UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS OUTCOMES
OF UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW ON
CAMEROON, CUBA AND SAUDI
ARABIA

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Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON
10 June 2009



The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Cameroon, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

Joseph Dion Ngute, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon in charge of Commonwealth Affairs, said Cameroon was satisfied at the effective beginning and conduct so far of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. This mechanism was the perfect expression of Cameroon’s vision of the Human Rights Council in conformity with the resolutions of the international community, and was guided by a spirit of objectivity, cooperation and constructive dialogue. Last February, 54 recommendations had been made to Cameroon, which latter had accepted 40 of them, rejected seven, and decided to examine a further seven. Following this examination, Cameroon had accepted one of them, rejected four, and decided to continue consideration of two more. The Government would, within the limits of its abilities and with the cooperation of the international community, begin implementation of the 41 recommendations.

In the discussion on Cameroon, speakers noted that the Government had carefully considered and responded positively to relevant recommendations, evidence of the importance the Government gave to human rights and to the Universal Periodic Review process. Speakers welcomed Cameroon’s efforts to combat corruption in an effective manner, as well as welcoming the acceptance of other recommendations made by other States on Cameroon acceding to international instruments, ensuring the rights of women and gender equality, which illustrated Cameroon’s interest in continuing to promote and protect human rights at the national level. With the support of the international community, Cameroon could make more progress in the field of human rights, and the international community should give technical assistance to Cameroon for that purpose in order to guarantee the best possible outcome.

Speaking during the discussion on Cameroon were Algeria, Belarus, China, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, United States, Djibouti, Burkina Faso and Chad. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Franciscans International, International Federation of ACAT, Cercle de Recherche sur les Droits et les Devoirs de la Personne Humaine, Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l'Homme.

Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Universal Periodic Review allowed Cuba to put forth best practices, challenges faced in the country, and an opportunity to listen to all delegations. In the context of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba there was a clear confirmation of the international community in condemning the blockade put on Cuba by the United States. The area of economic, social and cultural rights was universally supported. The excellent education and health systems in Cuba were also much praised by delegations. Of the 89 recommendations, Cuba fully accepted 60, and provided additional information and comments on 17. Cuba objected to a few recommendations because of their incompatibility with the right to self determination of the Cuban people; while others showed a lack of knowledge about the diverse community in Cuba.

In the discussion on Cuba, speakers said Cuba had withstood many tests, and continued to uphold the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence in pursuance of the realisation of human rights. Cuba was and remained a good example of the respect for human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The Universal Periodic Review of Cuba clearly reflected the progress made by Cuba and the Cuban people in the protection and promotion of human rights, and showed the constructive and responsive answer of Cuba to the situation of human rights. Cuba was the victim of an unjust embargo, but despite this obstacle, it was very active in the field of human rights. The trade, financial and economic blockade by the United States should be brought to an end, as it was the primary obstacle for the full development of Cuba.

Speaking during the discussion on Cuba were Pakistan, Venezuela, Qatar, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, China, Algeria and Egypt. The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Women's International Democratic Federation, Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud, National Association of Cuban Economists, World Federation of Trade Unions, Organisation for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, China Society for Human Rights Studies, Centrist Democratic International, Indian Council of South America, Human Rights Watch, and Federation of Cuban Women.

Zaid Bin Abdul Muhsain Al-Husain, Vice-President of the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia, said Saudi Arabia believed in the importance of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as it helped to ensure the universality of human rights and the exchange of best practices among States, thereby promoting cooperation among States and thus enhancing human rights on the whole. Saudi Arabia had carefully studied the recommendations made during the discussion, which gave them a valuable opportunity to review those areas under consideration. Saudi Arabia had decided to accept most of the recommendations, and the reasons for not accepting a few of them had been explained and commented on. Achievements made by Saudi Arabia following the Working Group meeting in February 2009 included the promulgation of royal decrees calling for a Supreme Court, among other things, which aimed to strengthen the judiciary, and establish new jurisdictions within various localities.

In the discussion on Saudi Arabia, speakers said the detailed presentation today reflected not only the importance Saudi Arabia gave to the mechanism, but also the seriousness with which that country approached the subject. Saudi Arabia had already achieved great progress, for example in the reform of the judiciary. There was marked progress and strengthening of the human rights institutions in Saudi Arabia, which had taken an approach respecting the indivisibility and intertwined nature of human rights. Efforts to continue the inter-religious dialogue were also noted, as were improvements of the rights of women and children, in conformity with Sharia and international human rights. Saudi Arabia’s commitment to promote culture through the promotion of tolerance in all parts of the world was welcomed. The Kingdom had generously contributed towards alleviating the suffering of the people during the current economic and financial crisis.

