10 February 2009 (afternoon)For use of information media; not an official record· The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Mauritius this afternoon, during which 43 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
· This afternoon, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Senegal, following the review of the country on Friday, 6 February.
· Presenting the national report of Mauritius was JAYARAMA VALAYDEN, Attorney-General of Mauritius, who, while noting that Mauritius was party to most international human rights treaties, said despite its capacity constraints as a Small Island Developing State, Mauritius has strived to honour its reporting obligations under the different human rights treaties and was committed to continue to cooperate with the treaty bodies and to follow up closely on their recommendations. As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, elected in 2006 for a three-year term, Mauritius has worked with the international community in a spirit of dialogue, cooperation, and objectivity to build the institutional architecture of the Council, including the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism, and also to promote and protect the universal enjoyment of all Human Rights. Since its independence, Mauritius has been a working in a multiracial and multicultural democracy whose foundations were based on the promotion and protection of human rights. Strong and independent institutions also existed to guarantee the rights of the citizens such as the National Human Rights Commission, which included the Sex Discrimination Division, the Ombudsman and the Ombudsperson for Children. Mauritius has also recently adopted the Equal Opportunities Act 2008. Conscious that respect for human rights and social justice were essential for economic development, the Government of Mauritius has placed empowerment and the reduction of poverty at the heart of its economic programme launched in 2006 to restructure the Mauritian economy. In this regard, an Empowerment Programme has been set up with the objective of democratizing the economy by broadening the circle of opportunities for each Mauritian citizen, creating employment and bringing social justice. Moreover, the Government has also introduced an Eradication of Absolute Poverty Programme consisting of a number of integrated development projects within identified pockets of poverty.
With a view to fostering a culture of human rights in the country, the Government of Mauritius has set up a Human Rights Centre and, at present, was finalizing a National Action Plan on Human Rights, he said. This Action Plan sought to develop a strong culture of human rights in Mauritius and to bring about tangible improvements in the observance of all categories of human rights, in particular for the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children, people living with HIV/AIDS and the poor. In line with the Government Programme 2005-2010, the enforcement mechanism of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act has been strengthened. The Government was also in the process of finalizing a Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill which has been prepared with the assistance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Among other steps taken in the field of human rights, the HIV and AIDS Act was passed in 2006 to ensure that all persons living with HIV/AIDS are treated in fairness and respect and the death penalty was abolished in Mauritius with the passage in November 1995 of the Abolition of Death Penalty Act.
Responding to a series of questions submitted in advance, the Attorney General said, as regards extending a standing invitation to United Nations Special Procedures, Mauritius would welcome the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and was considering whether to issue a standing invitation to all Special Procedures. On human rights training provided to law enforcement and judicial officers, it was noted that the Police and Prisons Departments have Training Schools where regular training and refresher courses on human rights and other subjects were imparted to Police and Prisons Officers respectively. Concerning police investigations, any arbitrary arrest or detention may be challenged before Court or reported to the National Human Rights Commission. Measures were also being taken to modernize investigation methods within the police force, with the assistance of the French and UK Governments, to decrease reliance on the use of confessions. On the issue of sex offenders, the police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have been working hard to expedite the prosecution of sex offenders. The relevant authorities were fast-tracking the investigation of sexual offences, especially those committed on young children. On another issue, it was stated that police officers were already accountable with regard to ill-treatment of detainees and that any suspected acts of misconduct of police officers may be investigated by the authorities.
In conclusion, the Attorney General said as the world was experiencing a financial crisis, Mauritius, as a Small Island Developing State, could nevertheless be proud of its human rights record despite its inherent vulnerabilities and constraints. Mauritius will strive to become a "Human Rights Island" imbued with a human rights culture, where human rights were not only a source of inspiration but were also enforceable and enforced in practice.
· During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included progress made on the right to education and health; strides made in promotion and protection the rights of women; the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission; accession to several international human rights instruments; the creation of the post of Child Defender; the abolishment of the death penalty; the State’s polices to combat HIV/AIDS; the establishment of the Family Welfare and Protection Unit; the State’s efforts towards achieving poverty eradication; progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; the launching of micro-credit programmes and schemes; and the strides made by Mauritius to be a "Human Rights Island".
