MINELRES: UN OHCHR Update on Minority Issues, March-April 2008

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Sat May 31 15:11:24 2008


Original sender: Ilona Alexander <IAlexander@ohchr.org>


Minority Update N12 
- March-April 2008

United Nations
OHCHR Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Unit  
ialexander@ohchr.org     


Table of contents
 Minority Fellowship Programmes 2008 
 Independent Expert on Minority Issues
 Forum on Minority Issues
 Universal Periodic Review 
 1st substantive PrepCom for the Durban Review Conference  
 21 March - the International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination
 Treaty Bodies and country reviews


Minority Fellowship Programmes 2008

The English-speaking fellowship is taking place at the OHCHR office in
Geneva from 1 April-30 June 2008.
The following fellows are participating: 
Mr Fedor Kondur (Rom from Ukraine)
Ms Nilofar d/o Abdul Hussain (Hazara Shiat from Afghanistan)
Ms Anna Dreyzina (Russian from Azerbaijan)
Mr Khalid Hussain (Bihari from Bangladesh)
Mr Manpreet Singh (Sikh from India)

The 2008 Arabic-speaking fellowship will take place in November 2008 for
three weeks. The application deadline will be announced this summer and
application materials will be posted on our website. 

For more information see:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/minorities/fellowprog.htm.
Contact person: Ilona Alexander ialexander@ohchr.org.


Independent Expert on Minority Issues

In March 2008 the Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms Gay
McDougall, held her annual "interactive dialogue" with the Human Rights
Council during which she presented her annual report, her reports on
country visits conducted in 2007 to France and the Dominican Republic,
and a report on communications sent to States. The Independent Expert's
annual report focuses on minorities and the discriminatory denial and
deprivation of citizenship as a global concern. It highlights that, once
denied or deprived of citizenship, minorities are inevitably denied
protection of their basic rights and freedoms, including minority rights
as established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic
Minorities. The report demonstrates that many minorities live in a
precarious legal situation due to denial or deprivation of citizenship. 

The mandate of the Independent Expert, created in July 2005, was also
reviewed at the March session of the Human Rights Council as part of the
review of all Special Procedures mandates. Numerous States noted their
appreciation and support for the work and approach of the Independent
Expert to date, including in regard to her choice of thematic work in
the areas of poverty and the Millennium Development Goals, and on issues
of citizenship, and her constructive recommendations on these issues.
The Human Rights Council decided by consensus to extend the mandate of
the Independent Expert for a period of three years, with Gay McDougall
continuing her tenure as mandate holder.  

In April the Independent Expert visited Australia at the invitation of
the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, where she undertook a series of
activities including participating in NGO Workshops and Seminars in
Melbourne and Sydney, and delivered speeches on the fight against racism
and for the rights of minorities in the 21st Century. 

On 10 April, the Independent Expert joined the Working Group on
Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, and
the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, in issuing a joint
statement of concern regarding the ongoing protests and reports of high
numbers of arrests in the Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding areas
in China. The mandate holders urged restraint and non-violence by all
parties, greater and unfettered access to the regions concerned for
journalists and independent observers, guarantees for the free flow of
information, and full implementation of international standards in
regard to the treatment of protestors and those detained, both in the
People's Republic of China and in other countries in which protests are
taking place.

In terms of upcoming country visits, from 28 July to 2 August 2008, the
Independent Expert will undertake a mission to Guyana and a mission to
Greece is tentatively planned for September 2008.
Contact person for more information: Graham Fox gfox@ohchr.org.


Forum on Minority Issues

Replacing the former Working Group on Minorities, the Forum on Minority
Issues was established on 28 September 2007 at the 6th session of the
Human Rights Council (HRC) as a platform for promoting dialogue and
cooperation on minority issues and for contributing to the work of the
Independent Expert on minority issues.

Its tasks will be:
* To identify issues and best practices
* To make recommendations on the implementation of the 1992 United
Nations Minorities Declaration
* To provide the Independent Expert on minority issues with information
* To contribute to the High Commissioner's efforts of improving the
co-operation among United Nations mechanisms, bodies and specialized
agencies, Funds and Programmes on activities related to the promotion
and protection of the rights of minorities

The Forum will be open to the participation of:
* States
* UN mechanisms, bodies and agencies
* National human rights institutions
* Academics and experts
* NGOs

The Forum will meet for 2 days every year. The Forum Chair will be
appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council in consultation
with regional groups and in accordance with regional rotation.

The Independent Expert on minority issues will guide the work of the
Forum by recommending focus topics. She will also transmit the Forum's
thematic recommendations to the HRC.

The inaugural session of the Forum is scheduled for 4-5 September 2008
at the United Nations (Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland),
immediately prior to the 9th session of the Human Rights Council which
is planned for 8 - 25 September 2008. The thematic issue for
consideration by the inaugural session will be minorities and access to
education. The Independent Expert invites interested parties to compile
and submit information on minorities and access to education prior to
the session of the Forum. Further information regarding the Forum,
including guidelines for submission of information, accreditation
procedures, and Secretariat contact details, will be distributed shortly
and will also be available on the website of the Forum at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/minority/forum.htm.