Speaking during the discussion on Saudi Arabia were Pakistan, Venezuela, Qatar, Algeria, Cuba, Belarus, Bahrain, China, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: National Association of Cuban Economists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Amnesty International, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la Region des Grands Lacs, Indian Council of South America, and International Commission of Jurists.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 June, when it will proceed with the consideration of the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review process on Senegal, China, and Azerbaijan.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Cameroon

Joseph Dion Ngute, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon in charge of Commonwealth Affairs, said Cameroon was satisfied at the effective beginning and conduct so far of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. This mechanism was the perfect expression of Cameroon’s vision of the Human Rights Council in conformity with the resolutions of the international community, and was guided by a spirit of objectivity, cooperation and constructive dialogue. Last February, 54 recommendations had been made to Cameroon, which latter had accepted 40 of them, rejected seven, and decided to examine a further seven. Following this examination, Cameroon had accepted one of them, rejected four, and decided to continue consideration of two more. The Government would, within the limits of its abilities and with the cooperation of the international community, begin implementation of the 41 recommendations.

With regards to the nine rejected recommendations, two of them required discussion. One recommendation concerned the depenalisation of homosexuality. According to the African Charter of Human Rights and People, a State could limit a right or a freedom in order to satisfy the requirements of morality, public order or the general well-being in a democratic society. At the current situation of Cameroonian society, homosexuality was not a value accepted by society - however, the Government ensured that the rights of all citizens were respected, with no discrimination. With regards to other issues, Cameroon congratulated itself for the creation of an independent body for supervision and organisation of elections, ELECAM, which was a step forward in Cameroon's democratic process, and a further commitment to transparency and equality in elections. At the end of this Review process, Cameroon wished to count on international cooperation, convinced that, with the support of the United Nations and all other partners, it would succeed in implementing satisfactorily all recommendations that it had accepted in order to improve the general situation of human rights in Cameroon.

AHMED SAADI (Algeria) said that the serious responses that Cameroon had given to the questions asked showed the commitment of the country to human rights. Algeria welcomed Cameroon’s decision to accede to the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Algeria hoped that this example would be followed, especially by developed countries which were host countries of migrant workers. Algeria welcomed Cameroon’s efforts to combat corruption in an effective manner. Algeria also said that one should not underestimate the efforts made by Cameroon to protect human rights at the national level. Algeria called on the international community to give technical assistance to Cameroon for that purpose.

EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) noted the constructive and responsible approach taken by Cameroon which was shown during the Universal Periodic Review process. Belarus made a number of recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review, in particular with regard to the promotion of economic rights, access to education at all levels, and the expansion of the independence and authority of the national human rights commission. Cameroon accepted all those recommendations which was welcomed. Belarus also welcomed the acceptance of other recommendations made by other States on Cameroon acceding to international instruments, ensuring the rights of women and gender equality, which illustrated Cameroon’s interest in continuing to promote and protect human rights at the national level. Belarus wished Cameroon all the success in the implementation of the recommendations made.

SHEN YONGXIANG (China) said during the Universal Periodic Review exercise, China was one of the members of the troika for Cameroon and thus played a role in the review of the report of Cameroon. During the process, Cameroon gave a detailed account of efforts it had made to protect vulnerable groups such as women, children, and others, as well as of its constraints, namely the low development level. Its dialogue was comprehensive and constructive. China welcomed the latest feedback to the report, and noted that the Government had given a detailed reply to the various questions raised during the deliberations, and had carefully considered and responded positively to relevant recommendations, evidence of the importance that the Government gave to human rights and to the Universal Periodic Review process. With the support of the international community, Cameroon could make more progress in the field of human rights.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said that the Government of Cameroon had engaged in a constructive manner with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and had undertaken numerous measures to promote and protect human rights. Morocco welcomed that Cameroon had accepted most of the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review Working Group meeting, especially with regard to the problem Cameroon had had with the reform of the Criminal Code. Morocco appealed to the international community to assist Cameroon in that regard in order to guarantee the best possible outcome. All assistance had to be given in close consultation with Cameroon and had to be tailored to its needs. Morocco encouraged Cameroon to implement the recommendations received during the Universal Periodic Review process.

SEYNABOU DIAL (Senegal) congratulated the head of the delegation on the clarity of the presentation, and the will expressed by the authorities of Cameroon to consolidate the human rights situation in the country. In particular, Senegal welcomed the establishment of the national commission on human rights, and the launching of several international instruments. Senegal was convinced that the implementation of these objectives would greatly contribute to the noble commitment of Cameroon to human rights. In this vein, Senegal encouraged the continuation of such measures and called on the international community to assist Cameroon in its endeavours to do so.

IFEANYI E. NWOSU (Nigeria) said Nigeria commended the open and constructive spirit with which Cameroon approached the Universal Periodic Review process and hoped that the Government would religiously implement the recommendations made to it during the interactive dialogue, particularly those that enjoyed its support. Nigeria appreciated Cameroon's acceptance of its recommendations, which were, inter alia, to strengthen measures and mechanisms on administration of justice, investments in prison infrastructure, and overall enjoyment of civil and political rights.

COLLEEN NEVILLE (United States) said that the United States appreciated the dedication to human rights that the Government of Cameroon demonstrated during the Universal Periodic Review process and hoped that this enthusiasm translated into action to promote and protect human rights of the Cameroonian people. The United States shared the concerns documented in the Working Group report regarding the independence of Election Cameroon (ELECAM), including the lack of representatives of the opposition appointed to it and reports of vote rigging in the last election. The United States supported the recommendations found in the report that Cameroon take measures to ensure the independence of ELECAM.

