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Human Rights Committee asks Dominica about the use of force against political opposition and the infringement on the right of peaceful assembly

Rights Committee
CCPR/20/8

11 March 2020

Experts welcome the intention to establish a national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles and raise concern about discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity

 

The Human Rights Committee concluded today its review of the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Dominica, in the absence of a report and with the delegation present.  The Experts discussed, among other issues, the frequent use of the state of emergency, the use of force against the opposition and the potential abuses present in the wording and implementation of the Public Order Act, infringing on the freedom of assembly.
 
Committee Experts welcomed Dominica’s participation in the dialogue and its frank and open contributions, which signalled the recognition of the value of the engagement with the Committee.  Noting a 27-years delay in submitting a report, Experts recognized the difficulties this small country faced in fulfilling its reporting obligation under the Covenant and welcomed the intention to establish a national human rights institution that complied with the Paris Principles.

During the dialogue, the Committee Experts flagged a wide variety of reasons that provided a legal justification to institute a state of emergency, proclaimed 20 times over the last 20 years, and the related limitations on rights protected under the Covenant.

The 2018 Anti-Terrorism Act contained a very broad definition of terrorism and there was concern that it might be used as a tool to intimidate political opposition.  The excessive use of force against the opposition, combined with the police raids on opposition villages and political meetings indicated a broader pattern.  The wording and implementation of the Public Order Act possibly infringed on the freedom of assembly, as it was being used to disperse opposition’s meetings.

The Experts were concerned about the violence, harassment and marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and by the so-called “gay panic” criminal defence that justified murder if the male victim propositioned the accused.  Furthermore, consensual same-sex sexual activity was criminalized and the convicted persons could be detained in psychiatric hospitals for court-ordered treatment.

Vince Henderson, Ambassador of Dominica to the United States of America and its Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, in his introductory remarks appreciated the important work of the Committee and reiterated his country’s commitment to its human rights obligations.  He said that the Constitution guaranteed every person in Dominica the fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination but subject to the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest. 

Dominica was a country that operated under the rule of law and that had strong democratic institutions for the administration of justice, but further progress was hampered by resource constraints and the impact of disasters, he said.  The tropical storm Erika in 2015 and hurricane Maria in 2017 had dealt devastating blows to all sectors of the economy, with damages estimated at 90 percent and 226 percent of gross domestic product, respectively.

The delegation explained that the agreement of a majority in Parliament was required to declare a state of emergency, mostly done when the country was faced with hurricanes and storms ; guarantees existed to protect individuals in such situations.

The death penalty, abortion and same-sex issues were part of a broader contingent of issues that required a public conversation and citizenship participation ; the Government could not change laws on large social issue by fiat.  The law criminalizing consensual same-sex activity was not enforced and over the past five years, there had been no records of attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Equally, they did not face institutional discrimination.

Stressing the peace-loving character of the nation and the long history of peaceful political transition, the delegation said that the Prime Minister, accompanied by the representatives of the Caribbean Community, was heading to Guyana to meet with the two sides that had been in the standoff since the conclusion of the elections on 2 March. 

In the run-up to the December 2019 elections, the opposition parties continued to use the tools from their playbook: threats, intimidation, disruption and propaganda war, which they seemed to be winning as international media reported on a “massive demonstrations and civil unrest involving thousands of people”, even though only several hundred people had demonstrated. 

Objecting to the reports and publications cited by the Experts, some of which were “frivolous in their claims”, the delegation said that Dominica did not appear before the Committee to “defend the indefensible nor to burry its head in the sand”.  It appeared before the Committee to respond to questions on obligations it had voluntarily accepted, even if it had concerns about the Committee’s sources.

The regulations on the use of force were consistent with international standards and the Constitution.  Police officers had been brought to courts for the use of excessive force, and there was an internal mechanism within the police force to deal with the issue.  The Public Order Act regulated public processions or gatherings that could disrupt the daily activities of the public ; therefore the police had acted within their rights in breaking up the public meetings of the opposition.  The standards for the use of force to protect the property were determined by the judiciary and the legislature, and not by the executive, stressed the delegation.

The delegation of Dominica consisted of the representatives of the Embassy of Dominica to the United States of America and its Permanent Mission to the Organisation of American States.

