Tajikistan

Human Rights Committee concludes eighty-fourth session

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Adopts Final Conclusions, Recommendations On Reports of Yemen, Tajikistan, Slovenia, Syria, Thailand
HR/CT/669

Round-Up of Session
(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 29 July (UN Information Service) -- The Human Rights Committee concluded today its three-week summer session during which it considered and adopted concluding observations and recommendations on the reports submitted by Yemen, Tajikistan, Slovenia, Syria, and Thailand on how they implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Governments of the five countries sent delegations to answer questions raised by Committee Experts in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the Covenant. There are 154 States parties to the Covenant.

After considering the report of Yemen, the Committee noted its appreciation of the creation, in 2003, of a Ministry of Human Rights, as well as the declared commitment of the State party to create a culture of human rights in Yemen. The Committee noted with concern that the recommendations it addressed to Yemen in 2002 had not been fully taken into consideration. The Committee urged the State party to examine in good faith all recommendations addressed by the Committee, and find ways to ensure that its desire to abide by religious principles were implemented in a way fully compatible with its obligations under the Covenant.

With regard to the report of Tajikistan, the Committee noted with appreciation the diminution of the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty and the moratorium of April 2004 on the imposition and execution of death sentences, as well as the commutation of all existing death sentences in the State party. Disregard of the Committee's requests for interim measures constituted a grave breach of the State party's obligations under the Covenant and the Optional Protocol. Among suggestions made to the State party were that it should take effective measures, including promotion of public awareness and human rights training to protect women against domestic violence.

Concerning the report of Slovenia, the Committee welcomed the progress achieved by the State party in the field of reforms since its independence in June 1991. While noting measures undertaken to improve the living conditions of the Roma community, there was concern that the Roma community continued to suffer prejudice and discrimination. The Committee suggested that Slovenia should adopt strong measures to prevent and prohibit the advocacy of hate and intolerance that constituted prohibited incitement and that it guarantee the fulfilment of the provisions of article 20 of the Covenant.

In its concluding observations on the report of Syria, the Committee welcomed the accession by the State Party to other international human rights instruments in the reporting period. It noted with concern that the recommendations it had addressed to Syria in 2001 had not been fully taken into consideration and regretted that most subjects of concern remained. The Committee also remained concerned that the nature and number of the offences carrying the death penalty in the State party were not consistent with the requirements of the Covenant. Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to examine all recommendations addressed to it by the Committee and that it take all necessary steps to ensure that its legislation and its implementation ensured the effective enjoyment of all Covenant rights in the State party.

In connection with the report of Thailand, the Committee welcomed the promulgation, following the State party's ratification of the Covenant, of a new Constitution in 1997 which contained many of the rights and freedoms protected under the Covenant. The Committee was concerned at the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations, including widespread instances of extra-judicial killings and ill treatment. Among its recommendations, the Committee said the State party should guarantee the effective protection of all rights enshrined in the Covenant and ensure that they were fully respected and enjoyed by all, and that recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission were given full and serious follow-up.

During the session, the Committee considered communications from individuals submitted to it under the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant. The Protocol, for the 104 States that have ratified it, allows review by the Committee of complaints from persons alleging violations of the terms of the Covenant; such reviews are carried out in private session. The Committee's conclusions on cases considered during the session will be released at a later date.

Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the Committee during the session on the topic of her Plan of Action for expansion and the renewal of her Office. The Committee also held a discussion on its revised General Comment on article 14 of the International Covenant on the principle of equality before justice.

The Committee adopted its annual report (A/60/40), covering the period from 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005, and the eighty-second, eighty-third and eighty-fourth sessions. In the report, the Committee noted with appreciation that the majority of State parties had continued to provide follow-up information to the Committee, and expressed its appreciation to those State parties that had provided timely follow-up information. The Committee also deplored the fact again that many States parties did not comply with their reporting obligations under article 40 of the Covenant.

