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Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Fiji, San Marino, Iran, Angola and Kazakhstan

Human Rights Council

12 March 2020

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Fiji, San Marino, Iran, Angola and Kazakhstan. 

Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that human rights were a catalyst for transformative change and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was a vehicle through which such change took place.  The important recommendations Fiji had received would progressively transform the country and help the advancement of its human rights journey. 

Delegations commended Fiji’s strong commitment to combatting the negative effects of climate change, including its robust legislative framework, disaster preparedness efforts and measures to strengthen resilience.  Fiji had strengthened judicial independence and improved the situation of human rights defenders ; however, the limitations to the right to assembly and freedom of expression continued and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and defenders faced threats and harassment.

Speaking were Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, Barbados, Botswana, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guyana, Haiti, Iran and Libya, as well as the representatives of the following non-governmental organizations : International Parenthood Federation, International Service for Human Rights, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Civicus – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

The President of the Council informed that out of 242 recommendations received, 207 enjoyed the support of Fiji and 35 had been noted.  The Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji. 

The delegation of San Marino was unable to travel to Geneva due to COVID-19 pandemic.  In the statement read by Maria Del Socorro Flores Liera, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, San Marino said that it would discuss the best way to set up a national human rights institution.  Because the country had not yet had an in-depth debate on child adoption by same-sex couples, the related recommendations had been noted.

Welcoming the acceptance of recommendations on the protection of women and children from violence and cooperation with human rights treaty bodies, speakers urged San Marino to spare no efforts in implementing them.  San Marino should continue its efforts to improve living standards, speakers said and welcomed the fact that there had not been a single violent death nor any fatal road accident in over five years.

Cyprus, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Burkina Faso and China, as well as the Centre for Global Non-Killing spoke in the discussion.

The President of the Council informed that out of 109 recommendations, 72 enjoyed the support of San Marino and 36 had been noted ; additional clarification had been provided on one recommendation.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of San Marino.  

Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Iran was struggling to contain the Coronavirus pandemic to protect its citizens and the whole humanity.  But, its health capacity was viciously targeted by the United States’ unilateral sanctions and this was something the Council could not afford to ignore.

High Council for Human Rights of Iran said that the amendment of the law on the punishment of drug traffickers in 2017 had reduced the death penalty by 90 per cent.  Torture and ill-treatment were forbidden under the Constitution and Islamic teaching and steps had been taken to strengthen the independence of judges, access to lawyers and fair trial.

Iran’s efforts to provide for refugees despite the challenges it faced and the measures to empower women, promote school enrolment and reduce infant mortality were acknowledged.  Several speakers noted that unilateral sanctions were harmful to the promotion of human rights, especially given the ongoing need to combat COVID-19 ; others recognized the difficulties in this fight and pledged their assistance to Iran.  The human rights situation in the country, including the crackdown on protests in November 2019, remained of concern. 

Speaking in the discussion were Russia, China, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana and the Philippines.  Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Society of Iranian Women Advocating Sustainable Development of Environment, Disability Association of Tavana, Baha’i International Community, Lawyers for Lawyers, World Jewish Congress, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Human Rights Watch, Rahbord Peimayesh Research and Educational Services Cooperative and Centre for Inquiry. 

The President of the Council informed that out of 329 recommendations received, Iran supported 142 and noted 186 recommendations ; the Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Iran.

Margarida Rosa da Silva Izata, Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the accepted recommendations corresponded to the national priorities anchored in the 2018-2022 Development Plan, aimed at strengthening legal institutions, improving the sustainable development index and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The national strategy on human rights had been approved by the Council of Ministers in February 2020. 

In the discussions that followed, the delegations welcomed new measures on access to justice and the adoption of new criminal code and were pleased by the major progress in poverty elimination, decreasing children mortality rate and the improvement of the human development index.  Concerns remained about the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders, while food insecurity in the south of the country, according to some speakers, warranted a declaration of a state of emergency.

Sudan, China, Afghanistan, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo took part in the discussion.  Also speaking were the United Nations Population Fund, as well as International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development, Lutheran World Federation, International Service for Human Rights, Ingénieurs du Monde, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme.

The President of the Council said that out of 270 recommendations received, 259 enjoyed the support of Angola and 11 had been noted.  The Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Angola.

