Back


Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Italy, El Salvador, the Gambia and Bolivia, and decides to suspend the current session due to COVID-19

Back

12 March 2020

Human Rights Council

12 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Italy, El Salvador, Gambia and Bolivia, and decided to suspend its current forty-third session as of Friday, 13 March and until further notice due to the COVID-19 virus.

Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Human Rights Council, said that after consultations last night, the Bureau had concluded that under the current circumstances and the implications of the COVID-19 virus, an orderly suspension of the session by the end of this week would be the best approach to follow.  Before the suspension of the session, the Council would proceed with the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes scheduled for the session, today and tomorrow ; hold the annual debate on racial discrimination, which would take place following the conclusion of the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes ; and postpone all remaining plenary debates to the resumption of the forty-third session.  Additionally, the Council would appoint the 19 mandate holders scheduled to be appointed at the session. 

The Council then decided to suspend its session on 13 March 2020, until further notice.

Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated Italy’s conviction in the work of the Council and its promotion of human rights for all.  An inter-ministerial committee within the Government was a central enabler of human rights, to ensure the full inclusion of international human rights standards in domestic legislation ; it played a key role in implementing the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Italy had kept human dignity and rights front and centre in its efforts to contain the virus.  Turning to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations put forward in November 2019, Italy had accepted 292 out of 306 recommendations. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended Italy for its efforts to establish an independent national human rights institution, to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to strengthen mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.  However, some regretted that Italy had only partially accepted the recommendation on the rights of regular and irregular migrants.  They called on it to adopt the Global Compact on Migration and to increase measures to reduce social inequalities faced by migrant and Roma children.  They were also concerned about increasing gender-based violence and femicide, abuses committed by the Catholic Church, and Italy’s continued arms transfers to countries with weak human rights.     

Speaking were Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Greece, Guyana, Solomon Islands, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malawi and Morocco.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, World Evangelical Alliance, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, and National Secular Society.    

The President of the Council informed that out of 306 recommendations, Italy had accepted 292 and noted 12.  Additional clarification was provided on another two recommendations. 

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

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that the Government was committed to continued internal discussions to implement relevant international agreements, and that it would continue to work to improve the opportunities enjoyed by vulnerable groups.  The Universal Periodic Review process must be seen as a mechanism for truly reflecting the progress made in human rights in the relevant country.  As such, the Government underscored the participation of civil society groups in continuing to foster the progress made in human rights in the country. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the progress made in El Salvador in terms of institutional building and consolidation, which were important steps in fostering the rule of law.  Nevertheless, they regretted that El Salvador had not accepted the recommendation to end the detention of women who were wrongfully convicted of homicide after having suffered a miscarriage.  It was necessary for El Salvador to enhance the legal framework to protect the families that were victims of femicide, to improve access to contraceptives for adolescents and to provide them with comprehensive sex education, as well as to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. 

Speaking were United Kingdom, United Nations Population Fund, Venezuela, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Guyana, Haiti and Libya.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : Franciscans International, International Bar Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, Asociación HazteOir.org, Action Canada for Population and Development, and CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

The President informed that out of 207 recommendations, El Salvador had accepted 152 and noted 55. 

The Council then adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcome of El Salvador. 

Yusupha Alieu Kah, Permanent Representative of the Gambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, acknowledged that challenges faced with the law enforcement mechanisms, together with the judicial and justice system, required critical transformative justice mechanisms.  With this in mind, the Universal Periodic Review process provided a spotlight mechanism to keep countries on track.

The Government would continue to work on the recommendations and would scale up its attempts to accept the remaining 15 recommendations in due course. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers noted the new dynamism in the Gambia when it came to the promotion and protection of human rights, and welcomed its cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  Some speakers noted that the Gambia should adopt legal frameworks to ensure the rights of the child, fight violence against women, and improve judicial accountability.  Certain speakers called attention to the prosecution of same-sex relationships and expressed disappointment that the Gambia continued to nurture discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. 