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Dominica at the end of its one hundred and twenty-eighth session on 27 March.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage

Summaries of the Committee’s public meetings in English and French are available at the United Nations Office at Geneva News and Media page, while the webcast can be viewed at UN Web TV

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday 13 March at 10 a.m.  to begin the second reading of draft General Comment N°37 on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right of peaceful assembly.

Documentation

The Committee has before it the List of issues in the absence of the initial report of Dominica (CCPR/C/DMA/Q/1/Add.1).

Opening Statement
VINCE HENDERSON, Ambassador of Dominica to the United States of America and its Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, in his introductory remarks, expressed appreciation for the important work of the Committee towards the achievement of universal human rights and reiterated his country’s commitment to its human rights obligations.  Dominica took seriously its obligations under the Covenant, Mr. Henderson said.  The Constitution guaranteed every person in Dominica the fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination but subject to the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.  It clearly outlined those rights and freedoms, which included the right to life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law, freedom of conscience and association, protection of the privacy of the home, and others.

Dominica was founded upon the principles that acknowledged the supremacy of God, faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms, the position of the family in the society of free men and women and free institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family were endowed by the creator. 

Since its independence in 1978, Dominica had been working towards the attainment of a truly independent and democratic society, based on the principles of equality and social justice for all.  Notwithstanding the many challenges, it had made tremendous strides towards its goals ; today, it was a country that operated under the rule of law and had strong democratic institutions for the administration of justice.

Recognizing the areas in which the administration of justice could be improved, Mr. Henderson noted the debilitating impact of resource constraints on the creation of institutions for the protection of rights and freedoms.  Nevertheless, Dominica remained committed to creating a more just society based on a rule of law and would continue to make the necessary investments within the limits of its resources and with the assistance of international partners.

The constraints of resources had been continuously exacerbated by natural and manmade disasters, although nowadays it was hard to say which disasters were natural and which were manmade, since the impact of climate change was so real.  Hurricane David in 1979 had devastated the agricultural sector and the housing stock of Dominica.  The tropical storm Erika in 2015 and hurricane Maria in 2017 had dealt devastating blows to all sectors of the economy, causing the damages estimated at 90 percent and 226 percent of gross domestic product, respectively.

Dominica was learning to live and cope with what had become a new normal, created by unsustainable systems of production and consumption by other countries.  It continued to make the case that Dominica was not a cause of climate change but a victim along with other Small Islands Developing States throughout the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.  The action by the international community and a new form of international justice were required.

The international economic and trading system continued to place Small Islands Developing States at a disadvantage.  The Dominican banana industry, previously a mainstay of the economy, had been decimated after it had lost preferential treatment status at the World Trade Organization two decades ago.  In addition, Dominica’s efforts to diversify its economy by providing offshore financial services was greeted with the same hostility, this time by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, at the same time it had protected its own financial sectors and its overseas territories.  Dominica was today facing a new challenge in the financial sector because of the United States regulations, which restricted its ability to trade. 

Dominica remained committed to fighting corruption, money laundering and terrorism but it also reaffirmed its right to develop.  The international community must recognize that those actions converged to a point where they affected that right and the fundamental rights of all people, said Mr. Henderson.  The largest revenue earner for Dominica was its Citizenship by Investment Programme, supported by due diligence carried out by external companies and subject to scrutiny by the Director of Audit.  Any effort to undermine this programme would undermine the country’s pursuit of its Sustainable Development Goals and the administration of justice, and consequently the rights and freedoms of its people.
 
In 2019, Dominica had successfully completed the Universal Periodic Review process during which it had received 140 recommendations, of which it had accepted 86.  Significant progress had been made in implementing them, for example, it had created a national mechanism for the implementation, reporting and follow up and was drafting an action plan to guide the implementation of recommendations.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Committee Experts welcomed the delegation and said that its appearance signalled the recognition of the value of the engagement with the Committee. 

Acknowledging the difficulties a small country like Dominica faced in fulfilling its legal obligation to report to the Committee, the Experts regretted that the report of Dominica, which had ratified the Covenant 27 years ago, had reached the Committee only a few hours before the start of the constructive dialogue.  They emphasized the importance and value of timely State party reporting, noting that it was an occasion to reflect, take stock and remedy the implementation of the Covenant, especially when civil society was robustly involved in the development of the report.  Reporting was not just a formality, but also an opportunity for the State party to signal to the international community that it was serious about its international commitments.

