Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review on Panama, The Maldives and Andorra

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

16 March 2011

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Panama, the Maldives and Andorra.

Roxana Mendez, Minister of Interior of Panama, said that it was a priority of the Panamanian Government to promote human rights and that the National Assembly had approved the ratification of four international instruments: the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances; and two conventions relating to stateless persons. Panama accepted the recommendation related to the enforcement of the laws and national policies that fell under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and a Gender Office within the Ministry of Labour and Development had been created along with a campaign that called for “zero ill treatment”.

In the discussion on Panama, speakers congratulated the delegation of Panama on the spirit of openness and commitment demonstrated in the Universal Periodic Review and the broad involvement of civil society in the preparatory process. Speakers applauded Panama’s agreement to adopt and implement measures to improve prison conditions in accordance with international human rights law, including a draft law to address overcrowding in the nation’s prison facilities and to accede to the Convention against Torture. Panama was encouraged by speakers to finalise the standing invitation to Special Procedures so it would benefit from their experience and technical assistance. The international community was urged to adequately support Panama in the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Panama were representatives of Algeria, United States, Uruguay, Morocco, Brazil and Guatemala. International Volunteerism for Women, Education and Development, Amnesty International, and Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme also took the floor.

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

Iruthisham Adam, Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations Office of Geneva, said the Maldives had been able to accept, fully or partially, 100 of the 126 recommendations put to them. These recommendations covered a wide range of important issues and, when implemented, would make a significant positive contribution to human rights in the Maldives. At the level of their international human rights commitments, the Maldives accepted to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
At the legislative level, the Maldives accepted all recommendations calling on them to draft, table or adopt legislation designed to improve human rights protection in the country. On capital punishment, the Maldives reminded the Council that there had not been any executions in the Maldives for half a century, and that the Maldives voted in favour of this year’s United Nations General Assembly resolution on moratoriums on the death penalty.

In the discussion on the Maldives, speakers noted that 126 conclusions and recommendations had been considered during the Universal Periodic Review which indicated the constructive engagement of the country with the Council. The Maldives had specific conditions influencing socio-economic development and speakers appreciated the progress achieved in health, particularly with regard to malaria and polio, in education, and the situation of women, the elderly, children and the disabled. Speakers congratulated the Government of the Maldives on its programmes to promote human rights and called on the international community to support their efforts. Speakers suggested that the Maldives should draft a comprehensive national policy to protect the rights of migrant workers as well as victims of trafficking.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of the Maldives were representatives of Algeria, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Botswana and Morocco. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development also took the floor.

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

Lluis Viu, Permanent Representative of Andorra to the United Nations Office in Geneva, said that Andorra had made great efforts to adopt 30 international instruments both belonging to the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Andorra attached great importance to human rights and the rights of its citizens. Andorra was of the view that the specificities of each country needed to be taken into account in their Universal Periodic Review process. The ascension to new conventions was not easy for Andorra which had modest means, both financial and human. Andorra had accepted 24 out of the 56 recommendations and their acceptance attested to the progress made in the field of human rights. Corporal punishment of minors was now punishable by law and a number of international conventions had been adopted.

In the discussion on Andorra, a speaker said he was satisfied with the progress made by Andorra against all forms of discrimination and in the promotion of child rights and education. He invited Andorra to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Andorra was Algeria.

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

The next meeting of the Council will be on Thursday, 17 March at 10 a.m., when it is scheduled to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes on Bulgaria, Honduras and Lebanon.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Panama

ROXANA MENDEZ, Minister of the Interior of Panama, said that as a first priority of the Panamanian Government, the promotion of human rights represented a matter of state and the exercise of public freedoms in their country went hand in hand with overcoming the main challenges for the respect of the dignity of human beings. Regarding the progress made by Panama, the National Assembly on 22 February 2011 approved the ratification of four international instruments: the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances; and two conventions related to stateless persons. Concerning the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Panama said that joint efforts would be carried out to enable Panama to take a well informed decision. Panama had established a working group that had reached a conclusion in favour of their ratification.

Ms. Mendez said Panama accepted the recommendation related to the enforcement of the laws and national policies that fell under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Maternity was protected by the Constitution and they created the Gender Office within the Ministry of Labour and Development and implemented a campaign called “zero ill treatment”. In 1999 a law established equality of opportunity for all women and equality before the law and in the labour sphere. They also carried out an awareness raising campaign and protected the right to education for women.

With regard to strengthening the fight against trafficking of women and children, a Commission had been established to draft a new law for this matter and female participation in the labour market had been increased. They were carrying out consultations to ensure that African descendents in Panama could exercise their rights.

