UPR 11th Session

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UPR 11th Session: 2nd - 13th May 2011

 

Belgium | Denmark | Greece | Hungary | Palau | Seychelles | Sierra Leone | Somalia | Sudan 


Belgium

 

 

 

 

Troika: Japan, Nigeria, Cuba

Delegation headed by: H.E. Mr Steven Vanackere – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

During this UPR session, it became apparent that human rights are well supported in Belgium, where the federal state boasts an extensive institutional infrastructure to protect human rights and nearly all the major international treaties and conventions have been ratified. Recent years have seen Belgium set combatting racism as a top priority, with the creation of the National Action Plan Against Racism in 2004 and broad consultations on intercultural relations held with civil society in 2010. Significant progress has been made in the area of children’s rights with the establishment of a National Commission on the Rights of the Child allowing detailed monitoring of the Committee and Convention on the Rights of the Child. Additional successes have been the establishment of an action plan against trafficking and national action plan on domestic violence, created in November 2010.

In spite of these positive indications of human rights achievements, Belgium still faces some substantial challenges. It was highlighted that improvements need to be made in the treatment and status of minority groups, with particular concerns raised over discrimination against Roma people and migrant workers. Concern was raised with respect to reports that foreigners are receiving more severe charges than Belgian nationals in the legal system and racist, anti-sematic and islamophobic activity is prevalent within society, especially on the internet. To combat this a cyber hate unit has been set up but H.E Mr Steven Vanackere maintained that this particular challenge does not just lie within the walls of Belgium. Recommendations were made for the federal state to officially recognise minority groups in the constitution.

A considerable part of the dialogue focussed on the need for improvements to be made in asylum centres and prisons, notably with regard to living conditions in these facilities. Over the last few years, overcrowding in detention facilities has also been a significant problem, with centres presently at 118% capacity. Recommendations were made to make substantial repairs to prisons and resolve the issue of overcrowding, at which point H.E. Mr Steven Vanackere assured member states that the infrastructure was being reviewed, with reparation and extension of existing prisons and construction of 7 new centres on the agenda. Many member states reiterated that efforts need to be increased to ensure that asylum seekers have access to safe and secure housing and that legal advice is available to all.

Further concern was raised with respect to the increasing percentage of the population living below the poverty line, with recommendations made that the government attribute more time and resources to dealing with this issue. Many member states recommended that the National Action Plan on Domestic Violence be finalised, and legislation be drawn up to combat this problem. It was suggested that a separate action plan be drawn up to combat violence against women, and emphasis be placed on the need for victim support services. Efforts need to be continued to reduce the pay gap between men and women, especially in the private sector, and further the representation of women in high level positions. Finally it was recommended that Belgium work on combatting female gender mutilation and establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. Concluding the session, H.E. Mr Steven Vanackere reaffirmed Belgium’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, affirming that improving human rights remains a process and should not be regarded as a fait accompli.

Recommended to ratify: OP-CAT, ICESCR, ICPPED, ICRMW, EU Charter on Minority Languages, EU Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.


Denmark

 

 

 

 

Troika: Ghana, Republic of Korea, Chile

Delegation headed by: H.E. Mr Klaus Grube, Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Denmark enjoys a privileged position in terms of human rights by its perpetual commitment to respect and implement human rights guidelines. Denmark maintains the role as a leading human rights actor by actively supporting all core international and regional human rights instruments. Denmark has established a NHRI in line with Paris Principles and a Human Rights Commission.

The same step should be taken in Greenland and The Faroe Island in cooperation with their governments and legislatures. It is important to mention that ECHR is the only international human rights convention which is both ratified and incorporated into Danish Law.

However, despite these positive elements, Denmark faces large challenges which undermine the stability of human rights in the country.  Indeed, Denmark has to redouble efforts countering immigration, to address its large population of foreign origin. Over the last few years, there has been a radicalization of discourse about the immigrants. It was mentioned during the council that there has been an increase of hostile attitudes towards the population of foreign origin which has translated into an increase of racist and xenophobic acts, including some by politicians. Stigmatization of people of foreign origin has also been criticized especially by wrongfully linking crime to foreigners and enforcing racial and ethnic profiling by the authorities (ex. the Roma community).

Recommendations were made to promote intercultural comprehension and tolerance, give more space to women to be much more active in public life and create official legislation addressing crimes like rape. Member states called the government of Denmark to ensure that detention of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees is a last resort, giving full consideration to alternative detentions. Furthermore it was recommended that Denmark sign, ratify and implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the International Convention for the Protection of All persons from enforced disappearances.


