Universal Periodic Review


First session meeting highlights

16 April 2008 (morning)
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 the Czech Republic this morning, during which 21 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Algeria, following the review of the country on Monday, 14 April.

Presenting the national report of the Czech Republic was VIT SCHORM, Government Commissioner for Representation before the European Court for Human Rights in the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic, who announced that the Czech Republic had fulfilled all voluntary pledges and commitments it made when entering the Human Rights Council. Firstly, the Czech Republic ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2006 and ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages the same year. The State also signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities together with its Optional Protocol, and in 2007, the Government established an inter-ministerial working group to coordinate the preparation of ratification of these two instruments. Finally, the Czech Republic supported the adoption of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The year 1989 marked the beginning of a new era in the development of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Czech Republic. By its legal system, human rights and liberties were guaranteed to everyone and it was the aim of all State authorities to ensure them effectively in practice also to vulnerable groups. The protection of human rights in the Czech Republic was guaranteed by international conventions of the United Nations and the Council of Europe on the one hand, and by its own constitutional order, which comprised a democratic Constitution from 1992 and a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms from 1991, on the other hand. The issue of human rights was dealt with by a Minister for Human Rights post created at the beginning of 2007 in the current Government, and a Government Commissioner for Human Rights, established nearly ten years ago, together with the Government’s advisory bodies. The Minister was responsible for developing and implementing human rights policies. Her team of experts focused on, among other things, matter related to the Roma community and other minorities as well as on the development of the civil society.

In order to help protect fundamental rights and liberties of persons in relation with the action of administrative authorities, a Public Defender of Rights – Ombudsman – started his activities in 2001. He is entitled to propose issuing, amending or repealing the legislation, he stated. The powers of the Ombudsman should be further extended by virtue of the new Antidiscrimination Act which, if passed will convert the Ombudsman into an antidiscrimination body that will systematically deal with issue of equal treatment and protection from discrimination and provide assistance to victims of discrimination. Members of the Roma, who were frequently exposed to social exclusion, often faced discrimination. In addition to the Antidiscrimination Act, a governmental Agency for the Elimination of Social Exclusion in Roma Localities was established in January 2008 with a view to combating adverse phenomena linked with exclusion. Moreover, ten years ago, the Government established its Council for Roma Community Affairs which was a standing advisory and initiative body of the Government in this field. The Council systematically assisted in the integration of members of the Roma community. A new concept of education of children from disadvantaged communities was now under consideration and was based on an inclusive philosophy and step-by-step integration into mainstream schools of children currently educated in separate programmes.

The head of delegation noted that in 2006, the first part of an information campaign geared toward recruitment of members of ethnic minorities for positions in the police was conducted. The Czech Republic had been preparing since 2003 on a regular basis National Strategies for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. Since 2000, the Czech Republic had been preparing the National Plan on Combating Commercial Sexual Abuse of Children. The amendment to the Criminal Code of 2007, which criminalized the mere possession of child pornography, was considered as one of the most important specific steps aimed strengthening the protection of children’s rights. In the field of domestic violence, a very positive step was taken in 2006 with the adoption of a new legislation. This legislation introduced a new concept of the so-called banishment under which a police officer was entitled to banish the violent persons from the common household for a period of ten days. The Czech Republic placed much emphasis on the rights of all minorities, including those who have been neglected for a long time. Hence, in 2006 it passed the Act on Registered Partnership that allowed for recognition of legal relation of the same-sex couples by the State. Moreover, the Czech Republic, similarly to other European countries, has increasingly become the new home for immigrants. Since 2005, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was responsible for coordination of the integration of foreigners which was now understood in a much broader framework than in terms of security and migration aspects.

During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the national action plan on gender balance; the Criminal Code in relation to protecting children against sexual exploitation and the structured approach in fighting human trafficking, including the national strategy on combating human trafficking; the establishment of the post of Government Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities; the Government’s standing invitation to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; the proposed Anti-Discrimination Act; child pornography legislation and efforts to combat human trafficking; that the recommendations of the Ombudsman were reflected in national laws; and the establishment of an Agency for Social Inclusion of Roma Communities, including funding and staffing arrangements.

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 Anti-Discrimination Act and the claims that victims would be able to file against discrimination and possible compensatory action; measures to stamp out illegal acts by neo-Nazis; measures undertaken to address law enforcement and corruption issues, including in the area of training for judges; supervision over the police and the actions of prison personnel; the implementation of the recommendation of the Committee against Torture; investigations into Illegal rendition flights by the CIA and steps taken to prevent such flights; the role of the Public Defender/Ombudsman; the provision of legal aid; the provisions of the Employment Act; the intention of the State to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; the results of action plan on gender balance; the definition of rape; successes of the national strategy on human trafficking; and the issue of street children.