With regards to the Bocas Del Toro case, Panama said that, with a view to implement a broad based consultation process, they had convened a dialogue on the law number 30 and they had covered issues such as the environment, the labour code, the national police and others. Panama had implemented public policies for people who lived in the region of Bocas de Toro and was looking at ways to integrate workers who were injured in the process; the events in Bocas Del Toro had been investigated. With regard to the issues related to child labour, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had a constitutional ranking in their machinery and the Government had implemented policies to improve the educational integration of boys and girls in the schools. They also created network opportunity projects in the areas of education, health and training. Panama accepted the recommendation on raising the minimal age for marriage. It restructured the penitentiary system with a view to diminishing overcrowding in the prisons, and increased rehabilitation programmes, vocational training and community work.

MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) said Algeria appreciated the views expressed on the recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by Panama as well as the commitment of this country to the Universal Periodic Review and the broad involvement of civil society in the preparatory process. The Algerian delegation had the privilege to participate in the interactive dialogue on Panama’s national report and made five recommendations, which had either enjoyed Panama’s support or were considered as having already been implemented or were effectively in the process of implementation. Algeria encouraged the Panamanian authorities to give due attention to the voluntary pledges and commitments it put forward during the interactive dialogue, especially with regard to international law and the Universal Periodic Review outcome.

DANIEL BAER (United States) said the United States applauded Panama’s agreement to adopt and implement measures to improve prison conditions in accordance with international human rights law. Those measures included a draft law addressing overcrowding in the nation’s prison facilities. The United States would like to learn when the draft law would be passed and implemented and about the concrete steps Panama had taken to improve the prison infrastructure, including living conditions as well as vocational opportunities for prisoners. The United States looked forward to learning further about concrete steps Panama had taken for ensuring the protection of freedom of assembly and other rights as well as effective investigations in relation to the excessive use of force in Changuinola in July 2010.

LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE (Uruguay) said Uruguay appreciated the participation of Panama in the Universal Periodic Review and noted with satisfaction that Panama had accepted almost all recommendations from this process. Uruguay was particularly pleased by the decision to ratify a number of international instruments and by the cooperation between the Government and human rights bodies and mechanisms. Uruguay encouraged Panama to finalise the standing invitation to Special Procedures, which would enable it to benefit from their experience and technical assistance, thus making progress in the promotion and protection of human rights for all citizens of Panama. Uruguay was pleased to receive information on the progress in the education sector to ensure the increased enrolment for boys and girls, and in promoting the rights of women. Uruguay encouraged Panama to cooperate with the regional office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to ensure that the rights of the people of Panama were fully respected.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said Morocco congratulated the delegation of Panama on the sprit of openness demonstrated throughout the whole Universal Periodic Review process. Morocco noted with satisfaction the number of recommendations accepted by Panama, and particularly the three recommendations made by Morocco, on human rights education and training for security forces, promotion of migrants’ rights and rights of refugees. Morocco took note with interest of the efforts of the Government of Panama to realise economic, social and cultural rights despite all the obstacles and challenges. Morocco reiterated its call to the international community to adequately support Panama in the implementation of recommendations it had accepted.

CARLOS EDUARDO DA CUNHA OLIVEIRA (Brazil) said Brazil welcomed the Panamanian delegation to the Human Rights Council and their acceptance of most of the recommendations made and the adoption of the necessary measures to guarantee the promotion and protection of human rights. They continued to be available to exchange their perspectives and experiences with regard to the promotion of human rights nationally and they welcomed the decision of Panama to set up a committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala) said Guatemala recognized the efforts made in the promotion and protection of human rights in Panama. Guatemala highlighted the acceptance of most of the recommendations by Panama and the efforts made to extend an open and standing invitation to all Special Procedures and hoped that they could continue to make progress in the area of migration.

MARIA D’ONOFRIO, of International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development (VIDES), said it remained concerned about the human rights situation of indigenous peoples and those living in the most marginalized areas of the country, especially in the region of Darien in Panama. Disparities between main cities and remote regions still persisted with regard to access to basic services such as drinking water and sanitation and education. International Volunteerism for Women, Education and Development recommended that Panama should invite the Independent Expert on the right to water and sanitation to visit the country. International Volunteerism for Women, Education and Development also recommended that Panama fully implement the national legislation concerning the education of indigenous peoples and that it guarantee that teachers would receive adequate remuneration.

MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said it welcomed the support by Panama of recommendations to ensure a credible and independent investigation into the events of July 2010 in Bocas del Toro and to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations during the national strikes which took place there. Amnesty International would like to raise concerns about two Spanish journalists with permanent legal residency in Panama who were arrested while covering a protest in Panama City in 2011 and two days later were deported. Amnesty International urged the Government to reconsider their expulsion from Panama and to guarantee all journalists the right to carry out their work without fear of reprisals.

