Human Rights Council
MORNING 16 March 2012
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Lithuania, Uganda and Timor-Leste.
Arturas Gailiunas, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Lithuania received a total of 119 recommendations and accepted an absolute majority of them. A number of recommendations addressed the need to strengthen the protection of persons belonging to vulnerable groups as defined by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and age. The recommendations the Government were not able to support were largely due to either limited resources or an on-going debate on the way in which certain rights should be implemented particularly where competing human rights based claims were identified.
In the discussion on Lithuania, speakers applauded the commitment of the Government of Lithuania to reinforce human rights institutions, protect human rights, and achieve gender equality and combat violence against women. Speakers encouraged Lithuania to improve conditions in prisons and to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Some speakers regretted the manifestations of racism and ethnic hatred by neo-Nazis in the country.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Lithuania.
The Russian Federation, Republic of Moldova, Estonia, Algeria and Iran took the floor. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Amnesty International, COC Netherlands, and Action Canada for People and Development.
Maurice Peter Kagimu Kiwanuka, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that during its Universal Periodic Review Uganda had received 171 recommendations and had immediately accepted 110; 42 recommendations were deferred for further consideration while 19 were rejected because they did not enjoy the support of domestic stakeholders. With regard to abolition of the death penalty or formally declaring a de-facto moratorium, Uganda said that the country-wide consultative process had not supported this recommendation; however there had been no enforcement of the death penalty since the turn of the century.
In the discussion on Uganda, speakers said the Government had put a priority on the development of infrastructure to achieve a better standard of living for its people and encouraged the country to continue to cooperate with all human rights mechanisms. Speakers noted that Uganda had demonstrated a spirit of openness in undertaking a number of voluntary commitments.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Uganda.
Cuba, Chad, Morocco, Botswana, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania and the United Nations Children’s Fund took the floor. Human Rights Watch, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, Canadian HIV/AIDS Network, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, World Vision International, Save the Children International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and United Nations Watch also took the floor.
Joaquim de Fonseca, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Timor-Leste had accepted 88 out of 125 recommendations and rejected one recommendation. After careful deliberation, the Council of Ministers decided to accept most of the 36 remaining recommendations. Timor-Leste accepted all recommendations related to ratification of international human rights treaties and would shortly ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government continued to make all efforts to comply with it obligations to submit reports on the implementation of the human rights treaties to which it was a party and welcomed efforts to simplify the mechanisms for treaty reporting to lighten the burden on States parties.
In the discussion on Timor-Leste, speakers noted that despite facing resource and capacity constraints, Timor-Leste had accepted a large number of recommendations and had put in place institutions to strengthen human rights. Speakers said the Government had adopted recommendations to strengthen the rule of law and good governance and to combat domestic violence and poverty, and the creation of an anti-corruption commission. Other speakers urged Timor-Leste to address the serious human rights violations that had occurred between 1975 and 1999.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Timor-Leste.
Indonesia, Cuba, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Morocco, Philippines, Monaco, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, Algeria, Romania, and Angola took the floor. The Human Rights Institution of Timor-Leste also took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Instituto Internazionale Maria Susiliatrice delle Salesiance di Don Bosco, Amnesty International, Save the Children International, and the Marist International Solidarity Foundation Onlus.
During its midday meeting, the Council will consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the Republic of Moldova, Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Lithuania
ARTURAS GAILIUNAS, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Lithuania had received a total of 119 recommendations and accepted an absolute majority of them. A number of recommendations addressed the need to strengthen the protection of persons belonging to vulnerable groups or persons in vulnerable situations. Those were recommendations to strengthen the protection of persons belonging to groups defined by the criteria of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and age. Promotion of diversity, tolerance and harmony, while at the same time fighting intolerance, featured as the gist of these recommendations. Another group covered the issue of the need to strengthen the domestic institutional system for the protection of human rights, ensuring even closer cooperation with civil society on human rights related issues. Certain recommendations indicated the need for specific actions by domestic institutions to ensure monitoring and continuing implementation of various specific governmental polices and strategies. Recommendations encouraged Lithuania to assume further international obligations under human rights treaties. Another recommendation was to strengthen support for human rights defenders and activists. The recommendations that Lithuania was not able to support were largely due to either limited resources or an on-going debate on the way in which certain rights should be implemented in a specific context, particularly where competing human rights based claims were identified.
