Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Fiji, San Marino and El Salvador

Human Rights Council
MORNING 10 June 2010

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji, San Marino and El Salvador.

Peceli Vocea, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the European Union, said of the 103 recommendations, the Government had accepted 97, while 6 were either unacceptable or impractical. The Government continued to believe that during the Universal Periodic Review, the sovereignty of a State under review would be respected, that the culture and idiosyncrasies of the people of the State would be respected, and that the stage of socio-economic and political development and constraints under review would be recognized and understood. It was from this perspective that the Fijian Government felt that progress in all fields of human rights could be achieved, and achieved effectively. Effectively addressing Fiji’s social human rights issues would go a long way towards creating a lasting, stable and healthy democratic environment.

In the discussion on Fiji, speakers said that the recommendations submitted to Fiji in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review should serve as a ground for new sustained initiatives aimed at improving the enjoyment of human rights by the Fijian population. Fiji was today facing myriad challenges, and speakers were aware of the implications of these challenges for the full enjoyment of human rights. Further, speakers encouraged continued efforts towards protecting the rights of women, developing a comprehensive approach to combating trafficking in persons, and recommended that Fiji put an immediate end to the censorship of the media and allow freedom of expression without fear of arrest or punishment.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji were United States, United Kingdom, Algeria, Morocco and Canada. Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations (NGOs): Amnesty International, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace.

Federica Birgi, Director of Political Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs of San Marino, said that San Marino had undergone the Universal Periodic Review in February and out of 56 recommendations it had accepted 11 and could not accept 13. Each recommendation had been considered in the light of its applicability to the San Marino context and the opportunity it offered in favour of human rights promotion and protection. The internal debate had outlined some limits often posed by the small dimensions of the Administration following accession to international instruments, which was a commitment that involved not only acceptance of shared values, but also internal application of its provisions, monitoring of implementation and submission of reports.

In the discussion on San Marino, speakers said San Marino had shown a strong commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process, which was highly commendable, as were the efforts undertaken by San Marino in favour of promoting the enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens. San Marino was commended for the conscientious manner with which it had addressed the recommendations made, which was a reflection of its strong national commitment to human rights. The commitment demonstrated by San Marino during the process proved that the Universal Periodic Review was an important instrument of this Council, since it allowed States to establish dialogue with their peers and with all the human rights components of the United Nations.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of San Marino were United States, Algeria and Italy. Also taking the floor was the following NGO: Federatie van Nerderlandse Verenigingent tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - COC Nederland.

Byron Fernando Larios Lopez, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said El Salvador had received 118 recommendations of which it had accepted 78 and 40 of these had been submitted to a consultation process with various State institutions for their study. El Salvador had accepted the recommendations related to the signature and ratification of important human rights instruments in view of their relevance for El Salvador’s progress in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Government would bear in mind the recommendations of the Working Group on forced disappearances to make progress where the constitutional framework permitted. In conclusion, Mr. Larious Lopez underscored that El Salvador was ready to continue progressing in promoting human rights and that it supported the purposes of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism so that human rights were respected and guaranteed in all countries.

In the discussion on El Salvador, speakers appreciated the commitment of the Government of El Salvador to the protection and promotion of human rights, encouraging it to continue its efforts to consolidate peace, promote human rights, and ensure that the events of the past did not re-occur. A speaker also commended El Salvador’s support for recommendations to ensure the establishment and full operation of a national commission to search for children who disappeared during the internal armed conflict.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of El Salvador were United States and Algeria. Also taking the floor was the following NGO: Procuraduria paragraph la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Nicaragua.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3 p.m., when it is scheduled to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Angola, Iran and Madagascar, and will also take action on draft decision 117 on the difficulties linked to the participation of the Independent Expert on Sudan.

