoing discussions on a legislative reform that would further undermine the principle of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. The Government was encouraged to foster an enabling environment for human rights defenders.

Action Canada for Population and Development spoke about violence against women in Ecuador. Ecuador’s acceptance of some measures was noted. Ecuador had received recommendations in earlier cycles, but some noted practices against women continued. Additional and fundamental measures were needed. Ecuador was called on to take measures.

Human Rights Watch said President Lenin Moreno had publicly endorsed respect for free speech and civil society. However, the Foreign Affairs Ministry appeared to be adopting positions that were inconsistent with his public statements. The Moreno administration should use the Universal Periodic Review to commit itself to repeal these problematic norms, as well as to address other longstanding human rights problems.

FIAN International e.V. welcomed the recommendations regarding the strengthening of human rights in Ecuador, but regretted the lack of interest in economic and social rights. Member States should pay more attention to food and nutrition rights. Norms put out in the last five years had not complied with the principle of progressiveness but were a step backwards.

The Vice-President of the Human Rights Council said that out of 182 recommendations received, 162 were supported by Ecuador, while 20 recommendations were noted.

GUILLAUME LONG, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Ecuador had tried to approach the Universal Periodic Review process with a great spirit of absolute responsibility. It had been constructive and very beneficial. Ecuador had had an in-depth exercise of introspection, self-criticism and analysis of its public policies and their impact on the promotion of human rights for all Ecuadoreans. He thanked the States which had made significant contributions to the debate and which had supported the citizens’ revolution. Ecuador had taken on the comments of the Ombudsman’s office which were relevant and which it could commit to. Ecuador still had to do a lot to guarantee access to sexual and reproductive rights. Ecuador would try to move toward this goal. Regarding an executive decree, the national legislation was geared towards giving a more proactive role to each segment of society, and no one’s rights were curtailed, nor were rights curbed in any way. The commitment to freedom of association had allowed an increase in the number of registered associations. There was a vibrant civil society. There had been strengthened punishment for crimes against children. Turning to the law on communication, he pointed out that it was totally in line with several instruments. The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were important.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Tunisia

MEHDI BEN GHARBIA, Minister for Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society and for Human Rights of Tunisia, commended the efforts of the United Nations bodies to promote human rights and the essential role of the Human Rights Council in that endeavour. Tunisia confirmed its commitment to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms, as well as of those of the African Union. It had recently implemented measures to combat corruption, and had revised the Criminal Code to ensure that it was in line with international standards and to guarantee the fight against impunity. As an Arab and Mediterranean country, Tunisia had a rich history and a long legislative tradition. It was a country that had put an early end to slavery, had instituted the separation of powers, and had instituted the empowerment of women, including ending early marriage, giving the custody of children to mothers in the absence of fathers, and ensuring their inheritance rights. Nowadays, Tunisia had been taking initiatives for individual rights, paving the way for the equality between women and men. There was a moratorium on the death penalty. The country still needed to strengthen its migration laws in order to accede to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

On the recommendation to accelerate the adoption of the bill on asylum, while awaiting that decision, the country was accepting asylum requests. The Government also considered the recommendation to ratify the International Labour Organization Convention 189 on the rights of domestic workers. However, the ratification would give rise to a few practical implementation issues due to the differences with the current labour legislation of Tunisia. The country had travelled a long path to prevent torture. It had adopted the necessary legislation to define vulnerable migrants, such as those saved on the sea, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women and those with disabilities. Tunisia continued to improve the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens without any discrimination. The Government reiterated its commitment to continue working to improve human rights.

Egypt congratulated the delegation of Tunisia in the context of the Universal Periodic Review following the constructive and interactive dialogue. Egypt congratulated Tunisia for having adopted 189 recommendations. It appreciated the importance given to the protection and promotion of human rights in Tunisia, particularly the adoption of the Constitution in 2014.

Ethiopia appreciated Tunisia’s principled activities in the improvement of institutional frameworks. Ethiopia thanked Tunisia for accepting the recommendations given by many delegations. Ethiopia supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tunisia.

Gabon welcomed the Government’s commitment to follow up on the recommendations made by Member States. Gabon welcomed the efforts made by Tunisia to ensure independence in the judicial and administrative spheres. Gabon supported the adoption of the report of Tunisia.

Germany praised Tunisia for its constructive engagement with the mechanisms of the Council. Germany commended Tunisia’s progress with regard to the recommendation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, including by abolishing the ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men.

Ghana commended Tunisia on ongoing efforts to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Ghana noted with satisfaction that a significant number of recommendations had been adopted.

India recognized the efforts made by Tunisia in combatting terrorism. India welcomed the law adopted by Tunisia to combat terrorism and money laundering, including the establishment of a National Committee on Combatting Terrorism.

Iraq recommended that the Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tunisia and commended Tunisia for accepting the majority of recommendations.

Jordan welcomed the participation of the Minister and his delegation in the session, and said Jordan took note of the fact that Tunisia had accepted the majority of recommendations. Jordan was confident that Tunisia would continue its efforts for the implementation of recommendations.

