Peace, freedom of expression, and gender equality - recommendations to end the second UPR cycle

The 26th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group took place from 31 October to 9 November 2016. During the session, 11 States underwent their second UPR: Togo, Syria, Venezuela, Iceland, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor-Leste, Moldova, Haiti, and South Sudan. In total, the 11 States received 2106 recommendations and at first count 40.5% recommendations were accepted. We can expect more accepted recommendations as every States left recommendations pending and will provide further information no later than during the 34th Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2017.

Session 26 Highlights
During this session, many of the issues raised were about gender equality, gender based violence and violence against woman. Every State received recommendations on these matters. For instance, Moldova and Iceland were recommended to establish a gender equality plan and Togo’s under representation of woman in the government was underlined. Freedom of expression, assembly, of the press and the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) was also an issue very frequently raised. Several States recommended Venezuela to protect and ensure civil and political freedoms, and Belgium recommended that they recognise legitimacy of HRDs and end the worrying trend of harassment. New Zealand, Canada and Chile recommended Zimbabwe to repeal its restrictive laws on freedom of association and expression. To the advanced questions they received in this regard, the Zimbabwe delegation responded that “criminal defamation law is no longer part of our laws”.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) have also been mentioned in many recommendations. Lithuania was recommended to repeal its discriminatory laws against LGBTI community and Uganda was recommended to decriminalise same sex relations. In response, during the interactive dialogue, the delegation of Uganda explained that no new laws outlawing the LGBTI community were promulgated but inherited laws do exist, they also stated “they don’t accept or tolerate any discrimination on SOGI grounds and it is not there in their country”.

Regarding economical, social and economical rights, Venezuela received recommendations regarding the right to health. States recommended Venezuela to improve and ensure an equal access to health. For instance, Germany recommended that they urgently address access to medical services and Belgium recommended they improve access to sexual and reproductive health, especially for women. Recommendations on right to education were also made. Togo received many recommendations to ensure equal access to education, to end illiteracy and to continue taking necessary measures to provide necessary primary education. In the same vein, South Sudan was recommended to increase the number of girls in schools and to address low school enrolment and Zimbabwe was recommended to strengthen inclusivity and equality in access to primary education.

During the review of Syria, most of the recommendations mentioned the conflict. Ireland, Russia and Sweden, recommended Syria commit to human rights and humanitarian law, Turkey recommended they stop violations of the aforementioned rights and Canada recommended they investigate all abuses of those rights. Many States also recommended stopping the use of chemical weapons as well as stopping targeting civilians. At the end of the interactive dialogue, the Syrian delegation responded and addressed remarks directed towards particular States. In response to Israel’s intervention, during which they called Syria’s National Report a “fairytale”, the delegation referred to the country as the “Zionist regime”. Syria also called out on some States for their “politicised charges”, especially Turkey who recommended Syria “to stop killing their own people”, and that they "should question their own responsibility for the deaths of Syrians". To France and the United States interventions, the delegation responded by saying that they should “stop supporting terrorism” in Syria.

Regarding South Sudan’s review, the country received many recommendations to ensure a sustainable peace and to protect the rights of the child. Many countries recommend South Sudan combat abuses of children and to end the use of child soldiers and minors in conflict. South Sudan was also recommended to establish a hybrid court and truth and reconciliation commission, as established within the peace agreement, to ensure humanitarian access and to seek assistance from the international community.

Conclusion of the second UPR cycle
This 26th session of the Working Group marks the end of the 2nd cycle, during which, approximately 56,000 recommendations were made and the 193 UN member States were reviewed. At this juncture, as we move towards the third UPR cycle, UPR Info launches its newest publication, The Butterfly Effect: Spreading Good Practices of UPR Implementation. This study compiles good practices, from across the globe, aimed at inspiring stakeholders to maximise the potential of the UPR process through sustainable implementation of recommendations. We invite you to join us, in person or on Twitter, for the launch of this publication on Thursday 10 November in Room XX of the Palais des Nations at 4 pm. A PDF version of the document will be made available after the event.