Greece

 

 

 

 

Troika:  Saudi Arabia, Russian Federation, Uganda

Delegation headed by:  H.E. Mrs. Maria Telalian, Head of the Public International Law Legal Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

During this UPR session it became evident that Greece is currently facing a challenging economic and financial situation, having been hit hard by the 2008 world economic crisis. This situation is limiting progress in the field of human rights, with the country not having enough financial resources available to implement all the programmes and changes that are necessary. Nevertheless Greece can be commended for signing and ratifying the majority of main human rights instruments without reservation and for its national action plan on gender equality. The right to health in the country was said to be exemplary, as free health is offered to nationals and immigrants alike. Education is also free for all regardless of the parent or guardian’s legal status. Greece has made sure that international treaties have been directly applied to domestic legislation and has already established a human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.

One of the largest challenges Greece faces is controlling the inflow of migrants into the country which is becoming a humanitarian crisis. Waiting centres are overcrowded and living conditions are not up to international standards. The system in place cannot cope with the volume of asylum applications, there is a current backlog of 47 000 applications to be dealt with. In 2010 Greece reformed the asylum system and introduced a new framework to improve the situation.  Although many member states commended the reform Greece has drawn up, it was highlighted that the cross border nature of the problem needs more of a comprehensive response by all of Europe together. Recommendations were made to ensure that asylum seekers have access to justice and to ensure that they are not directly or indirectly returned to their country of origin. It was also highlighted that effort needs to be made to improve the situation of illegal migrants and put an end to inhumane treatment towards them. A large part of the migrant discussion centred on unaccompanied minors as it emerged that unaccompanied immigrant minors are being left to their own devices after detention centres. It was stressed that unaccompanied children need access to guardianship and safe residence when they arrive. 

A further issue raised during this UPR session was that of the situation of women in the country. It was highlighted that patriarchal views of society still prevail, thought to be a large factor in causing violence against women and stereotyping. Although Greece has taken measures to eradicate violence against women, the number of cases has not decreased therefore member states urged the country to redouble its efforts. Concerns were also raised over the situation of women in the labour market, with salary gaps between men and women at 30% and a high percentage of unemployment among women. Discrimination against women in terms of pregnancy and maternity was also raised as an issue, it was recommended that Greece do more to promote the return of women into the labour market after children and increase the participation of women in non-traditional fields and political life.

Some member states were also worried about excessive use of force by police teams and mistreatment by security forces. It was recommended that Greece improve police accountability and reduce misconduct.  Improvements need to be made in prison conditions and human rights training for public officials. On the subject of LGBT persons it was recommended that Greece include sexual orientation in antidiscrimination policies and recognise same sex couples.

Recommended to ratify: OP-CAT, OP- CRC, Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, ICPPED, ICRPD, OP-ICESCR, ICRMW.


Hungary

 

 

 

 

Troika: France, Gabon, Ukraine

Delegation headed by:  H.E Mr Zoltan Balog, Minister of State for Social Inclusion, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice

Hungary is working towards the strengthening of human rights for its people. It was also the initiator and host of the Budapest Human Rights Forum in 2008, 2009, and 2010. However, Hungary still has to improve its human rights obligations, in particular the protection of minorities and the equality of men and women.

During the UPR, Hungary was recommended to adopt legislation in the form of a comprehensive gender equality law that is in line with CEDAW and that criminalizes domestic violence and spousal rape. Despite the fact that discrimination based on sex is prohibited by the Constitution, women still face considerable inequality at work, education, and the judicial system. Furthermore, Hungary should implement stricter criminal liabilities for human traffickers and should collect better data on trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation.

The UPR working group also suggested that Hungary should adopt effective measures to grant the minority population, specifically the Roma, equal access to education, housing, and work. Hungary should ensure that the Roma population is socially integrated and that Roma children in particular have access to education.

Other recommendation included Hungary’s need to avoid prolonged detention of asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. Furthermore, children in custody should be separated from persons over the age of 18. Additionally, corporal punishment at schools should be outlawed and segregated education should be abolished. Finally, Hungary should properly persecute hate crimes and violence based on racism; the police force and the staff of the judicial system should undergo training to sensitize them for hate crimes against minority groups, such as Roma, but also people of different sexual preferences.

The UPR working group also voiced concern over the media section of Hungary’s new Constitution, which limits the independence of the press. All legislation pertaining to press and media should be in line with the Paris principles.

Recommended to ratify: ICRMW, OP-CAT, ICESCR.


Palau

 

 

 

 

Troika: Senegal, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova

Delegation headed by: H.E Mr. John C. Gibbons, Minister of Justice of Palau

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, some 800 km east of the Philippines and 3,200 km south of Tokyo. Having emerged from United Nations trusteeship in 1994, it is one of the world's youngest and smallest sovereign states.

