February 15, 2011
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The 10th session of the Universal Periodic Review
The 10th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held from 24 January to 4 February at Palais des Nations, Geneva.
The UPR is a new human rights mechanism, established by General Assembly of the United Nations in a resolution passed on March 2006.Through it, the Human Rights Council was enjoined to analyse on a periodic basis the fulfilment by each of the 192 UN Member States of its human rights obligations and commitments.
The first cycle of the UPR process lasts 4 years. Each year is divided into three sessions wherein 16 States are reviewed per session. This mechanism allows the Human Rights Council to address recommendations to the State under review concerning the actions that may be undertaken to enhance the protection and the promotion of the human rights, while the State under review has the opportunity to report all legislative measure, policies and programs adopted to ensure respect of the fundamental rights.
Out of 16 countries reviewed at the 10th Session of the UPR, we followed eight (8) countries where IIMA is present, namely Mozambique, Paraguay, Rwanda, Myanmar, Nepal, Georgia, Australia and Austria.
IIMA paid particular attention to the review of Mozambique and Paraguay, as IIMA submitted written statements to the Office High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), containing the information gathered by the sisters and volunteers working in these countries.
IIMA was satisfied that a number of its observations and recommendations were included in the UPR third official document. The said document contains a summary of information provided by civil society and is released by the OHCHR weeks before the session starts.
IIMA’s statement focused on issues concerning inequality in access to education and the high rate of illiterate children, and stressed the need for guaranteeing a free, universal, primary and secondary education.
The issues common to all States under review which emerged during the review, are the persisting gender discrimination and violence against women, and the unequal access to the educational system by girls, minorities and citizens living in rural areas.
In the case of Mozambique, the working group raised concern on the excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel and frequent cases of violence perpetrated by them and the high percentage of illiteracy among children. The States recommended that Mozambique increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and in assuring the right to education to children.
The chief problems in Paraguay, on the other hand, include gender inequality in education, health and participation in the policy making-process; and the escalated rate of illiterate children among indigenous population which rate is much higher compared with the national rate.
In the case of Rwanda, representatives of Member States recognized the considerable steps taken by the government of Rwanda to achieve the social, economic and cultural transformation of the county after the genocide in 1994. Nevertheless, they denounced the prevalence of discrimination and violence against women, the enrollment of children in armed groups, and the critical situation of journalists and the media in general due to restraint in the freedom of expression.
Myanmar’s review session was intense. Most of the States conveyed deep concern for the serious violation of human rights, which continues to take place in the country. Urgent human rights issues were noted during the review, such as: imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture and forced labour of political dissenters; religious and ethnic persecutions; and the recruitment of children in armed groups. Accordingly, the representatives of the Member States requested Myanmar to ratify and give immediately application to the main human rights international conventions, to release unconditionally political prisoners, and to ensure their rights to religious and ethnic minorities.
With regard to Nepal, the Member States recommended to implement a policy of free education without discrimination on account of gender, geographical location, social class and ethnicity. In particular, the working group pointed out on the need of an equal access to relevant quality education of girls, Dalit children and children belonging to ethnic minorities
Georgia received similar recommendations relating to the field of education. In particular, Member States requested the government of Georgia to guarantee the access to education to children of internally displaced persons and to children with disabilities, to increase budget allocations to the educational sector and to improve the quality of the education, especially in rural areas.
As regards Australia, representatives of Member States congratulated the Australian government for its integration policy between indigenous and non indigenous peoples inside the country, and for its commitment to fight all forms of discrimination against immigrants. However, they urged Australia to increase efforts to guarantee the indigenous people rights, and to countervail the persisting occurrences of racism against immigrants, committed by law enforcement personnel.
Finally, the working group recommended Austria to eradicate discrimination against immigrants, in particular in the administration of justice and in education, and to adopt keen measures to protect women against violence.
The 10th session of the UPR will end, and the review of the 16 States will be completed, on June 2011 after an outcome document is released and adopted by the Human Rights Council. The outcome document contains all recommendations that the State under review has accepted as well as its voluntary commitments, which shall be implemented in the next four years. The national government, the civil society and the international community are invited to work together in order to foster the successful realization of these recommendations and commitments aimed at improving human rights in the country.