May 17, 2010

Congress Of World Hmong People And Maasai Participate in the Universal Periodic Review

On 4th May, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Kenya faced examination of their human rights situation at the eighth session of the UN Universal Periodic Review.  A delegation from UNPO Member the Congress of World Hmong People and the Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization attended the review in Geneva.

The Universal Periodic Review for Laos People’s Democratic Republic yielded disappointing results as the critical situation faced by the Hmong people was not adequately addressed in responses from the Lao government.

On 4th May, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic faced examination of their human rights situation at the eighth session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  A delegation from UNPO Member the Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP) attended the review of Laos in Geneva. Mr Gymbay Moua from the CWHP said that the government’s response to recommendations “did not reflect the truth of Lao society.” He expressed concern that the Lao government considers Hmong returnees to be living a “normal life” in “safe” conditions: a misrepresentation which is far from the truth as Laos asked the international community to stop “interfering”.

During the interactive dialogue, questions were put to Laos by state representatives expressing concerns about the armed conflict in the Xaysombune Special Zone and discriminatory laws and practices that restrict the freedom of expression and religious worship of the Hmong people. In particular, states such as  Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada,  Australia, France, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand mentioned the situation facing of the Hmong.

While 65 countries were due to participate in the Lao UPR, only 57 had
chance to comment which impacted negatively on the scope of the recommendations which can be taken into account in the Report of the Working Group.  Over 100 questions and concerns were raised of which 48 recommendations need to be responded to by the government no later than September 2010.

The Hmong people were mentioned specifically twenty-nine times in the Joint Stakeholders Submission - the collective contributions from non-governmental organizations on human rights concerns which contributed to the review process.  The report mentions the difficulties faced by the Hmong people in obtaining travel and identification documentation resulting in discrimination and the denial of compensation for confiscated property.

Instead of addressing pertinent issues and recommendations put to them in the Stakeholders Report and during the interactive dialogue by States, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao claimed that the “review process was part of its efforts to promote and protect human rights”.  UNPO considers it unfortunate that Laos neglected to address substantial human rights concerns facing the Hmong people. UNPO remains deeply concerned regarding the forcible repatriation that has taken place of Hmong people from Thailand, and hoped there would have been some recognition of the breaches of international law during the proceedings.

In the same session, Kenya also faced examination under the UPR. This has a number of consequences for UNPO Member, the Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO). The delegation from Kenya was headed by The Honourable Mutula Kilonzo, Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs. During the session Burkina Faso referred to persisting difficulties in terms of food security and protecting the rights of minorities and marginalized groups, and encouraged the pursuit of legislative and institutional reforms to improve human rights. Meanwhile Denmark requested information about the implementation of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people following his 2007 visit.  

Norway urged Kenya to consider ratifying ILO Convention 169, and to take steps to implement constitutional and statutory recognition of land and resource rights
and effective political participation. The Kenyan Government recognized the
vulnerabilities of minorities/marginalized communities.

UNPO’s report received seven mentions in the Joint Summary and nine citations. A summary of the recommendations included recommending that Kenya ensure the next census be disaggregated by ethnicity to build a better picture of the composition of the Kenyan population and tailor policy according to specific groups’ needs and adopt an inclusive national strategy for the treatment of minorities. MPIDO recommended that Kenya investigate the cases of violent conflict, bringing the perpetrators of violence to justice, take necessary steps to compensate victims and put in place effective conflict prevention and conflict resolution measures.