With its 19,907 inhabitants, Palau has to face more or less the same issues as greater populated countries. The situation of Human Rights is regarded as “reasonable” despite serious challenges. Palau has ratified the Convention on Children Rights. Nevertheless, there is a blatant lack of financial and technical capacities to lead activities to strengthen and promote human rights. The report emphasized significant social issues such as high social discrepancies between citizens, a high level of unemployment notably among the youth (leading to social exclusion), discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and gender and the issue of stateless persons. The country also has to face up to climate change and is establishing civil projects to increase public awareness while asking the international community to help financially.

Recommendations made included urging Palau to bring its legislation into line with its commitment to equality and non‐discrimination, and its international human rights obligations, by repealing all provisions which may be applied to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults. Palau must ratify many more human rights conventions, notably the ICRPD and CEDAW. Palau must be part of all the international human rights’ instruments such as the Convention against Torture. Moreover it has been recommended to establish adequate legislation addressing foreign workers, current victims of difficult work conditions and discrimination. A reform has been called for to clarify the case of stateless children and it has been suggested that a national institution on human rights be created in order to improve the situation of human rights for women, children, foreigners, implement program of assistance for the youth, and fight against human trafficking.  Palau has also made a request to be technically and financially supported by the international community to help them to cope with the climate change issue.


Seychelles

 

 

 

Troika: Brazil, Pakistan, Burkina Faso

Delegation headed by: H.E Mr Ronny James Govinden, Attorney General

The Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean and one of the smallest countries in the world, boasts a generally positive human rights record. The country has achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals and social indicators lie among the highest in the region, comparable to those in developed countries. In recent years the Seychelles has taken a pioneering role in promoting strategies that take a people centred approach to promoting and protecting human rights. The island country has demonstrated a strong commitment to education and maternal health, with primary school enrolment and adult literacy rates increasing to 100% and 96% respectively over the last few years. Education and primary healthcare is free and in 2010 the first Seychelles University was established. A Human Rights Commission was set up in the country in 2009 and in 2010 the Media Commission Act was drawn up, an important step towards furthering press freedom and the right to freedom of expression. With domestic violence as one of its major challenges, in 2008 the country established 12 new national strategies in this regard.

As such a small country, the Seychelles is bound by limited financial, human and technical resources which limit its progression in the field of human rights. The lack of skilled and trained workers is notably impacting on healthcare, education and HRC reporting obligations. Whilst progress has been made in improving maternal health, the number of cases of HIV AIDS has tripled in last few years, with additional increases in sexually transmitted diseases. The Seychelles should be commended for its delivery of free antiretroviral drugs but measures need to be taken urgently to address the spread of HIV AIDS cases. Reproductive health education also needs to be prioritized in response to the large percentage of newborns being born to mothers under 20 years old. Another pressing issue is that of rape and domestic violence. The judiciary system needs to be strengthened, legislation needs to be enforced and counselling for victims prioritized. Piracy was raised as an additional concern which remains to be effectively addressed.

Recommendations were made that the Seychelles continue their established social and economic development plans also implementing further practical measures to protect children and eradicate instances of ill treatment and violence towards children in the home, schools and other institutions. It was further recommended that a judiciary enquiry be set up to investigate complaints of ill treatment towards children. Additionally, it was recommended that a moratorium on corporal punishment be enforced and the system of juvenile justice be reformed to raise the age of criminal responsibility in line with international standards. Further efforts are needed to ensure universal access to drinking water and sanitation, and efforts should be continued to improve prison conditions. Many delegations suggested that the Human Rights Commission be strengthened, that it seek accreditation with the ICC and its visibility be increased. Finally it is essential that the international community collaborate to provide the technical assistance and capacity building the country requires.

Recommended to ratify: ICPPED, OP-CAT, OP- CRC, OP-ICRPD, OP-CEDAW


 Sierra Leone


 

 

 

 

List of Troika: Slovakia, Maldives, Zambia


Delegation headed by: H.E Mr. Franklin Bai Kargbo, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, a west African country, has with its 6 294 774 inhabitants just emerged from 11 years of civil war and has, since then, been trying to establish a climate of peace in the country. Indeed the nation has seen all its institutions, economy, government and safeguard of security and democracy fall during this troubled period. The post-war situation has been difficult and the country still has to cope with the damage caused by war.

Sierra Leone’s fundamental law is the Constitution of 1991. The country has also ratified the United Nations Charter, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and is a member of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). Awareness campaigns are spreading in the country against domestic violence, excessive traditional practices (excision, forced marriages, female genital mutilation) and for an increase in AIDS testing. A commission on children rights has been established and education reforms implemented. 2012 will be the year of the presidential election which is seen as a strong symbol to achieve democracy.

