The UPR Working Group concluded its 17th session on November 1st after the review of the human rights performance of Belize, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Malaysia, Mauritius, Monaco, Mexico, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal. The session was marked by some important developments including the return of Israel to the UPR after its boycott in January 2013, and the continuous practice of attempting to negotiate recommendations in the Working Group draft reports.
About 2,500 recommendations were made in the course of the 17th session. It is worth noting that several States made reference to the recommendations they had issued in the previous cycle and in some cases reiterated the same recommendations. The majority of the States under Review provided information in relation to recommendations from 2009 in their National Reports and in the opening statements, highlighting progress made in this regard. During the adoptions almost half of them, notably Chad, China, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia decided to postpone their responses to the recommendations to the Human Rights Council session in March 2014.
Universality preserved: Israel returns to the Universal Periodic Review
The most burning issue in relation to the 17th UPR session was whether Israel would appear before the Council for its second review rescheduled for 29 October 2013. The polemics around this issue started when Israel refused to undergo its second UPR on 29 January 2013, becoming the first country to boycott the process. All doubt ended on 27 October when Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his country’s intention to participate in the UPR. As the delegation noted, Israel returned “(...) with strong reservations regarding the Human Rights Council. The discrimination against and the unfair treatment of Israel continues.” During the interactive dialogue seventy-three States took the floor and issued recommendations to Israel pertaining to its human rights situation, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. UPR Info welcomes Israel’s decision to resume cooperation with the UPR as an important step to preserve the universality and the credibility of the mechanism. Notwithstanding, we reiterate our position regarding the necessity to define cases of "persistent non-cooperation" as contained in Article 38 of Resolution 5/1 which the Council can "address". At UPR Info, we have started reflecting on what persistent non-cooperation is, and will continue to push this topic forward to be discussed amongst the Council. We believe that the 25th session of the Council will be the appropriate time to:
1/ Define the concept of “persistent non-cooperation” as contained in Article 38 of Resolution 5/1; and
2/ Define the consequences of persistent non-cooperation.
Continuous attempts to negotiate recommendations at the UPR
Following its UPR held on 21 October 2013, Saudi Arabia engaged in intense negotiations with States to modify the wording of recommendations it had received and managed to get a reference to the Rome Statute removed from a recommendation made by Tunisia. This provoked reaction from the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, France, Ireland, and Estonia, who took the floor during the adoption of Saudi Arabia’s draft report on Friday 25 October. They strongly criticised such practice within the Council and recalled HRC President’s letter of 18 September 2013 stipulating that recommendations made during the review should be accurately reflected in the UPR report. Ireland also took the floor during Mauritius’ report adoption for similar reasons.
Progress made on the follow up to first cycle recommendations
A new positive practice appeared in the Working Group reports which will facilitate the follow-up by highlighting recommendations that are being repeated from the first to the second cycle.
Indeed, the UPR report of Israel contains a sub-heading in its section II listing the recommendations which identifies recommendations pertaining to the follow-up of the first cycle. Named "Follow-up to the UPR", it includes two recommendations made by Oman and Libya: ’Commit to the implementation of all the recommendations received at the first UPR’ (Oman); ’Commit completely to implement the outcome of the first UPR’ (Libya).
This is the first time in the UPR second cycle that a sub-heading is used to cluster recommendations referring to first cycle recommendations and we are of the view that it should be repeated in the next UPR sessions.
UPR Info also encourages States to make better reference to the recommendations they had made during the first cycle, notably by finishing the wording of the recommendation with "as recommended during the first cycle".
UPR Info highlights the important role of media in the UPR process
UPR Info’s Executive Director, Roland Chauville, was invited on 23 October to take part in a workshop for journalists organised by Gmedia Center in the framework of the UPR 17th session. The workshop “Media Empowerment on Human Rights” aimed at enhancing the knowledge of participants from Chad, Nigeria, and Senegal about the UPR process in view of the review of their own country. Mr. Chauville’s presentation focused on the added value of the UPR within the UN human rights machinery and the key role of media in making the UPR an effective mechanism for the improvement of human rights on the ground.
UPR Pre-session 18 is coming up soon
The Pre-session on States coming up for review at the 18th session of the UPR will be held from the 26th to the 29th November at the Centre International de Conférences Genève, 17 rue de Varembé, Room 5. The Pre-session,a unique platform for dialogue, will bring together Permanent Missions, National Human Rights Institutions, and Civil Society Organisations to discuss the status of implementation of UPR recommendations in the following States under Review: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, New Zealand, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, Viet Nam, and Yemen. More information about the pre-sessions can be found here.
Regarding our Follow-up Programme, 7 Mid-term Implementation Assessments (MIA) out of 14 have already been published. Numerous UN Agencies and NHRIs shared their assessment at mid-term; we are also pleased to count with the governments of Australia and Austria mid-term reports. Stay tuned notably for an upcoming MIA on Nepal, which includes many comments from civil society, NHRI and the UNRCO!