|Date: Apr 17, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|UN rights reporting process gets started|
|Abby Sewell| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: Lebanese officials this week launched the process of reporting to the United Nations on the country’s progress in implementing its human rights commitments.
The Universal Periodic Review is, as the name suggests, a periodic review of the human rights record of U.N. member states.
As part of the process, member states make recommendations to other states on ways to improve their human rights records.
Each state decides whether to accept the recommendations, and then reports on progress made in implementing those it has accepted.
Lebanon submitted its last UPR report in November 2015. The next report is due this November.
Officials from across Lebanon’s government ministries gathered Monday and Tuesday in Beirut at a workshop, organized by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Middle East and North Africa, to begin the process of developing the new report. U.N. staff serve in an advisory capacity in the process, but producing the report is the member state’s obligation, Roueida El Hage, the OHCHR’s regional representative, told The Daily Star.
Caroline Ziade, director of international organizations, conferences and cultural relations at Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry, said that in spite of Lebanon’s challenges, she believed the country had a success story to tell the international community.
“We are not here to draw a rosy picture,” she said. “We are realistic enough to identify the challenges, but we are also realistic to say that in Parliament, efforts are underway to address the situation by drafting laws or adopting them or debating them, and we have specialized committees for this.”
During the last cycle, Lebanon accepted 128 of the 219 recommendations presented by other member states. Among the recommendations it accepted were the establishment of a national human rights institution, criminalization of and preventive mechanisms against torture, and the creation of a commission of inquiry into cases of disappeared people.
Lebanon also agreed to ratify conventions on disability rights and the rights of children in armed conflict, and on general measures to promote gender equality and encourage women’s political participation.
The country rejected, among others, recommendations to remove its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, give women the right to pass nationality to their children, end the death penalty, give Palestinians the right to own property, and ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Hage said Lebanon had made some substantial achievements in this reporting cycle, including setting up an official body responsible for the UPR reporting process itself.
She also pointed to the passage of legislation setting up a commission to investigate the fate of the forcibly disappeared and the creation of Lebanon’s National Human Rights Institution. In October 2016, Parliament passed legislation creating the NHRI, an independent monitoring organization that includes a committee tasked with visiting detention facilities and investigating torture allegations.
However, implementation has been delayed. The 10-member commission overseeing the institution was not appointed until May 2018, and Hage noted that it still did not have a budget, which has hampered it from carrying out investigations.
Creating the NHRI, she said “is a good practice, but they definitely need a budget.
“We don’t have a human rights ministry anymore, so what are we waiting for to activate [the NHRI] and make it operational?”
Ziade said the institution would soon be fully functioning.
“We have the nomination of the members - we are waiting for them to take their oath in front of the president of the Republic and then the budget should be finalized like any new structure in Lebanon,” she said. “The simple fact that this agency was established shows the commitment of Lebanon, and then the issues of finding funding and finalizing the financial structure will come very soon.”
In the past, Lebanon had often been late in submitting reports on its implementation of various international treaties, but United Nations officials noted in a statement that as a result of the creation of an official body tasked with producing these reports, “by the end of 2018, Lebanon’s timely submissions to treaty bodies has extensively improved.”