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Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review on Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica and Equatorial Guinea

MORNING

19 March 2010

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica and Equatorial Guinea.

Janin Erih, Permanent Representative of Brunei Darussalam, said several consultations had been held with all relevant agencies to look into the recommendations as contained in the report. At the same time, specific discussions were held to review Brunei Darussalam's reservations on articles under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. On other human rights treaties, Brunei Darussalam was progressively reviewing and was currently in the stage of ratifying or acceding to a number of conventions and optional protocols. Another significant development was the entry into force of the Children and Young Persons Order in March 2010, which, among other factors, included the establishment of juvenile courts and action teams on child protection. For women's rights, various laws existed to ensure the protection of their rights and to ensure a more active participation of women in national development.

In the discussion on Brunei Darussalam, delegations noted with satisfaction Government efforts aimed at ensuring welfare, access to health, education, adequate housing and employment for the population, and commended the sustained efforts of that country in the field of promoting women’s role and participation in society. Speakers underscored that the acceptance of the recommendation on the ratification of remaining core international human rights instruments was a clear testimony of the Government’s readiness to further consolidate the enjoyment of human rights. The high priority the Government placed in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, which it was close to achieving, was also worth noting. However, a speaker urged Brunei Darussalam to bring its legislation into conformity with international human rights standards by repealing legislative provisions that criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Legislation that criminalized same-sex activities created a dangerous impediment to effective prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Taking the floor on Brunei Darussalam were Algeria, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand, the Philippines, Cuba, Indonesia, Pakistan, the United States, Nepal, and China. The non-governmental organization COC Netherlands also took the floor.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process on Brunei Darussalam.

Manuel B. Dengo, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Costa Rica was a country with a long democratic tradition, and it followed the path of ensuring human rights for all its inhabitants. The Universal Periodic Review had thus been an important experience, allowing it to assess its progress from an external angle. Costa Rica was grateful for the efforts made on improving the situation in the country; however, that did not make it any easier to deal with them. Recommendations should be aimed at specific areas where the yield in terms of human rights was not as good as it should be. Providing complementary information on the report of Costa Rica, a second speaker reported that, of the 102 recommendations Costa Rica had received, 3 had already been fulfilled. Those were the recommendations on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; that it submit its fifth and sixth periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and recommendations with regard to the strengthening of the Penal Code on trafficking of women and children.

During the interactive debate on Costa Rica, speakers commended the exemplary cooperation by Costa Rica with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as shown by the country's adoption of almost all the recommendations, as well as the fact that 77 of them were being implemented and three had already been completed. A delegation was appreciative of the high priority given by the Government for public investment in the social sector; free education, health care and specific programmes focused on disabled persons were particularly noteworthy. The provision in the Constitution of Costa Rica that human rights took precedence over other regulations that went against the principles of individual rights and fundamental freedoms was noted with pleasure, and the valuable contribution Costa Rica had made to the Security Council over the past two years was underscored. However, Costa Rica should reduce all forms of violence against women through a range of means, including training of law enforcement officers. Costa Rica should also accept recommendations to intensify measures intended to protect sexual orientation and sexual identity through specific educational initiatives and awareness-raising for all society.

Speaking on the situation in Costa Rica were Algeria, the United States, Nepal, and Morocco. The European Region of the International Gay and Lesbian Federation also took the floor.

The Human Rights Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Costa Rica.

Salvador Ondo Nkumu, Minister of Justice, Religion and Correctional Facilities of Equatorial Guinea, said there was an unequivocal commitment by the Government to the protection and promotion of human rights, which were part and parcel of the human dignity of the people of the country. Seventy-five per cent of the recommendations made were already part of the Government's Action Plan. Also, the Government had redoubled efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and the law against torture, and it was today a political priority for the Government. A package of legal and political measures was also currently in an advanced stage of discussion to combat the discrimination that women had historically been victims of, and there was a draft Law on Gender currently going through the legislative process. The Government was ready to work with technical assistance and cooperation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in breaking down the legal, social and political obstacles that today continued to limit the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons in the country.