Contact person for more information: Graham Fox gfox@ohchr.org.


Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

General Assembly Resolution 60/251, decided that the Human Rights
Council (HRC) shall "undertake a universal periodic review, based on
objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of
its human rights obligations and commitments...". 

The first session of the UPR Working Group (UPR WG) of the HRC took
place from 7-18 April 2008 and considered the human rights record of the
following countries: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia,
Finland, United Kingdom, India, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, Poland,
Netherlands, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Argentina. 

The second session of the UPR WG is taking place from 5-19 May 2008 and
considers the human rights record of the following countries: Gabon,
Ghana, Peru, Guatemala, Benin, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan,
Zambia, Japan, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, France, Tonga, Romania, and Mali. 

The reports, as adopted by the UPR WG, as well as statements by States,
are accessible at the UPR section of the Extranet at
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/form.htm. The meetings of
the sessions can be viewed through the UN webcast, either live or
archived (http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp). 

OHCHR posts daily highlights of the sessions of the UPR WG, providing an
overview of the interactive dialogues by listing the issues raised, and
which are prepared for use by the media, i.e. they are not an official
record. The daily highlights can be accessed at
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/MeetingsHighlightsSession2.aspx.

In June 2008, at the eighth session of the Human Rights Council (HRC),
the HRC plenary will adopt outcome documents on each country reviewed at
the 1st and 2nd sessions of UPR WG. At the HRC plenary, one hour has
been allotted for each country, during which NGOs have the possibility
to make interventions (differently from the 3-hour country sessions at
the WG on the UPR, where interventions are limited to States).

The third session of the UPR WG is scheduled from 1 to 12 December 2008
and will consider the following countries: Botswana, Bahamas, Burundi,
Luxembourg, Barbados, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Israel,
Liechtenstein, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Colombia,
Uzbekistan, and Tuvalu. 

NGOs, wishing to submit information for consideration and possible
inclusion by OHCHR in a summary of stakeholders' input for this UPR
review, are invited to send their contributions. The deadline for
submission of contributions by NGOs to the third session of the WG on
the UPR has been set at 14 July 2008. Please note that the page limit
for submissions is 5 pages when submitted by individual stakeholders,
and 10 pages when submitted by large coalitions of stakeholders. More
detailed reports may be attached for reference only. This information
will be available on line for others to access. 

Submissions should be sent to the following email address:
UPRsubmissions@ohchr.org. 
For more information see
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
Contact person: Erik Friberg efriberg@ohchr.org.


First substantive session of the Preparatory Committee (Prep-Com) for
Durban Review Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia
and Related Intolerance: 21 April-2 May 2008

As decided during its first organizational session in August 2007, the
Preparatory Committee held its first substantive session from 21 April
to 2 May 2008 in Geneva. The PrepCom agreed on some fundamental issues,
such as the structure of the draft outcome of the Durban Review
Conference and the process involved in the drafting of this outcome
document. An intergovernmental working group was created to negotiate on
the content of the outcome document and will hold its first session from
26 to 30 May 2008 in Conference Room XXVI, Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Working Group is expected to collect information to be included in
the draft outcome document to be considered at the 2009 Review
Conference. In order to achieve its task, the OHCHR Secretariat has
prepared a questionnaire for all stakeholders, including NGOs, that is
available on line in English,
(http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/docs/questionnaire1st.
pdf),
French
(http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/docs/questionnaire1st_
fr.pdf)
and Spanish
(http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/docs/questionnaire1st_
sp.pdf).

The PrepCom also took decisions regarding the accreditation of NGOs for
the Review Conference. Those NGOs who have already consultative status
with ECOSOC are automatically entitled to take part in the Conference.
Those NGOs which participated in the 2001 Durban Conference are also
accredited to participate in the Review Conference, providing no
government objects or the objection is not upheld by the PrepCom. NGOs
which do not have ECOSOC status and did not participate in the 2001
conference are required to apply for accreditation and their cases are
examined individually by the PrepCom. During the 1st substantive
PrepCom, the credentials of 47 NGOs, based in 8 different countries,
were discussed. Seven were successfully accredited, one was excluded,
one withdrew, 37 were provisionally accepted or else not finally
rejected, and in one case a decision is still pending.

There was a consensus that the Review Conference would probably take
place in June 2009 but decisions regarding the venue and the duration of
the Review Conference were not reached. However, the venue is likely to
be in one of the four UN centres of Geneva, Nairobi, New York or Vienna.
With regard to the precise duration, some states were in favour of a
duration of three days, while others wanted the Review Conference to
last for five days. The PrepCom decided to hold a special extension of
this first substantive session on 26 May (at the beginning of the first
intergovernmental working group session) in order to decide on these
outstanding issues.

For documentation relating to sessions of the PrepCom see
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/sessions.htm.
The Latin American and Caribbean regional preparatory meeting for the
Durban Review Conference will be held in Brasilia, Brazil, from 17 to 19
June, 2008. Other regional preparatory meetings have not yet been
announced. 
For further information please consult
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/regional.htm.
The second substantive PrepCom will take place from 6 to 17 October 2008
in Geneva. NGOS wishing to apply for accreditation can still do so by
filling in a questionnaire. For more information see
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/DurbanReview/ngo.htm.