AHMED MOHAMED ABRO (Djibouti) welcomed the presence of the delegation of Cameroon and congratulated the Government of Cameroon for accepting 75 per cent of the recommendations, which clearly showed its attachment to the principles of human rights. Djibouti called on the international community with regard to providing technical and aid assistance to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations on Cameroon. Djibouti called on Cameroon to continue its efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country and to reach its Millennium Development Goals.

CLARISSE MERINDOL (Burkina Faso) said during the consideration of its report, it was clear that Cameroon had made tangible progress in the field of the protection of human rights. The spirit of dialogue shown by Cameroon was to be welcomed, as was the clear will of the Government of that country to respect its human rights obligations. Cameroon was facing great difficulties in the context of the fight for the protection of human rights, and therefore the international community, in particular the High Commissioner for Human Rights, should support the country, by providing technical and financial assistance in order to enable it to ensure that human rights prevailed in all circumstances, and work for their effectiveness. The recommendations issued from this Universal Periodic Review process would no doubt contribute to reinforce the institutional framework for the protection and promotion of human rights in Cameroon.

ANGUI AWADA (Chad) said that the Cameroonian delegation had come to present the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process which showed how important human rights were for Cameroon. Cameroon was suffering from the lack of financial means for the implementation of the recommendations but Chad recommended that the report was adopted by the plenary.

ROWLAND JIDE MACAULAY, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said an issue of concern raised during the Universal Periodic Review related to article 347 of the penal code of Cameroon which outlawed consensual same sex relations. Such acts were a violation of international law and were a serious threat to public health. This repressive provision was described by Cameroonian authorities as an extremely sensitive cultural issue. There was no balance in the current law, and it continued to be the source of unlawful intentions, arrests as well as a serious public health threat. More than 30 girls were suspended from schools who were suspected of being lesbians.

YAO AGBETSE, of Franciscans International, said Franciscans International welcomed that the recommendations on the rights of the child were accepted by Cameroon, but there were still many problems facing children in terms of their rights, such as the situation of street children, which was of concern. The recommendations referred to many problems, such as the forms of exploitation that children were victims of, such as trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labour, rape and handicap. These children were not protected by the law, and led very unstable lives. The Universal Periodic Review was also an opportunity to examine Cameroon's commitment to free primary education and to close the gap between girls and boys in primary education. There was a gap in rural areas requiring the contribution of parents to build, equip, and run certain schools. This and other factors did not help in achieving global primary education. There was still a considerable gap between schooling figures for girls and boys.

NATHALIE JEANNIN, of International Federation of ACAT (Action By Christians for the Abolition of Torture), said that the International Federation welcomed that Cameroon had accelerated its reform of the judicial system in order to ensure fair proceedings for detained persons. It recalled that in the central prisons in Douala and Yaounde, 85 per cent of the detainees were in preventive detention and the majority did not know why they were being detained and had never seen a judge. Corruption was especially present in the prison system and the organization supported the suggestion by several delegations that legislative steps be taken in order to eradicate corruption in the penal system. The fight against torture could not be effective unless there was awareness of human rights and a fight against impunity.

BELL HILAIRE, of Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine (CRED), congratulated Cameroon on their re-election to the Human Rights Council. It was hoped that this re-election would allow them to participate more. With regard to the Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon, concern was expressed about the thousands of people in Cameroon who were living without housing. There was a national decree signed in 2008 which aimed to provide compensation for those who had no housing. Cercle de Recherche sur les Droits et les Devoirs de la Personne Humaine asked for more information with respect to when the decree would come into affect, and called on the international community to continue to follow-up with Cameroon with respect to this matter. The second issue of concern was about the dysfunctional human rights commission, and they wanted more information from the Government of Cameroon on how it planned to address this and how the commission would function better.

Mr. BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, said Cameroon had shown its commitment to promote and respect its commitments with regards to the respect of human rights in the country. The acceptance by Cameroon of the recommendations contained in the report on the Universal Periodic Review showed Cameroon's will to cooperate with this mechanism. Time would allow an effective assessment of Cameroon's sincerity in respecting its commitments. The recommendation in the report on judicial reform and the independence of judges noted that the justice system in Cameroon had a lot of failings - unfortunately, today it was necessary to improve the treatment of cases that were under investigation in the courts which were often tribal-based.