In the concluding meeting, the Committee briefly discussed follow-up to reports. Three countries had created some problems and required special attention by the Committee to determine whether there was a need for follow-up, and these were the Netherlands, Sweden, and Egypt. A decision was necessary regarding these countries. The Committee determined to accept the response of the Netherlands, asked Sweden to elaborate on how it was dealing with issues related to torture, and determined that the responses provided by Egypt were satisfactory.

The next session of the Committee will take place from 17 October to 4 November 1995 at which time the Committee will consider the country reports of Canada, Italy, Paraguay and Brazil.

Concluding Observations on Country Reports

Yemen

After having considered the fourth periodic report of Yemen, the Committee noted its appreciation of the creation, in 2003, of a Ministry of Human Rights, as well as the declared commitment of the State party to create a culture of human rights in Yemen. The Committee also welcomed the adoption of the Children's Rights Act No 45 of 2002, and the adoption of various measures for the advancement of women, as well as the recognition by the State party that stereotyped views of women's and men's social roles and responsibilities have had a negative impact on some aspects of Yemeni legislation.

The Committee noted with concern that the recommendations it addressed to Yemen in 2002 had not been fully taken into consideration, and that the State party justified the absence of progress on several important issues by the impossibility, in its view, to abide at the same time by religious principles and some obligations under the Covenant. The Committee disagreed with such interpretation and stressed the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Committee reiterated its concern about the reported lack of independence and efficiency of the judiciary, despite the existence of constitutional guarantees and measures taken to reform the judicial branch. It noted with concern the high rate of illiteracy amongst women, which clearly hindered the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, and reiterated its deep concern about discrimination suffered by women in matters of personal status. The Committee regretted that insufficient information was provided on the extent to which female genital mutilation was practised in Yemen, and that domestic violence remained persistent. The Committee also remained concerned about reported grave violations of articles 6, 7, 9 and 14 of the Covenant committed in the name of the anti-terrorism campaign, as well as reported cases of extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention without charge or trial, torture and ill-treatment, and deportation of non-citizens to countries where they were in danger of being subjected to torture or ill treatment.

The Committee urged the State party to examine in good faith all recommendations addressed by the Committee, and find ways to ensure that its desire to abide by religious principles were implemented in a way fully compatible with its obligations under the Covenant, which it had accepted without reservations. The State party should ensure that the judiciary was free of any interference, in particular from the executive power, in law as well as in practice. The State party should work towards establishing a national human rights institution, and review its laws in order to ensure full equality between men and women in matters of personal status and actively promote measures to combat polygamy. The State party should increase its efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation, and enact a law prohibiting all persons from performing such practices, and abolish legislation providing for lower sentences in case of "honour killings".

Tajikistan

After having considered the initial report of Tajikistan, the Committee noted with appreciation the diminution of the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty and the moratorium of April 2004 on the imposition and execution of death sentences, as well as the commutation of all existing death sentences in the State party. It also welcomed the existence of sanctions against forced marriages and polygamy, and the establishment of the State party's Commission on the Implementation of International Obligations, which, inter alia, was responsible for the coordination of the follow-up to be given to the Committee's views under the Optional Protocol.

The Committee noted with concern that domestic violence against women remained a problem in Tajikistan. Whilst noting the efforts made by the State party to diminish the gender imbalance in government positions, and to improve the status and rights of women in society, the Committee considered that much more needed to be done. The Committee also recalled that in acceding to the Optional Protocol, the State party recognized the Committee's competence to receive and examine complaints from individuals under the State party's jurisdiction. Disregard of the Committee's requests for interim measures constituted a grave breach of the State party's obligations under the Covenant and the Optional Protocol.

The Committee was also concerned about the widespread use of ill treatment and torture by investigation and other officials, to obtain information, testimony or self-incriminating evidence from suspects, witnesses or arrested persons. Persistent reports that journalists had been harassed by State officials in the exercise of their profession, and that newspapers had been seized were also a matter for concern. The Committee also expressed concern that, despite significant progress accomplished by the State party, there have been persistent reports that Tajikistan was a major source country for trafficking in women and children.