Universal Periodic Review of Fiji

PECELI VOCEA, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the European Union, said in February the delegation of Fiji said it needed to hold consultations with all stakeholders in Fiji before informing the Council of the reaction to the 103 recommendations. A national consultation was held to ascertain the views of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society in order to determine how these could be implemented. Armed with the views and suggestions, a further consultation was convened with all the relevant Government Ministries and agencies which would be responsible for implementing the recommendations. Being mindful of the gravity and seriousness of the recommendations offered by fellow Member States, appreciative of the support promised by NGOs and civil society back home and cognisant of the advice rendered by relevant Government stakeholders who would ultimately carry out and implement the obligations, of the 103 recommendations, the Government had accepted 97, while 6 were either unacceptable or impractical.

As for general observations and remarks, the Government supported from its inception the establishment of the Human Rights Council. It saw then the usefulness of the processes it promised to adopt, which included, inter alia, providing an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they had taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries, identifying and addressing the challenges to the enjoyment of human rights, and sharing information and good practices on how to overcome violations wherever they occurred. The Government continued to believe that from such an approach and perspective, the sovereignty of a State under review would be respected, that the culture and idiosyncrasies of the people of the State would be respected, and that the stage of socio-economic and political development and constraints under review would be recognized and understood. It was from this perspective that the Fiji Government felt that progress in all fields of human rights could be achieved, and achieved effectively. Effectively addressing its social human rights issues would go a long way towards creating a lasting, stable and healthy democratic environment.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said the United States urged Fiji to accept their recommendation to ensure that human rights were explicitly protected in domestic law. The United States looked forward to learning what progress Fiji had made to ensure the full implementation of these recommendations, with specific regard to the recommendation to take immediate steps toward holding democratic elections and returning Fiji to democratic governance. The United States encouraged continued efforts towards protecting rights of women, and developing a comprehensive approach to combating trafficking in persons, and recommended that Fiji put an immediate end to the censorship of the media and allow freedom of expression without fear of arrest or punishment. The United States welcomed Fiji’s decision to examine the recommendation to repeal the Public Emergency Regulations in force since April 2010. The United States encouraged Fiji to accept the recommendation to create an environment more conducive to a stronger civil society and to fully guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders.

PHILIP TISSOT (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom appreciated Fiji’s continued participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and thanked the delegation for having clarified Fiji’s position with regards to the majority of recommendations. The United Kingdom welcomed that some stakeholders had been consulted in preparing the report and hoped to see a broad engagement with civil society in the follow-up to the review. The United Kingdom was pleased that Fiji had accepted many recommendations, including the recommendations of the United Kingdom that the interim Government take measures for early and free elections and that the Administration should allow visits by Special Rapporteurs as requested. However, the United Kingdom reiterated its recommendation that the national human rights institution should be allowed to investigate in accordance with the Paris Principles.

BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said Algeria and Fiji agreed recently to establish diplomatic relations at Ambassadorial level, and this would strengthen the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries, and enhance the coordination of their diplomatic action in international fora, including those based in Geneva. Algeria commended Fiji's participation in the Universal Periodic Review, which illustrated the country's willingness to cooperate with the Council and the international community. Fiji was today facing a myriad of challenges, and Algeria was aware of the implications of these challenges for the full enjoyment of human rights. Algeria reiterated the importance of the reinstatement of the rule of law in Fiji for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. Enhanced efforts aimed at tackling poverty would be needed too for ensuring better living conditions for the population. Algeria hoped that the recommendations submitted to Fiji in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review would serve as a ground for new sustained initiatives aimed at improving the enjoyment of human rights by the Fijian population.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said that the presentation delivered by the delegation of Fiji today showed the serious commitment of the authorities to implement the recommendations arising from its Universal Periodic Review process. The objectives of the Universal Periodic Review included the issues of cooperating for the promotion and protection of human rights, strengthening the capacity of the State and providing technical assistance. Those objectives must be fully taken into account and the international community, rather than just criticize, must provide assistance to Fijians and must collaborate with them in order to implement the necessary reforms. Morocco reiterated the appeal to the international community to demonstrate understanding the circumstances of this country, and supporting the road map towards the national elections 2014. The efforts of the international community and the people of Fiji would make it possible to address the root causes of the troubles that the country had experienced and to improve human rights. Morocco saluted the will and commitment of Fiji towards including all sectors of the society in the restoration of democracy and in the process of national reconciliation.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada) said Canada appreciated Fiji’s forthright engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process but remained deeply concerned about the situation in Fiji since the overthrowing of the democratically elected Government in 2006. Canada deplored the 2009 abrogation of the Constitution and was of the view that subsequent decisions by the interim Government to dismiss the judiciary and rule by presidential decree lacked legitimacy. Therefore, Canada welcomed that the interim Government intended to shortly commence an inclusive national dialogue process aimed at achieving a return to democracy and constitutional rule. Canada remained very concerned at the continued extension of the public emergency regulation, which negatively impacted on the rights of Fijians to freedom of expression and democratic dialogue. It had similar concerns with respect to the plans of the interim Government to introduce a media decree which may also restrict the independence of the media.

MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said Amnesty International considered that since the Universal Periodic Review of Fiji, the human rights situation in the country had not improved. In April 2010, the Government announced its intention to promulgate a decree to regulate the media, providing for a media tribunal with powers to imprison journalists and editors or impose hefty fines if they published or broadcast anything deemed against the national interest. This ran counter to many recommendations made during the review to end censorship of the media. The Government should enforce the Domestic Violence Decree of 2009, as violence against women remained a concern. Discrimination against members of the Methodist Church of Fiji continued, and the Government should restore a legal framework to guarantee the right to freedom of religion and the protection of all religious groups and minorities. Amnesty International was also concerned about harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, and there should be independent investigations into these.

CLARA THOMPSON, of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, reiterated the recognition of the need to return to democracy and constitutional rule, the end of media censorship and the end to intimidation and persecution of critics of the interim government. The people of Fiji had paid a high social, human and economic price of successive military coups, evident in abuse and death of civilians, increasing inflation and the lack of private investments due to political instability. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom noted the efforts towards reducing violence against women under the domestic violence law. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was extremely concerned at Fiji’s failure to respond towards repeated calls for the end of human rights violations, and promises of election. There was lack of confidence that the 2014 national elections would take place. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom called on governments to maintain their targeted sanctions against Fiji, and the individuals who were architects of human rights abuses. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom called on Fiji to remove the Public Emergency Regulation and to restore the Bill of Rights.

JOSHUA COOPER, of World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, welcomed Fiji’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review process. Nevertheless, work remained to be done regarding Fiji’s accession to international human rights treaties and the World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace looked forward to hearing about a timetable for the ratification of such treaties. Fiji should also issue an invitation to Special Rapporteurs to investigate the situation in that country. The World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace further echoed concerns expressed by States regarding the Public Emergency Regulation, agreed with States that the judiciary must not be interfered with and that the media decree must be immediately discontinued, and it underscored that human rights education must be part of school curricula.

PECELI VOCEA, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the European Union, in concluding remarks, said Fiji found it difficult to accept the second part of recommendation 17, which related to the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution. The media decree that would be promulgated in the future aimed to encourage responsible journalism. The Government was firm on the date of elections - in 2014, and in relation to the comments or views raised by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Fiji could not comment on this particular issue.

The Council then adopted the Outcome Document of the Universal Periodic Review process on Fiji.

Universal Periodic Review Outcome of San Marino

FEDERICA BIRGI, Director of Political Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs of San Marino, said that San Marino had undergone the Universal Periodic Review in February and out of 56 recommendations it had accepted 11 and could not accept 13. The remaining 32 recommendations had been examined and the relevant responses were contained in the addendum to the report. Each recommendation had been considered in the light of its applicability to the San Marino context and the opportunity it offered in favour of human rights promotion and protection. The internal debate had outlined some limits often posed by the small dimensions of the Administration following accession to international instruments, which was a commitment that involved not only acceptance of shared values, but also internal application of its provisions, monitoring of implementation and submission of reports. This difficulty had led to the decision not to accept some recommendations requiring accession to international instruments such as the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. San Marino would accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. San Marino would address the issue of timely reporting to human rights monitoring bodies and would submit one report per year to the Treaty Monitoring Bodies.

