Human Rights Council
20 March 2009
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process on the reports on Israel, Cape Verde, Colombia and Uzbekistan.
Following the debate yesterday on the adoption of the outcome of Universal Periodic Review process of Israel, speakers noted that respect for international resolutions in general and those of the Council in particular required that Israel respect and adopt the resolutions, and accept the visits of Special Procedures and fact-finding missions. Israel, as an occupying power, had rejected resolutions, and this threatened the Universal Periodic Review and undermined the work of the Council. It was also stated that procedural questions had been raised during the review of Israel that had not been raised during other reviews. Singling out one country was unacceptable. The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Israel.
Speaking during the discussion on Israel were Palestine, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, United States, Australia and Cuba.
Alcides De Barros, Charge d’Affaires at the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde at Geneva, said the recommendations of the Review had made it possible for Cape Verde to carry out a more in-depth analysis of the human rights situation in the country. The Constitution enshrined the absolute nature of the dignity of all persons and that all Cape Verdians enjoyed rights, freedoms and guarantees, including the right to life and the right of participation in the political life. Regarding the recommendations on police violence, Cape Verde underlined that the existing legislation already forbade any form of such violence. Concerning the rights of children, Cape Verde said that it had already adopted certain legal instruments for the protection of the rights of the child and minors in general. The new Penal Code 2004 included provisions concerning family violence. Cape Verde was implementing a national plan against gender violence for the period of 2009 and 2011 which included the integration of foreign women into the plan and the fight against all forms of violence.
During the discussion on Cape Verde, speakers applauded the efforts of Cape Verde towards the full realisation of human rights, in particular in the fight against sexual exploitation and ill-treatment of children, as well as with regards to juvenile justice. Countries were confident that Cape Verde would continue to overcome its main challenges in the field of human rights, along with its efforts to achieve development in a spirit of harmony. The international community should provide every support to Cape Verde in the difficult task that it was continually implementing to improve its human rights situation. The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Cape Verde.
Speaking on Cape Verde were Algeria, Senegal and Brazil, as well as Concetas Direitos Humanos, Cercle de Recherche sur les Droits et les Devoirs de la Personne Humaine and Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
Adriana Mejia Hernandez, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said that the Government aimed to combat impunity, and implemented mechanisms to establish transparency in the judicial system to this effort. On the concerns raised on cases involving murders committed by law enforcement officials, Ms. Mejia Hernandez said as of October 2008 the Government had not received any further complaints in this regard. Moreover, significant progress had been made with regard to the union of same-sex persons. The Government shared the concern of the Council at the persistence of internally displaced persons in the country, and as such the Government established through the Constitutional Court measures to address the most vulnerable sectors, including, the Afro-Colombians, displaced women and children, among others. However, despite those efforts they were aware of the challenges that remained.
During the discussion on Colombia, speakers welcomed the Colombian acknowledgement that the security forces were responsible for unlawful killings of civilians and that steps were taken by the Colombian Government to address these extrajudicial executions. States acknowledged the difficult challenges that Colombia faced, particularly violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups, which continued to present security threats to the civilian population in parts of the country, and commended Colombia on its efforts to improve the human rights situation of all its citizens. It was emphasized that the authorities should do their utmost to protect and promote the role of human rights defenders, journalists, civil society organizations, trade unionists, and those who represented the most vulnerable, including the indigenous populations. The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia.
The following country delegations took the floor on Colombia: Russian Federation, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, United States, Switzerland, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Guatemala, China and Panama.
The following non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also spoke: Colombian Commission of Jurists, World Organization against Torture, World Federation of Trade Unions, Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany, International Pen, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and SOS Kinderdorf.
Akmal Saidov, Chairman of the National Centre for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, said the Universal Periodic Review mechanism had been used as a critical assessment of the full picture of human rights in Uzbekistan, and this had been most useful. In 2008, a wide-ranging large-scale educational awareness campaign had been held, with monitoring of the most important human rights laws, allowing the ideas and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be placed at the very foundation of State policy. In the current conditions, Governmental policy was directed towards avoiding any reduction of living standards, protecting people from the negative effects of the financial crisis, and ensuring that normal life continued as the most basic foundation of human rights. There were integrated State problems relating to economic and social development as the basis for achieving the whole range of economic, social and cultural rights as enshrined in the fundamental United Nations documents.
During the discussion on Uzbekistan, speakers noted that Uzbekistan was a country which, despite the obstacles facing it, had been able to make considerable progress in human rights, both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Special acknowledgement was required for the programmes on health, education, care for persons with disabilities, gender equality, and combating all kinds of discrimination, all of which showed the country's firm commitment to protecting and promoting all human rights. The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan.
Speaking on Uzbekistan were the following countries: Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Belarus, Malaysia, Philippines, Bahrain, Algeria and United Kingdom.
The following NGOs took the floor on Uzbekistan: Civicus-World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, International Commission of jurists, Human Rights Watch and Canada HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Council is scheduled to adopt the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Tuvalu and then proceed with a general debate on its agenda item on the Universal Periodic Review.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review for Report on Israel
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine) said Palestine was committed to the procedures and rules governing the Universal Periodic Review, considering it as the ideal mechanism to protect and promote human rights. The applicability of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as international law itself, made it incumbent upon the occupying authority to submit a detailed report on the situation of human rights in the territories under its occupation in addition to its report on the situation of human rights in its own territory. Palestine was not thinking of the principle of membership of any State in any international organisation in general, or the Council in particular, but wondered to what extent Israel was committed to the Human Rights Charter and the principles of the United Nations, as it threatened international peace and security by its occupation.