In the discussion on Equatorial Guinea, speakers noted with satisfaction the endorsement of many recommendations by the Government, which reflected its will in favour of human rights. Although Equatorial Guinea had to face numerous challenges, improvements in the areas of health, education and others, were noted, as well as efforts taken in providing drinking water, energy and access to information. The determination of the Government to respect its international human rights commitments deserved the attention of the international community, which should work with Equatorial Guinea to identify the ways and means appropriate to ensure durable human development to guarantee the flowering of the people of Equatorial Guinea. However, it was unfortunate that authorities had not authorized the Special Rapporteur on torture to investigate the real conditions and the treatment meted out to politicians and other opponents over the last few years. Speakers also underscored that ethnic minorities were seriously underrepresented and excluded from meaningful participation in the political and economic affairs of the country, and that citizens were unable to condemn Government-sponsored abuse and neglect since freedom of expression and opinion had long been suppressed.

Speaking in the discussion on Equatorial Guinea were Algeria, Cuba, the United States, China, Senegal, Morocco, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Commission of Jurists; Open Society Institute; Center for Economic and Social Rights; Human Rights Watch; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des Droits de l’Homme; Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network; Amnesty International; Human Rights First; and Conectas Direitos Humanos.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Equatorial Guinea.

When the Council meets at 3 p.m. today, it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Ethiopia and hold a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Brunei Darussalam

JANIN ERIH, Permanent Representative of Brunei Darussalam to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the Universal Periodic Review process formed an integral part of the work of the Human Rights Council. Following the review session in December, several consultations had been held with all relevant agencies to look into the recommendations as contained in the report. At the same time, specific discussions had also been held to review Brunei Darussalam's reservations on articles under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and a detailed study was currently being conducted with regard to the reservations on the former. On other human rights treaties, Brunei Darussalam was progressively reviewing and was currently in the stage of ratifying or acceding to a number of conventions and optional protocols. Another significant development was the entry into force of the Children and Young Persons Order in March 2010, which, among other things, included the establishment of the juvenile courts and action teams on child protection, further enhanced the rights of children, safeguarded their welfare, and provided for approved homes and approved schools for children in need of protection, and proper remand homes and places of detention for children in legal custody.

On human rights education and training in schools and society, the Government of Brunei Darussalam had undertaken several measures in its efforts to increase awareness in schools and relevant institutions, Mr. Erih said. Training and education were undertaken to raise society's awareness on human rights through electronic and print media, road shows and ongoing talks. For women's rights, various laws existed to ensure the protection of women’s rights and to guarantee a more active participation of women in national development. Brunei Darussalam's Long-Term Development Plan also encouraged equal opportunities for women in the work force and in nation building. Further, the new Employment Order 2009 and Employment (Domestic Workers) Regulations 2009 provided that there should be no discrimination against persons on the basis of age, gender or race. On the work of the National Council on Social Issues, it was made up of six Special Committees looking into, among others, poverty; social mentalities; crime prevention; women’s issues and the family institution; and elderly and special-needs persons. Brunei Darussalam remained committed to the protection and promotion of its human rights, and looked forward to working with all members to ensure the success of the meeting.

AHMED SAADI (Algeria) appreciated the commitment of Brunei Darussalam to promote and protect human rights. The acceptance of the recommendations formulated by many delegations, including that of Algeria, regarding the ratification of remaining core international human rights instruments was a clear testimony of the readiness of the Government to further consolidate the enjoyment of human rights. Algeria also noted with satisfaction the efforts taken by Brunei Darussalam aimed at ensuring the welfare, access to health, education, adequate housing and employment for the population. It further commended the sustainable efforts in the field of promoting women’s role and participation in society, as well as the measures taken in favour of workers, particularly in the framework of the Employment Order of 2009.

KHONEPHENG THAMMAVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) commended Brunei Darussalam for its acceptance of the recommendations put forward by Council Members and observer States during the sixth Universal Periodic Review in December 2009. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic hoped that in follow-up, the Government of Brunei Darussalam would take all necessary measures to address the pending issues on human rights, as recommended. It also hoped that the Government fulfilled its commitment to protecting and promoting the human rights in the country in accordance with the tradition, culture and specific situation of the country, and that it ensured well-being, stability, peace, development and prosperity and achieved its national vision of zero poverty by 2035. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic welcomed the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report on Brunei Darussalam.

