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Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia

MIDDAY

19 September 2014

The Human Rights Council during its noon meeting adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia.

Elyane Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, underlined Costa Rica’s attachment to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which gave Costa Rica an opportunity to constructively and transparently discuss its human rights situation with the international community. Costa Rica was committed to promoting and protecting human rights through States mechanisms, national policies, and judicial-institutional systems that ensured the realisation of human rights, pluralism, participation and tolerance. Out of the 193 recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review, 173 were accepted by Costa Rica. Others were considered to be already implemented. Costa Rica had rejected 15 recommendations which it could not implement at the moment.

In the discussion, speakers recognized the commitment of Costa Rica to the promotion and protection of human rights and welcomed its acceptance of most of the recommendations made during the review including, among others, on striving to promote economic and social rights and to further improve the people’s living standards and address issues concerning indigenous peoples, education, and employment. Speakers recommended the adoption of Costa Rica’s outcome report.

Speaking were Angola, Bulgaria, China, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Sudan, Togo, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Algeria.

COC Netherlands, Centre for Reproductive Rights, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development in a joint statement, and Action Canada for Population and Development also spoke.

The Council then adopted the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Costa Rica.

Don Alfonso Nsue Mokuy Tercer, Third Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, said that when it had submitted itself to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Equatorial Guinea had provided a detailed report on the degree of the implementation of recommendations made during the first cycle. Some 191 recommendations were made of which the Government accepted 102. It had been able to illustrate the existence of a clear commitment to the ideals and values of the promotion and protection of those rights inherent to human equality. Equatorial Guinea restated its commitment to devote its efforts and capacity to achieve a national society in which human rights constituted the values of peaceful coexistence and democracy.

In the discussion, speakers welcomed efforts by Equatorial Guinea to improve the health situation in the country and tackle the issue of child mortality, as well as the temporary moratorium on the death penalty and efforts to improve access to education. Speakers called on the United Nations and the international community to provide Equatorial Guinea with technical cooperation and capacity building. Non-governmental organizations expressed concerns about arbitrary detention, restrictions on freedom of expression and the fact that the moratorium on the use of the death penalty was only temporary.

Speaking were Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Benin and Botswana.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Human Rights Watch, Rencontre pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, and African Association of Education for Development also spoke.

The Council then adopted the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Equatorial Guinea.

Minelik Alemu Getahun, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Ethiopia had accepted 188 out of the 252 recommendations received during its Universal Periodic Review and that its high-level commitment to the process would expedite their implementation, in collaboration with civil society. Significant progress had been made in consolidating human rights and good governance and Ethiopia was committed to build on the remarkable achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The recommendation to review, amend and repeal the Charities and Societies Proclamation could not be accepted because it aimed at ensuring the right to freedom of association. Recommendations pertaining to the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation were not acceptable as this law was not used to target political opposition.

In the discussion, speakers welcomed Ethiopia’s efforts in favour of economic development, eradication of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as its efforts to eradicate poverty and promote women's rights. Ethiopia’s willingness to step up efforts in the area of migrants rights, including Ethiopian nationals abroad, was encouraging. Ethiopia was encouraged to continue its efforts, and the international community was called upon to support it. Speakers recommended the adoption of the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Ethiopia.

Speaking were Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

International Centre against Censorship, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Amnesty International, United Nations Watch, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Human Rights Watch, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme also spoke.

The Council then adopted the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Ethiopia.

The Human Rights Council during its afternoon meeting will consider the outcome reports of the Universal Periodic Review of Qatar and Nicaragua. It will then hear the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the right to peace, followed by a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Costa Rica

ELAYNE WHYTE GOMES, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Costa Rica was committed to promoting and protecting human rights through States mechanisms, national policies, and judicial-institutional systems that ensured the realisation of pluralism, participation and tolerance. Out of the 193 recommendations made to it, Costa Rica had accepted 173, and rejected 15 recommendations which it was unable to implement at the present time. Other recommendations were considered to already be implemented. Regarding International Labour Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers, Costa Rica said it had criminalised trafficking in its penal code. It ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May 2014, and was making progress in the follow-up and implementation of international human rights obligations, including developing a dialogue with civil society that had resulted in institutional reflections on the effectiveness of work carried out.