Nevertheless recommendations made suggested that the country improve its human rights situation. Sierra Leone must accede to all the human rights instruments and ratify the Convention against Torture as highlighted by many countries such as France. Sierra Leone must continue its commitment against illiteracy and protect children from any kind of violence. The case of “ex child soldiers” has been the object of a long debate, and the government must multiply efforts to re-integrate them in the education system. The country must define a strategy to cease human trafficking. Sierra Leone must ratify CEDAW, ICRPD and the Convention Relating To the Status of Stateless Persons. Furthermore the country has to abolish the death penalty and increase equality of citizens in all areas. Argentina stressed that Sierra Leone must ratify ICRMW and ask for the assistance of the ILO (International Labour Office) to combat children labour. To reduce the rate of corruption, the government must allow the international community to intervene and the Human Rights Commission should be strengthened to further the development of a fair and transparent state. 


Recommended to ratify: CAT, CEDAW, ICRPD, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families


Somalia

 

 

 

 

List of Troika: Angola, Mexico, Thailand

Delegation headed by: H.E Mrs. Zahra Mohamed Ali Samantar, State Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of the Republic of Somalia

Somalia is a country located at the eastern end of the Horn of Africa. This is one of the poorest and most unstable in the world plagued by years of civil war. Indeed civil war in Somalia has caused much serious human and material damage, the direct consequence being the decline of the country socially and economically speaking. Nevertheless there is a common desire among the population and the government to turn the page of the chaos in spite of the many challenges the country has to face:  corruption, poverty, unemployment, avoiding perpetual attacks by some terrorists groups etc.  All these facts have weakened the fundamental basis of the country’s institutions.

The situation of human rights in Somalia is therefore difficult to define in one word but the willingness to improve it is strong and many actors are fighting to make this happen.

Since 2004 the transition government has been working on maintaining peace and security in the country through the establishment of the transition’s Charter. Despite all the efforts undertaken over the last few years, recommendations have been made to improve the situation of human rights in Somalia.

Somalia must ratify CRC and CEDAW. Inequalities between men and women are still dominant in terms of employment and importance on the social and political scene, Somalia has to think about reducing the disparities currently favoring males.  Many countries joined France in its recommendation to set a moratorium on the death penalty leading to its abolition. Somalia is also strongly urged to ratify the Convention against Torture and it must fight against corruption and impunity within its institutions. The respect of human rights has to be re-affirmed through the abolition of forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM). Furthermore freedom of speech and press freedom are prone to oppression; a reform is widely encouraged to improve the current situation.

Finally it has been recommended that Somalia investigate human rights violations notably during the civil war; all the criminals must be brought to justice. From a general point of view Somalia also needs technical and financial assistance from the international community, African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) in order to curb poverty and strengthen social and economic rights along with capability of its institutions.

Recommended to ratify: CRC, CEDAW, CAT


Sudan


 

 

 

Troika: Belgium, China, Mauritania


Delegation headed by: H.E Mr. Mohamed Bushara Dosa, Minister of Justice

Sudan, in northeast Africa, is the largest country on the continent with a population of 41,980,182 inhabitants (2010). The country has endured years of turbulence within its walls, encompassing both the north and the south, and is still coping with the crisis in Darfur in the eastern part of the country.

January 2011 has seen a turning point in the country, with the referendum on self-determination of South Sudan taking place. The voters have spoken in favor of secession to 98.83%. On 8 February 2011, Omar el-Bashir (President of Sudan) officially recognized this result. The south of Soudan will officially become independent on 9th July 2011 and thus Soudan will be split into two states.
Hopes for political stability, democracy and more respect of human rights are stronger than ever. The multiple crises that have wracked Soudan have weakened the basis of the main institutions. Even though reconstruction is in progress, there is still a lot that needs to be done.

Recommendations were made to improve the situation of human rights notably in Darfur and to create long-term stability between the north and the future southern state. Sudan must continue its efforts to resolve the Dafur issue by continuing negotiations with Doha (Qatar) in order to try to find an end to the crisis, a situation running counter to the principles of human rights. Common voices such as Bahrain or the UAE states have recommended giving more visibility to women in the labour market; they have to be able to get jobs equally as men. Sudan must ratify many more conventions, for instance CAT, CEDAW and ICPPED.

The urgency of the situation in Darfur must push to Sudan to request the support of the international community; in addition to that Sudan must strictly prohibit any involvement of children in armed conflict. Switzerland or Uruguay explicitly asked Sudan to amend the 2010 law on National Security. Soudan must take action in setting awareness campaigns on education, domestic violence and climate changes with the support of the international community. Sudan must abolish forced marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM) and guarantee religious and ethnic freedom, causes of many conflicts between the north (mainly Muslim) and the south (Christian). Soudan has also been encouraged to ask for the assistance of the WHO (World Health Organization) to improve the situation of health system and infrastructures and to join the African Union Commission (CIDO)

Recommended to ratify: CAT, CEDAW, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

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