Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Mali, Botswana and the Bahamas

MIDDAY

6 June 2013

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting today adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Mali, Botswana and the Bahamas.

Malick Coulibaly, Minister of Justice of Mali, said Mali accepted 112 of 125 recommendations. Mali had rejected recommendations on the abolition of the death penalty because it had had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since the 1980s. Furthermore, the transitional nature of the current Government made ratification of international conventions, or national action towards their abolition undesirable at this time. Recommendations on gender equality norms were rejected on the grounds of maintaining social cohesion. No journalists had disappeared in Mali, so the recommendation relating to that was rejected. Similarly, as no tribal wars and violence against groups based on discrimination existed in Mali, the recommendations concerning those were also rejected.

In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Mali’s cooperation and commitment in the Universal Periodic Review process and its acceptance of 112 recommendations out of 125 made at the recent review. Mali’s efforts to eliminate poverty, protect women’s and children’s rights and improve healthcare were commended. However, some speakers expressed concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict in Mali, with particular regard to food insecurity, child soldiers and enforced disappearances. Many delegations welcomed Mali’s commitment to organize free and transparent Presidential elections next month and emphasized the need for international support to help establish democracy, stability and peace in Mali.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Mali.

Speaking on Mali were Morocco, Algeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Gabon, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Viet Nam and Romania. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Save the Children International, Amnesty International, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, and Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme.

Dikgakgamatso N. Seretse, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security of Botswana, said the Universal Periodic Review had been an opportunity for the Government of Botswana to take stock of the challenges the country still faced in the full realization of human rights of all people. A total of 175 recommendations were received, of which 93 were accepted and 39 did not obtain its support. Forty-three recommendations were deferred for further consultations. Botswana accepted the recommendations that it supported in spirit and considered practicable, but recommendations that required or suggested codification of its customary laws and processes had not enjoyed its support, as even if they were codified as suggested, that codification would be undesirable because of Botswana’s diverse cultures and traditions.

In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed Botswana’s cooperation with and commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process and its acceptance of 93 recommendations out of 175 made at the recent review. Campaigns to combat violence against women and efforts to ensure respect of the rights of children, persons with disabilities and minority groups were commended in the ensuing discussion as were Botswana’s engagement with civil society. However, some speakers expressed concerns about its rejection of the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and of recommendations to decriminalise same sex sexual relations between consenting adults.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Botswana.

Speaking on Botswana were Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, Tanzania, United States, Viet Nam, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Gabon, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Lesbian and Gay Association, Action Canada for Population and Development, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace and Minority Rights Group.

Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Bahamas, said the Bahamas was focusing on its development as an independent State and on the quality of life of its citizens and visitors. She highlighted constitutional reform, participation of civil society in governance, and efforts to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, to eradicate gender discrimination and to end domestic violence. Out of the 98 recommendations received the Bahamas had accepted or given close consideration to 70 per cent of them. The recommendation on the abolition of the death penalty, which was recognized as a lawful method of punishment for murder and treason, had not been accepted. There was no consensus on imposing a moratorium on executions, and no executions had taken place in the Bahamas for over a decade. Strict procedures were in place to ensure that corporal punishment in school was only used as a last resort and for corrective purposes only, while the abuse of children was punishable by law. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was not accepted and the laws protected homosexuality.

In the ensuing discussion speakers welcomed the Bahamas’ cooperation and commitment in the Universal Periodic Review process and its acceptance of recommendations. Speakers commended the Bahamas for its progress in strengthening women’s rights and its work towards constitutional reform as well as its acceptance of the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution. However, several speakers deeply regretted that the Bahamas had rejected recommendations from 12 States concerning the death penalty, as well as the rejection of the recommendation to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Speaking on the Bahamas were Ecuador, Jamaica, Malaysia, Morocco, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Algeria. Amnesty International also took the floor.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Bahamas.

