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UPR: Fast facts on the UN review of Philippine human rights

People listen to a speech delivered by Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte shown on a screen during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on May 8, 2017 at the UN offices in Geneva. The Philippines' record is reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council for the first time since the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of massive violations in his so-called drug war. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The human rights record of the Philippines was scrutinized Monday by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Philippine UPR delegation was led by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra.

READ: UN states ask Philippines to grant access to Callamard

Here are some fast facts on the review.

What is the Universal Periodic Review?

The UPR was established on March 15, 2006 when the HRC was formed by the UN General Assembly.

The unique mechanism was created to improve the human rights situation of all the 193 UN member-states and to encourage them to fulfill their human rights obligations. It does so by assessing the human rights records of the states and addressing violations.

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The review allows all states the opportunity to report the actions they have taken to address human rights concerns in their countries.

The mechanism also offers technical assistance and shares best practices so states can effectively deal with human rights challenges.

When can a review of human rights occur?

All member-states are reviewed every four years with 48 states assessed each year. The review is time sensitive and lasts for three and a half hours. The state being examined has an overall speaking time of 70 minutes throughout the review.

The Philippines’ first and second UPR reviews took place in April 2008 and May 2012, respectively.

A state is reviewed based on three documents:

  1. a national report consisting of information provided by the state under review
  2. information contained in the reports of independent human rights experts and groups (known as the Special Procedures), human rights treaty bodies and other UN entities
  3. information from other stakeholders including national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations

Who conducts the review?

The reviews are interactive and conducted by the UPR Working Group, which consists of the 47 HRC members. But any UN member-state can participate in the discussion.

Non-government organizations can also take part by submitting information that can be included in the "other stakeholders" report. States taking part in the review can refer to information they provide. They can also attend UPR Working Group sessions.

Three HRC members, known as the troika, are randomly selected to assist in the review. The troika receives the written questions raised by states and relays them to the state under review. The troika also prepares the report containing a full account of the proceedings.

For the review of the Philippines this year, the troika are Switzerland, Kenya and Paraguay.

What types of human rights obligations are addressed?

The UPR assesses human rights obligations set out in:

  1. the UN Charter
  2. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  3. human rights instruments to which the state is party to
  4. voluntary pledges and commitments made by the state
  5. applicable international humanitarian law

In the Philippines, the following issues were raised:

  1. the Government's anti-drug campaign
  2. addressing cases of extrajudicial killings and incitement to commit such killings
  3. the proliferation of private armies and vigilante groups
  4. combating torture
  5. tackling impunity and corruption
  6. restoration of the death penalty
  7. addressing cases of harassment
  8. disappearance, threats and killings of human rights defenders, as well as harassment and attacks on the media
  9. the age of criminal responsibility
  10. remedying prison overcrowding
  11. poverty reduction
  12. land reform
  13. mining-related human rights violations
  14. combating discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  15. combating human trafficking and exploitation of children, especially girls, for sex tourism
  16. providing assistance to migrant workers and other Filipinos overseas
  17. measures to protect the rights of indigenous peoples
  18. birth registration and the right to nationality
  19. access to education
  20. child labor
  21. the prohibition of corporal punishment
  22. the protection of children in armed conflict

What happens during a review?

During the review, states offer recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in the country being examined. After which, an "outcome report" or discussion summary is prepared by the troika with the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the involvement of the state under assessment.

The "outcome report" is adopted by the Working Group days after the review. The reviewed country can either choose to accept or note the recommendations but it cannot reject them.

After a few months, the draft report is adopted again. This time by the Human Rights Council.

READ: Cayetano takes aim at Callamard before UN body

What happens if a state does not cooperate with the UPR?

The state has the primary responsibility to implement the adopted recommendations and it is expected to provide a progress report.

The HRC will decide on the measures to be taken in case of persistent non-cooperation by a state with the UPR.

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