Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau and Kiribati

Human Rights Council
MIDDAY 1 October 2010

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau and Kiribati.

Cletche Sanha, Legal Counsel with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, said the real problem affecting the country was its difficulties and limitations, but it had made major efforts to be present at this very special moment as part of the Universal Periodic Review. Of the 108 recommendations made, 103 had been accepted and were being implemented, and five were rejected. The State of Guinea-Bissau had incorporated in its internal legal framework a number of international instruments and their provisions were reflected in many national pieces of legislation. Guinea-Bissau was prepared to criminalise practices linked to female genital mutilation, but it needed to reach out to the target population and illustrate the harmful effects of these practices and it believed that this was something that had to be dealt with gradually. There was also a need to humanise the penitentiary system. Improvements in the education system also needed to be carried out progressively, and schools could be created. There had also been aid from the international community in order to improve the situation of those who needed to be assisted. These were some of the measures that the Government had taken after the review of the country.

In the discussion on Guinea-Bissau, speakers were encouraged to note that Guinea-Bissau had accepted a substantial number of the recommendations made during the review, which was an indication of the Government's willingness to continue to work with the Human Rights Council to achieve its objectives of the protection and promotion of human rights, regardless of the numerous challenges it continued to encounter. Speakers warmly welcomed the commitment given to improve the human rights situation through the Universal Periodic Review and underlined the importance attached to Guinea-Bissau working with regional and other international partners to reform the security sector, and ensuring primacy of the civilian Government and the rule of law. Also, the Government should reconsider and support the recommendation to take measures to combat other harmful traditional practices, such as forced and early marriage.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau were Algeria, Cuba, United Kingdom, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations (NGOs): Amnesty International, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the Human Rights Council, read out a statement on behalf of Kiribati, which was not able to send a delegation. Kiribati had established a working committee composed of all sectors of the Government. All recommendations were analysed and categorised into 12 sectors in line with national priorities, including human rights, human rights institutions, national development plans, child labour policies, gender and equality, health and education, and environment. Kiribati accepted 42 recommendations, 11 had not been accepted, while the remaining 37 were still under consideration. The overhaul of the constitutional system of Kiribati must be conducted soon, the statement said; without it, Kiribati would not be able to comply with its international obligations. The primary challenge Kiribati was experiencing was climate change, which caused the diversion of Government funds into measures to cope with changes. The implementation of recommendations would depend on resources, both human and financial.

In the discussion on Kiribati, speakers said that the experience of Kiribati highlighted the difficulties States could face in participating in the Universal Periodic Review process and that this issue should be considered during the approaching review of the Council. Given the size of its public service and capacity constraints, meeting the deadline had been a massive effort by Kiribati. Speakers were concerned about the entrenched discrimination against women pervading Kiribati society and commended the Government for accepting the recommendations to promote and support the rights of women. Kiribati was among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate changes, which had a range of implications on the enjoyment of human rights. The countries in the Council, particularly industrialised nations had a responsibility to desist from actions that would knowingly undermine human rights in Kiribati. The support of the international community was absolutely vital to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles and to overcome capacity constraints.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Kiribati were Morocco, Algeria, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Maldives. Also taking the floor were the following NGOs: Amnesty International and Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon, when it will continue to take action on remaining decisions and resolutions before concluding its fifteenth session.

Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau

CLETCHE SANHA, Legal Counsel with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, said the real problem affecting the country was its difficulties and limitations, but it had made major efforts to be present at this very special moment as part of the Universal Periodic Review. This was a crucial period for Guinea-Bissau, with a view to adopting the final document. Of the 108 recommendations made, 103 had been accepted and were being implemented, and five were rejected. As regards the ratification procedure of international legal instruments relating to inherent human rights, the State of Guinea-Bissau had incorporated in its internal legal framework, and in line with its constitutional norms, international Covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the two Optional Protocols relating thereto, various ILO Conventions, and the provisions of these and others were reflected in many national pieces of legislation.