With regard to protection of vulnerable groups and in particular the training of persons who dealt with children, the elderly, ill persons and disabled persons, San Marino was already updating its legislation with particular attention to vocational training of all who dealt with health, social and educational services. All recommendations concerning minors were accepted and San Marino was committed to introduce a new terminology in its legal order to eliminate the concepts of “natural children”. It would also amend its Criminal Code with a view to abolish corporal punishment in all environments and to raise from 12 to 14 the age of criminal liability of children under the Criminal Code. San Marino was not in a position to accept some recommendations, such as to establish in San Marino an independent institution for the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level, legislation of citizenship and naturalisation, the rights of sexual minorities and equal treatment of conventional and non-conventional families. San Marino thanked all delegations for submitting recommendations and reflections during the Working Group’s review and said it would pay utmost attention also to the results of the debate today.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said the United States welcomed the delegation of San Marino to the Council and offered its congratulations on the adoption of its Working Group report. The United States was well aware of the particular challenges that the Universal Periodic Review posed to micro-States and commended San Marino for the conscientious manner with which it had addressed the recommendations made, which was a reflection of its strong national commitment to human rights. The United States especially appreciated San Marino’s response to the recommendations that the country strengthen its protection for persons with disabilities and increase efforts to combat violence against women.

BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said San Marino had shown a strong commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process, which was highly commendable. Algeria valued the efforts undertaken by San Marino in favour of promoting the enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens. In spite of the lack of human resources, the endorsement of the recommendation to address the problem of overdue reports to Treaty Bodies reflected the willingness of San Marino to collaborate with the human rights monitoring bodies. The Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers was a fundamental legal framework for the protection of the rights of this vulnerable group, and San Marino should ratify it.

ROBERTO NOCELLA (Italy) said Italy believed that the commitment demonstrated by San Marino during the process proved that the Universal Periodic Review was an important instrument of this Council, since it allowed States to establish dialogue with their peers and with all the human rights components of the United Nations. In its review in February, San Marino had received more than 50 recommendations, focusing on a number of issues such as ratification of international treaties, the Family Code, citizenship and naturalization, as well as other norms present in San Marino legislation. Italy welcomed the commitment of San Marino demonstrated during the process and looked forward to the implementation of those recommendations that had been accepted. Italy wished to San Marino a successful continuation of its engagement in the field of human rights.

BJORN VAN ROUZENVAAL, of Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, said San Marino was not able to accept recommendations 20 and 21 made by the Working Group, which called on the country to ensure that people belonging to sexual minority groups had access to equal rights and were afforded the same level of protection. This equality could be reached through the establishment of adequate legislation, awareness-raising activities, and education and training programmes that promoted the integration of sexual minorities. The delegation should clarify whether, and if so how, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people was explicitly reflected in existing awareness-raising activities, education and training programmes. Only with the explicit prohibition of discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would the law sufficiently protect people against discrimination on an equal level with other grounds of discrimination.

FEDERICA BIRGI, Director of Political Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs of San Marino, said she had listened carefully to the statements made and would inform the Government of the outcome of today’s debate. The Universal Periodic Review process had been an occasion to reflect on what had been done and what would need to be changed in San Marino’s legislation to achieve a higher human rights protection. The review process was a good occasion for the State under review to critically reflect on its position and for civil society – as a privileged observer – to make its assessments and undertake the activities it deemed necessary. Ms. Birgi stressed that San Marino’s commitment did not end today but would be even stronger in the next four years before its second review.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of San Marino.

Universal Periodic Review of El Salvador

BYRON FERNANDO LARIOS LOPEZ, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said El Salvador had received 118 recommendations of which it had accepted 78 and 40 of these had been submitted to a consultation process with various State institutions for their study. El Salvador had accepted the recommendations related to the signature and ratification of important human rights instruments in view of their relevance for El Salvador’s progress in terms of human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 4 April 2001 El Salvador had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Despite the foregoing, there had been fierce opposition by various stakeholders regarding the ratification of that protocol and the legislative assembly would be competent to decide on the ratification and study all arguments that had been formulated with regards to that Optional Protocol. As for Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, El Salvador had made progress and was being involved in an internal domestic process for its ratification. Turning to the right to education, Mr. Larios Lopez said the Government was committed to improving conditions for access to secondary education and obtaining adequate resources to improve education quality, including in rural areas. In that sense El Salvador accepted the recommendation.