To address racial discrimination, Costa Rica was working closely with indigenous peoples and other minorities. To address the rights of indigenous peoples, measures were being taken to improve access to healthcare and territorial rights. Costa Rica had abandoned restrictive migration policies and adopted new legislation establishing coordination systems for the protection of migrants, such as improving access to services for migrants and protecting vulnerable migrants, including women, children, migrants from sexual minorities or migrants with a disability, from being trafficked. Costa Rica was the tenth country to ratify the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, establishing a communication procedure. Costa Rica said it was committed to gender equality and women’s rights, particularly access to employment and education for women and girls. Violence against women and girls remained a challenge, and Costa Rica had adopted an Action Plan for 2010 to 2015 to address the issue. Costa Rica was undergoing institutional changes and was deeply committed to ensure the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, in collaboration with civil society representatives, including in areas of social inclusion and access to health.

Angola recognized Costa Rica’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights though the ratification of many international human rights instruments. It welcomed the acceptance of most of the recommendations made, proving the determination of the country to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. Bulgaria welcomed the promotion and protection of human rights of children by Costa Rica. According to recommendations Bulgaria had made on indigenous education, it would follow with interest the future activities of the authorities on developments in that field. China appreciated Costa Rica’s commitment to further promote and protect human rights. It was grateful that its recommendations had been accepted, on striving to promote economic and social rights, and to further improve the people’s living standards. China supported the adoption of the report. Republic of Congo welcomed the establishment of the inter-institutional commission for follow-up and monitoring of international human rights obligations of the country. It was satisfied that most recommendations made were accepted, including on implementation of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Côte d’Ivoire thanked Costa Rica for the attention paid to the recommendations it had made. While noting progress made, Costa Rica was encouraged to continue its efforts and cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. Cuba said Costa Rica had made advances in equality and non-discrimination. It was thanked for accepting many recommendations, including on efforts to ensure better access to education and employment. Djibouti congratulated Costa Rica on its efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights and encouraged it to continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights, particularly the rights of vulnerable persons.

Morocco noted the progress made by Costa Rica in implementing its international human rights obligations, noting its accession to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on Cultural Diversity. It recommended the adoption of Costa Rica’s report. Niger congratulated Costa Rica for its continued efforts to ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of the most vulnerable, especially in the area of education. Nigeria noted Costa Rica's efforts to promote the full enjoyment of human rights and called on Costa Rica to ratify those international human rights conventions it was not yet a party to, as well as to implement those it had acceded to already. Philippines noted the efforts of Costa Rica in the areas of migration and combating trafficking and called on it to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers as well as International Labour Organization Convention 189, while encouraging Costa Rica to ensure necessary resources to ensure the realisation of the rights of its people. Sudan welcomed the adoption of the report of Costa Rica. Togo welcomed that Costa Rica had accepted most of the recommendations it received, in particular Togo's recommendation to combat racism and prosecute perpetrators of racists acts.

Venezuela highlighted Costa Rica’s efforts to improve the rights of indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants and welcomed the policies and programmes on integral social protection to address sexual exploitation of children. Algeria welcomed the acceptance of the recommendations to tackle violence against children and women and recommended that the Council adopt the outcome document. COC Netherland urged Costa Rica to implement its anti-discrimination policies on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, which negatively affected the areas of health, education, work and family. Centre for Reproductive Rights urged Costa Rica to decriminalize abortion, particularly in pregnancies that resulted from incest or rape. It was also urged to adopt a health care protocol to regulate and guarantee access to legal abortion. International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development in a joint statement with Instituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco highlighted difficulties in accessing health services and the labour market, especially for migrants. It called on Costa Rica to implement policies to combat discrimination against vulnerable children. Action Canada for Population and Development said Costa Rica had made major progress in recognizing trans-identity, but said the right of trans-identity persons to documentation, employment, health and education needed to be implemented in practice.

