UPR 16th Session

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.

The 16th session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group took place in Geneva from 22 April to 3 May. During two intensive weeks Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia, Uzbekistan, Tuvalu, Germany, Djibouti, Canada, Bangladesh, Russia, Azerbaijan, Cameroon and Cuba had their human rights records scrutinized by UN Member States.

During the session, WFUNA took a closer look at the following country reviews:

Colombia

Mr. Angelino Garzón, Vice-President of Colombia, presented the State’s National Report. He underscored the need for the on-going peace process between the government, illegal armed guerrilla groups and drug cartels to lead to a signed peace agreement. Other challenges included lack of social equity, levels of impunity, prison overcrowding and greater protection for human rights defenders and trade unionists.

Chile, Paraguay, Poland and Russia urged Colombia to strengthen measures for rehabilitation of child soldiers and women that have been partaking in the conflicts between the government and armed groups. A number of countries, including Peru and Senegal, called upon the government to promote the participation of indigenous people in public policy. Canada, Iceland, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and Spain recommended doubling efforts to end impunity of human rights violations.

Several countries recommended a swift ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture with the Czech Republic, Peru and Turkey putting a particular emphasis on this point. France, Germany Senegal, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States highlighted the need to recognize the legitimate work of human rights defenders and to ensure their protection. Australia, Germany and Sweden recommended the government to revise regulatory laws to ensure that alleged human rights crimes are not addressed by military courts.

Germany

Mr. Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, headed the German delegation to its second Universal Periodic Review. At the outset, he drew attention to the active involvement of NGOs and the German National Human Rights Institution in the preparation of the National Report through consultations and public hearings. Challenges remain and he expressed grave concern over law enforcement failure to crack down on the neo-Nazi cell that killed nine migrants and a police officer between 2000 and 2007.

The vast majority of recommendations concerned steps to prevent racially motivated crimes acts of discrimination and various types of hatred. On this note, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and United States recommended that Germany effectively uses its anti-discrimination laws and holds perpetrators accountable. Malaysia and Russia deemed the existing racial profiling by law enforcement personnel as racist and recommended an immediate end to this practice. German anti-terrorism laws concerned some countries and Mexico and Pakistan called the State to ensure compliance with their human rights obligations. Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda and Sri Lanka called upon the State to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Countries including Moldova, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and Sweden drew attention to women’s rights. They recommended Germany to accelerate women’s representation at high ranking executive positions, bridging the gender gap in career opportunities and promoting equal pay for equal work. The need for equal access to employment, housing and education for disabled persons and those belonging to minorities was underscored by Namibia, Pakistan and Peru who contributed with recommendations on the issue.

Canada

Ms. Elissa Golberg, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, headed the Canadian delegation to their second UPR. She presented their National Report and stressed that the Canadian Constitution affirmed the rights of Aboriginal peoples.  Ms. Golberg also addressed the issue of violence against women and children. Steps taken to combat the issue included increased access to Women Emergency Centres and action plans against trafficking and violence targeting Aboriginal women and girls. She emphasized the generous nature of Canada’s immigrant policy and highlighted that the State hosted a tenth of resettled refugees in the world.

A significant number of states including China, Cuba and USA addressed the situation for Aboriginal peoples. Recommendations included calls for legislative measures to improve their quality of life and to tackle the disproportionate level of discrimination, poverty and violence facing Aboriginal women and children. To ensure equal access to higher education and removal of economic barriers that prevented indigenous people to participate was recommended by States including Burundi and Peru. Additionally, Canada received criticism for a new migration law which differentiates between migrants based on country of origin and ways of entering. In this regard, Brazil and Ecuador recommended Canada to fully apply to the principle of non-refoulement.

Ecuador together with Germany, Norway and Spain urged Canada to recognize and ensure its citizens’ right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Estonia, Guatemala, Hungary, Morocco and Portugal recommended Canada’s swift ratification of human rights treaties including CMW, OPCAT and OPESCR. Iran, Malaysia and Uzbekistan recommend Canada to step up its efforts in the promotion of children’s rights in the country.

