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Universal Periodic Review

Second session meeting highlights

13 May 2008 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Ukraine this morning, during which 26 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Switzerland, following the review of the country on Thursday, 8 May.

Presenting the national report of Ukraine was YEVHEN KORNIYCHUK, First Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, who, at the onset, expressed his Government’s appreciation for the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council in enhancing respect for human rights in all countries. Ukraine had always supported reforms in the human rights of the Organization and the work of the Council, which it viewed as one of the most important achievements of the World Summit of 2005. The Ukrainian Government’s policies aimed at ensuring the best quality of life for its people and had been striving to improve economic, social and cultural rights and social and political rights for all in its territory. National legislation reflected and upheld international standards in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the legal documents adopted by the Government aimed at implementing national legislation geared toward the protection and development of human rights. One of the key priorities of the Government was to comply with international legal obligations and to establish a system to protect human rights in the country. It was recalled that the State’s national report for the Universal Periodic Review was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on information received from several Ukrainian ministries and State offices, and was the produce of active participation with NGOs.

Addressing specific issues, the Deputy Minister noted that, with regard to the conditions of places of detention, in 2003 the Criminal Enforcement Code of Ukraine was adopted, according to which the State had provided for new forms of punishment. Over the last three years, there had been a drop in the prison population to some 42,300 people, much of which was attributed to the adoption of a State programme for improving detention conditions for inmates in August 2006. As regards cases of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in the prison population, the Government was implementing a memorandum on HIV/AIDS and instituting the best possible programmes for combating tuberculosis. There had been a 6% decrease in the mortality rate in institutions in recent years. As of 1 January 2008, in penitentiary facilities there were just over 5,000 HIV-infected individuals in detentions in the country. A number of national programmes were being carried out to improve the services for this portion of the prison population. Among other steps taken were those to decrease the use of prison torture throughout the country, including through the use of a media campaign. In 2005, a number of NGOs visited prison institutions; representatives of foreign countries have also visited these institutions. There was also a significant increase in visits carried out by religious groups, and the mass media to prison facilities. In general, noteworthy amendments had been made to improve overall prison conditions in the Ukraine.

The Government had been endeavoring to bring its national legislation in line with international standards, the Deputy Minister said. There was a comprehensive study carried out to that end, after which conclusions had been drawn indicating the areas where amendments were required. Changes to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Codes had taken place as a result. These changes had resulted in reduced punishment for less serious offences. It was noted that the State’s policy on torture was in line with the Convention against Torture. Moreover, the Government of Ukraine drafted a Bill aimed to compensate persons in pre-trial detention who were subjected to undue lengthy court proceedings. A new code was also in place on juvenile justice, which aimed to shorten prison sentences for minors. In general, the Government was carrying out a number of reform measures to improve the criminal justice system.

As to the rights and freedoms of minorities, the head of delegation noted that the Government of the Ukraine had considered this a priority. Cases of discrimination against minorities in the country were not widespread, although when they occurred they were condemned by Ukrainian society. National education policies were being developed to provide for instruction for children in their mother tongue. A new Bill had also been developed for social organizations. The Bill aimed to ensure the best functioning of NGOs in the country. Per the new law, there were no differences between local, national and international NGOs, which intended to facilitate the work of these organizations in the country. As regards violence against women and children, the Government had been endeavoring to change social attitudes, change legislation and to create a comprehensive system to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence. Among other things, a system of networks of coordinating councils, crisis centers, medical and socials rehabilitation centers, and special training centers to prevent domestic violence had been set in motion to stamp out all forms of violence against women and children.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts to protect national minorities, combating racism and xenophobia and the adoption of the national action plan against racism; the accession to the main international human rights treaties; the extension of a standing invitation to all Special Procedures of the United Nations human rights system; the commitment to the rights of children and the declaration of the year 2006 as the year of the child; efforts in improving the legal status of women and to reduce gender disparity; and efforts to reform the penitentiary system.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the functioning of the Human Rights Monitoring Departments; efforts to raise awareness about human rights among the population; labor market concerns and efforts to tackle the high rates of unemployment of women in the country, in particular; measures to improve the situation of equal pay for women and men; the status of the law on family violence; the intentions of the Government to increase the number of capacities of shelters for victims of domestic violence; the situation of orphans; steps to combat trafficking of women and to sensitize the public about such acts; the status of the national plan of action for combating poverty; and the State’s intentions to ratify the Convention on the rights of migrant workers.