FELIX PENA RAMOS (Venezuela) appreciated the presentation by the delegation of Brunei Darussalam. Venezuela was pleased with the country’s openness in facilitating the review process. Brunei Darussalam had spared no effort to equip its population with health services. Venezuela stressed the important and valuable effort that was being made in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, especially with regard to women’s rights. It encouraged Brunei Darussalam to maintain and to increase the constant push it had made for social policy, especially in health. Venezuela recommended the adoption of the report.

SUN SUON (Cambodia) appreciated the inclusive and constructive approach taken by Brunei Darussalam in preparing its national report and to the follow-up to the recommendations adopted by the Working Group. Cambodia was further pleased that Brunei Darussalam had accepted most of the important recommendations in its efforts to achieve equitable socio-economic development, which contributed to a better enjoyment of human rights. Cambodia had also asked Brunei Darussalam to accede to a number of international instruments. In that regard, it was confident that Brunei Darussalam would spare no effort in translating recommendations into concrete action and further make progress in many areas of human rights, especially in improving social welfare and gender equity.

VU DUNG (Viet Nam) commended Brunei Darussalam for its positive engagement with the Human Rights Council in the Universal Periodic Review process, and noted with appreciation Brunei Darussalam's response to the recommendations made. Viet Nam further welcomed the steps so far taken by the Government to implement the recommendations adopted, in particular in the areas of child protection, participation of women in national development, protection of the elderly and persons with special needs, poverty-reduction and active cooperation with human rights treaties. Finally, Viet Nam wished Brunei Darussalam every success in its efforts to further strengthen the human rights protection and promotion of its citizens and to realize its national plan on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand) said Thailand saw much progress had been made in Brunei Darussalam in the area of human rights, and particularly welcomed the establishment of the National Council on Social Issues, hoping that that mechanism would help Brunei Darussalam to comprehensively translate its international human rights obligations into domestic law. Thailand especially commended the exemplary efforts to promote free access to basic services and necessities in such areas as education and health care, and urged the continuing promotion of human rights education and training for both Government officials and the general public. Thailand also encouraged Brunei Darussalam to further protect and promote the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly. Thailand would continue its close cooperation with Brunei Darussalam in the protection and promotion of human rights at the regional level in particular, through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

EVAN P. GARCIA (Philippines) noted with appreciation that Brunei Darussalam had accepted a number of recommendations, and welcomed the Government’s intention to become a party to major international human rights instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Philippines acknowledged Brunei Darussalam’s progress in socio-economic development and underscored that its high ranking in the Human Development Index was indeed commendable. The high priority the Government placed in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, which it was close to achieving, was also worth noting. The Philippines encouraged Brunei Darussalam to continue its ongoing efforts in strengthening, protecting and promoting the rights of its peoples, especially vulnerable groups.

PABLO BERTI OLIVA (Cuba) said Brunei Darussalam was a country whose Government endeavoured to move along the path of socio-economic development, in which regard it had made important progress, as could be seen by how close the county was to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Brunei Darussalam had had an exchange with all countries participating in its review and it had provided detailed information on its human rights situation. Cuba was also pleased with Brunei Darussalam’s decision to accept the recommendations Cuba had made in a constructive dialogue. It was only by adhering to those principles that they could all be able to continue making headway in the promotion and protection of human rights.

DIAN TRIANSYAN DJANI (Indonesia) thanked Brunei Darussalam for the update on efforts to protect and promote human rights in that country. As a member of the Troika for the review of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia was heartened to learn that Brunei had accepted most of the recommendations. It was also pleased that the Government would harmonize national legislation with international norms. Indonesia encouraged Brunei Darussalam to give consideration to some international instruments to which it could eventually accede. Also noted with appreciation was Brunei Darussalam’s will to bolster cooperation with civil society on human rights issues. Finally, Indonesia hoped Brunei Darussalam would bolster the work of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to ensure the human rights of the people of the region.

