Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Myanmar, Australia and Georgia.
Tun Shin, Attorney General of Myanmar, said Myanmar had participated actively in the Universal Periodic Review process in the Human Rights Council in January 2011 and was proud to accept the recommendations made by the States constructively. Myanmar stressed that the Universal Periodic Review process had to be conducted in a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized manner. Some of the recommendations made were contrary to this basic principle. Recommendations that fell into this category were not supported by Myanmar because these recommendations were couched in such a manner that acceptance of them would infringe on Myanmar’s sovereign rights. There were 190 recommendations on Myanmar, out of which 74 were supported, with 46 recommendations taken back to the capital for consideration and 70 recommendations which it was felt infringed on the sovereign rights of Myanmar.
In the discussion on Myanmar, speakers praised Myanmar’s constructive approach to the Universal Periodic Review and welcomed the positive response of the Government to improve the human rights situation. Myanmar had accepted a large number of recommendations and had taken all necessary steps for implementing these recommendations. The international community was urged to continue to engage Myanmar. Speakers recognised that there were concerns over the need for improvements to the human rights situation in Myanmar and hoped that the Government would take further steps for democratisation and national reconciliation.
Speaking in the discussion on Myanmar were Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Cuba, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Brunei Darussalam, India, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Jubilee Campaign, Worldview International Foundation, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Amnesty International, Asian Legal Resource Centre, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, and Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme.
Peter Woolcot, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Australia had received 145 recommendations during its Universal Periodic Review and had since consulted extensively to determine its position on those recommendations. Australia would accept or accept-in-part 137 recommendations, representing 94 per cent of all recommendations received, and in addition would provide an interim report prior to its next Universal Periodic Review. Since the Universal Periodic Review in January 2011, a number of important developments occurred in each of the key areas that had been the focus of recommendations and those developments demonstrated the continuing commitment of Australia to the promotion and protection of human rights.
In the discussion on Australia, speakers commended the Australian Government for its acceptance of a large number of recommendations put forward by Member States during the Universal Periodic Review process and recognized Australia’s emphasis on a broad range of laws, policies and programmes to respect, protect and promote human rights. Speakers were also fully satisfied by the commitment of Australia to increase the official development assistance to 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product. The current system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention was not in compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations and the Commission continued to urge the Government to reform this system accordingly. Australia was urged to strengthen laws to fully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ensure that asylum seekers were detained only where strictly necessary and that no children were held in immigration detention.
Speaking in the discussion on Australia were the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Timor-Leste, Algeria, Republic of Moldova, Iran, New Zealand, Morocco and Belgium. The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Australian Human Rights Commission, Internaitonal Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Indian Council of South America, Islamic Human Rights Commission, National Association of Community Legal Centres, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Franciscans International, and Rencontre Africaine pour La Défense des Droits de L’homme.
Sergi Kapanadze, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, welcomed the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and viewed it as a unique and highly valuable process that allowed Georgia to review its human rights situation. Georgia received 163 recommendations, 96 of which enjoyed its full support, 5 which were rejected and 62 which needed further consideration. Of these 62, Georgia accepted or partially accepted 43 recommendations. The recommendations generally covered several areas. Mr. Kapanadze provided updates on five thematic areas: civil and political rights, protection of human rights of vulnerable groups, criminal justice, the situation of internally displaced persons and the international legal framework of the protection and promotion of human rights.
Georgia viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important universal forum and was committed to the constructive cooperation with the Human Rights Council in this regard.
In the discussion on Georgia, speakers applauded Georgia for the steps it had taken to address child labour. They welcomed the adoption of the law on broadcasting and urged its full implementation. Georgia’s commitment to bring about development of social and economic rights was to be commended. Georgia’s pledge to engage with civil society and stakeholders in the promotion and protection of human rights was welcomed. Speakers remained concerned about the broader worker rights situation and strongly supported the recommendations of Bulgaria with respect to establishing a labour inspectorate in Georgia. One speaker said Georgia’s actions showed that it could only be expected to continue its policy of violating and flouting fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Speaking in the discussion on Georgia were the United States, Algeria, Russian Federation, and Republic of Moldova. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Indian Council of South America, Russian Peace Foundation, Amnesty International, and Conscience and Peace Tax International.
At the beginning of the meeting, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, President of the Human Rights Council, said that informal consultations were held this morning concerning the follow-up session on the Special Session on Libya and the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry. The interactive dialogue on follow-up to the Special Session and on the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights Libya would be held on Thursday, 9 June from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The modalities would be in accordance with the existing practices of the Human Rights Council. In accordance with the relevant United Nations General Assembly resolutions related to the credentials of Libya and the suspension of its membership from the Human Rights Council, the concerned country represented by the current Government would be given the floor immediately after the presentation of the report by the High Commissioner and from its regular seat. Other parties would have an opportunity to speak in accordance with the usual rules in the course of the meeting.