Respect for international resolutions in general and those of the Council in particular required that Israel respect and adopt the resolutions, and accept the visits of special procedures and fact-finding missions. Israel, as an occupying power, had rejected resolutions, and this threatened the Universal Periodic Review and undermined the work of the Council. Recommendations made should be included in the final report according to article 32 of resolution 5/1, as well as all recommendations that had been submitted.
ZAMIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that THE Universal Periodic Review was one of the most important mechanisms established in this Council. Israel was the occupying power. It had an obligation flowing from the Fourth Geneva Convention and humanitarian law. The Palestinians were protected people and Israel had to ensure their rights under humanitarian law. Israel was reminded of its status as the occupying power during the Universal Periodic Review process but Israel had chosen to ignore those recommendations. This Council should ensure that there would be no impunity for those violating the rights of the Palestinian people. The Organization of the Islamic Conference believed that the Israeli policy of seeking to ignore some of the fundamental concerns related to its human rights obligations had seriously undermined the very objective of the Universal Periodic Review exercise. The Organization of the Islamic Conference had a reservation on this approach and requested that its statement be reflected as part of the report.
MARCK C. STORELLA (United States) said the United States had recently re-engaged with the Council and wished to point out that no one county should be singled out. During the consideration of Israel certain procedural questions were raised that had not been raised with any of the other approximately 30 States that were reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review. The United States hoped that the President would keep the Council on the right path and continue to guide the Council in the manner in which he had been. The Council was based on the principles of universality, impartiality and objectivity. The Human Rights Council was meant to be an environment where all would be treated fairly and with respect for one another. The United States appreciated the comments made on behalf of Palestine and for its commitment to upholding the procedural rules which guided the work of the Council. The United States remained dedicated to the goals and founding principles in which the Council was born.
CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said there was great concern that at the review of the outcome of the report on Israel, procedural questions had been raised that had not been raised during other reviews. Singling out one country was unacceptable. The improving situation of human rights in Israel had not been recognised.
RESFEL PINO ALVAREZ, (Cuba) said the Universal Periodic Review was an effective tool to make progress in protecting and promoting human rights. Israel should have followed common practice to react to all the recommendations on matters on which they had not made their position clear during the Review Process. Israel should understand the appeals of the international community and respect the human rights of all Palestinian people, including those in the Occupied Territories, as this was their duty as an Occupying Power.
The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Israel.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review for Report on Cape Verde
ALCIDES DE BARROS, Chargé d’Affaires at the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde in Geneva, thanked all the delegations for their contributions in December 2008 at the Universal Periodic Review of Cape Verde. The recommendations had made it possible for Cape Verde to carry out a more in-depth analysis of the human rights situation in Cape Verde. The Constitution enshrined the absolute nature of the dignity of all persons and that all Cape Verdians enjoyed rights, freedoms and guarantees, including the right to life and the right of participation in the political life. The Constitution also recognized the rights of foreigners and protected the right to work as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Furthermore, Cape Verde had acceded, inter alia, to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the United Nations Convention on organized transnational crime.
Cape Verde had adopted a law on socio-educational measures on the education of minors, and the statute of children and adolescents was still under review. There was a major programme to reform the prison system and the inauguration of a new prison which would allow the country to resolve the problem of prison overcrowding. Cape Verde was in favour of all recommendations made by the Member States, except for two recommendations which were still under review. Cape Verde was committed to pursue the constructive dialogue with all national and international institutions for the strengthening of human rights in Cape Verde.
Regarding the recommendations on police violence, Cape Verde underlined that the existing legislation already forbade any form of such violence. Concerning the rights of children, Cape Verde said that it had already adopted certain legal instruments for the protection of the rights of the child and minors in general. The new Penal Code 2004 included provisions concerning family violence. Cape Verde was implementing a national plan against gender violence for the period of 2009 and 2011 which included the integration of foreign women into the plan and the fight against all forms of violence.
CHEBIHI BOUALEM (Algeria) extended thanks to the Chargé de l’Affaires and his delegation for the additional information presented as a follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review held in December 2008. Algeria thanked Cape Verde for the extent of the details in the report and urged them to persist in their efforts.
BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE (Senegal) said the position of the Government of Cape Verde to make all possible efforts to consolidate its gains but also to improve constantly the rights of its citizens deserved commendation and encouragement. Senegal wished the authorities of Cape Verde full success in their determined struggle to ensure that effective consideration be given to the issues of women and children, poverty eradication, and health. The international community should provide every support to Cape Verde in the difficult task that it was continually implementing to improve its human rights situation.
MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil) said Brazil warmly welcomed the openness and constructive spirit of Cape Verde during the Universal Periodic Review. It was clear that all had challenges in the field of human rights. The efforts of Cape Verde towards the full realisation of human rights were applauded, in particular in the fight against sexual exploitation and ill-treatment of children, as well as with regards to juvenile justice. Brazil was confident that Cape Verde would continue to overcome its main challenges in the field of human rights, along with its efforts to achieve development in a spirit of harmony. Brazil would continue to cooperate with Cape Verde.
LUCIA NADER, of Conectas Direitos Humanos, said that Conectas regretted that there was no written report and no broad consultation process and only two relevant stakeholders submitted comments. Conectas welcomed efforts to strengthen human rights in Cape Verde. It also welcomed achievements such as the decrease in child illiteracy and in child and maternal mortality. There had also been progress in the protection of women’s rights. Nonetheless, as stated by the Government, domestic violence continued to be a systematic human rights violation in the country. Therefore, Conectas stressed the importance of the recommendations made by France and Slovenia regarding domestic violence.
BELL HILAIRE, of Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine (CRED), expressed its approval of the progress made by Cape Verde in the progress on human rights, in particular on the new labour code, the National Human Rights and Citizenship Institution, and the House of Rights; all of these were achievements that showed that Cape Verde was interested in increasing the standard of living for its people. Life expectancy was now up from 70 to 72 years, however, the life expectancy gap between men and women was worrisome. The Cercle de Recherche suggested that studies be conducted on the correlation between life expectancy and the enjoyment of human rights, among others.
JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said the acceptance by the Government of recommendation 49 on strengthening programmes on HIV/AIDS with particular attention to women and children was welcomed, as was the reaction to recommendation 36 on improving the situation of tolerance for lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. Cape Verde supported the universal protection of all human beings regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. The international community should move past the discussion of whether all people had rights, and move towards implementation. The efforts of Cape Verde to improve tolerance and remove discrimination were welcome.
ALCIDES DE BARROS, Chargé d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in the light of the statements made today and in December, the only reason why Cape Verde had not done more was the lack of financial resources. There was also a lack of resources for the eradication of poverty, access to water, improving health and satisfying the basic needs of the population. Through new measures Cape Verde would ensure human rights education. The organizations and States that made recommendations had fine cooperative relationships with Cape Verde and the Government was relying on them. It was impossible to do something without the support of those States and organizations.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Cape Verde.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review for Report on Colombia
ADRIANA MEJIA HERNANDEZ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, thanked the members of the troika, Italy, Burkina Faso and Bahrain, who facilitated the interactive dialogue of the Universal Periodic Review. Colombia also thanked the team from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who took part in the Universal Periodic Review. Colombia was aggressively involved in the construction of new mechanisms of the United Nations on human rights, and did so with a constructive spirit and with positive expectations, based on the firm conviction that multilateralism and democracy were necessary for sustainable structures in the country.
The institutions in the country were engaged in deep thought to find more and better ways to guarantee the rights of all the people of Colombia, underscored Ms. Mejia Hernandez. The Universal Periodic Review provided a good opportunity to hear from social organizations and coordinating institutions to identify practices, shortcomings and to plan for the future. The Review process was also an opportunity for self-criticism and to improve the mission of the State to improve the human rights situation in the country. In December 2008, States put forward their concerns that contributed to that end. Colombia accepted most of the recommendations made, and also provided written replies to the questions posed. Colombia was willing to address all comments and questions that would arise at this session as well. Next June there would be a follow-up report and it would be updated every four months as a follow-up mechanism. At the end of January 2009, Colombia had officially extended invitations to the Special Rapporteurs on torture, on the rights of indigenous peoples, and human rights defenders, among others.
The Government of Colombia voluntarily accepted to implement the mechanism for the submission of reports on children in armed conflict, said Ms. Majia Hernandez. Colombia continued to work with the international community to undertake follow-up to the recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2008 as well. The Government of Colombia was committed to combat all forms of violence, and had already implemented measures in this regard with respect to law enforcement officials. Colombia guaranteed economic and social rights, particularly, in the fields of education and health. The Government aimed to combat impunity, and implemented mechanisms to establish transparency in the judicial system to this effort. On the concerns raised on cases involving murders committed by law enforcement officials, as of October 2008 the Government had not received any further complaints in this regard. Significant progress had been made with regard to the union of same-sex persons. The Government shared the concern of the Council at the persistence of internally displaced persons in the country, and as such the Government established through the Constitutional Court measures to address the most vulnerable sectors, including, the Afro-Colombians and displaced women and children, among others. However, despite those efforts they were aware of the challenges that remained.
Colombia reiterated its commitment to dialogue with civil society and that this dialogue would further the progress made with respect to human rights in the country. The achievements made in Colombia were a result of its people, civil society and the international community. Moreover, the Government of Colombia was determined to put an end to organized crime in the country.
SERGEY KONODRATIEV,. (Russian Federation) said the Universal Periodic Review for Colombia was welcomed. Colombia was thanked for submitting an exhaustive and focused set of information on all questions raised during the Universal Periodic Review. This attentive and respectful attitude could serve as an example. Colombia was making major efforts to combat poverty, and this was especially significant in the context of the financial crisis. Colombia had undertaken voluntary commitments in the human rights area, and had established a national mechanism for control, attesting to its commitments to attaining the highest level of protection and promotion of human rights. Colombia wished to combat the challenges before it. Russia was convinced that the efforts of the Government to ensure the protection of the whole spectrum of human rights and enhance the situation of the people of Colombia would be continued.
MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO, (Brazil) said the open and transparent way in which Colombia had taken part in the Universal Periodic Review was welcomed, and their constructive spirit was a sign of the resolve to engage and cooperate with the United Nations in the field of human rights, and to overcome the outstanding challenges. Colombia's participation in the exercise should stand as an example for other countries, and demonstrated the importance Colombia gave to human rights in particular and United Nations institutions as a whole. Brazil supported the efforts of the Government to implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Apart from identifying challenges, the time had now come for members of the United Nations, meeting in the Council, to demonstrate their desire to overcome these same challenges.
NYNKE WIJMENGA (Netherlands) said that the Netherlands welcomed the Colombian acknowledgement that the security forces were responsible for unlawful killings of civilians and that steps were taken by the Colombian Government to address these extrajudicial executions. The Netherlands encouraged the Colombian Government to continue in this direction and to ensure that all cases of human rights violations implicating the security forces were investigated by the civilian justice system. Further, the Netherlands noted with interest the Colombian voluntary commitment regarding addressing impunity and guarantees for access to justice.
PABLO GOMEZ DE OLEA BUSTINZA (Spain) extended a welcome to the Colombian delegation. Spain congratulated the Government of Colombia for the special interest they showed during the Universal Periodic Review, accepting over 60 of the recommendations as shown today in the presentation, among others. Colombia’s voluntary attitude gave the Universal Periodic Review a substantive and practical meaning. Colombia’s commitment to improve human rights defenders rights and its commitment to increase dialogue with civil society were welcomed. A constructive environment for dialogue needed to be restored.
ANNA CHAMBERS (United States) said the United States strongly supported the efforts of Colombian civil society to use the Universal Periodic Review as a tool for advocacy and accountability. The United States also appreciated Colombia's voluntary commitment to improve protection for the rights of reporters, trade unionists and human rights defenders. Prosecution of crimes against these groups and establishment of a rule of law environment where they could freely operate would further strengthen security and peace for Colombian society. The United States acknowledged the difficult challenges that Colombia faced, particularly violence perpetrated by illegally armed groups, which continued to present security threats to the civilian population in parts of the country, and commended Colombia on its efforts to improve the human rights situation of all its citizens. The United States appreciated Colombia's ongoing efforts to battle impunity and to seek remedies for victims. The Government should continue its commitment to provide transparent investigations and due process to all accused perpetrators. Colombia's efforts to strengthen the national plan for the search of missing persons was also supported.
MURIEL BERSET (Switzerland) said it was important for Colombia’s parliament to improve a law on victims that was in agreement with international standards in this sphere, particularly by providing guaranteed access to justice and complete reparation for all victims, including those victimised by State representatives. In taking actions to combat the murder of civilians by members of the law enforcement groups, there should be greater operational control and effective and impartial investigation to ensure the responsible were brought to justice.
LIESBETH GOOSSENS (Belgium) said that Colombia had participated in a very constructive manner in this exercise and Belgium hoped that the implementation of the recommendations accepted by the Government would contribute to an improvement of the human rights situation in Colombia. Belgium welcomed the decision of the Colombian Government to accept visits from various Special Rapporteurs. Belgium encouraged Colombia to guarantee, in the course of legislative reform, access to justice and to compensation in compliance with international standards.
MARIE-ANNA LEBOVITS (France) extended a welcome to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia and the delegation of Colombia. France welcomed Colombia’s acceptance of the ratification of the conventions on forced disappearances and the prevention of torture. Two years had passed since the convention on forced disappearances was adopted by the General Assembly. France regretted that the Government of Colombia did not intend to recognize the jurisdiction of the Committee in this regard, and called on the Government to reconsider its position in this regard. Furthermore, France also urged Colombia to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court with respect to war crimes.
PHILIP M.A. TISSOT (United Kingdom) said since Colombia's Universal Periodic Review, concerns had continued to emerge, including the continuing threats against trade unionists and others. Those responsible needed to be vigorously pursued and brought to justice. The authorities should do their utmost to protect and promote the role of human rights defenders, journalists, civil society organisations, trade unionists, and those who represented the most vulnerable, including the indigenous populations. Human rights defenders needed to be seen as part of the solution to human rights difficulties, and should not be stigmatised officially or otherwise as part of the problem. The United Kingdom would continue to work with international partners and civil society organizations to maintain the positive momentum set by the Universal Periodic Review process; to help Colombia address the threat of illegal armed groups; and to bring lasting and robust improvements in human rights for all Colombians.
ANA ISABEL CARRILLO FABIAN (Guatemala) thanked Colombia for its positive attitude regarding the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review in December. Colombia, like Guatemala, was faced with many challenges in the field of human rights. Most important was the commitment shown by the Government during its actions. Guatemala had received detailed responses and was very grateful for them. This was a good outcome of the Universal Periodic Review.
