Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Australia

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia, Georgia and Saint Lucia.

John Paton Quin, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Australia had carefully considered the recommendations received and consulted with domestic instances of government and civil society.  The recommendations had focused on immigration and asylum seeker recommendations, the rights of indigenous Australians, gender, and the rights of people with disabilities.  He outlined Australia’s responses to the recommendations and the reasoning that went behind accepting or rejecting them.

The Australian Human Rights Commission also spoke.

In the ensuing discussion speakers commended Australia for its constructive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, notably having established a national plan to reduce violence against women and children, and its measures to ameliorate the situation of the elderly and to combat human trafficking and transnational crimes.  They expressed hope that Australia would reconsider its border protection policies and offshore asylum-seeking procedures.

Speaking were Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Botswana, China, and Fiji.

Also taking the floor were: Edmund Rice International Limited, International Service for Human Rights, Franciscans International, Save the Children International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, and National Association of Community Legal Centres.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia.

Khatuna Totladze, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noted that Georgia had ratified most of the United Nations human rights treaties and had supported all recommendations relating to accession to the remaining international human rights instruments.  It had accepted the recommendations to ensure that international human rights monitoring mechanisms had access to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.  Given the imminent threat of the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied territories, the need for effective human rights monitoring was becoming increasingly acute.

The Public Defender’s Office of Georgia also spoke.

In the discussion speakers commended Georgia’s adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy, the National Human Rights Action Plan, and the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.  They also commended Georgia’s commitment to gender equality, to empowering women and to combat violence against women and girls.  At the same time they expressed concerns about the high rates of malnutrition and child mortality, and inadequate legal provisions on torture and ill-treatment.

Speaking were China, Council of Europe, Libya, Malawi, Nigeria, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, United Nations Entity for Women, United Nations Children’s Fund, Albania, Algeria, Armenia and Botswana.

Also taking the floor were: COC-Nederland, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Catholic Child Bureau, Amnesty International, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, and Human Rights House Foundation.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Georgia.

Shonari Naheem Leo Clarke, Senior Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia, explained that some recommendations were noted because the Government believed it would be difficult to implement them, or it could not yet take a firm stand on them.  The Government was currently reviewing its domestic violence legislation, aiming at toughening sanctions for perpetrators.  A family law was currently being drafted to remove the distinction between children born within and outside of marriage.

In the ensuing discussion speakers commended Saint Lucia for its engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process, and its efforts to guarantee human rights for all its citizens, in spite of the challenges and constraints it was facing as a small island developing state.  Some speakers regretted that Saint Lucia had noted recommendations calling for the repeal of legal provisions prohibiting and punishing consenting sexual relations between adults of the same sex.

Speaking were Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, United Nations Entity for Women, Cuba, Bahamas and Venezuela.

Also taking the floor were: Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, and Pan African Union for Science and Technology.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Saint Lucia.

The Council will next meet at noon to consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Oman, Myanmar, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Australia

The Council has before it the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Australia (A/HRC/31/14).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Australia:  views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review (A/HRC/31/14/Add.1).

JOHN PATON QUINN, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Australia viewed the Universal Periodic Review as an important opportunity to reflect on its human rights record.  Australia had carefully considered the 290 recommendations received and consulted with domestic instances of government and civil society.  Australia would implement its voluntary commitment to work with the Australian Human Rights Commission to develop a public and accessible process for monitoring progress against Review recommendations.  The recommendations had focused on immigration and asylum seekers, the rights of indigenous Australians, gender, and the rights of people with disabilities.  He outlined Australia’s responses to the recommendations and the reasoning that went behind accepting or rejecting them, and reviewed domestic initiatives taken on elder abuse, a new Sex Discrimination Commissioner, family violence, women on government boards, a new Special Envoy for Human Rights, women’s rights, disability, indigenous Australians, constitutional recognition, and same-sex marriage.  Turning to recommendations that would not be considered further, he said that Australia did not propose to ratify the Migrant Workers Convention or the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, because Australia’s laws were generally consistent with the obligations under those Conventions.  Australia’s immigration and border protection policies protected the integrity of its “regular and safe” global migration programme.  Many Member States’ concerns about children in immigration detention were recognised.