ELAYNE WHYTE GOMEZ, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in closing remarks highlighted Costa Rica’s commitment to continue strengthening and promoting the progressive development of human rights, and to ratify International Labour Organization Convention 189. Policies were in place to guarantee the assets and property of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and trans-identity persons and plans were being made to address the issue of legal abortion.

Of the 193 recommendations received, Costa Rica had accepted 178 recommendations and had taken note of 15.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Costa Rica.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Equatorial Guinea

DON ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY TERCER, Third Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, said that when it had submitted itself to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Equatorial Guinea had provided a detailed report on the degree of the implementation of recommendations made during the first cycle. Some 191 recommendations were made of which the Government accepted 102. It had been able to illustrate the existence of a clear commitment to the ideals and values of the promotion and protection of those rights inherent to human equality. Many recommendations were already part of the Government’s action plan. It informed the Council that tangible action had already been taken to guarantee the implementation of the main issues addressed during the second Universal Periodic Review, including the death penalty. Since 1998, a national institution had been created for human rights and democracy. This institution did not have a hierarchy and had its own legal personality, able to work inside and outside the territory.

Equatorial Guinea had given the International Committee of the Red Cross free access to centres of detention in the country to verify the conditions and treatment given to detainees. On the elimination of child labour, the National Committee for Children’s Rights was a body responsible for ensuring that the rights of the child were upheld. A children’s parliament was created as a forum for free expression, where children and adolescents could meet to discuss issues that affected them. With regards to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to children in armed conflict, Equatorial Guinea had accepted and approved its ratification and accession formalities had been sent on to Parliament. The Government renewed its willingness to continue working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and restated its commitment to devote its efforts and capacity to achieve a national society in which human rights constituted the values of peaceful coexistence and democracy.

Ethiopia commended the significant number of recommendations accepted by Equatorial Guinea, including all those made by Ethiopia, and the constructive engagement shown by this country. It called on United Nations technical mechanisms to provide Equatorial Guinea with technical cooperation and capacity building. Gabon welcomed the full cooperation of Equatorial Guinea with international human rights mechanisms and its adherence to many international human rights instruments, encouraging Equatorial Guinea to further increase capacity building efforts. Guinea congratulated Equatorial Guinea for the efforts undertaken during its Universal Periodical Review and for its continued commitment to the work of the international community, welcoming efforts to improving the health situation in the country and tackling the issue of child mortality. Morocco welcomed Equatorial Guinea's efforts to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review, as more than 80 per cent of the recommendations were accepted, saying it was confident that Equatorial Guinea would address the remaining challenges. Nigeria commended the commitment shown by Equatorial Guinea and its acceptance of recommendations made by Nigeria, calling on it to improve the health rights of the people. Sierra Leone was pleased by the recommendations accepted by Equatorial Guinea, while acknowledging that challenges remained. It requested the adoption of the report.

South Africa welcomed Equatorial Guinea’s efforts in education and in addressing HIV/AIDS in the context of the Horizon 2020 plan which aimed to address the country’s developmental challenges. South Africa was encouraged by Equatorial Guinea’s temporary moratorium on the death penalty. Sudan commended Equatorial Guinea on its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review and for accepting the recommendation made by Sudan. Togo welcomed the acceptance of almost all recommendations made by the Working Group and hailed the progress made in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights and promoting the wellbeing of the population. Venezuela welcomed the continuation of the policy to provide free education and the hiring of more than 2,000 teachers for schools in rural and peripheral areas. Algeria noted with satisfaction the work to strengthen institutions to bring about better human rights protection and the establishment of the Office of People’s Defender. Angola was pleased to note that Equatorial Guinea had agreed to continue efforts to increase the school enrolment rate and to cooperate with the United Nations bodies, particularly by submitting outstanding reports to the human rights treaty bodies.

