22 September 2010
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Sweden, Grenada and Turkey.
Jan Knutsson, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said this was an event of great significance to the Swedish Government's human rights work, and it was the culmination of a highly valuable process, which showed what the Council could do to advance human rights around the world. Throughout the process, a wide range of issues had been brought to the Government's attention, increasing its understanding of the human rights situation in Sweden, and of the human rights work at large. Some of the issues raised in the Review were such that the Government wanted further time to allow more consideration, such as the establishment of an independent national human rights institution with a broader mandate and in accordance with the Paris Principles. A number of recommendations were related to the Sami indigenous people. The Government proposed to Parliament in December 2008 that the Constitution should be amended to give explicit recognition to the Sami.
In the discussion on the outcome of Sweden, speakers commended Sweden's long-standing tradition of promoting human rights, democracy, and providing international development assistance to countries in need. There was not one country that had no "rights gaps" in coverage, many said. Speakers regretted that Sweden declined a number of recommendations, such as to put an end to the denial of education to children without residency permits, that it no longer allow the Swedish territory to act as a transit area for flights carrying secret detainees, to strengthen the Institute for Family and develop traditional family values in society, and others. A number of speakers were concerned that Sweden had not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
Speaking in the discussion on Sweden were Cuba, Algeria, Belarus, Iran, Thailand and Indonesia. The non-governmental organizations that spoke during the discussion were International Save the Children Alliance, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, European Region of the Lesbian and Gay Association, Indian Council of South America, Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims and World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace.
Adebayo Olowu, Crown Counsel, Attorney General Chambers, said that Grenada could not accept the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and establish a formal moratorium on execution, because the death penalty was still part of the laws of Grenada. Still, there was a de facto moratorium on the death penalty and this punishment had not been applied for decades. Concerning the ratification of a number of international instruments, the country was currently undergoing a review of all treaties and human rights instruments with a view of taking the position on them within the context of local laws, available resources and its own priorities. The government attached great importance to crime prevention and security and therefore had accepted the recommendation to increase its efforts to prevent domestic violence. Grenada also accepted recommendations to strengthen an ongoing programme aimed at achieving universal secondary education and to implement programmes that would provide holistic and efficient health care services to the population.
In the discussion on the outcome of Grenada, speakers referred to Grenada's commitment to good governance, accountability, and the rule of law, and commended the efforts of the government, particularly those in favour of vulnerable sectors, poverty alleviation and improvement of living standards. Speakers noted that Grenada had accepted many recommendations, but wanted to reiterate the importance of Grenada working to ensure that its legislation conformed to international human rights laws. Moreover, Grenada should extend an open invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures and make efforts to abolish the death penalty.
Speaking in the discussion on Grenada were Algeria, United Kingdom and Morocco. Also speaking in the discussion was Canadian HIV/ADIS Legal Network.
Kaan Esener, Deputy Director-General for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Turkey considered the promotion and protection of human rights as a matter of priority. An extensive reform process which included constitutional amendments, several reform packages and a new Civil and Penal Code had been undertaken. The amendments eliminated several shortcomings referred to in the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. The improvements brought by the recent constitutional reform included positive discrimination as a constitutional right for persons who required social protection, constitutional guarantees for the protection of personal data, constitutional guarantees for children’s rights to access adequate protection and care, and others. Turkey had accepted 95 of 152 recommendations made during the review. As of today, 25 out of the 39 recommendations that had been further considered by Turkish authorities were accepted, partly accepted or implemented.
In the discussion on the outcome of Turkey, speakers said the situation of human rights in Turkey had improved significantly and would continue to do so with the implementation of more than eighty-five of the recommendations made to it in the Universal Periodic Review process. The intention of the government to combat discriminatory practices and protect Roma, Kurd and non-Muslim minorities from persistent hostile attitudes and attacks from the general public was encouraging, but good intentions should be complemented with concrete steps. Some speakers expressed their concern about violence against women, continued hostility against minorities and impunity for acts of torture. Countries urged Turkey to continue considering the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and to accelerate the completion of the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
Speaking in the discussion on Turkey were Yemen, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Egypt, Cyprus, Bahrain, Venezuela, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The non-governmental organizations that spoke during the discussion were Mouvement Contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les peoples, Amnesty International, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, European Region of the Lesbian and Gay Association, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Syriac Universal Alliance, European Centre for Law and Justice and Human Rights Watch.
