Conclusion of the 32nd Session of the UPR

The beginning of February saw the conclusion of the 32nd Session of the Universal Period Review (UPR) Working Group, which reviewed the human rights situation in fourteen United Nations (UN) Member States from the 21st January to the 1st of February in Geneva, Switzerland. States under Review (SuR) were: New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, and Cambodia.

The session saw a total of 2979 recommendations put forward. Frequently occurring topics included rights of the child; torture, capital punishment, and detention; freedom of expression and assembly and open civil society; women’s rights; cooperation with UN Special Procedures; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights; rights of persons with disabilities, and strengthened engagement with international legal instruments. Among the fourteen SuR, Chile, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, and Eritrea received the largest number of recommendations. On average, States received recommendations from 82 delegations during the interactive dialogue. Moreover, States regularly posed recommendations mirroring those suggested by civil society organizations at UPR Info’s preceding Pre-sessions that took place in December 2018. The final report for each SuR will be adopted at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June 2019.

State Under Review Overviews:
New Zealand received great numbers of recommendations regarding the rights of Maori and Pacifica peoples, human trafficking, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Moreover, a number of Recommending States formulated recommendations to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and address abortion as a health issue and to address gender-based violence and domestic violence. H.E Hon. Andrew Little spoke of the government’s introduction of the world’s first well-being budget as an alternative to GDP in measuring advancement. In total, 194 recommendations were presented to the SuR by 77 delegations.

Afghanistan Key topics included protection of ethnic and religious minorities, inclusion of women in politics and peacebuilding, and protection of the work of media and journalists.  Frequently recommended elimination of sexual exploitation of children, the delegation responded that Afghanistan is “taking action to end the shameful practice of bacha bazi. An intergovernmental body is being formed to promptly address this menace.” On recurring recommendations on eliminating violence against women and honor killings, the delegation recognized that “while achievements are tangible, the targets are still not met.” In total, 94 delegations took the floor, 8 sent advance questions to Afghanistan for its review, and 258 recommendations were delivered.

Chile During the interactive dialogue, 101 delegations took the floor and 8 sent advance questions, resulting in a total of 266 recommendations. Recurring issues in Chile’s recommendations focused on training and the excessive use of force by law enforcement; securing the rights of indigenous peoples; rights of the child including right to education; abortion, violence against women, and women’s rights; and climate change action.

Viet Nam At its review, the State received 291 recommendations by 121 delegations. During its National Report, the delegation expressed concern over the threats of climate change in eroding achievements in human rights. Recurring issue areas in recommendations included protection of stateless and migrant persons, combatting gender-based violence, climate change action, judicial and legal reform and rule of law, establishment of a national human rights institution, inclusion of ethnic minorities, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and capital punishment.

Uruguay has a history throughout the various UPR cycles of welcoming recommendations presented, a reputation showcased by its decision to accept all 226 recommendations received during its review. Key issues raised in recommendations pertained to racial discrimination, detention conditions, gender-based violence, environment, and the rights of afrodescendents. In its National Report, Uruguay spoke of improvements made to address overcrowding of prisons. Responding to advance questions in this cycle related to improving conditions of detention centers, the delegation responded, “we commit to broaden and deepen penitentiary reform through a human rights lens.” The delegation furthermore affirmed the State’s belief in multi-dimensional families with diverse compositions including same-sex families. Finally, H.E. Mr. Bergamino offered concluding remarks on the value of the UPR process, stating, “programs on human rights are products of deep conviction, sustained will, and determination of many anonymous people. We need instruments to ensure these rights are sustained and realized. Since 2005 this is what various national governments and countries have said. As such we will continue to make progress in an area which by its vary nature is never fully achieved, yet for which work can be done to get a little closer to its achievement.”

Yemen Eighty-eight delegations took the floor and ten sent advance questions, resulting in 252 recommendations total. Yemen received numerous recommendations on gender-based violence and violence against women, on humanitarian access, and on rights of the child in conflict. The SuR accepted 182 recommendations by the adoption of the draft report, with remaining recommendations to be reviewed before its according HRC session. Key issues on which the SuR received recommendations were humanitarian access, implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, torture and capital punishment, strengthening commitment to international legal instruments, rights of the child, human trafficking, and rights of women.

Vanuatu During the interactive dialogue fifty-five delegations delivered their statements and six states submitted advance questions. Vanuatu was addressed 135 recommendations. Key highlights from the review include recommendations on gender mainstreaming in climate action, adaptation and disaster mitigation with a human rights approach, and ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The SuR also received recommendations from several delegations on protection against discrimination and access to healthcare for persons with disabilities. Ms. Angelyne Dovo of Vanuatu “reaffirm[ed] Vanuatu’s commitment to the multilateral system and to the UPR process.”