Australian Human Rights Commission noted that the Government of Australia had accepted about 150 recommendations, but it had done so on the ground that its laws already addressed the human rights raised.  The Commission considered that the “business as usual” approach would not ensure compliance with Australia’s human rights obligations.  Current approaches had been inadequate, for example, to reduce the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system.  A common concern of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations was the detention of those with cognitive and other disabilities, juveniles, asylum seekers and indigenous people, in particular the recommendations about Australia’s asylum seeker laws, especially those in offshore processing centres.  About 3,000 asylum seekers and refugees remained in mandatory indefinite detention, including 50 children in Nauru and 43 children in Australia.  The Commission called for strict time limits on detention and for judicial review consistently with the rule of law.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic expressed appreciation to the Australian Government for extending its aid programme to support capacity building on human rights related issues, also welcoming the country’s promotion of the rights of indigenous people.

Libya welcomed Australia’s open approach and saluted the Australian Government’s commitment to human rights values, including the implementation of initiatives taken as regards the indigenous population.

Malaysia addressed Australia’s endeavours as regards its indigenous population as well as international humanitarian support, and expressed hope that the country would adopt Malaysia’s recommendations on inclusiveness towards various groups of society.

Maldives noted that 104 delegations had engaged in the review of Australia and made 209 recommendations, most of which had been accepted.  The appointment of a new Special Envoy for Human Rights was welcomed.

Nigeria noted that Australia’s acceptance of most of the recommendations would go a long way in strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens, and recommended the adoption of the outcome.

Paraguay expressed appreciation for Australia’s acceptance of recommendations made as well as new developments, including a national permanent mechanism to strengthen Australia’s cooperation with the United Nations.

Sierra Leone commended Australia for having established a national plan to reduce violence against women and children.  However, it expressed hope that Australia would reconsider its border protection policies and offshore asylum seeking procedures.

Sri Lanka encouraged Australia to continue respecting the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in accordance with its international obligations, particularly its efforts to enhance policies and procedures to protect children in migration pathways and to promote their welfare.

Tajikistan noted the constructive participation of Australia with the Universal Periodic Review and welcomed the adoption of measures to ameliorate the situation of the elderly and to combat human trafficking and transnational crimes.

Viet Nam appreciated the support of Australia for the majority of the recommendations, including two made by Viet Nam.  It recommended the adoption of the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia.

Afghanistan acknowledged that Australia had supported many of the recommendations,
and its consistent engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.  It encouraged the Government to continue its efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Albania recognized Australia’s long commitment to supporting and promoting human rights and its positive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review.  It strongly encouraged Australia to continue its work on indigenous rights and to undertake relevant safe measures on migrants trying to reach its borders.

Armenia welcomed that Australia had accepted recommendations by Armenia, and appreciated Australia’s engagement and contribution to the prevention of genocide at the international level.  Australia had always been constructively engaged in defending human rights principles and norms within the Council.

Botswana was pleased that Australia had accepted a majority of the recommendations and commended Australia’s measures to address trafficking in persons, slavery and family violence.  It noted with appreciation that Australia continued to cooperate with Special Procedures and other United Nations human rights mechanisms.

China welcomed Australia’s acceptance of recommendations made by China in relation to combatting slavery, but regretted that Australia had rejected some recommendations relating to indigenous’ rights.  China called upon Australia to protect migrants and to provide assistance to third countries for their realization of the right to development.

Fiji urged Australia to address shortcomings and to fully meet its international obligations relating to migrants.  It called on Australia to take a fair share of responsibility in climate mitigation efforts to give future generations a chance to enjoy a right to clean and sustainable development.

Edmund Rice International Limited, in a joint statement with, Franciscans International, voiced concern over Australia’s announcement that it had no intention to end mandatory immigration detention.  It urged Australia to stop refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees, and to cease financing the offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with, Human Rights Law Centre regretted that Australia had merely noted or that it would no longer consider a range or recommendations in an approach which seemed incoherent with the pillars of its Human Rights Council candidacy for 2018.  It urged the Government to develop a national human rights act.

