Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review on the Marshall Islands, Croatia and Jamaica

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

17 March 2011

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on the Marshal Islands, Croatia and Jamaica.

Phillip Muller, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations, said the Government accepted the recommendations on ratification or accession to the main international human rights treaties and underlined the serious need of technical and financial assistance in properly implementing them. Lack of resources was the reason why the establishment of a national human rights institution was not being considered at the moment. The Marshall Islands also accepted the recommendations on the promotion of human rights, addressing domestic violence and other issues affecting women, children’s rights, socio-economic development and climate change. The Government was disappointed that only one nation in the Universal Periodic Review had responded to issues raised regarding climate change impacts.

In the discussion on the Marshall Islands, speakers congratulated the delegation for their open minded spirit and for embarking on a path of democracy. They welcomed efforts to strengthen the judicial structure, address violence against women, improve conditions of detention and arrest, and encouraged the Marshall Islands to continue with the efforts in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change on all human rights and particularly in the areas of food security, education and health. A speaker acknowledged the limited nature of resources at the disposal of the Marshall Islands as a small island state and the challenges it faced due to climate change.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of the Marshal Islands were Algeria, Morocco, Cuba, New Zealand and the Maldives. World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace and United Nations Watch also took the floor.

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

Vesna Vukovic, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that since its independence in 1990, Croatia had established a comprehensive system for the protection of human rights in line with international standards. It had achieved an advanced level in key areas of the promotion and protection of human rights, such as justice reform, suppression of all forms of discrimination, children rights and rights of persons with disabilities. Croatia accepted the great majority of recommendations, among the 94 proposed during the November review, which were mostly focused on strengthening the work of institutions, support for the most vulnerable groups and cooperation with civil society. Croatia was not able to accept only two of the recommendations, on the right to citizenship and on free legal aid.

In the discussion on Croatia, speakers noted with appreciation the large number of recommendations that were or had already been applied, together with the emphasis on the institutional framework for human rights, the three-year programme to develop human rights, and providing the necessary resources for the effective functioning and coordination of the Ombudsman and specialized ombudspersons. A speaker regretted that the Government had failed to engage in a broader and transparent public consultation with national stakeholders and thus had missed the opportunity to gain more benefits from this process. Another speaker noted the suffering of the people due to the inaction of the Government in improving the economic situation.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Croatia were representatives of Algeria and Morocco. Also speaking in the discussion were Ombudsman of Croatia and B.A.B.E.-Be Active, Be Emancipated.

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

Wayne McCook, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in the implementation of the recommendations Jamaica was guided by the interests of all Jamaicans which in some cases meant that it would be best to reinforce existing mechanisms rather than to establish new ones or to undertake new international obligations. Jamaica had worked to adopt an overall strategy to eliminate practices constituting discrimination against women. While there was no single institution in Jamaica dealing with the issue of human rights, the mandates of several entities were established with portfolio responsibilities to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights and were strong and effective. The Government recognized the urgent need to address conditions in prisons and lockups and had pursued efforts for the construction of new prison facilities and privatization of prisons.

In the discussion on Jamaica, speakers looked forward to continued progress on reforming the justice sector with an emphasis on increasing respect for the rule of law and human rights among the police forces. Also, speakers welcomed the efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and urged Jamaica to repeal sections of the law that criminalised same-sex activities. Speakers noted the progress made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, poverty reduction, education, access to public and reproductive health, malnutrition and hunger and their progress in the protection of children against ill treatment and exploitation. A speaker was disappointed that Jamaica had rejected the moratorium on executions, the commutation of all death sentences to prison sentences and the abolishment of the death penalty.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Jamaica were Algeria, Morocco, Cuba and the United States. The non-governmental organizations that spoke during the discussion were COC Nederland and Amnesty International.