The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 September, to resume the consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Guyana, Kuwait and Belarus.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Sweden
JAN KNUTSSON, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said this was an event of great significance to the Swedish Government's human rights work, and it was the culmination of a highly valuable process, which showed what the Council could do to advance human rights across the world. Protecting and promoting human rights was a core value and central priority for the Government, and a cornerstone of its foreign policy, and the Government therefore welcomed this opportunity to dialogue with their partners. The Government had learned a great deal in the process of preparing, undergoing, and following up on the Review. Dialogue as well as regular and constructive scrutiny contributed to furthering the values on which Swedish society was based. Throughout the process, a wide range of issues had been brought to the Government's attention, increasing its understanding of the human rights situation in Sweden, and of the human rights work at large. Some of the issues raised in the Review were such that the Government wanted further time to allow more consideration.
The Delegation for Human Rights in Sweden was currently examining the issue of the establishment of an independent national human rights institution with a broader mandate in accordance with the Paris Principles; pending the result of the inquiry, the Government would not take a position on the matter. The Government wanted Sweden to be an open and inclusive society, a country where people with roots in various parts of the world and of different religions could live side by side; crimes of a racist, xenophobic or homophobic nature ran contrary to its fundamental values. Sweden had comprehensive legislation in place to address racism. It was recommended that Sweden provide health care to persons residing in Sweden without a permit on the same basis as to persons domiciled in Sweden. Asylum seekers under the age of 18 and children who had gone into hiding were entitled to health and medical care on the same conditions as all other children domiciled in Sweden. Thus, the issue raised by the recommendation was under review. A number of recommendations were related to the Sami indigenous people. The Government proposed to Parliament in December 2008 that the Constitution should be amended to give explicit recognition to the Sami. The Government very much saw the Universal Periodic Review as part of the national endeavours to ensure systematic human rights work.
MARGARITA VALLE (Cuba), thanked the Swedish delegation for their presentation, but noted with concern that the Government had rejected a high number of the recommendations that had been made. Cuba also noted with concern that Sweden had rejected the recommendation to put an end to the denial of education to children without residency permits. Sweden had also rejected the recommendation that it no longer allow the Swedish territory to act as a transit area for flights carrying secret detainees. Finally, Sweden needed to strengthen its work on combating discrimination and fighting xenophobia within its country.
MOHAMED DJALEL EDDINE BENABDOUN (Algeria), joined other delegations in congratulating the government of Sweden, which was a model for the promotion and protection of human rights. The beauty of the Universal Periodic Review was that it showed that no nation, however advanced, was free from human rights weaknesses. Regarding the recommendation related to adherence to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, Sweden indicated that it had already complied with most of the principles set out in the Convention. The adherence of Sweden to this Convention would make it possible to address allegations of exploitation of Asian migrants in Sweden, as reported by newspapers in September this year, Algeria concluded.
NATALIA ZHYLEVICH, (Belarus), said the overall number of recommendations made to Sweden, 147, gave an overall picture of the rights climate, and made it clear that there was not one country that had no "rights gaps" in coverage, and the Universal Periodic Review had allowed the examination of the situation of human rights by looking at the country from the outside. Belarus regretted that Sweden declined a recommendation made to strengthen the Institute for Family and develop traditional family values in society, and did not agree that there was no need to step up the process. Belarus also found it regrettable that a resolution on measures to prevent the dissemination of views and propaganda based on religious hatred had also been refused. Sweden should continue to work to develop its migration policy, and work to bring this into line with international standards. It should accede to the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.
MESBAH ANSARI (Iran), thanked the Government of Sweden for its presentation and said that it appreciated that some of the recommendations had been accepted. However, Iran remained concerned that Sweden had not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. The needs of migrant children, including their right to education, needed to be urgently addressed by the Swedish Government. Iran concluded by calling on Sweden to accept the recommendations made during the Working Group session, including those made by Iran.