Another issue that was raised had to do with reporting to bodies - Guinea-Bissau had submitted initial cumulative reports to a number of treaty bodies. Guinea-Bissau was prepared to criminalise practices linked to female genital mutilation, but it needed to reach out to the target population and illustrate the harmful effects of these practices, after which it would move on to seeing if it could adopt laws sanctioning bad practices, believing that this was something that had to be dealt with gradually. There was also a need to humanise the penitentiary system. Improvements in the education system also needed to be done progressively, and schools could be created. There had also been aid from the international community in order to improve the situation of those who needed to be assisted. These were some of the measures that the Government had taken after the review of the country.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) thanked Guinea-Bissau for providing additional information on the follow up to the Universal Periodic Review process. Given the numerous challenges facing Guinea-Bissau in a number of fields, its involvement in the Universal Periodic Review demonstrated its sincere willingness to promote human rights and cooperate with mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. Since its independence, Guinea-Bissau had been living in a climate of political instability and poverty. The measures taken in the area of good governance needed to be reinforced. Algeria greatly appreciated that Guinea-Bissau had accepted some one hundred of the recommendations made. While the challenges were considerable, they were not insurmountable. Finally, Algeria appealed to the international community to help provide greater assistance and support to Guinea-Bissau in its efforts to promote and protect human rights.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba) said that during the review of Guinea-Bissau there was a wide ranging debate and the delegation of Guinea-Bissau had engaged in an extensive exchange of opinion about the human rights situation in the country. On that occasion the commitment of the Government was confirmed and more light had been shed on the efforts in the areas of health, education, and in combating poverty. Cuba congratulated Guinea-Bissau for the acceptance of the great majority of the recommendations and said their implementation would ensure the improvement of the human rights situation of all people in Guinea-Bissau.

REBECCA SAGAR (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom was particularly pleased to note that its recommendations, on ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and All Forms of Cruel and Unusual Punishment, security sector reform, and independent investigations into cases of torture and unlawful killings all enjoyed the support of Guinea-Bissau. These were important issues that deserved the full attention of the Government to bring to a speedy conclusion. The United Kingdom would also like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the importance it attached to Guinea-Bissau working with regional and other international partners to reform the security sector, ensuring primacy of the civilian Government and the rule of law. The United Kingdom warmly welcomed the commitment given to improve the human rights situation through the Universal Periodic Review and also welcomed the commitment to address the recommendations that enjoyed support in a timely and focused manner.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said the in the case of Guinea-Bissau, the Universal Periodic Review allowed the Council to take stock of the efforts made by the Government to adopt recommendations. Guinea-Bissau had showed sincere resolve to address its human rights situation and to re-establish a multi-party democracy. The willingness of the Government to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms reaffirmed its commitment to creating change. This was also an opportunity for Morocco to pay tribute to the Government of Guinea-Bissau for the efforts it had made especially in strengthening judicial and political institutions, despite ongoing political instability.

MOMAR GUEYE (Senegal) said Senegal was pleased that Guinea-Bissau had accepted most of the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review. The presence in the Council of the delegation today was evidence that the Government intended to work harder on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. This commitment must be maintained by implementing the reforms in a number of sectors, such as combating human trafficking. Senegal invited the Government to fully cooperate with the United Nations Special Procedures mechanism. In closing, Senegal said that Guinea-Bissau should receive further assistance by the international community in order to implement recommendations it had accepted.

BEATRICE IKEKU-THOMAS (Nigeria) said Nigeria was encouraged to note that Guinea-Bissau had accepted a substantial number of the recommendations made during the review - this, more than anything, was an indication of the Government's willingness to continue to work with the Human Rights Council to achieve its objectives of the protection and promotion of human rights, regardless of the numerous challenges it continued to encounter. The various initiatives and programmes put in place to ensure the enjoyment of human rights by its people were welcomed, and Nigeria encouraged Guinea-Bissau not to relent in its efforts to but follow up on the accepted recommendations and continue to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms. The international community should extend the necessary assistance, as well as share best practices to enable the country to fulfil its human rights obligations.

SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) thanked Guinea-Bissau for presenting its Universal Periodic Review report. It congratulated Guinea-Bissau for speeding up the process of ratifying the Convention against Torture. The Democratic Republic of the Congo recognized the immense challenges that Guinea-Bissau currently faced and the positive efforts it had undertaken. In closing, the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that it supported the content of the report and asked members of the Council to adopt the final report of the Universal Periodic Review on Guinea-Bissau.