The Human Rights Council during its afternoon meeting will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi, Luxembourg and Barbados.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Mali


MALICK COULIBALY, Minister of Justice of Mali, said that the Universal Periodic Review was a mechanism “full of promise” and Mali enthusiastically endorsed it; indeed this was its second experience of coming before the Universal Periodic Review. The giving and receiving of recommendations under the Universal Periodic Review testified to frank cooperation between States. Mali received 125 recommendations of which 112 were accepted. The recommendations that were rejected mainly concerned the abolition of the death penalty. However, Mali had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place since the 1980s. Ratification of further international conventions or national action toward abolishing the death penalty was undesirable at this time due to the transitional nature of the government, although draft legislation was being prepared.

Rejected recommendations also concerned the modification of the Family Code of Mali with regard to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and other gender equality norms; these matters were considered to be societal reforms which were rejected on the grounds of maintaining social cohesion. The Government could not commit itself to a recommendation about the disappearance of journalists in Mali because no journalists had disappeared in Mali. Recommendations concerning tribal wars and violence against groups based on discrimination could not be adopted by Mali because tribal wars and violence against groups based on discrimination simply did not exist in Mali.

Morocco welcomed the exemplary cooperation of Mali with the Universal Periodic Review process. It supported Mali’s commitment to re-establish a political and legislative environment that was favourable to human rights and the rule of law. Morocco called on the international community to show the most active support to Mali.

Algeria supported the efforts Mali was making and appreciated the acceptance of two recommendations it had put forward, including one in favour of continuing efforts to hold transparent elections, involving all components of society. The international community should provide the technical assistance and capacity building that Mali required.

Togo supported Mali’s support for the universal values of human rights including the ratification of regional and international instruments for the promotion and protection of human rights. However it noted with regret that the crisis situation in Mali had had a negative impact on the consolidation of achievements made.

Burkina Faso noted Mali’s determination to cooperate with the Universal Periodic Review despite its very difficult domestic situation. Burkino Faso encouraged Mali to continue its work in implementing the recommendations and supported adoption of the report.

China welcomed Mali’s efforts in eliminating poverty, protecting women’s and children’s rights and improving healthcare. Mali’s efforts to improve regional peace were noted, and China supported United Nations Security Council resolutions on Mali. China hoped the international community would continue to support the restoring of peace and stability in Mali.

Côte d’Ivoire said despite the exceptional situation in Mali it urged the Government to make the promotion and protection of human rights a priority and a pillar for national reconciliation. It congratulated the Government of Mali’s determination to hold democratic elections.

Cuba appreciated Mali’s spirit of compromise in the Universal Periodic Review process. Cuba thanked Mali for accepting the recommendation it had made to continue applying the programmes and projects for socio-economic development, particularly regarding poverty.

Gabon recognised the efforts made by Mali with a view to strengthening the promotion of women’s rights, including the rights of girls in the area of education and health. Gabon called on the international community to support Mali in its efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Kuwait appreciated the efforts made by Mali and commended the Government for its adoption of constitutional and legislative provisions with regards to human rights in addition to raising the awareness of society in the fields of peace, democracy and citizenship. Kuwait recommended the adoption of Mali’s report.

Libya said despite the very difficult security and humanitarian situation in Mali, the Government had upheld its human rights commitments under the Universal Periodic Review. Libya hoped Mali would soon find a peaceful resolution to the conflict and ensure that all groups in Mali had equal footing.

Mauritania welcomed Mali’s endorsement of 112 out of 125 recommendations, the implementation of which would undoubtedly strengthen the rule of law in Mali. Mauritania welcomed Mali’s commitment to organize free and transparent Presidential elections and emphasized the need for international support to help establish democracy, stability and peace in Mali.

Viet Nam welcomed Mali’s commitment to taking concrete measures to promote, protect and uphold human rights and establish the rule of law. It welcomed Mali’s adoption of 112 recommendations and recommended the adoption of the report.

Romania appreciated that Mali had accepted a large number of recommendations, and hoped the authorities would be in a position to apply them once the situation in Mali was stabilized. The upcoming elections should be a first step to establish the rule of law and guarantee the protection of the human rights of citizens.

