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    Round-Up

     HR/4617
    30 July 2002

    Human Rights Committee Concludes Seventy-Fifth Session

    Adopts Final Conclusions and Recommendations on Reports of New Zealand, Viet Nam, Yemen, Republic of Moldova

    GENEVA, 26 July (UN Information Service) -- The Human Rights Committee today concluded a three-week session at which it considered and adopted concluding observations and recommendations on the reports submitted to it by New Zealand, Viet Nam, Yemen and the Republic of Moldova.

    The four countries sent government delegations to answer questions in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There are 149 States parties to the Covenant. During this session, the Committee applied for the first time the new procedure for dealing with non-reporting States. It considered, in a private meeting, the situation of civil and political rights in the Gambia without a report and in the absence of a delegation from that State party.

    Among the Committee's findings on the fourth periodic report of New Zealand, the Committee welcomed the further progress made in the protection and promotion of the rights of Maori under the Covenant, in particular, the amendments introduced by the Maori Reserved Land Act which came into force in 1998. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party should take appropriate measures to implement all the Covenant rights in domestic law and to ensure that every victim of a violation of Covenant rights had a remedy, and said the State party was under an obligation to ensure that measures taken to implement Security Council resolution 1373 were fully in conformity with the Covenant.

    Cited among positive aspects relating to the second periodic report of Viet Nam were the developments within the State party that reflected some relaxation of the political restraints that had raised serious questions of gross violations of rights protected under the Covenant. The Committee remained concerned about the large number of crimes for which the death penalty might still be imposed. It recommended, among other things, that the State party should ensure that no persons were subjected to arbitrary restriction on their liberty and that all persons deprived of their liberty were promptly brought before a judge.

    Among positive developments in the third periodic report of Yemen, the Committee noted some human rights initiatives undertaken by the State party in recent years. Concern was expressed, among other things, about the continued practice of female genital mutilation and the persistence of domestic violence, despite legislation adopted by the State party. The Committee recommended that the State party should review the question of the death penalty; that appropriate measures be taken to put an end to the practice of amputation and flagellation; and that all allegations of human rights abuses were investigated.

    And in the initial report of the Republic of Moldova, the Committee welcomed the abolition of the death penalty, and the efforts to establish effective institutions to enhance the observation of human rights. Among its concerns, the Committee said it was deeply troubled by the conditions prevailing in the State party's detention facilities; it was particularly disturbed at the prevalence of disease, notably tuberculosis, which was a direct result of prison conditions. It recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure that counter-terrorism measures taken under Security Council resolution 1373 were fully in conformity with the Covenant.

    Also, over the course of the summer session, the Committee adopted a general comment on reporting obligations by States parties to the International Covenant. It noted that only a small number of the 149 States parties had submitted their reports on time. Most of them had been submitted with delays ranging from a few months to several years and some States parties were still in default, despite repeated reminders by the Committee. Other States had announced that they would appear before the Committee, but had not done so on the scheduled date.

    During the session, the Committee also considered communications from individuals submitted to it under the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant. The Protocol, for the 102 States which 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.

    The next session of the Committee will take place from 14 October to 1 November 2002 in Geneva. The experts are expected to consider reports from Mali, Luxembourg, Estonia and Egypt.

    Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports:

    New Zealand

    On the fourth periodic report of New Zealand, the Committee welcomed the examination of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission of all domestic acts and government policies with a view to determine their consistency with the anti-discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act known as Consistency 2000. It noted with satisfaction that the New Zealand courts took account and were aware of the obligations undertaken by the State party under the Covenant. It also welcomed the further progress made in the protection and promotion of the rights of Maori under the Covenant, in particular, the amendments introduced by the Maori Reserved Land Act which came into force in 1998.

    Among its principal concerns, the Committee regretted that certain rights guaranteed under the Covenant were not reflected in the Bill of Rights, and that it had no higher status than ordinary legislation. The Committee recognized that the security requirements relating to the events of 11 September 2001 had given rise to New Zealand's efforts in taking legislative and other measures to implement Security Council resolution 1373. The Committee, however, expressed its concern that the impact of such measures or changes in policy on New Zealand's obligations under the Covenant might not have been fully considered. The Committee was concerned at possible negative effects of new legislation and practices on asylum-seekers. The Committee noted with concern that the management of one prison and prison escort services had been contracted to a private company.

