HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOMES OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW ON THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, MONACO AND BELIZE



Human Rights Council
MORNING

23 September 2009


The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on the Central African Republic, Monaco and Belize.

Leopold Ismael Samba, Representative of the Central African Republic to the United Nations at Geneva, said that the texts, conventions, protocols and treaties that the Central African Republic had not signed, ratified or acceded to were also matters of concern to the country. The Central African Republic was ready to ratify all the international instruments, providing that the economic, political and social conditions were in place. For example, the Central African Republic had signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The law prohibited the practice of female genital mutilation, although cultural beliefs and the interests of practitioners still weighed heavily in the fight to implement it. Regarding the defence and security forces, the Government had ongoing programmes to demobilize women soldiers and children.

In the discussion on the Central African Republic speakers noted that the Government was willing to give real form to the priorities set out in its strategy to strengthen peace and prevent conflicts in the country. Nevertheless, while the Central African Republic faced many challenges, and the Government had exerted commendable efforts, it was important for the international community to provide support, as United Nations programmes and agencies had the capacity to offer the necessary assistance for the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals and to promote human rights. Several States remained concerned, however, regarding the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights abuses in the security forces.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of the Central African Republic were Algeria, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, the United States, Cuba, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Chad. The International Lesbian and Gay Association, Interfaith International, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and Human Rights Watch also took the floor.

Robert Fillon, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that when discussing Monaco, the very small number and very small scope of the problems that could arise in the human rights field should be borne in mind. During the examination of the report, Monaco had already been able to accept a certain number of recommendations and, on others, it had committed itself to responding during the current session. As for the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons Against Forced Disappearances, Monaco could not firmly commit to its ratification, although it had already signed it. Further, regarding the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture, there was no need in Monaco for an independent body to supervise conditions in prisons.

In the discussion on Monaco, speakers highlighted the interest shown by Monaco in international cooperation, in particular in favour of certain vulnerable groups in developing countries. That was particularly demonstrated by Monaco’s acceptance of the recommendation that it continue to provide financial support for the fight against poverty by allocating 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance until 2015. Further, Monaco was commended for accepting the Working Group’s recommendation to use public awareness-raising campaigns to prevent discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation. Monaco was encouraged to join the rest of the Western Group in endorsing the joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity that had been delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 2008.

Speaking in the debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Monaco were Algeria and the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

Kamela Palma, High Commissioner of Belize to the United Kingdom, said that Belize viewed human rights as fundamental to the country’s development, its democracy and the very way of life of its citizens. It was for that reason that Belize had accepted the vast majority of recommendations, and that further consultations at home were required on a mere 10 recommendations. Nevertheless, technical assistance from the international community was important to the task ahead. Further, Belize would continue taking a measured approach to the consideration and accession of new treaties. It had also made initial contact with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to express its interest in exploring the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution.

In the discussion on Belize, speakers appreciated that Belize had accepted 36 of the 46 recommendations that had been submitted to it. That was a testimony of Belize’s commitment to promoting and protecting human, rights despite the challenges and constraints facing it as a small and young developing country. Belize’s acceptance of the recommendation to complete the current process aiming at ratifying major international instruments of human rights was further appreciated and the readiness of Belize to consider the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles was also welcomed. Further, the various programmes in place to protect and promote human rights were commended, as were the obligations that Belize had assumed under the Universal Periodic Review process.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Belize were Algeria, the Russian Federation and Cuba, as well as the non-governmental organization the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

The next meeting of the Council will be today at 3 p.m. when it is scheduled to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes on the Republic of Congo and Malta.


Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on the Central African Republic

LEOPOLD ISMAEL SAMBA (Central African Republic) said that it was important to note that texts, conventions, protocols and treaties that the Central African Republic had not signed, ratified or acceded to, were also matters of concern to the country. The Central African Republic was ready to ratify all the international instruments, providing that the economic, political and social conditions were in place in the country. Concerning the abolition of the death penalty, it was still under discussion; the majority in the country was against the abolition, because of the high-level of crime in the country. The latest executions had happened in 1981.

