Human Rights Council
20 September 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh and Azerbaijan.
Abdul Hannan, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said it was encouraging to see that significant strides being made in Bangladesh had been duly recognized by the international community. Bangladesh received 196 recommendations out of which 164 were accepted. Actions had already been initiated to implement some of these recommendations. Bangladesh could not accept those recommendations which conflicted with the constitutional and legal provisions or deeply rooted socio-cultural values of the country.
In the discussion on Bangladesh, speakers praised the efforts undertaken by Bangladesh to engage in the Universal Periodic Review and make significant legislative reforms in the pursuit of human rights. Speakers said this was particularly welcome given the economic and climate-change challenges faced by Bangladesh. Measures pledged to improve the political situation and that of women were welcomed. Speakers said that the right to free expression had suffered a recent set back with the introduction of a new information law, and aspects of the war crimes tribunals held in Bangladesh this year were said by some to be a cause for concern.
Speaking in the discussion were Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Palestine.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Jubilee Campaign, Human Rights Watch, Action Canada for Population and Development, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, International Lesbian and Gay Association, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Save the Children International, African Technology Development Link and Amnesty International.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh.
Khalaf Khalafov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that 158 recommendations had been fully or partially adopted by Azerbaijan out of the 162 recommendations received. The Government would make sure that the recommendations accepted would be implemented. The Government of Azerbaijan did not accept four recommendations out of 162 and its position had been expressed in the written document submitted to the Council. These recommendations reflected the aggressive policy of Armenia that had been pursuing an ethnic cleansing policy against Azerbaijanis since 1988. The occupation by Armenia of 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory was the main problem of Azerbaijan in the field of human rights.
In the discussion on Azerbaijan, speakers welcomed progress made by Azerbaijan in promoting and protecting human rights and appreciated its positive response to recommendations made. Points of satisfaction from speakers included Azerbaijan’s commitment to improve social protection for migrants and protect the rights of children, particularly its work to eradicate marriages involving children. Other speakers noted that Azerbaijan was not doing enough to tackle corruption and expressed concern that freedom of expression was threatened as the Government restricted opposition voices in the run up to a presidential election in October.
Speaking in the discussion were China, the Council of Europe, Cuba, Djibouti, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, United Nations Children's Fund, United Arab Emirates, Armenia and the United States on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Human Rights House Foundation; Human Rights Watch; Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, Action Canada for Population and Development; Amnesty International; Reporters without Borders; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; CIVICUS; and United Schools International.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan.
The Human Rights Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 p.m. to consider the outcome reports of the Universal Periodic Review of the Russian Federation, Cameroon and Cuba.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh
ABDUL HANNAN, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, appreciated the overwhelmingly positive review received during Bangladesh’s Universal Periodic Review. It was encouraging to see that the significant strides made in Bangladesh over the past four and a half years had been duly recognized by the international community. Bangladesh received 196 recommendations out of which 164 were accepted at the time of the adoption of the Working Group report. Extensive discussions with the national human rights commissions were held during the consideration of the recommendations. Actions had already been initiated to implement some of these recommendations. The report of the Working Group was conveyed to relevant ministries for subsequent action.
Concerning the recommendations for Bangladesh to become party to some international instruments, Mr. Hannan said that due consideration should be given to the capacity to fulfil the obligations of such instruments prior to becoming party to it. Even though Bangladesh was not a party to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, it had always adhered to the core principles of the international protection regime. Bangladesh hosted a large number of refugees and would continue to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to upgrade protection and assistance for the refugees. Bangladesh had been fully cooperating with the Special Procedures. Several Special Rapporteurs had visited Bangladesh in recent years and a few requests were pending. Bangladesh had not been able to accept five recommendations. Bangladesh’s consideration of these recommendations needed to be contextualized within the parameters of the existing social, cultural and religious norms and reality on the ground. Bangladesh could not accept those recommendations as they were in conflict with the constitutional and legal provisions, or deeply rooted socio-cultural values.
Bangladesh reiterated its unequivocal support and commitment to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which had enhanced awareness of human rights issues within the country and further improved many areas promoting and protecting human rights. Bangladesh would leave no stone unturned to follow up on all accepted recommendations.
Malaysia said it appreciated the commitment, transparency and forthcoming engagement of Bangladesh in the Universal Periodic Review process. The majority of the recommendations made during the Review had been accepted by Bangladesh, which was indeed laudable, and it was pleased that Malaysia’s recommendations had also been considered and accepted.
Maldives took note of the acceptance of its two recommendations to Bangladesh. It was also happy to note positive steps in bringing domestic legislation and policies in line with core human rights instruments and the support of Bangladesh to the recommendation made to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure.
Morocco congratulated Bangladesh for its efforts to promote human rights. It had encountered many problems due to the lack of resources, climate change and natural disasters but had achieved certain goals on the right to health and the promotion of gender equality. Bangladesh was congratulated for accepting two recommendations made by Morocco.
Nigeria thanked Bangladesh for its active participation in the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Nigeria commended Bangladesh for its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and urged it to continue its efforts to maintain the rule of law and promote and protect human rights.
Oman paid tribute to the manner in which Bangladesh was improving the human rights situation in line with international standards. What Bangladesh was seeking in its national policies to strengthen human rights showed its interest and commitment to the United Nations mechanisms dealing with human rights.
Pakistan said it highly valued the active and constructive engagement of Bangladesh in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Despite the socio-economic challenges it faced and other major impediments, the commitment of Bangladesh to protect and promote the human rights of its people should be acknowledged.
Philippines recognized the continuing efforts of Bangladesh to address the challenges in advancing the human rights of its people. As a similarly situated country, the Philippines was fully aware of the predicaments faced by Bangladesh as a climate change vulnerable country. The human rights and climate change nexus should be placed high on the agenda of the Council.
Romania said that Bangladesh had shown commitment to make further efforts, with a view to improving its human rights situation. Romania was pleased to note that Bangladesh had accepted its recommendation concerning the need to take further measures aimed at women’s empowerment.
Russian Federation thanked Bangladesh for the written response to all recommendations and supported the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review report. Russia welcomed the measures undertaken by Bangladesh to improve the human rights situation of its population, especially with regard to the participation of women in the political and economic spheres.
Saudi Arabia said it had listened carefully to the point of view of Bangladesh regarding recommendations and conclusions in the report, which attested to a spirit of cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review. Saudi Arabia commended measures to strengthen human rights in the country and wished Bangladesh success.
South Africa expressed its appreciation for the continued strong commitment of Bangladesh to the Universal Periodic Review process. It also appreciated efforts for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and commended the large number of recommendations accepted by Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka said it was pleased that the two recommendations it had made were supported by Bangladesh. Sri Lanka was happy to note progress in the field of human rights by Bangladesh, notwithstanding challenges, and recommended the adoption by the Council of its Universal Periodic Review outcome report.
Palestine supported the adoption of the report and congratulated Bangladesh on accepting the majority of the recommendations put to it, in particular the acceptance of some recommendations to harmonize its domestic legislation with its international human rights treaty obligations, as well as its continuing cooperation with human rights mechanisms.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said it appreciated that Bangladesh had accepted recommendations on freedom of expression but the blocking of internet sites and the arrest of bloggers continued. Voices of dissent and criticism were being put in danger of legal harassment by recent amendments to an information law
Jubliee Campaign said regressive measures taken this year in Bangladesh could put basic human rights under threat. As the information law was tightened, bloggers’ and others’ right to free expression was under threat. The criminal justice system must not be used to silence dissent.
Human Rights Watch said that little progress had been made to end impunity. No human rights abuse had been followed by a successful criminal prosecution of the perpetrators. The Government had engaged in a policy of aggressively pushing back refugees from Myanmar fleeing ethnic violence in Rakhine into the sea in overcrowded vessels.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that law enforcement agencies harassed and incited violence towards minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Gross human rights violations by law enforcement agencies had been reported in the forms of abduction, arbitrary arrests, detention, beatings and rape.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies said that the secular, democratic traditions of Bangladesh were today facing a major challenge from fundamentalist groups. The growth of madrasas was a major danger to ensuring development, modernization and progress in a liberal environment.
International Lesbian and Gay Association asked the Government to proactively stop intolerant groups from making inflammatory homophobic remarks, which had often resulted in violence towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and to take concrete steps to implement recommendations to protect all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues expressed deep concern about the crackdown on critical voices in the country, including human rights defenders who were judicially harassed, threatened or even killed, as was the case of labour leader Aminul Islam in April 2012, whose murderers had still not been identified.
Save the Children International recommended that the Government use a child rights approach in planning and implementing its national budget, including through use of specific indicators in the participation of communities including children in the budget making process and a tracking system that made spending on children visible throughout the budget.