Kenya noted the profound constitutional measures that Tunisia had taken, which showed the efforts that the country was undertaking to ensure human rights for all. Kenya recommended the adoption of Tunisia’s Universal Periodic Review outcome.

Kuwait said the report was a reflection of how important the promotion and protection of human rights was for Tunisia. The report should be adopted and Tunisia was wished further progress.

Kyrgyzstan congratulated Tunisia on its Universal Periodic Review outcome and noted that the majority of recommendations had been accepted by Tunisia. Kyrgyzstan spoke about the adoption of the law criminalizing racism in line with international commitments. The rights of migrants living on the territory of Tunisia should be respected.

Libya welcomed the delegation of Tunisia and commended efforts of Tunisia in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights, especially the adoption of the constitution. Efforts to harmonize legislation were noted, and the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tunisia was recommended.

Madagascar welcomed the adoption of a substantial number of recommendations by Tunisia, which had worked to thoroughly improve its human rights situation and to ensure the rule of law. It encouraged Tunisia to achieve even better results and called on the international community to provide Tunisia with the necessary resources.

Qatar commended Tunisia’s commitment to human rights mechanisms, which was reflected in the acceptance of most of the recommendations put forward. Qatar wished Tunisia prosperity and success in the protection of human rights.

Oman took positive note of Tunisia’s work to combat human trafficking, strengthen women’s and children’s rights, and efforts to combat racial discrimination. It wished Tunisia even more success and prosperity.

International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES, in a joint statement with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, welcomed Tunisia’s improvement in education, namely the enrolment of girls and boys. However, it stressed that the problem of school drop-out was high among children of a certain economic and social background, namely from a rural background.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies stated that despite the adoption of the new Constitution in 2014, several abuses had to be noted, namely political assassinations, torture, arbitrary detention and restrictions on the freedom of movement by the armed forces. Sexual and gender-based violence and women’s access to employment remained problematic. There was a lack of accountability for such violations.

Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship welcomed Tunisia’s efforts to protect freedom of expression. At the same time, it was concerned about the independence of those appointed to guarantee freedom of the press and publishing. Urgent reforms were needed in the Criminal Code and the Military Code, and the Government needed to send a clear signal that attacks against journalists and human rights defenders were unacceptable.

Amnesty International voiced concerns about ongoing impunity for torture. There had been no successful prosecutions of officials accused of torture. Effective investigation, prosecution and sentencing needed to be strengthened to address the issue of torture. Amnesty International was concerned that the criminalization of same sex relationship made these persons vulnerable to abuses by the police.

World Organization against Torture was deeply concerned that the perpetrators of acts of torture enjoyed impunity in Tunisia. Overcrowding in prisons was also a source of concern. It was alarming that new counter terrorism legislations had enhanced the powers of security forces, resulting in an increased number of cases of torture. World Organization against Torture regretted that Tunisia had rejected the 14 recommendations aimed at decriminalizing homosexuality.

Jssor Youth Organization said Tunisia was proof that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism helped to uphold human rights and create a good environment. One of the most important recommendations about Tunisia was the comprehensive law against racism. In July 2017, Tunisia had adopted a law on violence against women.

Human Rights Watch said Tunisians enjoyed human rights to a greater extent now than they did under President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, whom they ousted in 2011. Tunisia was also fighting discrimination and violence against women. Tunisia’s lack of acceptance of recommendations to ensure protection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community was regretted.

Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme RADDHO said notable progress had been seen in Tunisia, and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme was satisfied with the cooperation of Tunisia with special mandate holders. Tunisia was called on to ratify the Maputo Protocol and to take measures to fight against youth unemployment, inviting Tunisia to ensure that anti-terrorism efforts preserved human rights.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique
Internationale - OCAPROCE Internationale said the recommendations accepted by Tunisia would ensure human rights and dignity and the inviolability of rights. Reforming laws that were discriminatory was also important. Reviewing the children’s code was important.

International-Lawyers.Org welcomed Tunisia’s acceptance of most of the recommendations made in the review cycle, and said some rights were non-derogable. The rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion were recognized in the constitution. Tunisia was a young democracy, but the country was urged to ensure all citizens participation in a fair and equitable manner.

The Vice-President of the Human Rights Council said that Tunisia had received 248 recommendations. It supported 189 and noted 59 recommendations.

MEHDI BEN GHARBIA, Minister for Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society and for Human Rights of Tunisia, emphasised that the Government of Tunisia would consider all the recommendations. He thanked civil society representatives for all of their remarks and criticism. The first and foremost obligation was to review all laws and harmonise them with international instruments, which superseded Tunisian law. There were committees in all ministries to realise that task. The Government provided financial means to them so that they could act as supervisors in that process. All the accepted recommendations were considered through a dialogue with the Tunisian people. There was a partnership between the Government and civil society to change the mentality of people in order to entrench the value of freedom. The Government was working on a new code on asylum to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. Tunisia had adopted legislation to protect people on the basis of their gender identity. However, further and wider social dialogue was needed to that end. As for allegations of torture and ill-treatment, the Government had created a parliamentary committee to combat torture. All reports of civil society referring to torture and ill-treatment had been investigated, Mr. Gharbia clarified. The Government did not conduct any kind of crackdown on political activists.

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

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record