SAEED SARWAR (Pakistan) said Pakistan valued the efforts of Brunei Darussalam to provide human rights and to shape policies for the welfare of its citizens. Pakistan was also hopeful that Brunei Darussalam would continue its social policies to improve the welfare of its citizens. It was also pleased to note that the Government was in the process of creating effective human rights mechanisms in follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review. Pakistan wished Brunei Darussalam well in its endeavours to promote and protect the human rights of all its citizens.

JOHN MARIZ (United States) commended Brunei Darussalam's enforcement of labour statutes protecting workers from abusive employers, and supported the recommendation to enforce statutes protecting immigrant and temporary migrant workers from exploitative employers. The United States strongly supported the recommendation to rescind the Sedition Act and the Newspaper Act in order to bring Brunei Darussalam's laws and practices in line with international obligations regarding freedom of speech and expression. It further supported the recommendations to increase protection for women, children and other vulnerable groups, as well as to criminalize all acts of rape and sexual violence against women and children. The United States further strongly supported the recommendation to further strengthen the human rights infrastructure, training for officials, and the amplification of the roles, functions and capacities of national institutions that protected and promoted internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.

HARI PRASAD ODARI (Nepal) commended Brunei Darussalam's emphasis on the harmony of inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations and traditional family values as fundamentals of the social fabric. The Government's policy of providing a healthy environment, quality education, adequate housing, food and job security was also noteworthy. Nepal was pleased to see the significant developments in the economic, social, cultural and political fronts in Brunei Darussalam, which obviously helped in the realization of human rights, and congratulated the people and Government for being ranked high in the United Nations Human Development Index.

LUO CHENG (China) noted with satisfaction that Brunei Darussalam accorded much importance to the Universal Periodic Review process and that it had decided to follow up the recommendations it had been given. China encouraged Brunei Darussalam to further strengthen the economic, social and cultural rights of its people in order to improve their living standards. Brunei Darussalam should focus more strongly on the rights of women, aged people and other vulnerable groups.

BJORN VAN ROOSENDAAL, of Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit COC Nederland, urged Brunei Darussalam to bring its legislation into conformity with international human rights standards by repealing legislative provisions that criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Such legislation strongly ran counter to existing international human rights obligations and legislation that criminalized same-sex activities created a dangerous impediment to effective prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Also, laws that criminalized homosexuality made it less likely that gays and lesbians would seek treatment.

JANIN ERIH, Permanent Representative of Brunei Darussalam, in concluding remarks, thanked in particular delegations that had recognized Brunei Darussalam’s achievements in the area of promotion and protection of human rights. The country had learned a lot from the Universal Periodic Review process regarding promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly through the interactive dialogues. Brunei Darussalam reaffirmed that it would continue to cooperate with relevant United Nations bodies, and to ensure the rights of women in particular. It was grateful for the support of all Member States and others who had taken part throughout the review process.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Costa Rica

MANUEL B. DENGO, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said this was an opportunity that was important for Costa Rica, as it allowed the country to update the Council on the situation of human rights, and to give some input as to how the Universal Periodic Review worked, in some depth. Costa Rica was a country with a long democratic tradition, and it followed the path of ensuring human rights for all its inhabitants. The Universal Periodic Review had thus been an important experience, allowing it to assess its progress from an external angle. Costa Rica was firmly convinced of the value and utility of the mechanism, as it allowed a sharing of best practices and could help to improve human rights in countries where there were limits on them. Implementation of the recommendations was perhaps something that was not visible in the short term, but should be so in the long term. It was essential for the mechanism to evolve, so that it would be useful for all States who were reviewed; only thus would it encourage and improve human rights in the various countries.

Costa Rica had considered the recommendations, and concluded that a number of them were on areas where the Government was already dealing with them in a regular way. Many reiterated the same idea, and encouraged Costa Rica to persevere in its efforts on the protection and promotion of human rights. Costa Rica was grateful for the efforts made on improving the situation in the country; however, that did not make it any easier to deal with them. Recommendations should be aimed at specific areas where the yield in terms of human rights was not as good as it should be, for example, there might be an absence of public policies which could lead to a lowering of the standard of human rights. Costa Rica had a number of ideas that could be applied to the Universal Periodic Review to make it more objective and fair for all.

CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET-FERNANDEZ (Costa Rica), providing complementary information on the report of Costa Rica, said that, of the 102 recommendations Costa Rica had received, 3 had already been fulfilled. Those were the recommendations on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; that the Government submit its fifth and sixth periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and recommendations with regard to the strengthening of the Penal Code on trafficking of women and children. Another 77 recommendations coincided with decisions and policies the Government had adopted. The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was being considered for ratification. As for gender, since 2006 Costa Rica had in place an Inter-Sectoral Committee, the objective of which was to guarantee the rights of women. It was also the task of the National Institute for Women to carry out a review of the norms and laws in that area. In 2008, a law on the prohibition of physical punishment against children had been adopted. Concerning trafficking in persons, that now constituted a crime according to Costa Rican law. The law not only covered international trafficking but also trafficking within Costa Rica’s national territory and the Government had put forward important measures to tackle all forms of trafficking. Costa Rica also promoted the eradication of torture, particularly attaching priority to prevention of torture. For example, there was a mechanism that carried out regular visits to prevent acts of torture and see that conditions of immigrants were appropriate. There was also a new normative body that stipulated that it was inappropriate to detain foreign persons in an irregular situation for more than 48 hours.

Turning to recommendations that had been rejected, Costa Rica did not plan to consider the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Another recommendation Costa Rica had not accepted was that relating to a regional integration system – since it was of the view that that fell into the regional political scope of Central America. Costa Rica also took note of the four pending recommendations. Costa Rica would continue efforts to guarantee better living standards for its people. Costa Rica was at top of the list of the Human Development Index and guaranteed effective access of all minors to education and health. The latest data highlighted that, in 2009, for the third year in a row, there had been a lowering in secondary school leaving. The Government also made efforts and had had important results regarding the provision of clean drinking water, which stood at 93 per cent. On the Universal Periodic Review process, it was necessary that duplication from the recommendations of treaty bodies and those from the Universal Periodic Review be avoided. Costa Rica would be available to continue dialogue with all relevant actors.

AHMED SAADI (Algeria) welcomed the additional information provided by Costa Rica. Algeria also welcomed Costa Rica’s acceptance of efforts to promote the status of women and gender parity. It further noted the valuable contribution Costa Rica had made to the Security Council over the past two years. Algeria hoped that Costa Rica would continue to promote human rights.

JOHN MARIZ (United States) was extremely grateful for the additional information provided. The United States appreciated the decision that Costa Rica should bolster efforts to combat trafficking in persons. It agreed that Costa Rica should reduce all forms of violence against women through a range of means, including training of law enforcement officers. It further agreed that Costa Rica should protect children from all sorts of sexual exploitation. The United States recognized the constant commitment of Costa Rica to promote human rights, praising it for its commitment to the Universal Periodic Review.

HARI PRASAD ODARI (Nepal) commended Costa Rica for its active cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review process, and also for the statement and further explanation of its position regarding various concerns and recommendations expressed during the interactive dialogue. Nepal noted with pleasure the provision in the Constitution of Costa Rica that human rights took precedence over other regulations that went against the principles of individual rights and fundamental freedoms, and commended the oldest democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean for its recognized human rights profile. Nepal was also appreciative of the high priority given by the Government for public investment in the social sector. Free education, health care and specific programmes focused on disabled persons were particularly noteworthy, and Nepal would be pleased to learn from Costa Rica's experience in fighting against poverty.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) commended the exemplary cooperation by Costa Rica with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, as shown by the country's adoption of almost all the recommendations, as well as the fact that 77 of them were being implemented and three had already been completed. The discussion had been held in a spirit of tranquillity and openness and through a constructive dialogue, allowing for a favourable balance sheet to be drawn up on the situation of human rights in Costa Rica. Costa Rica was congratulated for the success of the exercise, and encouraged to continue its efforts in that regard, as well as its full cooperation with the international human rights bodies. Morocco shared Costa Rica's view of the formulation of the recommendations, in that sometimes they were not quite clear, and that issue should be discussed during the review process of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