ARCANJO MARIA DO NASCIMENTO (Angola) said that the presence of the delegation of Guinea-Bissau attested to the political commitment to improving the human rights situation, even given the situation in which the country had been living until the recent past. It was important to recognize the efforts of the authorities of Guinea-Bissau in improving human rights. Angola particularly appreciated the efforts in combating poverty. Institutions in Guinea-Bissau were fragile due to lack of training of state officials and Angola welcomed the adoption of a programme to reinforce the State’s capacity. Also important was the pledge to reduce child and maternal mortality and morbidity. Political stability was crucial for the successful implementation of those programmes as well as the assistance of the international community. Angola would continue to support the stabilisation process underway in the country.
PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said Amnesty International welcomed Guinea-Bissau's engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, and its support for a number of important recommendations, including a law criminalising female genital mutilation. The Government should reconsider and support the recommendation to take measures to combat other harmful traditional practices, such as forced and early marriage. It was regrettable that the Government did not support five key recommendations, including to have human rights education and training as a prerequisite for joining the armed forces, to send a clear signal that human rights violations committed by the armed forces would not be tolerated, and to bring to justice members of the armed forces responsible for violations. These recommendations were particularly pertinent given the impunity enjoyed by members of the armed forces for human rights violations, and the Government should end the prevailing impunity as a matter of urgency.

JIDE MACAULAY, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said Guinea-Bissau's commitment to equality and non-discrimination was welcomed, and the country was commended for being one of six African countries that endorsed the General Assembly Joint Statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the positive steps and direction towards ending discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity should be recognized. The Government's commitment to take action on these matters was welcomed. In view of this affirmation of support for the principle of non-discrimination, the Government should implement laws that protected lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people from discrimination, policies which ensured equality of access to public health services by all marginalised populations in respect of HIV/AIDS prevention, and effective education and training for police, judicial and State officials on these and other human rights issues.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, said the acceptance of the majority of the recommendations issuing from the Universal Periodic Review showed the will of the Government to cooperate with the Council's mechanisms. However, this will to cooperate should be seen in the field through qualitative and quantitative changes in all economic, social and political areas. Many observers agreed that military-political tensions could re-launch a cycle of violence in the country. Trafficking in drugs and transnational crime threatened not only the existence of the State, but also the stability and security of neighbouring countries. The Government should take adequate measures to implement all the recommendations issuing from the Universal Periodic Review, as these would contribute to the growth of the country.

AIDA COSTA INJAI FERNANDES, President of the National Human Rights Commission, said that the Government of Guinea-Bissau was committed to promoting and protecting human rights and would continue to implement recommendations and make progress in the field of human rights.

CLETCHE SANHA, Legal Counsel with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, in his concluding remarks, said that despite the numerous challenges facing his country, the Government of Guinea-Bissau had made some noteworthy advances with respect to the domestic situation on human rights. With greater support from the international community, Guinea-Bissau could address many of these challenges, which continued to act as obstacles to the country’s progress and development. Guinea-Bissau made a final plea for international support, including technical assistance.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Guinea-Bissau.

Universal Periodic Review of Kiribati

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW, President of the Human Rights Council, read out the statement on behalf of Kiribati, which was unable to send a delegation. Kiribati had established a working committee composed of all sectors of the Government. All recommendations were analysed and categorised into 12 sectors in line with national priorities, including human rights, human rights institutions, national development plans, child labour policies, gender and equality, health and education, and environment. Kiribati accepted 42 recommendations, 11 had not been accepted, while the remaining 37 were still under consideration. The overhaul of the constitutional system of Kiribati must be conducted soon; without it, Kiribati would not be able to comply with its international obligations. The primary challenge Kiribati was experiencing was climate change, which caused the diversion of Government funds into measures to cope with changes. The implementation of recommendations would depend on resources, both human and financial.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) said Kiribati had expressed a commitment to human rights during the Universal Periodic Review process, and had requested technical and financial support, not just to implement the recommendations, but also to support the Government's efforts to promote human rights. This support was absolutely vital to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles and to provide its staff with specific training. Such an institution would play a role in protecting and promoting human rights, and giving advice to the Government on the establishment of national programmes and plans of actions for the protection of particular vulnerable categories of population. The Human Rights Council should pay greater attention to the issue of technical assistance and financial support in the Universal Periodic Review, and this would help in ensuring that the cooperative mechanism would achieve its objectives.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that Algeria regretted that the delegation of Kiribati was not able to be present but thanked the Government for the additional information it provided in its report on the Universal Periodic Review. Algeria commended the Government of Kiribati for its willingness to participate in the Review, despite logistical difficulties. The national report gave a useful snapshot of the country and set forth the difficulties that any island State might face. Algeria said that the international community had to provide greater support to Kiribati and other island States in a similar situation. Algeria noted the efforts made by Kiribati to make improvements in human rights, especially by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Algeria also noted Kiribati’s acceptance of almost all of the recommendations. In closing, Algeria called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make additional efforts in the future to facilitate the participation of States with small populations in the Universal Periodic Review process.