EKSIRI PINTARUCHI (Thailand), commended the Swedish government’s active contributions towards human rights and humanitarian activities at both domestic and international levels. Thailand attached great importance to the roles played by national human rights institutions and therefore supported the recommendation to the government to consider the establishment of such an institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. The Thai delegation welcomed the recommendation related to measures dealing with violence against women and encouraged Sweden to further strengthen the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants, especially female victims of trafficking, and to implement policies on combating sexual violence.
DICKY KOMAR, (Indonesia), said Indonesia commended Sweden's long-standing tradition of promoting human rights, democracy, and providing international development assistance to countries in need. Sweden had not yet established a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, and the Government should continue working in this area. Despite Indonesia's proven support for press freedom and freedom of expression, it was of the view that deliberate religious-based provocative acts only perpetuated Islamophobia and intolerance, and undermined collective efforts to promote peace, mutual respect and understanding between different communities. Indonesia therefore hoped that such examples of intolerance would not be repeated and that Swedish legislation prohibiting such crimes and hate speech would be strengthened. Indonesia also welcomed Sweden's initiative to establish bilateral dialogues on human rights.
DAVINIA OVETT BONDI, of International Save the Children Alliance, called on the Government to adopt a legislative framework to ensure that all migrant children, including undocumented children, had access to the same health care services as persons with residence permits. Undocumented children who had never sought asylum still did not fully enjoy their right to health care and were only entitled to urgent health care and services, without subsidies. In addition, Save the Children stressed the importance of including both undocumented children and adults in the right to health care, since the well being of a child was linked to that of their parents.
EMMA ENGSTOM, of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, asked the Swedish Government to look upon disarmament and decrease military spending as a way to ensure sufficient funds for women’s advancement. Between 2002 and 2007 Sweden was the eighth largest supplier of armaments to developing nations. In these seven years Swedish arms sales generated an income of 2.9 billion US dollars. States had particular obligations with regard to how and with whom it conducted its trade. Priority should be given to enhancing human rights, human rights based developments and environmental protection.
BJORN VAN ROOSENDAHL, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation (ILGA-EUROPE), in a joint statement with Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, commended Sweden for accepting recommendations related to sexual orientation and gender identity and for adopting the new Discrimination Act, which for the first time included new grounds of discrimination, such as age and transgender identity of expression. The European Region of the Lesbian and Gay Association remained concerned however, about the existing sterilisation requirement for transgender people in order to have their gender changed in their passport and called upon Sweden to ensure that in sex reassignment treatment the dignity of the person concerned was respected. In closing, the speaker encouraged Sweden to organise training for decision makers and other staff at the Migration Board on issues regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and human rights.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, lauded Sweden for accepting all the conclusions and recommendations calling for recognition of the rights of the Sami people. The right to self-determination was crucial and it was therefore crucial for the Sami people to decide if they wanted to adopt the International Labour Organization’s Convention. The Indian Council of South America commended the practice of appointing women to high-level positions in the government, and called on Sweden to correct all laws and policies that discriminated against migrant workers.
MARYAM SAFARI, of Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, in a joint statement with Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said there was deep concern about the increases in racially-motivated crimes and racist propaganda, as well as about the situation of unaccompanied migrant children and the lengthy holding of such children in custodial centres. There was also an increase in incidents of racism and xenophobia against minorities, asylum-seekers and migrants, and incidents of Islamophobia. Other matters of concern included the high levels of child abuse and neglect and other domestic violence; continued discrimination against immigrants, refugees and minority women; the denial of access to facilities to Muslim women; unequal power relations between men and women; racist and xenophobic overtones in the public arena; and discrimination against Muslims. The Government should pay more attention to these issues, and intensify efforts intended to punish and prevent discrimination based on ethnic grounds in all areas of life.