Concerning war crimes and other degrading treatment, the Central African Republic had carried out investigations into the events of 15 March 2003. The process of National Dialogue had, however, been slowed down because of financial problems. On the judiciary, it constituted an independent power and judicial independence was guaranteed by several organs. Regarding summary and extraordinary executions and torture, that had never been institutionalized by the State. Turning to equality between men and women, the Central African Republic had signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The law prohibited the practice of female genital mutilation, although cultural beliefs and the interests of practitioners still weighed heavily in the fight to implement it. As for sexual discrimination, the Central African Republic was not ready yet to sign a provision on that issue given the current cultural beliefs. Witchcraft was a reality in the country and was defined as a crime in the current Penal Code. Turning to the defence and security forces, the Central African Republic had ongoing programmes to demobilize women soldiers and children.

NADIA LAMRANI (Algeria) said the quality of the report presented, as well as the information provided during the presentation of the report, attested to the serious attitude of the Central African authorities when approaching the Universal Periodic Review. There were 70 recommendations, and progress had been made in improving security and in protecting and promoting human rights. The Government of the Central African Republic was willing to give real form to the priorities set out in its strategy to strengthen peace and prevent conflicts in the country, strengthening the macroeconomic framework. The international community and the United Nations should provide the country with the technical and financial aid that it required. Algeria wished all success to the Central African Republic, and urged the adoption of the report.

PAVEL CHERNIKOV (Russian Federation) congratulated the Ambassador of the Central African Republic for his very interesting statement, and commended the Central African Republic on its successful passage though the Universal Periodic Review process. The Russian Federation also commended that, even while the report was still being considered by the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review, the delegation of the Central African Republic had already expressed its agreement with approximately two thirds of the recommendations. Further, the Russian Federation wished the Central African Republic all success in implementing the obligations it had entered into as part of the Universal Periodic Review. Finally, the Russian Federation expressed its regret that the Secretariat had not been able to provide a translation of the Central African Republic’s report and asked that this would be provided for the next session of the Human Rights Council.

JASMINE MOUSSA (Egypt) said that the presentation by the Central African Republic’s delegation attested the commitment of the Central African Republic to the Universal Periodic Review process and to protect human rights. The Central African Republic faced many challenges, but the Government had exerted commendable efforts in many different fields. Egypt appreciated the responses by the Central African Republic to the various recommendations that had been issued during the Universal Periodic Review process.

ADEL SHALTUT (Libya) commended the Central African Republic Government on efforts made in various fields, particularly regarding the poverty reduction strategy and economic reforms, as well as the ratification of most international human rights instruments and institutional reforms guaranteeing the rights of women, including the new policy on promoting gender equality. It was important for the international community to provide support, as United Nations programmes and agencies had the capacity to offer the necessary assistance for the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals and to promote human rights. Libya considered that the voluntary commitments made by the Government were highly important and necessary to protect and promote human rights in that country.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said Morocco had taken note of the sincere commitment of the Central African Republic, which deserved the praise of the Human Rights Council, and Morocco encouraged the Council to adopt the report. Morocco also reaffirmed its support with respect to the constant efforts of the Central African Republic Government in the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in view of the various politico-military crises in the country and the global financial crisis that had both obstructed the realization of human rights in Central African Republic. There was a need to explore ways and means to best ensure the enjoyment of human rights in the country, and Morocco wished the Central African Republic all success in implementing the recommendations it had accepted.

COURTNEY MUSSER (United States) welcomed the Central African Republic’s adoption of reforms, particularly those favouring increased press freedoms, and its efforts to improve human rights. However, the United States remained concerned regarding the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights abuses in the security forces. Also appreciated were the efforts to undertake reforms in the justice system and efforts to prevent children from being used in conflicts or recruited unlawfully by the military. As gender-based violence remained a problem in the Central African Republic, the United States also welcomed the national action plan on gender-based violence.

MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA CASEIRO (Cuba) said the report showed that efforts had been undertaken by the Government to protect the human rights of the people in the Central African Republic, notwithstanding major difficulties. The Central African Republic was a developing country that had recently turned its back on war, and there were difficulties due to the unjust international economic system, compounded by the financial and economic crisis. The Government had, however, adopted a number of measures and plans and programmes to ensure that human rights became a reality in the country, including for women, children, ethnic minorities, and the disabled. That had allowed strides forward, although they were starting from very difficult conditions. The efforts of the Government should be recognized, and the international community provide backing and cooperation. All those who were truly working in favour of the cause of human rights should lend solidarity to the Government of the Central African Republic in that regard.

AHMED MOHAMED ABRO (Djibouti) congratulated the Central African Republic for its firm commitment and for honouring the recommendations that had been made. Djibouti also called on the international community to provide technical and financial backing to support the Central African Republic in its efforts.