African Technology Development Link spoke on the fight against terrorism in Bangladesh and said the Government had justifiably banned Jamaat-i-Islami, a group active since the 1971 independence war. This year, war crimes trials had resulted in death sentences for Jamaat leaders, including Abdul Qatar Molla. Other leaders must be brought to justice.
Amnesty International said Bangladesh should immediately commute all death sentences, including that of Abdul Qatar Molla. This was the first known case of a prisoner being sentenced to death by Bangladesh’s highest court, and the first known case with no right of appeal. Amnesty was also concerned that the new information law was being used to limit freedom of expression and target bloggers.
ABDUL HANNAN, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks said his Government was fully committed to human rights. In addition, the war crimes tribunals and trials were being held to international standards and the human rights of those indicted were being upheld. Bangladesh thanked States for recognising its efforts to tackle human rights challenges. Most of these resulted from poverty, and its eradication was a priority for Bangladesh. The Universal Periodic Review mechanism had created an atmosphere of openness that had enhanced the furtherance of human rights in Bangladesh. Bangladesh pledged to follow-up on the recommendations made to it and looked forward to constructive dialogue in the future.
The Council then adopted the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that 158 recommendations had been fully or partially adopted by Azerbaijan out of the 162 recommendations received. The Government would make sure that the recommendations accepted would be implemented. The growth of economic indicators over the last 10 years showed the sustainability and stability of the development of the country. Reforms in governance and the strengthening of civil society created more favourable conditions for the promotion and protection of human rights and democratic freedoms. With regard to the recommendation on the protection of women’s rights and the elimination of domestic violence, Mr. Khalafov noted that the law on the suppression of domestic violence was adopted in 2010. This law prohibited early and forced marriages.
In response to the recommendation on the strengthening of the fight against corruption, Mr. Khalafov said that Azerbaijan attached great importance to international cooperation in this sphere and participated actively in the work of various international bodies. With regard to the recommendations on the abolishment of the criminal responsibility for defamation, it was noted that since 2009, deprivation of liberty had not been enforced in criminal cases related to defamation and insult. Guided by international practices, Azerbaijan was constantly taking steps to improve the legislation pertaining to non-governmental organizations in order to create necessary conditions for the development of civil society. There were no obstacles for activities of non-governmental organizations. All favourable conditions were being created for the activities of human rights defenders. Their rights and freedoms were fully ensured and their activities were not subject to threats.
The Government of Azerbaijan did not accept four recommendations out of 162 and its position had been expressed in the written document submitted to the Council. These recommendations reflected the aggressive policy of Armenia that had been pursuing an ethnic cleansing policy against Azerbaijanis since 1988. The “recommendation” on Nagorny-Karabakh was an abuse of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. The occupation by Armenia of 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory was the main problem of Azerbaijan in the field of human rights. More than one million persons were internally displaced or refugees and the occupation had created political, social and economic problems in Azerbaijan.
China welcomed progress made by Azerbaijan in promoting and protecting human rights and appreciated its positive response to recommendations made. Azerbaijan was thanked for accepting a recommendation by China to further promote social and economic development and eliminate poverty in order to lay the foundation for its people’s enjoyment of human rights.
Council of Europe said that the ratification of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence by Azerbaijan would be most welcome.
Cuba welcomed the acceptance of the great majority of recommendations made. It was grateful for the acceptance of a recommendation by Cuba to continue to apply social assistance programmes geared towards the reduction of poverty. Equally laudable were measures by Azerbaijan to improve maternal and infant health.
Djibouti welcomed the delegation of Azerbaijan and thanked it for the additional information provided on the outcome report of its Universal Periodic Review. In this regard, Djibouti was pleased that the majority of recommendations had been taken up and commended Azerbaijan for accepting the recommendation that it establish an effective development plan for social protection.
Malaysia warmly welcomed the Azerbaijani delegation, commended its members for its active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and appreciated its forthcoming engagement. Malaysia was pleased with the updates and noted that Malaysia’s recommendation had been accepted by Azerbaijan. Malaysia wished Azerbaijan all the best in its endeavour to promote and protect human rights.
Morocco thanked Azerbaijan for its positive and constructive engagement in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and welcomed the fact that it would make efforts to implement the majority of the recommendations made to it. Morocco thanked Azerbaijan for accepting the recommendations it had made on reforming education, tackling corruption, and establishing institutional reforms.
Nigeria was encouraged by Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the Human Rights Council and noted with admiration its engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner towards ensuring effective implementation of its duties under relevant human rights instruments. Nigeria noted that Azerbaijan had accepted most of the recommendations presented.
