States in tune with civil society over the protection of the UPR
As has been the practice over the years, the Human Rights Council held its general debate under item 6 after the adoption of the reports of the 15th Working Group Session on the 10th of June 2013. Members, observer states as well as NGOs were present and discussed issues related to the format of Working Group reports, Israel's non-cooperation in the UPR, the work of the OHCHR in the 2nd cycle, good practices as well as progress made by several countries in the implementation of recommendations made during their reviews.
Format of Working Group Report
The format of the Working Group report was the most discussed issue during the UPR general debate, and notably Russia's decision to exclude recommendations made by Georgia from the body of its report by placing them as footnotes. Georgia, as a country concerned, suggested that the same format for Working Group reports should be applied to all countries whether or not the content of the report enjoyed support from the State under Review. UPR Info, speaking on behalf of 77 NGOs, added its voice by stating that recommendations that did not enjoy the support of a State under Review could not be omitted from the body of a report no matter the level of its perceived irrelevance. All reservations were to be made in the addendum provided by the State prior to the adoption of its report. The United States added that reports should remain factual, limiting the content to what was said both by the State under Review and other States during the interactive session, recommendations that were made to the State under Review and the extent to which the recommendations enjoyed or not the support of the State under Review. Furthermore, recommendations should not be seen as endorsements by the working groups, and if States seek substantive changes to UPR recommendations, a trend which is on the increase; it is to be done publicly and should be fully recorded. Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, was of the view that all recommendations made during the interactive dialogue should be included and noted as such in the report of the working group. Estonia re-iterated its concerns already expressed during the adoption of Russia's Working Group report in May that unless the draft report was modified, it could create a precedent. Germany regretted that in some instances, the Working Group did not reflect accurately the content of the discussion held during the review. On the same line, The United Kingdom stated that the recommendations must be accurately reflected in the report of the Working Group.
Following these concerns expressed, UPR Info called on the HRC President to issue a statement to immediately end any attempts to tamper with the Working Group Report and clarify its format.
Algeria, China, Iran, Lebanon, Slovenia, and CIVICUS all expressed concern about Israel's non-cooperation in the UPR process and saw it as a threat to the credibility of the Human Rights Council and the UPR process. They called on Israel to take part in the review process to promote the objectivity, transparency, equal treatment and non-selectivity of the process.
Processes by the OHCHR
Cuba, on behalf of 20 Like Minded Countries, raised the issue of the procedural changes in the HRC Secretariat since the first cycle. It noted that the new administrative structures that have been put in place, requiring states to interact with different parts of the Secretariat instead of one, made the entire process cumbersome, inconsistent and time-consuming. It also stated that the legal and procedural advice given by the Secretariat was no longer as consistent as it was in the previous cycle and was subject to different interpretations depending on the particular people consulted. Touching on the documents used in the process, Cuba complained about the use of some internal correspondence like emails in the production of the compilations of UN information. Adding to this issue, Ecuador, on behalf of Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela, was unclear about the composition of those compilations and the criteria used in selecting the documents used for these compilations. The delegate wanted to know if the OHCHR had any guidelines that directed states in their presentations so as to harmonize procedures in the UPR process.
In addition to the above, Ireland, on behalf of the European Union and Morocco, on behalf of the Group of States, suggested some good practices to be adopted in future sessions. Ireland and CIVICUS suggested the increased participation of civil society in the implementation of recommendations made to states. Morocco added that aside civil society, the involvement of relevant government departments as well as high level ministerial participation was important to the process. It also asked states to be open and frank in their presentations and asked that information presented, notably when reporting on the implementation of previous cycle recommendations, be in accessible format - tables or grids - to enable other states assess their progress. While praising the utility of midterm reports in ensuring the engagement of states in the implementation process, Morocco and CIVICUS called for a limit to the number of recommendations made, at the same time making them more action oriented to enable easy implementation by states. Finally, the International Catholic Child Bureau asked Recommending States to follow-up on recommendations they made to States under Review to ensure their full implementation.
Follow-up on recommendations made
The Maldives, Jamaica, Romani CRISS, Human Rights Law Centre, and Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development gave reports on the state of affairs in the implementation of recommendations made to countries during their previous reviews. Australia published a full mid-term report on progress made in this direction.