Human Rights Council adopts 6th session UPR reports, holds 'half-way' general debate
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 13:37


The 13th session of the Council in March 2010 witnessed the adoption of all 16 reports from the 6th session of the UPR of December 2009, although not without controversy. Most notable was adoption of the report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the State’s failure to accept a single recommendation, setting the harmful precedent of allowing States to fall back on ‘noting’ all recommendations without any explanation.For a more detailed summary of the adoption of the report of the DPRK, see ‘The Democratic People's Republic of Korea accepts none of UPR’s 167 recommendations’ at One other disruption of note related to Cyprus allegation that it had ‘not been treated by its peers [that is, Turkey] in accordance with the principles of the UPR’,For a more detailed explanation of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s comment and Cyprus’ response, see although this ultimately did not affect the adoption of its UPR report.


Only six of the 16 States under review submitted written responses to pending recommendations.Bhutan, Costa Rica, Cotes d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Norway, Portugal.  Dominica failed to meet its commitment to submit its position in writing prior to the 13th session of the Council, as stated during the adoption of the draft report by the UPR Working Group in December 2009. Concerning presentations by States under review, there were varying levels of follow-up to specific pending recommendations, from zero (DPRK) to relatively comprehensive in the case of the Dominican Republic, for example, while all of the six States that provided written responses were also in a position to elaborate on certain points.


Comments by member and observer States were dominated in almost all instances by Algeria, Cuba and the United States, with the latter using the opportunity to note efforts of improvement, to raise concern with specific human rights issues, and to address specific recommendations in the UPR report,The United States was strongly critical of a number of recommendations rejected by the Democratic Republic of Congo, including notably their non-cooperation with the International Criminal Court, and recommended that Bhutan reconsider its position in relation to the return on ethic Nepalis to Bhutan. while Cuba and Algeria tended to present rhetorical statements commending most SuRs for all of their efforts. Most other States continued to use the allocated space to broadly commend their allies,For example, India, Sri Lanka , China and Pakistan to Bhutan; Cameroon, Morocco and Congo to the Democratic Republic of Congo; Djibouti, Botswana and Cameroon to Ethiopia. with little attention to following up on their own recommendations.Exceptions included Algeria’s criticism of Portugal for not accepting their recommendation to ratify the Convention on Migrant Workers and Switzerland’s rebuke that Ethiopia had not given answers to their recommendations related to ratification of international instruments.


General comments by NGOs were generally more substantive and critical in their content, notably in the cases of Human Right Watch on the DPRK,Suppression of all dissent, labour camps, torture. the International Commission of Jurists on the DRC,Impunity, lack of political will and non-cooperation with the International Criminal Court. and the Lutheran World Federation on Bhutan.The neglect of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Such comments moved Ethiopia to refer to Human Rights Watch as ‘known Ethiopia bashers’. Bhutan also criticised the level of international NGO engagement, which it claimed was influenced by ‘politically motivated sources’, and sought assistance for domestic NGO representation. The dialogue was dominated by international organizations and, thematically, NGOs dealing with rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons tended to be most visible, as in the past.


The general debate on Item 6 was notable for the sizeable increase in participation of both States and NGOs from the previous general debate, possibly linked to the fact the UPR has now reached its halfway point, combined with the fact that that the March session constitutes the ‘main’ session of the Council. The debate provided a good opportunity for a number of States to outline what they saw as the priority areas for review of the UPR in 2011. Among the more detailed were Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), which prioritised the sharing of best practice, the disbursement of funds from the voluntary fund, and resolving the non-availability of reports in all languages; India, which stressed the need to address the anomaly of the speakers list expeditiously through a decision of the Council, rather than wait for an ‘ideal solution’;Supported by Norway. Norway, which stressed that the clear acceptance and rejection of recommendations needed to be assured; and Israel and Canada, who both criticised the rejection of recommendations on the alleged basis of not being factually correct or in accordance with national law or practice. Canada also drew important attention to ‘efforts by some States to orchestrate a white wash of their human rights record by attempting to stack the speakers lists in the working group and plenary with friendly States or government-organised NGOs’.


NGOs also used the general debate to draw attention to areas requiring future improvement, including the rejection of recommendations based on treaty obligations,ISHR, FIACAT. clarification of accepted and rejected recommendations,Canadian HIV/AIDs Legal Network (including the proposal that the President compile a list of best practices in a Presidential statement). strengthening national consultations after UPR reviews,ISHR. and fixing the speakers lists.Amnesty International, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.


A small number of States also used the general debate to update the Council on the status of implementation of recommendations. Most notable was a grid document circulated by the United Kingdom detailing specific advancements in fulfilling recommendations, including in relation to a child poverty bill before Parliament, age discrimination, domestic violence, and counter terrorism. Colombia also explained that it has put an action plan in place, reflected in a public document that is regularly updated.Others to follow up on implementation included Canada (ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, moves to endorse the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and China (implementation of national action plan). The United States, on the other hand, used the general debate to inform States of its planning for the UPR, including 10 public meetings to date and a website to receive comments from any stakeholders.


The US also used the debate to express its concern that the DPRK had not acted faithfully by not clarifying its position on outstanding recommendations, prompting the DPRK to interject that the US had no right to reopen the review (to which the President overruled that the content of their comments was admissible as it related to ‘process’)The President’s ruling was however misleading, as the content of the general debate is not limited only to process., and to then exercise two rights of reply denouncing the US for challenging its national sovereignty. In so doing, it confirmed its unwillingness to admit that it had not accepted a single UPR recommendation.


Overall, the general debate proved useful as a means to provide follow up and as a measurement of States’ initial priorities in relation to improving (as they interpret it) the functioning of the UPR.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 07:43
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