Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
9 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 Equatorial Guinea this morning, during which forty 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 on Dominica, following the review of the country on Monday 7 December.
Presenting the national report of Equatorial Guinea was SALOMON NGUEMA OWONO, Vice Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea, who said the Republic of Equatorial Guinea would be able to continue to working towards protecting and promoting human rights following the Review and the recommendations made during the meeting. The National Report was the fruit of a consultative process at the national level and was elaborated by a Commission. In a spirit of transparency, the document analysed in the most objective manner possible the situation of human rights in the Republic, the different international commitments it had undertaken, and the difficulties encountered in their implementation.
The Republic acceded to independence in 1968, and in its short political life it had made firm steps forward in human rights, despite the fact that the regime that was set up in the country immediately after independence and lasted for eleven years had worsened the already dire panorama of human rights that were inherited from the colonial system, with a systematic violation of human rights. Human rights had been taken up thanks to the action begun in 1979. The new regime started from the basis that the Republic was a member of the United Nations, and had the political will to sign and ratify international instruments for human rights. After many years of work, working on the development, adoption and passing of legislation meant to instil the values of a culture of respect of human rights, there was progress. The Constitution gave way to a regime of democratic rights and freedoms and legislative developments of that Constitution. The country had gone step by step, and met the goals to achieve a democratic and social State that respected human rights.
During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included that Equatorial Guinea had ratified most of the core universal human rights treaties; that it was one of the fastest growing economies in the world; efforts to improve infrastructure including access to safe drinking water; the commitment to allocating forty per cent of investment income to the social sector; the steps to implement measures required for Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative candidate country status; the commendable efforts to protect and promote human rights, and national plans in the field of education; the scope of the law on the environment, which protected from any destruction or pollution the earth, air, waters and biodiversity, and the inspection system that had been put in place and the creation of a system of inspection, all of which contributed to safeguarding Nature.
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, how had the Government responded to address issues related to the numerous reports about a so-called "culture of impunity for perpetrators" of human rights violations; what were the preliminary results of the economic and social plan aiming to reduce poverty; what plans did the Government have to end Government censorship of publications and improve access to foreign media; a request for more information on the efforts aimed at ensuring equal access to education for girls and boys; a request for more information on the efforts and plans geared towards the fight against trafficking and exploitation of children as well as those aiming at improving gender equality; what were the measures taken to prevent the use of torture by the forces of law; and what were the initiatives taken to fight against violence against women, at the legislative level as well as in providing aid to victims and increasing awareness among the population of this issue.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that Equatorial Guinea enable access to military facilities to the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture; to make every necessary effort in order to improve the conditions in detention facilities so that they meet the necessary minimum conditions of habitability; to design and implement comprehensive strategies and policies to prevent and combat economic exploitation of children and to undertake awareness-raising campaigns in this respect; that the Government continue its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in particular with regards to education and ensure that there was equal access to education for all; that the Government continue its efforts to promote the presence of women within the Government and elected bodies; and to continue efforts on access to justice and consider putting into place a system of justice for minors.
Other recommendations included: to take necessary measures to ensure that law enforcement officials received the necessary training; and to continue campaigns towards the elimination of old customs undermining the status of girls and construct roads in rural areas connecting schools with residential centres. that Equatorial Guinea should address the independence of judges and lawyers on a priority basis; to continue efforts aimed at fighting trafficking in persons, and in particular the trafficking and exploitation of children; to consider the establishment of a national human rights institution in conformity with the Paris Principles; to modify legislation and put in place a legislative framework that respected and promoted the freedom of expression; to immediately investigate all allegations of torture and prosecute those guilty of these violations; and to respect the right of members of the Opposition to travel freely, to meet others, express their opinions, and to have free access to the media.
Responding to questions and issues raised and in final remarks, Mr. Owono said the Government had been inviting Special Rapporteurs from the United Nations to visit the country and had always offered its cooperation in order to facilitate their missions, showing the political will to manage the human rights situation in the country. Nevertheless, situations which were happening outside of Government control had taken place, and these were repressed by law. The Home Minister had a Ministerial Order issued to prevent street selling by children, and had instructed the relevant authorities to take strict measures to repress this. The Government was also carrying out seminars through the Ministry of Justice directed at all who were involved in dealing with trafficking in persons. The Government, in its ambitious development plan had established priorities in human rights which fully foresaw cooperation, including training in human resources, the empowering of public agents and powers, awareness-raising in human rights in all areas, particularly women and children and other vulnerable groups of society, and the inclusion of civil society in programmes on human rights education.
Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Egypt, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Chile, United States of America, Netherlands, Italy, Nigeria, Brazil, Slovenia, Argentina, China, India, Burkina Faso, Republic of Korea, Norway, South Africa, Gabon, Uruguay, Angola, and Ghana.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Germany, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Czech Republic, Spain, Latvia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Libya, Morocco, Switzerland, Portugal and Sudan.
The fourteen-person delegation of Equatorial Guinea consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Board of Governors of the Judiciary, the Ministry of Civil Service, the Human Rights Directorate, the first Deputy Prime Minister's Office, the National Human Rights Commission, the Permanent Mission of Equatorial Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva, and two Presidential Advisers.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Equatorial Guinea are Jordan, Egypt, and Cuba.
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 Equatorial Guinea can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Equatorial Guinea on Friday 11 December.
Adoption of report on Dominica: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Dominica are Djibouti, Brazil, and China. Introducing the report, MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) the draft report summarised Dominica's presentation, Member States interventions and recommendations. Almost all the recommendations had been accepted, showing Dominica's will to collaborate on its human rights. Representing the State under review, CRISPIN GREGOIRE, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Dominica to the United Nations in New York, said the interactive dialogue was immensely useful, and Dominica was pleased to have gone through this process, a tremendous learning opportunity, allowing the country to take stock of the efforts required to enhance its human rights machinery, being fully committed to doing so.
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 Ethiopia.
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