MICHEL MAHOUVE (Cameroon) said that, during the Universal Periodic Review, they had seen the number of obstacles standing in the way of the full enjoyment of human rights of the citizens of the Central African Republic. The efforts undertaken by the Government required the help of the international community, such as in the area of the fight against illiteracy. Cameroon stood ready to help the Central African Republic. They had had a close look at the recommendations that were made during the Universal Periodic Review and hoped that the Central African Republic would be able to adopt all of them as soon as possible.

RICHARD LUKUNDA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) commended the determination and commitment of the Central African Republic to continue to pursue a policy of national reconciliation and to implement the decisions arising from the inclusive political dialogue. The Government’s desire to give a tangible form to efforts to rehabilitate the National Commission for Human Rights was also welcome. The Government should continue its efforts to improve the situation of human rights and apply the announced reforms. The Government was also commended for having voluntarily committed itself to elaborate and adopt a national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights in agreement with the Vienna Convention. The Council should adopt the report.

SAMUEL NANG NANG (Gabon) extended a warm welcome to the delegation of the Central African Republic, a country with which Gabon had strong ties, both at the level of the population and at the highest institutional level. Gabon had been pleased to be part of the Troika of the Working Group that had examined the human rights situation in the Central African Republic. Notwithstanding financial and other difficulties, the determination of the Central African Republic to promote human rights and the dignity of its people was clear. It was now the duty of the international community to provide all technical assistance that was needed to ensure that Central African Republic’s ambitious programme could be translated into reality.

ANGUI AWADA (Chad) was satisfied to note that the Central African Republic had set up institutions that aimed at reinforcing democracy, such as the National Mediation Council and the High Council for Communication. Chad also noted that the Central African Republic had multiplied its efforts to protect and promote human rights. The resources of the Central African Republic were limited and Chad suggested that the international community support the country in the implementation of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.

NATHALIE JEANNIN, of International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), welcomed the commitments made by the Government of the Central African Republic, but there remained grave concern for the numerous human rights violations in the country, including the recurrent use of torture and ill-treatment in prisons and police stations. The Government should ratify the Conference against Torture, as well as abolish the death penalty. The revision of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure should also allow the country to make its internal law conform with international judicial instruments.

ROWLAND MAC AULAY, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation (ILGA-EUROPE), commended the Central African Republic for its leadership. They were keen to find out what the Government’s response was to recommendation 16, which recommended a full review of all national legislation relating to the principles of non-discrimination, particularly as it applied to women and sexual minorities. In that regard, the Central African Republic was urged to review its criminal legislation, and all other legislation, to ensure that there was no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and that it take measures to recognize the sexual health and protect the rights of sexual minorities in accordance with international instruments.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Interfaith International, said that after a number of years of bloody political problems which had given rise to human rights violations by several parties, they had seen a number of tortures, rapes, sexual violence, destruction of public property and enforced disappearances in Bangui and in several regions in the northeast and the western part of the country. The holding of presidential and legislative elections had finally paved the way for peace in the Central African Republic. The implementation of recommendations made in paragraphs 2, 25, 26, 29, 34 and 33 was hinged to international legislative reforms, which were still pending at the present time. It was time to revise the Criminal Code to remedy that situation. The Government had to demonstrate a strong political will.

JULIE GROMELLON, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said they had listened very seriously to the efforts of the country to fight arbitrary executions, to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to promote the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. For 15 years there had been incessant struggles for power in the country, giving rise to summary executions, sexual violence, torture and plundering. The Government had said it would sanction the perpetrators of human rights violations, but an amnesty had been promulgated, showing that the authorities did not take an interest in the plight of the victims. There should be no impunity for those crimes. The Government should take on its responsibilities, and the Human Rights Council should keep a close watch to ensure that it did.

PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, welcomed the steps taken by the Government of the Central African Republic to end abuses by the security forces, such as withdrawing the Republican Guard form the northwest of the country in 2007. However, Human Rights Watch was deeply concerned about continuing attacks against civilians in the context of the Government’s counter-insurgency operations against rebels in the north of the country. It was further concerned by allegations of abuses by paramilitary groups that were allied with the Government, such as the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity rebel movement. In that regard, and in the interest of regaining the trust of the population, it was crucial to meaningfully reform the security sector, including the Forces armées centrafricaines (the national Armed Forces) and the Republican Guard. The Government also had to prosecute those who bore individual responsibility for killings, and Human Rights Watch encouraged the Government to provide a positive answer to the recommendations that had been made by the United Nations and Sweden in that regard.

