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Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia and Egypt

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12 March 2020

Human Rights Council

12 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia and Egypt.

Mireille Rabenoro, President of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights for the Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Madagascar, noted three issues that were raised during the Universal Periodic Review.  Prison conditions were still dire, but they had improved and the deaths of prisoners from malnutrition had been dramatically reduced.  The issue of popular revenge or reprisal also needed to be addressed as mobs frequently called for suspects to be handed over for lynching.  Concerning the issue of the right to life, she noted that the population remained reluctant to legalize the voluntary termination of pregnancies.  This led to backstreet abortions, of which 575 women died each year. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed Madagascar's engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.  Some speakers regretted the use of pre-trial detention for human rights defenders, the harassment of opposition groups, and the imposition of bans on political gatherings.  They were concerned about the persistent corruption in Madagascar, which undermined the country's commitments to human rights protection, and led to political and macroeconomic instability.  Others welcomed the law ratifying the Rome Statute, as well as the Optional Protocol on the Prevention of Torture. 

Speaking were Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, Senegal, United Nations Children's Fund, and United Nations Population Fund. 

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: Centre for Global Nonkilling, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizens, United Nations Watch, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme

The President informed that out of 203 recommendations received, 174 enjoyed the support of Madagascar and 29 had been noted. 

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

Abbas Kadhom Obaid Al-Fatlawi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said a National Plan of Action on Human Rights would be developed in order to implement the accepted recommendations before the next cycle, an unprecedented decision that underscored Iraq's commitment to the process.  With regard to noted recommendations, Iraq stressed that societal and cultural specificities should be respected, including the nature of Iraqi society and religious beliefs.  As such, Iraq emphasized that torture and discrimination of all kinds were banned by Iraqi law.

In the discussion, speakers welcomed Iraq's decision to implement national strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, foster women's empowerment and ensure the protection of children, despite security challenges.  Other speakers urged the Iraqi Government to publicly condemn the killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals and hold perpetrators accountable, no matter the identity of the victim. 

Speaking were Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Minority Rights Group, COC Nederland, Center for Inquiry, World Jewish Congress, British Humanist Association, World Evangelical Alliance, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

The President informed that out of 298 recommendations received, 245 enjoyed the support of Iraq and 48 had been noted.  Additional clarification was provided on another five recommendations.

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

Sabina Stadler Repnik, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Slovenia provided universal access to health services and had sector specific legislation constituting an integrated approach against all forms of discrimination.  Measures were taken to improve the social inclusion, living conditions as well as access to drinking water and sanitation of the Roma people.  Slovenia reiterated its full and continued support to the Universal Periodic Review process and pledged to work for the advancement of human rights as a candidate for the United Nations Human Rights Council for the period 2026-2028. 

In the discussion, speakers noted with satisfaction that Slovenia had adopted the majority of recommendations, including on matters of national minorities.  They noted the Government's efforts to implement the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review, as well as its policies on domestic violence, hate speech – notably the kind that targeted migrants – and human trafficking. 

Speaking were Pakistan, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Cabo Verde, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Libya and Nepal.

The President informed that out of 215 recommendations received, 182 enjoyed the support of Slovenia and 33 had been noted.

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

Alaa Yousuf, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the 2014 Constitution regarded the protection of human rights as a fundamental pillar, and guaranteed the right to freedom of association, peaceful protest, and the equality of all citizens before the law.  Egypt had accepted 87.37 per cent of recommendations.  It had fully accepted 270 recommendations, 24 were considered already implemented, and 31 were partially accepted.  Thirty recommendations were not accepted, including two that were not related to the Human Rights Council and two that were considered hostile as they contained untrue and politicized allegations.  Fifteen recommendations were considered factually erroneous. 

The National Council for Human Rights of Egypt also took the floor. 

In the discussion, speakers welcomed Egypt's acceptance of recommendations, including those pertaining to the process of investigation into human rights violations, which notably sought to increase transparency.  Speakers noted that the Government had undertaken major administrative and judicial reforms, and encouraged Egypt to further work along these lines, and said it was regrettable that that the recommendation on religious affiliation in identity documents had only been noted.  Other speakers noted that protesters, lawyers and human rights defenders were harassed, threatened, arrested, disappeared and killed in Egypt.  They called for amendments to laws that violated the rights of freedom of assembly and expression, and urged Egypt to end the climate of reprisals.