Save the Children International welcomed the efforts made by Mali in the area of children’s rights. It called upon the Government to double its efforts in addressing challenges in the area of child malnutrition, and recommended that a special part of the budget be set aside for children’s health.

Amnesty International said that it had documented extra judicial executions and enforced disappearances by the Malian army and welcomed investigations into some of these abuses. Information indicated that conditions in detention were dire. Amnesty International was concerned that child soldier recruitment was unaccounted for.

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that the humanitarian situation had become much worse in Mali and there was an on-going food crisis. It called for an end to be put to the war. A solution had to be found to ensure the re-establishment of peace and security, and an international investigation was needed to ensure accountability.

Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme welcomed the efforts deployed by the international community to assist Mali in recovering its territorial integrity. Its cooperation with the International Criminal Court had to materialise on the ground with measures that ensured that both civilians and soldiers responsible for violations of human rights were brought to justice.

MALICK COULIBALY, Minister of Justice of Mali, thanked all participants for their comments, observations and messages of support. Mali was a very old country, it went back centuries in times, long before the Bill of Rights. Mali had a thirteenth century charter which established, even then, a core of human rights. Today’s words were not just empty words. Responding specifically to the statement of Amnesty International, Minister Coulibaly said that Amnesty International had free access to all detention centres in Mali, including those taking in alleged terrorists, and Mali was committed to transparency. Furthermore, Mali did not agree with impunity at all and played its role as it should when it came to delivering justice.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Mali.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Botswana

DIKGAKGAMATSO N. SERETSE, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security of Botswana, said that the Universal Periodic Review was indeed a unique and effective tool that allowed for independent and objective review of the human rights situation around the world in a constructive, cooperative and equal manner. It had been an opportunity for the Government to take stock of the challenges that the country still faced in the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. Many of the challenges identified would undoubtedly form part of the Government’s priorities during the next four years. Botswana valued the role played by civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. A total of 175 recommendations were received, of which 93 were accepted and 39 did not obtain its support. Forty-three recommendations were deferred for further consultations. Since January, Botswana had started to make steady progress on the path to follow-up and implementation of the agreed recommendations. Botswana had already started the development of the national human rights strategy and action plan and to this effect it had held a national consultative workshop on the development of this plan in conjunction with and through active support of one of the main civil society organizations, Ditshwanelo.

The recommendations that were accepted were those that Botswana supported in spirit and considered practicable. Some of them had been implemented while others were currently being implemented. Recommendations that required or suggested codification of Botswana’s customary laws and processes had not enjoyed its support. Even if they were codified as suggested, Botswana was of diverse cultures and tradition, and codification would be undesirable. Botswana reiterated that it took all recommendations made seriously and accepted that the review process was meant to improve the human rights standards of its people. Where practicable, Botswana would continue to reflect on some of the recommendations that had not enjoyed her support.

Sri Lanka recognized the measures taken by Botswana in promoting and protecting human rights, despite the challenges it faced. Sri Lanka wished Botswana well in the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted.

Sudan welcomed the cooperation of Botswana with the Universal Periodic Review process and emphasized the need to focus on guaranteeing equal rights, including the right of education for women, as well as the rights of all stakeholders.

Togo welcomed the Government’s campaigns to combat violence against women and its efforts to ensure respect for the rights of children, persons with disabilities and minority groups. Togo expressed disappointment over Botswana’s rejection of the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and invited Botswana to start a public awareness-raising debate in the country on the issue.

Tanzania commended Botswana’s achievements in the field of human rights; its programme for remote areas and communities in order to promote their participation in the development process was especially commendable. Tanzania also commended Botswana’s work in human rights training for members of the civil and police services.

United States welcomed in particular the Government of Botswana’s renewed willingness to engage with civil society, which was an excellent opportunity to progress in many important areas, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons’ issues. Botswana was one of the most enduring democracies in Africa and the United States look forward to working with it in the field of human rights.