Russian Federation welcomed the acceptance by Lithuania of recommendations related to strengthening mechanisms to combat discrimination and institutions for national minorities. It was regrettable that the only recommendation that Lithuania rejected was to stop glorifying the outcomes of World War II and nationalistic tendencies. The manifestations of racism and ethnic hatred by neo-Nazis in Lithuania were inacceptable and the Russian Federation called on this country to put a stop to this.
Republic of Moldova applauded the commitment of Lithuania to reinforce human rights institutions, protect human rights, achieve gender equality, and combat violence against women. The Republic of Moldova welcomed the progress made in human trafficking and the acceptance of recommendations made by the Government, especially those on education of society against discrimination and to mitigate and prevent violence against women.
Estonia noted the progress made in the promotion and protection of human rights in Lithuania and the establishment of new human rights institutions, adoption of new laws and training of professionals to introduce a functioning human rights system and human rights culture in the country. Progress had also been made in the area of gender equality, in combating violence against women and in promoting social integration of persons with disabilities.
Algeria said the economic crisis in Europe was not without consequences which affected fulfilling the realisation of human rights. Algeria encouraged Lithuania to combat unemployment in the country. Algeria noted that Lithuania had accepted recommendations related to appropriate measures for ensuring equality between men and women in the labour market and in larger public life and that these were already being implemented. Algeria encouraged Lithuania to improve the conditions in prisons. Algeria would have liked to see Lithuania accept the recommendation to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
Iran hoped a number of recommendations, including those made by Iran, were implemented by the Government of Lithuania. Iran remained concerned about a number of human rights violations in the country, including: xenophobic acts, practices of racial segregation, discrimination against the Roma community, racist violence, hate speech against non-European minorities and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. Prisons conditions were of particular concern, due to overcrowded cells and misbehaviour among prison personnel.
COC Netherlands thanked Lithuania for accepting recommendations to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and assembly for all and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Amnesty International appealed to Lithuania to repeal current discriminatory legislation to ensure meaningful implementation of accepted recommendations to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons against discrimination. Lithuania should immediately reopen the criminal investigation into its involvement in the United States-led rendition and secret detention programme and into alleged human rights violations committed in the secret Central Intelligence Agency detention facilities between 2002 and 2006.
Action Canada for People and Development recognized the commitment of Lithuania to human rights and the acceptance of recommendations related to sexual and reproductive rights. However, sexuality education programmes in Lithuania were still not relevant to the needs of adolescents and were not evidence-based or informed by a human rights-based approach. Lithuania should integrate United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization guidance on sexuality education into a national programme.
ARTURAS GAILIUNAS, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated very clearly that Lithuanian authorities would never condone Nazism or its ideology. As a democratic country based on the rule of law, Lithuania guaranteed freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of assembly and freedom of association and applied all the necessary measures to combat racism, intolerance and xenophobia in accordance with international standards. Any violent act would be prosecuted according to the law. As was stated, Lithuania considered that remarks on history presented at the Council went beyond established facts and the extent of the Universal Periodic Review. Lithuania never attempted to revise history and believed that honest debate would facilitate reconciliation based on truth and understanding.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Lithuania.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Uganda
MAURICE PETER KAGIMU KIWANUKA, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Office at Geneva said that during its Universal Periodic Review Uganda had received 171 recommendations. The Government had immediately accepted 110, which had been in accordance with the identified national priorities and was already implementing the vast majority of them. Uganda had deferred 42 recommendations for further consideration and had rejected 19 which did not enjoy the support of domestic stakeholders and had not been a part of agreed human rights standards. The 42 deferred recommendations were classified into 11 thematic issues, of which the Government accepted seven, partly accepted two and rejected two which contravened constitutional and other laws. With regard to abolition of the death penalty or formally declaring a de-facto moratorium, Uganda said that the country-wide consultative process had not supported this recommendation; however, the ruling of the Supreme Court stated that a death sentence that was not enforced within three years was automatically commuted to life imprisonment without remission. There had been no enforcement of the death penalty since the turn of the century. The recommendation on ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture was given highest consideration and Uganda said that it had in place a Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill of 2012 which incorporated important provisions of the Convention. Uganda had accepted to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the recommendations related to domestic relations. Uganda would further study the recommendation concerning enforced disappearances with a view to providing a remedy and would issue invitations to Special Procedures on a case by case basis. The Government of Uganda had also made voluntary pledges and commitments; it had established a standing inter-ministerial Committee and was in the process of formulating the National Action Plan and the roadmap.
