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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

7 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 Dominica this morning/afternoon, during which twenty-eight Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following the review of the country on Thursday 3 December.

Presenting the national report of Dominica was CRISPIN GREGOIRE, Permanent Representative of Dominica to the United Nations in New York, who said the Review came in the midst of early elections, with Parliament currently dissolved. Dominica was fully committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, as evidenced by the Constitution, domestic legislation, adherence to international Conventions, and national and international organisations within the country. Fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, were guaranteed by the people of Dominica. The right to development was a fundamental right in itself. Dominica was a young democratic State, having obtained independence in 1978. It was a Parliamentary democracy, with three branches of Government: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Executive authority was vested in the President, elected by Parliament for five years. The multi-party political system provided for general elections every five years. 

The Constitution was the supreme law, and its first chapter guaranteed the fundamental rights and freedoms, including life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of association, protection of privacy of the home, and that any person alleging violation of any fundamental rights could apply to the Courts for redress. The human rights infrastructure was composed of both legal and institutional aspects. The work of NGOs had contributed considerably to civil society's appreciation of human rights in the country. The Dominican National Council for Women was the leading non-governmental body for women, and it monitored Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women compliance. Dominica had made commendable progress in the advancement and protection of women's rights, gender-mainstreaming, and the overall empowerment of women. Successive Governments had been proactive in guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination in the treatment of women. 

On children's rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been ratified, as had been the Optional Protocols, and the Government was committed to its obligations thereunder, having given due consideration to the rights of the child and national priorities. A number of programmes and activities had been held to give effect to the Convention, including oversight on child abuse cases and review of legislation. A National Cultural Council oversaw the protection and promotion of Dominican culture. The nation's prime recognition of the elderly was premised on the enjoyment of all fundamental freedoms and rights, and the Government provided total care for the elderly through home- and community-based care. Among the challenges facing Dominica was HIV/AIDS, and the Government had a five-year strategic plan, based on the premise that the life of every individual was precious and valuable, notwithstanding their sexual orientation or politics. There was a systematic approach to integrating youth affairs with all stakeholders, but there were problems with youth development. Dominica had had much difficulty in reporting on human rights to international bodies, as it lacked trained human rights assessors, and was requesting technical assistance in preparing national reports for the Treaty Bodies. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included that the Government had clearly identified areas of interest and intended to address these challenges; measures taken to protect vulnerable groups, including women, children, and senior citizens, including free access to healthcare; efforts to protect women's rights including through labour contracts and the law against domestic violence; efforts to protect the rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS; efforts to promote the right to education, especially for poor children, showing the determination of Dominica to give full effect to this right; efforts to ensure economic, social and cultural rights for all the population; efforts to improve social development for the Carib people through various means such as improving housing and access to work;

Other issues and questions asked pertained to what were the results thus far of efforts to reduce discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and how would these be sustained; what steps had been taken to protect children as identified by the Government and seen as priorities for the near future; how severe was the problem of trafficking in persons for the country; that domestic violence had reached endemic proportions, and those responsible for rape in marriage could not be prosecuted before judicial separation of the spouses, and what measures were being envisaged by the authorities to remedy this situation, as well as that in which the police reportedly took little notice of such cases; the reasons or difficulties before Dominica in presenting its reports to the Treaty Bodies; and what measures had been envisaged by the authorities to remedy discrimination against indigenous persons. 

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: to continue measures to protect the rights of children and the elderly, as well as to bolster efforts to help young people and adolescents; to create public campaigns to combat discrimination against HIV/AIDS sufferers; to make additional efforts to make access to education easier for all; that the Government think about how to set up justice for minors bearing in mind the minimum standards promulgated by the United Nations and means for preventing delinquency; that the Government call on technical and financial assistance from the international community to help with efforts to permanently overcome obstacles in ensuring economic, social and cultural rights; that the Government continue to implement social policies that contributed to driving forward the situation of its people, in particular its indigenous population; and that it adopt a National Plan of Action for Children. 

Other recommendations included: to accede to the major international instruments on trafficking in persons, including the Palermo Protocol; to ratify the international Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and that on Persons with Disabilities; to apply legislative measures to ensure that all children were registered at birth; the adoption of a comprehensive preventive strategy to eliminate all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities, in particular the more vulnerable, such as children with disabilities; to increase the efficacy of police actions to combat domestic violence, including through awareness campaigns; that Dominica abrogate those provisions that criminalised same-sex relations; to put an end to the death penalty; to intensify efforts to increase international aid to provide assistance to fully comply with international commitments to protect and promote human rights; to protect citizens who were discriminated against due to their gender, sexuality or HIV-status; to comply with the recommendations of the High Commissioner on Refugees on refugees and migrants; and to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings. 

Responding to the questions and issues raised, Mr. Gregoire said that Dominica welcomed all recommendations. Dominica would endeavour to respond to all questions at the plenary session of the Human Rights Council at its March session. On ratification of human rights Conventions, the Government was well aware of this issue, and would be examining it seriously, including the Convention against Torture. He would be recommending to the Cabinet that this be seriously examined. Dominica admitted it had not done a good job in terms of reporting to human rights bodies- one of the problems in this arena was the way in which the Ministerial system was organised. On the death penalty, there was a de facto moratorium, and Dominica could agree to establishing a formal moratorium. The highest priority was fighting poverty and ensuring equal treatment for all in all sectors such as health and education, and Dominica called on the international community to continue to provide assistance with addressing social development.

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Cuba, United States of America, France, Nicaragua, United Kingdom, Mexico, China, Slovenia, Netherlands, Chile, Italy, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Argentina, Djibouti and Bangladesh.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Belarus, Turkey, Maldives, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The one-person delegation of Dominica consisted of the Permanent Representative.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Dominica are Djibouti, Brazil, and China.

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 Dominica can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Dominica on Wednesday 9 December.

Adoption of report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo are Slovenia, Gabon, and Japan. Introducing the report, GUY BLAISE NAMBO-WEZET (Gabon) said the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Congo had shown a cooperative and constructive spirit, which was shown in the acceptance of almost all recommendations. The remaining recommendations would be examined in depth by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Representing the State under review, UPIO KAKURA WAPOL, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the interactive debate had allowed the Democratic Republic of the Congo to evaluate the progress made by the Government; the challenges, constraints and difficulties particular to that country reinforced its determination to continue to strive and to commit resources to consolidate the progress already made, and to make further progress.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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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