Speaking were Ethiopia, Gabon, Greece, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, China, Libya, Malawi and Mauritania.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives: Lawyers for Lawyers, International Planned Parenthood Federation, joint statement by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Service for Human Rights, and Africa Culture Internationale.

The President informed that out of 372 recommendations received, 294 enjoyed the support of Egypt, and 51 had been noted.  Additional clarification had been provided on 27 recommendations.

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

The Human Rights Council will reconvene on Friday, 13 March, at 9 a.m. discuss the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It will then hold a debate on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent.  Finally, it will adopt a list of Special Procedure mandate holders, before suspending its forty-third session because of the COVID-19 virus.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Madagascar

MIREILLE RABENORO, President of the National Independent Commission of Human Rights for the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Madagascar, speaking via video conference, noted three issues that were raised during the Universal Periodic Review.  Prison conditions were still dire, but they had improved and the deaths of prisoners from malnutrition had been dramatically reduced.  This improvement remained precarious as long as prison overcrowding continued, caused by widespread pre-trial detention, which had to be addressed.  The issue of popular revenge or reprisal also needed to be addressed as mobs frequently called for suspects to be handed over for lynching.  The distrust of magistrates was a key driver of this, and the judicial system needed to address these problems.  The sanctioning of 11 magistrates for corruption was not enough to restore the lost confidence. 

Concerning the issue of the right to life, she noted that the population remained reluctant to legalize the voluntary termination of pregnancies.  This led to backstreet abortions, of which 575 women died each year.  The Government should work to address this situation.  Progress in human rights still depended on progress made in the area of governance and the fight against corruption.

Speakers welcomed Madagascar's commitment and constructive approach to the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the particular attention paid to the rights of vulnerable people, including women, children, migrants and prisoners.  Speakers commended Madagascar for establishing and strengthening its national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, and for introducing a social emergency plan aimed at improving access to health care and education to those most in need.  Other speakers welcomed the changes to the Nationality Code, and the efforts made to combat early marriage and gender based violence.  Some speakers regretted the use of pre-trial detention for human rights defenders, the harassment of opposition groups, and the imposition of bans on political gatherings.  They were concerned about the persistent corruption in Madagascar, which undermined the country's commitments to human rights protection, and led to political and macroeconomic instability.

Madagascar was commended on its implementation of a strategic plan as aligned with the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems.  Some speakers welcomed the reinforcement of judicial procedures and the adoption of a national strategy for combatting corruption by the Government of Madagascar.  Other speakers expressed regret that certain recommendations on combatting corruption were not accepted.  Speakers also encouraged Madagascar to continue its efforts in protecting children from child labour, sexual exploitation and forced marriages.  The issue of the poor conditions in prisons was raised.  Speakers urged Madagascar to eradicate the exploitation of children in mines, and to address poverty in rural areas. 

The President informed that out of 203 recommendations received, 174 enjoyed the support of Madagascar and 29 had been noted.  

TATIANA EDDIE RAZAFINDRAVAO, Permanent Representative of Madagascar to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Madagascar in November 2019, Madagascar had received 203 recommendations, of which 173 were accepted, 11 rejected and the rest were under reservation for reasons having to do with domestic legislation.  The challenges were numerous but Madagascar was willing to continue its efforts to ensure the rights of all humans in all ways for the entirety of the population. 

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Iraq

ABBAS KADHOM OBAID AL-FATLAWI, Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated Iraq's commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and noted that Iraq had always been a supporter of the Universal Periodic Review process.  Out of the 298 recommendations received, 245 were fully supported and 48 were noted, while five were partially supported.  A National Plan of Action on Human Rights would be developed in order to implement the accepted recommendations before the next cycle, an unprecedented decision that underscored Iraq's commitment to the process.  With regard to noted recommendations, Iraq stressed that societal and cultural specificities should be respected, including the nature of Iraqi society and religious beliefs.  As such, Iraq emphasized that torture and discrimination of all kinds were banned by Iraqi law.

