Conclusion of the 35th Session of the UPR

The end of January saw the conclusion of the 35th Session of the Universal Period Review (UPR) Working Group, which reviewed the human rights situation in fourteen United Nations (UN) Member States from the 20th to the 31st of January in Geneva, Switzerland. States under Review (SuR) were Kyrgyzstan, Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Spain, Lesotho, Kenya, Armenia, Guinea Bissau, Sweden, Grenada, Turkey, Kiribati, Guyana and Kuwait.

3324 recommendations were formulated during the session. Frequently occurring topics included Women’s Rights; freedom of opinion and expression; torture and other CID treatment; Sustainable Development Goals; death penalty and detention; National Human Rights Institution; Racial Discrimination; and strengthened engagement with international legal instruments. On average, States received recommendations from 93 delegations during the interactive dialogue. Among the fourteen SuR, Turkey, Kenya, Kuwait, Sweden and Spain received the largest number of recommendations. Moreover, States regularly posed recommendations mirroring those suggested by civil society organizations at UPR Info’s preceding Pre-sessions that took place in December 2019. For instance, 58 recommendations made during Bolivia’s review reflected the recommendations made during UPR Info’s pre-session (approximately more than 25% of the total recommendations).

The final report for each SuR will be adopted at the 44rd Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June 2020.

State Under Review Overviews:

Kyrgyzstan: After declaring that “nobody is discriminated on the ground of sex in Kyrgyzstan“, head of delegation, Mr. Nuran Nivazaliev announced the Gender Equality Action Plan, which was commended by the recommending states. Some of the recurring issues during the review of Kyrgyzstan included right to health, combatting child labour, rights of person with disabilities. The head of delegation also noted the improvement of Kyrgyzstan on the Press Freedom Index, the country now ranks 83, when it was 98 in 2018.
In total, 232 recommendations were presented to the SuR by 83 delegations.

Guinea: During the interactive review of Guinea, 81 States took the floor and formulated 213 recommendations. Some of the key topics covered human rights violations by states agents, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, enforced disappearances, death penalty, women’s rights, especially forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Head of the delegation, Minister of State and Minister of Justice Mamadou Lamine Fofana noted the steps taken to eradicate child marriage, female genital mutilation and to put a moratorium on death penalty. Nevertheless, due to a lack of technical resources in the judicial police, Guinea struggles with investigating the death that occurred during political manifestations in 2018 and 2019.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic: The State received a total of 226 recommendations from 89 delegations. In its initial statement Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of the National Committee on Human Rights, Bounkeut Sangsomsak, indicated that the Government amended legislation to facilitate lawful religious activities of Laos citizens and enacted new legislation to register NGOs and civil society organizations in country. Moreover, Minister Sangsomsak recognised that “poverty and climate change in particular pose major obstacles to realizing human rights in Laos, especially the enjoyment of economic social and cultural rights”. Recurring issues brought up in recommendations included women’s rights, right to health and education, poverty, national human rights institution and international instruments.

Spain: States welcomed the advancement Spain has made in gender equality and representation in political positions, as well as the progress made in developing and integrating public economic and social support for its citizens. Moreover, Head of delegation Fernando Valenzuela Marzo noted that 2017 marked a turning point in Spain in terms of fight against violence against Women as the first Nation Wide Pact Against Gender Violence (2018-2019) was adopted. Key issues addressed in the 275 recommendations, formulated by 110 delegations, included racial discrimination, rights of the child, rights of persons with disabilities, migrants, and finally, human trafficking.

Lesotho: Many recommendations focused on women’s rights, climate changes, rights of the child, death penalty, the right to education, especially for girls, the national human rights institution and human rights violation by states agents. Minister of Law Sixtus Habofanoe Lehana, head of delegation, stated that “Lesotho has taken steps to repeal criminal defamation law or insult laws which impedes freedom of speech”. In total 81 delegations took the floor and made 211 recommendations.

