Human Rights Council concludes UPR item with general debate

After adopting the sixteen Reports of the Working Group (RWG) of States reviewed last February during the fourth session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held Friday 12 June a two-hour general debate on the UPR at its 11th session.

States

The vast majority of States mentioned the issue of the translation of RWG in all United Nations (UN) official languages. 13 out of 16 of those reports of session 4 exceed the 9,630 word limit and therefore had not been translated. States called on the President and the Secretariat of the HRC to find a solution in order to translate those reports.

Another area of concern for the majority of States was the inscription on the list of speakers, both for a review and for the adoption of a RWG. States complained about the long queues and the impossibility to inscribe. States such as Czech Republic, on behalf of the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom and the United States went further and denounced the manipulation by certain States of the list and the inscription of friendly States. Azerbaijan said that the HRC should and could not wait for the end of the four-year cycle to address the problem. On the contrary, Cuba said that the long queues were only a technical issue not important enough to change the rules at mid-term. On the same line, the Russian Federation deemed this issue merely technical and not requiring urgent action.

On the issue of recommendations, Switzerland and Denmark called for clear response by States under Review (SuR) while the same Denmark with Georgia said that rejections of recommendations should be justified. Czech Republic, on behalf of the EU, asked for States not to negotiate the formulation of recommendations and together with the United Kingdom and Denmark denounced certain recommendations undermining the protection of human rights.

On the issue of the list of speakers for the civil society, Czech Republic, on behalf of the EU, and the United States raised concern that it could also be manipulated whereas Cuba criticized international NGOs that "shamefully" tried to get a space on the speakers list when national NGOs should have a priority.

On the issue of civil society not given the full 20 minutes due to time constraints on two occasions, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States said this was of great concern to them. The Russian Federation, on the contrary, said it was unacceptable and not to be repeated that those statements not delivered orally were still noted into the report of the HRC.

On the issue of the follow-up, Bahrain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia provided information on the implementation of recommendations they received. Turkey called on other States already reviewed to do the same and Azerbaijan promised to keep the HRC regularly informed.

Civil society

The civil society raised similar issues to those mentioned by States.

Among others, the Arab Commission for Human Rights (ACHR) welcomed the information on the follow-up provided by States and called on other States to do the same. ACHR suggested also not adopting reports of SuR that have not addressed all recommendations.

The Commission to Study the Organisation for Peace recalled resolution 5/1 providing for States under Review to clearly identify recommendations accepted and to note the others.

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) denounced recommendations that encourage SuR to contravene obligations under international human rights law and the rejection of recommendations that reflect commitments under both international and domestic law. ISHR was also concerned that NGOs were not given the full 20 minutes during certain reports adoption and surprises that certain NGOs entered the Palais des Nations before it was open.

Amnesty International (AI) underlined the few technical difficulties faced at the UPR such as the translation of reports, the list of speakers and SuR not presenting a national report. However, difficulties faced by NGOs to inscribe on the list of speakers are of more importance. AI also denounced attempts by some States to manipulate NGO participation and the poor time management that took away NGO speaking time twice and emphasized the need for clear response to REC and addenda available long in advance.