Macedonia FYR Fifty-seven delegations addressed 169 recommendations total to Macedonia during its review. Many states presented recommendations on hate speech and rights of ethnic minorities. Responding to advance questions regarding legislation on hate crimes, including violence against the LGBTI community, the delegation cited recent advancements in 2018 in which amendments defining hate crimes were adopted to the criminal code. Further recommendations addressed protection of the rights of Roma minorities, such as in improved inclusion of Roma children in schools and overall promotion of the right to education. The Comoros Highlights of the review include recommendations on targeting human trafficking and abolishing the death penalty. Other recurring topics included eliminating violence against women and girls, establishing gender parity, securing freedom of religion and belief, strengthened engagement with international legal instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ensuring LGBTI rights, and protecting rights of the child. Seventy-four delegations delivered statements and four delegations sent advance questions.

The Comoros was addressed 177 recommendations. H.E. Mr. Mohamed Housseini Djamalilaili of Comoros expressed his pleasure at observing the “universal nature of the exercise and the importance that the international community attaches to the protection and promotion of human rights”, concluding that Comoros is committed to implementing its supported recommendations.

Slovakia was presented with 195 recommendations, many of which centered on addressing hate speech and xenophobia. Other key issues raised were inclusion and protection of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, especially of Roma persons; protection of rights of persons with disabilities; gender equality; violence against women; sexual and reproductive health and rights; LGBTI rights; strengthening the national human rights institution; elimination of torture; and freedom of the press. H. E. Mr. Juraj Podhorsky of Slovakia applauded the opportunity offered by the UPR for Slovakia to demonstrate its achievements and receive recommendations in a peer-review process to carry them further.

Eritrea Eighty-nine delegations delivered statements and ten delivered advance questions, resulting in 261 recommendations total. Torture and prison conditions, sexual violence and women’s rights, protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, elimination of child marriage, eradication of female genital mutilation, discrimination against girls, cooperation with UN Special Procedures, establishment of a national human rights institution, eradication of human trafficking, freedom of religion and belief, and capital punishment were the key among many issue areas addressed.  H.E. Mr. Tesfamichael Gerahtu, Ambassador of Eritrea shared sentiments at the adoption of the draft report, remarking, “For decades the effort has been to establish a society proud of its history, social harmony, and responsible participation where citizens progressively enjoy a better life in the future. The rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea has opened new opportunities, closing the chapter of hostilities between the two countries. Eritrea reaffirms its commitment of regional peace security and development.”

Cyprus received 188 recommendations during its review, of which, highlighted topics include statelessness and nationality, human trafficking, hate crimes and multicultural dialogue, refugees and asylum seekers, and women in decision-making, peace and security. The delegation cited the progress it has labored to achieve since the previous cycle, including in gender equality, LGBTI rights, human trafficking, and comprehensive prison reform with human-centered approach emphasizing rehabilitation. On the value of the interactive process, the delegation had the following to say: “the UPR is an indispensable opportunity to reflect on past achievements and discuss present challenges and the way forward. Indeed, one of the most important aspects is that it provides an invaluable results-oriented roadmap for Cyprus.”

Dominican Republic Progress made since the 2nd UPR cycle grounded in its previous recommendations includes adoption of the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, International Convention on Enforced Disappearance, and ILO Convention 189. The delegation cited the launch of an IT tool to monitor and synchronize recommendations with UN bodies and Special Procedures of UN and Organization of American States (OAS) and its cooperation with the International Criminal Court. At its 3rd cycle review, the SuR received 191 recommendations, with key issues in violence against women; equality and non-discrimination on ethnic grounds; conditions in the prison system, regularization of migration and statelessness; and sexual and reproductive health including teen pregnancy, femicide, and abortion.

Cambodia received many recommendations on preserving freedom speech and an open civil society, tackling gender-based violence, ensuring freedom of assembly, and rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity. During the interactive dialogue, seventy-five delegations delivered statements, eight submitted questions in advance, and Cambodia was presented 176 recommendations to be addressed by the 41st session of the HRC in June 2019. At the UPR, Cambodia’s national report was presented by H.E. KEO Remy. The delegation of Cambodia expressed appreciation for receiving a spectrum of recommendations pulling from economic, social, and cultural rights and civil and political rights. In its closing statement at the adoption of the preliminary report drafted by the troika, the H.E. Mr. Ney Samol stated, “Cambodia is committed to upholding human rights, democracy, and rule of law in accordance with the international human right instruments to which Cambodia is a party.”

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. The peer-review nature of the UPR continues to encourage global dialogue on human rights and has ensured that all countries, regardless of geographical, economic, or political influence, are accountable both nationally and internationally for their adherence to universal human rights standards.