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

The next meeting of the Council will be on Friday, 18 March at 10 a.m., when it is scheduled to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes on Micronesia, Mauritania and the United States.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on the Marshall Islands

PHILLIP MULLER, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations, said the Marshall Islands accepted the recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 related to ratification or accession to the main international human rights treaties and the relevant Optional Protocols and was committed to abiding by the principles therein. The Ambassador stressed that the Marshall Islands was in serious need of technical and financial assistance to properly implement the treaties it was already party to and to continue its efforts with those treaties to which it was not a party. The Marshall Islands was not at this time considering establishing a national human rights institutions due to limited national resources; the strengthening of the Offices for Children and Women should occur first. The Government accepted the recommendations related to reviewing laws and policies to ensure conformity with international human rights standards. The Marshall Islands accepted the recommendations on the promotion of human rights and was committed to addressing domestic violence and other issues affecting women; progressive efforts were made to raise awareness of the human rights issues of women and a domestic violence bill was currently pending in the national parliament.
The Government accepted the recommendations on children’s rights and remained committed to properly implementing children’s rights and had established a Child’s Rights Office. The Marshall Islands said that although the rights of disabled persons were not specifically afforded in the Constitution, there were policies and legislation which addressed special education and health for disabled children. The Government accepted the recommendations on socio-economic development and had started a national development plan and a new national census. The Marshall Islands accepted the recommendations on climate change and was disappointed that so few nations during the Universal Periodic Review, only one, the Maldives, had responded to issues raised regarding climate change impacts and the rise in sea levels. The Government had accepted the recommendations concerning Special Procedures and had already extended an open invitation to the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. The Government stressed that its own political will was not enough to implement the recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review process and without the well targeted support of the international community the Marshall Islands would only achieve limited success or persistent gaps in progress at the next Universal Periodic Review.

MOHAMMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) welcomed the delegation of the Marshall Islands and thanked Mr. Muller for the replies to the recommendations. Algeria welcomed the implementation of two recommendations and they would encourage the Marshall Islands to try to continue their efforts to overcome the obstacles that still remained.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) thanked Mr. Muller for presenting the position of his country with regard to the recommendations deriving from its Universal Periodic Review in November 2010. Morocco congratulated the delegation for their open minded spirit and for embarking on a path of democracy. Morocco welcomed efforts to strengthen the judicial structure and improve conditions of detention and arrest. They were happy that three of their recommendations met the support of the Marshall Islands. These recommendations concerned accession to the convention of the United Nations against corruption and the improvement of the access of children to education.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba) said that the presentation by the Marshall Islands reflected the commitment of the country to implement the recommendations it accepted during its Universal Periodic Review. Cuba was especially pleased that the Marshal Islands accepted the recommendations made by Cuba, particularly those related to continuation of programmes guaranteeing enjoyment of the right to education and the right to health. Cuba encouraged the Marshal Islands to continue with the efforts in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change on all human rights and particularly in the areas of food security, education and health.

MICHAEL MCBRYDE (New Zealand) said that the Marshal Islands had engaged actively in the process and had made some commitments in areas of interest to New Zealand, such as ratification of major international human rights instruments and violence against women. In the area of children’s rights, the delegation stated that a review of child protection legislation was underway, and it would permit the identification of gaps which needed to be filled in order to improve child protection in the Marshall Islands. New Zealand welcomed those responses and acknowledged the limited nature of resources at the disposal of the Marshall Islands as a small island state. New Zealand looked forward to the full consideration by the Marshal Islands of the majority of recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review.