QIAN BO (China) thanked the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for her presentation. Colombia had presented its efforts and achievements in the promotion of human rights in a frank and open presentation, which was welcomed by China. China congratulated Colombia for the constructive approach it used in its dialogue throughout the Universal Periodic Review process. In particular, China appreciated that the Government provided serious answers to the questions and concerns raised during the Universal Periodic Review by States and by China. In light of the specific conditions in the country, China was convinced that Colombia would overcome those challenges and persist to give rise to new achievements in the field of human rights.
JORGE FELIX CORRALES (Panama) said the official adoption of the Universal Periodic Review outcome was a good opportunity to highlight the successful work of this body of the Human Rights Council. The review of Colombia was open, with dialogue, responsibility, and great commitment. Colombia's review was of high quality, and the Government and civil society were congratulated. Colombia had established a procedure for following up on the recommendations and voluntary commitments made during the Review. This was a great sign of the constructive spirit that should always reign in the Council. The Universal Periodic Review would become a practical instrument, constantly inspiring States to design and implement mechanisms that could assess and enhance the process of protecting and promoting human rights.
GUSTAVO GALLON, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, in a joint statement with World Organization against Torture, dedicated this statement to the indigenous leader Edwin Legarda, who was murdered six days after his wife returned from Geneva where she had spoken about the grave situation of the indigenous peoples in Colombia in this Council. The debate clearly showed that grave human rights violations continued in Colombia. They were so grave and systematic that the Council could not remain silent on them during the next four years. It was also urgent that the Council established a follow-up mechanism to monitor the implementation of the recommendations made during the session.
ALEXANDRA KASSIN, of World Organization Against Torture, welcomed the focus in the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia on the issue of human rights defenders, and the acceptance of most of those recommendations and Colombia’s commitment to “provide guarantees and protection measures of human rights defenders to carry out their work”. Unfortunately, since the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia, human rights defenders had continued to pay a heavy price for their commitment to the defense of universal rights. The World Organization Against Torture condemned the army’s assassination of Edwin Legarda. This tragic event unfolded immediately after his wife returned from participating in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
JULIE AVELLA G., of World Federation of Trade Unions, said there was concern at the increase of crimes against trade unionists in Colombia. Seven workers had been murdered this year already and two had disappeared. Indigenous communities were still being threatened, and they had been warned of "social cleansing". There were still serious reprisals against those who merely considered establishing a union, with physical removal of those defending human rights and union rights in Colombia and abroad.
EMMANUEL RAISON, of Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany, said that the recommendations reflected the serious nature of the situation in Colombia. For Colombia, it could mean a million more internally displaced persons and thousands of dead, if the Council waited another four years for any action. Extrajudicial executions still existed and were even on the increase. It was disturbing that public opinion still under estimated this situation. The Council should be more active in negotiating a political settlement in Colombia.
FAWZIA ASSAAD, of International PEN, in a joint statement with World Press Freedom Committee, welcomed the commitments the Colombian State had made in relation to journalists, which included improving guarantees of their rights; encouraging investigations of crimes against them; and fostering a culture in which it was easier for journalists to carry out their work. International Pen noted with satisfaction that there were no deadly attacks on print journalists in Colombia in 2008, unlike the preceding two years. It was alarmed by the high numbers of print journalists in Colombia who continued to be threatened and intimidated in relation to their work. In 2008, of the 14 attacks against print journalists recorded: 5 were threatened with death, 4 were threatened and harassed, 3 were on trial for criminal defamation, and one was physically attacked and another kidnapped.
DEREK BRETT, of Conscience and Peace Tax International, said Colombia chose to reject the recommendation contained in the report, namely that it should recognise the right of conscientious objection to military service in law and ensure that recruitment methods allow it and guarantee that objectors were able to opt for alternative service, the duration of which would not have punitive effects. Neither domestic legislation nor constitutional provisions could override Colombia's obligations to international treaties to which it was a party, and the Human Rights Committee had confirmed that conscientious objection to military service was a protected mechanism of religious belief, and that a State which made no accommodation for conscientious objectors was in breach of its obligations. Colombia should reconsider its position on this aspect of the report.
GERMAN HUMBERTO RINCON PERFETTI, of Action Canada for Population and Development, said that Colombia through the courts had given the same rights to homosexual as to heterosexual couples. However, this had remained dead letter and was not enforced. Regarding children, the organization said that children were vulnerable persons. Colombia should follow the recommendation by the Czech Republic and should provide funds and implement a follow-up plan.
MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said many of the interventions made reflected the concerns of Colombian human rights organizations as well as the Inter-American Commission. The human rights situation remained serious, as Colombia was amidst an armed conflict and the Government faced challenges to disarm the paramilitary groups in the country. Amnesty International regretted the Government of Colombia’s rejection to accept a number of recommendations relating to, among others, the jurisdiction of the Committee on enforced disappearances, to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture, and to end the controversial programme “Soldiers for a Day” which further entrenched society into the armed conflict.
REINALDO VILLALRA, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said with regards to impunity relating to paramilitary demilitarisation, there was concern that negotiations had not yet dismantled the paramilitary structures. Describing these structures as "gangs" did not reflect the plurality of the problem. Extraditions for drug trafficking of paramilitaries had been halted, and this was a frustration for victims. The Government should investigate crimes against humanity, but it denied that the demilitarisation was a de-facto amnesty. As regarded the judiciary, the Colombian State in its comments did not allude to the recommendations relating to investigations of members of the Government who were linked to the paramilitary. The judiciary should not be investigated and should be provided with protection, and the Government should apply the recommendations made.