Cuba was pleased that Uganda had accepted the recommendations on social and economic development and Uganda’s commitment to make progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Uganda also committed to developing a national health system to combat specific diseases. The Government had put a priority on the development of infrastructure for water to achieve a better standard of living for its people and encouraged the country to continue to cooperate with all human rights mechanisms.
Chad said Uganda had engaged in an open dialogue during its Universal Periodic Review demonstrated by its acceptance of most of the recommendations. Chad requested the international community to provide the technical assistance that Uganda required to implement the accepted recommendations.
Morocco was pleased with Uganda’s excellent cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review and encouraged Uganda to continue to fully cooperate with all human rights bodies. Morocco was pleased the Government was committed to the fight against poverty despite a lack of technical and financial capacity to implement these recommendations. Uganda had demonstrated a spirit of openness in undertaking a number of voluntary commitments.
Botswana welcomed the decision by Uganda to accept a significant number of recommendations. Uganda should be commended for its openness to dialogue and constructive cooperation during the review process. Botswana took note of the progressive and enviable measures already being taken by Uganda regarding both institutional building and legislative reform. Also encouraging was the decision of the Government to accept those recommendations geared at guaranteeing the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
United Nations Children’s Fund congratulated Uganda on its effort to reduce poverty and achieve equality of enrolment in primary school education. The United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the Government’s decision to permit girls who got pregnant during the school term to sit for their end-of-year exams and encouraged the Government to fully support the creation and implementation of a new policy on re-entry of pregnant girls and child mothers into school. The Government should concentrate efforts to ensure conditions for the Global Partnership for Education Grant were met to attain Education for All goals.
Algeria said the report demonstrated the willingness of the Government of Uganda to improve standards of living and enjoyment of all human rights. Algeria noted that Uganda had accepted recommendations related to developing a participatory framework for the national development plan, improving conditions of life for persons with disabilities, reducing the problem of the high costs of justice, and consolidating inter-ethnic harmony. Uganda faced objective constraints, in terms of financial and human resources, in its pursuit of promoting human rights. Algeria called for adequate assistance to be provided to the country.
Kenya noted the important measures Uganda had initiated to promote and protect the human rights of all. Uganda had ratified the core human rights instruments and had undertaken steps to domesticate many of them. Kenya also noted the strengthening of human rights infrastructure and establishment of the A status human rights commission.
Tanzania was pleased to see that Uganda had accepted a recommendation made by Tanzania to ensure the effective implementation of the proposed National Action Plan for the issues raised in the national report and in Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Tanzania noted the voluntary commitments by Uganda to mainstream human rights into all aspects of governance.
Human Rights Watch said Uganda should urgently address concerns related to ongoing impunity, investigate the use of excessive force and incidents of torture by security forces, and prosecute and punish the perpetrators as required by the Constitution. The Government should also take steps to ensure that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was reintroduced to Parliament for debate did not pass.
Uganda Human Rights Commission commended the consultative and encompassing approach of the Government of Uganda during the Universal Periodic Review process. Provisions in the Anti-Homosexuality bill were unnecessary and violated international human rights legislation and should be replaced by a strengthening of existing legislation. The police force should ensure the protection of human rights during and after political rallies in order to promote and protect freedom of assembly. Uganda should implement a national action plan on human rights which would include all accepted recommendations.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Network said it was concerned about the rejection of recommendations regarding the rights and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons by Uganda. The Government had rejected recommendations that would address the root causes of violations based on sexual orientation, specifically the continued existence of criminal laws and inflammatory homophobic and transphobic rhetoric by Government officials. The international community must challenge the Ugandan Parliament on the anti human rights nature of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
International Commission of Jurists said that arbitrary arrests and harassment of political opponents and human rights defenders continued to pose a threat to the rule of law and respect for human rights in Uganda. Military courts were used to try civilians in contravention of international standards and the domestic constitution. In the Anti-Homosexuality Bill the punishment for aggravated homosexuality was death; the Government should ensure that this Bill would not be adopted into law.