BJORN VAN ROOSENDAAL, of the European Region of the International Gay and Lesbian Federation, congratulated Costa Rica for accepting the recommendation to join the statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, first presented at the United Nations General Assembly in December 2008. Costa Rica was also commended for accepting the recommendation to pursue its efforts in favour of gays, lesbians and transsexuals. It was encouraging that Costa Rica had accepted to ensure sufficient resources for effective functioning of its national preventive mechanism to put an end to human rights violations. Costa Rica should accept recommendations to intensify measures intended to protect sexual orientation and sexual identity through specific educational initiatives and awareness-raising for all society, and undertake an awareness-raising campaign to address discrimination against homosexuals and transgender persons.

MANUEL B. DENGO, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in concluding remarks, thanked Members, Observer States and other organizations for taking part in the process. Costa Rica had a very great commitment to human rights and to the work of the Council in order to ensure a review process that would ultimately make implementing human rights more effective in the country. It reaffirmed that it was ready to continue to work with all those involved with the goal of having the best possible actions come out of such a process.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review for Costa Rica.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Equatorial Guinea

SALVADOR ONDO NKUMU, Minister of Justice, Religion and Correctional Facilities of Equatorial Guinea, said that, undergoing the Universal Periodic Review, the Government of Equatorial Guinea had made a detailed report describing the situation of human rights in the country. In summary, it attempted to show that there was an unequivocal commitment by the Government to the protection and promotion of human rights, which were part and parcel of the human dignity of the people of the country. Seventy-five per cent of the recommendations made were already part of the Government's Action Plan. The Government had redoubled efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture and the law against torture, and it was today a political priority for the Government. A package of legal and political measures was also currently in an advanced stage of discussion to combat the discrimination that women had historically been victims of, and there was a draft Law on Gender currently going through the legislative process. In addition, the Government had strengthened the institutional provisions for the protection of minors within the framework of the general policy for the protection of the rights of the child.

Other measures were being developed, adopted and implemented along the lines of recommendations received, Mr. Ondo Nkumu said, such as on freedom of the press and of association, the judicial system, the detention system, treatment of juvenile offenders and poverty eradication. The other recommendations would continue to be the subject of careful study from the perspective of the concrete circumstances of the country's situation. In that context, the difficulties of a legal order and social conscience should be stressed. With regard to the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty, and with regard to the text on access to military installations by the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Government was finding some serious difficulties of a legal order in adopting those. The Government, however, was ready to work with technical assistance and cooperation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in breaking down the legal, social and political obstacles that today continued to limit the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons in the country. Equatorial Guinea was ready to take note of further recommendations.

AHMED SAADI (Algeria) noted with satisfaction the endorsement of many recommendations by the Government of Equatorial Guinea. That reflected the will of the country in favour of human rights. Algeria further appreciated the Government’s ambitious economic goals, and its acceptance of the recommendation from many countries that it set up a national plan of education for all. Also highlighted were measures taken to provide free legal assistance. Algeria wished Equatorial Guinea every success in implementing all the recommendations it had accepted and recommended that the report be adopted.

JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA ROMAN (Cuba) was grateful for the presentation, which illustrated the efforts and actions undertaken by Equatorial Guinea with regard to human rights. Cuba thanked Equatorial Guinea for accepting most recommendations made to it, as well as comments made in that regard. Although the Government had to face numerous challenges, Cuba took note of improvements in the areas of health, education and others, as well as efforts taken in providing drinking water, energy and access to information. Those efforts should be supported through financial assistance.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) acknowledged that Equatorial Guinea had taken steps to strengthen the judiciary through the Law of Judicial Power of 2009. However, the reforms had not yet been implemented and the judicial system continued to deny citizens their basic rights. The United States encouraged Equatorial Guinea to follow through on its support for recommendations to develop a more independent and transparent judiciary; to end arbitrary detentions; to provide legal aid; and to provide detainees with immediate access to a judicial authority. The United States strongly recommended that Equatorial Guinea reconsider the recommendation to allow political parties and the media to operate freely and to take steps to better ensure the integrity of the electoral system.