ALAN KIKUCHI-WHITE, of SOS Kinderdorf International, in a joint statement, said that limited State presence in rural areas in Colombia minimized identification and reporting of child sexual and physical abuse, therefore many cases went unrecorded and unpunished. A recommendation called for increased efforts in this respect, to ensure effective data collection and adequate reporting, policing and juridical measures for these offences. The organizations called for immediate action on the recommendation requesting measures on the demobilization through to reintegration of child soldiers, and measures to address the underlying exclusion which made rural, indigenous, and other minority children vulnerable to recruitment.
CARLOS FRANCO, Director of the Presidential Programme for Human Rights of Colombia, in concluding remarks, said the Government expressed gratitude for the comments and suggestions made and for the understanding shown by the international community. On the security policy in Colombia, Mr. Franco said the Government established a special unit which enabled them to carry out 184 trials where convictions were handed out for the murder of unionists; 76 convictions last year and 14 this year were achieved, and 216 of cases involving the murder of unionists were revealed in the Justice and Peace Commission. The Government accepted the discussion on the law of victims, and had established a programme for compensation through administrative means established by the Government; 180,000 persons entered claims under the law. Mr. Franco reminded the Council that this was the decision of the Supreme Court, and there were no further restrictions, and accusations made and convictions had been achieved, however, 15 cases were still awaiting trial. On violations committed by law enforcement officials, the Government dismissed 3,000 law enforcement officials, and 1,717 persons involved in such cases in the military were being tried by civilian courts.
The death of Edwin Legarda was regrettable said Mr. Franco, and from the start the case was in the hands of the State Prosecutors Office, and the details of the case were not very clear as the crime took place at 5 a.m. on a highway. As such the Government had asked the Prosecutors Office to establish the real facts relating to the case. On the relationship between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Mr. Franco said the Government was resolved to guarantee dialogue; however NGOs did not share the view of the Government which was that it had made an honest effort and did its best to do away with impunity and protect the population; despite this the Government respected their view. On the paramilitary groups in the country, Mr. France recalled that in the past there had been 200 cases of massacres committed by paramilitary groups where the Government had stood back, however today the Government took a different approach, and all paramilitary group leaders were kept in high security prisons, and prison sentences were handed out. The Colombian Government was committed to public accountability and was open to follow-up mechanisms to the Universal Periodic Review process as well, which was another voluntary commitment made. The Government was aware that their efforts needed to be continued, and that new legislative efforts should not be left to die. This goal relied on the continued support of the international community and civil society, observed Mr. Franco.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review for Report on Uzbekistan
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Centre for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, said the Universal Periodic Review mechanism had been used as a critical assessment of the full picture of human rights in Uzbekistan, and this had been most useful. Today, before the adoption of the Human Rights Council report on the Uzbekistan Universal Periodic Review process, real steps and obligations had been undertaken in the very short period since the session of the Working Group in December. Uzbekistan's consideration coincided with the end of the sixtieth anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was marked by the implementation of a full programme of measures. It was highly symbolic that in this year eight very important human rights instruments had been ratified by Uzbekistan. In February this year, the Government had signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In 2008, a wide-ranging large-scale educational awareness campaign had been held, with monitoring of the most important human rights laws, allowing the ideas and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be placed at the very foundation of State policy. In the current conditions, Governmental policy was directed towards avoiding any reduction of living standards, protecting people from the negative effects of the financial crisis, and ensuring that normal life continued as the most basic foundation of human rights. There were integrated State problems relating to economic and social development as the basis for achieving the whole range of economic, social and cultural rights as enshrined in the fundamental United Nations documents. 2009 had been declared the Year for Rural Development and Well-Being, with the aim of bringing about a quantitative development in the situation in rural areas, where more than half the population lived, in full agreement with the Millennium Development Goals.
One priority of State policy was the area of education, and the Government was implementing systemic educational reform at all levels, connected to the national programme for enhancing the culture of the law, intending to enhance awareness among the masses of new laws, including human rights laws. 2009 was also the Year for Human Rights Education, and the methods and means of human rights education would be improved and stepped up. As of 2008, a whole set of legal and organisational reforms related to the legal professions had been implemented. The Government had taken a decision to support such national institutions for human rights as the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the National Commission which had been instituted along the lines of the Paris Principles. All recommendations of the Member States during the Review had been studied, and work to consistently implement those that had been accepted had already started, in keeping with the spirit and letter of the human rights obligations linked to the Review.
MAMMAD TALIBOV (Azerbaijan) said that Uzbekistan had made significant steps to uphold the role of Parliament, political parties as well as civil society. The growing number of non-governmental organizations; the establishment of the Human Rights Commissioner, who was an Ombudsman of the Parliament, and of the National Centre for Human Rights; the abolishment of the death penalty; the introduction of the institute of habeas corpus; and the adoption of several national plans of action on various fields of human rights, all this demonstrated the will of the Government of Uzbekistan to further improve the human rights situation in the country. Measures successfully taken by Uzbekistan in the fields of education, combating human trafficking, poverty eradication, health protection and rights of women and children should also be mentioned.