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, in a joint statement with, Franciscans International, voiced concern over the devastating human rights impacts that its members and partners in Australia had experienced due to coal seam gas mining in Chinchilla.  Those impacts included damage to potable water resulting from the Government’s conduct that contravened its human rights obligations.

Franciscans International, in a joint statement with, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde – Europe-Third World Centre, supported Ecuador’s recommendation to strengthen the normative framework for the protection of human rights, including the monitoring, investigation and reparation for human rights violations committed by Australian companies in their territories and abroad.

Save the Children International drew attention to the issue of the rights of children seeking asylum and their families in immigration detention.  It called on Australia to immediately end the mandatory detention of migrant children and respect the best interests of the child, and to allow the monitoring of all offshore processing centres.

International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with, Human Rights Law Centre, expressed concern over Australia’s marriage laws, which remained a key area of inequality, and over the practice of non-therapeutic sterilization without consent.  It called on Australia to ensure that change of sex on birth certificates was allowed in all its states and territories.

Human Rights Watch regretted Australia’s asylum laws and refugee policies, noting that asylum seekers were held on remote Pacific islands in dirty, overcrowded conditions, where there had been reports of sexual and physical abuse, and where asylum seekers had few long-term prospects for resettlement.

Amnesty International regretted that Australia had made no substantial progress regarding the overrepresentation of indigenous young people in juvenile detention and its treatment of refugees.  It was deeply concerned that Australia had rejected recommendations to raise the minimum age for criminal responsibility to 12 years.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology said that Australia showed impressive economic growth, and that women enjoyed an equal position in the society.

National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc. , The, in a joint statement with, Human Rights Law Centre regretted the lack of action on addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the justice system, and expressed concern about the lack of willingness to implement recommendations on refugees and asylum seekers.

The President of the Human Rights Council said that out of the 290 recommendations it received, Australia had accepted 150 while 140 were noted.

JOHN PATON QUINN, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that today’s meeting was not the end of Australia’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  Work had already begun on the implementation of the country’s new commitments; that response recognized that the country’s human rights response was informed by a continuing debate at a domestic and international level.  The Universal Periodic Review was a real record of the country’s commitments to the Australian public and the international community.   It was the standard by which the country’s progress was measured in promoting and protecting human rights.  Australia was seeking a seat on the Human Rights Council for the term 2018-2020.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Georgia

The Council has before it the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Georgia (A/HRC/31/15).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Georgia:  views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review (A/HRC/31/15/Add.1).

KHATUNA TOTLADZE, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noted that Georgia had ratified most of the United Nations human rights treaties and had supported all recommendations relating to accession to the remaining international human rights instruments.  It had accepted the recommendations to ensure that international human rights monitoring mechanisms had access to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.  Given the imminent threat of the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied territories, the need for effective human rights monitoring was becoming increasingly acute.  The Government had also supported recommendations on the strengthening of measures for the protection of internally displaced persons, equality and non-discrimination and establishment of a specialized police unit for the investigation of hate crimes, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.  The Government had supported recommendations related to women’s rights, the fight against domestic violence and violence against women, prevention of child marriage, torture and ill-treatment, the penitentiary system, the fight against trafficking in human beings, and strengthening the independence of the judiciary.  In terms of prosecutorial reform, the Government was prioritizing further development of an independent, depoliticized and accountable prosecutorial system.  It had also supported all recommendations with respect to persons with disabilities, enhanced social dialogue, ethnic and religious minorities, the right to education, repatriation of people forced into exile by the former Soviet Union in the 1940s, and the integration of persons holding refugee and humanitarian status.

Office of the Public Defender of Georgia expressed satisfaction that the Government of Georgia was actively collaborating with the Office of the Public Defender, and added some points that were important to consider.  These included the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism, the creation of efficient labour inspections, and the fair selection, appointment and promotion of judges.  Georgia also needed to make efforts against domestic and gender-based violence, to strengthen anti-discrimination legislation, and to ensure the protection of human rights in the occupied territories.

China expressed hopes that the Government of Georgia would ensure further access to education and raise the enrolment rate of minorities, and welcomed other efforts made by Georgia.

Council of Europe said Georgia faced structural problems in the field of the judiciary, excessive use of force by the police, and discrimination against ethnic minorities, and called on Georgia to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and an Additional Protocol addressing foreign terrorist fighters.