Joseph Dion Ngute, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cameroon in charge of Commonwealth Affairs, reiterated Cameroon’s commitment to fulfill its obligations not just as a member of the international community but also as an eminent member of the Council itself. A number of issues had been raised and Cameroon was in the process of an ongoing reform, in a number of areas. In the judiciary a lot had been done and a lot still needed to be done. Mr. Ngute was confident that Cameroon would meet its obligations since human rights were part of Cameroon’s developmental process. The next time Cameroon appeared before the Council, many of the issues that had been raised now would be resolved. Cameroon was always ready to cooperate with all institutions active in the field of human rights. As Cameroon had the political will, cooperation would make the implementation easier.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Cuba

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed profound thanks to all Member States who supported the re-election of Cuba to the Human Rights Council. This represented the recognition of the international community of Cuba’s contribution and commitment to human rights. Cuba had contributed to the establishment of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which provided all Member States with equal footing to discuss such matters with the principles of respect, constructive dialogue and cooperation. The Universal Periodic Review allowed Cuba to put forth best practices, challenges faced in the country, and an opportunity to listen to all delegations. In the context of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, there was a clear confirmation of the international community in condemning the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States. Several delegations recognized and welcomed the measures taken in Cuba on people’s participation. The area of economic, social and cultural rights was universally supported. The excellent education and health systems in Cuba were also much praised by delegations.

The report on the Cuban Universal Periodic Review objectively reflected the opinions of 60 delegations who spoke, and the 89 recommendations that were made. Of the 89 recommendations, Cuba fully accepted 60, and provided additional information and comments on 17. Cuba objected to a few recommendations because of their incompatibility with the right to self determination of the Cuban people; while others showed a lack of knowledge about the diverse community in Cuba. The Cuban Government was working in the best way possible to implement the accepted recommendations. The Cuban institutional working group was still active and its objective was to follow-up and implement the recommendations that came out of the of the Universal Periodic Review process Cuba was under. The impact of the iron blockade coupled with the global economic and financial crises had resulted in the Government deepening its revolutionary view towards an equitable and democratic society. The Government continued to promote measures to promote equality and empower women and ensure rights for the most vulnerable groups in society. Mr. Fernandez Palacios said that Cuba was a member to 42 of the most important human rights treaties; was timely in submitting periodic reports to treaty bodies; and had established a working group to draw up the national report to the Committee on Torture.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said today's presentation, as well as the written response provided a comprehensive overview on the Cuban position on the recommendations made. Pakistan had made some recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review, and welcomed that they had been accepted. Cuba had withstood many tests, and continued to uphold the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence in pursuance of the realisation of human rights. Its pursuance of the right to development had reflected positively on civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Cuba was wished well in its efforts in the realisation of all human rights for all citizens.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said that the Universal Periodic Review was an opportunity to see all the progress made by the Cuban revolution in Cuba despite the adverse conditions. It was also possible to tear the veil of the satanization process that imperialism had put on Cuba for almost 50 years. Venezuela especially expressed its respect to the men and women of the Cuban revolution for their invaluable spirit of cooperation and unconditional solidarity that they showed everyday in the promotion and protection of human rights through programmes in the fields of health, culture and sports in the countries that needed the most support. Despite its limitations, Cuba was very successful in the promotion and protection of human rights, which was because of the iron will of its Government.

KHALID FAHAD AL-HAJRI (Qatar) thanked the delegation of Cuba for the exhaustive report and additional information with respect to human rights developments in the country. Out of the 89 recommendations made, 52 of the recommendations accepted were presented by Qatar, which was welcomed. The acceptance by Cuba of 60 recommendations illustrated its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Qatar said that Cuba’s efforts deployed in the field of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly in the field of education and health, was welcomed. Qatar paid tribute to the effective cooperation of the delegation of Cuba in the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, the Working Groups and the role played by them in the Non-Aligned Movement. Qatar wished them success in their progress.

VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said it was clear that Cuba had taken a serious and responsible approach to the Universal Periodic Review, and was taking measures to implement the recommendations made by the Working Group in February. The Universal Periodic Review of Cuba clearly reflected the progress made by Cuba and the Cuban people in the protection and promotion of human rights, and showed the constructive and responsive answer of Cuba to the situation of human rights. Cuba was and remained a good example of the respect for human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. Cuba was wished every success in its future efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights.

MAYSA URENA MENACHO (Bolivia) said that Bolivia had taken a great interest in the presentation of Cuba and the international community had appreciated all the achievements of Cuba in the field of human rights. Cuba was a victim of an unjust embargo and also suffered from tropical storms, but despite these obstacles it was very active in the field of human rights. For example, Cuban doctors were helping people worldwide without asking for anything in return. Bolivia underlined that the trade and financial and economic blockade by the United States should be brought to an end as it was the primary obstacle for the full development of Cuba.

FARHOD ARZIEV (Uzbekistan) expressed gratitude to the Cuban delegation for the information presented and the detailed comments on the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review process. Uzbekistan welcomed Cuba’s active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process as a whole, and commended them on the human rights measures taken in the country. Uzbekistan stressed Cuba’s work in the promotion of human rights, in particular, in the area of gender equality, social protection, the right to education and political freedoms. Uzbekistan was convinced that Cuba would make consistent efforts in implementing the obligations taken under the Universal Periodic Review and its other international commitments.

EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) said the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba had been taking place against the background of continuing harsh and unjust sanctions against Cuba, which violated the United Nations Charter and international law. Cuba should continue its efforts in the United Nations to reverse these unilateral coercive measures. Cuba had played a role in multilateral dialogues on human rights, and had made great efforts for human rights internationally. It should continue to play a leading role in eliminating politicisation and double standards. Cuba had agreed with many of the recommendations made, and its positive response to these were evidence of its genuine commitment to human rights.

DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka) said that Cuba’s Permanent Representative had fought in the Human Rights Council against any attempt to use human rights selectively or as an instrument. The Human Rights Council was hugely indebted to him and he would be missed. Cuba had discharged its duties, under the most difficult conditions of pressure and siege. Cuba had also been an enabler of human rights in the developing world. Sri Lanka saluted Cuba’s engagement for human rights and its various social programmes.

LI BAODONG (China) thanked the Permanent Representative of Cuba for his inspiring presentation. Through the Universal Periodic Review process the Cuban delegation gave detailed accounts of measures taken to promote and protect human rights in the areas of health, education and the legal system. Despite the embargo put on Cuba for the last 40 years, Cuba had achieved strides in the fields of economic, social and cultural rights. Cuba had made important contributions to the international human rights cause. China appreciated the latest responses given by the Cuban delegation with regard to the recommendations proposed by China and the report of the Working Group, which noted that the Cuban Government in a responsible spirit responded to all the questions posed and reflected important progress made. China was sure that Cuba would continue to make such strides in achieving its Millennium Development Goals. China supported the adoption of the report of Cuba.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said there was a record rate of 83 per cent of recommendations accepted, a rate that honoured Cuba and exceeded that of many developed countries. Cuba acted in the protection of international human rights and for international dialogue, and had consistently showed this commitment in its actions for the right to food and its commitment to just causes such as the realisation of the right to self-determination. Cuba was attached, despite its scarce resources, to achieving more in terms of health, education and food, together with development partners. Cuba had always been a source of inspiration to the Council.

AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt) said that Egypt appreciated the clear details of the presentation of Cuba today. Cuba’s efforts were commendable, especially in relation to education and free health care services. It was noteworthy that Cuba’s experience in health care was beneficial to many countries in Africa. Cuban doctors had been sent to Africa which clearly demonstrated Cuba’s commitment to solidarity. Cuba had also accepted a huge number of recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review which demonstrated the importance Cuba attached to the promotion and protection of human rights.

YANI CRUZ GUTSENS, of Women International Democratic Federation, said the recommendations made to Cuba about sharing experiences through programmes on education, social work, health, cooperation and international solidarity were fair and deserved. Its social programmes were an example for those Latin American women who fought for their rights for justice and equality. Cuba observed, respected and protected all human rights of its citizens. It proclaimed the right to self-determination and independence; it promoted initiatives in favour of the peoples’ development through the international solidarity it practised and its cooperation with United Nations mechanisms aimed at attaining greater integration in order to build a better world.

JAMINI RAMOS, of Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud, said the children of Cuba were its most precious treasure - this was expressed in its Constitution. Children and young people in Cuba had free education, and had the freedom to express opinions in open debates. All had access to the public health system. Cuba had the shield of truth and justice that neither excluded nor corrupted, and it defended it at any price. Cuba was at the level of the dreams of its people that today fought for a better world.

ESTER AGUILERA, of National Association of Cuban Economists, said that in spite of the fact that the blockade imposed upon Cuba for almost 50 years had prevented Cuba from the acquisition of essential medication and technology, Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate of the continent, had removed sicknesses that harassed the peoples in other latitudes and offered a life expectancy which exceeded that of the developed countries. Even when Cubans were not allowed to purchase school materials or articles which provided spiritual enjoyment, in Cuba there was not even one child not attending school. Education up to the university level was guaranteed, thus offering a cultural development which had also been acknowledged by those that hindered it. At the same time that the global crisis originated in the country that blockaded Cuba, causing almost 300 million unemployed people, Cuba guaranteed full employment.

OSIRIS OVIEDO, of World Federation of Trade Unions, said it added its voice to the general recommendations accepted by Cuba during the fourth meeting of the Universal Periodic Review. The World Federation of Trade Unions saw how Cuban workers had important economic, social and cultural rights, and congratulated Cuba for building a society for all with full rights for all. This had been achieved in a difficult context under a cruel economic and trade blockade imposed by the United States for the past 50 years, which was an obstacle for the full realization of human rights for Cubans.

LOURDES CERVANTES, of Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, said Cuba had overcome for decades the hostility of the most powerful country in the world. It was the duty of the international community to recognise that respect for Cuba had been earned through a sustained policy of cooperation with other peoples, something for which the Cuban people had never sought honours, despite their selfless solidarity. Aid and support had been provided in health, maternity, education and literacy, a high demonstration of solidarity and commitment to the world. Cuba helped other peoples to implement their dreams and hopes.

ZU FAGEN, of China NGO Network for International Exchanges, said that the Cuban Government had designed its own economic, political and social model that suited the history and characteristics of the country. Under these conditions it had developed a national programme of social justice and equality for all human beings, which had given the Cuban people the full exercise of all their rights. The organization commended the tireless efforts by the Cuban Government to improve the living standards and promote the human rights of its people, especially in terms of protecting the right to life and development, and providing free health service and education, social security and social justice. The organization appreciated its active participation in international cooperation in human rights, having provided other developing countries with medical and educational assistance.