When the Council meets at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe and Namibia.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar
TUN SHIN, Attorney General of Myanmar, said Myanmar had participated actively in the Universal Periodic Review Process in the Human Rights Council in January 2011 and was proud to accept the recommendations made by the States constructively. Myanmar put forward further information to the Council on the recommendations under paragraph 106 of the report of the Working Group in the Universal Periodic Review. Mr. Shin noted that Myanmar’s Principles of Universal Practice of Constitutional Process required accession or ratification of treaties to first be considered by the Executive and in particular by the Executive Administering Ministry concerned; the treaty was next submitted to the Legislature. Myanmar stressed that the Universal Periodic Review process had to be conducted in a constructive, non-confrontational, non-politicized manner. Some of the recommendations made were contrary to this basic principle. Recommendations that fell into this category were not supported by Myanmar. These recommendations were couched in such a manner that acceptance of them would infringe on Myanmar’s sovereign rights. There were 190 recommendations on Myanmar, out of which 74 were supported, with 46 recommendations taken back to the Capital for consideration and 70 recommendations which it was felt infringed on the sovereign rights of Myanmar.
Myanmar stressed that the establishment of a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles had already been answered by its National Report and Addendum. Mr. Shin noted that this was a prelude to the establishment of a Commission which would be informed in line with the Paris Principles. In this regard, recommendations 106.23, 106.24, 106.25, 106.27, 106.28, 106.29 and 106.30 were under serious consideration. Myanmar noted that the recommendations of Greece, Hungary, Uruguay, and Canada enjoyed its support. These included a plan to sign and ratify the core human rights treaties; ratification of the remaining core human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Committee Against Torture; cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country; ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers; and cooperation with the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers. The remainder of the 46 recommendations did not enjoy their support because they infringed on Myanmar’s sovereign rights.
The new Government, having taken State responsibility for only 69 days to date, was still in its infancy. Endeavours for the promotion and protection of human rights were a continuous process. No State was free from accusations of the breach of human rights. In this regard, President U Thein Sein of Myanmar, in his inaugural address, stated that the domestic laws of Myanmar would be reviewed to be in line with the constitution and also bills would be submitted to safeguard fundamental rights of citizens in line with the constitution. The executive ministries concerned were in the process of doing this. While committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, Myanmar was also cooperating with the United Nations. The very fact of sending a high-level delegation and participating in the Universal Periodic Review process was the living proof that Myanmar took this commitment seriously.
STEVEN PANG CHEE WEE (Singapore) expressed appreciation for Myanmar’s constructive approach to the Universal Periodic Review. Singapore was encouraged by Myanmar’s support for the recommendation that it continue to collaborate closely with the donor community, UN agencies, international financial institutions and civil society organizations to develop institutional capacity and align national policies and priorities with international norms and Myanmar’s treaty obligations. Singapore hoped the international community continued to engage Myanmar. Singapore was committed to continue to share best practices and development experiences and it fully endorsed the adoption of the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar.
YOICHI OTABE (Japan) said that Japan recognised the active participation of Myanmar in the Universal Periodic Review process and the positive response of the Government to improve the human rights situation. In May, the Government had released and granted amnesty to some of its prisoners, including approximately 50 prisoners of conscience, which marked a positive step in the process of national reconciliation. Japan recognised there were concerns over the need for improvements to the human rights situation in Myanmar and hoped that the Government would take further steps for democratisation and national reconciliation. It was essential that the Government of Myanmar responded sincerely and steadily implemented the recommendations, including the recommendation that it became a signatory to the core international human rights instruments.
EKSIRI PINTARUCHI (Thailand) encouraged Myanmar to seek technical assistance and cooperation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to help strengthen its capacity and readiness to fulfill its international obligations in the area of human rights. Since general elections in Myanmar last year, significant political events had been witnessed, among others, the formation of the new cabinet which had taken office since the end of March, and the recent release of a large number of prisoners. Thailand hoped that Myanmar would continue to engage with the Council in further addressing the concerns on the part of the international community. The Council was encouraged to pursue further engagement through constructive dialogue and cooperation.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) noted with appreciation that many of the recommendations had been accepted by Myanmar and had been seriously taken into account. Indonesia noted with interest the undertakings made by Myanmar in fulfilling their intent to proceed with democracy. Indonesia commended the efforts made by Myanmar in accepting the recommendations and encouraged the Government to sign and ratify all core human rights instruments. Indonesia appreciated that Myanmar intended to review existing domestic laws with a view to guaranteeing the right of expression, association and assembly, including assuring a free and independent media. As a fellow member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, Indonesia encouraged Myanmar to enhance its engagement with that regional group’s Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
YUMIRKA FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) welcomed that the delegation of Myanmar participated actively during the interactive debate in the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. In the debate there was evidence of obstacles and challenges, as well as progress in the improvement of the human rights situation. Cuba’s recommendations were focused on the strategies and plans for socio-economic development and on the right to education. The Government of Myanmar now needed to demonstrate its commitment to the implementation of the recommendations it had accepted. In conclusion, Cuba wished the people of Myanmar all the best.