The Constitution of Dominica prevailed over any other law and included many rights protected under the Covenant ; however, many rights in the Constitution were subject to exceptions.  What was the status of the Covenant under the domestic law and what was the timeline for the ratification of the two Optional Protocols?  Experts also asked whether the Covenant would be incorporated into the domestic law by an act of Parliament to make it enforceable in domestic courts. 

The Constitution of Dominica allowed for the limitation of rights to ensure that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms did not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.  The delegation was asked to explain how the “public interest” was defined and how limiting of rights complied with the Covenant, which made no such reference.

The Constitution provided for the position of Parliamentary Commissioner to investigate complaints made against the Government, but this position had never been filled.  Experts welcomed the intention of Dominica to establish a national human rights institution that complied with the Paris Principles.

The 1998 Sexual Offences Act criminalized consensual same-sex sexual activity with a penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment and allowed courts to order detention of persons convicted under the Act in psychiatric hospitals for treatment.  During the 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Dominica had indicated it was not prepared to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity.  Had this position changed?  The Committee was alarmed by reports of violence, harassment and marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, including by the police and asked what was being done to make them feel safe.

The so-called “gay panic” criminal defence was a source of concern as it justified a murder if a male victim propositioned the accused.  How did Dominica ensure that the sexual orientation of the victim was not a justification for violent crimes in the future?

The Constitution prescribed a variety of possible cases in which a state of emergency could be proclaimed, including a danger posed by an individual.  Dominica had proclaimed the state of emergency 20 times over the past 20 years.  The Experts inquired about the guarantees in place to ensure that the state of emergency was only proclaimed when the life of the nation was threatened, as prescribed by the Covenant, that the limitations to the rights under the Covenant were justifiable and limited in scope and duration and that non-derrogable rights were protected. 

The 2018 Anti-Terrorism Act contained a very broad definition of terrorism, which was also inconsistent throughout the text.  There was a concern among the politicians in Dominica that the anti-terrorism legislation might be used as a tool to intimidate political opposition.

The death penalty was mandatory for crimes such as aggravated murder ; its mandatory nature was contrary to the Covenant.  Given the de facto moratorium on the death penalty would Dominica align its legislation accordingly and ratify the Second Optional Protocol abolishing the death penalty?

Committee Experts sought information on prohibited grounds for discrimination in the law and whether any measures were undertaken to combat discrimination of persons with HIV/AIDS, sex workers, elderly persons and persons with disabilities.

On gender equality, the Experts asked the delegation to provide exact figures on female ministers and the number of high-ranking positions occupied by women in the public and private sectors.  The Bureau of Gender Affairs, the main body dealing with gender discrimination issues, reportedly lacked human and other resources to address the issues under its purview.  In addition, it was unclear whether the policy of equal wage for equal work for men and women had been instituted.  Had any specific measures been taken to prevent violence against women, including training to judicial and law officers, and how was rape defined in the law?

The delegation was asked about the impact of climate change on agriculture and the steps taken to tackle climate change and strengthen the resilience of the people.

Child survival trends were in sharp contrast to the rest of the world, indicating an inadequate health system.  Medical termination of a pregnancy was permitted only when the life of the mother was at risk and Experts called on the country to pass abortion legislation.  Most schools in Dominica did not have sex education in their curriculum and teenage pregnancy was a significant issue. 

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation began by emphasizing that Dominica was a small, fledgling democracy and reminded the Committee about the resource constraints.  The inter-ministerial committee appointed by the Cabinet was the first step on the road towards more timely and accurate reporting. 

The death penalty, abortion and same-sex issues were part of a broader contingent of issues that required a public conversation and citizenship participation ; the Government could not change laws on large social issue by fiat.  With regard to the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the delegation acknowledged that it was a living document and that new issues and rights were being embraced in Dominica, despite the legacy of colonialism. 

The power to declare a state of emergency had been used 20 times, mostly due to incoming hurricanes.  The agreement of a majority in Parliament was required for such a declaration.  Guarantees existed to protect individuals during the state of emergency, such as provisions for compensation in case of destruction of property for instance. 

Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Commissioner had never been appointed, but mechanisms that could be used in its place existed in the law.  The presence of a national human rights institution would have facilitated the work done for this session ; its potential establishment was already discussed.

Counter-terrorism issues were important, and most of the legislation that was passed internally was already made and prepared in advance as part of Dominica’s role in combatting terrorism internationally. 

