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Human Rights Committee discusses follow-up to its concluding observations, methods of work

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GENEVA (22 October 2018) - The Human Rights Committee this morning discussed an update by the Rapporteur on the Follow-Up to Concluding Observations, and endorsed the document titled “Possible elements of a common aligned procedure for follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views for all treaty bodies”, which the Chairs of human rights treaty bodies had adopted during their annual meeting from 29 May to 1 June in New York.

Mauro Politi, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations, presented the Committee’s assessments of Montenegro, Greece, Republic of Korea, Benin, and Rwanda. The Committee then adopted the draft report.

The Committee also endorsed the document titled “Possible elements of a common aligned procedure for follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views for all treaty bodies”, which the Chairs of human rights treaty bodies had endorsed during their annual meeting from 29 May to 1 June in New York, and which was contained as annex II to their report. The Committee’s endorsement was based on the understanding that the document contained recommendations reflecting desirable common practice and did not bind the Committee.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 24 October to continue the reading of its General Comment N° 36 on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life.

Report on Follow-up to Concluding Observations

MAURO POLITI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations, said that the report contained assessments of Montenegro, Greece, Republic of Korea, Benin, and Rwanda.

Starting with Montenegro, the Special Rapporteur noted, in reference to the national human rights institution, the significant increase in the number of staff in the office of the Ombudsman, the adoption of the guidelines for handling discrimination cases, and the B status accreditation in 2016 under the Paris Principles. Accordingly, a B grade for the section had been adopted.

In terms of the accountability for past human rights violations, Montenegro had adopted the Strategy for War Crimes and established the Special State Prosecutor’s Office responsible for investigating and prosecuting war crimes, but its Appellate Court had acquitted the defendant in the Bukovica case of charges of violations of international law during the period between 1992 and 1995 under the Rome Statute, finding that the Rome Statute, which had entered into force in July 2002, had not been applicable at the time. The Committee adopted a grade B for the efforts to investigate past crimes, and a grade C for measures taken to ensure accountability for past human rights violations.

Montenegro received a grade C in relation to the rights of minorities, birth registration, refugees, internally displaced persons, and early marriage. The information on the steps taken to facilitate the procedure to resolve the legal status of refugees and internally displaced persons from the former Yugoslav republics was positively taken, however, the concern remained about the lack of information on the consultations with Roma, Askhali and Egyptians living in camps, and that all persons who had failed to exercise their right to submit a request for a temporary or permanent residence by were now considered to be residing illegally.

On Greece, the Committee had requested a follow up on the excessive use of force and ill-treatment, said Mr. Politi, welcoming the issuing of a draft bill in 2016 to designate the Ombudsman as the national mechanism for the investigation of incidents of ill-treatment committed by law enforcement and detention facility agents, for which a grade B was granted. In the light of the shortcomings in implementing the mechanisms in place, persistence of torture and ill-treatment, and the reluctance of the authorities to end impunity and effectively investigate the allegations of such treatment, the Committee allocated grade C for the remainder of the recommendation.

As for its efforts to improve the situation of unaccompanied minors who entered the country in an irregular manner, Greece had obtained a grade B for the creation of new reception facilities and the increase in the number of detention spaces in existing structures, and for the efforts to revise the law on guardianship and foster care and ensure each unaccompanied child was provided with a legal guardian. Given the fact that the detention period fluctuated between hours to months, and that the age assessment procedure was intrusive and inaccurate and not thoroughly implemented in all cases, the Committee awarded a grade C for the remaining parts of the section.

Greece received a grade C for the implementation of the concluding observation on the expulsion of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants, and was invited to comment on the information about the containment policy to confine asylum seekers to islands, that the reception centres on islands were overcrowded and too far from hospitals and other services, lacking security safeguards, fomenting riots or hate crimes, and leaving individuals uncertain about their futures.

Turning to the Republic of Korea and the discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, Mr. Politi noted with regret that no steps had been taken to officially state that any discrimination, hate speech, and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, or the propagation of the so-called “conversion therapies” would be tolerated; to strengthen the legal framework to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons; or to repeal article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act. Accordingly, the Committee adopted a grade E for the section.

With regard to conscientious objection, the country received a grade C as it had not released all imprisoned conscientious objectors, had condemned more objectors to prison sentences, and had not taken measures to legally recognize conscientious objection to military service and alternative service.

A grade C was allocated for the implementation of the concluding observation on peaceful assembly, with the Committee noting the envisaged legislation to bring the regulation on demonstrations in line with the Constitutional Court’s decision, and regretting the lack of steps to amend the Assembly and Demonstration Act and review the regulations on the use of force to ensure they were in strict compliance with the Covenant.

Moving on to Benin, the Committee appreciated the establishment of a selection committee to supervise the appointment of 11 members of the National Human Rights Commission and required other information on measures taken to ensure the compliance with the Paris Principles. Benin obtained a grade B for this section.

Benin also obtained a grade B for its efforts concerning the right to life, and the abolition of the death penalty, in particular because of the Constitutional Court’s ruling which had rendered the provisions on the death penalty null and void, the commutation of the death penalties to prison sentences, and the plans on the adoption of a new Criminal Code.

As for the prohibition of torture and impunity, the Committee appreciated the definition and criminalization of torture and ill-treatment in the new Criminal Code, for which it granted a grade B. The national observatory for the prevention of torture however had not yet been established, and the information was lacking on measures taken as a result of investigation into the allegation of torture and ill-treatment, including for the acts committed between 1972 and 1990, which had earned Benin a grade C.

The Committee then considered measures taken by Rwanda to implement the concluding observation on violence against women and children, adopting a grade B for the enactment of the new Penal Code which provided for penalties for all perpetrators of the crime of rape; the efforts to investigate all cases of domestic and sexual violence, including the implicit repeal of provisions punishing victims who refused to testify; and the significant increase in the number of Isange one-stop centres for victims of violence. Rwanda received a grade C for failing to take steps to issue protection orders to ensure the safety of victims.

In terms of unlawful detention and allegation of torture and ill-treatment, the Committee remained concerned about the continuation of Rwanda’s denial of unlawful detention practices, the lack of a reply to reports of incommunicado detention, the low number of investigations and prosecutions for acts of torture and ill-treatment, and about the effective right to remedy and redress of victims of unlawful detention, torture, and ill-treatment. Accordingly, the Committee adopted a grade of C for the section.

Rwanda received a grade B for the efforts to improve prison conditions and to address overcrowding in police and military detention facilities, in particular through the construction and renovation of prisons to bring them in line with international standards.

The Committee granted a grade B for decriminalization of defamation and related offences and the exceptional limits to freedom of expression, and a grade C for the remainder of the section, given the lack of information on the protection afforded to politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders prosecuted to deter them from exercising the right to freedom of expression.

Methods of Work

YUVAL SHANY, Committee Chairperson, then turned to the Committee’s methods of work, and recalled that during its current session, the Committee considered the document titled “Possible elements of a common aligned procedure for follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views for all treaty bodies”, which the Chairs of human rights treaty bodies had endorsed during their annual meeting from 29 May to 1 June in New York, and which was contained as annex II to their report. The Chair read out the proposed endorsing statement, in which the Committee explained, inter alia, that the decision was based on the understanding that the document contained recommendations reflecting desirable common practice and did not bind the Committee.

The Committee then endorsed the document titled “Possible elements of a common aligned procedure for follow-up to concluding observations, decisions and views for all treaty bodies”.

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