Speaking were Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Solomon Islands, Iraq, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco and Djibouti.  

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : Conscience and Peace Tax International, Action Canada for Population and Development, United Nations Watch, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme.  

The President informed that out of 222 recommendations, the Gambia had accepted 207 and noted 15. 

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

Erasmo Huberth Vargas Camacho, Deputy Minister of Justice and Fundamental Rights of Bolivia, noted that the Universal Periodic Review was an opportunity to ensure the equal treatment of various nation States of the United Nations.  Bolivia had received the recommendations in a constructive spirit.  Since November 2019, Bolivia had taken on a path of true democracy.  The upcoming elections would be supervised by two bodies to ensure a free and transparent process.  In conclusion, Mr. Vargas Camacho reiterated Bolivia’s commitment to defend and promote human rights, as well as to promote truth and reconciliation in the country.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the efforts made by Bolivia, but noted that gaps remained and urged the Government to allocate a sufficient budget to address issues faced by women, and to ensure the equal participation of women in the labour force, especially for young, indigenous and vulnerable women.  A number of speakers praised the Government for its efforts in guaranteeing sexual health for women and eradicating child labour, and asked what measures were being adopted to implement these recommendations.  They noted that a recommendation to set up a safe environment for human rights defenders had not been accepted, and called on the authorities to reconsider their position. 

Speaking were UN Women, Venezuela, Belgium, Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Namibia and Pakistan.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : American Association of Jurists, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Centre for Civil and Political Rights, Centre catholique de Genève, Plan International, Centre-Europe Tiers Monde, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Action Canada for Population Development.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  It will resume its work at noon to continue its consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Angola, Iran, Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia, Egypt, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Announcement Regarding the New Set of Measures Adopted by the Swiss Authorities to Prevent the Spread of the COVID-19 Virus

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, announced that the Bureau of the Council had held another urgent meeting with the participation of the United Nations Office at Geneva to discuss the implications of the new set of measures adopted by the Swiss authorities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus on the current session of the Council.  The minutes of the meeting had been circulated to all delegations and contained a proposal to suspend the session on Friday, 13 March.  The adopted proposals would be put forth for the Council’s approval today, 12 March, at noon.  By that approval, the Council would agree to the suggested way forward.  The appointment of mandate holders as well as the adoption of the decision to extend all mandates and mandated activities until the resumption of the session, would take place on Friday, just before adjourning the session.  In addition, the President informed that the Bureau had decided that until the suspension of the session, only one person per delegation would have access both to the Assembly Hall and to rooms provided for informals.  Delegations from States under review for the adoption of the Universal Periodic review outcomes would have two seats at the podium, in addition to one at their usual place.  Only civil society organizations inscribed on the list of speakers would have access to the plenary.  Webcast would continue to be provided in room XX for all other participants. 

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Italy

GIAN LORENZO CORNADO, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated Italy’s conviction in the work of the Council and its promotion of human rights for all.  An inter-ministerial committee within the Government was a central enabler of human rights, to ensure the full inclusion of international human rights standards in domestic legislation ; it played a key role in implementing the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Italy had kept human dignity and rights front and centre in its efforts to contain the virus.  Turning to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations put forward in November 2019, Italy had accepted 292 out of 306 recommendations.  Throughout the third cycle, civil society groups had been invited to contribute to the debate, and the Government reiterated its firm commitment to establishing a national independent human rights institution.  The Italian Government was implementing policies to improve the success of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, and had accepted 16 recommendations on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, taking note of one other.  As regarded the rights of people with disabilities, the Government was committed to implementing policies that guaranteed their full participation and social inclusion. 

