AFTERNOON - Human Rights Council Adopts Universal Periodic Review Outcomes of France, Tonga and Botswana
Council Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of France, Tonga and Botswana. It also concluded the general debate on agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Concerning France, the Vice-President of the Council said out of the 355 recommendations received, 274 enjoyed the support of France, and 81 were noted.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of France was adopted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of France were China, Djibouti, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru and Philippines.
Also speaking were Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, World Evangelical Alliance, World Jewish Congress, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), Iranian Thalassemia Society, European Centre for Law and Justice, Centre Europeen pour le droit, les Justice et les droits de l'homme, Institute for Protection of Women's Rights, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, Iranian Elite Research Centre, and Organization for Defending Victims of Violence.
As for Tonga, the Vice-President of the Council said out of the 173 recommendations received, 110 enjoyed the support of Tonga, and 63 were noted.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Tonga was adopted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Tonga were New Zealand, Russian Federation, Samoa, Tunisia, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Bahamas, China, India and Maldives.
Also speaking was Centre for Global Non-Killing.
Concerning Botswana, the Vice-President of the Council said out of the 296 recommendations received, 206 enjoy the support of Botswana, and 85 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another five recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Botswana was adopted.
Speaking in the discussion on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Botswana were Algeria, Angola, Bahamas, Belgium, United Nations Population Fund, Cameroon, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Maldives.
Also speaking were Centre for Global Nonkilling, Action Canada for Population and Development, Interfaith International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement, and Advocates for Human Rights.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
Speakers said there was no perfect State in this world. The fundamental importance of the role and contributions of civil society to the work and success of the United Nations was widely recognised. However, the right of non-governmental organizations to participate in the work of the United Nations bodies and mechanisms became meaningless if representatives of non-governmental organizations were not granted visas to attend United Nations meetings. A speaker suggested making an invitation to all the country-visit-requesting mandate holders a prerequisite for running for a Council member.
Speaking in the general debate were Regional Centre for the Welfare of Ageing Persons in Cameroon, United for Human Rights, iuventum e.V., Association MIMAN, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities, Alsalam Foundation, World Muslim Congress, International Action for Peace and Sustainable Development, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Villages Unis (United Villages), Tumuku Development and Cultural Union, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, World Barua Organization, Iraqi Development Organization, and Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l'homme.
Speaking in right of reply at the end of the general debate were Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Cuba and Sudan.
The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-fourth regular session can be found here.
The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Monday, 2 October, to continue with the consideration of the outcome documents of other States examined during the forty-third session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group.
General Debate on Agenda Item Five on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
The general debate on agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here.
Some speakers said there was no perfect State in the world. Article 71 of the United Nations Charter invited civil society for observer participation. The fundamental importance of the role and contributions of civil society to the work and success of the United Nations was widely recognised. However, the right of non-governmental organizations to participate in the work of the United Nations bodies and mechanisms became meaningless if representatives of non-governmental organizations were not granted visas to attend United Nations meetings. Speakers called upon the High Commissioner to give high priority to ensuring the unhindered participation of non-governmental organizations in United Nations bodies and full respect for the United States-United Nations Headquarters Agreement.
Special mandate holders performed fact-finding country visits to support the United Nations human rights mechanisms. An independent investigation by the mandate holders not only explained specific issues of the country but also helped with the collection of good and bad practices to inform global human rights. Compilations of good practices helped set and upgrade the highest attainable standards, while compilations of bad practices helped determine what level was the minimum standard to be fulfilled. It was high time for the attitudes toward independent investigations to be meaningfully reflected in the evaluation of the States, and a speaker suggested making an invitation to all the country-visit-requesting mandate holders a prerequisite for running for a Council member.
Many speakers mentioned specific cases, urging the Human Rights Council to ensure that Member States complied with their obligations with respect to members of civil society and to ensure their freedom to act and communicate. This august Council, a speaker said, with all its bodies and mechanisms, was immensely contributing to the ongoing efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide. Being a member of the Council was a matter of honour for any State, but it was disheartening to observe that some Member States were disrespectful to the Council, its bodies and mechanisms, when it came to the question of human rights in their own State. Such States should come out of denial, accept the problems and work positively to address them.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of France
France said it was committed to the Universal Periodic Review. The French Government was also committed to maintaining a regular dialogue with civil society and the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights. France outlined the progress made and measures taken since the previous review in 2018. These included: the policy on the promotion of women's rights; the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination; and actions taken to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The Government had considered all 355 recommendations and supported 274 recommendations, or 77 per cent of the recommendations received. It had noted 47 recommendations and partly accepted 34 recommendations. Recommendations were partly accepted for several reasons, including that legal or constitutional reasons prevented full implementation of the recommendation.