EVENY USTINOV (Russian Federation) welcomed the consideration under the Universal Periodic Review of the situation in Uzbekistan, with which the Russian Federation shared many years of close and friendly ties. The Russian Federation welcomed the submission of an exhaustive and detailed report, and the precise presentation given by the delegation of Uzbekistan. The Russian Federation was satisfied to note the progress achieved by Uzbekistan in the adoption of major State decisions. The Russian Federation noted that in Uzbekistan the Government had created a system of national human rights institutions keeping in line with the Paris Principles. The national human rights development system was not only being developed but was being strengthened, noted the Russian Federation, and wished Uzbekistan all the success in continuing its efforts in that path.
GUSTI AGUNG WESAKA PUJA (Indonesia) commended Uzbekistan for embracing the recommendations, and applauded its forthcoming strategies to mobilise national resources to accelerate poverty alleviation and eliminate forced child labour and trafficking. By working together with concerned stakeholders, including NGOs, and members of civil society, Uzbekistan would be further enabled in its efforts to advance these and the other human rights causes in the country. Indonesia sincerely hoped that Uzbekistan would be further enabled to apply a balanced and fair application of human rights norms in the country, especially regarding education and the eradication of discrimination against women and girls.
MYKOLA MAIMESKUL (Ukraine) noted the positive tendencies in the interaction between Uzbekistan and Special Rapporteurs, as well as the Government’s intention to continue comprehensive cooperation with all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Ukraine encouraged Uzbekistan to continue its efforts in this direction. Ukraine said that the mentioned comments also demonstrated a solid national legislative base, which provided good grounds for the further improvement of the human rights situation in the country. Ukraine was convinced that Uzbekistan would make further efforts aiming at due and effective implementation of all recommendations made during the Review which it had accepted.
ABZAL SAPARBEKULY (Kazakhstan) expressed its appreciation to Mr. Akaml Saidov for his informative statement. Kazakhstan recognized the positive engagement by Uzbekistan with the Council in the Universal Periodic Review process. The Government of Uzbekistan showed a constructive and considerate approach to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Kazakhstan noted with great satisfaction that there were recommendations that had already been seriously taken into account and measures undertaken to carry them out. In this regard Kazakhstan welcomed recent positive steps by Uzbekistan to sign in February of this year the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and noted that the Government attached great importance to promote the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens. Kazakhstan also welcomed the gender specific laws taken, in particular, the adoption of the draft law on guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men.
RAFAEL GARCIA (Cuba) said Cuba was among the countries that took the floor during the debate with Uzbekistan during the Universal Periodic Review process, and was very happy with the answers to its questions, and what it had learnt during the meeting. Uzbekistan was a country which, despite the obstacles facing it, had been able to make considerable progress in human rights, both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Special acknowledgement was required for the programmes on health, education, care for persons with disabilities, gender equality, and combating all kinds of discrimination, all of which showed the country's firm commitment to protecting and promoting all human rights. Cuba congratulated Uzbekistan for the progress it had achieved in human rights, and urged them to continue with this.
NATALIA ZHYLEVICH (Belarus) said that Uzbekistan had done serious work in the preparation for the Universal Periodic Review. This was testimony to the firm commitment of the country to human rights. Belarus was pleased to note that Uzbekistan was actively promoting human rights during legal practice, as could be seen by the recent introduction of habeas corpus. Concerning human trafficking, Uzbekistan had undertaken legal steps as well as set up a rehabilitation center for victims of human trafficking. Belarus added that the international training centre in Minsk offered regular courses on the subject.
JAMAL JOHAN (Malaysia) welcomed Dr. Akmal Saidov to the Council, and thanked him for his presentation and believed that his presence today was a testimony of Uzbekistan’s serious commitment to enhancing efforts towards protecting and promotion human rights in the country. Malaysia was pleased to note that Uzbekistan had accepted a large number of recommendations put forward by countries, including those that focused on the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Also noted by Malaysia with encouragement was the Government’s preparedness to strengthen and deepen interaction with the relevant international human rights mechanisms and urged it to continue to engage with them constructively. This step would contribute positively to the Government’s effort in spreading a human rights culture and further improving the human rights situation in the country.
ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines) noted that the Draft Law on "Guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men" had been included in the plan of legislative activities of the Government for 2009, and the Philippines looked forward to the enactment of the law and its immediate implementation. This would augur well for the promotion of the role of women in nation-building. The steps undertaken by the Government with regard to the protection and promotion of the rights of children were also welcomed. Uzbekistan's commitment to improve the living standards of children through its national programme for the welfare of children was indeed laudable, and the Government was encouraged to do its utmost so the Plan's effectiveness would be achieved.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) said that Bahrain appreciated the positive measures regarding a number of recommendations made at the last Universal Periodic Review. The implementation of the recommendations reflected the country’s interest in human rights. For example, human trafficking and the rights of the child were being tackled by Uzbekistan. To put an end to child labour the country had signed the International Labour Organization Convention. The Government was committed to improving the situation of children. Bahrain welcomed Uzbekistan’s interest in improving human rights.
