Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
Third session meeting highlights
3 December 2008 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Barbados this morning, during which 30 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Botswana following the review of the country on Monday, 1 December.
Presenting the national report of Barbados was CHRISTOPHER SINCKLER M.P., Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development, who said Barbados was a small island developing State with an international human rights record and a level of good governance which had served the country well since its independence in 1966. Despite its limited financial and human resources Barbados had been an active participant and fervent supporter of international human rights and the international system of protection for the most vulnerable in the country. It was noted that civil society was actively consulted at every step in the preparation of the national report, was represented in a national committee charged with that task and also had input into the responses to the questions posed in advance of the review. One of the major conclusions arising from the preparatory process of the report was the need for assistance from the international community to support its domestic institutional architecture for human rights.
Barbados had signed and ratified all of the major human rights treaties and was also a party to a number of the major human rights instruments in the Inter-American system as well as other important instruments and conventions to the International Labour Organisation, he said. Despite its challenges in submitting reports to the treaty bodies, many of its overdue reports were currently at various stages of completion; these reports include those pertaining to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although Barbados has not ratified the Convention against Torture, all acts of torture were outlawed per the Barbados Constitution. On the matter of capital punishment, the Government of Barbados had no plans to abolish the death penalty. Moreover, the Government was currently considering the matter of removing the prescription of mandatory death sentences for murder or treason. Barbados was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and also established a National Disabilities Unit. Barbados also had a number of programmes regarding the fuller integration and participation of persons with disabilities into society.
The laws of Barbados criminalized the abuse of children and in the event that corporal punishment was administered it was done so in compliance with the Code of Discipline promulgated under the Education Act, the Minister added. There were a number of ongoing initiatives that the Government had developed to address the needs of children such as the counselling efforts of the Child Care Board, the programmes under PAREDOS (Parent Education for Development in Barbados) and the placement of guidance counsellors in all secondary schools. The Government of Barbados considered all kinds of abuse against children to be a serious concern. Certain State agencies were charged with the responsibility of providing any abused child and in some cases other members of the family with an alternative home setting. On the matter of issuing a standing invitation to the Special Procedures, Barbados was not in a position to extend a standing invitation at this time given the capacity constraints that may be involved in this process.
On the matter of issues related to gender and women’s rights, the Bureau of Gender Affairs was currently working on a national gender policy, which was expected to encompass all matters related to the discrimination of women, he said. Work was continuing on the gender mainstreaming process and efforts to enhance the capacity of the Bureau of Gender Affairs were ongoing. A Stigma and Discrimination Committee had also been established in the Ministry of Labour. The State was currently reviewing legislation with regard to marital rape. In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Government respected the rights of the child to maintain personal relationships and direct contact with parents while in detention on a regular basis except if it was contrary to a child’s best interests. On police matters, the Government of Barbados did not accept the characteristic that there was a negative image of the police in the country. The Government had developed a programme of training for all senior officers on human rights issues focusing mainly on the International Bill of Rights.
Barbados had enumerated a number of best practices in its report including the facilities at the newly constructed prison and the national plan on HIV/AIDS, as well as on labour rights, the Minister affirmed. With regards to the national institutional arrangement for the protection of human rights, there were plans to appoint an Ombudsmen and to works towards full compliance of that office with the Paris Principles. The Government had also recently announced plans to establish a Human Rights Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade which will have the responsibility of preparing reports to the various treaty bodies, consulting with civil society and generally providing policy advice on human rights matters. The Minister called on the UN and the OHCHR to assist Barbados with the technical and financial assistance required making this a substantial organ of the Government.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the advancements made in the area of education; reaching a female literacy rate of nearly 97%; the progress made on implementation of most UN human rights treaties; efforts to eliminating violence against women and the State’s zero tolerance approach to domestic violence; the establishment of the Ombudsman Act in 1981 and of the BANGO [Barbados Association of Non-Governmental Organizations] in 1997; the provision of family health services, and the State’s health policies in general; efforts to promote and protect human rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities; progress achieved in realizing the Millennium Development Goals; the enforcement of the Penal System Reform Act; the respect for the freedom of the press; and the leading role played by Barbados in raising awareness to the need for special attention to Small Island Developing States in the light of their challenges, such as climate change and susceptibility to natural disasters.
