GHR followed closely the set-up of the new mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). It is an important additional tool to implement human rights inside countries. GHR actively supported the creation of a new documentation and communication tool for all the ‘Stakeholders’, ‘UPR-Info.org’, and it elaborated a specific training scheme, covering all the stages of UPR, and highlighting the importance of bolstering the cooperation with the States and with the special procedures and the treaty bodies. GHR explains the UPR in all its Courses, both in Geneva and in the regions. Main aims of GHR Courses on the UPR are:
- promoting a reflection of the participants on their potential contribution at each stage of the UPR process (contribution to the State’s report, preparation of the reports of the ‘stakeholders’ (civil society); review of the country by the Working group; adoption of the report by the group; adoption of the report by the HR-Council; follow-up in each country);
- teaching the long-term perspectives and the links between UPR and the process of implementation of all rights for all in each country.
Since December 2008, as many NGO coalitions come to Geneva to attend the review of their country, GHR conducts during each UPR session Courses and Seminars for representatives of NGOs and national institutions.
15th UPR session (21 January – 1 February 2013)
During the 15th session on the UPR Working Group, GHR actively supported the work of defenders from Botswana and Burundi. Its HPS Department also monitored the examination of Barbados, France, Liechtenstein and the United Arab Emirates.
Review of Botswana – Briefing and orientation
(Geneva, January 2013)
To prepare Botswana’s second UPR review, GHR welcomed in its 27th Geneva Course (June-July 2012) Ms. Alice Mogwe, Director of DITSHWANELO, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, who coordinated the drafting of the NGO Report for the review. This ‘stakeholder’ report was submitted on 9 July 2012. Ms. Mogwe and GHR President later attended the Berlin Conference on the HR-Council, hosted by the F. Ebert Foundation, the German Institute and the Forum Menschenrechte (October 2012). In November 2012, GHR assisted Ms. Mogwe to meet about twenty Permanent Missions in Geneva to advocate for the priority issues of Botswana NGOs to be addressed at the review of Botswana.
With briefing, orientation and contacts with Governmental delegations, GHR helped three defenders from Botswana to prepare the review. GHR participated actively in the side-event convened by the F. Ebert Foundation on the civil society contribution to the UPR of Botswana (22 January 2013). Between the review (23 January) and the adoption by the Working Group of Botswana’s report (25 January), GHR and Ms. Mogwe held several meetings with the Delegation of Botswana to discuss follow-up initiatives in Botswana.
Review of Burundi – Briefing and orientation
(Geneva, January 2013)
Over the last years, GHR trained in Geneva several defenders from Burundi, members of NGOs, the National Commission and the BNUB (UN Operations). After the participation of members of the National Commission in the Geneva Course of September 2011, GHR supported its former trainees in preparing their contributions to the UPR process. After the review of Burundi, GHR had two meetings with the President of the National Commission, to prepare training Courses in the country (24 and 28 January 2013).
16th UPR session (22 April – 3 May 2013)
GHR briefed NGOs from Colombia (23 April). It met with NGOs and experts from Germany and participated in the side-event organised by the German NGO coalition (25 April).
Review of the Russian Federation – Briefing and partnership
(Geneva, April 2013)
From 24 to 30 April, GHR had three briefings with the group of Russian defenders attending the review of their country, which took place on 29 April. GHR expressed concern at the repression of the civil society and the reprisals against defenders who were involved in the human rights work of the UN.
17th UPR session (21 October – 1 November 2013)
During this UPR session, GHR met with NGOs and partners from Mexico, and assisted defenders from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Invitation to a NGO Delegation from Saudi Arabia
(Geneva, 17 – 24 October 2013)
GHR invited to Geneva five human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the review of their country. On 17, 18 and 19 October, they met with officials at the OHCHR and with several diplomatic missions to raise the most important issues for the review. Key meetings had been arranged by GHR Secretariat. GHR gave the group a briefing on the UN mechanisms and the UPR process (20 October). During the review (21 October), the team of GHR introduced them to other key actors. After the review, they analyzed with GHR the outcome of the review. They arranged a formal meeting with the Delegation of Saudi Arabia.
GHR team gave the five defenders a second briefing on 22 October. The discussion focused on the UPR recommendations and on the best practices for NGOs to ensure a follow-up in the country to this UPR debate. Aware of their challenges, they were quite interested in GHR strategies for domestic implementation. In order to better assess the value of the UPR mechanism. before leaving Geneva, the Group returned to the UN to attend the review of another country, Mexico (23 October).
GHR team was composed of Maria Teresa Tienda Rivera (Secretariat Coordinator), Alex Guye (Project Officer, Switzerland), Nuno Santos Rocha (Project Officer, Portugal).
NGO Delegation from Jordan
(Geneva, 23 – 25 October 2013)
GHR met with the broad coalition of NGOs from Jordan (‘Insan’), who came to Geneva with the support of the F. Ebert Foundation. Members of the Group were quite experienced. Thus, GHR briefing focused on techniques and strategies on the use of UN procedures and the elaboration of domestic strategies. The review took place on 24 October.
GHR was actively involved in the side-event convened by the F. Ebert Foundation on 25 October 2013 to discuss key human rights issues of Jordan, the recommendations of the civil society, and those made by the States during the review of Jordan. Representatives from the Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies, the Insan coalition, Tamkeen for legal aid and human rights, the Centre for the Defense for freedom of journalists, and the Arab Womens’ Organisation (AWO) participated in the round-table, which was moderated by GHR President Adrien-Claude Zoller.
Joint initiatives on UPR
As a new mechanism of the HR-Council, the UPR is a too important tool to be entrusted to States only. Active participation of the civil society is a must. GHR is concerned by some initiatives to weaken this mechanism, and co-signed joint statements with dozens of NGOs on reprisals against civil society organizations participating in the UPR process, as well as a letter to the HR-Council President requesting clarifications on the attempts of the Russian Federation to remove from the report of the UPR Working Group a recommendations made by States, which it did not like (issue of the so-called ‘footnotes’).