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UPR of Belgium: criticism of ‘Islamophobia’ and racism in the media
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 14:52

 

The Working Group on the UPR examined the human rights record in Belgium on 2 May 2011. The country was represented by a small delegation, comprised of high level officials and headed by Mr Steven Vanackere, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr Vanackere was the only member of the delegation to take the floor in response to States' questions and recommendations. He did so twice and addressed the issues raised in an organised and structured manner, offering responses to all of the main issues raised by States. A recurring issue raised by States was the racist, xenophobic and, in particular, 'Islamophobic' rhetoric used in the media, on the internet, and in the political sphere.

Other issues raised were the treatment of asylum seekers; equality amongst men and women, particularly in the work force; policies on migrants; and the overcrowding of Belgian prisons. Some States offered more specific recommendations and questions, including:

  • Encouraging the establishment of an independent national human rights institution to allow for effective, centralised coordination of the promotion and protection of all human rights.
  • Encouraging the signing and ratification of optional protocols and conventions, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), and the withdrawal or revision of reservations and declarations to conventions, such as its reservation on Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  • Calls for more awareness to be raised about the law against female genital mutilation (FGM), which few educators and health professionals are familiar with.
  • Recommending that the juvenile justice system be reviewed, in particular the provision to try and sentence some minors as adults.
  • Criticism by Belarus and Egypt of the lack of visits by special procedures. Mr Vanackere responded to this by stating that there is a standing open invitation for such visits but that no requests for a visit had been made in the past years.
  • The need to recognise Buddhism as a religion.
  • Criticism of the failure to monitor poverty among vulnerable children (particularly amongst migrant children).
  • Encouraging the State to stop its arms trade with countries using child soldiers.

Many States praised the thoroughness and timeliness of the submitted national report, and the clear and focused responses offered by Mr Vanackere. In conclusion, Mr Vanackere highlighted his country's aim to submit the next national report one year before the deadline, as an indication of Belgium's commitment to the UPR process. Upon adoption of the report, Belgium accepted 85 of the 121 recommendations (26 of which, the delegation said, are already implemented or in the process of being implemented). Thirteen of the recommendations are under consideration. Responses to these recommendations will be provided during the Council's 18th session in September. The status of the remaining 23 recommendations was not clear from the delegation's statement.

 

For more information, including statements delivered and the report of the Working Group, see the OHCHR extranet (username: hrc extranet password: 1session).

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 10:43
 
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