XIA JINGGE (China) said that China appreciated the great efforts and the tremendous achievements scored by Myanmar in promoting human rights. A welcome was extended to the new leaders elected in the general elections. China hoped that the international community would respect the vote of the Myanmar people to choose their government. The international community was encouraged to provide constructive assistance to Myanmar in this regard.
YONG CHANTHALANGSY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said as a fellow member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic delegation welcomed the representative of Myanmar and expressed appreciation for the comprehensive presentation and latest update on the promotion and protection of human rights that had taken place in Myanmar since last January. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was pleased to note that Myanmar had accepted a large number of recommendations and had taken all necessary steps for implementing these recommendations. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic noted that significant progress had been made by the Myanmar Government which continued its cooperation with human rights mechanisms. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic believed that the new government would bring about greater stability, democratization, reconciliation and development, including the protection of human rights. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic recommended that the report of the Working Group be adopted.
NAZIRAH ZAINI (Brunei Darussalam) said that Brunei Darussalam was encouraged by Myanmar’s cooperation during its review session, which was a demonstration of its commitment to continue enhancing the human rights of its people. Brunei Darussalam noted with appreciation that Myanmar had accepted a number of recommendations made by Member States, including its efforts to increase public awareness on human rights. Brunei Darussalam welcomed Myanmar’s continued cooperation with the United Nations and the international community and looked forward to continue working with this country though regional frameworks.
RACHITA BHANDARI (India) noted that in addition to the response provided by the Myanmar delegation to the majority of recommendations at the time of the adoption of the report in the Working Group, Myanmar had provided a detailed response to the remaining recommendations, as an addendum to the report, after due consideration by the concerned ministries in several inter-ministerial consultations. With the emergence of the constitutional government on 30 March 2011, the progressive implementation of the Political Roadmap for Democracy and the subsequent convening of the first ever session of Parliament, India noted that Myanmar had ushered in and fostered multi-party democratization, which it believed would make a valuable contribution towards the promotion and protection of human rights of its citizens.
SUN SUON (Cambodia) welcomed the delegation of Myanmar’s presentation on the latest developments in the promotion and protection of human rights. Cambodia took note of the commitment that Myanmar had demonstrated in accepting the majority of the recommendations. Cambodia was pleased to note that Myanmar had taken steps to implement the recommendations and was taking positive steps for democracy and national reconciliation. Cambodia believed that the recommendations would felicitate the Government of Myanmar that was recently established as a result of last year’s elections to further its efforts at this transitional process of democratization in addressing all the challenges, thus making further improvements in human rights. Myanmar had shown its continued commitment for constructive engagement with the international community towards the promotion and protection of human rights and therefore Cambodia recommended the adoption of the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar.
SITI HAJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said Malaysia noted Myanmar’s constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review Working Group last January, including its acceptance of a number of recommendations. Malaysia was pleased that some of the recommendations proposed by Malaysia had been accepted. Malaysia reaffirmed its understanding that the issue of Myanmar refugees would be addressed by the Government’s sustained efforts to significantly improve socio-economic development of its people in all regions of the country. As a close neighbour and member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Malaysia reaffirmed its commitment and readiness to continue cooperating closely with Myanmar in its efforts to institutionalise democratic norms, standards and principles with a view to
ensuring the promotion and protection of the human rights of all in the country.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, noted that the Myanmar delegation had rejected most of the recommendations presented during the Universal Periodic Review. Despite concern over the large numbers of political prisoners, Myanmar claimed that there were no prisoners held for their peaceful political activities, only those who had violated the law; in fact it was thought that almost 2,000 political prisoners remained incarcerated. Human Rights Watch said that the Government of Myanmar claimed to be cooperating with the United Nations on human rights but it had denied permission for visits by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, since March 2010. Further the Government also claimed that armed conflict was restricted to isolated areas and that the military operations were carried out in accordance with the rules of engagement and the strict instructions. Amnesty International asked that Myanmar immediately free all remaining political prisoners, cease attacks on civilians in conflict areas and support the UN Commission of Inquiry as recommended by the Special Rapporteur and a number of countries.
AUNG MYO MIN, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said that despite the November 2010 elections, systematic militarization contributed to widespread abuses of human rights in Myanmar. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development was disturbed that the situation in ethnic national areas continued to deteriorate as the armed conflict was ongoing. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development remained concerned that child soldiers continued to be recruited by the State’s armed forces. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development urged the State to ensure that those involved with the recruitment of child soldiers were prosecuted and urged the Council to swiftly establish an UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry to look into the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Myanmar.
MAIDAH JAMSHED RAO, of Islamic Human Rights Commission, wished to bring to the attention of the Council the brutal discrimination of the Rohingya living in Myanmar. Those were a distinctive Muslim ethnic population who Myanmar refused to recognise as one of main nationalities of Myanmar. The Rohingya had been subjected to criminal atrocities, torture, relentless taxation, restriction of their freedom of movement, prohibition of their right to marry and to found a family and others. Although the Rohingya were an ethnic group with a permanent residence in Myanmar, they were denied full citizenship and the Islamic Human Rights Commission urged the Government to take instant action towards mending ties with the Rohingya by providing them with same rights as other citizens.