ROMAN MORIAUD, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, congratulated Panama for acceding to a large number of regional and international instruments, and particularly to the Convention Against Torture, and the decision to fully integrate women in public life. Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme encouraged the Government to adopt better policies to protect indigenous peoples and to undertake an investigation into the repression in Bocas del Torro. The recent reform of the mine code of Panama was attracting new investors and Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme hoped it would not be to the detriment of the indigenous peoples.

ROXANA MENDEZ, Minister of Interior of Panama, reiterated the gratitude of Panama for the constructive dialogue that had enabled the Government to make progress in the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens. Panama appreciated the involvement of human rights bodies, States and civil society in this process. Panama was open to dialogue with civil society and international organizations on the issues of human rights and said that the Government was committed to continue to improve human rights for all citizens. Also, the Government would continue to strengthen cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the United Nations to ensure that the international obligations of Panama were fulfilled.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on the Maldives

IRUTHISHAM ADAM, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives, gave detailed feedback on the 126 recommendations that the Maldives received from their friends in the international community. At the end of their review last November, the Maldives informed the Working Group of their decision to keep all recommendations pending. This decision stemmed from the seriousness with which they approached the Universal Periodic Review Process, and their wish to give full and proper consideration to all recommendations. The Maldives had submitted its detailed response to all recommendations to the Secretariat to be annexed to the final outcome report. They had done this in the interest of openness and transparency. The Maldives had been able to accept, fully or partially, 100 of the 126 recommendations put to them. These recommendations covered a wide range of important issues and, when implemented, would make a significant positive contribution to human rights in the Maldives. At the level of their international human rights commitments, the Maldives had accepted to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Turning to their human rights infrastructure they had accepted all recommendations regarding, for example, enhancing the independence, competence and professionalism of their national human rights commission as well as their judicial sector.

At the legislative level, the Maldives had accepted all those recommendations calling on them to draft, table or adopt legislation designed to improve human rights protection in the country. They had also accepted all recommendations aimed at strengthening the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the Maldives, including in the areas of health, education, employment, trafficking, drug-rehabilitation, and juvenile delinquency.

Turning to those recommendations which the Maldives had not been able to accept at the present time, Mr. Adam explained the reasoning behind their position on these recommendations. First, on capital punishment, the Maldives reminded the Council that there had not been any execution in the Maldives for half a century, and that the Maldives voted in favour of this year’s United Nations General Assembly resolution on moratoriums on the death penalty. However, at the present time, they were not able to accept the recommendation to abolish the death penalty or to ratify the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. On the issue of corporal punishment, in particular public flogging, the Government sympathized with the recommendations made on this point. They accepted therefore to consult with relevant national and international authorities to assess whether the application of corporal punishment, as currently practiced in the Maldives, was compatible with their international obligations under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

The second category of recommendations which they had not been able to accept, related to freedom of religion. On this point, it was important to note that the Maldives was and always had been since its conversion to Islam, a 100 per cent Muslim country. In the Maldives consciousness, being a Maldivian and being a Muslim could not be separated, they were rather two sides of the same coin. Notwithstanding this, the Maldives fully understood the importance of tolerance and understanding across all walks of life, including religion. The Maldives had therefore decided, as a first step, to accept recommendation 100.91 and to begin domestic awareness-raising and open public debate on religious issues. The third category of recommendations that they were not able to accept involved lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) said Algeria followed closely the transition to democracy in the Maldives. The close cooperation the country had developed with United Nations bodies should be praised.

KSHENUKA SENEWIRATNE (Sri Lanka) said the Maldives should be commended for the withdrawal of its reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Sri Lanka welcomed the active review of the reservations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was noteworthy that the Maldives had examined 126 conclusions and recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review which was indicative of the constructive engagement of the country with the Council. Sri Lanka recommended the adoption of the report of the Universal Periodic Review on the Maldives.

KHALID MOHAMMAD KARAKUTLY (Saudi Arabia) said that the presentation by the Maldives demonstrated the country’s interest in human rights, which was reflected in its commitment to continue international cooperation and true dialogue on human rights. The Maldives had acceded to most of the international instruments and had hosted visits of several Special Procedures. Saudi Arabia appreciated the level of cooperation and the efforts taken in the areas of human rights, particularly in the development of institutions, laws and bodies of human rights.

LUIS AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said Cuba thanked the delegation of the Maldives for the presentation which it said reflected the commitment to human rights and the commitment to the implementation of recommendations accepted during the Universal Periodic Review process. Cuba had a very positive view of the approach of the Maldives to recommendations made by Cuba. The Maldives had specific conditions influencing socio-economic development and Cuba appreciated the progress achieved in health, particularly with regard to malaria and polio, and in education, the situation of women, elderly children and persons with disabilities. Cuba congratulated the Government of the Maldives on programmes to promote human rights and called on the international community to support their efforts.