LEOPOLD ISMAEL SAMBA (Central African Republic), in final comments, was pleased that the international community had understood the need to help the Central African Republic on its way to peace and respect for human rights. Today, the Central African Republic had provided the proof of its good faith and commitment. However, they had been told that they had not been doing enough. But when one compared the Central African Republic of 2003 and its current state, one could see that tangible efforts had been made. Also, what had not been said clearly was that the eastern part of the country had to deal with the Ugandan rebels. The international community had a fairly good idea what the military resources of the Central African Republic were. They needed help to address that issue. They could not accept that people said that the Central African Republic had no rule of law. The Central African Republic was not a banana republic and the international community should help it to overcome its problems. They were now seeing the end of the tunnel. Efforts had been made, but they still needed time.

Turning to the amnesty law, Mr. Samba underscored that it was a legal means that their Constitution allowed them to adopt in favour of peace. Its purposes were not to hide crimes or strengthen impunity. When it had been adopted, it had been needed in order to avoid the whole country from being set on fire. One could only criticize the Central African Republic if it received aid from the international community and did nothing with it.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on the Central African Republic.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Monaco

ROBERT FILLON, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the presentation of the report of Monaco to the Human Rights Council was a complex and inspiring process: complex, as the issues discussed were themselves complex and required a significant investment in human resources and abilities; and inspiring, as it had caused careful and critical examination of both the corpus of applicable law and current practice. When discussing Monaco, it should be borne in mind the very small number and very small scope of the problems that could arise in the human rights field. During the examination of the report, Monaco had already been able to accept a certain number of recommendations. On others, it had committed itself to responding during the current session.

Turning to Monaco’s positions on specific recommendations, Mr. Fillon observed, with regard to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance, that Monaco could not firmly commit to its ratification, although it had already signed it. As for joining the International Labour Organization, Monaco had certain difficulties in that regard, but wished to note that the jurisprudence in the country on labour issues showed Monaco’s respect for the principles upheld by that Organization. On the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Monaco adhered to the universal principles contained within that Convention, and women enjoyed the same economic and social advantages as well as rights as men did in the context of work, childcare, salary, social support, and others. Regarding the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court, various studies had identified incompatibilities with the national legislation of Monaco which required a vast programme of reform. With respect to the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture, there was no need in Monaco for an independent body to supervise conditions in prisons. As for the National Institute for Human Rights, that Institute did not currently exist, and national reflection since had shown that there was no need for such a body, as its purview was currently covered by three others.

NADIA LAMRANI (Algeria) thanked Monaco for the complementary information it had provided regarding some recommendations. Algeria also welcomed the high-calibre dialogue that had taken place between the delegation of Monaco and the Universal Periodic Review Working Group during the meeting in 2009, which had been marked by transparency. The interest shown by Monaco in international cooperation, in particular in favour of certain vulnerable groups in developing countries, should be highlighted. That was particularly demonstrated by Monaco’s acceptance of the recommendation that it continue to provide financial support for the fight against poverty by allocating 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance until 2015.

BJORN VAN ROOSENDAAL, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network; and Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit Coc Nederland, commended Monaco for accepting the Working Group recommendation to use public awareness-raising campaigns to prevent discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation. Such campaigns could support the important 2005 law that punished incitement to hatred and violence on grounds or race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. The Government was urged to clarify the means by which such campaigns would be developed and to include civil society in the development, execution and evaluation of such campaigns. Monaco was also encouraged to join the rest of the Western Group in endorsing the joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity that had been delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 2008.

ROBERT FILLON, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks on the report on Monaco, said he had carefully noted the statement from Algeria, and was grateful for the stress on Monaco's commitment to official development assistance. Monaco would keep that commitment, despite the financial difficulties which all States were facing today. On the Convention on Migrant Workers, this was not the appropriate place or time to reopen the debate, especially as it would be quite legal in nature. Monaco had carefully studied the Convention, and between that and the measures that Monaco was already implementing there were a certain number of contradictions, notably in that the social protection enjoyed by migrant workers was already higher than that stipulated in the Convention. When considering the human rights situation in Monaco, it was necessary to be both legal and pragmatic in the approach taken. In that context, dialogue could only happen in full knowledge of realities, and that was why Monaco had extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures.

