[UPR Trax] No45: Civil society standing up

The UPR benefited from unprecedented attention at the Human Rights Council (the Council) during its 25th session. Many issues of contention were discussed, both during the adoption of UPR reports and during the general debate that followed, such as the role of civil society at the UPR, the specificity of recommendations, and the possibility to make a moment of silence during a statement. At UPR Info, we held our General Assembly and Executive Board meeting on 13 March during which we adopted our 2013 Annual and Financial reports and elected Ms. Kamelia Kemileva as board member. We are also very pleased to have launched our new website on Monday 31 March: the layout has been entirely re-done and new features will be made available soon.
The Human Rights Council adopts 15 UPR reports
From 19 to 21st March, the Council adopted the reports of the 15 countries reviewed last October at the UPR 17th session: Belize, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Malaysia, Mauritius, Monaco, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.  
In total, all States – except the Central African Republic, Jordan and Nigeria – had submitted an addendum. However, some addenda were only made available on the day of the adoption or afterward, which made it difficult for other States and NGOs to prepare their statements accordingly.
In terms of States’ responses to recommendations, the President of the Council made a summary, at the end of each adoption, of how many recommendations were accepted and noted. The recommendations that were “accepted in part” were considered to be “noted” due to the lack of clarity on which parts were accepted and which parts were not.
58 States support the role of NGOs at UPR
58 States made a joint statement to support the role of NGOs at the UPR during the item 6 general debate on 21 March. The statement acknowledged the "positive contribution" and "constructive participation" of civil society at the UPR but expressed "deep concerns for those cases in which the civil society participation in or follow-up to the UPR process has been threatened in various ways." Reiterating the "right to unhindered access to and communication with the United Nations", these 58 States emphasised "the need for all States to ensure a safe and enabling environment" in which human rights defenders could work "free from insecurity" and called on States to "refrain from or prevent, and prosecute as needed, any act of intimidation or reprisals against those who cooperate" with the UN.
UPR recommendations lack specificity, say 19 NGOs
UPR Info and 18 NGOs made a joint statement during the general debate to regret the lack of specific recommendations at the UPR second cycle. According to UPR Info's data, the number of specific recommendations has fallen since the beginning of the second cycle. The statement, therefore, asked States to make more specific and action-oriented recommendations by using all resources at hand to reach this aim, notably by meeting with NGOs and using concluding observations from treaty bodies.

China prevents moment of silence in memory of a human rights defender
 On 20 March, the Council discussed China’s UPR report before its adoption. When the NGO International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) decided to use the remainder of its speaking time to "observe a moment of silent to remember Cao Shunli and human rights defenders everywhere who have lost their lives in their struggle", and while other NGOs sitting in the back of the room stood up to observe that moment of silent, China made a point of order stating that NGOs could only make "general comments" according to resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1 and could not do "anything else" as it was contravening to the proceedings. Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Viet Nam, Morocco, South Africa, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Venezuela, the Russian Federation, and the Maldives took the floor to support the point of order of China while Canada, the United States, Greece on behalf of European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia, France, Austria, and Ireland supported the right of NGOs to be silent during their statement.
 Due to the high number of States willing to speak and the sensitivity of the issue, the President of the Council wanted to further hold discussions with States and therefore postponed his decision while continuing with the next speaker. However, China objected this and called for a vote on whether or not the President could postpone his decision. A majority of States joined China against the President’s decision to postpone his decision (13 in favour of postponing, 20 against, 12 abstaining and 2 absent). In response, the President decided to give the floor to the next NGO on the list of speakers.
Israel absent from the adoption of its UPR report
 In a letter sent to the Council’s President on 13 March 2014, Israel requested a postponement of the adoption of its UPR report “to a later date” due to a strike at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The President rejected this possibility, stating that a postponement "was never granted in circumstances of this nature" and, instead, offered to postpone the adoption for only one week, within the same Council session, in order to give the Israeli delegation time to find a solution. The delegation of Israel was then able to send a written response to the recommendations received during their review, as well as an addendum and an annex. The Council was therefore in a position to adopt the report of Israel on 27 March.
3 more States commit to submitting a mid-term report
Croatia, Germany and Slovakia joined a statement made by Morocco, on behalf of 47 States, on 21 March 2014, committing to "write and publish, as appropriate, a mid-term report two years after [their] reviews." The number of States that have committed to publish a mid-term report during the second cycle now totals 96 (including the entire African Group).
13 new MIAs published
The Mid-term implementation assessments (MIAs) for 13 of the 14 States to be reviewed during the 24th UPR session are complete.  The reports that have been published include countries such as Belgium, Denmark, and Mozambique, among others. Many civil society members participated in this series of the Follow-up, providing invaluable information on the implementation of recommendations. For Denmark’s Follow-up, a coalition of 12 NGOs collaborated to provide information, in addition to the submissions of other NGOs. For the Follow-up on Mozambique, 3 UN agencies participated. Furthermore, 3 of the 7 National Human Rights Institutions, which work in the respective countries, participated in the Follow-up.  Moreover, 4 out of 14 States – namely Belgium, Estonia, Mozambique and Namibia – submitted mid-term implementation reports.  Belgium ranked high in implementation, with 57 recommendations fully implemented at mid-term.  The last assessment of the 24th UPR session, on Estonia, will be published in the coming days.
The next series of countries will be assessed beginning on 30 April, the deadline for contributions. These countries, which are scheduled to be reviewed in the 25th session of the UPR, include:  Antigua and Barbuda, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Trinidad and Tobago.
UPR19 Pre-session to be held from 8 to 10 April
The Pre-sessions for the 19th UPR Working Group session (28 April - 9 May 2014) will take place from 8 to 10 April 2014 at the Centre International de Conférences Genève (CICG), 17 rue de Varembé, Room V. Meetings will be organised to discuss the human rights situation of the following States: Albania, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Norway, and Qatar. About 43 NGOs are expected, including 31 coming from those countries under review, as well as 2 national human rights institutions.
Extension of deadline for civil society reports at UPR 21 and 22
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) just extended the deadline for the submission of written reports by stakeholders (civil society organisations and national human rights institutions) at sessions 21 and 22 of the UPR. The new deadlines are 15 June 2014 for session 21 and 15 September for session 22

Quote of the Month:

While unable to accept certain recommendations, Malaysia does not completely reject the possibility of revisiting those recommendations, as appropriate.

Addendum to the Report of the Working Group of Malaysia, UPR of Malaysia, March 2014

UPR Info:

UPR mechanism:

Upcoming Deadlines:

  • 15 June 2014:Deadline to submit stakeholder reports for UPR 21st session (to be held in January 2015)
  • 21 July 2014: Deadline to submit national reports by States to be reviewed at UPR 20th session (27 October – 7 November 2014)
  • 15 September 2014: Deadline to submit stakeholder reports for UPR 22nd session (to be held in April 2015)

UPR Info's

Stay connected!