Pakistan appreciated the cooperation and constructive engagement of the Government of Azerbaijan with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which was reflected by its decision to accept most of the recommendations received. Pakistan took positive note of the efforts and measures undertaken to eliminate domestic violence, protect child rights and to combat torture.
Philippines said that as a fellow developing country, it was aware of the challenges faced by Azerbaijan in implementing its human rights obligations. The Philippines was encouraged by the continuing efforts of Azerbaijan to improve its migration management process, including the provision of better social protection for migrants.
Russia said that it had noted Azerbaijan’s acceptance of the large number of recommendations made during the Review. This showed the willingness of the authorities of Azerbaijan to improve the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. Russia recommended the adoption of the outcome report of the Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan.
Sri Lanka appreciated the forthcoming and constructive spirit of Azerbaijan in the Review. Sri Lanka was pleased to note that the recommendations it had made were among those that had been accepted by Azerbaijan, and it believed that these would contribute to the Government’s endeavours in safeguarding human rights in the country.
United Nations Children’s Fund reinforced the importance of recommendations concerning juvenile justice and hoped Azerbaijan’s Parliament would commit to passing the draft law on juvenile justice in the near future. It also highlighted the importance of continued work to eradicate marriages that were not registered, in particular those involving children under the age of 18.
United Arab Emirates expressed its satisfaction at the acceptance of recommendations which showed the political will of Azerbaijan to protect and promote human rights. The United Arab Emirates commended the initiatives that Azerbaijan said it would take as a result of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the voluntary measures it had said it would undertake to improve the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.
Human Rights House Foundation said Azerbaijan’s civil society had participated actively in the Universal Periodic Review yet the upcoming election had seen direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression. A recommendation from Germany on freedom of assembly should be implemented by Azerbaijan.
Human Rights Watch said restrictions of assembly and freedom of expression had grown in the run up to the elections and the reality was that the Government of Azerbaijan had a long record of harassing dissident and opposition voices despite what it had said in its report on the Universal Periodic Review. Legislative amendments this year had restricted the activities of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the education strategy planned by the State was not enough to limit the endemic corruption. Corruption prevented foreign investors from investing in Azerbaijan as well as the development of the country.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that a lot had to be done to improve the situation of women in Azerbaijan and called upon the Government to continue the work on the draft law on women’s reproductive rights. Gender stereotypes still occurred and were an obstacle to the fulfillment of women’s human rights.
Amnesty International said that at least 14 civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders were currently in detention solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Dozens of others had become targets of harassment and intimidation. Azerbaijan should fully comply with its international obligations.
Reporters Without Borders International said that the situation as to freedom of information in Azerbaijan continued to worsen. They were just a few days away from the presidential election and the situation was critical. Reporters Without Borders urged Azerbaijan to accept recommendations made relating to freedom of expression.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation called on Azerbaijan to refrain from any further imprisonment of conscientious objectors, to give urgent attention to honouring the international commitments it had already undertaken in this area, and to give details of what it had done in this respect in its next Universal Periodic Review report.
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation in a joint statement called on the Government to reform its defamation legislation in conformity with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to put an immediate end to the practice of detaining individuals engaging in the exercise of their legal, civil and political rights to freedom of expression.
United Schools International said Azerbaijan had the ingredients to build a democratic and free society, including a healthy economy and an educated society. Azerbaijan had significantly improved its economic position over the years, and this looked set to continue.
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, in concluding remarks thanked participants in this useful dialogue. The Government of Azerbaijan greatly supported the Human Rights Council and its work and mechanisms. Azerbaijan’s goal was to continue the country’s development which included promoting and protecting human rights. Challenges faced by Azerbaijan included the presence of refugees and internally displaced persons in the country but raising the standard of living for all was the objective of Azerbaijan.
Armenia requested a clarification with regard to a reference to Nagorno-Karabakh that appeared in a footnote of the Working Group’s report. Azerbaijan had never made such a reference during its review. The addition of a footnote on a territorial issue contradicted the principles of the Universal Periodic Review. The Universal Periodic Review should not be used to discuss political and territorial purposes. It was a factual error that could undermine the universality of the Universal Periodic Review.
REMIGIUSZ HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, said that the adoption of the final document was a standard procedure. Nothing in the report of the Working Group should be seen as modifying the declarations made by the delegations during the review.
United States, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that the report of the Working Group on the review of Azerbaijan should not be considered as a legal interpretation of issues currently under negotiation.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Azerbaijan.
For use of the information media; not an official record