On 6 and 7 June, the Human Rights Council (the Council) adopted the UPR reports of States reviewed during the 15th Working Group session held in January 2013. Those countries included Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Burundi, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Tonga and the United Arab Emirates. All countries, except for Burundi, had submitted an addendum containing their responses to the recommendations received. Following Israel’s absence to its review last January, the President of the Council presented a report on decision A/HRC/OM/7/1 of 29 January 2013. He briefed delegates on the measures taken, as President, to encourage Israel to resume its engagement with the UPR. He noted that, after a few exchanges of correspondence with the Permanent Representative of Israel, the latter reaffirmed his intention to continue dialogue with the Council and its mechanisms. With this positive response from Israel, the State’s review has been postponed to Tuesday 29 October 2013 during the 17th session of the UPR Working Group. Canada, in reaction to the report, saw the step taken by Israel as demonstrating its readiness to re-engage with the UPR process. Egypt, on the other hand, considered Israel’s assurances, through written correspondence, as non-cooperation, while Tunisia urged the Council not to renegotiate with Israel as the credibility of the UPR was at stake.Palestine, and Pakistan speaking on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), deemed Israel’s actions as “persistent non-cooperation and non-compliance with the UPR process”. UPR Info seized the occasion of the presentation of the report to take the floor and reiterate its call, made last March to the HRC, to define the concept of “persistent non-cooperation”. Participation at one’s review includes also the submission of a national report, selection of one’s own troika, participation in the interactive dialogue, submission of an addendum and presentation of mid-term updates on implementation of recommendations. Failure to perform three or more of these steps should then be considered ‘persistent non-cooperation’. Non-cooperation, we also noted, includes not only the non-participation of states in the review but also non-implementation or non-acceptance of a certain number of recommendations and giving unjustified reasons for the rejection of particular recommendations.
On 29 May, the Council convened a panel discussion on the contribution of parliaments to the work of the Council and its Universal Periodic Review. Almost all speakers shared the view that parliaments can make a vital contribution to both the HRC and the UPR and can play a leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights. Particularly worth mentioning are the actions that parliaments take in shaping and approving legislation, allocating budgetary resources and supervising the implementation. To reinforce this point, High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Pillay stated that between 60-70% of UPR recommendations require parliamentary actions, thus making parliamentarians key players in the implementation of recommendations. UPR Info, the only NGO to take the floor, congratulated the HRC for having taken such a valuable initiative and agreed with the general consensus that parliamentarians can greatly contribute to the work of the UPR. UPR Info suggested that parliamentarians should be involved in the decision to accept or not recommendations and in the drafting of the national report, as they have first-hand information on which recommendations have been implemented or not.
As has been the practice over the years, the Council held its General Debate under Agenda Item 6 after the adoption of the reports on 10 June. 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. UPR Info, on behalf of 77 domestic and international NGOs, expressed their concerns about States’ practice of modifying Working Group Reports. The format of the Report of the Working Group should be the same for all countries in order to guarantee equal treatment and should be drafted in an objective manner. Its content should reflect the discussion held in the room and should not be subjected to negotiations by countries. Both accepted and noted recommendations should be included in the report, irrespective of the country making them and the issue raised and under no circumstances should States have the possibility to remove recommendations from the list, not even on the grounds that recommendations are considered as being “not relevant”. Fearing that this action would carry the risk of setting a dangerous precedent, civil society called on the President of the Council to issue a Presidential statement to immediately end any attempts to tamper with the Working Group Report and clarify its format as soon as possible. Many countries, such as Estonia, Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States took the floor to echo those concerns.
At UPR Info, we have been working on improving the transparency of the mechanism. We have notably uploaded the 2179 recommendations from Session 14 into our database.
Regarding our Follow-up Programme, 13 Mid-term Implementation Assessments (MIA) out of 14 have already been published. We are currently working on the latest MIA which is on the United States. We note with regret that the number of mid-term reports published by States has diminished. Nevertheless, both Croatia and Bulgaria committed to publishing mid-term updates in the coming weeks/months. On a positive note, the number of NGO reports we received has continuously increased. For this current session we have been provided with more than 100 contributions, totaling over 500 NGO reports since the launch of the Programme. Over 6’600 recommendations have been commented so far: NGOs are increasingly following up at mid-term. To highlight a concrete example of engagement at mid-term, over 70 NGOs came together in Mongolia to discuss the implementation of recommendations. Meetings to team up and work on the implementation were also organised in Croatia, Georgia, Honduras, Lebanon and Nepal.
Last but not least, from 2 to 4 September, UPR Info will hold the fifth round of Pre-session meetings on States coming up for review at the 17th UPR Working Group session (October-November 2013). The meetings will bring together Permanent Missions (including States under Review) and civil society actors to discuss inter alia the status of implementation of UPR recommendations in the following countries: Belize, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Jordan, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.
UPR Info is currently in a process of examining applications received by several national NGOs. Some National Human Rights Institutions have also expressed their interest in participating and sharing their perspective of the developments on the ground since the previous review. In this framework, we encourage all civil society organisations interested in participating to promptly contact us, especially those working on Chad, Central African Republic, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. More information about the pre-sessions can be found here.