The establishment of a healthy democratic society was the ultimate goal of the Iraqi Government, something that was being negatively impacted by the presence of Daesh in the country.  Most of the persons who had been internally displaced by the conflict with Daesh had returned and the judiciary had prosecuted Daesh crimes against Iraq in line with specific jurisdictions.  Various strategies and policies had been adopted to combat violence against women and poverty as well as to strengthen the protection and the role of persons with disabilities in Iraqi society.  Over 3,800 non-governmental organizations were currently active in Iraq and people could express their opinion on the policies adopted by the Government.  A new election law had been passed, along with more reforms and laws of social or economic nature in order to meet the needs of the demonstrators.  In addition, the President had carried out consultations to form a new government focusing on institutional reform and the reform of the electoral system in particular.  In conclusion, Iraq stated that it needed to continue improving to ensure the human rights of its people. 

In the discussion, speakers thanked the Government of Iraq for its cooperation, and noted the progress made, despite the significant public policy challenges faced by the Government, as well as its intention to implement all resolutions despite the instability.  They welcomed Iraq's decision to implement national strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, foster women's empowerment, and ensure the protection of children despite security challenges.

Other speakers urged the Iraqi Government to publicly condemn the killing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals and hold perpetrators accountable, no matter the identity of the victim.  Noting the Government's pledge to uphold religious freedoms, speakers called on Iraq to acknowledge the situation of forgotten Jewish refugees who had been forced to leave the country ; fulfil its international obligations by repealing its blasphemy law ; and officially recognize the Evangelical church.  They flagged security forces' excessive use force against protestors since October 2019, as well the use of evidence obtained through torture, urging the Government to conduct investigations in all instances of violence.

The President informed that out of 298 recommendations received, 245 enjoyed the support of Iraq and 48 had been noted.  Additional clarifications were provided on five more recommendations. 

ABBAS KADHOM OBAID AL-FATLAWI, Deputy Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all Member States, observer States and non-governmental organizations for their participation.  Reviewing the situation of human rights in Iraq throughout this process was exercised with transparency while taking into account the exceptional circumstances faced by the country.  Ensuring the protection of the rights of internally displaced peoples was a priority for Iraq, as well as the guaranteeing of the protection of national minorities.  With regard to the demonstrations, violence quickly abated, and any mistakes made by the Government were investigated, while no orders to use force on protesters were issued. 

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Slovenia

SABINA STADLER REPNIK, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the States that had participated in the review and submitted recommendations, emphasizing that the Universal Periodic Review process was an important tool for bringing change on the ground.  Out of the 215 recommendations, 182 were supported and 33 noted.  The Government had begun the implementation of certain recommendations.  In order to improve gender equality, Slovenia had amended the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Equal Opportunities for Women and Men Act, and a new resolution on the national programme for the prevention of domestic violence and violence against women 2020-2025 was being drafted.

Slovenia emphasized that it provided universal access to health services and had sector specific legislation constituting an integrated approach against all forms of discrimination.  Measures had been taken to improve the social inclusion, living conditions as well as access to drinking water and sanitation of the Roma people, Slovenia had adopted a comprehensive Migration Strategy in 2019, and was considering the impacts that the ratification of the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance may have on Slovenian criminal law.  Slovenia reiterated its full and continued support to the Universal Periodic Review process and pledged to work for the advancement of human rights as a candidate for the United Nations Human Rights Council for the period 2026-2028. 

In the discussion that followed, speakers noted with satisfaction that Slovenia had adopted the majority of the recommendations, including on matters of national minorities.  They noted the Government's efforts to implement the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review, as well as its policies on domestic violence, hate speech – notably the kind that targeted migrants – and human trafficking. 

Speakers commended Slovenia's policies on the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as its efforts to eradicate poverty.  They congratulated Slovenia's ratification of additional international instruments and the improvements it had made to its institutional framework on human rights, including its decision to broaden the mandate of the Ombudsman.

The President informed that out of 215 recommendations received, 182 enjoyed the support of Slovenia and 33 had been noted. 