MAXIMILLIAN MUELLER (Maldives) welcomed the Marshall Islands agreement to support most of the recommendations made and especially appreciated that all recommendations made by the delegation of the Maldives were accepted. The Maldives was fully aware of the challenges and vulnerabilities the Marshall Islands faced due to climate change and financial and technical constraints and applauded the Government’s acceptance to take a rights-based approach to adaptation to climate change. The Maldives called on the international community to assist the Marshall Islands in their efforts to improve the human rights situation and to reiterate the importance of working with the international community to explore the benefit of opening a mission in Geneva

JOSHUA COOPER, of World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace, believed the Marshall Islands should immediately issue an open invitation to United Nations Special Procedures to be able to receive assistance in important human rights issues. There were two main issues which focused on the environment and health. The long-term health impacts of historical atmospheric land and underwater atomic and thermonuclear weapons testing should be addressed. A rights-based approach to adaption to climate change was essential.

FRANCESCA LAWI, of United Nations Watch, welcomed and encouraged the Marshall Islands’ commitment to accept virtually all of the recommendations, which concerned the promotion and protection of human rights within the Marshall Islands. United Nations Watch had witnessed numerous votes on human rights in the United Nations General Assembly which had confronted Member States with a choice: between aiding and abetting selectivity, politicization and double-standards, or upholding equality, non-discrimination, and the promotion of peace. Only a small minority of Member States had chosen the right path. Time and again, the Marshall Islands had stood among them. United Nations Watch commended the Marshall Islands for contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights within the United Nations and the international arena.

PHILLIP MULLER, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, reiterated the Government’s appreciation for the assistance given to it through the Universal Periodic Review process. The Marshall Islands would continue to do their best to implement the recommendations received and to improve the human rights situation in the country. They looked forward to continue this cooperation.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Croatia

VESNA VUKOVIC, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reiterated the particular importance that the Government of Croatia attached to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and welcomed the universal manner in which it considered human rights situations in all countries of the world. Since its independence in 1990, Croatia had passed through a dynamic transition towards democracy. An advanced and comprehensive system for the protection of human rights had been established in line with international standards, with consequent development of legal and institutional frameworks. The national report had attracted significant interest amongst the public and civil society organizations and transparent and comprehensive consultations with civil society had effectively assisted the Government to identify the current situation in an objective manner and assess the areas of possible improvement. Croatia welcomed the recommendations as an effective tool for reviewing and improving legislation and practice and identifying existing protection gaps. The interactive dialogue during the elaboration of the national report indicated that Croatia had achieved an advanced level in key areas of the promotion and protection of human rights, such as justice reform, suppression of all forms of discrimination, children’s rights and rights of persons with disabilities.

Croatia accepted the great majority of recommendations, among the 94 proposed during the November review. Those were mostly focused on strengthening the work of institutions, support for the most vulnerable groups and cooperation with civil society. Croatia was not able to accept only two of the recommendations. The recommendation concerning the right to citizenship was incompatible with Croatian legislation, while the recommendation concerning free legal aid remained open to interpretation due to its drafting. Croatia partially accepted several recommendations, mostly concerning the ratification of international human rights instruments, and the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. All other postponed recommendations had been accepted without any objection, including those related to the issue of national minorities, return of refugees, war crimes, anti-discrimination, persons with disabilities and human trafficking. Croatia accepted the recommendation to establish the national mechanism for the follow-up to the results of the Universal Periodic Review, which would include all relevant stakeholders. Concerning the recommendation to ratify the International Convention of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Croatia said that the effective system for the migrants’ rights should be seen as an integral part of the wider European human rights framework.

MOHAMMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) thanked the Croatian delegation for their report and noted with appreciation the large number of recommendations that were or had already been applied. Algeria noted the possibility of Croatia acceding to the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, one of the three recommendations that Algeria had proposed; the other two were accepted. Algeria supported the acceptance of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Croatia.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) hailed Croatia’s participatory, open minded and frank approach throughout the Universal Periodic Review process. Morocco noted the Government’s three year programme to develop human rights and the emphasis on the institutional framework for human rights. Morocco was satisfied that two of the recommendations had been accepted: the incorporation of human rights education in school curricula and the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring hate crimes. Morocco would continue to help Croatia in their efforts to promote human rights.