With regard to Committee’s questions related to discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, delegation stated that there was not much public discussion, similarly to the same-sex issue.  Over the last five years, there had been no records of attacks.  The delegation acknowledged the Human Rights Watch report on the issue and said that, while Dominica was not perfect, there was no cause for concern.

The delegation stressed that there was no institutional discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in Dominica and the laws that criminalized them were not enforced.  Stronger reporting institutions within the police were needed.  The Government encouraged a move towards greater tolerance in the society, especially towards those living with HIV/AIDS. 

The Bureau of Gender Affairs had been created more than a decade ago, but its current position was a reflection of the broader lack of resources in the country.  Over the last two decades, girls outperformed boys in schools, colleges and universities in Dominica, the fact that was also reflected in the positions that women held in public and private sector.

The passage of the Domestic Violence Act gave women the opportunity to deal with the issue in a way they had been unable to before.  A system was in place to provide support to victims of violence against women.  The Government provided free housing and free healthcare to female-headed households.  Family life education was taught in most schools and the Planned Parenthood Association continued to provide public information on sexual and reproductive health.  Teenage mothers were provided with a variety of opportunities to return to school.

The Prime Minister had recently initiated a public conversation on the right to life.  No precise timeline was available, but work on formally banning the death penalty was underway. 

As for the rights of persons with disabilities, a number of programs that helped students with disabilities had been introduced.  While Dominica did not have a law protecting persons with disabilities from discrimination, structural discrimination was absent.  The Cabinet had instituted several programmes in favour of the elderly, such as an allowance for those who did not have a pension.

Dominica had one of the best healthcare records in the Caribbean and had recently started to build smart health centres, alongside a new hospital that was under construction.  Infant mortality was an issue of serious concern to which the Government would give adequate attention.  Healthcare received higher shares of the public budget in recent years and more investments were being made.

With regard to climate change, the Government was reaching out within the framework of its climate resilience program, for instance it provided investment to farmers to plant more climate resilient crops and supplied equipment to fishermen.  In the aftermath of the hurricane Maria, Dominica had recognized that resilience was not only about infrastructure, but also about people.

The delegation reiterated that democracies must reflect the wishes of the people and that social progress was more worthy than legislation that was disconnected from those wishes.  They also noted that some civil society actors tended to use inaccurate information.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Committee Experts stated that there were longstanding credible allegations regarding the use of excessive force by the police.  They mentioned reports of a police raid on the Salisbury village and a raid on a meeting of the political opposition as part of a broader pattern.  Were there any guidelines regarding the use of force in the police force, was there an independent oversight of police action and how did it function?

The Committee brought up the section of the Constitution that allowed reasonably justifiable force in the protection of property and asked whether the Government was willing to repeal it. 

Committee Experts commended the Government’s actions on child labour, especially the increase in the number of labour inspectors, but the concern remained about the continued use of child labour and the persistent commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Committee sought further elaborations on the general nature of the protections of the freedom of expression in light of the limitations on the protection of reputation and defamation of others.  More information on the license regime regulating media and press was requested.  Experts also sought more comments on the non-attendance of parliamentary hearings by journalists and any potential work on the decriminalization of defamation.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation stressed that the Dominican people were peace loving and that the rate of crime was relatively low compared to other similar states.  The State was characterised by political stability too and since attaining independence in 1979, all the transitions of power following the elections had been peaceful. 

The delegation noted that some of Dominica’s neighbours had difficulties in accepting the will of the people expressed at the ballot box and had disintegrated into a major civil arrest.  Therefore, it greatly appreciated the peacefulness of its people even if the campaigns could be very heated, as was the case at the latest elections.  The Prime Minister, accompanied by representatives of the Caribbean Community, was heading to Guyana on this day, to meet with the two sides that had been in the standoff since the conclusion of the elections on 2 March.  It was hoped that the situation would be resolved peacefully and that the future Government would soon continue to work for the Dominican people.   

As for the excessive use of violence, the delegation said that the recent situations in Dominica, especially in 2017 and 2019 were sad events in the country’s political history.  They had arisen from the actions of the opposition parties, which were convinced that the only way to win an election was through disruption, threats and violence.  They had also resorted to the use of media to disseminate mistruths and had weaponized social media in their propaganda war.  Sadly, some people and some non-governmental organizations had used those unfounded allegations and falsehoods to fund the opposition.  This could have serious implications in Dominica, which was still struggling to find its way after two devastating storms, the delegation stressed.