Several delegations raised the issue of Roma communities asking for information on, among other things, the discrimination of Roma and measures to eliminate such acts; specific measures identified to overcome racial discrimination, in general, and among the Roma minorities; steps taken to provide safeguards in the field of education, labor and health for the Roma; steps taken to develop an effective system of investigation as recommended by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, including on sexual abuse against Roma children; and the implementation of recommendations made by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, including discrimination against Roma women.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To take all measures to prevent any kind of reappearance of neo-Nazism and not to let any activities of these groups to go unpunished; to carry out a thorough investigation of alleged sterilization of Roma women, as noted by some treaty bodies and Special Procedures; to establish clear mandatory criteria for the informed consent of women to sterilization; to develop appropriate training and awareness raising measures towards the Roma, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups and to create a justice system complying with international standards ensuring that perpetrators be brought to justice; to provide adequate protection for human rights defenders and marginalized groups against racially motivated violence; to enact anti-discrimination legislation in the field access to private and public housing; to adhere to the CEDAW request to monitor the implementation of the new legal framework in the Employment Act and Labor Code; to provide anti-discrimination provisions for the advancement of women and minorities; to ensure that the private sector fully abides by anti-discrimination laws; to adhere to the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; and to provide greater support for foster care as an alternative to the institutionalization of children.

Other recommendations included: To establish a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles; to allow for the full integration of gender perspective in the follow up to the Review process; to provide disaggregated data on employment; to implement all measures laid out in the CERD Convention; to take concrete measures to implement the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; to step up efforts to ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; to include in its follow up report to the Universal Periodic Review information on efforts to ensure the rights of the Roma and other minorities were being respected; to consider additional steps to improve conditions for children from vulnerable backgrounds; and to consider bi-lingual school programmes for Roma children.

The delegation of the Czech Republic provided responses to a series of questions posed to it during the course of the discussion.

Responding to the questions concerning the Roma community, the delegation outlined several measures taken to respect their human rights and provide Roma persons with social services. It was recalled that the Government Commissioner for Human Rights focused on, among other things, matter related to the Roma community. Moreover, the establishment of government Agency for the Elimination of Social Exclusion in Roma Localities at the beginning of the year was mentioned, as was the Council for Roma Community Affairs which provided assistance to members of the Roma community for their integration into society.

As to the issue of education, in particular for Roma children, the delegation noted that in January 2005 a new act on education came into force and represented a modern tool for fulfilling the educational needs of all students; the “School for All’ concept was launched through this new act. The number of teaching staff in the school system was on the rise and additional resources were being invested in school programmes. Several projects were also underway to integrate Roma children in the school system. It was also expected that new projects underway would also result in fewer Roma children requiring special educations needs.

As to secret rendition flights, the delegation recalled that in November 2005 the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe informed the Government that it intended to open a formal inquiry on reports that terror suspects may have been transported through European countries. The Czech Republic, subsequently, provided all relevant information and stated that there were no secret flights which passed through its territory. The Czech Republic was not among the countries listed among the States cited in the final report of the Council of Europe. On the issue of the use of force by the police, the delegation said a new draft bill on general inspection was being introduced to the Government. The Czech police were provided with strict guidelines on the rights of detained persons. A task force was also established in 2006 to address cases of police misconduct.

Concerning the issue of sterilization, the delegation noted that the Ministry of Health issued a set of guidelines intended to reinforce existing laws prohibiting acts of forced sterilization. Prior to any sterilization procedure, the patient had to fill out a form with her consent. A new special health services act was expected to come into force in January 2009 which aimed to protect minors and vulnerable persons with regard to such practices. It was noted that the first perpetrators were brought to justice in 2007.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the Russian Federation, Canada, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Brazil, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Australia, Iran and the United States.

The 10-person delegation of the Czech Republic consisted of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Human Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Czech Republic are France, South Africa and Nicaragua.

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 the Czech Republic can be found here.

Adoption of report on Algeria: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Algeria are Uruguay, the Philippines and Senegal. Introducing the report MOUSSA BOCAR LY (Senegal) thanked the delegation of Algeria for its openness and constructive dialogue demonstrated during the work. The report accurately reflected the dialogue of 14 April. The substance of the contributions and recommendations made by delegations were well represented in the said report. These recommendations had very largely been accepted by the Algerian delegation. Representing the State under review, IDRISS JAZAIRY, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the potential within the UPR mechanism was a good way to promote human rights. Algeria’s contribution to this process had been to in an effort to accurately reflect the human rights situation in the country. The recommendations were deigned to enrich the national efforts to promote and protect human rights. As noted, Algeria had accepted the vast majority of the recommendations in the report, as posed by 17 States. The recommendations which were not endorsed were those which ran counter to the Constitution or the National Council for Peace and Reconciliation. Algeria will be endorsing the recommendations of State and will build them into its national strategy during this celebratory year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Czech Republic on Friday, 18 April.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Argentina after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of Poland.

 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