Zhanar Aitzhanova, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that her country’s priorities included protecting and promoting the rights of people, developing an inclusive economy and addressing social problems.  Kazakhstan had recently decided to abolish the death penalty and had toughened the penalties for the crime of human trafficking.  The law on peaceful assembly was being revised and Parliament was considering legislation to ensure political parties included 30 per cent women and youth. 

Kazakhstan had made progress in eliminating discrimination against women but should criminalize all forms of violence against women and girls, delegations said in the discussion.  They welcomed the moratorium on the death penalty and the establishment of an inter-agency commission to combat trafficking in persons.  Noting reports of harassment of lawyers, several speakers called on Kazakhstan to take immediate measures to ensure their full independence.

Speaking were Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Russia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt and Iran.  UN Women, United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Population Fund also spoke, as did the representatives of the International Bar Association, Action Canada for Population and Development, Article 19 - The International Centre Against Censorship, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (joint statement), International Lesbian and Gay Association and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The President of the Council informed that out of 245 recommendations received, 214 enjoyed the support of Kazakhstan and 31 had been noted.  The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan.

Summaries of the Committee’s public meetings in English and French are available at the United Nations Office at Geneva News and Media page, while the webcast can be viewed at UN Web TV.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  It will resume its work at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia, Egypt, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Fiji

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Fiji had received 242 recommendations, of which it had accepted 187 following the review.  Having considered the remaining 55 recommendations, Fiji had accepted 20 and noted the rest of the recommendations.  Fiji placed great importance on the Universal Periodic Review process and appreciated the immense value of a constructive peer-review that was informed by the experiences of other States.  Fiji was pleased to see that the number of States participating in its Universal Periodic Review had doubled since the second cycle.

Human rights were a catalyst for transformative change and Fiji recognized that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and process was a vehicle through which such change took place.  Following its second Review, Fiji had abolished the death penalty and ratified all core human rights instruments.  It had become a State party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols.  The important recommendations Fiji had received would progressively transform the country and help the advancement of its human rights journey.  Like other States, Fiji did not pretend to have all the answers to its challenges, but it recognized the importance of this peer review process to achieve progress and further substantive equality and justice.

Several delegations commended the country’s strong commitment to combatting the negative effects of climate change, including its robust legislative framework, disaster preparedness efforts and measures to strengthen resilience.  Fiji had strengthened the independence of the judiciary via the 2013 Constitution, speakers noted and went on to highlight the progress in addressing the challenges faced by women and girls and victims of trafficking in persons and the strengthening of the rights of vulnerable groups, children and persons with disabilities in particular.  They urged Fiji to use the International Technical Guidelines for Sexual Education in revising the family life education curriculum.  

Fiji had engaged in open and constructive dialogue with civil society throughout the review process, they said.  The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders was being implemented and conditions of human rights defenders had improved.  However, the right to assembly and freedom of expression continued to be limited, which was why Fiji should repeal the Public Order Amendment Act and the Media and Industry Development Act.  Since lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and defenders continued to face threats and harassment, Fiji should incorporate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-discrimination laws.

The President of the Council informed that out of 242 recommendations received, 207 enjoyed the support of Fiji and 35 had been noted. 

NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the countries that participated in the Universal Periodic Review and noted that this process was an important part of the prevention agenda of the Human Rights Council.  Fiji was encouraged by the number of recommendations that integrated climate policy with human rights, which indicated a growing acceptance that national climate policies must take into account the rights of all persons, especially those disproportionately affected by climate change.  Ms. Khan acknowledged that her country had to work hard to integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex issues into its national human rights policies.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of San Marino

The delegation of San Marino was unable to travel to Geneva due to COVID-19 pandemic.  In its statement read out by MARIA DEL SOCORRO FLORES LIERA, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, San Marino said that during its Universal Periodic Review, it had received and carefully examined 109 recommendations.  By fully accepting 72 and partially accepting 1 recommendation, San Marino had agreed to ratify the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conventions and the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court.  Special attention was provided to the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution ; a discussion on the best way to set it up would take place in the coming years.

San Marino had not accepted recommendations concerning the tightening of anti-discrimination law and it had noted recommendations related to decriminalization of abortion and women’s participation in political life.  Because the country had not yet had an in-depth debate on child adoption by same-sex couples, the related recommendations had been noted.  Finally, recommendation number 101 had been partially accepted, since setting up a special section for minors was unnecessary as those tasks were already being carried out by specialized judges.  A counselling centre for separated parents with children would be seriously considered, however.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said they understood the capacity issues faced by San Marino and hoped that it would nonetheless consider ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance soon.  The dialogue during the Review had been frank and open and testified to San Marino’s will to implement recommendations. 