The allegations that the police had shot two men in Salisbury were untrue, as the police had not used live rounds during the operation.  The regulations on the use of force were consistent with international standards and the Constitution.  It was the judiciary and the legislature - and not the executive - that determined the standards for the use of force to protect the property.  Police officers had been brought to courts for the use of excessive force and there was an internal mechanism within the police force to deal with the issue.  The courts had ruled both ways, in favour and against the police officers. 

In the weeks leading to the elections in December 2019, the opposition continued to use the tools from its playbook: threats, intimidation, disruption and propaganda war, which – sadly – they seemed to be winning as the international media reported on a “massive demonstrations and civil unrest involving thousands of people”, even though only several hundred people had demonstrated. 

The action of the opposition had threatened to derail the polling activities and had represented real and serious threats to life and property, particularly in Salisbury and Marigot.  They had blocked important roads and had pelted the police with stones.  As a result, the police had acted to remove the blockade using rubber bullets and tear gas.  The people of Marigot themselves had unblocked the roads and there had been no need for the police intervention.  Three police officers had been injured and there had been no fatalities. 

As for the questions raised on forced labour and trafficking of children, the Committee had said that the questions were being raised based on public information, which was very worrying in some cases, said the delegation.  There must be a limit to this, a minimum standard before a country was accused of the worst forms of crimes under any standards, domestic or international.  There should be an agreement on the use of words, the definitions and terms.  The delegation found that some of the reports Experts cited were void of definitions and “frivolous in their claims”. 

That said, Dominica did not appear before the Committee to “defend the indefensible nor to burry its head in the sand” ; it was here to respond to questions on obligations it had voluntarily accepted.  However, for the Committee Experts to state the questions and make the comments in the way in which they had be presented was “offensive and misleading”.  One case of unlawful or abusive act, especially against the children, was one case too many ; however, the question gave the impression that there was a widespread abuse of children to which the Government was turning a blind eye and there were no laws protecting children.

The delegation then examined the source of the allegations, including on commercial sexual exploitation of children, and said that it was “dishonest and misleading” for the Committee to challenge Dominica based on that report, which was loaded with gaps and which could not stand a peer review. 

Secondary education was free of tuition costs and multiple programmes existed to support children to stay in schools.  Dominica also had a number of measures to combat trafficking in persons, including the Immigration and Passport Act that criminalized human trafficking, the Transnational Organized Crime (Prevention and Control) Act of 2013 and the National Action Plan on Child Sexual Abuse.  Five new bills had been presented to the Cabinet of Dominica to tackle those issues recently, to be approved later in the year. 

The courts and the jurisprudence of the Caribbean Court of Justice determined the criteria for the protection of freedom of reputation.  The current Government had not filed an injunction against an anticipated publication by any journalist and had used the defamation laws to protect the reputation of the accused only after the fact. 

There was no licensing regime for print media and press in Dominica, which operated as companies under the Companies Act of 1994.  The broadcasting regime covering radio and television stations was slightly different and they had to receive broadcasting licenses under the Telecommunications Act of 2000, which was part of the harmonized legislation of the States parties to the treaty establishing the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunication Authority.  The licenses were technical in nature and did not address the question of content. 

Journalists were not prevented from going to Parliament and their attendance to its sessions were limited by available space, dress code and the behaviour consistent to the rules of the house.  The broadcasting of Parliamentary sessions by national radio stations was mandatory.

Questions by Committee Experts

YUVAL SHANY, Committee Vice-Chair, took note of Dominica’s position concerning some of the information presented by the Experts and the methodology used and explained that, in monitoring the situation in countries, the Committee considered information from a variety of sources, such as reports by the media and non-governmental organizations or academic research.  The Committee then put that information to the delegation to “set the record straight” in a public broadcast.  The fact that a member of the Committee asked question based on a report did not mean that the Committee itself had formed an opinion on the issue or that it was “accusing a State party of wrongdoing”.  The Committee was using publicly available information, in full transparency, reiterated the Vice-Chair.

Turning to the independence of the judiciary, the Experts raised concerns as judges relied on the Government for housing and transportation, allegedly withholding this support as a way of threatening judges.  They asked about the operation of prosecutors and noted that the judicial delays in hearing civil claims could still reach five years or more.  Criminal matters were also affected, with sessions resuming only 15 months after the hurricane Maria.  The status of free legal aid was concerning as it was only available in murder cases. 