Armenia welcomed Equatorial Guinea’s readiness to improve the human rights situation in the country, and its acceptance of the recommendation to ratify the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide. Benin congratulated Equatorial Guinea for its efforts to promote and protect human rights, as well as its ratification of international human rights instruments and the adoption of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. It encouraged Equatorial Guinea to ratify remaining international human rights conventions. Botswana commended Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to combat trafficking in humans, and encouraged it to ratify more international human rights treaties. Botswana also encouraged Equatorial Guinea to continue its efforts to combat maternal mortality, and called on the international community to provide technical assistance to Equatorial Guinea.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale was concerned about impunity, and stressed the need to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence. Equatorial Guinea was called upon to take measures to eradicate discrimination against women and girls, ensure larger access to education and strengthen its efforts to combat HIV/ AIDS. Human Rights Watch was deeply concerned that Equatorial Guinea had made no effort to implement recommendations made during the first cycle of its Universal Periodic Review, particularly with regards to torture and arbitrary detention. Human Rights Watch regretted that Equatorial Guinea was yet to abolish the death penalty. Rencontre pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme regretted that many recommendations were yet to be implemented; it welcomed that Equatorial Guinea had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and had established a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. It remained concerned about arbitrary detention and harassment of journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. African Association of Education for Development regretted that Equatorial Guinea had not implemented recommendations it had accepted during its first periodic review. Arbitrary detention, torture, evictions, intimidation and forced displacement continued with total impunity because judges were controlled by the Government. A special rapporteur on the situation in Equatorial Guinea and a United Nations presence in the country were needed.

ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY, Third Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, in concluding remarks, restated the commitment of Equatorial Guinea to human rights. He thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, its Secretariat and all people of good will who participated in this exercise to help improve the full compliance of Equatorial Guinea with international human rights.

Out of 191 recommendations received, 142 were supported and 49 had been noted.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Equatorial Guinea.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Ethiopia

MINELIK ALEMU GETAHUN, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Ethiopia had accepted 188 out of the 252 recommendations received during its Universal Periodic Review and said that its high-level commitment to the process would expedite their implementation. The Ministry of Justice had the lead role in the implementation of the national human rights action plan and in the implementation of recommendations from human rights bodies. The process would be further complemented by the participation of grassroots organizations and civil society. The Government was determined to sustain its efforts to provide continuing human rights education for law enforcement officials and to strengthen judicial review. Significant progress had been made in consolidating human rights and good governance and Ethiopia was committed to build on the remarkable achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Some of the recommendations could not be accepted either because they were not based on objective assessment or due to lack of capacity for implementation. The recommendation to review, amend and repeal the Charities and Societies Proclamation could not be accepted because it aimed at ensuring the right to freedom of association and provided a predictable and transparent system for the establishment, registration and regulation of such organizations and a conducive environment for the growth of grass root advocacy, development and humanitarian civil society groups. Recommendations pertaining to the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation were not acceptable because the law was aimed at fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and was not used to target political opposition. Ethiopia also rejected the recommendation concerning the freedom of the mass media and access to information and said it would consider inviting Special Procedures on a case-by-case basis.

Indonesia commended Ethiopia’s advancements for the protection of human rights, and its commitment to foster its efforts in this area. It welcomed that Ethiopia was in the process of ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Lao People’s Democratic Republic welcomed Ethiopia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights and to implement recommendations. It welcomed the progress in the areas of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and on combatting human trafficking. Malaysia commended the progress made for the adoption by Ethiopia of its national human rights plan, and welcomed that Ethiopia accepted recommendations on the rights of women.