JOSHUA COOPER, of World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, said the participation of Sweden in the Universal Periodic Review was an important opportunity to discuss the human rights of the indigenous peoples living in the Nordic countries. The Universal Periodic Review process allowed for civil society to gather together to educate and engage on the common aspirations for dignity and equality, and was also an excellent opportunity for human rights education. The Sami believed the initiative for international instruments and standards could create a culture of peace and rule of law in Sweden, and could be a positive means to provide recognition to the Sami people as indigenous peoples. A national human rights institution would be an important development to realise the rights of the Sami people.
JAN KNUTSSON, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, said that he was particularly grateful for the interventions made by non-State stakeholders. As stated earlier, Sweden had accepted a large number of the recommendations given to it during the Review. Several important inquiries and initiatives regarding the future systematic work for human rights in Sweden were ongoing. For instance, the Delegation for Human Rights in Sweden was set to deliver its final report to the Government by 30 September 2010, which would include proposals on how to provide continued support to work towards ensuring full respect for human rights in Sweden. Furthermore, the second national human rights action plan was being evaluated during 2010. These initiatives and recommendations would be an important input for a future Government Communication to the Parliament regarding the continued systematic work with human rights issues in Sweden. In conclusion, the Swedish Government said that it intended to maintain a high level of ambition regarding the implementation of human rights issues on a national level and confirmed that the UPR process would continue to constitute a vital part of this work.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Sweden.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Grenada
ADEBAYO OLOWU, Crown Counsel, Attorney General Chambers, said that Grenada could not accept the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and establish a formal moratorium on execution, because the death penalty was still part of the laws of Grenada. Still, there was a de facto moratorium on the death penalty and this punishment had not been applied for decades. The government was willing to cooperate with all human rights mechanisms as it related to extending an open invitation, Mr. Olowu said. Given the burden associated with open invitations and the limited resources of Grenada, the government could not extend an open invitation to Special Procedures at this time. With respect to ratification of treaties such as core human rights instruments, the Convention against Torture, the International Criminal Court and others, Grenada could not accept the recommendation to ratify all of them. The country was currently undergoing a review of all treaties and human rights instruments with a view of taking a position on them within the context of local laws, available resources and its own priorities. The harmonisation of domestic laws to meet international obligations was part of the ongoing law reform process and the government had accepted the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles.
The government could not accept the recommendation to abolish corporal punishment as it was permitted under local laws in some instances. With regard to the adequate protection of children under domestic laws, boys and girls were given equal protection under the present law, all reported abuses against children were promptly investigated and the child welfare authorities worked in cooperation with the police. The government attached great importance to crime prevention and security and therefore had accepted the recommendation to increase its efforts to prevent domestic violence. Concerning human trafficking, Grenada would consider harmonisation of its domestic laws on the punishment and prevention of human trafficking. The Palermo Protocol had been ratified and there was an ongoing effort to specifically criminalize the offence of human trafficking under the laws of Grenada. The recommendation on decriminalizing sexual offences between consenting adults of the same sex could not be accepted as it was an offence under the domestic legislation. The government would strive to strengthen an ongoing programme aimed at achieving universal secondary education and would continue to implement programmes that would provide holistic and efficient health care services to the population. Finally, Grenada said it would seek necessary support and assistance when needed to fulfil its international obligations, and welcomed any assistance in that sense.
IDRISS JAZAIRY, (Algeria), said Algeria commended Grenada's participation in the Universal Periodic Review process, illustrating the country's willingness to cooperate with the Council and the international community. During the interactive dialogue, Algeria referred to Grenada's commitment to good governance, accountability, and the rule of law, and highlighted the ratification of international human rights instruments, the adoption of the Domestic Violence and Child Protection Acts, and the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman. It appreciated the efforts of the Government to ensure security and pursue crime prevention, as well as training the police in human rights. Grenada was among the small, resource-deficient developing countries facing challenges in satisfying the full range of the social, economic and other demands of its population. Such situations were sometimes a source for outside interference and external pressure. Algeria hoped the recommendations submitted would serve as a basis for new sustained initiatives aimed at improving the enjoyment of human rights by its population.