CHEBIHI BOUALEM (Algeria) welcomed the Chair of the National Human Rights Centre and the delegation of Uzbekistan for their introductory statement. Algeria congratulated Uzbekistan for their progress in promoting human rights standards. The constructive participation of Uzbekistan in the Universal Periodic Review and their voluntary acceptance of a large number of the recommendations showed their commitment to human rights, and this was welcomed by Algeria. Algeria called upon the various United Nations agencies to help Uzbekistan in their efforts.
RENATA BLOEM, of Civicus-World Alliance for Citizen Participation, said the Government should report publicly, accurately and comprehensively on how new laws adopted in 2007 had been implemented and what had been done in relation to various recommendations to improve the protection of civil society rights, namely to ensure the exercise of freedom of expression, assembly, association and the right to participate in public and political life, the freedom of peaceful assembly, and to adopt a national legislation complying with international human rights standards to ensure freedom of assembly, particularly by guaranteeing human rights NGOs the right to carry out their activities freely, and freedom of association. The right of association that permitted citizens to freely organise and enter civil society for protection of their individual and collective rights was still gravely impaired in Uzbekistan.
ANNA KIREY, of Action Canada for Population and Development, urged Uzbekistan to provide a friendly environment without State interference or fear of reprisal for NGOs working on the issues on sexual rights, women’s rights, reproductive health and rights, and HIV/AIDS. It called on the Uzbek Government to conduct proper investigation of NGO closures, punishing those responsible for unjustified closures and restoring their legal personhood to the organizations affected, specifically crisis centers for women. The organization supported the recommendation about inviting the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to Uzbekistan and stressed the importance of examining the situation of defenders working on women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights.
MARIANNE LILLIEBTERG, of Amnesty International, welcomed Uzbekistan’s stated support of recommendations by several States to establish a national independent mechanism to monitor all places of detention and to consider complaints; such a mechanism would significantly contribute towards protecting individuals deprived of their liberty from torture or other ill-treatment. Amnesty International was dismayed, however, that Uzbekistan considered as inconsistent with its obligations under international human rights standards calls by several States to establish an independent international investigation into the event of May 2005 when hundreds of individuals, including women and children, were killed when security forces opened fire on mostly unarmed demonstrators gathered in the centre of Andizhan, and as they subsequently fled.
LUCAS MACHONI, of International Commission of Jurists, said the Government of Uzbekistan should address all remaining human rights concerns. There was concern that Uzbekistan accepted only very general and sometimes vague recommendations, and made reservations or eventually refused those that were specific and measurable. The Government should, in particular, among other things, afford the victims of gross human rights violations and members of their families effective remedy and reparation; refrain from the prosecution of dissenting political and religious activists, journalists and human rights defenders for the exercise of fundamental freedoms on vaguely defined charges related to terrorism, extremism, separatism or religious practice; ensure that legislation on criminal procedure complied with all due process guarantees; and ensure absolute prohibition of torture; and provide unhindered access to the Council's Special Procedures.
PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, said that Human Rights Watch considered the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan a crucial opportunity to bring to the spotlight the abysmal state of human rights in the country, with a view to seeking concrete improvements in the many pressing areas of concern that the Uzbek Government needed to urgently address. Human Rights Watch therefore found it all the more regrettable that the Uzbek Government’s approach to the Universal Periodic Review process had been characterized by a refusal to accept any real criticism of its human rights record, and even an outright denial of the existence of a number of well-documented problems. Human Rights Watch was forced to suspend its activities in Uzbekistan in July last year after the Government denied work accreditation to and then outright banned its researcher from entering the country.
JOHN FISHER, of Canada HIV/AIDS Legal Aid Network, said with regard to the 12 recommendations that were being reviewed with respect to national legislation in Uzbekistan, the Network believed that in fact Uzbekistan should be looking to its international obligations with respect to some of them and not national legislation. The Network also requested further clarification on which of those 12 recommendations would be accepted. During the Universal Periodic Review Uzbekistan rejected a recommendation to decriminalize sexual activity between consensual adults, and it had been their view that this was the position because it was not in conformity with its obligations under international human rights mechanisms; however, the Network urged the Government of Uzbekistan to reconsider its position in this regard.
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Centre for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, in concluding remarks, thanked all delegations, Member States and the representatives of NGOs for their statements and constructive input. Uzbekistan held dear its international obligations in the field of human rights on the basis of constructive debate, objectivity and transparency. The Universal Periodic Review procedure had made it possible for the country to have a thorough look at the national policy for the realisation of all human rights, civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights. In implementing the principle of moving from a State of strong rule to a State where rules were strong, there had been a rapprochement with civil society and the development of bodies that worked for the protection and promotion of human rights.
Uzbekistan was running a national association of NGOs, a social fund for their support, and a Parliamentary Commission. In light of existing and developed practice, the Government, following consideration by the treaty bodies and the Council was implementing a National Plan of Action to put into effect the recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies and United Nations bodies in general, and was firmly intent in conducting broad-based discussion with the participation of all concerned State bodies, NGOs, civil society and the media to look at the recommendations emerging from the consideration of the national report.
BOB LAST, (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom was concerned about a factual error in the report. It was also concerned as to the number of human rights defenders who were imprisoned in Uzbekistan.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Uzbekistan.
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