Regarding recommendation no. 148.15 on the Arms Trade Treaty, Italy stressed that national legislation already ensured that all arms transfers and exports complied with the obligations of the treaty.  Similarly, the recommendation on the full independence of journalists and human rights defenders was also already provided for under domestic legislation.  With regard to labour exploitation, relevant measures were planned by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies in 2020, and further interventions were planned by the Government, with specific attention to the fight against undeclared work.  With regard to migrants, Italy reiterated that by implementing International Labour Organization Convention no. 143/1975, they guaranteed the rights of all workers within its territory.  They also stressed that the rights of asylum seekers and migrant victims of trafficking were addressed via a new agreement signed in December 2019 by the Department of Civil Liberties and Save the Children, in order to ensure the adequate assistance and protection of foreign minors. 

Speakers commended Italy for the constructive dialogue and for having accepted the majority of the recommendations.  Some regretted that Italy had only partially accepted the recommendation on the rights of regular and irregular migrants.  It was necessary for Italy to continue its efforts regarding migration and the fight against xenophobia.  Speakers welcomed Italy’s acceptance of the recommendation on sustaining its support to least developed countries in order to enhance their socio-economic wellbeing and support programmes that promoted the economic and social empowerment of women.  Likewise, they commended Italy for accepting to continue its efforts regarding establishing an independent national human rights institution, to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to strengthen mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.  Speakers recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Italy. 

Some speakers noted that Italy had not taken into account the recommendations regarding prison conditions and alternative measures to detention, nor the recommendation to bring the special detention regime in line with international human rights standards.  They called on Italy to increase measures to reduce social inequalities faced by migrant and Roma children.  They were also concerned about increasing gender-based violence and femicide, the abuses committed by the Catholic Church, as well as about the law on the integration of migrants, calling on the authorities to adopt the Global Compact on Migration.  Italy’s continued arms transfers to countries with weak human rights records was concerning, speakers noted.

The President of the Council informed that out of 306 recommendations received, 292 enjoyed the support of Italy and 12 had been noted.  Additional clarification had been provided on another two recommendations.

GIAN LORENZO CORNADO, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed that the Italian Government intended to promptly follow-up the third Universal Periodic Review cycle, and it would spare no effort to ensure increasing multi-stakeholder and result-oriented action.  To that end, the role of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Human Rights should be highlighted.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of El Salvador

JOAQUIN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked Japan, Burkina Faso and Mexico, who made up the troika of the Universal Periodic Review for El Salvador.  Out of 207 recommendations received, El Salvador had made solemn progress in implementing 151 of them, which it had fully accepted.  Additionally, El Salvador was committed to continued internal discussions to implement relevant international agreements, and would continue to work to improve the opportunities enjoyed by vulnerable groups.  The Universal Periodic Review process must be seen as a mechanism for truly reflecting the progress made in human rights in the relevant country.  As such, the Government underscored the participation of civil society groups in continuing to foster the progress made in human rights in the country.  In El Salvador, consolidating representative democracy and fostering human rights were the cornerstone of the State’s actions.  As such, they were very aware of the challenges faced, and the Government would provide the relevant follow up to these recommendations to ensure they were fully implemented. 

Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador said that there were shortcomings in El Salvador in complying with economic, social and environmental rights.  Nevertheless, some progress had been made by the Government.  In order to ensure these were established, the country must implement follow up plans where relevant.  In order to comply with the recommendations made in the Universal Periodic Review, it was urgent to draw up a human rights mechanism to avoid overlap, reduce costs and optimize resources.  There was a need to adopt specific measures to ensure human rights issues were cross cutting, especially where they concerned rural populations, indigenous groups and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, who faced more severe exclusion than other groups. 

Speakers welcomed the progress made in El Salvador in terms of institutional building and consolidation, which were important steps in fostering the rule of law.  They were encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by the Government of El Salvador in strengthening human rights legislation by harmonizing the domestic legal framework with international human rights standards.  They regretted laws criminalizing abortion and called on El Salvador not to prosecute women who suffered from miscarriage.  It was necessary for El Salvador to enhance the legal framework to protect the families that were victims of femicide, to improve access to contraceptives for adolescents and to provide them with comprehensive sex education, as well as to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  El Salvador should also put an end to discrimination against indigenous peoples and restore their historical lands.  