PHILIP TISSOT (United Kingdom), welcomed Grenada’s active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process. The United Kingdom noted that Grenada had accepted a number of recommendations, but wanted to reiterate the importance of Grenada working to ensure that its legislation conformed to international human rights laws. Moreover, Grenada should extend an open invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures and make efforts to abolish the death penalty. The United Kingdom concluded by saying that it valued its close relationship with Grenada and hoped that it could maintain an active dialogue on the issues raised in the report.
OMAR RABI (Morocco), thanked the government of Grenada for clarification on the follow up on recommendations provided under the Universal Periodic Review. Morocco welcomed the commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and commended the efforts of the government, particularly those in favour of the vulnerable sectors, poverty alleviation and improvement of living standards. Several of the recommendations regarded ratification of international instruments and Morocco commended the government for building and strengthening institutions to fulfil its international obligations and in line with the Paris Principles.
JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said during the Working Group review, Grenada itself acknowledged that laws prohibiting consensual same-sex conduct could be viewed as discriminatory, as it took away from the freedom of the individual, and acknowledged that with the passage of time growing tolerance on the part of the people would help in addressing this issue and consideration needed to be given to repealing such laws, which had a discriminatory impact. The NGO further welcomed Grenada's support for the OAS resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and urged the Government to support the General Assembly joint statement on the same topic. The speaker said the NGO looked forward to hearing what measures were planned with a view to repealing the provisions against consensual same-sex conduct in accordance with international obligations.
ADEBAYO OLOWU, Crown Counsel, Attorney General Chambers, in his concluding remarks, thanked the delegations for their statements and responded to the question raised by Algeria concerning the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Crown Counsel said that Grenada was in the process of reviewing this Convention and a number of other treaties and while no decision had been taken yet, a position would be elaborated soon. Grenada was also in the process of harmonizing its domestic laws with international human rights law. In closing, Adebayo Olowu said that Grenada had accepted almost all the recommendations made with the exception of the one regarding the abolition of the death penalty and a few other specific recommendations.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Grenada.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Turkey
KAAN ESENER, Deputy Director-General for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Turkey had been reviewed at the eighth session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group in May 2010. Turkey considered the promotion and protection of human rights as a matter of priority. An extensive reform process which included constitutional amendments, several reform packages and new Civil and Penal Code had been undertaken while an important anti-terror effort had been ongoing. Capital punishment, including during times of war, had been abolished in 2004. Freedom of expression was an integral part of Turkey’s democratic order and the relevant legislation was being harmonised with the case law of European Court of Human Rights and other international instruments. The recently adopted Constitutional Reform Package saw the expansion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and had brought the constitutional system in line with Turkey’s international obligations.
The amendments eliminated several shortcomings referred to in the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights and enabled the implementation of several recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the Venice Commission and others. Some of the improvements brought by the recent constitutional reform were the inclusion of positive discrimination as a constitutional right for persons who required social protection, constitutional guarantees for the protection of personal data, constitutional guarantees for children’s rights to access adequate protection and care, broadening the scope and extent of freedom of organisation, and others. At the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review Working Group report in May, Turkey accepted 95 of 152 recommendations made during the review. As of today, 25 out of the 39 recommendations that had been further considered by Turkish authorities were accepted, partly accepted or implemented, Mr. Esener concluded.
FADHL AL-MAGHAFI, (Yemen), said the level of attention paid by Turkey to the protection and promotion of human rights was evident. Turkey was a major player in the region and had an important role to play internationally also. It was a model democracy, and a model for human rights. It had been extremely successful, as shown in the recently held referendum. Turkey had accepted eighty-five per cent of the recommendations made, showing the Government’s and people's commitment to democracy. The Council should adopt the report on Turkey, and its cooperation with the Human Rights Council was appreciated.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria), congratulated Turkey for the success of the constitutional referendum on 12 September 2010. The amendments to the constitution would no doubt strengthen national democracy and human rights. The situation of human rights in Turkey had improved significantly and would continue to do so with the implementation of more than eighty-five of the recommendations made to it in the UPR process. The human aid flotilla that left Turkey earlier this summer for the people of Gaza was a true show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and Algeria expressed its sympathy and support to Turkey for the eight victims who perished in that tragic incident. Algeria also noted the progress achieved by Turkey in its legislation for the rights of women. Algeria concluded its statement by commending Turkey for its efforts to combat persistent levels of infant and maternal mortality.
