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UN reviews Nigeria, 13 other countries’ human rights record

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The United Nations, UN, highest human rights body, the Human Rights Council, HRC, will start reviewing the track records of Nigeria and 13 other countries today.

Police officers using tear gas and water to chase members of Academics Forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria during a protest demanding the release of their leader, El- Zak Zaky at the entrance of National Human Rights Commission in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

The process is called, Universal Periodic Review, UPR, and the ultimate goal is to improve human rights situation for people around the globe.

The UPR review sessions take place for two weeks, three times a year, and 14 countries are reviewed in each session – a total of 42 per year.

This time, the countries will be reviewed in this order: Saudi Arabia, Senegal, China, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Malaysia, the Central African Republic, Monaco, Belize, Chad, Congo and Malta.

Every four and a half years, the 193 UN member states undergo interactive review of human rights situation in their countries on rotational basis.

The idea is to give equal treatment to all the countries and allow them to exchange best practices.

The Human Rights Council was created in 2006 as part of a general wave of reforms of the UN system, composed of 47 member states, elected by the UN’s 193 member states.

However, any country can take part in the discussions held during a review; each state review is led by group of three countries (known as “troikas”), randomly chosen.

Information and evidence are presented, and questions are asked by special independent experts (called ‘Special Rapporteurs’), and the UN’s member states.

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Civil-society organisations can also submit questions and evidence through country representatives.

The country under review is given a chance to explain the actions they have taken, or plan to take, to address the issues presented.

Recommendations are officially made, and technical assistance provided where needed, with each country’s review lasting about three and a half hours.

The UPR assesses the human rights obligations set out in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the human rights treaties ratified by the reviewed Member State, and International Humanitarian Law.

A report is prepared by the troika with the involvement of the reviewed member state and technical assistance from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR.

This report provides a summary of the actual discussion, with the questions, comments and recommendations made, as well as the responses by the reviewed member state.

The report is discussed a few days after the review and adopted at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council.

The reviewed state has the primary responsibility to implement the recommendations contained in the final report.

Countries are expected to provide information on what they have been doing to make changes during their review, as well as on any developments on human rights when they undergo their UPR.

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The international community and OHCHR are to assist and provide technical assistance, in consultation with the country concerned.

The Human Rights Council can take series of measures, such as specific investigations and can set up dedicated committees to put pressure on non-cooperating Member States, and draw the world’s attention to them.

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