UN review must deliver on human rights

The human rights records of 16 countries are up for review at the fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council, which started in Geneva on Monday.

The UPR is the first-ever UN mechanism to look systematically at the human rights records of all 192 UN member states. From 2008-2011, 48 countries will be reviewed each year, 16 in each of the UPR Working Group’s three annual sessions.

Governments scheduled for examination by the Human Rights Council this month include China, Cuba, Germany, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia. The current UPR session is scheduled to run until 13 February.

Amnesty International has contributed a series of reports to the current round of reviews detailing key human rights concerns in 12 of the 16 countries that are up for review.

“We expect member states to use this unique opportunity to focus on the key human rights challenges in each country under review and make concrete recommendations for how they can improve the fulfilment of their human rights obligations,” said Peter Splinter, Amnesty International’s UN Representative in Geneva.

Amnesty International regularly submits information on countries coming up for review and makes recommendations for action by each government concerned to protect human rights. Because NGOs are unable to participate directly in the dialogue with states, the organization has encouraged UN member states to ensure that these recommendations are made to the particular state under review and reflected in the outcome report.

The countries covered by Amnesty International’s reports submitted to the UPR Working Group this month are: Bangladesh; Canada; China; Cuba; Germany; Jordan; Malaysia; Mexico; Nigeria; Russia; Saudi Arabia and Senegal.

The UPR Working Group is composed of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council. Each review is based on three key documents: a report prepared by the State under review; a compilation, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), of information contained in reports of the UN human rights machinery and a summary, also prepared by the OHCHR, of information submitted by other stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions.

The outcome of the UPR should be implemented by the State reviewed. States that have already been reviewed may give an update to the Council on efforts to implement the recommendations made in their review.  Subsequent reviews will consider the state of implementation of the recommendations made in previous reviews.

In cases of persistent non-cooperation with the UPR mechanism, the Council will “address” such situations. This has not yet been the case; rather the level of cooperation by States in the review process has mostly been good.