Other issues pertained to efforts to ensure greater progress to increase the independence of the judiciary and to tackle corruption within the judiciary; the intention to establish a juvenile justice system; steps to improve prison conditions; pre-trail detentions and prison overcrowding; efforts to improve access to HIV/AIDS medical treatment for prisoners infected with the virus; measures adopted to punish police officers guilty of acts of mistreatment and to ensure to combat impunity; the intention of the State to ratify the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; and measures intend to promote a greater independence of the media and plans to set up a system of public funding for the media.

Additional information was sought on efforts to curb attacks carried out against the Tartars and the Roma minority groups; the activities and findings of the Ombudsman in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on the issue of discrimination, in particular against the Tartars, and how these findings were addressed by the Government in line with the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; steps taken to ensure that people belonging to national minorities were able to run in parliamentary or local elections; the intention to adapt criminal legislation to provide a legal foundations on to prosecute against discrimination against minorities; and the objectives of the plans of action against racism.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To persevere in punishing offenders of women’s rights; to continue to assess effectively the protection of the right of the child, including child trafficking the fights against child prostitution, child pornography and child labor; to establish awareness programmes for law enforcement officials dealing with cases of human trafficking; to criminalize domestic violence in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; to continue to fund and set up victim-centric services for women and children dealing with domestic violence; to develop a national strategy for human rights education in the school system in accordance with the Plan of Action 2005-2009 of the World Programme for Human Rights Education; to ensure full and effective compliance within national legislation in the areas of law enforcement practices in the areas of education and the mass media; and to consider the issue of assigning the Russian language as the second national language in the Ukraine.

Other recommendations included: To improve laws and policies and to create institutional mechanisms to combat all forms of discrimination; to follow through on the plan to create an advisory council to address discrimination; to adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation as recommended by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to continue to enhance human rights training for police officers to deal more effectively with hate crimes; to mainstream tackling racism through internal polices; to comply with the obligations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international treaties as regards to the protection of national minorities; to step up its struggle against racism and racial discrimination by adhering to the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination; to take measures to implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and to protect the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities; and to take concerted public efforts to combat xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance and to pursue and prosecute the perpetrators of such offences.

Additional recommendations included: To provide a more orderly process for refugee/asylum applicants and ensure that repatriations were carried out in line with UNHCR guidelines; to brings refugee and asylum laws in line with international standards; to intensify efforts to combat child labor; to continue efforts to reduce juvenile violence; to sign and ratify the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities; to ensure that all violence against journalists were investigated and appropriate punishment carried out; to ensure the safety and proper treatment of all persons held in custody by the police and to consider the establishment of an independent police complaints mechanism; to further efforts to establish independent oversight mechanisms for investigating case of torture, in compliance with the Committee Against Torture; to carry through on the improvement on the conditions of prisoners in an effort to reduce cases of prisoner mortality; to establish a juvenile justice system; to vigorously investigate and prosecute prison and police officials guilty of the mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; and to change its domestic laws to make confessions obtained under torture inadmissible.

Other recommendations consisted of: To take measures to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Human Rights Committee regarding prison conditions ad the treatment of detainees; to consider ratifying the Rome statute on the International Criminal Court as a matter of priority; to take further efforts to ensure that law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges in charge of enforcing laws against hate crimes, xenophobia and racism fully understand these crimes; and to take further measurers to ensure that people deprive of their liberties were held in conditions that met international standards and that the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and was fully impended.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Azerbaijan, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, Canada, Slovenia, France, the Netherlands, China, Brazil, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, Cuba, Switzerland, Romania, Jordan and Cameroon.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Poland, Algeria, Tunisia, Belgium, Austria, the United States, Turkey and Portugal.

The 13-person delegation of Ukraine consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions, the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Office of the Prosecutor, the Ministry of Education and Science, the State Department for Execution and Punishment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Ukraine are the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Guatemala.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Ukraine can be found here.

Adoption of report on Switzerland: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Switzerland are Uruguay, Pakistan and South Africa. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika GLAUDINE J. MTSHALI (South Africa) said the report reflected the key elements of the statement delivered by the head of Swiss delegation’s and the interactive discussion. A total number of 42 speakers took the floor and a number of issues pertaining to Switzerland’s fulfilment of its human rights obligations are reflected in the report. Representing the State under review, BLAISE GODET, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said his delegation carefully examined the recommendations in the said report, which were divided into three categories - those to be approved immediately, six in total; those which would require further consultation within the Swiss Government, 23 in all; and those which could not be accepted, two of these, which pertained to the ratification of the Convention on the rights of migrant workers, and the other on the applicability of certain economic, social and cultural rights in Switzerland. In closing, the Ambassador said Switzerland fully supported the UPR mechanism and intended to use it towards to promotion and protection of human rights.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Ukraine on 15 May.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Sri Lanka after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Pakistan.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage -

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