France’s UPR (Part II)

A few days ago, I blogged (here) about France’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which took place on the 21st, and the implications for and insight into its foreign relations. The unedited, draft report from that UPR is now available publically here. France has until the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council in June 2013 to provide responses, which will make for a much more interesting analysis, but in the meantime, here’s a few highlights and initial thoughts.

During the “interactive dialogue” portion of the UPR, 84 states made statements, which are summarized in the draft report. The draft report also includes 165 recommendations. Although a lot of the recommendations repeat each other, it’s quite insightful to see which issues are most commented upon, as well as which countries care about which issues. Building on the last post I wrote on this topic, I’ve focused on the recommendations related to discrimination, minority rights and religious freedom below.

Here are some of the ones related to discrimination (generally speaking):

Withdraw its reservations to article 4 of the ICERD and article 27 of the ICCPR, and adopt immediate and positive measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination, xenophobia and stigmatisation (Bahrain)

Continue to strengthen the institutional and legal framework to combat discrimination (Romania)

Adopt and publish a plan by 2015 to highlight measures the Government will take to improve gender equality in France, including by enforcing existing anti-discrimination legislation more effectively (United Kingdom)

Take more effective measures to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia against minority groups in the country, in particular prejudice against the Muslims (Malaysia)

Continue to provide better protection for the rights of all its citizens through the implementation of the national action plan against discrimination which reflects the firm resolve of the Government to combat all forms of discrimination on the grounds of origin in accordance with its international obligations (Cambodia)

And some of the ones related to the headscarf ban:

Look into amending the ban on students wearing religious symbols in schools, including the hijab (Kuwait)

Consider revising its law prohibiting people from wearing religious symbols in public schools (Malaysia)

Undertake a comprehensive study of the repercussions of the ban on facial coverings in public spaces for immigrant women and the effect on their access to public services (New Zealand)

Lift the ban on Hijab and respect the right of Muslim women to express their beliefs (Pakistan)

New since 2008 (at least in comparison with the final list of recommendations) are specific references to and recommendations with regards to Roma in France:

Pursue its efforts to combat discrimination against Roma (Austria)

Continue to respond to the previous recommendations by several Special Rapporteurs to ensure that its policies and practices regarding the dismantling of Roma settlements and the expulsion of migrant Roma conform in all respects to European and international human rights law (Japan)

Introduce more careful approaches to the questions related to Roma being moved from their camps, as well as further efforts for their integration into French society (Republic of Korea)

Pay close attention to the problem of violation of the rights of Roma, to their social situation, medical care, and their possibility to obtain adequate education (Russian Federation)

Ensure that evictions from unauthorized Roma camps are carried out in full adherence with the law and work to better integrate Romani individuals into French society through provision of educational and employment opportunities (US)

Other recommendations dealt with continuing issues with prison conditions and allegations of ill-treatment in detention centers, gender equality in the workplace, trafficking in persons, housing conditions for the poor, and a few other topics.

The wide variety of countries that offered comments and recommendations during this year’s UPR is quite interesting and reflects widespread interest in how France handles human rights-related domestic policies. That being said – and that is the case with any country’s UPR – it’s always fascinating to see countries like Sudan and Iran providing human rights recommendations. My favorite is Cambodia’s recommendation that France “combat all forms of discrimination on the grounds of origin” – given that ethnic minorities are regularly discriminated against in Cambodia.

In any case, it will be interesting to see what France’s responses to these recommendations are and if they take the same route as in 2008 – that is, to neither accept nor reject any of the recommendations. I’ll wager that they will, and just provide responses as they did in 2008.

In other UPR-related news, Israel is reportedly boycotting its own UPR, which is supposed to happen today (Jan 29)! They’ll be the first country ever to do that, and no one seems very happy about it.

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