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UN Human Rights Committee publishes findings on Egypt, Panama, Peru, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Zambia
24 March 2023
GENEVA (24 March 2023) – The UN Human Rights Committee today issued its findings on Egypt, Panama, Peru, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Zambia, after examining the six States parties in its latest session.
The findings contain the Committee's main concerns and recommendations on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as positive aspects. Highlights include:
The Committee was concerned about reports of arbitrary detention, systematic use of pretrial detention and the recycling of charges to avoid statutory limits on the length of pretrial detention, a practice often used to punish journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. The Committee urged Egypt to respect fundamental procedural safeguards against arbitrary deprivation of liberty, comply with pretrial detention limits and adopt alternative measures to pretrial detention.
The Committee was deeply concerned by the high number of crimes punishable by the death penalty and reports indicating that the death penalty was frequently imposed in trials that did not meet international standards, such as mass trials and trials in military courts. The Committee requested that Egypt review its existing legal framework to ensure that the death penalty is never imposed in violation of fair trial guarantees and give due consideration to abolishing capital punishment.
Concerning reports of hate speech, xenophobia and discriminatory incidents, the Committee recommended that Panama systematically investigate discrimination cases and violence committed by private individuals or state agents, punish perpetrators with appropriate penalties, and provide comprehensive reparation to victims. It also called for legislative reforms to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to fully recognise the equality of same-sex couples and guarantee them their rights under the Covenant.
While noting the State party’s efforts to protect the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, the Committee expressed concern at reports that these people are allegedly victims of killings, disappearances, sexual violence, trafficking, assaults, robberies, intimidation and threats by criminal groups along the Darién Gap in Panama. It called on the authorities to adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and safety of migrants crossing the Darien Gap and redouble its efforts to investigate and punish those who abused the rights of migrants.
The Committee expressed concerns about alleged human rights violations during social protests in late 2020 and more recently since 7 December 2022, including disproportionate use of force and firearms by security forces, extrajudicial executions and mass arbitrary arrests. It urged Peru to promptly and impartially investigate all these rights violations and bring all perpetrators to justice. The Committee also asked the State party to take effective measures, such as intensifying training for all crowd control agents, to prevent and eliminate the excessive use of force by security forces during public demonstrations.
The Committee questioned the vague definition of "terrorism" and the ambiguity of the anti-terrorism legislation. It also voiced concern about the increasing application of such law in the social protests during the past few months, citing allegations of ill-treatment, physical and sexual assault, and unwarranted touching and nudity committed by officials during counter-terrorism operations. It urged Peru to reform its legislation to ensure that human rights are protected in all counter-terrorism actions and that suspects of terrorist acts enjoy all appropriate legal safeguards. It also requested that Peru put an end to "terruqueo", the negative campaigning method that accuses people exercising their right to assembly of being terrorists.
The Committee was concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests and detention of anti-government protestors, trade unionists, Tamils and Muslims, including Muslim women for wearing a niqab, without fundamental legal safeguards. It was also concerned by the extensive use of prolonged pretrial detention, inconsistent bail provisions and ineffective access to non-custodial alternatives. The Committee called for prompt and effective investigations of allegations of arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as the respect of fundamental legal safeguards for detainees.
The Committee expressed concern about the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows for extended pretrial detention for up to 12 months, contains a broad definition of terrorism, and is used to target minorities, particularly Muslims and Tamils, government critics, and LGBT people, and to extract confessions through torture. It recommended that Sri Lanka repeal the Act and adopt new legislation compatible with the Covenant, as well as the principles of legal certainty, predictability and proportionality, while ensuring that the legislative process of the new law is inclusive and transparent.
The Committee queried the country’s judicial independence, particularly because the President retains the sole power to appoint judges. It was also concerned about numerous reports that politically motivated criminal trials were conducted behind “closed doors”, with limited information on the whereabouts and treatment of detainees and the status of their trials. The Committee urged Turkmenistan to ensure that the procedures for the appointment, promotion and removal of judges are in line with the Covenant, and that any restrictions or limitations on fair trial guarantees, including the use of closed trials, are fully compliant with the Covenant.
The Committee was deeply concerned about the reports of the ongoing practice of secret detention and enforced disappearances, and the failure to investigate these cases. Additionally, the Committee contested the overly broad and vague definitions in the national counter-terrorism legislation. The Committee requested that Turkmenistan stop the practice of secret detention and enforced disappearances and revise the legal framework to ensure that all forms of enforced disappearance are clearly prohibited in criminal law. Additionally, the State party should clarify and narrow its national counter-terrorism legislation, including adding a requirement of violence to the definition of terrorism and extremism.
Concerning the prevalent high levels of gender-based violence, in particular sexual violence and the harmful practice of defilement against young girls, the Committee called on Zambia to encourage reporting of all violence cases against women, including by ensuring that women and girls have access to multiple forms of reporting and information about their rights and available remedies. It also asked the State party to strengthen its awareness-raising campaigns for society as a whole, with a special focus on traditional, religious and public opinion leaders, in order to address harmful cultural practices that generate gender-based violence.
While noting the legislative work is underway, the Committee remained concerned about the absence of anti-torture legislation, including the definition of torture. Accordingly, it called upon the State party to expedite the adoption of the anti-torture legislation, ensuring that it contains a definition of torture compliant with the standard of international law.
The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which as of to date has been ratified by 173 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
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