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UNITED NATIONS


10 July 2003

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE TO HOLD SEVENTY-EIGHTH SESSION IN GENEVA FROM 14 JULY TO 8 AUGUST 2003

Experts to Examine Reports of Slovakia,

Portugal, El Salvador and Israel

Reports submitted by the Governments of Slovakia, Portugal, El Salvador and Israel on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will be considered by the Human Rights Committee at its seventy-eighth session which will be held at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 14 July to 8 August 2003.

The 18-member Committee will adopt its agenda items and programme of work on the first day of its meeting at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 July. Under organizational and other matters, the Experts will consider the report of a pre-sessional working group, as well as miscellaneous issues relevant to the Committee's business, notably the Secretary-General's proposals relating to reform of the human rights treaty bodies. The Committee will also hear representatives of non-governmental organizations during its first plenary meeting. These consultations have been scheduled for the morning meeting on Monday, 14 July. The last week of the Committee will be devoted to the consideration of confidential individual communications.

The Committee is scheduled to examine the second periodic report of Slovakia on 17 and 18 July; the third periodic report of Portugal on 21 July; the third periodic report of El Salvador on 22 and 23 July; and the second periodic report of Israel on 24 and 25 July. The Committee had been scheduled to review the second periodic report of the Russian Federation on 15 and 16 July. But in response to a request by the Russian Federation, it has agreed to postpone its consideration of the report until its next session in October.

The countries presenting reports are among the 150 States parties to the Covenant, which was adopted in 1966 by the General Assembly. The Committee, as a monitoring body, periodically examines reports submitted by States parties on the promotion and protection of civil and political rights. Representatives of those Governments introduce the reports and respond to oral and written questions from Committee members, who serve in their personal capacity.

Under the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, 104 States parties recognize the competence of the Committee to consider confidential communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any rights proclaimed under the treaty. Two hundred and ninety-five communications are currently pending before the Committee, and the panel's summer session includes an additional week of meetings 4-8 August to be devoted to the consideration of communications.

Forty-eight States parties have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims to abolish the death penalty.

Concluding Remarks on Reports of States Parties Previously Reviewed

Following is a summary of the Committee's concluding observations and recommendations on the previous reports of Slovakia, El Salvador and Israel. When the Committee last considered the situation in Portugal, it had not yet established the practice of issuing formal conclusions and recommendations.

In its concluding remarks on the initial report of Slovakia, considered in July 1997, the Committee welcomed many positive steps taken by the State towards a better promotion and protection of human rights. Among other things, the Committee noted with concern that insufficient steps had been taken to implement various provisions of the Constitution dealing with fundamental rights and the standards of the Covenant. It also expressed concern over substantial reports of discrimination, particularly against women, and noted that an independent complaint mechanisms for victims of all forms of discrimination did not exist. The Committee recommended, among other things, that specific measures be adopted as a matter of priority to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and to protect judges from any form of political influence through the adoption of laws regulating the appointment, remuneration, tenure, dismissal and disciplining of members of the judiciary.

In its concluding observations on the second periodic report of El Salvador, considered in April 1996, the Committee noted with satisfaction that the human rights situation had improved in the State party and that some progress had been made towards the consolidation of peace and the establishment of the rule of law. Among other things, the Committee expressed concern that human rights violations continued in the country, particularly serious and systematic violations of the right to life committed by paramilitary groups. It also expressed grave concern over the adoption of the country's Amnesty Law, which prevented relevant investigation and punishment of perpetrators of past human rights violations and consequently precluded relevant compensation. The Committee recommended that all necessary measures be urgently taken to combat continuing human rights violations in the country.

In its concluding remarks on the initial report of Israel, which was considered in 1998, the Committee noted with satisfaction that Israeli society was a democratic one in which sensitive issues were openly debated and that an active non-governmental community had taken firm root. The Committee, among other things, was deeply concerned that Israel continued to deny its responsibility to fully apply the Covenant in the occupied territories and requested the State party to include in its second periodic report all information relevant to the application of the Covenant in the territories which it occupied. The Committee expressed deep concern at the continued state of emergency prevailing in Israel, and recommended that the Government review the necessity for the continued renewal of the state of emergency with a view to limiting as far as possible its scope and territorial applicability and the associated derogation of rights. The Committee also expressed concern about the number of Palestinians who had been killed by Israeli security forces, as well as about all persons who had been the victims of terrorist attacks.

Background on the Covenant

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the General Assembly and opened for signature in 1966, together with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both entered into force in 1976.

The Civil and Political Rights Covenant begins by stating that all peoples have the right of self-determination. It recognizes that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. It prohibits torture, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment, and the arbitrary deprivation of life. Anyone arrested is to be informed of the reasons for the arrest, and anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is to be brought promptly before a judge or other legally authorized person.

The Covenant also provides, among other things, for freedom of movement, and places limitations upon the expulsion of aliens present lawfully in the territory of a State party. In addition, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and to freedom of expression are recognized by the Covenant, which also prohibits any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred.

States Parties to Covenant

The following 150 States have ratified or acceded to the Covenant: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Optional Protocols to Covenant

The Optional Protocol to the Covenant provides for the confidential consideration of communications from individuals who claim to be victims of a violation of any rights proclaimed in the Covenant. The Committee can receive no communications if it concerns a State party to the Covenant that is not also a party to the Optional Protocol.

The following 104 States are parties to the Optional Protocol: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and

Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zambia.

The Human Rights Committee is also mandated, under article 41 of the Covenant, to consider communications from a State party alleging violations of the Covenants provisions by another State party. This procedure can be applied when both States recognize this competence of the Committee by a relevant declaration. So far, 47 States have made the declaration under article 41.

The Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991. The following 48 States have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Membership of Committee

The State parties to the Covenant elect the Committee's 18 expert members, who serve in their individual capacity, for four-year terms. Article 28 of the Covenant requires that "they shall be persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights."

They are: Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia); Nisuke Ando (Japan); Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati (India); Alfredo Castillero Hoyos (Panama); Christine Chanet (France); Franco Depasquale (Malta); Maurice Glèlè-Ahanhanzo (Benin); Walter Kälin (Switzerland); Ahmed Tawfik Khalil (Egypt); Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius); Rafael Rivas Posada (Colombia); Sir Nigel Rodley (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); Martin Scheinin (Finland); Ivan Shearer (Australia); Hipolito Solari-Yrigoyen (Argentina); Ruth Wedgwood (United States of America); Roman Wieruszewski (Poland); Maxwell Yalden (Canada).

Tentative Timetable for Consideration of Reports

Thursday, 17 July

afternoon Slovakia: Second periodic report (CCPR/C/SVK/2003/2)

Friday, 18 July

morning Slovakia (continued)

Monday, 21 July

morning Portugal: Third periodic report (CCPR/C/PRT/2002/3)

afternoon Portugal (continued)

Tuesday, 22 July

afternoon El Salvador: Third periodic report (CCPR/C/SLV/2002/3)

Wednesday, 23 July

morning El Salvador (continued)

afternoon El Salvador (continued)

Thursday, 24 July

afternoon Israel: Second periodic report (CCPR/C/ISR/2001/2)

Friday, 25 July

morning Israel (continued)

afternoon Israel (continued) (if required)


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