LUO CHENG (China) welcomed Equatorial Guinea’s constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review; it had held a fruitful dialogue with all concerned parties and had demonstrated its willingness to promote and protect human rights. China appreciated Equatorial Guinea’s commitment to follow-up the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review, its efforts to improve the quality of education and its efforts to provide better health care. China acknowledged that Equatorial Guinea was a developing country and hoped that the international community would help Equatorial Guinea in its efforts to deal with difficulties and challenges, and to improve the human rights situation there.

BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE (Senegal) welcomed the acceptance by Equatorial Guinea of the recommendations made in the areas of access to education, the fight against maternal mortality and against poverty and for the realization of economic and social rights. Senegal also wished to associate itself with the encouraging remarks addressed to the Government for the efforts it was making to improve the situation of women and children, as well as its relations with civil society. The appropriate international bodies should provide the Government of Equatorial Guinea with technical support in the initiatives it was taking in favour of the protection and promotion of human rights.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) said the Working Group had noted the sincere commitment of Equatorial Guinea, which deserved the appreciation and encouragement of the Member States of the Human Rights Council. Morocco was pleased that the Government had accepted the recommendation on measures to reinforce synergy and coordination between the different national bodies in charge of the protection of human rights. The determination of the Government to respect its international human rights commitments deserved the attention of the international community, which should work with Equatorial Guinea to identify the ways and means appropriate to ensure durable human development to guarantee the flowering of the people of Equatorial Guinea. Morocco supported the constant efforts made by the Government for the protection and promotion of human rights, wishing it success in the implementation of the recommendations that it had accepted, and encouraging it to continue its efforts in favour of human rights.

ANATOLE NKOU (Cameroon) commended efforts Equatorial Guinea had made to promote and protect human rights, particularly those to better protect economic, social and political rights. Cameroon commended Equatorial Guinea for accepting 86 of the recommendations. It also appealed to the Council and to the United Nations to provide stronger technical assistance to help that country ensure human rights. Cameroon supported the adoption of the report.

LUC-JOSEPH OKIO (Republic of the Congo) thanked Equatorial Guinea during this review of the human rights situation in that country. Congo particularly supported protecting and promoting women and children. In renewing its will to collaborate closely with human rights mechanisms, Equatorial Guinea had shown its will to promote and protect human rights. The Republic of Congo called on the international community to provide all the necessary technical assistance needed to allow the Government to implement recommendations that had been made.

PONCIANO MBOMIO NVO, of the International Commission of Jurists, was pleased that the Government of Equatorial Guinea had been recommended to guarantee the independence of its judiciary. When lawyers were attacked in a thousand different ways, human rights could not be protected. That Equatorial Guinea had participated in the Universal Periodic Review, and the fact that it had accepted several recommendations, were a first positive step, but fulfilling the Government’s obligations required more than providing fair trials. A true state of law had to be established. The International Commission of Jurists encouraged all Member States to see to the implementation of the recommendations by the Government and the participation of civil society.

KENNETH DAVID HURWITZ, of Open Society Institute, called on Equatorial Guinea to implement without delay it promises to the Council to address corruption and misappropriation and misallocation of national wealth. The Open Society Institute urged all Governments to monitor and publicly report on progress made by Equatorial Guinea in implementing the recommendations made during this session, particularly publication of the national budget; clear identification of foreign bank accounts; verifiable declaration of assets by Government representatives; and accession to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

HILARIO NSUE ALENE, of Center for Economic and Social Rights, welcomed the recommendations made by Member States. The exploitation of oil and other resources made Equatorial Guinea one of the richest in sub-Saharan Africa; however, some 76 per cent of the population still lived in dire poverty. The Government needed to implement the recommendations to reduce poverty urgently and to distribute national resources and ensure the economic and social rights of all the population. There was an urgent need to strengthen civil society, and it was regrettable that the State had rejected the recommendation on implementation of the United Nations Convention on the rights of human rights defenders and that it relax requirements for non-governmental organizations. Equatorial Guinea should sign and ratify immediately the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and issue a standing invitation to all Special Procedures.