Welcoming the acceptance of recommendations on the protection of women and children from violence and cooperation with human rights treaty bodies, speakers urged San Marino to spare no efforts in implementing them.  San Marino should continue its efforts to improve living standards, speakers said and welcomed the fact that there had not been a single violent death nor any fatal road accident in over five years.

The President of the Council informed that out of 109 recommendations 72 enjoyed the support of San Marino and 36 had been noted.  Additional clarification had been provided on one recommendation.

MARIA DEL SOCORRO FLORES LIERA, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, reading out the statement on behalf of San Marino, thanked all those who spoke during the debate and noted that San Marino was committed to carefully considering all the suggestions made.  The recent visit of the head of State to the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review session had shown San Marino’s commitment to the process. 

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of San Marino.  

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Iran

ESMAEIL BAGHAEI HAMANEH, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that human rights were a common good that contributed to human solidarity, without which it would be impossible to nurture empathy to shield human rights from infringements and transgressions.  The current international climate was obsessively hostile to nurturing genuine human solidarity to protect and promote that common good.  Human rights were the main casualty of today’s international relations.

For instance, while Iran was struggling to contain the Coronavirus pandemic and to protect its citizens and the whole humanity, its health capacity was viciously targeted by the United States’ unilateral sanctions.  This was something the Council could not afford to ignore, as it affected the basic rights of the population.  For years, developing countries were scapegoated for human rights violations, which were abusively invoked as a tool to stigmatize targeted nations.  Against this backdrop, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was exceptionally important and Iran was one of its main supporters.

High Council for Human Rights of Iran said that Iran had received 329 recommendations during its third Universal Periodic Review cycle, 188 of which had been accepted in whole or partially.  It did not accept 123 recommendations and had noted 18 which were in contradiction with the Constitution, Islamic values or cultural principles.  The abbreviation of life was only considered for the most serious crimes and the amendment of the law on the punishment of drug traffickers in 2017 had reduced the death penalty by 90 per cent.  The bill on the protection of children and adolescents adopted in 2018 was an important step forward, while child offenders could be held in a correction centre for a maximum of five years. 

Torture and ill-treatment were forbidden under the Constitution and Islamic teaching, as well as under Iran’s criminal laws and international obligations.  Iran had taken steps to strengthen the independence of judges, access to lawyer, fair trial, forbidding arbitrary detention and torture.  Having mostly accepted the recommendations related to women’s rights, Iran had adopted policy and legislation related to the promotion of women and family life, transfer of nationality and protection of women from violence. 

In the discussion, the delegations appreciated Iran’s cooperation with human rights mechanisms and the acceptance of the majority of recommendations received.  Iran’s efforts to provide for refugees despite challenges it faced and the efforts to empower women, promote school enrolment and reduce the mortality rate for children at birth were acknowledged.  Speakers recognized the difficulties involved in fighting COVID-19 virus and pledged assistance to Iran in this domain.

Several speakers warned against the political use of the human rights issue and reiterated that unilateral sanctions were harmful to the promotion of human rights, especially given the ongoing need to combat COVID-19.  Others remained deeply concerned at the human rights situation and the repeated refusal by Iran to allow access to United Nations Special Rapporteurs.  They condemned the crackdown on protests in November 2019 and remained worried at the ongoing detention of dual nationals who, given the risks to their health by COVID-19 virus, should be released.

The President of the Council informed that out of 329 recommendations received, Iran supported 142 and noted 186 recommendations.

ESMAEIL BAGHAEI HAMANEH, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Iran had examined all recommendations with an open mind and a spirit of cooperation.  Certain recommendations could not be noted as they amounted to repeated allegations and biased propositions.  Unilateral sanctions pressuring the Iranian people had not distracted the Government from efforts to safeguard human rights, the right to health, education and development, as well as children’s and women’s rights.  The sanctions by the United States targeted the basic human rights of the entire Iranian population.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Angola

MARGARIDA ROSA DA SILVA IZATA, Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that during its last Universal Periodic Review cycle Angola had received 270 recommendations from 110 States.  Of those, it had accepted 259 and had taken due note of the remaining 11. 