MILENA GOGIC, of Croatian Ombudsman, said that the Croatian Ombudsman welcomed this first Universal Periodic Review process for Croatia and presented his compliments to all members of the Working Group, Troika and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights staff for their outstanding work during the examination of Croatia. At the end of the first cycle of the review of Croatia, the Croatian Ombudsman regretted that the Government had missed the opportunity to engage in a broader and transparent public consultation with national stakeholders and thus missed the opportunity to gain more benefits from this process. They were glad that the Government had accepted all recommendations regarding the strengthening of the independent status of the Ombudsman and specialized ombudspersons and provided the necessary resources for their effective functioning and coordination, as well as giving appropriate follow up of their recommendations. The Croatian Ombudsman urged the Government to timely translate, publish and make available to the citizens of Croatia the assessment and recommendations made by international human rights bodies including the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

SANJA SARNAVKA, of B.A.B.E- Be active, be emancipated, regretted the fact that human rights protection in Croatia had significantly deteriorated since the submission of their report for the non-governmental organizations compilation. Protests had been carried put in the last month, first and foremost due to the fact that many people suffered from the inaction of the Government to improve the economic situation. In such circumstances, they found it hard to understand that the Government had rejected the recommendation related to the Free Legal Aid Act. They did not mind the Government insisting on the financial census, but they did mind extremely bureaucratic and complicated procedures for obtaining free legal aid. As far as minority rights were concerned, they had to stress 11 pending cases of repossession of property and unsolicited investments. All non-governmental organizations and ombudsman efforts did not motivate the Government to finalize them in an appropriate and non discriminatory manner.

VESNA VUKOVIC, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in her closing remarks, said that the issues raised by non-governmental organizations deserved the utmost attention of the Government. Croatia would like to finish the elaboration of the final Universal Periodic Review outcome together with civil society organizations and in the spirit of cooperation with the representatives of civil society in Croatia. Croatia welcomed the side event organised today focusing on participation of civil society in Croatia on the run up to the Universal Periodic Review. Croatia’s follow-up to the recommendations would be carried out in a constructive spirit with all stakeholders. All recommendations would be considered as equally important contributions to national plans and programmes. Croatia would soon initiate broad consultations with civil society organizations concerning the possible follow-up mechanism.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Jamaica
WAYNE McCOOK, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Jamaica attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review process and it took note of the positions and views of many stakeholders summarized by the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in documentation presented at the Working Group stage of Jamaica’s review. Jamaica had implemented or was in the process of implementing many of the goals reflected in the recommendations and was guided by the interests of all Jamaicans which in some cases meant that it would be best to reinforce existing mechanisms rather than to establish new ones or to undertake new international obligations. Jamaica was reviewing the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment with a view to taking a decision on its ratification. Consideration was also being given to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the United Nations Convention related to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Jamaica took its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women seriously and had worked to adopt an overall strategy to eliminate practices constituting discrimination against women. The Government was not in a position to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Jamaica accepted the recommendation on timely submission of reporting obligations to United Nations treaty bodies but it was important to note that human and resource constraints impeded the timely submission of reports by developing countries.

Extensive work had been done with regard to the amendment of the Constitution to provide for “A Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and the Government remained committed to the implementation of this important instrument which would be submitted to the Jamaican Parliament on 29 March 2011. While there was no single institution in Jamaica dealing with the issue of human rights, the mandates of several entities were established with portfolio responsibilities to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights and were strong and effective. These bodies included the Office of the Public Defender and the Independent Commission of Investigation. Institutional mechanisms, such as the Bureau of Women’s Affairs and the Child Development Agency, already existed for advancing the special concerns of women and children. The Government recognized the urgent need to address conditions in prisons and lockups and had pursued efforts for the construction of new prison facilities, including the issue of privatization of prisons, but noted that these initiatives might be constrained by the severe economic and financial conditions facing the country. The Government had also developed a new regime for the management of juveniles in the care of the state and an existing facility was being renovated.

MOHAMMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) thanked Mr. Cook for the additional comments made regarding the recommendations. Algeria welcomed Jamaica’s attention to the protection of vulnerable groups in their country and the acceptance of three recommendations that Algeria had made regarding the protection for children in penitentiary institutions and the creation of a human rights institution. Algeria wished every success to Jamaica and recommended that the Council adopt the outcome on the country.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) thanked the delegation of Jamaica for the presentation of their position with regard to the recommendations concerning their Universal Periodic Review process that was held in November 2010. In particular, Morocco welcomed the open and frank approach which the Government of Jamaica adopted in the review. Morocco congratulated Jamaica for the progress made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular concerning poverty reduction, malnutrition and hunger and their progress in the protection of children against ill treatment and exploitation. Morocco was satisfied that two of its recommendations enjoyed the support of Jamaica, particularly the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the consideration of the deterioration of the security situation and the country’s vulnerability to natural disaster. Morocco reiterated its support to Jamaica in ongoing development efforts.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA (Cuba) said Cuba congratulated Jamaica on its commitment to human rights and on the actions it took to implement the recommendations received during the Universal Periodic Review. Cuba valued that Jamaica accepted recommendations on the continuity in socio-economic plans and in ensuring health services to the population. Jamaica, like other developing nations, had to face its colonial past but regardless had achieved success in the promotion and protection of human rights and for the progress made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, poverty reduction, education and access to public and reproductive health. Cuba would continue providing its full support to this Caribbean nation.

DANIEL BAER (United States) said the United States strongly supported the recommendation of the Working Group with regard to the implementation of the recommendation of the Jamaican Justice System Reform Task to enhance the efficiency and functionality of the country’s judicial system. The United States looked forward to continued progress on reforming the justice sector with an emphasis on increasing respect for the rule of law and human rights among the police forces. The United States supported the commitment of Jamaica to start a public information campaign to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and urged Jamaica to repeal sections of the law that criminalised same-sex intercourse. The United States urged Jamaica to reconsider the recommendation to thoroughly investigate incidents or acts of violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and to take measures to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons might fully and freely participate in the society without fear of attack or discrimination.

PANE LEWIS, of Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, said it was encouraged by the acceptance of the recommendations by Slovenia for training of law enforcement officials as well as the examination of the recommendations made by Belgium and the Netherlands for public campaigns to combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. COC Netherlands encouraged the Government of Jamaica to take bold steps towards decriminalization of consensual same sex activities, particularly as this drove lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people underground and away from effective HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support interventions.

MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said it welcomed Jamaica’s commitment to carry out independent and transparent investigations into the deaths that had occurred in the Tivoli Garden in March 2010 during police operations. Amnesty International was disappointed that Jamaica had rejected the moratorium on executions, the commutation of all death sentences to prison sentences and the abolishment of the death penalty. Amnesty International urged Jamaica to express its support for a number of recommendations aimed at combating discrimination based on sexual orientation.

WAYNE McCOOK, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding observations thanked the delegations and stakeholders groups that had spoken and those delegations that had recommended the adoption of this report and those who mentioned other advances and progress in the Millennium Development Goals. Jamaica reiterated its position as stated in its national report: there was no legal discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation, and the Government of Jamaica condemned such discrimination.
They underscored the provisions of their constitution which addressed the guarantees of any citizen and the possibility for them to appeal violations in court. Concerning the justice and law enforcement reform, they were improving prison conditions and the training of officers in these institutions. They had also increased the training in law enforcement. Moreover the Government had established an independent commission on investigations that investigated abuses. Jamaica thanked the members of the Council for the attention paid to the review of Jamaica and wished to remind them that the list of recommendations in the numerical count may be misleading as some recommendations were repeated. Jamaica recommended that recommendations be clustered in a thematic way. Jamaica had clearly indicated those recommendations that they rejected and those accepted.

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