Bangladesh

Ms. Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, presented the State’s National Report to the Working Group. She underlined achievements accomplished since their last review linked to education, health and sanitation, gender equality, socio-economic development and poverty reduction. Furthermore, the National Human Rights Commission with a mandate to oversee implementation of human rights obligations had been strengthened. However, significant challenges remained and she recognized that frequent natural disasters, poverty and high population density are chief obstacles towards the full enjoyment of human rights.

Several states, including Austria, Montenegro, Slovakia and Spain called for a moratorium as a first step towards full abolishment of the death penalty. Bangladesh was also recommended to continue efforts in combating abuse against women, including early forced marriages and trafficking. Several countries recommended to tackle impunity and to ensure impartial investigations into extrajudicial killings, cases of torture and forced disappearances, with the United Kingdom particularly emphasizing this issue. A number of countries including Peru and Ukraine highlighted the need to continue collaborating with UN mechanisms and Special Procedures to ensure citizens full enjoyment of human rights.

Argentina, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Uruguay urged Bangladesh to ratify the International Conference for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Several countries, including Argentina, Austria and Tunisia, recommended the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention. Finally, a large number of countries including Canada and USA called for a better protection for refugees and asylum seekers and recommended Bangladesh to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of Refugees.

Russian Federation

When presenting the Russian Federation’s National Report Mr. Alexander Konovalov singled out policy changes towards democratization of State institutions as a major advance since their last review in 2009. In particular, the Minister of Justice stressed the expanding scope of NGO participation in preparing new legislation. Other areas of advancement included anti-corruption investigations, simplified processes for registering political parties and unprecedented prison reforms focusing on punishments not linked to deprivation of liberty. Nevertheless, Mr. Konovalov acknowledged that human rights challenges remained, especially linked to the army, penitentiary system and insufficient effectiveness of the court system.

An extensive number of recommendations concerned the Russian law according to which NGOs accepting foreign funding must register themselves as foreign agents.  In this view Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia and Mauritania, among others, recommended the Russian government to amend the new legislation so that it cannot be used as an instrument for intimidation of NGOs.  On this matter, Norway and the United Kingdom recommended the State under review to invite and work with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

Germany, Iceland and Netherlands recommended the Russian Federation to adopt legislation so that LGBT-persons can freely access their rights to freedom of assembly and speech and to ensure effective investigations of violations against them. Spain and Slovenia called for an immediate repeal of the law on homosexual propaganda which makes it a crime to publicly condone homosexuality. Azerbaijan, Palestine, Poland and Uruguay recommended a creation of a national action plan to combat violence against women and salary gaps between men and women.

Cuba

Mr. Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, headed the last delegation to take the floor during this UPR session. At the outset he underlined that all citizens have unfettered and free access to education and health care. Cuba has strengthened its positive dialogue with all UN treaty bodies but will continue to reject political manipulation and double standards in human rights debates, he said. Further advancements included an increased level of women in decision making positions and prison reforms focusing on improvement of persons rather than punishment. Mr. Bruno Rodriguez acknowledged that challenges remained such as racial biases and stereotypes. Finally, he stated that the activities at Guantanamo should come to an immediate end and the territory be returned to Cuba.

Comoros, DPRK, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and South Sudan commended Cuba for achievements in promoting health, human rights, education and gender equality. However, Norway, Poland, Spain, USA and several other States expressed concern over the human rights situation in the country and recommended Cuba to ensure its citizens full enjoyment of freedom of expression, association and assembly. Austria, Poland, Switzerland and Tunisia recommended Cuba to ensure an enabling environment for journalists and human rights defenders. In this regard, Australia and Japan urged Cuba to guarantee that human rights defenders are not subjected to detention or intimidation.

Ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were recommended by a number of states including Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Romania and Slovenia. Especially Australia and USA highlighted the need for Cuba to reduce government influence over Internet and contributed with recommendations on this point. Some Member States including Spain and Sweden recommended standing invitations to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on torture.

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