Kenya: During the interactive review, 118 delegations took the floor. Some of the recurring issues addressed in the 319 recommendations were the rights of the child, women’s rights, especially the elimination of genderbased violence, and the ratification of international human rights instruments. During his introduction speech, Head of Delegation Ababu Namwamba, Chief Administrative Secretary and Deputy Minister presented the progress that Kenya made during the second cycle. Among the initiatives conducted, he mentioned the launch of the “Big Four” agenda in 2017 as a step taken to advance the right to food, health, housing and labour in the country.

Armenia: 93 delegations presented 252 recommendations during the interactive review. Many States addressed recommendations on equal access to education and health care for children with disabilities, gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence, the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the fight against corruption. Head of delegation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Artak Apitonian noted that the Velvet revolution of spring 2018 is a major step towards building a peaceful and more democratic society.

Guinea Bissau was presented with 197 recommendations by 75 delegations, some of them centred around the establishment of a national human rights institution, fight against gender-based violence, rights of the child and forced marriage, fight against corruption and ratification of international instruments. Other issues raised focused on the freedom of expression, association, and the press, and the protection of human rights defenders. During the review, head of delegation Minister of Justice Ruth Monteiro noted that despite the vast political instability in the country in recent years, progress has been made to advance human rights including greater access to justice and providing improved social services.

Sweden received 300 recommendations from 117 delegations. During the presentation of the national reports Head of Delegation, Åsa Lindhagen, Minister for Gender Equality, announced that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is now a national law in Sweden. Some of the recurring topics of the recommendations were the fight against hate crimes and racial discrimination; women’s rights, especially the eradication of gender-based violence; the acceleration of the process of creating a National Human Rights Institution in accordance with the Paris Principles and the promotion of Sami culture and languages.

Grenada: During its’ review, 59 recommending states took the floor and made 148 recommendations. Some of the issues covered included fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, women’s rights and gender-based violence, abolition of death penalty, establishment of a National Human Rights Institution and climate changes. The head of delegation, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Peter David, noted that the “Grenada remains committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. The UPR National Report was a result of a consultative and inclusive approach between ministries and civil society”. The Minister also assured Grenada commitment to protect its citizens against climate change and to ratify the Escazú Agreement, the first regional treaty on environment, which envisages the protection of environmental human rights defenders. The Escazú Agreement also gives a solid framework for pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals in a participatory and transparent manner.

Turkey: 124 States made a statement during their review and 321 recommendations were formulated. Head of delegation, Mr. Faruk Kaymakci, Ambassador, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU affaires, presented the national report and noted Turkey instituted its Judicial Reform Strategy which was adopted by Parliament in October 2019 which aimed to better protect fundamental freedoms as well as independence, impartiality and transparency of the judiciary. Some of the key issues discussed in the recommendations were women’s rights and gender-based violence, freedom of expression, association, and the press, fight against racial discrimination, and human trafficking.

Kiribati announced that its Disaster Risks and Climate Change Act of 201 9 includes in the various actions and sub-actions considerations regarding gender, youth and children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.. Head of delegation, Ambassador Teburoro Tito, affirmed Kiribati’s commitment to human rights which was expressed in the country Development Vision for 20 years. The recommendations received covered issues such as prevention of climate changes, women’s rights, ratification of international instruments, establishment of a National Human Rights Institution and access to water and sanitation for minorities. In total, Kiribati received 129 recommendations from 51 delegations.

Guyana’s goal to meet the SDGs is reflected in its Green States Development Strategy Vision 2040, affirmed head of delegation Ambassador John Ronald Ford. During the interactive review, many recommendations covered access to water and sanitation, protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, moratorium on the death penalty, women’s rights and the fight against domestic violence. Guyana also received recommendations on the ratification of the OPCAT and the CEDAW. Altogether, 76 States took the floor to formulate 199 recommendations.

Kuwait received 302 recommendations from 122 delegations. States welcomed steps to eliminate child labour with the Equal Pay legislation and the creation of an office for the protection of child rights. Key issues that were addressed during the review included the right to education for all, the elimination of torture, the protection of migrants and domestic workers, the fight against human trafficking and freedom of expression, of the press and freedom of assembly. The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. The peer-review nature of the UPR continues to encourage global dialogue on human rights and has ensured that all countries, regardless of geographical, economic, or political influence, are accountable both nationally and internationally for their adherence to universal human rights standards.