REN DANHONG, of China Society for Human Rights Studies, commended the priority given by Cuba to human rights and the significant achievements in economic, political and social spheres, especially in the field of education, health and food despite the unjust blockade and harsh external environment. The China Society for Human Rights Studies welcomed the recommendations made by several States regarding Cuba sharing its experiences and good practices with regard to the protection of the right to health in Cuba, particularly on programmes to control epidemics and to support health services throughout the world by training human resources. The China Society for Human Rights Studies encouraged Cuba to share these practices on health with all United Nations Member States, particularly with developing countries and specifically the primary, maternal and child care programmes as well as HIV/AIDS control programmes.

JOSE GABRIEL RAMON CASTILLON, of Centrist Democratic International, said it had a number of points to say about the response of Cuba to the recommendations made following the Universal Periodic Review. On Cuba’s response that the implementation of the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights were still pending – Centrist Democratic International believed that there should be a date for the final accession of these Covenants, without which the rights of the Cuban people would still depend on the whim of the Government, and there was no indication this would change. There were hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba, many of whom were ill, with no medical support. Human rights defenders went into prison in good health, and shortly became very ill. Public freedoms were not recognised in Cuba - there had been 21 deaths in prisons due to medical negligence or psychological harassment. Human rights activists had been strongly repressed for sending reports to the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. Thousands of Cubans were repressed, tortured, and their fundamental human rights were violated, and the Council should bring them justice.

RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said that the Indian Council of South America congratulated Cuba for the first Universal Periodic Review which incidentally coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Cuba’s struggle had obviously contributed to the fight in South Africa and inspired African Americans in the Americas. Cuba’s contribution to the cause of indigenous peoples deserved praise, for example in the institution building process which led to the creation of the Indigenous Expert Mechanism. Cuba’s contribution to human rights at the Special Session on the right to food in these times of economic challenges brought a level of assurance to lend a sense of responsibility toward preventative maintenance to alleviate the hardships the world was facing. Cuba’s assistance in the field of medicine and education had also assisted peoples in need.

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement, explained its concern that it was regrettable that during Cuba’s Universal Periodic Review process the Cuban delegation did not explain the systematic violation of political and social rights taking place in the country. This was true with regard to the judicial system and the impartiality of judges; political prisoners held in detention, and among them human rights defenders and journalists; and the fact that the Cuban Government denied these situations. Human Rights Watch condemned this and demanded the release of all political prisoners. In this Universal Periodic Review, Cuba had tried to silence them, but this was not possible.

CAROLINA AMARO PEREZ, of Federation of Cuban Women, said in Cuba in the last fifty years there had been many profound transformations in the situation of women - there were many more resources available to them. Democratic equality was not just part of a process - it empowered women to participate in all areas of social and economic activity. There were guarantees as to Cuban women's social needs, including reproductive rights, education and culture, which had allowed them to become autonomous human beings. Cuban women demanded a level of participation that was not frequent in the world, and were represented in great numbers at all levels including in the medical corps and the Parliament. These were great achievements, even though Cuba had been fighting a blockade and challenging hostility and a will to discredit the country. Even here, the abuse of consultative agencies and those who would work against Cuba and were dissonant voices of a country that had been defeated were still heard.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said that with the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Cuba, the review process had ended before this Council and a new phase started, the phase of the implementation of recommendations that had been accepted. This implementation would be carried out with objectivity and rigour. For Cuba this review process had been a positive experience. Cuba thanked the Council for its recommendations so that Cuba could continue perfecting its system of human rights. Cuba was also deeply grateful to most of the non-governmental organizations that had raised issues. Cuba regretted that those that were the voices of the defeated counter-revolution had to come here and perform a clown’s act. Cuba would continue its work for human rights.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Cuba.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Saudi Arabia

ZAID BIN ABDUL MUHSIN AL-HUSAIN, Vice-President of the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia, thanked all the countries that participated in the Universal Periodic Review process. Saudi Arabia believed in the importance of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as it helped to ensure the universality of human rights and the exchange of best practices among States, thereby promoting cooperation among States and thus enhancing human rights on the whole. The principle of transparency had to be fully accepted and respected by all. Saudi Arabia observed the principle of the universality of human rights, which all persons without exception were entitled to enjoy. The recommendations resulting from the interactive dialogue during the Universal Periodic Review had been a sincere expression of objective criticism. Saudi Arabia had carefully studied the recommendations made during the discussion, which gave them a valuable opportunity to review those areas under consideration. Saudi Arabia had decided to accept most of the recommendations, and the reasons for not accepting a few of them had been explained and commented on.