MATTHEW JONES, of Jubilee Campaign, noted that the Myanmar delegation had suggested that it was in “advanced stages of its transition to democracy”, yet it did not support recommendations made by a number of States relating to its 2,200 political prisoners, including the Greek delegation’s recommendation that the International Committee of the Red Cross be granted access to them. In addition to this the Myanmar army was said to have a sad recent history of killing unarmed, peaceful civilians including shooting women and children at point blank range. The Special Rapporteur had reported that a pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights had been occurring in Myanmar over a period of many years. The Jubilee Campaign urged the delegation of Myanmar and the international community not to take a conclusion of this magnitude lightly, and to sufficiently address the concerns in future deliberations on Myanmar’s domestic human rights situation.
THAUNG HIUN, of Worldview International Foundation, regretted that Myanmar maintained its blatant denial of the existence of 2,000 prisoners of conscience during the Universal Periodic Review Working Group session. Worldview International Foundation was deeply concerned that torture was routinely used with impunity as a punishment and to force confessions in places of detention in Myanmar. Worldview International Foundation asked the State to immediately allow the International Committee of the Red Cross unimpeded access to all prisoners in the country without the interference of the State’s authorities. Worldview International Foundation condemned the State’s failure to accept recommendations to end the practice of torture, prosecute the perpetrators and ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Worldview International Foundation asked the Council to act to establish a UN–mandated Commission of Inquiry to look into the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Myanmar.
MARIANA DUARTE, of Conectas Direitos Humanos, said that the situation of women in Myanmar was deteriorating, in particular due to the lack of political participation and scarce humanitarian assistance. Systematic and widespread sexual violence was being perpetuated against ethnic women by the army. Women groups from a number of states of Myanmar had documented over 1,000 cases of rape between 1988 and 2009 and none of the perpetrators had been punished by domestic courts. In the war-torn zones of the country women and children’s health and education were severely affected, and less than 40 per cent of foreign aid reached the conflict-affected areas. Conectas Direitos Humanos urged the Government to immediately adopt strict legislation that criminalised rape in every context and to ensure legal punishment of the perpetrators and to allow communities and aid agencies to carry out humanitarian assistance across the border without any restriction.
MARIANNE LILIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, noted that there were more than 2,200 political prisoners in Myanmar held under vague laws frequently used by the Government to criminalize peaceful political dissent. Many were said to be held in inhumane conditions, without adequate food, sanitation or access to medical treatment. Further, many were prisoners of conscience merely held for peacefully exercising their rights to free expression, assembly and association. Amnesty international was disappointed by Myanmar’s rejection of a number of recommendations to improve the grave situation of human rights, including immediately halting all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the security forces, and investigation and punishment of such violations.
MICHAEL ANTHONY, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said it was of the opinion that the Council needed only to look at the list of the recommendations that the authorities in Myanmar had not accepted to understand the challenges that mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review faced in attempting to be relevant and effective concerning extreme human rights violations. Myanmar had rejected repeated recommendations to end impunity, to reform its legal system in line with international standards and improve cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. There was little chance of Myanmar effectively implementing even those recommendations that it had formally accepted. Two major obstacles were the political perception of the rule of law as an executive function and the profound level of corruption. The State had practically no domestic normative framework for the protection of human rights. Asian Legal Resource Centre reiterated its support for the Special Rapporteur and called on the Council to ensure an independent international inquiry into the grave and widespread human rights abuses in Myanmar.
JULIE GROMELLON, of International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, said that the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues shared concerns expressed by a number of States during the Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar. The International Federation for Human Rights Leagues deeply regretted that a number of States ignored the non-democratic and non-transparent holding of the general elections in Myanmar. There were over 2,000 political prisoners in the country at the moment and the International Federation for Human Rights League supported the recommendations to the Government to immediately release political prisoners and establish economic, social and cultural rights in the country. Impunity for various criminal acts continued, even for those acts that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity and the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues supported the recommendation on the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry.
BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, welcomed the beginning of the dialogue with Myanmar and said that the acceptance of recommendations by the Government needed to be reflected by the progress on the ground. Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and hoped that soon it would be possible to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The establishment of the National Human Rights Commission would hopefully help put an end to human rights violations in the country. In conclusion, Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme encouraged the Government to reform those aspects of the Constitution that restricted freedom of religions; to combat impunity; and to promote cooperation with human rights treaty bodies and Special Procedures.
