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Human Rights Committee

76th session (Geneva, 14 October to 1 November 2002)


Reports by States

Egypt (3rd and 4th periodic report)


The Committee reviewed the 3rd and 4th periodic reports of Egypt, after a lapse of 8 years. The reports were seen as detailed and exhaustive, however the Committee felt that many concerns were left unattended. The Committee complemented Egypt on the progress made in implementing the human rights and on the information process in the framework of human rights education decade (1994-2004). 


The Committee complimented Egypt on the initiatives taken by the State party in recent years regarding human rights, in particular the creation of human rights divisions within the ministries of justice and foreign affairs and the introduction of human rights training and awareness programmes in schools and universities for law-enforcers. It also noted some improvements in the status of women and appreciated the creation of the National Council for Women and the introduction of legal reforms.


While understanding the security requirements associated with efforts to combat terrorism, the Committee voiced concern at their effects on the human rights situation in Egypt. Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party ensured that steps taken in the campaign against terrorism were fully in accordance with the Covenant. The Committee noted with alarm that military courts and State security courts had jurisdiction to try civilians accused of terrorism although there were no guarantees of those courts' independence and their decisions were not subject to appeal before a higher court.


The members of the Committee raised a number of questions specifically regarding the maintenance of the state of emergency in place since 1981 and which had been recently renewed until 2003 and asked for a justification to that. The Committee suggested envisaging reviewing the necessity of maintaining the state of emergency.


The Committee noted with concern the very large number of offences, which under Egyptian law, were punishable by death, and recommended that the State party take measures to abolish the death penalty. While noting the creation of institutional machinery and the introduction of measures to punish any violations of human rights by employees of the State, the Committee expressed concern over the persistence of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by law-enforcement personnel. It was equally concerned at the general lack of investigations into such practices, punishment of those responsible, and reparations for the victims.


Egypt is due to submit its next periodic report by 1 November 2004.


Togo (Third periodic report) 


In considering Togo's report, the Human Rights Committee acknowledged a very constructive dialogue with the Togolese delegation. Considerable progress had been made towards the incorporation of the Covenant into the Constitution and a special place had been given to other human rights instruments. The Committee welcomed the adoption of 1998 law on prohibiting female genital mutilation.


Despite all the positive changes, the Committee expressed concern about reports from Amnesty International regarding a number of extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests, threats and intimidations perpetrated by the Togolese security forces against members of the civilian population, particularly the members of the opposition. It urged the State party to adopt legislative measures to prevent and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations, and to carry out appropriate investigations on allegations of human rights violations.


Regarding the status of women in Togo, the Committee condemned the compromise between law and practice, as man was still the head of the family, that only men could inherit land and that the age of criminal liability for women is 17 and for men it is 20. The Committee suggested that strong measures were put in place against the discrimination of women.


The Committee noted with concern that detention conditions in Togo were deplorable, particularly in the civilian prisons of Lome and Kara, which were characterized by overcrowding and food shortages. Experts were also deeply concerned about continued harassment, intimidation and detention of journalists, and the practice of governmental censorship. In this respect, the Committee suggested that the Code on the Press and Communications should be reviewed, political parties should have equal access to the public and private media and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly should be respected.


Although no execution had been conducted in Togo for the last five years, the Experts were concerned that the death penalty still remained in the statute book and urged Togo to acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant or at least limit the number of crimes that can be punished by death penalty.

The Committee noted that without statistics it was hard to judge if Togo fulfilled their obligations. It was however underlined that the Government needs to continue educating on human rights, both the population and the administration.


Togo is to submit the next periodic report by 1 November 2004.


Review of States Parties


In its 76th session, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the human rights situation of Suriname in the absence of a second periodic report, but in the presence of a delegation that had provided answers to the list of issues. A time of 20 years had elapsed before the last meeting with Suriname.


Among other concerns, the Committee expressed regret about Suriname failing to comply with the reporting obligations under article 40 of the Covenant. The Committee reminded that Suriname had obligations not only towards the Committee, but also vis-ŕ-vis other States. Considering that the State had not submitted a report, the Committee had gathered information from the NGOs.


Most Committee members expressed surprise over the unsatisfactory investigative process for the three massacres that took place in 1982, 1986, and in 1987 in Suriname. The Committee highlighted the undisputed responsibility of the State in the massacres, and expressed concern over the impunity surrounding the alleged perpetrators of the massacres. The Committee expressed regret over the lack of compensations for the victims and their families.