Among suggestions made to the State party were that it should take effective measures, including training of police officers, promotion of public awareness and human rights training to protect women against domestic violence, as well as taking more positive measures to ensure a higher representation of women in public life. Regarding violations of human rights by investigation and other officials, Tajikistan should take all necessary measures to stop this practice, to investigate promptly all complaints of the use of such practices by officials, and to proceed to the rapid prosecution, conviction and punishment of those responsible, and to provide adequate compensation to the victims. The State party should avoid any harassment or intimidation of journalists and ensure that its legislation and practice give full effect to the requirements of the Covenant. The State party should redouble its efforts in combating the serious problems related to trafficking, in collaboration with neighbouring countries, including with a view to protecting the human rights of victims.

Slovenia

After having considered the second periodic report of Slovenia, the Committee welcomed the progress achieved by the State party in the field of reforms since its independence in June 1991, notably the adoption of a democratic Constitution in December 1991 and its recent amendments to enhance protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Committee also welcomed that the provisions of the Covenant were directly enforceable as part of the domestic legal order and that they had been directly enforced by the Supreme and the Constitutional courts. Measures had been taken to improve the protection and promotion of human rights through, among other things, the establishment of the "Human Rights Ombudsman" in January 1995; the establishment of the "Office for Equal Opportunity" in 2001 and the "Advocate for Equal Opportunity"; and the establishment of an "Interdepartmental Working Group on the Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings" in December 2001 and the adoption of an "Action Plan on the Fight against Trafficking in Persons" in 2004.

The Committee was concerned, however, about the high rate of domestic violence and regretted the lack of specific legal provisions and governmental programmes to prevent, combat and eliminate domestic violence. There was also concern about the level of participation of women in public affairs, as women continued to have a disproportionately low presence in the political and economic life of the State party, particularly in senior positions of public administration. The Committee was also concerned about reported cases of ill treatment by law enforcement officials, and the lack of thorough investigations and adequate punishment of the responsible officials and non-payment of compensation to the victims. The Committee was concerned about the difference in the status between the so-called "autochthonous" (indigenous) and "non-autochthonous" (new) Roma communities in the State party. While noting measures undertaken to improve the living conditions of the Roma community, there was concern that the Roma community continued to suffer prejudice and discrimination.

Among the suggestions made to the State party was that it should adopt and implement appropriate laws and policies to prevent and combat effectively violence against women, especially domestic violence, and programmes to assist the victims. Slovenia should also continue to reinforce its measures to combat trafficking in women and children and prosecute and punish perpetrators. It should adopt strong measures to prevent and prohibit the advocacy of hate and intolerance that constituted prohibited incitement and to guarantee the fulfilment of the provisions of article 20 of the Covenant. The State party should consider elimination of discrimination in status within the Roma minority and provide to the whole Roma community a status without any discrimination and improve its living conditions and enhance its participation in public life. The State party should take all necessary measures to ensure the practical enjoyment by the Roma of their rights under the Covenant, by implementing and reinforcing effective measures to prevent and address discrimination and the serious social and economic situation of the Roma.

Syria

The Committee welcomed the timely submission of the third periodic report by Syria, which contained detailed information on Syrian legislation in the area of civil and political rights. The Committee encouraged the State party to increase its efforts to include in its reports more detailed information, including statistical data, on the implementation of the Covenant in practice. The Committee welcomed the accession by the State Party to other international human rights instruments in the reporting period, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Committee noted with concern that the recommendations it had addressed to Syria in 2001 had not been fully taken into consideration and regretted that most subjects of concern remained. The Committee regretted that the information provided was not sufficiently precise. While welcoming the establishment of the National Committee for International Humanitarian Law, the Committee noted that it was not fully independent. The Committee noted with concern that the state of emergency declared some 40 years ago was still in force and provided for many derogations in law or practice from the rights guaranteed in the Covenant, without any convincing explanations being given as to the relevance of these derogations to the conflict with Israel and as to the necessity of these derogations to meet the exigencies of the situation claimed to have been created by the conflict.