TUN SHIN, Attorney General of Myanmar, thanked all States that had contributed to the Universal Periodic Review process of Myanmar. In the profession of law and in the English legal system, the test of reasonableness was based on what a prudent man on the street thought in a certain situation. The Government of Myanmar was 69 days old, only an infant, but had the political will to promote and protect human rights. Although Myanmar was in its infancy, law was being practiced in aim of these objectives, including cooperation with the United Nations. Mr. Shin wished to reiterate and re-confirm this. Positive developments were present in Myanmar, as the Foreign Ministers of Association of South East Asian Nations mentioned in January 2011. Myanmar’s Government was in its early days, opening new chapters and turning new pages. Mr. Shin asked the international community to resort to the old-age principle of reasonableness in this regard. Mr. Shin stated that things spoke for themselves. Mr. Shin thanked the President for the exemplary way he had conducted the meeting.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Myanmar.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Australia
PETER WOOLCOT, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Australia had received 145 recommendations during its Universal Periodic Review and had since consulted extensively to determine its position on those recommendations. Australia would accept or accept-in-part 137 recommendations, representing 94 per cent of all recommendations received, and in addition would provide an interim report prior to its next Universal Periodic Review. Since the Universal Periodic Review in January 2011, a number of important developments had occurred in each of the key areas that had been the focus of recommendations and those developments demonstrated the continuing commitment of Australia to the promotion and protection of human rights. A number of recommendations focused on Australia’s international human rights obligations and domestic implementation of those obligations, which had been used to inform the development of the National Human Rights Action Plan that was currently underway. Australia intended to also introduce legislation to formally protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, a recent development in this area was the election in April of the concluding observations-chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples which was a representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and would provide a central mechanism with which Government and other sectors could engage and work of reform initiatives.
Concerning recommendations related to combating racism and promoting tolerance, Australia said that in February 2011 the new multicultural policy, “The People of Australia” had been launched, which confirmed the commitment to a just, inclusive and socially cohesive society and recognised Australia as a multicultural nation. On counter-terrorism measures, Australia said that in April this year the first Independent National Security Legislation Monitor had been appointed, who would review the operation, effectiveness and implications of Australia’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation. Turning to the recommendations related to the rights of women and the rights of children, Australia had endorsed in February the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children which was a single, unified strategy that brought together the Government’s efforts to reduce violence against women and children and focused strongly on prevention. In March 2011 Australia had announced reforms of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace which would modernise this law and require large employers to report on gender equality outcomes, including the gender composition of their organizations and their boards, pay equity and the availability of flexible working arrangements for women and men.
A number of recommendations were made concerning the rights of people with disabilities. Recent developments in this area included the endorsement of the National Disability Strategy, the first national strategy to provide a long-term road map for improving the lives of persons with disabilities. Implementation of new building standards had commenced in May. Those standards would ensure that all new and upgraded public buildings in Australia would be accessible by persons with disabilities. Australia had introduced new legislation in February to enshrine non-refoulement obligations in law. The new complementary protection legislation would provide for the grant of protection visas in circumstances that engaged Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under human rights treaties other than the Refugee Convention. During its Universal Periodic Review process, Australia had referred to an expansion of its existing residence determination programme to enable significant number of minors and vulnerable families to move from immigration detention facilities into community-based accommodation. In conclusion, Australia openly acknowledged the existence of human rights challenges and did not consider that its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review ended with the submission of the report, but rather that it signalled the beginning of the longer-term engagement with the process as part of enduring commitment to human rights.
YONG CHANTHALANGSY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) commended the Australian Government for its acceptance of a large number of recommendations put forward by Member States during the Universal Periodic Review process. Australia’s emphasis on a broad range of laws, policies and programmes to respect, protect and promote human rights was recognized. Further, the Australian Government’s commitment to implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and working with the governments and people of developing countries to deliver aid where it was most needed and most effective, was welcomed.
JOAQUIM DA FONSECA (Timor-Leste) welcomed the delegation of Australia and thanked it for the considerations and responses given to the submissions made during its review. Timor-Leste noted with appreciation that Australia had accepted most of the recommendations made and respected Australia’s position to not accept recommendations regarding the legal protection of irregular migrants. Timor-Leste commended the recent change in Australia’s policy toward unaccompanied children asylum seekers and, as just indicated, asylum seekers in general. Timor-Leste believed that Australia would make further advancements in the promotion and protection of human rights and supported the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia.
BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said Algeria praised Australia for its long tradition in the promotion and protection of human rights and for having had the vision and courage to present apologies for the harm done to the Aborigines. The active role of Australia in this Human Rights Council translated this tradition. Algeria appreciated that Australia’s new multicultural policy included a National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, the multicultural ambassadors’ programme and others. Algeria was fully satisfied by the commitment of Australia to increase the official development assistance to 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product.
VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) recognized Australia’s long engagement with the international community in the development of the international human rights system. During the interactive dialogue the Moldovan delegation made three recommendations to the Australian Government, which were accepted. The Republic of Moldova welcomed Australia’s commitment to ensure that all procedures, including those related to terrorism, were in accordance with its international obligations in terms of fair trial.
SEYED HOSSEIN ZOLFAGHARI (Iran) took note of the statement of Australia regarding its Universal Periodic Review, but remained concerned about human rights violations in Australia, including new forms of racism and islamophobia, violations of the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and human rights violations against indigenous people, particularly of women and children regarding appropriate access to the rights to health and education. Iran called on the Australian Government to take into account the legitimate concerns of the Council and take appropriate legal reforms in this regard.