As an elected member of the Human Rights Council and candidate for re-election for the 2024-2026 term, France was even more vigilant in ensuring that the Universal Periodic Review was an exercise with concrete results. The Council could count on the exemplary nature of France in the follow-up and implementation of the recommendations accepted. The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs would coordinate the follow-up and implementation of the recommendations, in conjunction with the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights and civil society. France welcomed the opportunity to hear from Member States, civil society and national human rights organizations during the meeting.
National Consultative Commission on Human Rights said France had accepted fewer recommendations than in 2018 and the Parliament had still not been involved in the process. The Commission noted progress in the area of feminism and in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. However, the Commission lamented weak progress in the fight against human trafficking. It was regretful that the authorities denied violence was committed by law enforcement. Protection for vulnerable groups was insufficient and the fight against poverty lacked impetus. Only 14 per cent of reports of rape gave rise to conviction, but France refused to enshrine the concept of consent in the law. France was encouraged to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Some speakers welcomed the acceptance of many recommendations by France. One speaker was concerned about the rise of racism and xenophobia in France, with the violation of the rights of persons of African descent, Roma and refugees. The Government lacked sufficient protection for the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women and persons with vulnerabilities. France should promote the basic rights of refugees, migrants, and other minorities. France should strengthen its commitment to freedom of religion and expression, in particular through enhanced protections for the rights of Muslim and other minority women, a speaker said.
France was committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, some speakers said, as shown in the adoption of the recommendations on marital violence, among others on combatting discrimination. The constructive engagement of France during the process showed its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review. The new legislation on combatting hateful content online was welcomed, as well as the new national plan to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Progress had been made by the Government towards strengthening gender equality and the rights of women and girls, including the implementation of the inter-ministerial plan for equality between men and women, adopted earlier this year. France’s commitment to take steps to investigate complaints regarding the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during protests and demonstrations was also welcomed.
The Vice-President of the Council said out of the 355 recommendations received, 274 enjoyed the support of France, and 81 were noted.
France thanked speakers for their comments. While France fully respected freedom of expression, one statement made relating to terrorism was not related to the Universal Periodic Review exercise. Whenever possible, France had accepted recommendations without reservation, representing more than three quarters of the recommendations received during the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, a proportion comparable to that of the previous cycle. France would submit a report at the mid-point of this fourth cycle.
France combatted all forms of discrimination with the firmest determination and was committed to further stepping up these efforts within the national framework dedicated to combatting racial discrimination and anti-Semitism. The country had extended a standing invitation to all Special Procedures. The State would continue action against the death penalty, impunity and discrimination and would continue mobilisation for the rights of women and girls, the rights of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex persons, and human rights defenders.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of France was then adopted.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Tonga
Tonga said the country received a total of 173 recommendations from 59 Member States. The majority of these recommendations pertained to the ratification and accession to international human rights instruments, cooperation with human rights mechanisms, and requests for technical assistance. Tonga was no stranger to the common challenges other small island developing States continued to face in relation to climate change, which largely impacted on the Government’s competing priorities and limited resources. Additionally, Tonga was still progressing in its recovery from the devastation that resulted from the Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami in the previous year. Nevertheless, the Government continued to commit its efforts to collectively enhance the human rights situation in Tonga both at national and community levels.
During Tonga’s internal consultations and close examination of the recommendations, the importance of resource availability and capacity was recognised and highlighted. At the core of the challenges encountered in implementing human rights commitments remained the limited capacity and resources at Tonga’s disposal, competing Government priority areas, and the recommended timeframes for the implementation of the recommendations. In light of these considerations, Tonga prepared an addendum and duly tabled it to the Secretariat of the Universal Periodic Review. This addendum set out Tonga’s commitment and response to improving its human rights work on each of the 173 recommendations.
Out of the 173 recommendations received, 110 recommendations enjoyed the support of Tonga, and 63 recommendations were noted. The recommendations Tonga received encompassed a wide range of human rights issues that would require on-going consideration, and thorough, robust and comprehensive dialogue, against a backdrop of cultural sensitivity with conservative Christian values of Tongan society; nevertheless, the Government of Tonga would continue its efforts in monitoring the implementation progress of the recommendations it supported, and on-going consideration for those that were noted.
Speakers commended Tonga’s positive participation in the Universal Periodic Review, and recent human rights achievements. Tonga’s establishment of a Cabinet working group to review, with the aim of ratifying, the United Nations Convention against Torture, as well as the establishment of a Cabinet committee to consider the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women were commended. Tonga’s ongoing consideration of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was also welcomed. Tonga’s commitment to establish a National Human Rights Institute in line with the Paris Principles was also appreciated.