The Committee also questioned the lack of bail system, long pre-trial detention periods, restrictions on communications between detainees and their lawyers, incommunicado detention as well as allegations of trafficking women and the high rate of incidents of sexual harassment of women in the workplace.


Among other things the Committee urged Suriname to provide more human rights training to police, prison guards and magistrates and encouraged it to ratify the Second Optional Protocol.


No concluding observations were issued on Suriname as it had not submitted a periodic report for 20 years. A second periodic report is expected to be submitted by 1 May 2003.


Other issues




The new High Commissioner for Human Rights informed the Human Rights Committee that Secretary General of United Nations had asked him to prepare a report by 2003 on the possible innovations and changes in treaty-bodies. Secretary General asked for consolidation of human rights instruments, reduction of the amounts of documents and the length of country reports, to focus on country level actions addressing also potential human rights violations victims. Regarding directly the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (ICCPR), the reform would include the creation of a special unit (Treaty-body Rapporteur Unit) to strengthen and extend the mandate, also to inform the general society about the activities of ICCPR and have a more substantial two-way communication between States Parties and the Committee. Also some technical issues were mentioned, notably to improve the text translation and allocate more funds. The Human Rights Committee decided to set up two working groups on reservations on multilateral treaties and on Secretary-General's proposal on streamlining the reporting procedures among treaty bodies. The working group was expected to meet before the Committee's seventy-seventh session in March 2003.


Communications under the Optional Protocol


During the 76th session, the Committee also considered communications from individuals submitted to it under the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant. Sixteen communications have been adopted and 6 more are pending. 


Report of the Special Rapporteur for follow-up on concluding observations


Mr.Yalden, the Special Rapporteur for follow-up on concluding observations to States periodic reports, gave a report to the Human Rights Committee on the new procedures. This post was introduced in the 71st session of HRC in 2001. The questions raised by the Special Rapporteur where what steps to take if a States Party did not respond in one years time to the concluding observations. Normal proceedings are as follows: first there is a reminder with a telephone call to the Permanent Representation of the State concerned, then the second reminder is a written note and, if there is still no response, it is under consideration weather to speak to the Representative, to publish a reminder in HRC annual report or re-fix the final date of the report due. Another issue that needed to be addressed, as this was a new procedure, was how to deal with the reports NGOs submit relating to the issues in the last paragraph of Concluding Observations on a State party concerned – does the Committee take it into account, does it take any further steps?


The Special Rapporteur suggested to the Committee that the issues in the last paragraph of Concluding Observations should be both concise and precise in order for States parties to be able to respond on time and in substance. The States that have replied fully or partially to the Committee since 71st session are Dominican Republic, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine and Viet Nam.


Second meeting of States’ parties


The Human Rights Committee held the Second Meeting with States parties on 24 October 2002 in Geneva to discuss mutual cooperation and coordination. Taking part in this debate were representatives of Australia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, the Russian Federation, Colombia, Chile, Germany, Mexico, India, Egypt, Brazil, Madagascar, Peru and Japan.


The main issues discussed were the new procedures for non-reporting States, new working methods of the Committee for addressing the problems with States failing to hand in reports, the procedure of follow-up on concluding observations and difficulties encountered by States parties in meeting their reporting obligations. The Committee said that some periodic reports were exceedingly voluminous, and did not focus on concerns expressed by the Committee after examining the previous reports, and most part were long after the due date. The Rapporteur informed that of the 151 countries obliged to report, 93 were delayed, 35 were more than 5 years late and 5 more than 10 years late.


Most States Parties welcomed the adoption of the new procedures by the Committee aiming at encouraging non-reporting States parties to fulfil their obligations. The Russian Federation spoke against the new procedures, which it found contrary to Article 40 of the Covenant. The Committee, in turn, stressed that the new measures had to be seen as additional pressure to receive the reports, which is the initial aim of the Article 40. The Committee had always emphasised a need for an active dialogue, and even if sometimes critical, it is in the interest of the State. The Committee maintained that consideration of the human rights situation in a States party without a report had to be seen as additional means of getting in touch with a State that has not submitted for a long time.


Among the suggestions from the Committee were to limit the number of pages for States Party's periodic reports, to develop clearer lists of issues and specify the recommendations in concluding observations. The Committee noted that in order to have a dialogue, the State Party had to be present. States Parties asked for technical assistance to the Government, and the Committee suggested that the Government takes into consideration civil society and cooperate with them also on a national level. The Committee drew attention to the fact that some of the States that were late with their reports were developed countries, suggesting it was unwillingness rather than technical problems that prevent them from submitting on time.




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