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

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Belize

KAMELA PALMA, High Commissioner of Belize to the United Kingdom, thanked the Working Group of the Council and the Troika – namely Brazil, Russia and Malaysia – which had collaborated with Belize in May during the Universal Periodic Review process. Belize reiterated the commitment of its Government to human rights. Indeed, it viewed human rights as fundamental to the country’s development, its democracy and the very way of life of its citizens. It was for that reason that Belize approached the Universal Periodic Review seriously and with the frankness and sense of commitment that were indispensable to making the review meaningful. That was also the reason why Belize had given due consideration to the recommendations that had been made, and had accepted the vast majority of them in May. Further consultations at home were required on a mere 10 recommendations. Belize was of the view that the recommendations generally would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in Belize, but technical assistance from the international community was important to the task ahead.

Belize would continue taking a measured approach to the consideration of and accession to new treaties, which would include a thorough review of obligations and reporting requirements. It also recognized and accepted that there was room for improvement on the timely submission of reports to the various treaty bodies, and noted that heavy reporting obligations were shortcomings that plagued many small States. It might be necessary to rethink the existing process so that there could be more consolidation and streamlining of reports, which could allow Belize to focus more on implementation. The Government of Belize had also made initial contact with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to express its interest in exploring the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution. In the meantime, a number of existing institutions had been tasked with ensuring the implementation of the particular human rights treaties to which it was a party. To conclude, the Belizean Government was proud of its achievements in guaranteeing the human rights of all its citizens, but it was also fully cognizant that challenges persisted, and that its efforts could be strengthened.

SIM MELLOUH (Algeria) appreciated Belize’s acceptance of 36 out of 46 recommendations that had been submitted to it. That was a testimony to Belize’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, despite the challenges and constraints facing it as a small and young developing country. Algeria appreciated the acceptance of Belize to complete the current process aiming at ratifying major international human rights instruments and welcomed the readiness of Belize to consider the possibility of establishing a national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles. Algeria also underscored the importance of the international community’s assistance and reiterated its invitation to the international community and the United Nations Programmes and Funds to provide Belize with the required assistance. Algeria was also encouraged by Belize’s efforts for the promotion of social and economic rights.

PAVEL CHERNIKOV (Russian Federation) said it was with particular satisfaction, as a member of the Troika on the Universal Periodic Review on Belize, that Russia noted the constructive approach taken by Belize at all stages, and the fact that it had adopted 36 recommendations and showed its willingness to adopt the remaining 10. There was a whole range of problems in Belize, which the Government was willing to tackle, including fighting HIV/AIDS, improving education, providing employment for young people, and assistance to disabled persons and others. The various programmes in place to protect and promote human rights were commended, as were the obligations that Belize had assumed under the Universal Periodic Review process.

MARGARITA VALLE (Cuba) thanked Ms. Palma for her presentation, which gave an idea of the actions that had been undertaken by the Belizean Government with a view to implementing the recommendations made by the Working Group in May this year. The implementation of the recommendations would further strengthen the capacity of Belize regarding the promotion and protection of human rights. Cuba recognized the measures Belize had taken to protect the human rights of women, which had to remain a priority. Cuba also congratulated Belize for its efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights of Belizean citizens more generally, which had enabled making major strides notwithstanding difficult circumstances. Cuba concluded that Belize should continue on its path, and it urged the international community to cooperate and further those efforts.

JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, welcomed Belize’s acceptance of recommendation 12, in which the Government agreed to provide human rights training to law enforcement officials, judicial officers and all State officials with regard to the protection of vulnerable groups, including persons pf minority sexual orientation or gender identity. They regretted, however, that Belize was not ready to accept the recommendations that urged the Government to ensure that no one was subject to criminal sanctions for same-sex activity between consenting adults. Belize’s reluctance to decriminalize homosexuality at this time was inconsistent with its positive acceptance of recommendation 18, on the strengthening of activities directed to HIV prevention.

KAMELA PALMA, High Commissioner of Belize to the United Kingdom, in concluding remarks, noted the constructive comments made, which would be taken under consideration as Belize moved to take action on the recommendations. The national report, the responses in the dialogue and the addendum submitted recently addressed the questions and concerned raised today. Belize looked forward to continuing this constructive dialogue until the next review, as that should continue between Human Rights Council sessions and Universal Periodic Review meetings. The work to protect and promote human rights should be continuous, and global work should be done by improving the situation in the individual countries.

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

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