Tonga had undertaken efforts to address challenges posed by climate change. Speakers appreciated the acceptance of the recommendations pertaining to the integration of climate change and environmental education into the school curriculum, as well as the enhancement of human rights awareness during national climate consultations, with particular focus on the rights of children, women, and persons with disabilities. Speakers also commended the measures taken to assist vulnerable persons, including older persons and those with disabilities, and the country’s commitment to improving health care. The achievements of the Tongan Government in the fight against poverty, including through social welfare and cash transfers, was also highly appreciated by speakers. The international community was encouraged to continue to provide support to the Government of Tonga. It was recommended that the report on Tonga be adopted.
The Vice-President of the Council said out of the 173 recommendations received, 110 enjoyed the support of Tonga and 63 were noted.
Tonga said the Universal Periodic Review process remained a valuable peer review mechanism, which ensured the progress of individual States on their human rights work. A large majority of the recommendations were accepted by Tonga. It formed an important input into Tonga’s future work in progressing its human rights priorities. Tonga thanked all its development partners and friends that had provided technical as well as financial support not only to the Government but also to Tonga’s civil society, non-government organizations, private sector, and the community. This had ensured true inclusivity.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Tonga was then adopted.
Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Botswana
Botswana said out of the 296 recommendations, 206 enjoyed Botswana’s support, and 5 were partly supported, while 85 recommendations had been noted. Some noteworthy developments in Botswana included the commencement of the Ombudsman Act of 2021, and the launch of the Office of the Ombudsman’s human rights mandate in July 2023; the hosting of Botswana’s first multi-sectoral symposium on child-friendly justice held from 2 to 3 August 2023 in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund; the finalisation of the Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and National Action Plan process; the Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals Course; the decision to conduct a Universal Declaration of Human Rights seventy-fifth anniversary campaign, to be launched by the Minister of Justice next month; and the on-going drafting of Botswana’s initial reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
With regard to migration, prior to 2020 all asylum seekers were housed in the Centre for Illegal Immigrants, while awaiting assessment of their applications for asylum under the Refugees Recognition and Control Act. This Act outlaid clear criteria and procedures for the recognition of refugees. All asylum seeking and refugee children had access to a clinic within the camp, and hospitals in the vicinity.
There was a fully-fledged primary school situated within the camp. The on-going review of the Refugees Recognition and Control Act was envisaged to further strengthen the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Botswana and align it to international best practices. The Anti-Human Trafficking Act was also being amended to ensure that the Government met the minimum standard for the elimination of human trafficking as espoused in the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime.
All persons subject to an investigation or detained in Botswana were protected against torture by the national Constitution, which prohibited torture and inhuman or degrading punishment. Botswana encountered challenges in the area of the promotion and protection of human rights. The technical support from development partners mitigated these challenges and Botswana conveyed appreciation to development partners for their support. Botswana would continue implementing the recommendations supported and would submit a mid-term report in 2025.
Speakers commended Botswana for its dedication and commitment to the work of the Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and other mechanisms on the protection and promotion of human rights, and its positive reaction to the recommendations presented during the review cycle. National authorities should take the necessary measures to implement the recommendations made, a speaker said. Botswana was commended on the significant progress it had made as a nation, including notable strides in the promotion of the economic and social rights of vulnerable groups, poverty reduction, and improving social protection and healthcare. It was also thanked for its willingness to share its best practices and lessons learned with other States.
Regarding the recommendation on training of professionals in order to facilitate access to justice for victims of gender-based violence, a speaker inquired which measures Botswana planned to take in order to provide these trainings to any professional working with these victims, as many cases continued to go unreported. Botswana’s commitment, including continued investments on the improvement of key issues affecting women, girls and marginalised populations, would gradually lead to improved overall attainment of human rights, a speaker said. Significant improvements had been made in improving human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the country was displaying positive trends. Botswana should continue to promote economic, social and cultural rights, sustainable development, and a social system that would address social inequality.
The Vice-President of the Council said out of the 296 recommendations received, 206 enjoyed the support of Botswana, and 85 were noted. Additional clarification was provided on another five recommendations, indicating which parts of the recommendations were supported and which parts were noted.
Botswana addressed a non-governmental organization statement, saying any inconsistency would be checked. Addressing another statement, Botswana assured the speakers that there was no undermining of religious freedoms in Botswana, as enshrined in the Constitution. Botswana had responded to the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Botswana expressed appreciation to all those involved in the successful review in May. The Government of Botswana was committed to implementing the recommendations which enjoyed the support of the country, and reporting on the progress of implementation. Botswana remained committed to the Universal Periodic Review process and to the submission of the Universal Periodic Review mid-term report in 2025.
The outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Botswana was then adopted.
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