March 19, 2012

UNPO Highlights Successes and Failures in Implementation of UPR Recommendations

UNPO participates in evaluation of state implementation of recommendations accepted during the UN Human Rights Council’s universal human rights review process. [UPDATE: Chile MIA Released]

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process established by the United Nations Human Rights Council wherein states, UN agencies, and civil society can come together and comment on a wide range of human rights issues and provide recommendations to the ‘State under Review’ (SuR).  The SuR then has the option to accept or reject recommendations, but accepting means that the SuR must seriously consider and work to implement said recommendations. The first UPR cycle, during which every UN member state underwent review, took place between 2008 and 2012. The second UPR cycle is now underway, and will represent the first opportunity to formally follow-up on the recommendations accepted by States during the first cycle.

Because the UPR process takes approximately 4 years, mid-term follow-up procedures help to ensure that all countries are accountable for progress in implementing these recommendations. For this purpose, UPR Info - a non-governmental organization that aims at raising awareness and providing capacity-building tools to the different actors of the UPR process - publishes a Mid-term Implementation Assessment (MIA) including responses from each stakeholder. UPR Info notes that the MIA is “meant to show how all stakeholders are willing to follow and implement their commitments” and directly involves NGOs in the process of monitoring States’ implementation of the recommendations. UNPO has been invited to participate in this process and its comments regarding States’ implementation of the accepted recommendations have been published.  

While time remains for many reviewed states to implement the recommendations, it remains crucial for organizations like UNPO and its Members to continue shining a spotlight on the situation of indigenous and minority peoples. By participating in international mechanisms to ensure accountability of all states, more attention can be brought to bear on these issues, paving the way for meaningful changes. 

Please find below a regularly updated overview of the Mid-Term Assessments in which UNPO has participated:

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Chile (Released March 16, 2012)

In 2009, Chile and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 5th UPR session.  A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO raised concerns about the indigenous Mapuche people and the disproportionate poverty and discrimination they face as a result of Chilean policies.  The forcible eviction of Mapuche communities from their ancestral lands in favor of transnational corporations for the extraction of natural resources not only removes opportunities for sustainable economic development, but because of their spiritual ties with the land, it also results in a loss of culture, tradition, and language.  Chile’s Anti-Terrorism Law, which was created to suppress opposition during the Pinochet dictatorship, has been used against Mapuche activists who are tried without being allowed to challenge evidence or anonymous witnesses brought against them by the state.  Keeping in mind these challenges, countries such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, and Uruguay have made the following recommendations:

Review the anti-terrorist law and its application so that it cannot be abused for persecution of persons from indigenous communities, including the Mapuche, for their peaceful political or religious activity;

Improve effective consultation with indigenous communities before granting licenses for the economic exploitation of disputed land;

Promote a constructive dialogue between authorities and indigenous people and their organizations and the participation of indigenous people in the formulation and implementation of laws and programs affecting their lives and provide resources to this end;

Continue and deepen respect for indigenous peoples, recognizing their cultural wealth and facilitating their participation in national and community issues, particularly issues of direct concern to them, such as property and land use, to eliminate all discrimination against indigenous persons or indigenous communities;

Of the MIAs that UNPO monitors, this is the first where the State under Review has submitted its own report on the implementation of UPR recommendations.  The disparity between the Chilean government’s positive responses regarding implementation and NGOs’ concerns that the human rights situation remains the same and in some situations has worsened, highlights the importance of NGO participation within international mechanisms.

Of the total 122 recommendations, NGOs, including UNPO, were able to comment on the implementation of 116 recommendations.  The Mid-Term Implementation Assessment found that Chile failed to implement 24 of these 116 recommendations.  54 of these recommendations were found to be implemented only partially.

The full Mid-Term Implementation Assessment for Chile is available for download on the UPR-Info page here.

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Vietnam (Released March 8, 2012)

In 2009, Vietnam and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 5th UPR session.  A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO highlighted how discriminatory state policies were effectively further marginalizing the indigenous Degar Montagnards and Khmer Krom peoples.  Both groups are unable to economically support themselves through agriculture because of discriminatory land policies in Vietnam where indigenous Degar Montagnards and Khmer Krom are the most likely to be allotted the smallest and least fertile plots of land by Vietnamese authorities.  Those that engage in peaceful and legal dissent of land confiscation without fair and equal compensation or informed prior consent face excessive violence and arbitrary arrest by Vietnamese law enforcement.  Systematic religious discrimination, via policy specifically targeting religions adhered to by Degars and Khmers, is also rampant in Vietnam.  Reports have shown that Khmer Krom monks are often arrested for petty crimes or are forced to sign confessions to false allegations under (threat of) torture.  Degar Montagnards are regularly persecuted when they refuse to sign recantations of their religion or join congregations officially supported by the Communist regime of Vietnam.  Countries such as Sweden, Germany, United States, and Mexico have made recommendations with UNPO’s concerns in mind:

Take further measures to prevent violence and discrimination against ethnic minorities;

Take all necessary measures to end restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;

In accordance with Article 70 of the Constitution, speed the process for the local registration of churches and religious organizations as mandated under the framework on religion and allow for an equitable resolution on property disputes as required under the Constitution and the Prime Minister’s decree on religious property;

Favorably consider the ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries;

Of the total 172 recommendations, NGOs, including UNPO, were able to comment on the implementation of 100 recommendations.  The Mid-Term Implementation Assessment found that Vietnam failed to implement 86 of these 100 recommendations.

The full Mid-Term Implementation Assessment for Vietnam is available for download on the UPR-Info page here.