DZIUNIK AGHAJANIAN (Armenia), said it took note of Turkey’s pledge to preserve the rights of minorities, including the Armenian minority, by taking all necessary measures to ensure preservation of their national identity and cultural heritage. The intention of the government to combat discriminatory practices and protect Roma, Kurd and non-Muslim minorities from persistent hostile attitudes and attacks from the general public was encouraging. Armenia called on more resolute steps as in recent months attacks had become much more frequent, especially towards Kurds. The good intentions of Turkish government to combat xenophobia and racism should be complemented with creating a sound legal framework that would introduce a clear definition of racial discrimination and ensure freedom of expression, said Armenia.
MURAD N. NAJAFBAYLI, (Azerbaijan), said Azerbaijan commended Turkey for its open and transparent approach taken during the Review; this serious engagement was a testimony to Turkey's commitment to cooperate with international human rights machinery, including the Human Rights Council. Azerbaijan made two recommendations concerning further promotion of women's rights and the continuation of efforts in the field of inter-culture and inter-religious dialogue through the Alliance of Civilisations and other initiatives, and was pleased to note that both recommendations had been accepted. As a very close nation, Azerbaijan was encouraged to see the achievements of Turkey in the protection and promotion of human rights, and welcomed the comprehensive human rights reform process carried out. Azerbaijan noted with concern that terrorism continued to cause problems for modern Turkey and reaffirmed its full support for Turkey in the struggle against terrorism.
MANSOOR ABDULLA AL-SULAITIN (Qatar), welcomed the head of the Turkish delegation and thanked him for his clear presentation that testified to the serious attention paid by Turkey to the Universal Periodic Review. Turkey had accepted eighty-seven of the recommendations, which was a testament to its positive attitude to the Working Group and its openness to cooperate with UN mechanisms. In conclusion, Qatar welcomed Turkey’s ongoing progress in the field of human rights and reiterated the key role that Turkey played in promoting peace in the region and internationally.
HEBA MOSTAFA RIZK (Egypt), hailed the efforts and steps undertaken by the Turkish government in the field of human rights and the progressive pace at which they were taking place. Egypt appreciated developments on the ground, particularly those related to the Constitutional amendment adopted earlier this year providing for positive discrimination for certain vulnerable groups. Worthy of commendation were also efforts aimed at protecting the rights of women and children and combating trafficking in persons and violence against women. Egypt welcomed the determination and the will of the government to continue its efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights while it identified the protection gaps and exercised its sovereign right in enacting and implementing laws and policies.
MARIA MICHAEL, (Cyprus), said Cyprus wished to express its regret that the genuine human rights recommendations that it had submitted, in accordance and in line with the letter and the spirit of the institution-building package, and raised in a manner consistent with the principles and objectives of the Universal Periodic Review during the examination of Turkey, were instantly rejected on grounds totally irrelevant to the Universal Periodic Review exercise. The State under review admitted openly that it rejected these recommendations on purely subjective grounds, thus setting a worrying negative precedent for the process in general. There seemed to be a failure in the collective responsibility of upholding the credibility and integrity of the peer review mechanism. Additionally, Cyprus wished to stress that the international obligations of States, especially those concerning human rights violations, could in no way be waived simply on the grounds of political positions. The Council should not allow for more such precedents to be set that might further jeopardise the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, by using and abusing it as a channel for airing partisan political allegations.
BUDOOR ABDULAZIZ AHMED (Bahrain), extended its welcome to the Turkish delegation and welcomed the efforts it made to accept the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, particularly with regard to Bahrain’s recommendations on raising awareness of human rights. In addition, Bahrain called on Turkey to continue working on conforming its legal framework to international norms and standards. Bahrain said that it strongly supported the adoption of the report and encouraged other Council Members to do the same.