Speakers welcomed El Salvador’s efforts to reinforce the rule of law and the fight against impunity for violent crimes, to set up Government policies that created a safe and respectful environment for the work of journalists and human rights defenders, and to allocate resources to the specialized jurisdiction for crimes against women and specialized institutional support units for women in the police force.  However, speakers regretted that El Salvador had not accepted the recommendation to end the detention of women who were wrongfully convicted for homicide after having suffered a miscarriage.  Some speakers called on El Salvador to secure the right to water, to prevent the pollution of natural water resources, and to ensure the effective management of water.  

The President of the Council informed that out of 207 recommendations received, 152 enjoyed the support of El Salvador and 55 were noted. 

JOAQUIN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked those who took the floor, including civil society organizations, and took note of the new recommendations suggested.  He repeated the commitment of the Government of El Salvador to consider all of the recommendations put forward, and thanked the President of the Council, the Secretariat, and all those who made the presentation of this report possible. 

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of El Salvador.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of the Gambia

YUSUPHA ALIEU KAH, Permanent Representative of the Gambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, apologized on behalf of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Gambia for not being present, who had not travelled on the advice of the Universal Periodic Review office, in response to the potential spread of COVID-19.  The Gambia thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its work in strengthening the work of the Universal Periodic Review process, which the Government saw as a vital tool, and which it fully cooperated with.  He acknowledged that challenges faced by the law enforcement mechanisms together with the judicial and justice system required critical transformative justice mechanisms.  With this in mind, the Universal Periodic Review process provided a spotlight mechanism to keep countries on track. 

Out of the 222 recommendations presented by the Council, the Gambia had accepted 207 and noted the remaining 15.  The Government would continue to work on the recommendations and would scale up its attempts to accept the remaining 15 recommendations in due course. 

Speakers noted the new dynamism in the Gambia when it came to the promotion and protection of human rights, and welcomed its cooperation with international human rights mechanisms.  They commended the Gambia’s comprehensive reform agenda, which had begun in 2017, as well as its catering for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, as inspired by its National Development Plan 2018-2021.  That demonstrated the Government’s continuing commitment to human rights and its desire to improve the wellbeing of all its people.  Some speakers noted that the Gambia should adopt legal frameworks to ensure the rights of the child, fight violence against women, and improve judicial accountability.  Speakers welcomed the Government’s policy on the empowerment of women in the political, economic and social spheres.  Accordingly, speakers called on the Council to adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of the Gambia. 

Some speakers called attention to the prosecution of same-sex relationships and expressed disappointment that the Gambia continued to nurture discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.  Those speakers also reminded that the Gambia had one of the world’s worst records when it came to gender inequality.  They urged the Government to end gender-based violence, the oppression of women and girls, and female genital mutilation.  The Government had to step up its efforts to protect human rights for all.

The President of the Council informed that out of 222 recommendations received, 207 enjoyed the support of the Gambia and 15 were noted. 

YUSUPHA ALIEU KAH, Permanent Representative of the Gambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Council and Secretariat for their work and for facilitating the presentation of the report.  The Government of the Gambia reaffirmed its commitment to uphold the highest standards of human rights. 

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Bolivia

ERASMO HUBERTH VARGAS CAMACHO, Deputy Minister of Justice and Fundamental Rights of Bolivia, noted that the Universal Periodic Review was an opportunity to ensure the equal treatment of various nation States of the United Nations.  Bolivia had received the recommendations in a constructive spirit.  Since November 2019, Bolivia had taken on a path of true democracy.  The Government had been working on dialogue with all diverse sectors of its society.  Since the electoral events in October 2019, the Organization of American States had carried out an auditing exercise on the elections, noting that there had been irregularities and manipulation of the vote.  Given the electoral fraud, Evo Morales had stepped down voluntarily.  Nonetheless, there had been no breakdown in constitutionality in the country.  The moral force of the Bolivian people had brought down the Government of Evo Morales.  The upcoming elections would be supervised by two bodies to ensure a free and transparent process.