Libya thanked Georgia for their participation in the Universal Periodic Review and their promotion and protection of human rights, welcoming the country’s efforts and amendments to legislation, which reflected the country’s positive commitment to the Universal Periodic Review.

Malawi commended Georgia for promoting good practices by providing a written response to Universal Periodic Review recommendations, and for extending a standing invitation to all Special Procedure Mandates.

Nigeria noted that Georgia had accepted most of the recommendations made, including those made by Nigeria, urging the country to build on the considerable progress it had made in the field of human rights.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe continued to recommend a reform of the National Communications Commission in order to produce binding regulations on media coverage during elections and to have authority to impose sanctions for violations of equal access and fair treatment.

Paraguay welcomed the acceptance of all recommendations that Paraguay had made, including those relating to birth records, domestic violence and social workers.  Paraguay underlined the importance of creating a national follow-up body for the implementation of international recommendations.

Russian Federation deeply regretted that Georgia had ignored all of its recommendations for political pretexts, including those relating to torture.  This showed Georgia’s confrontational approach at the expense of the human rights of its people.

Sierra Leone welcomed Georgia’s commitment to human rights and particularly commended that Georgia had enacted legislation setting the minimum marriage age to 18.

Tajikistan welcomed Georgia’s commitment to cooperating with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and recommended the adoption of the report.

United Nations Entity for Women (UN Women) commended Georgia’s commitment to gender equality, to empowering women and to combat violence against women and girls.  It called on Georgia to ratify the Istanbul Convention on fighting violence against women and domestic violence, and to intensify its support to victims and combat gender stereotypes.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomed the adoption of the juvenile justice code, which had become a best practice for countries in the region, and Georgia’s efforts to reduce the number of children living in poverty.  UNICEF expressed concerns about the high rates of malnutrition and child mortality.

Albania welcomed Georgia’s positive engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures, and encouraged it to further its efforts to implement the recommendations that it had accepted.

Algeria welcomed Georgia’s adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy in 2012 and major legislative and penitentiary system reforms.  It took note that Georgia had accepted most of the recommendations, which showed its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Armenia appreciated that Georgia had accepted a vast number of recommendations, including those made by Armenia.  It expressed hope that its cooperation with Georgia in the area of the promotion of the human rights of the Armenian minority would expand further.

Botswana welcomed Georgia’s adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy, the National Human Rights Action Plan, and the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.  It commended Georgia’s efforts in addressing women’s rights.

COC-Nederland disagreed that the issues raised in the recommendations had already been implemented in Georgia.  It called on Georgia to involve all stakeholders in the establishment of a specialized unit for hate crimes.  Transgender people still faced discrimination and Georgia should adopt comprehensive legislation on gender identity.

Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, encouraged the Government of Georgia to work closely with civil society on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, to provide comprehensive sexual education, and to provide adequate health services to persons with HIV/AIDS.

International Catholic Child Bureau noted that the Ombudsman of Georgia had pointed out an alarming situation of children’s rights and violence against children, and in particular hidden sexual abuse in schools and families.  It called on Georgia to address sexual abuse in a comprehensive and child-sensitive manner.

Amnesty International welcomed Georgia’s acceptance to establish an independent and impartial mechanism to investigate crimes committed by law enforcement agencies and government officials.  That aspect remained a problematic area in Georgia’s legal system, including lack of presumption of innocence and fair trial standards.  The authorities also failed to prosecute crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology pointed out that Georgia had made progress in the guarantee of civil and political rights, children’s rights, judicial independence and democratic oversight of law enforcement agencies.  Progress had also been made in the area of healthcare, the penitentiary system, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex persons.

Swedish Association for Sexuality Education urged the Government of Georgia to ensure the effective implementation of sexual and reproductive rights, given current political threats to secularism, women’s emancipation and the effective protection of lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender persons in Georgia.

Human Rights House Foundation said Georgia had to ensure the efficiency and impartiality of investigations conducted in the penitentiary system, and improve its anti-discrimination legislation to ensure adequate protection against discrimination.

The President announced that out of the 203 recommendations it received, Georgia had accepted 191 while 12 were noted.

