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Press Conference by Human Rights Committee Experts

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

29 March 2012

Experts of the Human Rights Committee stressed the critical importance of reporting on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, noting that some 20 per cent of States parties had still not done so, as the body marked the conclusion of its 104th Session at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

“Without the report, we as a committee cannot do our job,” Krister Thelin, an expert from Sweden, told correspondents, adding that the first report of Turkmenistan, which was examined at the session after being delayed for 14 years, represented a positive signal that what he called a closed society was willing to engage on human rights issues and could be now encouraged to open up more.

During the session, which began on 12 March, the Committee also reviewed the reports of Yemen, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, said Zonke Majodina of South Africa, Chairperson of the 18-member Committee, who was joined by Lazhari Bouzid of Algeria and Fabian Salvioli of Argentina. Ms. Majodina said that the human rights situation in Cape Verde was also examined at the session under a new procedure adopted last year, even though the country had failed to produce a report after an 18-year delay.

She explained that at its sessions, the Committee discussed the human rights situations with representatives of the countries under review using country reports and all other information available to it, including reports of non-governmental organizations, although no information was accepted uncritically. It then adopted “concluding observations” that consisted of recommendations of actions to take to comply with the Covenant. Concluding observations were agreed upon in closed sessions, with wording carefully chosen, and therefore should be quoted carefully, Mr. Thelin added.

Under an Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the Committee, Ms. Majodina said, also considered complaints from individuals or groups of individuals claiming violation of their rights protected by the Covenant. During that process, experts examine complaints and find violations or non-violations and communicate views to the countries involved. On areas of concern, States were requested to submit a report the following year; the next periodic reports were requested in from three to six years. She added that the Committee was also going through in-depth consultations on strengthening its effectiveness in the protection of human rights all over the world, including ways to work more closely with the entire United Nations system.

Summarizing the concluding observations of the countries examined this year, Mr. Thelin said that security sector reform was recommended for Turkmenistan, in order to end abuse by law enforcement officials. Among its extensive recommendations, it also called for remediation of widespread judicial corruption and mechanisms to end harassment of journalists and increase freedom of expression. For all those purposes, the country was urged to admit human rights non-governmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The next report was requested in three years.

The Dominican Republic’s report, the fifth submitted by the Caribbean country, highlighted concerns over the status of both undocumented refugees and long-term residents from Haiti, as well as recommending police reform due to reports of police brutality, Mr. Thelin said.

He praised Yemen’s cooperation with Committee procedures, despite the current upheaval there. Recommendations to that country included the establishment of a national human rights Commission, changes to domestic laws and traditional practices that allowed the violation of the rights of young girls, an end to police brutality in regard to protests and detention and the establishment of asylum procedures for refugees from Africa, along with continued follow-up on all violations and prosecution of violators. The next periodic report was requested in three years.

Mr. Thelin said that, in reviewing the third periodic report of Guatemala, the Committee acknowledged the country still required significant time for wounds to heal from its civil war and social upheaval, but that needed to be addressed through truth and reparation mechanisms and in an environment that assured human rights defenders they would not be subject to abuse. A subsequent periodic report was requested in four years.

On Cape Verde, he said that the new procedure scheduling an examination without submission of a report was successful, in that it yielded the presence of representatives to answer questions based on reports received from the NGO community, which he reiterated were “not taken as gospel”. The Committee stressed to the island nation that it needed to produce the first national report within a year, and should end gender stereotyping and human trafficking, as well as strengthen the independence of the judiciary in the island nation.

In response to questions about mass killings and drone attacks in Yemen, Mr. Thelin said that those were indeed serious issues in the context of the Covenant, citing provisions on deprivation of life and extrajudicial killings, among others. No matter what the source of the violations, in terms of the Covenant the Government is responsible for remediating the situation.

Mr. Bouzid added that the Committee found that the killings there required investigation and prosecution and, in that context, the amnesty law should be repealed. In addition, all journalists arrested in 2011 should be released. Ms. Majodina explained that the Committee could not intervene in situations of conflict like the Human Rights Council, but instead it worked to encourage the institution of national policies to ensure the protection of human rights afterward.

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For information media • not an official record

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