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 "domestic violence data" system launched in August this year; steps taken to combat human trafficking; progress made in eliminating violence against women; the steps taken to achieve a 97% literacy rate for women and a zero maternal mortality rate; the "Special Needs Policy" framework aimed at children with disabilities; steps envisaged to ensure the rights of lesbians and gays were protected; efforts being taken to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, place of origin, political opinions and religion; the image of the police force in the country; the State’s intention to abolish the death penalty; new challenges faced in protecting economic, social and cultural rights in view of the ongoing economic crisis; and practical measures being taken to guarantee the submission of treaty body reports.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To take measures to provide a definition of torture in national legislation; to continue efforts to combat impunity; to further improve the professionalism of the police force; to sign and ratify the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol; to accede to the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to sign and ratify the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; and to continue consultations on removing the prescription of mandatory death sentences for murder or treason. A number of States also recommended that Barbados abolish the death penalty.
The State under review was also recommended to work towards undertaking the necessary reforms in view of the lack of support systems at the administrative level for women and child maintenance; to take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to fight incidents of domestic violence against women and the physical abuse of children; to provide training for authorities in the area of violence against women; to implement a plan of action, as recommended by CEDAW, to address cases of violence against women; and to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Several delegations called on the State under review to abolish corporal punishment for children, and also to carry out public awareness efforts to change the mindset of people and their view of corporal punishment.
A number of delegations also called on the State to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation. Other recommendations included to consider legislative measures to eliminate sexual harassment in the work place; to include in its Constitution an amendment to discourage gender-based discrimination; the bring national legislation in compliance with international standards with regard to homosexuality; and, specifically, to take measures to promote tolerance and non-discrimination of LGTB (lesbian, gay, transgender and bi-sexual) people. Additionally Barbados was encouraged to allow for the distribution of condoms in prisons to stem the prevalence of HIV/AIDS; to incorporate a legal definition of racial discrimination into domestic legislation; to revise domestic legislation so as to provide for the granting of refugee status; and incorporate the principle of non-refoulement.
Other recommendations included: To establish an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles; to include civil society in the follow-up process to the Universal Periodic Review; to foster economic, social and cultural rights to support the progress already made; to continue to work towards submitting reports to the treaty bodies; to extend an standing invitation to the Special Procedures; and to continue to seek technical assistance where capacity may impede progress. A number of delegations also called on the international community to support Barbados’ request for technical assistance with a view to building capacity, particularly for the preparation of human rights reports and the development programmes for human rights education.
Working Group Members taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, China, Brazil, Pakistan, India, Cuba, Argentina, Japan, Italy, Chile, Canada, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Malaysia and Mauritius.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Turkey, Algeria, Australia, Sweden, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Latvia, Trinidad and Tobago, Botswana, Syria and the Bahamas.
The 11-person delegation of Barbados consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development, the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations and other International Organizations at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Barbados are South Africa, Japan and the United Kingdom.
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 Barbados can be found here.
Adoption of report on Botswana: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Botswana are Uruguay, Senegal and Slovakia. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika ALEJANDRO ARTUCIO RODRIGUEZ, (Uruguay) who recalled that the national report of Botswana described, among other things, the political, legal and institutional mechanisms for the enhanced protection of human rights and stipulated the ways in which they were safeguarded by the institutions in the countries. The report also set out the challenges and impediments to the free enjoyment of human rights. The Ambassador read out a number of oral amendments to the report in the recommendations section. The implementations by the State under review of accepted recommendations should be action-oriented and should be aimed at assisting the State in enhancing its capacity to promote and protect human rights in the country, he added. Representing the State under review, AGUSTINE MAKGONATSOTHLE, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President of Botswana, said his country considered the UPR process as an important milestone in the advancement of human rights.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Barbados on Friday, 5 December.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Montenegro.
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