The Committee remained concerned that the nature and number of the offences carrying the death penalty in the State party were not consistent with the requirement of the Covenant that this form of punishment must be limited to the most serious crimes, and was deeply concerned at the de facto reinstitution of death sentences and executions in 2002. While noting the information provided by the State party on measures taken against some law enforcement personnel for acts of ill-treatment of prisoners, the Committee remained deeply concerned at continuing reports of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee was concerned at the obstacles imposed on the registration and free operation of non-governmental human rights organizations in the State party and the intimidation, harassment and arrest of human rights defenders. It also continued to be deeply concerned about the continuing detention of several human rights defenders and the refusal to register certain human rights organizations, and for the extensive limitations on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in practice, which went beyond the limitations permissible.

Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to examine all recommendations addressed to it by the Committee and take all necessary steps to ensure that its legislation and its implementation ensured the effective enjoyment of all Covenant rights in the State party. The State party should ensure that the measures it had taken, in law and practice, to derogate from Covenant rights were strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, secondly, that the rights provided for in the Covenant were made non-derogable in law and practice. The State party should also limit the cases in which the death penalty was imposed. The State party should take firm measures to stop the use of incommunicado detention and eradicate all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement officials, and ensure prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations by an independent mechanism into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, prosecute and punish perpetrators, and provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims.

Thailand

The Committee welcomed the high quality of the report submitted by the State party, while regretting that it was submitted with a delay of over six years. The Committee welcomed the promulgation, following the State party's ratification of the Covenant, of a new Constitution in 1997 which contained many of the rights and freedoms protected under the Covenant. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission as a mechanism to promote respect for human rights; the Department of the Rights and Liberties Protection under the Ministry of Justice; the National Reconciliation Commission; and the National Child Protection Committee and provincial Child Protection Committees. The Committee also welcomed the enactment of the Child Protection Act, and noted with appreciation the adoption of the National Plan of Action on Human Rights.

The Committee was concerned at the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations, including widespread instances of extrajudicial killings and ill treatment by the police and members of armed forces. The Committee further noted with concern that this situation reflected a lack of effective remedies available to victims of human rights violations, which was incompatible with the Covenant. The Committee noted with concern that the provisions of the Civil Code were discriminatory against women with regard to grounds for divorce, and expressed its concern at reports of the high prevalence of domestic violence and the lack of specific legal provisions on domestic violence, including marital rape, in the State party's legislation.

The Committee was concerned that the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency, B.E. 2548, which came into immediate effect on 16 July 2005, and on the basis of which a state of emergency was declared in three southern provinces, did not explicitly specify, or place sufficient limits, on the derogations from the rights protected by the Covenant that may be made in emergencies and did not guarantee full implementation of article 4 of the Covenant. It was especially concerned that the Decree provided for officials enforcing the state of emergency to be relieved of legal and disciplinary actions, thus exacerbating the problem of impunity.

Among its recommendations, the Committee said the State party should guarantee the effective protection of all rights enshrined in the Covenant and ensure that they were fully respected and enjoyed by all, and that recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission were given full and serious follow-up. Law enforcement officials, in particular police officers, should also be provided with appropriate training to deal with cases of domestic violence, and awareness-raising efforts should be continued to widely sensitize members of the public. The State party should review the imposition of the death penalty for offences related to drug trafficking, to reduce the categories of crime punishable by death. The State party should also consider the withdrawal of its declaration on article 6, paragraph 5.

Membership of Committee

The States parties to the Covenant elect the Committee's 18 expert members who serve in their individual capacity for four-year terms. Article 28 of the Covenant requires that "they shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights". They are: Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia); Nisuke Ando (Japan); Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati (India); Alfredo Castillero Hoyos (Panama); Christine Chanet (France); Franco Depasquale (Malta); Maurice Glèlè-Ahanhanzo (Benin); Walter Kälin (Switzerland); Ahmed Tawfik Khalil (Egypt); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Rafael Rivas Posada (Colombia); Sir Nigel Rodley (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Ivan Shearer (Australia); Hipolito Solari-Yrigoyen (Argentina); Ruth Wedgwood (United States of America); Roman Wieruszewski (Poland); and Maxwell Yalden (Canada).