    While recognizing the positive measures taken by the State party with regard to Maori, including the implementation of their land and resources rights, the Committee continued to be concerned that they remained a disadvantaged group in the society.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party should take appropriate measures to implement all the Covenant rights in domestic law and to ensure that every victim of a violation of Covenant rights had a remedy in accordance with article 2 of the Covenant, including with regard to language as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The State party was under an obligation to ensure that measures taken to implement Security Council resolution 1373 were fully in conformity with the Covenant. The State party was requested to ensure the definition of terrorism was not a source of abuse and was in conformity with the Covenant. In addition, the State party should maintain its constant practice of observance of the principle of non-refoulement. New Zealand should ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty were not deprived of the various rights guaranteed under article 10 of the Covenant. And the State party should continue to reinforce its efforts to ensure the full enjoyment of the Covenant rights by the Maori people.

    Viet Nam

    With regard to the second periodic report of Viet Nam, the Committee cited as positive aspects the developments within the State party that reflected some relaxation of the political restraints that had raised serious questions of gross violations of rights protected under the Covenant; and the efforts which were being made by the State party to reform its domestic legal order, to comply with its international human rights commitments.

    The Committee was, however, concerned with the status under domestic law of the rights provided for in the Covenant, which remained unclear; and it was also concerned that certain constitutional provisions would appear to be incompatible with the Covenant and that the Vietnamese Constitution did not enumerate all Covenant rights. The Committee remained concerned with the large number of crimes for which the death penalty might still be imposed; it remained concerned with the continued use of the practice of administrative detention, referred to as probation by the delegation; that the judicial system remained weak due to the scarcity of qualified professionally trained lawyers, lack of resources for the judiciary and their susceptibility to political pressure; and that the State party had not yet established a body with power to oversee and investigate complaints of human rights violations.

    The Committee was concerned at reports of the extensive limitations on the right to freedom of expression in the media, and the fact that the Press Law did not allow the existence of privately owned media; it was also concerned at the lack of specific information concerning indigenous peoples, especially the Degar (Montagnard), and about measures taken to ensure their rights under article 27 to enjoy their cultural traditions; and it was concerned about the restrictions on public meetings and demonstrations.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party consider acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Covenant; review the list of crimes for which the death penalty might be imposed; and ensure that no persons were subjected to arbitrary restriction on their liberty and that all persons deprived of their liberty were promptly brought before a judge. The State party was also recommended to take effective measures to strengthen the judiciary and to guarantee its independence; establish a permanent independent human rights monitoring body; provide information in respect of all the institutions in which persons were held against their will; assess the impact of measures already undertaken to address the incidence of domestic violence against women; provide the Committee with up-to-date information about the number of individuals belonging to various religious communities; take all necessary measures to put an end to direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression; and take immediate measures to ensure that the rights of members of indigenous communities were respected.

    Yemen

    Among positive developments in the third periodic report of Yemen, the Committee noted some human rights initiatives undertaken by the State party in recent years, in particular, the appointment of a Minister of State for Human Rights in 2001, and conclusion of a technical cooperation agreement with the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to eradicate child labour, as well as the creation of aid centres for disadvantaged children.

    Concern was expressed, among other things, about the continued practice of female genital mutilation and the persistence of domestic violence, despite legislation adopted by the State party; the situation of discrimination against women in matters of personal status, more particularly in marriage and divorce, as well as the rights and duties of spouses; about the persistence of the practice of polygamy; that the offences liable to the death penalty were not consistent with the requirements of the Covenant; about the existence of cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for which law enforcement officers were responsible; about the effects of the security requirements campaign connected with the events of 11 September 2001 on the human rights situation in Yemen; about the violations of freedom of religion or belief; and about some restrictions under Yemeni legislation on freedom of the press and about the difficulties encountered by journalists in the exercise of their profession.

    Among the Committee's recommendations were that the State party should pursue its efforts to eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation; that women enjoy complete equality with men; that polygamy be abolished; that the State party should review the question of the death penalty; that appropriate measures be taken to put an end to the practice of amputation and flagellation; that all allegations of human rights abuses were investigated; that the State party ensure that the measures taken in the name of the campaign against terrorism were within the limits of Security Council resolution 1373 and were fully consistent with the provisions of the Covenant; that the judiciary was free of any interference; that the right of persons to change their religion, if they wished so, was respected; and that the State party should respect article 19 of the Covenant on freedom of the press.

    Republic of Moldova

    In the initial report of the Republic of Moldova, the Committee welcomed the adoption in 1994 of a Constitution, including provisions designed to protect the rights of persons within its jurisdiction, including non-discrimination and equality before the law; appreciated the capacity of the Constitutional Court to strike down legislation incompatible with the rights contained in the Covenant; and welcomed the abolition of the death penalty and the efforts to establish effective institutions to enhance the observation of human rights.