SALLY JACKMAN (New Zealand) said that in January this year New Zealand had taken part in the Universal Periodic Review of Australia and had made a number of recommendations, the majority of which had been accepted fully or in part by Australia. Australia had taken the innovative step of tabling and observing recommendations received by international treaty bodies by its Parliament. New Zealand welcomed the commitment to advancing the socio-economic station of indigenous peoples and acknowledged the new multicultural policy of Australia.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) congratulated the Australian Government for all the advances made with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples and measures taken to ameliorate their socio-economic circumstances. Concerning the recommendations flowing from the Universal Periodic Review, the Moroccan delegation was satisfied that the three recommendations that it had suggested were accepted by the Australian Government. These recommendations asked that the enforcement of federal legislation on the fight against discrimination be effectively implemented to better protect vulnerable people, particularly children, detainees and handicapped persons; and urged efforts to promote multi-culturalism and immigration and strengthening of efforts to promote indigenous women to decision making positions.
FRANCOIS ROUX (Belgium) thanked the Australian delegation for its addendum to the Working Group report and its presentation. The earnest and transparent manner in which Australia had handled the process heralded well for future cooperation. Recommendations concerning discrimination against indigenous people and the compatibility of Australia’s anti-terrorist measures with international obligations had been presented by Belgium. Belgium thanked Australia for accepting these recommendations. Belgium wished to return to the recommendation it provided concerning the sterilization of handicapped people. Australia stated that it would partially accept the recommendation and would consider the recommendation in applying the best interest test as it was used in Australia and conformed to international obligations. Belgium asked the delegation of Australia what this test consisted of and how it could be applied. Belgium hoped that Australia could provide a response to these concerns, thanked Australia for its excellent engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process and expressed its support for the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia.
KATHARINA ROSE, of Australian Human Rights Commission, said that the Commission commended the Government of Australia for its frank and robust engagement in the Universal Periodic Review process. The Commission warmly welcomed voluntary commitments made by the Government during the Universal Periodic Review including incorporating all accepted recommendations into the forthcoming National Action Plan for Human Rights and making an interim report to the Human Rights Council prior to the next Universal Periodic Review appearance. The Commission looked forward to working with the Government to ensure that those commitments made substantial impact in improving the protection of human rights in the country. The Commission had released numerous reports expressing concern about the condition of immigration detention facilities, the excessive timeframe for which people were held in detention and the ongoing detention of hundreds of children. The current system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention was not in compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations and the Commission continued to urge the Government to reform this system accordingly.
SHEHEREZADE KARA, of International Lesbian and Gay Association, applauded the considerable steps taken by the Australian Government to provide equal treatment of same sex partners in defacto marriages. However there was disappointment that Australia maintained its policy of not recognizing legitimate same sex marriages performed in member countries such as Norway, Spain, Canada and others. There was concern that Australia had not committed to including same sex partners within anti-discrimination policy under such existing grounds as relationship status and failed to ensure that people who identified as intersex would be protected as well. The International Lesbian and Gay Association was further concerned that laws and policies in Australia would be implemented in line with the Yogyakarta Principles of applying international law in relations to sexual orientation and gender identity.
PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, welcomed Australia’s support for the recommendation of Sweden to safeguard the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. However, Human Rights Watch remained deeply concerned that while Australia claimed to protect these rights, the Government’s current and prospective policies and practice could in fact run afoul of Australia’s international obligations. Human Rights Watch called on Australia to abandon bilateral agreements, such as the one established with Malaysia that lacked necessary guarantees for asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch acknowledged that Australia had accepted several recommendations concerning the mandatory detention of asylum seekers but regretted it rejected the recommendation from Switzerland that it not detain migrants other than in exceptional cases. Human Rights Watch urged Australia to end mandatory detention of all asylum seekers and enact legislation that supported the rights of asylum seekers.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said that the dramatic increase of people held in immigration detention for indefinite periods of time remained a serious concern. Australia was the only country in the world with a mandatory, not time-limited and non-renewable detention system which detained all unauthorised arrivals including children. Sudwind urged Australia to end the current system of mandatory immigration detention and to incorporate its international human rights obligations into domestic law through the adoption of a federal Human Rights Act. Australia was also urged to fully comply with its key detention values, make greater use of community-based detention, stop third country processing and amend immigration laws to fully comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, noted that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could not be the sole basis for addressing the wrongs of the past and that there continued to be challenges to addressing the denial of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their territory and resources and their protection. Further, indigenous peoples in many western based countries had imposed doctrines of dispossession that were actually doctrines of superiority. The Indian Council of South America noted that these doctrines were still in operation and had been used by many countries. In addition it was stressed that Australia had yet to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. The Government’s rejection of the establishment of a programme to address the issue of the stolen generation was deemed unfortunate.
MAIDAH JAMSHED RAO, of Islamic Human Rights Commission, raised its concern about the alienation and marginalization experienced by Muslim citizens of Australia, as well as the Government’s suspension of processing new asylum claims for Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals. The Muslim population living in Australia was facing serious prejudice and hostility. Over 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia were found to have genuine protection claims. However, their claims were dealt with slowly whilst they were living in appalling conditions in the Australian immigration detention centres, where five suicides had been reported. The Australian Government should implement internationally agreed criteria related to refugees. The Islamic Human Rights Commission urged Australia to take instant action in preventing any further attacks on and abuse of the Muslim minority and put an end to the suspension of processing asylum cases.
PHILIP LYNCH, of National Association of Community Legal Centres, expressed regret that Australia’s response in some areas did not accurately reflect law, policy or practice. Also, Australia’s response did not meet the need for legal and institutional reform to redress persistent issues documented by United Nations human rights bodies and other human rights organizations. The National Association of Community Legal Centres urged Australia to incorporate international human rights into domestic law through a comprehensive Human Rights Act, strengthen laws to fully implement the Declaration on the Right of indigenous peoples, ensure that asylum seekers were detained only where strictly necessary and that no children were held in immigration detention.
DORTHE CHRISTENSEN, of Amnesty International, was pleased that Australia had accepted the majority of the recommendations. However concern remained over the fact that the racial discrimination act of 1975 had only been partially reinstated. Amnesty International was concerned about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Amnesty International deplored Australia’s rejection of the recommendation to end mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Further it regretted Australia’s partial acceptance of the recommendation on the detention of children in asylum facilities. There appeared to be a lack of political will to meet international obligations in this area.
NIKI DHEEDENE, of Save the Children, called on Australia to address the establishment of a national children’s commissioner but regretted the Government’s decision to only explore the role under the national Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. Save the Children called on the Government to pass legislation currently before parliament to establish this commissioner. Save the Children asked the Government to ensure that no children were held in immigration detention, to immediately release all children and their families in immigration detention into the community, to repeal provisions of the Migration Act 1958, and to ensure that no children were held in immigration detention centres. Save the Children called on the Government to prohibit the use of corporal punishment and to prohibit its use within the family and in all schools and alternative care settings.
MOY HITCHEN, of Franciscans International, said that Franciscans International appreciated the commitment expressed by Australia through its setting up of a Human Rights Commission, appointing two new full-time commissioners and establishing a human rights framework to help implement recommendations it had accepted. Franciscans International recommended rethinking of the Northern Territory Emergency Response to involve all indigenous peoples affected though consultation and active participation. Franciscans International expressed its concern regarding the Government’s policy of mandatory detention for asylum-seekers and urged them to lift the moratorium on processing claims by Afghan people. The proposed bilateral agreement between Australia and Malaysia for the processing of asylum-seekers and resettlement of refugees should comply with the international human rights standards. Franciscans International called on the Government of Australia to prevent the refoulement of asylum-seekers to countries where their lives were in danger and their human rights were not recognised.
SALIH KILIC, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, recognized that Australia had undertaken a commitment to its indigenous peoples. Despite this, there was still a disparity between the different Australian peoples on socio-economic issues. It was very important that focus be placed on local indigenous peoples’ self determination. Rencontre Africaine Pour La Défense des Droits de L’homme stressed the need for assurances that Australian legislation would promote respect for human rights. The Australian Government had fought all forms of racial discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin.
PETER WOOLCOTT, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, thanked States and non-governmental organizations for their comments and stated that they were duly noted.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Australia.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Georgia
SERGI KAPANADZE, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, thanked the distinguished delegations that constructively took part in the review process, providing productive, practical as well as critical suggestions and recommendations to Georgia. Mr. Kapanadze also expressed his appreciation to the Secretariat and the hard work undertaken by the troika members of Mexico, Ukraine and Cameroon, and underscored the great role played by civil society in the whole process. Georgia welcomed the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and viewed it as a unique and highly valuable process that allowed Georgia to review its human rights situation. Georgia received 163 recommendations, 96 of which enjoyed its full support, 5 which were rejected and 62 which needed further consideration. Of these 62, Georgia accepted or partially accepted 43 recommendations.
The recommendations generally covered several areas. Mr. Kapanadze provided updates on five thematic areas: civil and political rights, protection of human rights of vulnerable groups, criminal justice, the situation of internally displaced persons and the international legal framework of the protection and promotion of human rights.
As to the reform of the electoral system, there had been a clear consensus amongst the majority of Georgian political parties on the need for electoral reform. The reform process was a multi-party and multi-sectoral effort. A number of recommendations called upon Georgia to take steps regarding its legislation on assemblies and manifestations, but a recently delivered judgement found norms incompatible with the Georgian constitution and would form the basis for bringing Georgian legislation in line with international standards. A number of States recommended that Georgia ensure freedom of media and Georgia intended to continue to ensure this protection through recently passed amendments to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting and other measures that it considered necessary. Georgia recognized the importance of addressing the problem of confiscation of places of worship but noted these confiscations happened during Soviet rule. A process of investigation was currently under way.
Georgia confirmed its commitment to protect and promote the rights of the child, including the protection and re-integration of so-called street children, and would continue to work towards these ends as called for in recommendations. Georgia worked diligently to ensure inadmissibility of gender-based discrimination and discrimination based on marital status. Georgia had a comprehensive legal framework in full compliance with international standards in place in this regard.