EDGARDO TORO CARRENO (Venezuela), underscored the efforts made in preparation of the national report and in reform of the laws for the better implementation of human rights. The constitutional reform included greater protection of vulnerable groups. Turkey had welcomed the vast majority of recommendations originating from the Universal Periodic Review, Venezuela said and highlighted the progress made in promoting education for all and in curbing school abandonment. Venezuela encouraged the government to continue with its successful education policies across the country.
SHAFQAT ALI KHAN, (Pakistan), said Turkey had a constructive and successful review, during which more than 150 recommendations were made. Today's presentation suggested that Turkey had accepted a majority of these, confirming the importance Turkey attached to the Universal Periodic Review process, which enabled States to improve their human rights record consistent with their national priorities and international obligations. Turkey's resolve in strengthening anti-discrimination laws in line with its international obligations as part of its ongoing human rights reforms to promote tolerance and inclusiveness were commendable. Pakistan also commended the efforts, in law and practice, to combat trafficking in human beings, and noted with satisfaction that Turkey had renewed its commitment to tackle this issue with full cooperation of the countries of origin, source and destination, as well as to provide necessary care and support to victims. Pakistan valued the efforts of Turkey at the international level to support interfaith dialogue as a means to enhance mutual understanding, peace and tolerance among different religious, ethnic, and linguistic communities.
PHILIP TISSOT (United Kingdom), said that it noted that Turkey continued to adopt legislation aimed at protecting human rights and should be commended for its support for human rights internationally. The UK also welcomed the result of the recent referendum on Constitutional Reform and said that this was a positive outcome in terms of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations and encouraged the Turkish Government to implement these reforms as quickly as possible. The UK especially welcomed Turkey’s acceptance to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture and to develop a national preventative mechanism. The UK concluded by urging Turkey to continue considering the realization of human rights through the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, in a joint statement with several NGOs1,appreciated the efforts made by the Turkish government and encouraged it to step up those efforts. The non-governmental organization was concerned about violence against women, continued hostility against minorities and impunity for acts of torture. It deeply regretted that Turkey still refused to recognise ethnic, racial and linguistic groups as such, and regretted the overtly extensive interpretation of anti-terrorist legislation. It was urgent that Turkey establish national human rights institutions in line with the Paris Principles guarantee full independence of the judiciary and stop violence against women and girls.
CLAIRE CAHILL, of Amnesty International, welcomed the recent amendments to Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation which would end prosecution of children in the adult criminal justice system, but urged the government to issue guidance to the courts regarding the implementation of those amendments. Amnesty International called on Turkey to ensure that children who were arrested, detained and tried under the previous law had access to redress, including compensation and rehabilitation. Also, it urged the government to investigate all allegations of torture or ill-treatment at the time of arrest or in detention. Amnesty International expressed its concern over the slow progress in completing the process of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
MAIDAH LILLIEBJERG, of Islamic Human Rights Commission, said changes had been made in the last eight years by the Turkish Government, such as the change in the treatment of political prisoners with torture being a thing of the past. There were also positive changes towards Kurds and other minorities. However, treatment towards Muslim women wearing the headscarf had not changed, and they had not only been denied educational rights, but were being excluded from participating in the work sector. Turkey should immediately terminate all discriminative practices against covered women. The Government should abolish the headscarf ban and provide these women with the same rights that other Turkish citizens enjoyed. This would not only have a positive impact on Turkish society, but would help the Government regain the trust of their Muslim citizens.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said Turkey was outstanding for the small number of recommendations it had accepted. Turkey's penal code still legitimised acts of harassment and persecution of human rights defenders and missing and killed people were still not being accounted for. Turkey should devote more attention to regular and participatory political processes to resolve conflicts in peace and end aggression against the Kurds. The situation of refugees in Turkey was crucial. Most asylum seekers were without property, having left in pure poverty, and barely acquired the minimum daily food needs of a human being.