International Federation for Human Rights, in a joint statement, regretted that the death penalty still remained to be eradicated. The Government of Uganda also had yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. They remained worried about freedom of speech and assembly and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
World Vision International, in a joint statement, urged the Government to improve newborn and child mortality rates. There were continuing barriers to access to health care. Rural areas were grossly underserved. The Government should implement the existing health policy and legal framework for system strengthening.
Save the Children International regretted the underfunding of implementation mechanisms for the realization of children’s rights. They called on the Government to prioritize addressing newborn and child mortality, enforce child labour and trafficking laws and amend the laws to include protection from domestic work.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme welcomed the efforts on gender equality in Uganda and the recent laws adopted to combat domestic violence. In spite of the fact that Uganda had ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it still had not introduced it into its domestic legislation. Uganda should modify its criminal code to remove discrimination based on sexual orientation.
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that Uganda needed to reconsider its position on not extending invitations to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and on the right to peaceful assembly and association. The Government should fully domesticate international instruments it had ratified and ensure that proposed legislation was compliant with international human rights standards. On the death penalty, CIVICUS said that the right to life was not a matter of an opinion poll and it was the State’s duty to protect this right regardless of public opinion.
United Nations Watch said Uganda should fully guarantee freedom of assembly and ease administrative burden for non-governmental organizations that required renewal of registration on an annual basis. Uganda should not approve the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was shocking and discriminatory and would impose criminal penalties and even the death penalty on the basis of sexual orientation.
MAURICE PETER KAGIMU KIWANUKA, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks, thanked all Member States, United Nations human rights bodies and civil society organizations that had provided comments today. The Government would incorporate all comments and concerns into its interim status report.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Timor-Leste
JOAQUIM DE FONSECA, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said it accepted 88 out of 125 recommendations and rejected one recommendation. After careful deliberation, the Council of Ministers decided to accept most of the 36 remaining recommendations. Timor-Leste accepted all recommendations related to ratification of international human rights treaties. The Government was focused on institutional strengthening and human resources development and would shortly ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was considering other conventions. All efforts were being made to bring existing national legislation into line with international human rights standards. A draft law on trafficking in persons had been submitted to the Council of Ministers for deliberation. The draft law on the execution of penal sanctions was also in the pipeline and sought to regulate the implementation of Presidential pardons. A priority for the Government was to strengthen the protection of the rights of the child by improving interagency coordination and the strategic implementation of multi-disciplinary actions. There were no laws that were intended to discriminate on the basis of gender and the existing inequalities between women and men had not resulted from the application of laws. Timor-Leste continued to make all efforts to comply with it obligations to submit reports on the implementation of the human rights treaties to which it was a party and welcomed efforts to simplify the mechanisms for treaty reporting to lighten the burden on States parties. The entire justice system needed further strengthening to deliver justice in a fair and timely manner. Measures had been taken to strengthen the investigation of the capacity of the Prosecutor’s Office. Concerning violence against members of minority groups, any attempt to depict conflicts related to claims of land ownership as religious conflicts represented a lack of knowledge of the real situation or a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts. The Government had no specific plan designated to implement the accepted recommendations although programmes which met the objectives of the recommendations could be found in the National Strategic Development Plan 2011-2013.
Indonesia was heartened by the large number of recommendations accepted by Timor-Leste which showed its conviction that it benefited from the Universal Periodic Review process. Indonesia looked forward to moving forward on the recommendations of the Commission on Truth and Friendship with Timor-Leste. Indonesia, as a neighbour, also looked forward to further cooperation on human rights based on mutual respect and friendship.
Cuba noted that during the twelfth session of the Universal Periodic Review, Timor-Leste had been going through very special circumstances, most of which were due to the unfair economic order. Even so, Timor-Leste had made significant advances, particularly in the area of health. Cuba was satisfied to have contributed in a modest way to these achievements, with the presence of medical staff and the welcoming of many medical students from Timor-Leste in Cuba.
Malaysia was pleased to note that despite facing resource and capacity constraints, Timor-Leste had accepted a large number of recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review report. Malaysia noted with satisfaction that Timor-Leste had already launched a process to implement the recommendations. Malaysia also noted with encouragement the putting in place of institutions to strengthen human rights and the willingness of Timor-Leste to engage with the international human rights mechanisms.