Related to criminal justice, institutional building represented a priority for the Government. Recently adopted constitutional amendments further strengthened the independence of judiciary. Georgia agreed with recommendations calling for continued reform to improve the judiciary, but the recommendations urging Georgia to restore the confidence of the population in the judicial system could not be accepted because Georgia had inherited a Soviet judiciary characterized by a general lack of public trust. Concerning torture, Georgia agreed with the recommendation calling for investigating cases of ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies. Regarding recommendations related to internally displaced persons, Georgia supported the strengthening of the rights of internally displaced persons and the improvement of their socio-economic situation, and had developed standard operational procedures in collaboration with international actors. However, in the territories under Russia’s occupation Georgia was unable to protect and promote human rights. Georgia had carefully examined each and every recommendation related to ratification of international instruments, and while the Government shared the aspirational goals and principles of the instruments, domestic legislation and policies needed to be analysed before adoption. Mr. Kapanadze stressed that Georgia viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important universal forum and was committed to constructive cooperation with the Human Rights Council in this regard.
JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said the United States applauded Georgia for the steps it had taken to address child labour. It welcomed the adoption of the law on broadcasting and urged its full implementation. The United States remained concerned about the broader worker rights situation and strongly supported the recommendations of Bulgaria with respect to establishing a labour inspectorate in Georgia. Since the abolishment of the labour inspectorate in 2006, no other supervisory agency had been created to ensure full compliance with labour laws. The United States noted with regret the instances of injury or loss of life in recent mining accidents and encouraged Georgia to take swift measures to ensure the health and safety of all workers.
BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism had become a priority forum for discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. Algeria approved the welcoming reaction to recommendations Georgia received during the review. Efforts had been made for the protection of women and children and Algeria welcomed the intention to protect children with disabilities and street children in large cities. Georgia’s commitment to bring about development of social and economic rights was to be commended.
MIKHAIL LEBEDEV (Russian Federation) noted that Georgia’s actions showed that it could only be expected to continue its policy of violating and flouting fundamental human rights and freedoms. Georgia had rejected all of the recommendations put forward by Russia. Russia drew particular attention to one recommendation which was rejected. This concerned the obligation to investigate harsh treatment of demonstrators in Tblisi. Russia interpreted this rejection as demonstrating that the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly were being violated without any investigations and violators being brought to justice.
VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) welcomed Georgia’s pledge to engage with civil society and stakeholders in the promotion and protection of human rights. Georgia noted that during the tenth session of the Universal Periodic Review, its delegation made some comments and submitted two recommendations. Georgia’s acceptance of both recommendations was appreciated. The Republic of Moldova also welcomed Georgia’s commitment to implement the national plan of action against ill treatment 2011 to 2013.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that Georgia should implement recommendations concerning treaty bodies and sign and ratify the Convention on Forced Disappearances. Georgia should also improve the situation in prisons and improve the independence of the judicial system. Georgia needed to install a more transparent inquiry policy for the excessive use of force by its security forces. Those violating the rights of the people should be prosecuted and held accountable.
ANATOLIY SALUTSKIY, of International Public Fund "Russian Peace Foundation", said that the outcome document outlined serious human rights problems in Georgia and referred to barbaric breaking up of democratic demonstrations. The police terror had begun in Georgia and this was a challenge to this Council as the authorities in Georgia knew their acts would go unpunished. The authority of the Human Rights Council was now challenged by the events in Georgia.
MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, shared the concerns raised by a number of States about the independence of the judiciary and the lack of effective and independent investigations into reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials and urged Georgia to ensure that those cases were properly investigated and those responsible brought to justice. Amnesty International had previously raised the issue of internally displaced persons and forced evictions carried out in 2010 and in January 2011. The concern was that the large number of evicted persons had not been provided with durable housing that met the standards of adequacy under international law. Amnesty International noted the large number of recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review concerning the situation of internally displaced persons, in particular ensuring that resettlement areas met adequate living standards and ensuring that internally displaced persons had access to employment, education and health care.
DEREK BRETT, of Conscience and Peace Tax International, welcomed the acceptance by Georgia of the recommendation to reduce the length of alternative service for conscientious objectors, as there was no excuse for it being of longer duration than military service. Conscience and Peace Tax International hoped that Georgia would use the opportunity to review its current alternative service provisions with a view to ensuring that conscientious objection could be declared at any time. Conscience and Peace Tax International welcomed the adoption by Georgia of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, but was disturbed by the rumours of obligatory military training being included in the senior secondary school curriculum.
SERGI KAPANADZE, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said the Universal Periodic Review process represented a human rights forum which should not be used as a political process. The progress that had been achieved in Georgia was tremendous. Georgia recalled that due to its Soviet heritage Georgia still struggled with the protection of human rights. Mr. Kapandnaze said that Georgia had not shied away from acknowledging the challenges that it faced in this regard. Georgia wanted human rights to be enjoyed by all its citizens. The Universal Periodic Review process was assisting Georgia to achieve this.
The Council then adopted the decision on the Universal Periodic Review on Georgia.
__________source by : UN Human Rights