M. BJORN VAN ROOSENDAHL, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, said Turkey should reconsider the recommendation to review compliance of its national legislation with the principle of non-discrimination, in particular with regard to women and persons of minority ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legal framework specifically protecting against discrimination on these grounds and lead long-term awareness-raising campaigns on these issues among the public. Turkey should include sexual orientation and gender identity explicitly as grounds of non-discrimination in the draft law on non-discrimination. There were ongoing hate-crimes targeted at transgender people, and Turkey should investigate such crimes, conduct trials, and punish the perpetrators.
DEREK BRETT, of Conscience and Peace Tax International, welcomed Turkey’s acceptance of a number of recommendations concerning the freedom of opinion and expression, especially in paragraph 101.5 of the Report of the Working Group. Unfortunately, this was contradicted by the rejection in the written replies of the more specific recommendations of changes to articles 301 and 318 of the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law. Article 318, which criminalized “alienating the population from the military” was used to stifle all discussion or reporting of conscientious objection to military service. The representative of Conscience and Peace Tax International pointed out that press reporting about conscientious objection, in individual cases or in the abstract, incurred a heavy sentence of up to three years.
BASIL OLZKAYA, of Syriac Universal Alliance, cordially invited Turkey to consider its document and the organization was looking forward to starting a constructive dialogue with the Government on critical issues that needed to be addressed by Turkey and the international community. The NGO regretted that Turkey restricted equality, non-discrimination and human rights aspects to individuals only. Issues of group rights were usually circumvented and misrepresented. Finally, Syrian Universal Alliance condemned Turkey for continuing to deny the official existence of the Arameans, unlike the Armenians, Greeks and Jews and invited Turkey to offer a rational explanation of this unjust and unreasonable fact.
GREGOR PUPPINCK, of European Centre for Law and Justice, said a lot of recommendations invited Turkey to recognize religious minorities and their equality before the law. Unfortunately, these recommendations may remain a dead letter as there have already been many reports and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights calling upon Turkey to give religious minorities de jure equality. There was a level of social hostility to these populations, and this was maintained by the media, leading to an upsurge in murders of priests in particular. Religious minorities were kept in a state of legal inferiority and social subjection. The promotion of tolerance should not just be a product for export, but should be spread in Turkish society.
PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, said the Government should pursue its pledge to proceed with the long-promised full revision of the 1982 Constitution to remove restrictions on freedom of expression and on the rights of minority groups and others that limited fundamental rights and the rule of law. The national human rights institution did not conform to the Paris Principles. Combating the culture of impunity remained a priority, and the Government should ensure independent, effective and prompt investigations into State officials alleged to have committed human rights abuses or to have failed to protect the lives of individuals known to be at risk. Turkey must also repeal all restrictions on freedom of expression currently remaining in its laws. The authorities should reconsider their decision to reject recommendations.
KAAN ESENER, Deputy Director-General for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in his concluding remarks, thanked all stakeholders for their active participation and involvement in this dialogue. There were a multitude of issues that he had taken note of, but he would not be able to answer them all now. Turkey’s track record spoke for itself and the Government always assumed responsibility when it was so required. There was a criticism made on the issue of religious freedom and the Deputy Director-General said that perhaps some of the NGOs were not up-to-date on the most recent developments, which reflected Turkey’s commitment to promoting equality of religion. Several delegates also mentioned the issues of torture and ill treatment and he reiterated that the Government was adamant on its zero-tolerance policy of these practices. The Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture was also mentioned and Mr. Esener confirmed that it was in the final stages of being reviewed in the Turkish Parliament. He also added that he had no doubt that it would be ratified, but a specific date could not be given.
In response to the Syriac Universal Alliance, he said that he belonged to a group that encouraged inter-religious understanding and dialogue. Another person mentioned the European Court of Human Rights and judgements that had been made about Turkey discriminating against religious minorities. The Turkish representative said that he followed the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights very closely and had never come across any such allegations. He also added that the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Ombudsman Office and other departments in the Turkish Government were a priority of the Government and it was continuously working to improve these human rights mechanisms. The representative concluded by reaffirming Turkey’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review in a transparent, non-selective and non-confrontational manner.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Turkey.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; International Educational Development; International Alliance of Women; France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand ; and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom)
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