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China (Released February 13, 2012)

In 2009, China and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 4th UPR session.  A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO sought to bring attention to the human rights abuses experienced by the Uyghur, Inner Mongolian and Tibetan People.  The People’s Republic of China violently represses the Uyghurs’ peaceful dissent to affirm their legal and human rights by detaining, torturing, and executing Uyghurs under the Criminal Law for alleged “separatist” or “terrorist” offences.  Inner Mongolians are consistently denied their right to engage in their traditional language and culture even though it is technically protected under Chinese law.  Discriminatory policies, such as those that prohibit land use, forcefully alter their lifestyles and culture.  Tibetans in the Tibetan Autonomous Zone live with harsh government restrictions of their Buddhist practices.  They also suffer consequences of the PRC’s exploitation of natural resources in Tibet.  Aggressive mining, lack of infrastructure and poor regulations on waste disposal has led to severe ecological impacts.  Countries such as Australia, Czech Republic, and Germany have shared UNPO’s concerns regarding issues affecting indigenous peoples of China and have made recommendations to this effect:

Strengthen the protection of ethnic minorities’ religious, civil, socio-economic and political rights;

Review laws and practices in particular with regard to ensuring protection of the freedom of religion, movement, protection of the culture and language of national minorities, including Tibetans and Uyghurs;

Abolish administrative detention and forced labor without proper trial, access to legal representation and independent supervision;

Of the total 138 recommendations NGOs, including UNPO, were able to comment on the implementation of 104 recommendations.  The Mid-Term Implementation Assessment found that China has failed to implement 71 of these 104 recommendations.

The full Mid-term Implementation Assessment for China is available for download on the UPR-Info page here

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Nigeria (Released January 31, 2012)

In 2009, Nigeria and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 4th UPR session.  A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO highlighted the Nigerian government’s lack of commitment to addressing discrimination which disproportionately affects the Ogoni people.  The Ogoni are effectively blocked from participating politically, face severe environmental threats to their livelihoods and health, and are subject to excessive force.  UNPO’s recommendations to Nigeria called for the full implementation of international instruments, recognition of minorities and their ensured involvement in political dialogue, and serious efforts to resolve the ecologic and economic problems in the Niger Delta.  Various countries, including Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Denmark have recognized the difficulties faced by the Ogoni people and have offered similar recommendations:

Take steps to ensure an adequate political participation of ethnic minority groups as well as measures to effectively prevent the loss of land, property, and resources of ethnic minority groups through i.e. confiscation;

Fully implement the United Nations Convention against Torture, including by introducing national legislation prohibiting torture, and ensure that ill-treatment in custody is not used as a substitute for proper criminal investigation of suspects;

Regulate minority and indigenous rights on the constitutional and legislative level, to establish a National Minorities Commission and to set up a national policy for the promotion and protection of minority languages;

Of the total 115 recommendations NGOs, including UNPO, were able to comment on the implementation of 79 recommendations.  The Mid-term Implementation Assessment found that Nigeria has failed to implement 63 of these 79 recommendations.

The full Mid-term Implementation Assessment for Nigeria is available for download on the UPR-Info page here

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Cameroon (released January 27, 2012)

In 2009, Cameroon and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 4th UPR session.  A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO highlighted the threats to the South Cameroon people and identity through forced assimilation programs, and poorly performing law enforcement institutions which subject people in South Cameroon to arbitrary arrest and impunity for violence.  The report also noted that South Cameroon is targeted for large scale illegal timber exploitation projects which severely disrupt farming livelihoods of its people.  UNPO’s recommendations to Cameroon aim to address the problems largely caused by interethnic and linguistic divides.  They included calling on Cameroon to implement bilingual policies which ensure that Anglophones in South Cameroon are not subject to adverse inequality in employment, education, media representation, and in judicial procedures.  In order to address the human rights violations specifically experienced in South Cameroon, countries such as France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom have made similar recommendations:

Respect international provisions in the area of the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups […];

Ratify the Convention No. 169 of the ILO concerning indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries;

Agree to the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

Of the total 97 recommendations, NGOs such as UNPO were able to comment on the implementation of 73 recommendations.  The Mid-term Implementation Assessment found that Cameroon has failed to implement 46 of these 73 recommendations. 

The full Mid-term Implementation Assessment for Cameroon is available for download on the UPR-Info page here

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Bangladesh (released January 20, 2012)

In 2009, Bangladesh and the state of its human rights were reviewed during the 4th UPR session. A Stakeholder Report submitted by UNPO highlighted the negative situation present in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, including reports of political violence, uncompensated land confiscation, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and religious persecution. UNPO’s recommendations to Bangladesh were specific to the human rights violations that are disproportionately experienced by indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Thanks to lobbying of national delegations and resulting awareness of the challenges faced by indigenous peoples, countries such as Australia, Mexico, Norway and the Netherlands made similar recommendations to help improve the human rights situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Among the recommendations that were accepted were:

Fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord as a matter of priority and develop a time frame for its full implementation;

Consider ratifying or acceding to: 1951 Refugee Convention and ILO No. 169 Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples;

Take steps to address the culture of impunity for human rights violations by law enforcement agencies;

Take measures to protect human rights defenders, including journalists;

Of the total 100 recommendations, NGOs such as UNPO were able to comment on the implementation of 63 recommendations.  The Mid-term Implementation Assessment found that Bangladesh has failed to implement 57 of these 63 recommendations. 

The full Mid-term Implementation Assessment for Bangladesh is available for download on the UPR-Info page here.  

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