KHATUNA TOTLADZE, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, reiterated her Government’s commitment to implementing recommendations accepted, and thanked the representatives of non-governmental organizations, the national human rights institution and United Nations agencies.  Georgia was determined to pursue its close cooperation with all actors and to uphold high human rights standards.  Georgia pledged to submit a mid-term report.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Georgia.

Consideration of Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Saint Lucia

The Council has before it the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Saint Lucia (A/HRC/31/10).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Saint Lucia:  views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review (A/HRC/31/10/Add.1).

SHONARI NAHEEM LEO CLARKE, Senior Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia, said that his Government had accepted 91 recommendations, which represented what it believed it could achieve within the next four years, and fell in line with the Government’s views.  Some recommendations were noted because the Government believed it would be difficult to implement them, or it could not yet take a firm stand on them.  Saint Lucia was committed to gender equality, and the International Labour Organization had recognized efforts made in that regard.  The State was currently reviewing its domestic violence legislation, aiming at toughening sanctions for perpetrators.  A family law was currently being drafted to remove the distinction between children born within and outside of marriage.

Maldives appreciated the work of Saint Lucia in its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review and applauded its commendable progress, while noting the challenges and constraints faced by Saint Lucia as a small island developing state.

Nigeria noted the Government’s efforts to strengthen human rights for all its citizens despite all the numerous challenges.  It urged Saint Lucia to maintain its cooperation with the Human Rights Council.

Pakistan appreciated the fact that Saint Lucia had accepted the majority of the recommendations, which reflected its commitment to further promote human rights for all its citizens.

Paraguay welcomed the commitment of Saint Lucia to the Universal Periodic Review and the follow-up process, especially its acceptance of the majority of the recommendations.  Saint Lucia had noted Paraguay’s recommendation to officially declare a moratorium on the death penalty.

Saint Kitts and Nevis commended Saint Lucia’s convening of the constitutional reform committee and its progress so far.  It applauded its accomplishment in some aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals and encouraged it to seek international technical and other assistance in order to further promote human rights.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines commended Saint Lucia for having accepted a substantial number of recommendations, and its commitment to ratify international treaties which it had not yet joined.  It also welcomed its strengthening of the framework to combat domestic violence.

Sierra Leone encouraged Saint Lucia to ratify and domesticate international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.

United Nations Entity for Women (UN Women) encouraged Saint Lucia to implement the recommendations made after a gender-aware beneficiary analysis of its Public Assistance Programme, to make that programme more gender responsive.

Cuba noted Saint Lucia’s progress regarding the empowerment of women and increased efforts to promote the rights of vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities and the elderly.

Bahamas encouraged Saint Lucia to continue building its capacities in identified areas of need, such as legislative drafting, and welcomed the Government’s agreement to ratify a number of international human rights instruments.

Venezuela commended Saint Lucia for its social programmes and congratulated the country on its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, encouraging Saint Lucia to continue strengthening implementation with international assistance.

Action Canada for Population and Development welcomed the acceptance by Saint Lucia of recommendations relating to non-discrimination, but regretted that Saint Lucia had noted recommendations calling for the repeal of legal provisions prohibiting and punishing consenting sexual relations between adults of the same sex.

Amnesty International urged Saint Lucia to promptly ratify core international human rights instruments.  Amnesty International was concerned about cases of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and the lack of prosecution of perpetrators.  Saint Lucia should also fully abolish the death penalty in law and in practice.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology said that the Constitution of Saint Lucia guaranteed basic freedoms, civil groups were well organized, and the country had one of the lowest levels of corruption in the West Indies.  The country had taken measures directed at improving the utilization of natural resources.

The President said that out of 121 received recommendations, Saint Lucia had supported 91 and had noted 29.  Additional clarification on one recommendation had been provided, indicating which part of the recommendation was supported and which part was noted.

SHONARI NAHEEM LEO CLARKE, Senior Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia, noted that in meeting its human rights obligations, Saint Lucia needed a formal structure.  He reminded that there were financial constraints and that Saint Lucia would seek international technical assistance.  He thanked all those who made sure that Saint Lucia’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review was possible.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Saint Lucia.

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