Viet Nam welcomed the efforts made by Botswana, which were commendable given other priorities and constraints in resources. However more efforts were needed. To support Botswana, Viet Nam recommended that the Council adopt the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Botswana.

Algeria said that it had followed with great interest efforts made by Botswana in reforms to improve policies and programmes that aimed to promote and protect all human rights. Algeria called on the international community to support Botswana by providing the technical assistance that had been requested.

Benin noted with satisfaction efforts made by Botswana to implement the recommendations. The Government was encouraged to continue its efforts, particularly in the area of customary law, and Benin welcomed the adoption of the report.

Burkina Faso encouraged Botswana to spare no effort to implement the recommendations that it had accepted. Burkina Faso recommended the adoption of Botswana’s Universal Periodic Review outcome.

Côte d’Ivoire said that during the Universal Periodic Review the delegation had noted with satisfaction Botswana’s initiatives in favour of the full enjoyment of human rights in the country. Botswana was encouraged to request of the international community all of technical assistance required to implement its international obligations.

Cuba highly commended Botswana’s efforts to guarantee the human rights of children, women, minorities and people living with disabilities, as well as its actions to improve healthcare coverage and reduce poverty levels.

Gabon welcomed Botswana’s efforts to protect vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, persons with disabilities and young girls. Gabon encouraged Botswana to continue its efforts to ensure free education, both at primary and at secondary level.

Libya welcomed efforts to improve social and economic development for citizens in Botswana, to give greater importance to the rights of women and children, and to ensure ratification of a large number of human rights conventions. The adoption of a new law on children and the creation of a National Council for Children were also commended.

Mauritania said Botswana rejected only 39 out of a total 179 recommendations and the debates held around its Universal Periodic Review showed Botswana’s firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Morocco said Botswana was a democratic country that respected the rule of law, and that during its time as a Human Rights Council Member State it had always shown its attachment to human rights principles, including the rights of children, women and persons with disabilities.

International Lesbian and Gay Association acknowledged the steps taken by the Government to engage with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. However, it regretted that the Government of Botswana had rejected recommendations to decriminalise same sex sexual relations between consenting adults.

Action Canada for Population and Development said that transgender persons were faced with challenges in obtaining documents that reflected their gender identity. It deeply regretted the Government’s rejection of the recommendation on sexual and gender identity. It called on the Government to recognise the right to bodily autonomy for intersex persons.

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative welcomed Botswana’s acceptance of recommendations to establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles, and its consideration of ratifying various human rights treaties. It was dismayed by the rejection of the recommendation to decriminalize same sex sexual relations between consenting adults.

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation regretted the rejection of the deferred recommendation to ensure that the bodies of executed persons were returned for burial. It also regretted the rejection of the recommendation for the reform of customary law to eliminate restrictions on women’s access to property.

World Association for the School as an instrument of peace applauded the Government’s effort to provide women with more access to education. The decision to allow pregnant girls to continue education contributed to this. The Government had yet to provide legislation on marital rape. It was confident that improvements could be made.

Minority Rights Group welcomed Botswana’s commitment to focus on the situation of the San people and their rights. In keeping with this commitment, it sought insurance from Botswana that recent media reports about the evictions of San from Ranyane in order to make way for a wildlife corridor were incorrect.

DIKGAKGAMATSO N SERETSE, Minster of Defence, Justice and Security of Botswana, said the promotion and protection of human rights was both an obligation and a challenge for all countries. Therefore Botswana continued to appeal for assistance – technical and financial – including in the context of its ongoing efforts to put together a comprehensive national action plan on human rights as well as the establishment of a national human rights institution. Mr. Seretse then directly answered statements made today on the forcible removal of people from Ranyane settlement, saying that the Government was not forcibly removing people from there; only people who volunteered to relocate were moved, no person who did not want to leave the settlement was made to do so. Regarding the ‘Basarwa’ people, Mr. Seretse said that many reports incorrectly referred to them as ‘Bushmen’, which was a derogatory term. Botswana appealed to all people to address those people by the correct term, which was ‘Basarwa’. In conclusion, Botswana looked forward to working with its partners in civil society as well as with the international community at large in the implementation of all its accepted recommendations.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of the Bahamas