    Among its concerns, the Committee said it was deeply concerned at the conditions prevailing in the State party's detention facilities; it was particularly disturbed at the prevalence of disease, notably tuberculosis, which was a direct result of prison conditions; that artificial hurdles continued to exist in the State party for individuals and organizations seeking to exercise their religious freedoms; at the requirement for advance notice of 15 days of proposed assemblies to be provided to the relevant authorities; and at the situation of minorities in practice, despite the steps taken to improve their legal position.

    The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure that counter-terrorism measures taken under the Security Council resolution 1373 were fully in conformity with the Covenant; that immediate steps be taken to ensure that the conditions of detention facilities comply with international standards; that efforts should be reinforced to put a stop to the trafficking of individuals, particularly of women; that all persons suspected of a crime be promptly brought before a judge; that the law be revised to ensure that judges' tenure was sufficiently long to ensure their independence; that the necessary measures be taken to ensure that the State broadcaster enjoyed broad discretion as to programming content; that the State party's law and policy be reviewed concerning the registration of political parties; that appropriate measures be taken to ensure that the participation of women in political, public and other sectors of life was on a fair and equal footing with that of men; and that a careful assessment of the issue of abortion and maternal mortality be made, and necessary measures be taken to reduce the high maternal death rate.

    General Comment

    The Committee also adopted its thirtieth General Comment on reporting obligations by States parties to the Covenant with the view to assisting States parties in fulfilling their reporting obligations according to article 40 of the Covenant. It noted that only a small number of the 149 States parties had submitted their reports on time. Most of them had been submitted with delays ranging from a few months to several years and some States parties were still in default, despite repeated reminders by the Committee. Other States had announced that they would appear before the Committee but had not done so on the scheduled date.

    To remedy that situation, the Committee said that it had adopted new rules. If a State party had submitted a report but did not send a delegation to the Committee, the Committee might notify the State party of the date on which it intended to consider the report or might proceed to consider the report at the meeting that had been initially scheduled. When a State party had not presented a report, the Committee might, at its discretion, notify the State party of the date on which the Committee proposed to examine the measures taken by the State party to implement the right guaranteed under the Covenant.

    Article 40 of the International Covenant stipulates that "the States parties to the Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights: within one year of the entry into force of the present Covenant for the States parties concerned; and thereafter whenever the Committee so requests".

    Background on Covenant

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the General Assembly and opened for signature in 1966, together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both entered into force in 1976.

    The Civil and Political Rights Covenant begins by stating that all peoples have the right to self-determination. It recognizes that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. It prohibits torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment, and the arbitrary deprivation of life. Anyone arrested is to be informed of the reasons for the arrest, and anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is to be brought promptly before a judge or other legally authorized person.

    The Covenant also provides, among other things, for freedom of movement, and places limitations upon the expulsion of aliens present lawfully in the territory of a State party. In addition, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and to freedom of expression are recognized by the Covenant, which also prohibits any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred.

    States Parties to Covenant

    The following 149 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant: Afghanistan. Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Trinidad and Tobago, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

    Optional Protocols to Covenant

    The Optional Protocol to the Covenant provides for the confidential consideration of communications from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation of any rights proclaimed in the Covenant. No communication can be received by the Committee if it concerns a State party to the Covenant that is not also a party to the Optional Protocol.

    The following 102 States are parties to the Optional Protocol: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, and Zambia.

    The Human Rights Committee is also mandated, under article 41 of the Covenant, to consider communications from a State party alleging violations of the Covenant's provisions by another State party. This procedure can be applied when both States recognize this competence of the Committee by a relevant declaration.

    So far, 47 States have made the declaration under article 41. They are: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Congo, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.

    The Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991. The following 47 States have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkmenistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.

    Membership of Committee

    The Committee's 18 expert members, who serve in their individual capacity, are elected by the State parties to the Covenant 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); Christine Chanet (France); Maurice Glele Ahanhanzo (Benin); Louis Henkin (United States); Eckart Klein (Germany); David Kretzmer (Israel); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Cecilia Medina Quiroga (Chile); Rafael Rivas Posada (Colombia); Nigel Rodley (United Kingdom); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Ivan Shearer (Australia); Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen (Argentine); Ahmed Tawfik Khalil (Egypt); Patrick Vella (Malta); and Maxwell Yalden (Canada).

    Mr. Bhagwati is Chairperson of the Committee. Mr. Kretzmer and Mr. Yrigoyen are Vice-Chairpersons, and Mr. Klein is the Rapporteur.

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