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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

1 December 2009 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Dominican Republic this morning, during which thirty-eight Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of the Dominican Republic was MAX PUIG, Secretary of State for Employment, who said the Republic fully assumed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was a signatory to the majority of Conventions in this realm. The Dominican Republic attributed the greatest importance to the Universal Periodic Review. The Dominican Republic, in response to its commitment undertaken in the context of the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action of 1993 had created by decree the Inter-Agency Commission for Human Rights, based on the Paris Principles, as well as the National Commission for Human Rights Education. In the past, the Government was a dictatorship, and the political process of democraticisation began in the 1960s, since when there had been considerable development in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The country had established institutions, and improved its practices and performance in the field of human rights. However, this was an arduous process which took place in a situation of background poverty.

The Dominican Republic was making progress every day in various areas, but there were ongoing difficulties and it still faced obstacles. The Report was the result of a systematic effort by the Government through the Inter-Agency Commission. Women in the Dominican Republic enjoyed equal rights and privileges with men, and with a view to guaranteeing and strengthening these rights, positive discrimination was set forth by law, ensuring their political representation. Since 1924, the Republic had banned capital punishment- the right to life and inalienable integrity was also provided for in times of conflict by having due access to the process of law. There was no knowledge of enforced disappearances for political reasons, but there were reports of summary executions by the national police and members of the armed forces- action had been taken to counter these excesses and abuses and ensure that they were not repeated. 

There had been no cases reported of a complacent attitude shown to human rights violations perpetrated on migrants. The Government did not remain indifferent to illegal migration flows, which had unforeseen consequences, and had adopted measures to deal with this flow, including adopting laws on trafficking in persons and illicit smuggling in migrants, and establishing the National Commission to Combat Smuggling and Trafficking In Persons. The Government had adopted a National Plan for Gender Equality and Equity as the most appropriate tool for guaranteeing follow-up and compliance to its plans for women. Gender equity and development offices had been established in all Governmental units. The Dominican Republic had not been able to stamp out poverty nor exclusion, despite significant efforts. The formal commitment of the Republic was that it would continue to work on all its initiatives and to improve commitment and adherence to all its commitments in the field of human rights. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the country's determination to address all outstanding human rights issues, including human trafficking, discrimination against Haitians and Dominican-Haitians, and women; efforts to eliminate impunity whilst fighting against racial discrimination and xenophobia; the ongoing training of all law-enforcement and security personnel in human rights; the significant efforts made by the Government reflecting their commitment to human rights, including the creation of the Inter-Agency Commission on Human Rights and the establishment of human rights bodies in the armed forces; and the forbidding of corporal punishment in schools.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, that the Republic had inherited a negative attitude towards migrants, and the continuing attitude of racism towards certain groups; the alarming increase of extra-judicial killings committed by the police or armed forces and the impunity enjoyed by these; what measures did the Government intend to implement to grapple with the increasing number of arbitrary detentions and use of excessive force used by law enforcement; that gender violence was the fourth cause of death for women in the country and what additional measures did the authorities intend to implement to ensure full respect for the rights of women; and whether there were any guarantees that women were not prosecuted for seeking an abortion.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that actions be established promoting equality within the population so that there was better compliance with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; that effective action be taken to combat corruption; that the Government strengthen its approach to migration by acceding to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and to establish mechanisms for dialogue and raising awareness with the population on issues of migration; to continue to implement poverty-eradication strategies; that the Government adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat racism; that the Government ratify the Convention on Reduction of Statelessness; the establishment of practices penalising and punishing human trafficking within the country; and that it establish measures specifically targeting the human rights of women. 

Other recommendations included: the need to ensure human rights for the poorest and most excluded parts of the population; that efforts continue to ensure universal access to healthcare for the population and to ensure gender equality; that legislation provide a guarantee to physical and mental integrity for all women, especially minors with undesired pregnancies and that shelters be established in each region for women suffering from abuse, as well as training be provided to all officials in order to identify and respond to situations of gender-based violence; that there be full implementation of the Minors Code of 2004, especially with regards to child labour; that a National Institution for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights be created that was in line with the Paris Principles; that measures be taken to eliminate discrimination against gays, lesbians and transsexuals; and that crimes and violations against human rights defenders and journalists were effectively investigated and prosecuted, and the responsible punished.

Responding to questions and issues raised, Dr. Puig said the questions and issues raised were a positive element in the process through which all countries helped each other through suggestions and recommendations. Regarding the suggestions on accession and ratification of a number of Conventions, these were being studied, and the Government was working closely on the idea of ratifying these, particularly the Conventions on Torture and the Rights of Migrant Workers. Economic trends over the last few decades had given rise to a situation of frequent migration between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, giving rise to a situation of instability, but the Republic had tried to correct defects in its treatment of Haitians in several respects. With regards to the treatment of women, the Republic shared the concerns shared by speakers, and the Government was working on an equity plan, whilst remaining concerned for the high levels of violence against women, and was working on the issue of education in this regard, making efforts to provide for justice. The Government was working seriously to ensure the human rights of all, and was involved in building a better democracy, based on recognition of political and social rights, as well as civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Belgium, Egypt, Brazil, United Kingdom, Cuba, France, Netherlands, Mexico, United States of America, Uruguay, Slovenia, Nicraragua, Italy, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Turkey, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Germany, Holy See, Peru, Jamaica, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Colombia, Ecuador, Latvia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Morocco,. 

The delegation of the Dominican Republic consisted of high-level representatives of the Inter-Agency Commission for Human Rights of the Dominican Republic.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Dominican Republic are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bangladesh, and Argentina.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on the Dominican Republic can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Dominican Republic on Thursday 3 December.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 3 p.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Cambodia.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp

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