The accepted recommendations corresponded to the national priorities and programmes anchored in the 2018-2022 Development Plan, aimed at strengthening legal institutions, improving the sustainable development index and protecting rights human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The national strategy on human rights, already approved by the Council of Ministers in February 2020, would serve as the political framework for capacity-building to promote and protect human rights and to address the violations.  The situation of human rights would periodically be assessed by the National Security Council. 

As for the 11 recommendations that Angola had taken note of, the creation of a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles was envisaged.  The Ombudsman, an independent public institution that defended the rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, was in line with the Paris Principles and it effectively functioned as a national human rights institution.  Angola was ready to extend an invitation to human rights special procedures.

Angola was a party to the United Nations and African Union conventions against corruption and was a founding member of the Kimberley Process.  A working group had been created to assess the compatibility of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative with the domestic legal system.

In the discussion that followed, the delegations welcomed new measures on access to justice, the adoption of new criminal code and the ratification of a large number of human rights instruments.  They were also pleased by the establishment of the national human rights institution and the adoption of the national human rights strategy, the major progress in poverty elimination, decreasing children mortality rate and the improvement of the human development index.  Angola had also improved the presence of women in public life and taken actions to combat violence against women and girls, notably via the recent criminalization of female genital mutilation.

Concerns, however, remained with regards to the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders ; lack of access to water in urban and rural areas ; and the food insecurity in the south of the country, which, according to some speakers, warranted a declaration of a state of emergency.  Discrimination against persons with disabilities, including persons with albinism, remained and families with children with disabilities needed more support.  Angola should furthermore amend article 24 of Family Code to abolish any exceptions to the prohibition of child marriage.

The President of the Council informed that out of 270 recommendations received, 259 enjoyed the support of Angola and 11 had been noted. 

MARGARIDA ROSA DA SILVA IZATA, Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Council for their work and promised to continue the crusade for the defence of all human rights at regional, national and the international level. 

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Kazakhstan

ZHANAR AITZHANOVA, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that, following the recent elections, a National Council for Public Trust had been established consisting of representatives of civil society, to ensure the State was responsive to the needs of citizens.  Kazakhstan’s priorities included protecting and promoting the rights of people, developing an inclusive economy and addressing social problems. 

The Government had examined 245 recommendations as part of the review, accepting 214 and noting 31.  Kazakhstan had recently decided to abolish the death penalty and had toughened the penalties for the crime of human trafficking, while the revision of the law on peaceful assembly was ongoing.  As several recommendations had been made to enhance political participation of women and youth in the decision-making process, Parliament was considering legislation to ensure political parties included 30 per cent women and youth.  The Law on Trade Unions had been amended to better align it with the International Labour Organization Convention 87.  Unnecessary reporting requirements for non-governmental organizations were being eliminated and registration procedures simplified. 

Kazakhstan was committed to the 2030 Agenda and had integrated Sustainable Development Goals in 80 per cent of the strategic government programs.  As it had received 17 recommendations related to eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it was currently considering a draft law on Family and Gender Policy.   Furthermore, Kazakhstan was taking steps to address the rights of migrants, refugees and stateless people.

The delegations welcomed the legislative amendments aimed at improving access to birth registration procedures to ensure the registration of every child.  Kazakhstan had made progress in eliminating discrimination against women but should criminalize all forms of violence against women and girls.  Several speakers welcomed the moratorium on the death penalty, efforts to ensure equal access to health care services, efforts to help citizens find work and the establishment of an inter-agency commission to combat trafficking in persons. 

While Kazakhstan had decided to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children, it had not accepted the recommendations to strengthen the protection of migrant children.  Some speakers noted reports of harassment of lawyers by members of the judiciary and law enforcement, calling on Kazakhstan take immediate measures to ensure full independence of lawyers.  Commending the ongoing judicial reform, they called on Kazakhstan to ratify the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

The President of the Council informed that out of 245 recommendations received, 214 enjoyed the support of Kazakhstan and 31 had been noted. 

ZHANAR AITZHANOVA, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Council and reiterated the importance of the Universal Periodic Review process.  Kazakhstan would dedicate all the necessary resources to implement the recommendations and remained committed to continuing an open dialogue with the United Nations for the promotion of peace and the protection of fundamental human rights. 

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

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