· 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 measures envisaged in the Bill on combating human trafficking, particularly to address the scale of this problem and to support victims; the measures undertaken to address questions raised by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women as regards cases of domestic violence; progress achieved from the domestic violence Act; whether Mauritius intended to set a minimum age of criminal responsibility; plans to take additional measures to tackle child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse; information about the Equal Opportunities Bill and its target groups; and steps taken to address the reported unsatisfactory working and living conditions of migrant workers.
Other issues and questions pertained to the steps being taken to address the backlog of cases before the courts and delays in pre-trial custody; progress made in the areas of combating police brutality; steps to address overcrowding in prisons; human rights and counter-terrorism and the implementation of Mauritius’ Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002; whether Mauritius had identified specific human rights technical assistance needs from the international community; the status of ratifying the 1951 Convention on Refugees; the functions and achievements of the National Human Rights Commission of Mauritius; progress achieved and the challenges faced in promoting economic, social and cultural rights; plans and practices in eradicating poverty in a time bound manner; and the results of the Eradication of Absolute Poverty Programme.
· A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To finalize the National Action Plan on Human Rights; to extend a standing invitation to the United Nations Special Procedures; to fine-tune the development agenda to effectively promote and protect human rights; for the international community to provide technical assistance and financial support in support of its efforts to attain the full enjoyment of human rights; to accede to the 1951 Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol; to continue to strengthen national human rights institutions; to continue promoting human rights education; to continue efforts to eradicate poverty; to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; to enhance efforts to protect the human rights of migrants; to ratify the Convention of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families; and to take further measures to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Other recommendations included to continue efforts to adopt the Sexual Offences Bill currently under consideration; to enact legislation that criminalized rape and to ensure that rape within marriage was a punishable offence the under legal code; to effectively monitor the implementation of the Bill on combating human trafficking upon its adoption; to take into account the human rights dimensions of human trafficking, in particular the need to protect and provide assistance to victims; to continue to focus efforts on eliminating domestic violence; to institute public awareness campaigns on domestic violence; to continue to apply a gender perspective in its polices and programmes; to take further steps to address discrimination against women especially in the work place; to increase the participation of women in political life; to speed up the ratification of the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; to intensify awareness-raising efforts on violence against women; to increase the number of shelters for women victims of violence and their children; and to address all obstacles that prevented women from reporting acts of violence to the police.
Additionally, Mauritius was encouraged to consider to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; to strengthen the existing policies and programmes aimed at eradicating child prostitution; to continue efforts to protect the rights of the child and completely eradicate child labour; to enact a Children’s Act and consolidate national legislation in line with the Committee on the Rights of the Child; to adopt measures for the prevention of sexual abuse and provide facilities for the care, recovery and reintegration of child victims of violence; and to provide girls with equal access to education facilities; and to introduce a legal age of criminal responsibility.
Another set of recommendations included: To ensure that any legislation, regulation or measures concerning the media fully respected the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom of media; to step up efforts to compete the reform of the judicial system; to present a Bill to Parliament on complaints against the police to increase human rights awareness among the police force; to speed up the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to adopt further measures to ensure compliance of pre-trial detention use with international standards; to sign and ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to completely eliminate police brutality; that investigation were carried out into all violations and deaths of persons in custody and in prisons attributable to police officers and that perpetrators of such violations were prosecuted; and to address the issue of overcrowded prisons.
· Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Senegal, Egypt, Canada, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Djibouti, Malaysia, Nigeria, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Azerbaijan, South Africa, India, Burkina Faso, Slovenia, Ghana, Brazil, China and Italy.
· Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Chad, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Morocco, Palestine, New Zealand, Latvia, Singapore, the Republic of Congo, Syria, Burundi, the Czech Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Barbados and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
· The 10-person delegation of Mauritius consisted of representatives the Office of the Attorney General and the Permanent Mission of Mauritius to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
· The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Mauritius are Zambia, Malaysia and Slovakia.
· 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 Mauritius can be found here.
· Adoption of report on Senegal: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Senegal are Italy, Brazil and Angola. Introducing the report MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy) said the delegation of Senegal demonstrated a constructive, cooperative and flexible approach to the UPR process. She also noted that there were no recommendations which were rejected by Senegal. Representing the State under review, BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the exchange of views held on Friday was very constructive and enriching for the delegation of Senegal and reassured Senegal that dialogue and cooperation were the best way to further the common enterprise of promoting and protecting human rights. Senegal would make the best of this exchange.
· The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Mauritius on Friday, 13 February.
· When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Jordan after which it is scheduled to adopt the report of China.
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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