SABINA STADLER REPNIK, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed all comments and remarks and assured that they would be taken and examined with due diligence by the Slovenian Government. Ms. Repnik said Slovenia looked forward to holding a fruitful and constructive dialogue during its next Universal Periodic Review cycle.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Egypt

ALAA YOUSUF, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed his appreciation for the wide-ranging dialogue on 13 November 2019 when the Review was discussed.  He outlined that the 2014 Constitution regarded the protection of human rights as a fundamental pillar.  It guaranteed the right to freedom of association, peaceful protest, and the equality of all citizens before the law.  This Constitution also enshrined the importance of civil society organizations, and these had in fact been consulted before the Government responded to this latest Universal Periodic Review process.  Egypt appreciated the constructive dialogue so far, and had accepted 87.37 per cent of recommendations.  It had fully accepted 270 recommendations, 24 were considered already implemented, and 31 were partially accepted.  Thirty recommendations were not accepted, including two that were not related to the Human Rights Council and two that were considered hostile as they contained untrue and politicized allegations.  Fifteen recommendations were considered factually erroneous.  National legislation provided for the right to a fair trial, the independence of the judiciary was a pillar of human rights in the country, and Egypt had accepted all recommendations regarding judicial guarantees.

Egypt respected international standards as regarded pre-trial detention, and the treatment of prisoners.  The prosecutor had the power to investigate any accusations to the opposite, thereby preventing any culture of impunity from taking hold.  The rights of children in the judicial system were central, with lenient sentences for crimes committed by minors, and those under 15 appeared before the juvenile court.  The need to protect the rights of the family was paramount, and domestic laws were being updated to ensure this was always reflected in law.  Laws guaranteeing the right to a free press and media were in place, and according to the Constitution newspapers could be established by simple notification.  Furthermore, censorship was not permitted, except in times of war.  Regarding the right to peaceful protests, the Constitution allowed these by application.  New laws organizing the work of non-governmental organizations ensured these could be established by simple notification.  The Government would assess over time how all these new laws were developing before deciding whether they needed amendment.  The Ambassador reiterated Egypt's unwavering commitment to ending terrorism, and reaffirmed the Government had reviewed the Terror Act in line with international human rights standards. 

A representative of the National Council for Human Rights of Egypt welcomed the recommendations made during the comprehensive Universal Periodic Review of Egypt and thanked the Egyptian Government for accepting most of them.  The National Council recommended that Egypt introduce legal amendments to the death penalty, to limit it to the most heinous crimes ; and that it introduce amendments to the Criminal Code to align it with the Convention against Torture and to establish a national mechanism against torture.  The Government must strictly abide by the law and inform any person who was detained of the charges against them, inform family members, and inform the Attorney General, to remove any misunderstanding and avoid allegations of arbitrary detention.  Egypt should continue its positive action to end the problem with non-governmental organizations and allow them to participate in the preparation of the law on non-governmental organizations.  

In the discussion that followed, speakers welcomed Egypt's acceptance of recommendations, including those pertaining to the process of investigation into human rights violations, which notably sought to increase transparency.  Speakers noted that the Government had undertaken major administrative and judicial reforms, and encouraged Egypt to further work along these lines, and said it was regrettable that that the recommendation on religious affiliation in identity documents had only been noted.  Other speakers drew attention to Egypt's policies fostering a dignified life to all citizens without discrimination, in partnership with the private sector and civil society organizations.

Other speakers, noting that protesters, lawyers and human rights defenders were harassed, threatened, arrested, disappeared and killed in Egypt, called for amendments to laws that violated the rights of freedom of assembly and expression, and an end to the climate of reprisals.  Cairo was one of the most dangerous cities for women and girls due to sexual harassment and violence, according to some other speakers.  A number of speakers called for the abolition of the death penalty and the strengthening of minorities' rights.

The President informed that out of 372 recommendations received, 294 enjoyed the support of Egypt and 51 had been noted.  Additional clarification had been provided on 27 recommendations.

ALAA YOUSUF, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that as Egypt moved towards the rule of law, it remained steadfast in its commitment to create a society in which nobody was above the law.  The Government would continue to work towards that goal, in cooperation with civil society.

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

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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