ALLYSON MAYNARD-GIBSON, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Bahamas, said the Bahamas was focusing on its development as an independent State and on the quality of life of its citizens and visitors. A Constitutional Commission had been appointed to review the constitution and make recommendations for constitutional reform, taking into account the need to strengthen the fundamental rights of the individual in accordance with the relevant international human rights instruments. There had also been positive collateral benefits, such as institutionalizing the participation of civil society in governance, enhancing the collection and analysis of data for the purpose of national development, and monitoring the operation and efficacy of laws. The Bahamas saw the Universal Periodic Review as a useful and democratic process and had established a national Universal Periodic Review Working Group to oversee the effective implementation of the recommendations received. Out of the 98 recommendations received, the Bahamas had accepted or given close consideration to 70 per cent of them.

Efforts were being made to improve the lives of individuals, said Ms. Maynard-Gibson, who highlighted in particular the Disabilities Act, expected to come into effect soon. The Bahamas was constructing a purpose-built facility to house children and adults with disabilities, so that children could maximize their potential to contribute to society and engage in sporting and cultural pursuits. The eradication of discrimination was a slow process. Emphasis was being placed on education and awareness raising, which could bring about attitudinal changes in society. The Bahamas was taking measures to combat gender discrimination, which involved amendments to the constitution, and was also raising awareness about existing mechanisms to help victims of domestic violence seek redress. Concerning the recommendations which had not been accepted, the Bahamas said that the imposition of the death penalty was recognized as a lawful method of punishment for murder and treason. There was no consensus on imposing a moratorium on executions, but no executions had taken place for over a decade. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was not accepted and the laws protected homosexuality. Owing to its limited resources the Bahamas was not in a position to accede to all the Conventions which dealt with issues relating to migrants, but nevertheless it was doing everything it could to ensure that its policies were in line with international norms.

Ecuador said it was pleased to hear that the Bahamas planned to raise the criminal age of responsibility for girls and boys but regretted that the recommendation on the abolition of the death penalty had not been accepted.

Jamaica welcomed the acceptance of the recommendations by the Bahamas, a sister Caribbean community country, including those on strengthening women’s rights. Jamaica encouraged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Member States to extend support and assistance to the Bahamas in implementing their recommendations.

Malaysia particularly commended the Bahamas on strengthening its institutional and legal framework on human rights norms as well as its constitutional review. It also commended the acceptance of the recommendation to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Morocco commended the significant number of recommendations accepted by the Bahamas and encouraged its efforts to review and harmonize national legislation with the obligations stemming from international agreements to which it had acceded.

Venezuela highlighted that the Bahamas had the second highest human development index in the Caribbean region, which was the fruit of true social development for its people. It also emphasized the real significance of the reactivation of the Commission on Constitutional Reform, which would tackle issues including discrimination and gender identity for the citizens of the Bahamas.

Viet Nam said the Bahamas had acted in an open and responsive manner during the Universal Periodic Review process, and congratulated it for accepting a high proportion of the recommendations.

Algeria noted with appreciation the acceptance by the Bahamas of both its recommendations and its willingness to implement other recommendations, and commended its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Amnesty International welcomed the Bahamas’ commitment to engage with the Council but expressed its disappointment that the Bahamas had not accepted a recommendation to ratify the Convention on Migrant Workers. Amnesty International deeply regretted that the Bahamas had rejected recommendations from 12 States concerning the death penalty.

ALLYSON MAYNARD-GIBSON, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Bahamas, in concluding remarks thanked the Council for their support and recommendations and praised the spirit of unity and fairness which had been present throughout the whole process. The Bahamas was committed to implementing the accepted recommendations and thanked the Council in advance for the technical assistance and cooperation which it would be receiving in that respect.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of the Bahamas.
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