Saudi Arabia was grateful for all the recommendations by States. The Kingdom would continue its efforts in the field of human rights, keeping in mind that human rights formed an integral part of the Islamic Sharia. Achievements made by Saudi Arabia following the Working Group meeting in February 2009 included the promulgation of royal decrees calling for a Supreme Court, among other things, which aimed to strengthen the judiciary, and establish new jurisdictions within various localities. Moreover, new statues were being formulated that would build on the lessons learned in the management of local affairs and develop electoral affairs for the councils. In addition, there was a new human trafficking act. With regard to the role of women, a woman had been appointed as assistant major of the city of Jeddah, the second largest city in the Kingdom. Women had been appointed to a number of professional positions, including high posts in the Government. Within the framework of measures to address violence against men and women, training courses had been introduced for the police force and judges dealing with such cases. On education, universities and academic institutions had established curricula in the field of human rights, as well as the study of women’s human rights. In conclusion, it was noted that the promotion of human rights required a sustained and balanced effort, taking into account social and cultural circumstances, in a manner consistent with the natural progress of development.

MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said the detailed presentation by Saudi Arabia today reflected not only the importance Saudi Arabia gave to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, but also the seriousness with which it approached the subject of human rights. A number of important measures and other reforms had been elaborated, including a law criminalizing all forms of trafficking, steps to empower women by involving them in decision-making, a new law on the welfare of expatriate workers, and the establishment of new Supreme Constitutional and Administrative Courts. Saudi Arabia also made massive contributions to developing countries around the world, as well as to international organizations such as the World Food Programme, which was evidence of their commitment to rights such as the rights to food and to development.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) thanked Saudi Arabia for its efforts and commitment in the preparation of its report, which provided information on all sectors of life. The information provided by the delegation was very useful, especially information which was requested by Venezuela on family and social life. Saudi Arabia had already achieved great progress, for example, in the reform of the judiciary, and Venezuela urged the Government and the people of Saudi Arabia to continue along this path.

ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) commended the efforts of Saudi Arabia and thanked it for its exhaustive report on the development of human rights in various fields. Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was valued, as was the open approach with which it had received the recommendations. There had been marked progress and strengthening of the human rights institutions in Saudi Arabia, which had taken an approach respecting the indivisibility and intertwined nature of human rights. The measures taken to reform the judiciary were also applauded, as were achievements in economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to health, education and housing. Saudi Arabia's cooperation with international organizations in the field of human rights, particularly the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, were also noted.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) welcomed the fact that Saudi Arabia was able to take on board recommendations and put them in line with their cultural and religious norms with respect to the Islamic law of Sharia. Algeria congratulated the Kingdom for its re-election to the Human Rights Council. Algeria also welcomed the efforts made by Saudi Arabia and progress achieved in the areas of women’s and children’s rights, with efforts to prevent domestic violence and a law to protect children. Saudi Arabia’s commitment to promote culture through the promotion of tolerance in all parts of the world was also welcomed. Algeria congratulated the work and efforts done in the field of migrants and in ensuring safe and adequate working conditions for them. Algeria supported the adoption of the report on Saudi Arabia.

YADINA LEDESMA HERNANDEZ (Cuba) appreciated that Saudi Arabia had accepted the majority of the recommendations that had been made to it. Measures to implement those recommendations showed the commitment of the Kingdom and its people to human rights. Cuba had made three recommendations and all three had been accepted. The Kingdom had also generously contributed to alleviate the suffering of the people during the economic and financial crisis. Cuba urged Saudi Arabia to continue on that path of solidarity and generosity with developing countries.

EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) noted the constructive and responsible approach shown by Saudi Arabia during the Universal Periodic Review. Saudi Arabia had taken measures to further develop its national judicial system and the rights of migrant workers in the country. Belarus encouraged Saudi Arabia to continue its work on the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families. It was noted with satisfaction that Saudi Arabia had agreed with the recommendations made by Belarus. Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote dialogue between civilizations to promote tolerance and peace was also commended. Belarus wished Saudi Arabia all success in implementing the recommendations.

ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) welcomed the constructive efforts made by Saudi Arabia and its acceptance of some of the recommendations. Saudi Arabia had accepted the recommendations made by Bahrain, notably the recommendation on rehabilitation of those who had been detained in the fight against terrorism. Saudi Arabia should extend that to other criminal issues, and should share its experience with other States. Efforts to continue the inter-religious dialogue were also noted, as were improvements of the rights of women and children, in conformity with Sharia and international human rights. Saudi Arabia was interested in its commitments to human rights, and that was praiseworthy. The Council should adopt the report.

BO QIAN (China) said that the Saudi Government had submitted a rich and detailed national report and had explained its measures in many areas. It had also explained its challenges in breaking away from old customs. Saudi Arabia had shown a very responsible attitude while answering questions during the Universal Periodic Review process, including those put to it by the Chinese Government. That showed that Saudi Arabia attached great importance to human rights. China was convinced that Saudi Arabia would take honest measures to protect human rights and would make new progress. China suggested that the Council adopt the report.

AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt) commended Saudi Arabia for the comprehensive presentation given, and thanked the delegation of Saudi Arabia for the cooperation shown during the Universal Periodic Review process. Saudi Arabia had presented the progress it had achieved in the field of human rights, which reflected the commitment it attached to the human rights mechanism. At the national level Saudi Arabia was building human rights, and in particular with respect to measures taken to reform the legal system, preventing violence against women and the enhancement of women’s participation in the job market. All those measures illustrated the seriousness Saudi Arabia attached to the fulfilment of human rights.

OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates) said the detailed presentation of the recommendations which Saudi Arabia was determined to implement voluntarily to promote and protect human rights showed the will of that country to cooperate with the Council, the treaty bodies, and others. Saudi Arabia was working to protect and promote the rights of its citizens, and measures taken reflected the determination of that country, which had been making tireless efforts for decades to implement human rights. The recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, aside from the commitments which Saudi Arabia had taken voluntarily, would give new impetus to its praiseworthy efforts. The report should be adopted.

ESTER AGUILERA, of National Association of Cuban Economists, said that it had seen the efforts and measures taken by Saudi Arabia, which was giving priority to the enormous challenge to promote and protect human rights of its people. Concerning economic, social and cultural rights, the Kingdom was achieving progress. When the world food crisis had become acute, the Kingdom had contributed generously to easing the situation for countries that were the most affected. That was in contrast to the developed countries, which had not reacted in the same way.

DINA MANSOUR, of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, urged Saudi Arabia to display a genuine will for upholding human rights principles in the country by ratifying human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to consider the possibility of acceding to international instruments it was not yet party to, to modify its domestic legislation so as to conform to international human rights standards, and to ensure access to its territories to all Special Rapporteurs with pending requests for a visit. According to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, women still lacked autonomy and economic independence in Saudi Arabia, especially with regard to practices in the areas of divorce and child custody.

MARIANNE LILIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, welcomed Saudi Arabia's engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, but regretted the decision to reject a range of recommendations, particularly those relating to the death penalty. The Government used the death penalty against juvenile offenders. Saudi Arabia should reconsider recommendations to establish a moratorium on all executions, and commute outstanding death sentences against certain individuals. It was regretted that, during the review, States had failed to engage Saudi Arabia substantively on the wide range of human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism in that country. The Government should release all prisoners of conscience unconditionally and without delay, end arbitrary arrest, and ensure that anyone held was charged with a recognisable criminal offence, protected from torture, and given a prompt and fair trial.

ABDEL WAHAB HANI, of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, welcomed the efforts of Saudi Arabia in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and the acceptance of many of the Working Group’s recommendations. The Arab Commission called upon Saudi Arabia to send a report to the Council on the implementation of the recommendations. It welcomed the recommendations concerning the adoption of many international conventions, including on torture and guarantees regarding minors. Still, there were concerns regarding recommendations concerning the death penalty, which had not been taken into account. Saudi Arabia was invited to avoid special trials and was called upon to extend an invitation to special procedures to visit the country.

MAURICE KATALA, of Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Développement dans la Région des Grands Lacs, welcomed the establishment of a mechanism to prevent violence in the family, access to education for children at all levels, the promulgation and implementation of provisions to protect the rights of disabled persons, the establishment of a council on the prohibition of torture, and the measures taken on the advancement of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The elaboration of a peace plan with regard to the Middle East conflict was also welcomed. Saudi Arabia was encouraged to continue its initiatives the areas of human rights and development.

RONALD BARNES, of the Indian Council of South America, said Saudi Arabia was generous to developing countries, people in need, to those suffering from international disasters and many other hardships. The appointment of women to high-level positions was lauded, although Saudi Arabia should continue to work towards more of these, and step up the process to allow other Islamic women and all women the knowledge to realize the extent of their rights in order to overcome the confusion between true Islamic Sharia and customs and traditions. All countries had had to overcome prejudice against women in many areas. Saudi Arabia could also overcome this. Saudi Arabia should undertake comprehensive studies to sign and ratify other important international human rights instruments that it was not a party to.

LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said it regretted the lack of attention to the wide powers of the religious police, whose members were allegedly responsible for serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia. There was also a lack of attention to the fact that the authorities had failed in holding fair and transparent elections in exercise of the right of the Saudi people to freely choose their representatives. The Government should reform the Basic Law of Government in order to reinforce human rights and the rule of law in the country. It should also incorporate therein the principle of equality between men and women and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender.

ZAID BIN ABDUL MUHSIN AL-HUSAIN, Vice-President of the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia, said he considered the questions from two points of view – on the one hand, from those who had read the report and understood all the issues referred to. The laws of Saudi Arabia had been explained, as had been the active role of women in Saudi Arabia, as well as that of foreign workers. There was no discrimination against foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. One of the important things for Saudi Arabia was the death penalty – it was applied to the most odious cases, with the consensus of 13 judges from various courts. For those who had questions which could be easily answered, those were not based in reality and did not take into account the report given to the Council or the figures that had been made available.

The Council then adopted the decision on the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Saudi Arabia.
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1Joint statement on behalf of: Indian Council of South America; Organisation pour la communication en Afrique et de promotion de la coopération économique internationale (OCAPROCE International);Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition; International Council for Human Rights; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; and Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine.


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