KRISTINA DE MAIN, of Human Rights Watch, said the Universal Periodic Review process represented a truly significant opportunity, with the potential to improve the dire human rights situation for the population of Equatorial Guinea. Unfortunately, the Government had not made good use of that opportunity, and its engagement in the Universal Periodic Review raised serious doubts about its commitment to human rights standards as a whole. The Universal Periodic Review process was meant to allow civil society in the country to engage in an open dialogue with the Government, but there was not a single legally registered independent human rights group in the country. The Government continually failed to allocate available funds for essential social services. The complete inadequacy of the Government's approach to human rights and the Universal Periodic Review demonstrated the urgent need for a vigorous, transparent and participatory follow-up mechanism to translate the recommendations into meaningful action.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, welcomed the openness of Equatorial Guinea during the review process and its acceptance of most of the recommendations emerging from the Universal Periodic Review. Despite the promulgation of legislation on the prevention of torture, it was unfortunate that the authorities had not authorized the Special Rapporteur on torture to investigate the real conditions and the treatment meted out to politicians and other opponents over the past few years. The country was invited to guarantee the independence of the judicial process and to authorize a registration for freedom of action for all human rights defenders. The Government of Equatorial Guinea should commit to human rights awareness-raising and education at all levels.

ROWLAND JIDE MACAULAY, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, appreciated Equatorial Guinea’s constructive engagement in the review process. The Network commended Equatorial Guinea for accepting most of the recommendations. It also welcomed the country’s acceptance of the recommendation relating to bolstering mechanisms for ensuring awareness and implementing international human rights obligations. Those would ensure that authorities responded better to people, including those who had been marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Network also expressed its willingness to work with the Government to develop and implement initiatives to achieve those goals

MARIANNE LILIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said several recommendations were particularly pertinent in light of recent reports on the late January 2010 abduction of four Equatorial Guineans from Benin. Those were recommendations to end torture and ill-treatment; to stop incommunicado and secret detention and enforced disappearances; to abolish the practice of abducting Equatorial Guineans exiled in neighbouring countries and secretly transferring them to places of detention in Equatorial Guinea; and to bring perpetrators of such human rights violations to justice. Amnesty International urged the Government of Equatorial Guinea to ensure the prompt implementation of those recommendations.

TUTU ALICANTE, of Human Rights First, said discrimination against women continued to be a serious problem in Equatorial Guinea and violence against women was common. The Government had not made significant progress in closing the persistent gender gap in education for women and girls. In addition, ethnic minorities were seriously underrepresented and excluded from meaningful participation in the political and economic affairs of the country and citizens were unable to condemn Government-sponsored abuse and neglect since freedom of expression and opinion had long been suppressed.

ALFREDO OKENVE NDOHO, of Conectas Direitos Humanos, said his organization had never been consulted by the Government or involved in the Universal Periodic Review process, and did not believe that the Government had communicated with anyone from civil society in that regard. The Government should develop a real involvement with the non-governmental organization community. The Government was not used to working with civil society without making difficulties for their participation. There were fewer restrictions than in earlier years, but many initiatives continued to be blocked and, until the Government implemented the recommendation to create a conducive environment for the functioning of civil society and to build a dialogue with them, the Council should promote and monitor the process of that implementation.

SALVADOR ONDO NKUMU, Minister of Justice, Religion and Correctional Facilities of Equatorial Guinea, said, in addition to reporting on the situation of human rights from the Government's perspective, the delegation had come in December in order to gather advice, and had taken the commitment to take the recommendations home with a view to studying them carefully so as to give an answer to the Council. He could now answer that a good number of recommendations had been taken on board earlier and, except for three, all were now taken on board. With regard to the three recommendations – on the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty, and on the access of the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations to military institutions – the Government had legal and social impediments to accepting them, and therefore considered them as unacceptable. With the same constructive spirit that it had shown in December, the delegation had listened to and was taking on board all recommendations and suggestions it had just heard, and would take them back to the capital so that they would be implemented as soon as possible. The Government of Equatorial Guinea would work hand-in-hand with the Human Rights Council in order to receive technical assistance and to keep it permanently informed on the situation of human rights in the country. The Government had the sincere political will to protect and promote human rights in the country.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Equatorial Guinea.

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