Mr. Larious Lopez went on to say that in May 2010 the Department for Sexual Diversity had been created to promote public policies that strengthened the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In addition, the President of El Salvador had adopted an executive decree containing provisions against any forms of discrimination in public on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation. In terms of health, Mr. Larious Lopez explained that the current health policies were designed to strengthen the national health system through equal access to this system. On the recommendation related to the investigation of human rights crimes against persons and judicial processes under the law, the Government had accepted that recommendation. With regards to the recommendations that the Working Group on forced disappearances had made in 2007, El Salvador had changed its position, having publicly recognized the existence of these human rights violations in the past armed conflict. The Government had thus recently created the National Commission for the Reparation of Victims of Human Rights Violations that had occurred during armed conflict, which was an inter-institutional committee. The Government would bear in mind the recommendations of the Working Group on forced disappearances to make progress where the constitutional framework permits. In conclusion, Mr. Larious Lopez underscored that El Salvador was ready to continue progressing in promoting human rights and that it supported the purposes of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism so that human rights were respected and guaranteed in all countries.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said the United States welcomed the support of El Salvador for several of its recommendations, including the enactment and enforcement of laws as well as the implementation of programmes directed specifically at combating discrimination and promoting the rights of indigenous people. The United States also appreciated the acceptance of the recommendation to develop concrete plans to control abuses perpetrated by gang inmates against other prisoners and to address the corrupt practices of prison officials. The United States commended El Salvador’s support for recommendations to ensure the establishment and full operation of a national commission to search for children who disappeared during the internal armed conflict. Finally, the United States looked forward to El Salvador’s final decision with regard to the recommendation of the United States to implement reforms for facilitating credible and responsible criminal investigations that respected human rights, and for eliminating judicial corruption.

BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said Algeria congratulated the Government for the quality of its national report, and appreciated its commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights, encouraging it to continue its efforts to consolidate peace, promote human rights, and ensure that the events of the past did not re-occur. Algeria had made two recommendations, which had been adopted, and a third recommendation on zones threatened by natural disasters was awaiting an answer. Algeria appreciated the constructive participation of the Government in the Universal Periodic Review.

KATHARINA ROSE, of Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador, said that El Salvador had assumed important commitments to the promotion and protection of human rights and it urged the authorities to accept and implement all the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review process. One of burning problems in El Salvador was public insecurity, which particularly affected vulnerable groups, such as women, girls and boys. Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador welcomed all measures to increase public safety and recommended to El Salvador that it adopt measures and policies aimed at improving public security, which were essential to full respect of human rights. El Salvador should step up the efforts to promote a true human rights culture and to promote education programmes on human rights in all areas of education and to provide the necessary funds to school departments to this effect. Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador was pleased by the announcement by the Government that it would create a Commission to examine possible reparations to victims of grave human rights violation during the armed conflict in El Salvador. Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador encouraged El Salvador to undertake a wide-ranging consultation process with regard to the ratification of the international instruments. Finally, Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de El Salvador noted with satisfaction the measures taken by Salvador to strengthen policies to promote and protect women’s rights.

Byron Fernando Larios Lopez, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said he was truly pleased to be able to refer to a question asked by the delegation of Algeria, recommendation 38, which had been accepted. On recommendations which were subject to a consultation process in conformity with the legal and Constitutional framework, the truth was that El Salvador wished to reiterate that the political will was to avoid ambiguity, and in this case, El Salvador would be pleased to say that these recommendations that were in the consultation and implementation phase had been accepted. El Salvador would like the Council to consider this response as an explanatory response of the situation relating to these recommendations.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of El Salvador.

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