Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
6 February 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record
· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Senegal this afternoon, during which 60 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Azerbaijan, following the review of the country on Wednesday, 4 February.
· Presenting the national report of Senegal was MADICKÉ NIANG, Minister of Justice of Senegal, who affirmed that the Senegalese Constitution, adopt by referendum in 2001, fully guaranteed all human rights as enshrined by international human rights instruments. This, however, was not enough, and therefore Senegal set up a number of machineries for the promotion and protection of human rights. Among them was the Senegalese Committee on Human Rights, set up in 1970. The Committee, which was an independent structure and enjoyed autonomy, dealt with all cases matter pertaining to human rights and submitted an annual report to the Office of the President. Moreover, in 2004 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Senegal was created. Also, in February 1991 the Office of the Mediator of the Public, which had the main task of mediating between the Government and citizens who felt their human rights were violated, was established. Senegal had the unique opportunity of housing the West African headquarters of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, he added.
The National Assembly of Senegal recently adopted a new law to reinforce the State’s position on preventing acts of torture, he stated. A number of activities have also been introduced to uphold economic and social rights. As to the right to education, the State had been allocating increased financial resources for this sector. There had been a significant improvement in primary education given concerted efforts by the Government. In 2006 the Government adopted a law making education between 6 and 16 free and compulsory. Senegal also introduced automatic school assistance to students in need. On health care, measures were being introduced to ensure that health services were afforded to all inhabitants in Senegal. The Government also provided free care for the elderly and carried out HIV/AIDS programmes, among other things.
The Government also endeavoured to ensure that gender balance was respected, the head of delegation stated. Legislative measures had been introduced to combat female genital mutilation and the National Observatory for Women’s Rights was also created to advanced women’s rights. The protection of children was one of the chief priorities of the Government. The Children’s Code was currently being drafted and efforts were being made to practically implement the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Senegal was a State party. The Government also responded positively to all requests by Special Procedures mandate holders to visit the country and had been cooperating with the various United Nations human rights mechanisms.
· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included efforts made in the areas of juvenile justice; the active role Senegal has played in promoting inter-religious and cultural dialogue; the respect for religious and ethnic minorities; advancements made in combating poverty; the provision of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 16; the increase in budgetary resources allocated to the education sector; the enactment of a national law on combating human trafficking; progress made in realizing the right to food; the accession to most of the international human rights instruments; efforts to combat HIV/AIDS; the establishment of the Senegalese Committee on Human Rights in line with the Paris Principles; the participation of civil society in drafting the national report; and the State’s law on smuggling migrants among West African States.
· Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns on violence against women and domestic violence; norms set forth to ensure the right to education for children with disabilities; the intention of the State to adopt a national action plan for children; concrete steps to eliminate acts of female genital mutilation; the functioning of the Observatory for Women’s Rights; steps undertaken to improve the situation of the insufficient number of juvenile courts and by the fact that girls were detained in adult prisons; efforts to abolish discrimination of children born out of wedlock, children with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, girls, street children and talibés; and measures adopted to eliminate all types of discrimination, and particularly that affecting vulnerable groups.
Additionally, questions and issues were raised pertaining to problems faced as a result of the economic and food crisis in realizing the rights of its people and programmes in place, in that regard; the concrete measures to promote employment; the programme launched to increase the production of basic food stuffs; measures taken to prevent discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation; the intention of the State to investigate attacks against members of the press and to lift restrictions on the press; the difficulties encountered in combating poverty; how the Government addressed the overcrowding of prisons and detention facilities; the positive experiences gained from ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; plans to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures; and whether Senegal has requested technical assistance from the OHCHR or other partners.
· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To continue efforts to realize the right to food; to continue efforts to work toward achieving the MDGs; to take all the necessary measures for the prompt realization of economic, social and cultural rights, especially the right to development; to address the challenges of closing the enrolment gap in primary education; to scale down the percentage of people living in slums to fulfil the right of families to decent housing; to reinforce the steps taken to improve unemployment and the standard of living by providing more access to economic-based training and literacy courses; to pursue the State’s policy on the fights against HIV/AIDS; to ensure that teachers were adequately trained; for the international community to provide support to Senegal to help it combat poverty; and to continue to strengthen efforts to combat poverty.
Other recommendations included: To continue with its commitment to promoting its awareness of the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; to continue efforts to promote tolerance between peoples of different religions and beliefs; to continue to provide a positive contribution to the Durban Review process; to take effective measures to protect the rights of vulnerable groups; to pursue efforts to promote dialogue and peace between people of all civilizations; to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; to step up efforts to disseminate and simply rights for the public, in coordination with the OHCHR; to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; for the international community to strengthen its support to Senegal, particularly with respect to the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights; and to conduct a detailed analysis and evaluation of the extent of technical assistance and resources required from OHCHR.
Additionally, Senegal was encouraged to remove the article from the Penal Code criminalizing homosexual conduct; to launch a debate on the decriminalizing of homosexuality; to pick up efforts to combat female genital mutilation; to continue with awareness raising campaigns to combat female genital mutilation; to continue efforts to combat human trafficking; to continue steps to protect child victims of sexual exploitation and to prevent the abuse of girls as domestic servants; to further invest in education and to give special attention to the education of girls and young women; to continue efforts to promote women’s rights; to pursue efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women; to step up efforts to combat child labour; to continue efforts and take policy measures to ensure that children were protected from corporal punishment and other forms of violence or exploitation; to review policies aimed at protecting the rights of children, with a view to establishing a juvenile justice system to address violations of children’s rights, in particular, discrimination against children affected by HIV/AIDS, disabled children and those born out of wedlock; and to adopt a national action plan for children.
Other recommendations called on Senegal, while implementing the mandate handed down by the African Union, to bring to justice and try former head of State of Chad Hissène Habre; to safeguard the separation of powers and the independence of judiciary; to enhance the effectiveness of the judiciary; to combat impunity effectively; to provide human rights and press freedom training for the police and armed forces; to raise awareness about the right to access to justice; to extend a standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; to continue cooperation with international human rights institutions and treaty bodies; to decriminalize press offences; to take further measures to ensure full respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in accordance with international standards; to protect the rights of freedom of assembly; and to ensure the effectives of freedom of association and demonstration.
· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Nigeria, Indonesia, Cuba, the Netherlands, Qatar, Switzerland, Pakistan, France, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, China, Ghana, Germany, Canada, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Bahrain, Angola, Argentina, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Ireland, Azerbaijan, India, Gabon, Mauritius, the Republic of Korea, Djibouti and South Africa.
· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Libya, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Holy See, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Haiti, Botswana, Benin, Syria, Latvia, Mali, the Czech Republic, Burundi, Afghanistan and Romania.
· The 18-person delegation of Senegal consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ministry of the Family and the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Senegal are Italy, Brazil and Angola.
· In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Senegal can be found here.
· Adoption of report on Azerbaijan: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Azerbaijan are Saudi Arabia, Slovenia and Mauritius. Introducing the report ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), said the dialogue between the troika and the State under review was very constructive, as reflected in the report. It was hoped that Azerbaijan would be able to implement the recommendations it had accepted in the report. Representing the State under review, KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said Azerbaijan would continue to cooperate actively and constructively with United Nations human rights institutions. The recommendations made by delegations would be studied and reported to the appropriate institutions in Azerbaijan. A special working group would be created by the Government in that regard. Once the recommendations were reviewed by this process they will be incorporated for practical implementation and legislation. The report showed that the UPR process was a very positive one.
· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Senegal on Tuesday, 10 February.
· When the UPR Working Group continues its work Monday morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by China after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Cameroon.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx. To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp.