Approximately 50 NGOs presented the human rights situation in 10 countries before the international community during the UPR pre-sessions held in Geneva from the 8th to the 10th of April 2015. The meetings were organised in the lead-up to the 22nd UPR Working Group session (4 -15 May 2015).
UPR Info had also the honour of having the Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, H.E. Mr Aguirre, making the opening remarks on the first day of the pre-session meetings: “...The pre-sessions have become an institution in Geneva, upon which States and civil society are firmly relying upon...”
The April pre-sessions were once again a success with an average of 33 diplomats over a period of three days. UPR Info's pre-sessions have become a key step in the framework of the UPR process: they provide a unique platform for dialogue and interaction. This was the tenth round of pre-session meetings that UPR Info has been organising since 2012. Over the course of three years of the meetings more than 520 organisations have already taken part in the pre-sessions, sharing key information from the ground with dozens of diplomats.
In this regard Ms Suzgo Khunga, from the organisation MISA Malawi stated: “...The pre-session was an eye opening exercise, providing me with the opportunity to address missions on issue of press freedom, free speech and right to assembly..”.
The April pre-sessions demonstrated once again that these meetings constitute an important opportunity to bring together, in a unique forum for dialogue, civil society, NHRIs, and diplomatic missions to discuss the human rights situation of States one month prior to their review. This time the focus of the discussion was on the following States: Belarus, Croatia, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Maldives,Mongolia and the United States.
The pre-sessions featured presentations by NGO and NHRI representatives followed by a discussion on the status of implementation of the recommendations made during the first UPR cycle. A number of pressing human rights issues were brought to the attention of the diplomats, such as death penalty, freedom of expression and association in Belarus; LGBT rights and the role of the parliamentarians in the UPR in Croatia; freedom of the press, women’s rights and human rights defenders in Honduras; sexual and reproductive rights and justice in Jamaica; HIV, access to health and sexual rights in Liberia; women’s rights, transitional justice and IDPs in Libya; freedom of expression, children’s rights and access to justice in Malawi; human rights defenders and sexual rights in the Maldives; environmental rights, mining and discrimination against minorities in Mongolia; mass surveillance, migrants and labours rights and racial profiling in the United States.
The pre-sessions ensured that key concerns of civil society actors were discussed in preparation of the UPR. Grassroots national organisations and human rights defenders as well as international NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, PEN International, ILGA, FIACAT and the International Service for Human Rights, provided diplomats with an assessment of the actual human rights situation in the States under Review, highlighting key developments and remaining challenges faced by those States.
We look forward to continuing to bring all UPR actors together in October 2015, for the next UPR pre-session, where we will consider states to be reviewed during the 23st session of the UPR.