OMPHILE RHEE HETANANG (Botswana) said Botswana was encouraged by the determination shown by the Government of the Maldives to meet its obligations on the promotion and protection of human rights. The Maldives should be commended for the leadership that they continued to provide on issues of climate change, a determination demonstrated prior to the country’s membership to the Human Rights Council, and one they continued with great vigour as a Council member. Botswana congratulated the Maldives on the adoption of their report and wished them well as they continued with the implementation of their human rights obligations, including those commitments arising from the first cycle of the Universal Period Review.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said that Morocco was pleased to see the cooperation between the Maldives and the Universal Periodic Review mechanisms and encouraged the country to continue their cooperation with the international bodies responsible for human rights. Morocco took note of the progress made by the Government of the Maldives despite some difficulties and they noted with satisfaction the acceptance of the recommendations related to the fight against violence against women and for the equality of women. Finally Morocco encouraged the international community to support the Maldives in their efforts for their development.

AHMED IRFAN, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, urged the Government of the Maldives to maintain the Standing Committee for the Universal Periodic Review follow-up activities with time-bound and measureable implementation plans. The Asian Forum called on the Government to formulate a comprehensive national policy to protect the rights of migrant workers as well as victims of trafficking, which could allow for registration of undocumented migrants, establish a bureau to receive their complaints and ensure their access to justice for protection and redress. The Forum encouraged the Government to seek specific technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights with a view to implementing the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Role of Lawyers. The Maldivian Government had the responsibility to counter negative stereotypes of women and end its passivity in the face of those who misused religious ideologies to justify the abuse of women and children.

IRUTHISHAM ADAM, Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations Office of Geneva, thanked the delegations for their encouraging and supportive remarks. The Maldives had established a Universal Periodic Review Standing Committee which was asked to prepare the report on the recommendations and the implementation process. The Standing Committee would begin meeting after the conclusion of this Council and it would submit a mid-term review in the implementation process that would be posted on the Council’s website for the Universal Periodic Review.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the Maldives.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Andorra

LLUIS VIU TORRES, Permanent Representative of Andorra to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed the satisfaction of the Government of Andorra with the dialogue during the Universal Periodic Review process. Since 1993, Andorra had made great efforts to adopt 30 international instruments both belonging to the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Andorra attached great importance to human rights and the rights of its citizens. The recent events demonstrated the importance and key role of human rights in today’s societies. Andorra noted that the United Nations members had unequal economic and human resources and States were not called to face the same challenges. For example, Andorra had been enjoying democratic order for six centuries and did not have to face conflict, war, dictatorship or revolution. Andorra was of the view that the specificities of each country needed to be taken into account in their Universal Periodic Review process. The ascension to new conventions was not easy for Andorra which had modest means, both financial and human. Andorra had accepted 24 out of the 56 recommendations and their acceptance attested to the progress made in the field of human rights. Corporal punishment of minors was now punishable by law and a number of international conventions had been adopted through which the country could account on its human rights situation in an impartial manner. The Government of Andorra decided to further examine 30 recommendations, due to the complexity of their implementation in the context of Andorra.

Among the 30 recommendations that could eventually be adopted, Andorra mentioned the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, and ratification of the Optional Protocol on Transnational Organised Crime to punish those engaged in human trafficking, and the Convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of children. Also, Andorra could review several laws to harmonise their provisions with international instruments, such as the marriage law. Furthermore, Andorra was aware of the need to adopt the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its Optional Protocols; however to date it was difficult for Andorra to make a firm commitment in this regard. Andorra would consider the amendment of its Criminal Law to remove the reference to abortion in cases when the pregnancy was the result of rape. In closing, Andorra said that the addendum included in the final report sent to the Committee provided additional explanations as to why Andorra could not commit to accepting other recommendations.

MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) said Algeria congratulated warmly the delegation of Andorra and thanked them for the answers on the recommendations they received and appreciated the fact that they accepted immediately two recommendations. Algeria invited Andorra to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Algeria was satisfied of the progress made by Andorra in the fight against all forms of discrimination, and on the promotion of child rights and education. They encouraged the authorities of Andorra to continue in this path.

LLUIS VIU TORRES, Permanent Representative of Andorra to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his closing remarks expressed the wish that the Universal Periodic Review live on and enable them to improve the human rights situation in countries. The improvement of the human rights situation could be judged by the way in which citizens were treated, as Gandhi said. Mr. Viu thanked the troika for their support and outstanding cooperation, the Secretariat and the countries that had expressed an interest in the situation of human rights of Andorra.

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

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