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European Parliament agrees to reform its directive

Several Special Procedures mandate holders, i.e. on sale and sexual exploitation of children, on privacy and the Special Representative of the SG on violence against children, had been advocating the European Parliament for some time regarding Directive 2002/58. They had been calling for the adoption by the European Parliament of a legislation allowing a temporary derogation from certain provisions of Directive 2002/58 as regards the use of technologies for the processing of personal and other data for the purpose of combatting child sexual abuse online marking. On 30 April 2021, the negotiators from the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a temporary measure to allow providers of electronic communications services such as web-based email and messaging services to continue to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse online, also covering anti-grooming, until permanent legislation announced by the European Commission is in place.

Other impact: Prevention and/ or cessation of human rights violations

Following interventions by Special Procedures experts, Japan drops adoption of a controversial amendment to a law on refugees and migrants deportation.

Several special procedures mandate holders raised their concern regarding a proposed amendment bill to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in Japan. On 19 February 2021, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet approved the amendment bill to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and it was submitted to the National Diet for a vote sometime in April 2021. The Amendment Bill came after the Expert Committee on Detention and Deportation, an advisory body established under the 7th Immigration Policy Discussion Panel to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), submitted its “Proposal to Solve the Issues of Deportation Evasion and Long-term Detention” in June 2020 in addition to the report prepared by the Expert Committee on the Refugee Recognition System under the 6th Immigration Policy Discussion Panel to the MOJ on the “Outline of the Revisions for Operation of the Refugee Recognition System” in December 2014.

The mandate holders through their communication JPN 3/2021 sent on 31 March 2021, successfully persuaded the government that the proposed amendments run contrary to the international obligations of the government, leading to the Bill not being passed at the National Diet.

Other impact: Prevention and/ or cessation of human rights violations

Lebanon adopts law abolishing abusive labour contracts

The Government of Lebanon adopted a Standard Unified Contract (SUC) for migrant domestic workers on 4 September 2020, which is a step in the right direction toward protecting domestic workers’ rights and abolishing the abusive ‘Kafala’ (sponsorship) system if it is accompanied by a stringent enforcement mechanism. The new contract allows workers to terminate their contract without the consent of their employer and provides key labour guarantees already afforded to other workers, such as a 48-hour work week, a weekly rest day, overtime pay, sick pay, annual leave, and the national minimum wage, with some permissible deductions for housing and food. The Special Rapporteurs on slavery, on migrants, on violence against women and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, had sent an urgent appeal (UA) to Lebanon on the situation of migrant domestic workers on 17 July 2020. The former Special Rapporteur on slavery dedicated a thematic report to domestic servitude (A/HRC/38/52) in 2018 with several references to the critical situation of domestic workers in Lebanon and recommendations on how to prevent and address the exploitation of domestic workers.

Other impact: Prevention and/ or cessation of human rights violations

Argentina passes bill-legalizing abortion

In December 2020, the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls and other mandates sent a letter to the Congress of Argentina supporting the bill legalising abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. One of the Working Group members’ also intervened at the Senate to present the main elements of this letter. The law was passed on 30 December 2020.

Other impact: Contribution to government and or judicial process

The National Council of the Slovak Republic rejects a draft law restricting access to abortion

Following a joint communication sent on 29 November 2019 by the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (OL SVK 172019), the National Council of the Slovak Republic rejected a draft law aimed at amending and supplementing Act No. 576/2004 on health care; Act No. 578/2004 on healthcare providers; and Act No. 147/2001 on advertising; which restricted access to induced abortion that is permitted on request, without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and if the woman’s life is in danger or in cases of foetal impairment (Act No. 73/1986 on artificial termination of pregnancy).

Other impact: contribution to government and or judicial process; prevention and/or cessation of human rights violation

Portugal reforms its housing laws

During a country visit to Portugal in December 2016, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing had recommended the adoption of a national housing law reflecting international human rights standards. The Housing Law adopted by Portugal in October 2019 follows the recommendation and offers protection targeting those in particular needs to housing, for e.g. children youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, homeless and victims of gender based violence. In addition, keeping in line with the recommendation, the Basic Housing Law, prohibits evictions of vulnerable groups unless suitable alternative accommodation is provided, it also provides protection measures for those at risk of evictions, such as consultation, information, legal aid and accompaniment, as well as the prohibition to conduct evictions at night.

