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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review


2 February 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group this afternoon reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Djibouti, during which 44 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

· Presenting the national report of Djibouti was Mohamed BARKAT ABDILLAHI, Minister of Justice, who affirmed that his country was firmly committed to promoting dialogue on human rights. The State had ratified or acceded to a number of international and regional instruments, among them the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples. In total, Djibouti had ratified nearly all the core international human rights instruments and steps were underway to have them incorporated into domestic legislation. The Government had set up institutions with a direct role to play in promotion and protection of human rights, which focused on means to promote and disseminate a human rights culture throughout the country. Moreover, the State had set up the National Human Rights Commission which, among other things, provided human rights advisory opinions. The Commission also contributed extensively to the preparation of the national report.

Among some notable steps undertaken by the Government was an in-depth reform of judicial system, the creation of courts addressing domestic law, the establishment of a prison guards unit in 2006 which provided human rights training in line with international human rights standards and addressed cases of persons deprived of their liberty, in particular, and the judicial staff in the State had increased three-fold. Moreover, the new labour code aimed at realizing equal pay for equal work. Other measures included developing a policy to promote women and to integrate women in development; women made up more than 40% of teachers and judges in the country. It was noted that since the independence of Djibouti the status of women had improved, although traditional customary influences remained the main obstacle. The Government was determined to improve the status of women and to overcome cultural burdens which remained the greatest obstacle in this regard.

As regards children’s rights, the Minister stated that children in Djibouti were protected against all forms of violence regardless of the source of the violence. Enhancing education was among the Government’s chief priorities and it was dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of realizing universal primary education by 2015. A number of campaigns had been instituted with civil society on schooling for girls and those with special needs; a number of seminars had also been conducted with UNICEF. On health issues, the importance paid by the Government to this sector was evident in the amount it had allocated in the national budget – an increase to 12.3% from 4.2% over the last years. As to labour issues, the Labour Code was innovative in nature in so far as the minimum age for access to the labour market was 16 years, which was compliant with laws on schooling. The new Labour Code also provided provisions for those with disabilities.

On the issue of combating Poverty, the Minster noted that the Government had been implementing a national policy to campaign against poverty, as part of its anti-poverty strategy which aimed to reduce extreme poverty and improve general living conditions and to encourage economic growth. Despite some progress made in this regard, there was still a significant number of people who continued to fall into poverty. The State’s National Social Development Initiative aimed at improving access to basic social services to those most in need, to eradicate poverty and increase employment. Moreover, public assistance programmes were in place for the most vulnerable.

Responding to questions posed in advance, the delegation upheld that vulnerable groups were protected by the law. As to the drafting of the national report, civil society was thoroughly involved in all levels in drafting the report. On religious beliefs and human rights, all major religions had places of worship in Djibouti and discrimination on religious grounds was severely punished under the law. On the rights of the child, a country-wide campaign was underway to vaccinate children for measles and it was the Government’s goal to eradicate polio as well. The Government had set up an inter-agency coordination committee bringing together UNICEF, WHO and the Heath Ministry of Djibouti. As regards female genital mutilation, a number of measures were in place aimed at eliminating this practice including a provision in the Criminal Code to penalize such acts and to prosecute the worst cases.

· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the political will of the Government to bolster rights of women and children; the establishment of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women; strides made in the field of health and the decrease in the rate of infant mortality; steps to eradicate poverty; the increase in the enrolment rate in primary education; the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee in preparation of the UPR national report; the abolition of the death penalty in Djibouti; the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission; the intention of the State to extend a standing invitations to the UN Special Procedures mandate holders; measures to combat HIV/AIDS and other pandemics; steps taken to combat poverty; efforts made to promote justice and to reinforce the rule of law; and efforts to increase access to justice.

· 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 the progress achieved in increasing the political participation of women in society; steps taken to improve the status of women in all areas, in particular as regards gender balance in the work place and putting an end to female genital mutilation; practical measures taken to improve maternal health; progress made to reduce illiteracy among women; steps taken to provide disabled children with social services and special requirements; measures and steps taken to decrease the rate of infant mortality; initiatives to further promote basic education and higher education; steps to decrease school dropout rates; and the main obstacles in achieving the MDGs.

Other issues pertained to the Government’s plans to establish special courts for juvenile criminal offenders; the status of ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; problems faced in the area of access to justice and steps taken to address this; the safeguards provided by the Constitution and Criminal Code against violent assaults, arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment; the impact of unemployment on the fight against poverty and the new Initiative for Social Development; and the experience of Djibouti in the partnership it had with neighbouring countries concerning the handing over of arable lands.

· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To enhance efforts to reduce illiteracy rates among women; to continue with its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular in the area of primary education; to continue awareness raising efforts in rural areas where some cultural traditions inhibited women’s rights; to take further steps to improve the implementation of laws on female genital mutilation to ensure prosecutions through the appropriate judicial channels; to consider the establishment of a dedicated human rights section within the Ministry of Justice; to establish an independent body to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to adopt a national plan of action on children; to adopt an implement legislation and policies concerning children, especially as regards birth registration, violence against children, juvenile justice and street children; and to develop legislative measures to ensure prompt investigation and prosecution of sexual offences against children.

Additional recommendations included, for the State under review: To redouble its efforts in addressing the issue of extreme poverty and develop more sustainable development strategies; to deploy further efforts to allocate additional resources in the health field; to continue efforts to improve medical services in the country; to reinforce efforts aimed at setting up regional assemblies to take services closer to rural communities; to continue strengthening the judiciary and the status of judges and further improve access to justice; to allocate increased resources for the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary; and to take further measures to ensure that detained juvenile offenders were separated from adults.

Moreover, States recommended that Djibouti: Respect the right of labour to organize and avoid the arrest and arbitrary detention of trade union representatives; to effectively guarantee trade union freedom; to amend the law on freedom of communication of 1992 in line with article 19 of the ICCPR; to cease all forms of intimidation against journalists; to take all necessary steps to promote freedom of expression and association in all its forms; to extend a standing invitations to United Special Procedures mandate holders; to ratify the Convention on all forms of racial discrimination; to continue efforts to fully uphold the principle of non-discrimination; to sign and ratify the Convention on enforced and involuntary disappearances; and to increase its efforts to submit its overdue reports to treaty bodies.

Several States recommended that OHCHR send an assessment mission to Djibouti to determine the humanitarian and human rights needs of the country; for Djibouti to further refine its requirements for international assistance; and for the OHCHR provide necessary human rights technical assistance.

· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Bahrain, Egypt, Cuba, China, France, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, Jordan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Slovenia, India, Ghana, the Netherlands, South Africa, Angola, Indonesia, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Senegal.

· Observer States participating in the discussion were Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Algeria, Turkey, Sudan, Belarus, Benin, Syria, Madagascar, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Palestine, Morocco and Chad.

· The 10-person delegation of the Djibouti consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour, the Office of the Director of Legislation, the Office of the Inspector General for National Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, the National Human Rights Commission and the Permanent Mission of Djibouti to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Djibouti are the Russian Federation, Bolivia and Indonesia.

· 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 Djibouti can be found here.

· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Djibouti on Wednesday, 4 February.

· When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Canada.

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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