Universal Periodic Review
Second session meeting highlights
5 May 2008 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group began its second session this morning during which it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the second group of 16 States under this new mechanism. The second session of the Working Group will last from 5 to 19 May.
During its morning session the Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Gabon, during which 36 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
Presenting the national report of Gabon was DIEUDONNÉ NDIAYE, Chargé d’Affaire of the Permanent Mission of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who, while noting that Gabon was a country of 1.5 million people with democratic system based on the principle of separation of powers, recalled that in June 2007 the State established, through a national decree, a committee responsible for all human rights issues in the country. The committee was placed under the authority of the Minister of Human Rights and, among other things, had the responsibility of raising public awareness about human rights, preparing reports and registering human rights complaints. The speaker noted that Gabon was a country that had effectively abolished the death penalty as it had not executed any persons since 1980. In the area of children, public awareness campaigns had been carried out in primary and secondary schools throughout the country, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF had also been working actively in the country to promote and implement health services for children. Additionally the Government had been carrying out broad vaccinations programmes for children.
On the issue of trafficking and the exploitation of children, he said the Government had elaborated a plan to eradicate this phenomenon. Centres had been set up to provide assistance to victims of trafficking and exploitation which ensured monitoring these crimes and listening to testimonies of victims and witnesses. As to the situation of women, special care centres for women had been set up and a number of measures were underway to promote gender equality. Among other steps taken the Ministry for the Promotion of Women was recently established. It was noted that one-third of Government representatives were women.
On the issue of the pygmy minority, which represented one per cent of the country’s population, the Government had set up a plan of action as well as a developments project, in cooperation with UNICEF. Through this plan, the Government endeavoured to ensure that this group enjoyed the same rights as others in the country. The President signed a decree that determined that the pygmy population was the rightful beneficiaries of the national parks which constituted 13% of the national territory. It was stated that the pygmy population lived in harmony with other populations in the country. Concerning freedom of expression, the Government had initiated a number of measures to ensure that the press in Gabon was a viable force to reflect all the views in the country. To that end, it was recalled that a National Council for Communications was set up and a Press Code was established. There were more than 50 private media outlets, in addition to the State media entities. Moreover, a national commission was set up for the promotion of human rights which constituted training for public officials.
In closing, Mr. Ndiaye said his country had requested the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations institutions to implement the vast programmes of reform pertaining to human rights that the country had envisaged.
During the interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the emphasis on human rights placed in the national Constitution; the establishment of the Ministry of Human Rights; the State’s efforts to combat child trafficking; the measures taken to improve national health indicators and the establishment of a national health action plan; efforts to promote human rights education in the country; the national vaccination programmes; the establishment of the Ministry of the Family; the legal measures taken to promote gender equality; and the stated intention of Gabon to abolish the death penalty.
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 extent of child trafficking in Gabon and strategies to involve neighbouring States to deal with the problem of child trafficking; efforts to decrease child mortality rates; efforts undertaken to eradicate child labour; the State’s policy on the adoption of children; plans to establish a juvenile court; efforts to ensure that children fully benefited from the right to education; measures to fights discrimination of women and to put and end to the practice of polygamy; women’s access to justice; measures to abolish early and forced marriages; police custody and pre-trial detention; measures taken to respond to concerns about arbitrary detention; and measures taken to guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Additionally, a number of delegations raised questions concerning the reports on ritual killings, including of young children, and the Government’s response to these reports.
A number of speakers sought additional information on HIV-affected persons and, in particular, efforts to reintegrate people living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally several delegations raised the issue of pygmies and the State’s efforts to ensure their social integration and enjoyment of their rights. Other issues pertained to the State’s plans to ratify the Convention on the enforced and involuntary disappearances and to ratify the Convention on the rights of migrant workers; efforts to improve the access to safe drinking water; the steps taken by the Government to ensure that the 27 April elections were free and fair; and the specific nature of Gabon’s expectation on how technical and financial assistance be addressed in the outcome of the review.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To address and recognize the specific needs of the pygmy people and to put and end to discrimination of pygmies granting them the right to vote, attain decent work, basic education and health services; to further strengthen national measures to accent its awareness raising programs on women and children rights; to take additional efforts focused on raising the school attendance rate; to step up efforts to implement legal reforms in light of recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); to adopt legislation to guarantee gender equality and to abolish practices of discrimination against women; to prohibit the worst forms of the corporal punishment; to undertake public awareness campaigns on the importance of gender equality; and to ensure that the State remove and impediments and ensure access to affordable and expeditious means of legal redress for women.
Other recommendations included: To take urgent measures to transform the decision to abolish the death penalty into law and to accede to the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; to sign the Convention on the enforced and involuntary disappearances; to extend an invitation to all Special Procedures to carry out mission on the country, and, in particular, to accept the visit of he Special Rapporteur on the right to education; to ratify the Convention on the Right of migrant workers and members of their families; to submit its human rights treaty body reports regularly; to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court; and to take steps to ensure that journalists may safely exercise their jobs and to do away with any form of censorship.
Moreover, delegations recommended that the State under review criminalize acts of trafficking of children on a legal basis; to take further steps to ensure that juvenile courts were set up and that children were separated from adults in detention facilities; to bring prison conditions in line with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; and to ensure that domestic legislation was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Delegations also recommended that the international community support Gabon in implementing its intended human rights reforms.
Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Pakistan, the Philippines, China, France, Senegal, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Nigeria, Japan, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, the Republic of Korea and Cameroon.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tunisia, Finland, the Republic of the Congo, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Morocco, the United States, Sweden, Guinea, Ethiopia, Chad and Mauritania.
The six-person delegation of Gabon consisted of representatives of the Permanent Mission of Gabon to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Gabon are Nigeria, China and Azerbaijan.
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 Gabon can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Gabon on Wednesday, 7 May.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. it will review the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Ghana.
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