Other impact: prevention and/or cessation of human rights violation

Hungary NGO Transparency Law deemed discriminatory

In 2017 and again in 2018, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, jointly with a number of other special procedures mandates, raised concerns over the adoption of a series of laws introducing undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in Hungary (HUN 2/2017 and HUN 7/2018), including the NGO Transparency Law. On 18 June 2020, the European Court of Justice rendered its ruling on this case indicating that Hungary has introduced discriminatory and unjustified restrictions on foreign donations to civil society organisations, in breach of its obligations under Article 63 TFEU and Articles 7, 8 and 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Other impact: contribution to government and or judicial process

Canada adopts new law removing discriminatory provisions from its Indian Act

During a country visit to Canada from 13 to 23 April 2018, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences urged the Canadian Government to repeal all remaining discriminatory provisions in the Indian Act and any other discriminatory national laws and practices against indigenous women and girls (A/HRC/41/42/Add.1). In particular, provisions within the Indian Act meant women lost their status when they married non-indigenous men, while men who married non-indigenous women kept their status. In line with this recommendation, the Canadian Government adopted S-3 Bill, which removes this sexual discrimination impact from the Indian Act and which entered into force on 15 August 2019. Thereafter, on 28 August 2019, the Special Rapporteur issued a press release welcoming the Canadian Government's adoption of this new law and its entry into force, praising the tireless work of civil society organizations on this issue and noting that "[t]he removal of the sex-based hierarchy entrenched in the Indian Act is a pivotal step toward achieving gender equality, and finally brings to an end the long story of discrimination and violence that Indigenous women and girls have faced in the country."

Other Impact: Contribution to Governmental and/or Judicial Processes and Policy Reform

Mongolia successfully implements recommendations to progressively realize the human rights to water and sanitation

Following the country visit to Mongolia from 9 to 20 April 2018, the Special Rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller, made several recommendations to the Government on how it can progressively realize the human rights to water and sanitation, including recommendations on institutional arrangements, water quality standards, and improving water quality (A/HRC/39/55/Add.2, paras. 82(c), 82(i)(iii), and 82(i)(ii), respectively). In line with these recommendations, the Government of Mongolia indicated in 2018 that it recently established a working group at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to review the laws and regulations and to examine the possibility of establishing a government administrative body for water affairs and a National Water Committee. More recently, the Government indicated in 2019 that it is also taking steps to improve the organizational structure of the Mongolian Water and Sanitation Authority by revising a draft Mongolia Law in Water to establish the State Water Agency in charge of the water issues as a whole, which has since been endorsed by the Government. In addition, the Government revised pre-existing "Drinking water Health necessity, quality and safety evaluations MNS 0900:2005" standard requirements in accordance with the World Health Organization's Guidelines for drinking water quality, and it adopted a new standard on this issue, which became effective on 21 June 2018. The Government has also confirmed that a water reserve has been established in a new water supply area that satisfies the drinking water quality standard. Finally, the Mongolian Parliament also recently completed and approved a revision to the draft Law on Water Pollution Fee on 2 May 2019 to develop the quality system of water treatment units and household water.

Other Impact: Contribution to Governmental and/or Judicial Processes and Policy Reform

Malawi adopts legislative and policy measures to address attacks against persons with albinism

The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism conducted a country visit to the Republic of Malawi from 18 to 29 April 2016 (A/HRC/34/59/Add.1). In accordance with the Independent Expert's recommendations and shortly after the visit, the government of Malawi adopted various measures, including: (1) amending the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act to better address and respond to attacks against persons with albinism; (2) issuing a practice direction to ensure that such cases are handled by senior members of the judiciary; and (3) establishing a National Technical Committee on Albinism chaired by the Chief Presidential Adviser to implement the country's response plan on attacks against persons with albinism. As a result of these measures, reports as well as prosecution of cases of attacks against persons with albinism increased.

Other Impact: Contribution to Governmental and/or Judicial Processes, Mechanisms of Redress – Accountability, and Policy Reform

Moldova makes several amendments to legislation on gender equality following an official country visit

Following the official visit to Moldova from 20 to 31 May 2012 by the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls (A/HRC/23/50/Add.1), the Government approved a series of amendments in 2014 to the legislation on gender equality. One of the proposals adopted included a minimum of 40 percent quotas of both sexes in governmental positions and 40 percent of either sexes in political parties' electoral lists, in line with the recommendations made by the Working Group. The country visit report was also considered useful to advocate for the amendment to the legislation related to gender equality and non-discrimination issues, focusing on the institutional mechanism – the establishment of the Non-Discrimination Council and Center for Human Rights (Ombudsman).

Other Impact: Contribution to Governmental and/or Judicial Processes