The Universal Periodic Review Working Group held its 16th session from 22 April to 3 May at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The following 14 States were reviewed: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, and Uzbekistan.
A remarkable trend of the session was the high number of speakers. For the first time in the history of the UPR, two countries had more than 100 speakers. Cuba broke the record with 132 countries taking the floor, each having 51 seconds to make recommendations. As a consequence, Cuba received 293 recommendations (according to OHCHR’s calculation), the highest number of recommendations that a State under Review has ever received at the UPR. The previous record was held by the United States, with 280 recommendations in November 2010 (according to UPR Info’s calculation). It is worth noting that out of the 293 recommendations received by Cuba, 121 start with the verb "Continue", thus requiring minimal action to be undertaken by the Government. These recommendations represented 41% of the total received by Cuba. In comparison, between Sessions 1 to 13, the average of recommendations starting with the verb "continue" lies at 14%.
Canada was the only country represented by its Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. Its delegation engaged in a real interactive dialogue by taking the floor three times to respond to questions and recommendations. Uzbekistan reiterated its practices of the first UPR cycle by rejecting 14 recommendations on the basis that it considered them "factually wrong". In addition, another 44 recommendations were rejected for "not [being] part of its obligations under internationally agreed human rights standards". In December 2008, 16 recommendations had been rejected using those same two responses. Russia also returned to previous practices by rejecting recommendations from Georgia on the basis that they did not “comply with the basis of the review stipulated in the HRC resolutions nos 5/1 and 16/21". However, in different fashion than in 2009, Russia created a precedent by negotiating to have these recommendations added as footnotes in the report rather than as official recommendations.
The precedent of Russia is one of the most challenging threats to the UPR since its inception in 2008 as it is opening the door for other States to delete all recommendations they perceive as being politically orientated. Legal dispositions of the UPR do not provide for any opportunity for the States under review to remove recommendations. According to Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1, the outcome of the review has to be "a report consisting of a summary of the proceedings of the review process; conclusions and/or recommendations [...]". Furthermore, as stipulated in Presidential Statement A/HRC/PRST/8/1, the "Working Group shall prepare a factual report of its proceedings, consisting of a summary of the interactive dialogue, which will reflect recommendations and/or conclusions made by delegations during the interactive dialogue". The country under review is allowed to "communicate its positions on all received recommendations" (A/HRC/RES/16/21), and to identify the recommendations it supports or to note those it does not, but it is not allowed to decide whether the recommendations are or are not “relevant”.
UPR Info calls on all UN Member States to find a cooperative solution in June in order to avoid such an undermining of the UPR. There are opportunities to rectify this situation:
1/ According to the President of the HRC, H.E. Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, this “concern will be raised in the context of general debate under item 6 at the future session of Human Rights Council". It is indeed necessary to organise a dialogue at the upcoming HRC 23rd session (27 May - 14 June), in order to define applicable rules to include recommendations in UPR outcomes.
2/ Reaffirm the universality of the UPR, and envisage to vote for the adoption of the report of the Russian Federation in HRC 24th session (September 2013).
On a more positive note, some “recommending States”, such as Germany and Slovenia, continued to refer to previous recommendations they had made by “reiterating” them when they had not been satisfactorily implemented. It is however problematic that it does not appear in the working group report.
Please find more detailed information on these issues in the news below.