With regard to the freedom of assembly, Experts raised concerns about the framework and application of the Public Order Act, which prescribed mandatory permits for assemblies and criminalized all assemblies held without such permit.  Allegedly, the Act seemed to have been often used against political opposition around the time of the general election. 

Experts remained concerned about prison overcrowding, monitoring mechanisms and pre-trial detentions and asked whether the creation of an independent formal mechanism or a prison Ombudsman position was being considered.  They asked whether corporal punishment of children would be banned.  Noting the 2019 data from the International Labour Organization, they expressed concern by sexual exploitation of children and the use of children in illegal activities.  There was a lack of information about the existing legislative framework to combat those issues, they noted.

The Experts further asked about the development of a legal framework relating to asylum and refugee status and asked about the rights of stateless persons and migrants from Haiti to receive residency and citizenship.  Regarding the rights of minorities, Committee Experts welcomed the efforts of the State party to accommodate its indigenous groups of Kalinago people.  However, there was insufficient education on the indigenous groups in the Caribbean, leading to discrimination within the society.

The Experts took positive note if the effective implementation of the anti-corruption legislation in general, however, the concern was raised about a lack of transparency in the Citizen Investment Programme.  Experts noted the pending electoral law reform and highlighted reports of electoral fraud.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the legal aid office was not heavily staffed ; it routinely sought to employ practitioners from various public and private institutions.  There was indeed a concern over the backlog of cases due to the recent hurricanes and the 15 months pause was regrettable.  Land for the construction of a new Hall of Justice was purchased but resources had been redirected to rebuilding and relocating communities devastated by the hurricane Maria. 

Judges were appointed by the Judicial Legal Service Commission chaired by the Chief Justice, comprised of members serving for a period of three years.  The Government did not use the provision of housing and transport services as a way of threatening judges.  A reform was underway to strengthen the judicial system.

The expansion of the capacity of the state prison allowed for the separation of convicted detainees and those held on remand.  Measures alternative to detention were not applied at the moment, an issue that could be addressed during the ongoing judicial reform.

The President appointed the Director of the Public Prosecution, a position protected by the Constitution ; the Director and all the prosecutorial staff were women.  In addition, some police officers were designated as prosecutors, but they were not involved in investigations. 

The delegation criticized the Committee for not using reports or evidence produced by the Government and for relying instead on alternative sources, such as opposition publications. 

As for the freedom of assembly, the delegation stressed that the police had acted within their rights during the breakup of the public meetings of the opposition.  The leader of the opposition had enflamed the situation by stating that the meeting would not stop because of the presence of the police.  The Public Order Act was applicable to public processions or gatherings in spaces in which an assembly obstructed the daily activities of the public. 

Discussions regarding the status of refugees and asylum seekers took place, but no action had yet been taken.  The Citizenship Act allowed the Government to grant permanent residency and citizenship to migrants who met specific requirements.  Stateless persons could also receive citizenship. 

Dominica’s indigenous peoples were well provided for ; land was under the communal ownership and no developments could take place in the Kalinago territory without the approval of the Kalinago council and chief.  Culture and history of the Kalinago people were not taught in school because most of the textbooks were published outside of the country.  The new minister for Kalinago affairs had already indicated that more attention would be given to the question.

Regarding corruption, the delegation stated that a policy on the issuance of diplomatic passports did exist and the Government acted on allegations about the transparency of the process. 

Turning to the elections, the delegation said that the Government tried to issue voter identification cards but there was violent opposition to this programme that aimed to ensure that more people could vote.  The names of deceased people were being removed from the voting lists as soon as the problem was detected.  The average number of registered voters in a polling station was around 300 and every candidate could have a representative at the station to monitor the procedure and prevent fraud.  The reform of the electoral system was ongoing, which would also address the question of campaign financing. 

Asked about the involvement of non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the replies to list of issues, the delegation expressed hope that more non-governmental organizations would participate in the process in the future.

Concluding Remarks

VINCE HENDERSON, Ambassador of Dominica to the United States of America and its Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, in conclusion thanked the Committee for their work, which Dominica admired and said he was concerned about the Committee’s sources, rather than its methods. 

YUVAL SHANY, Committee Vice-Chair, concluded by stating the Committee was pleased by the dialogue, which made a big impression despite coming from such a small country.  As a result, Mr. Shany hoped that the Committee would not have to wait another 27 years to review Dominica again.

 

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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