Contact person for more information: Sandra Aragon saragon@ohchr.org.


21 March - the International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination

Every year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights organizes a special event to commemorate 21 March - the
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  This
year's commemoration took place on 18 March 2008 in Palais des Nations
in the form of a high level panel discussion. The theme was Dignity and
Justice - the Cornerstones of Combating Racial Discrimination.

Contact person for more information: Tania Naydenova
tnaydenova@ohchr.org (see also OHCHR Minority Update N11).


Treaty Bodies and country reviews

18 February to 7 March 2008 - CERD
The 72nd session of the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD) took place from 18 February to 7 March 2008.  The
Committee considered the following State reports during the session:
Republic of Moldova, Italy, Republic of Fiji Islands, Belgium, Dominican
Republic, United States of America and Nicaragua. In its Concluding
Observation to the report of the Republic of Moldova, the Committee,
while commending the inclusion of a chapter on the rights of national
minorities in their National Human Rights Plan of Action for 2004-2008,
highlighted several shortcomings, including the lack of disaggregated
statistical information, the need to represent more effectively national
minorities' interests and to guarantee equitable access to all ethnic
and religious minorities.  The Committee requested updated data on
education, poverty and unemployment for ethnic groups and minorities
from the Belgian and Fijian Government.  Additionally, the Committee
discussed the situation of Roma in Italy and Latinos & African Americans
in the USA in relation to police brutality, violence, abuse, Medicare
and issues related to sexual and reproductive health. 
Concluding observations are available at: 
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds72.htm.

Under the Committee's review procedure, whereby it considers country
situations in the absence of a State party report, the Committee
initiated a review of the Gambia. The State report of Bulgaria was
received before the session and the consideration has been tentatively
scheduled for 2009. Monaco has also submitted a report, but its
consideration has yet to be scheduled. The consideration of the United
Arab Emirates and Panama in the absence of a State party report has been
postponed following assurances that a report is currently being prepared
and will soon be submitted to the Committee. 

17 March to 7 April 2008 - CCPR
The Human Rights Committee (CCPR) held its 92nd session from 17 March to
7 April 2008 in New York.  The following State party reports were
examined during this session: Tunisia, Botswana, Republic of Macedonia,
and Panama. The Committee expressed concern at the persisting problems
faced by minorities in the Republic of Macedonia, such as police
violence, lack of language support in judicial proceedings, inadequacy
of educational opportunities and lack of a protective and
non-discriminatory learning environment. The Country Report Task Forces
considered and adopted a list of issues on reports submitted by Japan,
France, Nicaragua and Ireland. Concluding observations and more
information are available at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/hrcs92.htm.


14 April to 25 April 2008 - CMW
The 8th session of the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) took place
from 14 April to 25 April 2008.  The Committee considered the following
State reports: Bolivia and Syrian Arab Republic.  Concluding
observations are available at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/cmws08.htm.

28 April to 16 May 2008 - CESCR
The 40th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (CESCR) is taking place from 28 April to 16 May 2008 in Geneva. 
The Committee is considering the following State reports during the
session: Benin, France, India, and Bolivia.  For more information please
refer to: 
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/cescrs40.htm.

28 April to 16 May 2008 - CAT
The next session of the Committee against Torture (CAT) is taking place
from 28 April to 16 May 2008 in Geneva.  The Committee is considering
the following State reports during the session: Australia, Sweden,
Iceland, Algeria, Indonesia, Zambia, Republic of Macedonia and Costa
Rica. For more information see: 
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/cats40.htm.

19 May to 6 June 2008 - CRC 
The Committee on the Rights of the Child will hold its 48th session from
19 May to 6 June 2008. The Committee will consider the following State
reports during the session: Bulgaria, Eritrea, Georgia, Serbia, and
Sierra Leone. Under the Optional Protocol to CRC on the Sale of
Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, the following State
reports are scheduled for consideration: Republic of Korea and United
States of America. Under the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the
Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict the following State reports
are scheduled for consideration: Philippines, Republic of Korea and
United States of America.
For more information see:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/crcs48.htm.

30 June to 18 July 2008 - CEDAW
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
will be holding its 41st session from 30 June to 18 July 2008 in
Geneva.  The following State party reports will be examined during this
session: Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Slovakia, United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tanzania, and Yemen.   More
information can be found at:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws41.htm.

7 July to 25 July 2008 - CCPR
The Human Rights Committee (CCPR) will be holding its 93rd session from
7 to 25 July 2008 in Geneva.  The following State party reports will be
examined during this session: France, San Marino, Ireland, and United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The Country Report Task
Forces will consider and adopt list of issues on reports submitted by
Denmark, Monaco, Spain, Rwanda and Sweden. For more information please
refer to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/hrcs93.htm.

*****
Ilona Klimova-Alexander
Associate Human Rights Officer
Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Unit
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Avenue Giuseppe-Motta 48, Office 2-31
Geneva - Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 928 9845; Fax +41 22 928 90 66
E-mail:
ialexander@ohchr.org

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