BOB LAST (United Kingdom) thanked Kiribati for their participation in the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. The United Kingdom also appreciated the fact that Kiribati was not able to study recommendations and to provide feedback and the United Kingdom understood the resource constraints. The United Kingdom looked forward to the implementation of recommendations that the Government had accepted and looked forward to Kiribati reconsidering other recommendations that had been made.

LUCY RICHARDSON. (New Zealand) said New Zealand was pleased that Kiribati had provided the statement just read out. This experience highlighted the difficulties States could face in participating in the Universal Periodic Review process. At the end of the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, as the review of the Human Rights Council approached, it was timely to consider this issue. When Kiribati presented their national report, New Zealand expressed deep concern about the entrenched discrimination against women pervading Kiribati society, and made a number of recommendations aimed at addressing this situation. Kiribati was commended for accepting the recommendation to promote and support the participation of women in decision-making at all levels and for accepting to undertake further work to ensure that the law was adequate to prosecute for domestic violence and that these laws were properly enforced. Kiribati had highlighted the difficulties it faced in meeting reporting obligations, and New Zealand encouraged States facing such difficulties to work proactively with partners to make their needs known and seek the appropriate assistance where requested and required.

PETER WOOLCOTT (Australia) commended the Government of Kiribati for the comprehensive and considered response to the recommendations made in the course of its Universal Periodic Review on 3 May of this year. Kiribati had shown its commitment to fundamental human rights and freedoms and to its active participation in the United Nations human rights machinery. The whole Universal Periodic Review appearance and follow-up process had been an enormous challenge for Kiribati, an archipelago stretching across the Pacific, with a total population of 112,000 people. Australia believed that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to give much more thought to how they worked with such nations, to ensure that they received proper support and were able to meet their obligation. Australia concluded by saying that it looked forward to further dialogue with the Office on how it proposed to assist small States in the future.

LIVSHA ZAHIR (Maldives) said the Maldives acknowledged that meeting the deadline had been a massive effort by Kiribati given the small size of its public service and capacity constraints. Kiribati like the Maldives was a small island developing state, and was among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Climate change had a range of implications on the enjoyment of human rights. The countries in the Council, particularly industrialised nations, had a responsibility to desist from actions that would knowingly undermine human rights in Kiribati. They must take meaningful mitigation actions to bring their greenhouse gas emissions down to safe levels, the Maldives said. Developed nations also had a human rights obligation to help Kiribati adapt to those impacts of global warming which were now inevitable. Kiribati also faced a number of capacity constraints and it was imperative that the international community assisted the Government in implementing the human rights recommendations contained in the Universal Periodic Review report.

PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said Amnesty International welcomed the Government's forthrightness in outlining its human rights situation and its positive engagement in the dialogue with other States in the Working Group. However, it was regrettable that the Government did not consider it feasible to consider ratifying the international covenants and other human rights instruments. Amnesty welcomed the Government's efforts to address violence against women, and urged the Government to endeavour to implement in full its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect women and children from violence, and to eradicate cultural practices that contributed to discrimination against women and girls. The Government should realise its plans to develop specific legislation on eliminating violence against women.

JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said Kiribati was warmly commended for its willingness to consider recommendations 66.23 and 41, each of which would strengthen Kiribati's commitment to the core principles of equality and non-discrimination. Criminal provisions against consensual same-sex conduct were held to be inconsistent with the international rights to privacy and non-discrimination. In response, Kiribati affirmed that it was a tolerant society and that it was prepared to consider decriminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct. Kiribati was also commended for its willingness to consider a recommendation to expand the prohibited grounds of discrimination to include grounds such as sexual orientation, disability, health status and economic status. Kiribati should act promptly to implement each of these recommendations.

The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Kiribati.

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