Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is a Universal Periodic Review

November 4th.

That's the day that the UN conducts hearings as part of its Universal Periodic Review of the state framework for human rights in Honduras.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a once every four years dialogue between the 47 members sitting on the Human Rights Council and the national government of the country under review, plus any registered non-governmental organizations that ask to participate. The result, no sooner than 2 days after the hearing, is a report which contains a summary of the discussion plus a series of recommendations for the national government. It is up to the national government to carry those recommendations out. It is up to the UN to hold the governments accountable for non-compliance.

In the case of Honduras, the submissions can be found at the UN Office of the High Commissioner website here. The submissions include the government's report to the Human Rights Council, in every UN official language, a compilation of UN agency comments on conditions that arose since the last review, a summary of comments by third parties, and a series of questions submitted in advance by governments who are part of the Human Rights Council.

Honduras's own report was submitted on August 23, 2010. The report Honduras submitted is about the government structures, rules, and regulations that support the various areas of human rights that Honduras must report on in its periodic review. A quick review of the recent submissions by other Central American countries suggests that this is the correct content. The entire report consists of 134 paragraphs.

Paragraph 4 of Honduras's submission states
"The approach adopted in the universal periodic review involved the various Government agencies and branches of the State, all of which provided input to this report in their own areas of competence."
Except, of course, when they did not provide input.

A Tiempo article from Saturday noted that according to sources in the Executive branch, the report was completed without the collaboration of the Ministry of Security or the Supreme Court.

After a brief introduction, paragraphs 7-13, on the current political situation in Honduras, contain just about the only references to the coup of June 28, 2009 and the subsequent human rights violations that continue through the present. Paragraph 8 notes that Porfirio Lobo Sosa has complied with the terms of the Guaymuras Accords. Paragraph 9 identifies the official truth commission and its mission statement. Paragraph 12 lumps all human rights violations, from any time period, together and notes that investigations are either ongoing, or the cases have been determined to be common crimes.

Paragraphs 14-37 discuss political and civil rights, including the right to life, integrity of person, eradication of torture, prisons, access to justice, and freedom of expression.

Paragraphs 38-74 are concerned with economic and social rights, such as health, education, culture, ethnic groups, work, housing, and food.

Paragraphs 75-125 are concerned with the rights of vulnerable groups, such as some ethnic minorities, women, children, migrants, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered people, the old, disabled, and the right of everyone to a healthy environment.

The remaining paragraphs contain the report's conclusions.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOHCR) conducted its own review on each of the above topics over the last year. For example, there is a report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, another Special Rapporteur's report on extrajudicial killings, another on the independence of judges, and so forth. Each of these reports presents the UN's own take on the topic in question, and was available to the government of Honduras in crafting its own report. In addition, collectively the reports are summarized in a UN document included in the paperwork of the UPR for Honduras.

The UN paperwork notes that sixteen stakeholders submitted comments on the report, and provides a 14 page summary of those comments. You'll need to read Spanish, English, and French to take in the whole document, since not everything has been translated. The ten page Amnesty International submission from April, 2010 is located here on the UN website. Article 19, a group interested in freedom of the press, published their comment on their own website, located here. The other comments are probably filed in the same document archive as the Amnesty report, but I did not take the time to locate them.

Finally, there are a series of questions that the countries that make up the Human Rights Council have compiled. The countries who submitted questions include the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland. Their questions primarily focus on human rights violations arising out of the events of June 28, 2009, the de facto regime, and that of Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

A group of three representatives from the Human Rights Council, representatives of Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation, will compile a summary of the discussion and a series of recommendations for Honduras after the meeting. Honduras will then have a chance to respond to this document, and then it will be adopted in a subsequent meeting.

Honduras will be represented in the hearing by several cabinet ministers and presidential advisers, including Maria Antonietta Guillén, Áfrico Madrid, and Ana Pineda. Also representing Honduras will be the head of the legislative committee concerned with human rights, Orle Solis, and the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, Sandra Ponce. The hearing will last 3 hours on the morning of November 4.

The UN may broadcast a webcast of the hearing. Currently only webcasts for November 1 are listed. Technical note, the webcast requires Real Player be installed.


Charles said...

It's incredible to me how Amnesty manages to find as few human rights violations as they did. "At least 10" political murders?

Any more obtuse and they'd be eligible to work at State.

And the UN didn't even mention Isis Obed Murillo?

BTW, the UN calls the man assassinated near the Nicaraguan border Pedro Mandiel, but in most news reports, he is listed as Pedro Magdiel. Do you know which is right?


RAJ said...

Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador.

It seems the least we can all do is remember the names of the dead.

Remarkably, considering how little coverage there is in the English language media of any of the violence of the coup and de facto regime, this one was covered-- by MSNBC.