Viet Nam said Timor-Leste was a young nation and despite many challenges and hardships had made tireless efforts and obtained many achievements in the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for its people. Viet Nam noted the Government had adopted recommendations to strengthen the state of the law and good governance, promote the right to education and health care as well as to integrate further into regional and international mechanisms on human rights.
Morocco said the Government of Timor-Leste had made remarkable progress on the promotion of human rights since its independence. In less than ten years, sound institutional structures and legislation had been put in place. Morocco was pleased that the Government was committed to ratifying new conventions in line with an increase in its capacity. Morocco commended Timor-Leste for adopting recommendations to reduce poverty and provide public services to all.
Philippines said that Timor-Leste’s ratification of seven human rights treaties since 2003 was a clear demonstration of its commitment to human rights. Improving the legislature and taking into account pertinent human rights legislation were also priorities. The Philippines commended the measures undertaken to address challenges in the protection of the human rights of women and children and encouraged the Council to adopt the report of Timor-Leste.
Monaco congratulated Timor-Leste for accepting the recommendations and strengthening the institutions to encourage respect for the rule of law and the promotion of human rights. Monaco welcomed the country’s ratification of seven human rights instruments and called on Timor-Leste to finalise the law on adoption. Monaco commended the Government for its work for socio-economic development and encouraged it to continue to pursue its efforts to consolidate peace, democracy and the rule of law.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic thanked Timor-Leste for the comprehensive presentation on its efforts to promote and protect human rights. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was pleased to see that Timor Leste, as a young democracy, had accepted a large number of recommendations and had already made efforts to implement those recommendations. They hoped that the Universal Periodic Review of Timor-Leste would be adopted.
Thailand commended Timor-Leste’s commitment to engage constructively with the Universal Periodic Review process, despite facing many challenges, particularly in terms of resources and capacity. Thailand believed that Timor-Leste could translate these commitments into practice and encouraged the international community to assist Timor-Leste in its endeavour to implement the recommendations. As a country from the region, Thailand stood ready to support Timor-Leste in this regard.
Algeria said that despite the constraints facing the young State of Timor-Leste, it had made good progress, including on the human development index. Algeria was pleased that its recommendations on combating unemployment and poverty, ending sexual exploitation and improving the situation of rural women had been accepted.
Romania encouraged Timor-Leste to make every effort to implement the many recommendations it had accepted, and was convinced that the upcoming Presidential elections would further the promotion and protection of human rights in the country according to international standards.
Angola was very satisfied by Timor-Leste’s acceptance of 42 recommendations, in particular on building national democratic and judicial institutions, actions to combat domestic violence and poverty, and creation of an anti-corruption commission. Angola appealed to the international community to support Timor-Leste, which was emerging from a very long crisis, in its reform efforts.
Human Rights Institution of Timor-Leste said a total of 125 recommendations were put forward to the Government concerning issues that should be urgently tackled. The State faced enormous challenges related to a young nation that had lived for so many years under occupation by foreign forces. Timor-Leste should address the serious human rights violations that had occurred between 1975 and 1999. Contrary to the State’s position that social peace would be put at risk by looking into this issue, reconciliation, national unity and lasting peace could not exist without truth, justice and the rule of law.
Instituto Internazionale Maria Susiliatrice delle Salesiance di Don Bosco said major efforts were required to guarantee children’s rights in addressing different problems in the accessibility, availability and acceptability of education. The Government should guarantee a free, compulsory and quality education to all without discrimination and more measures should be taken to ensure that every child was protected from all forms of physical, sexual and mental abuse or exploitation.
Amnesty International said that the Government had not addressed the crimes committed against human rights that occurred from past violations. Not a single person had been prosecuted for a single human rights violation that had occurred during Indonesia’s occupation and over 300 individuals had fled to Indonesia and continued to evade justice. The international community should do much more to ensure that justice would be upheld.
Save the Children International called on the Government of Timor-Leste to implement urgent and concrete policies to improve the quality of the school feeding programme and to urgently pass legislation to establish a truly independent and fully resourced National Child Rights Commission.
Marist International Solidarity Foundation Onlus welcomed the Government’s assurance to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, acknowledged the constructive participation of Timor Leste in the process, and appreciated the commitment of the Government, despite their challenges as a new nation.
JOAQUIM DE FONSECA, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Timor-Leste looked forward to successfully implementing the accepted recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Timor-Leste.
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