Mali welcomed Ethiopia’s renewed commitment to cooperate closely with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and congratulated Ethiopia for progress made in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Mali encouraged Ethiopia to continue its efforts, and called on the international community to support it. Morocco welcomed that Ethiopia accepted most of recommendations made during its review, and Ethiopia’s efforts in favour of economic development, eradication of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Niger welcomed Ethiopia’s efforts to promote and protect human rights through national policies that had outstanding results. Niger commended Ethiopia’s economic growth, which would allow further progress in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.

Nigeria commended the engagement of Ethiopia with the Universal Periodic Review process, especially as it accepted all its recommendations and worked to combat traditional harmful practises such as female genital mutilation and child and early forced marriages, and wished it success in the implementation of the accepted recommendations. Philippines said Ethiopia's willingness to step up efforts in the area of migrants rights, including Ethiopian nationals abroad, was encouraging. It looked forward to the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants in situations of crisis. Romania congratulated Ethiopia for its achievements and willingness to further cooperate to protect and promote human rights, and expressed the hope the Ethiopian authorities would continue to address the concerns raised during the interactive dialogue. Sierra Leone commended the implementation by Ethiopia of the accepted recommendations since the first Universal Periodic Review cycle, in particular with regard to ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. South Africa said Ethiopia had demonstrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and expressed appreciation for its engagement with the Human Rights Council, the Commission of Human Rights and the African Group. Sri Lanka appreciated the constructive spirit of Ethiopia during the Universal Periodic Review, saying the achievements in food security, education and healthcare were commendable and recommending the adoption of its report and the subsequent implementation of accepted recommendations. Sudan thanked Ethiopia for the information provided during the Universal Periodic Review, especially efforts to eradicate poverty and promote women's rights, expressing satisfaction with the recommendations accepted by Ethiopia.

International Centre against Censorship noted the acceptance by Ethiopia of recommendations to fully implement freedom of expression and association. However, this apparent openness was contrary to the reality on the ground. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that Ethiopia’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process had to be understood in the context of the deteriorating human rights situation. Just yesterday, a group of United Nations human rights experts urged Ethiopia to stop using anti-terrorism laws to repress freedom of expression. United Nations Watch was concerned about the human rights situation in the country. It was disturbed that many important Universal Periodic Review recommendations had been rejected, including on freedom of assembly and expression. There had been numerous reports of journalists charged with false terrorism offences. Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperaiton Economique Internationale paid tribute to that fact that Ethiopia had created more than 2.6 million jobs over the past two years. It was seriously concerned about the prevalence of female genital mutilation, early marriage and violence against women in the country. Amnesty International said that with elections coming up, urgent and concrete steps were required. Amnesty International was deeply concerned about Ethiopia’s rejection of key recommendations on freedom of expression and association, relevant to the participation in elections. The Council’s sustained attention was required.

CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that the draconian restrictions on freedom of expression and association still stood in Ethiopia and this limit on fundamental liberties would seriously undermine the holding of free and democratic elections in 2015. Human Rights Watch welcomed the human rights-based commitment to development and was increasingly concerned about the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The Government refused to respond to and investigate allegations of worst human rights violations committed by its security forces, including torture and ill-treatment. Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme noted the efforts to ensure genuine respect for women’s rights and seriously deplored the deterioration in freedom of expression and press freedoms and said it was vital to put an end to the monopoly and control of the press.

MINELIK ALEMU GETAHUN, Permanent Representatives of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said he found some of the language used by non-governmental organizations deplorable and even outrageous. Their allegations of Government measures against civil society were unfounded and based on isolated events. The Government was firmly committed to the full protection of the democratic rights of all its citizens, particularly against the use of torture. Speaking of the general elections to be held in Ethiopia in May 2015, Mr. Getahun stressed that the Government would ensure that they complied with international democratic standards, and that they would be conducted in a peaceful manner, in order to provide all citizens with the opportunity to freely express their will. The Government was committed to upholding the principles of good governance and democracy, as well as to the engagement with civil society, particularly in the area of economic growth.

Of the 252 recommendations received, Ethiopia accepted 188 and took note of 64.

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

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