Mr. Vargas Camacho further elaborated on the recommendations that Bolivia had taken note of.  Those referred to the independences of electoral judges, prevention of torture and ill-treatment, the rights of persons with disabilities, the Truth Commission, legislation on legal abortion, and forced labour and child exploitation.  In conclusion, Mr. Vargas Camacho said Bolivia was committed to defend and promote human rights, as well as to promote truth and reconciliation in the country.

Defensor del Pueblo de Bolivia drew attention to the systematic violations of human rights in the context of the military and police crackdown on peaceful protesters after the general elections in Bolivia in October 2019.  Those should be prosecuted by ordinary courts.  In addition, 22 cases of sedition had been registered, whereas attacks against journalists had not been investigated, including the murder of an Argentinian journalist.  The Defensor del Pueblo de Bolivia had requested a prompt report on all the human rights violations committed during the post-election period.  

Speakers welcomed the efforts made by Bolivia, but noted that gaps remained and urged the Government to allocate a sufficient budget to address issues faced by women, and to ensure the equal participation of women in the labour force, especially for young, indigenous and vulnerable women.  A number of speakers praised the Government for their efforts in guaranteeing the sexual health of women and eradicating child labour, and asked what measures were being adopted to implement these recommendations.  However, they noted that a recommendation to set up a safe environment for human rights defenders had not been accepted, and called on the authorities to reconsider their position. 

Some States expressed their solidarity with the Bolivian people given recent political unrest, and hoped that democracy and social justice would be re-established.  Other speakers acknowledged the efforts made in reducing unemployment, increasing the minimum wage, improving conditions of detention, and elaborating policies to reduce poverty and increase school attendance. 

The President of the Council informed that out of 238 recommendations received, 206 enjoyed the support of Bolivia, 31 were noted, and one enjoyed the partial support of the Government. 

ERASMO HUBERTH VARGAS CAMACHO, Deputy Minister of Justice and Fundamental Rights of Bolivia, wanted to make a series of clarifications.  The Bolivian State and the current President were well aware of their responsibilities for compliance with and respect of all laws and treaties relevant to human rights.  Since the political unrest in October, the Government wanted to clarify that Supreme Decree 41.00 was aimed at an integral reparation to all victims and family members of the relevant events of October, and in this regard the Government had upheld its responsibility in respect of human rights.  Regarding violence against children, the President had declared 2020 was the year to combat violence and a national action plan was being drawn up to eradicate this scourge in Bolivia.  The Bolivian State would draw up clear cut policies in line with the recommendations, and Bolivia thanked all States for their contributions. 

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

Announcement of the Suspension of the Forty-Third Session of the Council because of the COVID-19 Virus

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, said that as announced this morning at the opening of this meeting, the Bureau held another meeting yesterday evening against the background of the urgent developments, to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 virus on the current forty-third session of the Council.  The Bureau discussed with the United Nations Office at Geneva Director for Conference Management and the Human Rights Council Secretariat the implications of the evolving situation.  It also took into account the recent assessment of the World Health Organization and concluded that under the current circumstances, an orderly suspension of the session by the end of this week would be the best approach to follow.  The minutes of this Bureau meeting were circulated to all delegations last night, proposing that the forty-third session of the Council would be suspended on 13 March until further notice. 

Before the suspension of the session, the Council would proceed with the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes scheduled for the session, today and tomorrow ; hold the annual debate on racial discrimination, which would take place following the conclusion of the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcomes ; and postpone all remaining plenary debates to the resumption of the forty-third session.  Additionally, the Council would appoint the 19 mandate holders to be appointed at the session.  All resolutions that were tabled before Friday, 13 March 2020 at 1 p.m. would be acted upon at the resumed forty-third session. 

The Council then decided to suspend the forty-third session of the Human Rights Council on 13 March 2020, until further notice.

___________

For use of the information media; not an official record

Follow UNIS Geneva on:Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr

Back

Back

No