Universal Periodic Review – MEDIA BRIEF


Monday, 21 January 2013 (Afternoon)

(Disclaimer: The following brief is intended for use of the information media and is not an official record.  The note provides a brief factual summary of the UPR Working Group meeting with the State under review and does not cover all points addressed.  An official summary of the meeting can be found in the Working Group report.)

State under review

Represented by three-member delegation headed by Lord Vaea, Minister for Internal Affairs of Tonga.


To access national report, compilation of UN information, and summary of stakeholders’ information, visit the Tonga page on the UPR website).

Troika *

Congo, Kuwait, Italy.

Opening statement by State under review

Few points raised in the  opening statement of State under review:
 (See full statement on the Tonga page on the UPR Extranet)

  • Since the first UPR of Tonga in May 2008, the democratization of the Tongan political system has been completed to the furthest extent possible;
  • In late 2008 the Legislative Assembly and His Majesty (King George Tupou V) enacted the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Act and on 25 November 2010 the first ever national election was held under the new electoral system leading to the election of the first ever Prime Minister (Lord Tu’ivakano) in December that year; this was followed by the first ever elected Cabinet in January 2011;
  • Responding to a question posed in advance the head of delegation noted that despite the low occurrence and effective responses by authorities and legislation to incidents of torture, Tonga remained committed to ratifying the CAT;
  • Responding to another question, he noted that maltreatment by police officers of persons taken into custody has been prosecuted without exception; death of civilians at the hands of police officers was very low; over the last 50 years there have only been two such incidents;
  • As regards disabled persons, Tongan legislation offered the same protection of rights to disabled and non-disabled persons and Tonga was committed to protecting and developing Tongan society to facilitate the special needs of disabled persons;
  • On anti-corruption, the Government was creating the necessary mechanisms to combat corruption, such as the appointment of a fully independent Attorney General and Auditor General and also enacting new legislation to create effective and efficient offices for the Anti-Corruption Commissioner and Ombudsman;
  • Tonga was not in a position to establish a national human rights institution due to a lack of financial, technical and human resources; the delegation intended to recommend that the Government establish a small unit to be responsible for monitoring and advancing the Tongan Government’s commitment to human rights protection; 
  • On gender equality, women occupied Government positions and held significant positions in private sector; one of the objectives of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework adopted in 2012 was to create strong inclusive communities and to implement the Government’s gender development policy;
  • Protecting women from domestic violence was also a priority of the Government;
  • The Tonga National Study on Domestic Violence against Women was held in March 2012;
  • Despite not ratifying the CEDAW, Tonga was very active in pursuing gender equality and the protection of women; reservations on CEDAW pertain to right to succession to the throne, the right to abortion, land ownership and same-sex marriage;
  • The main obstacles to implementing recommendations posed during the first UPR of Tonga was the lack of resources; other factors related to culture and Christian beliefs and ideologies of a conservative society. 


In total 40 States participated in the dialogue:  18 HRC members and 22 observers  (Statements available on Tonga page on the UPR Extranet).

Positive achievements

Positive achievements noted by delegations included, among others:

  • Constitutional, political and legal reforms and the democratization process;
  • The freedom of information policy adopted in 2012;
  • Campaigns to prevent domestic violence, the establishment of the National Domestic Violence Unit and the related “no-drop policy;
  • The implementation of anti-corruption legislation;
  • Efforts to implement the MDGs;
  • The creation of the food, women and youth development division aimed to prepare young persons to be human rights defenders.

Issues and Questions

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group included, among others:

  • Efforts taken to ensure police officers abided by human rights standards;
  • Steps to combat all acts of domestic violence and enact related legislation;
  • Measures undertaken to increase women’s participation;
  • Steps taken to formally abolish the death penalty;
  • Measures taken to criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex;
  • Steps taken to ratify the core human rights instruments.


States participating in the dialogue posed a series of recommendations to Tonga.  These pertained to the following issues, among others

  • To take the necessary steps to fully abolish the death penalty;
  • To raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 (from 8);
  • To implement education programmes for Tonga Police officers and to ensure that police forces acted in an appropriate and proportionate manner in line with human rights standards;
  • To abolish all forms of corporal punishment;
  • To enhance efforts to combat violence against women and adopt specific legislation on domestic violence, including provisions to criminalize rape in marriage, and to adopt the draft Violence against Women Bill currently before Parliament;
  • To prioritise gender equality initiatives particularly in relation to property, family and employment;
  • Intensify efforts to increase women’s participation at all formal decision-making levels;
  • To repeal the provision in the Penal Code to criminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex;
  • Take measures to reinforce protections for freedom of expression in practice, including guaranteeing freedom of the press and internet freedom;
  • To intensify efforts on human rights in the environment and support national, regional and international efforts to promote the right to safe drinking water and sanitation;
  • To establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles;
  • Ratification of human rights instruments: CEDAW, the Rome Statute of the ICC, CRPD, ICCPR, the 2nd OP to the ICCPR, ICESCR, the CAT; the Third OP to the CRC.

Adoption of report of Working Group

The adoption of the report of the UPR Working Group on Tonga is scheduled to take place on Friday, 25 January 2013.

The troikas are a group of three States selected through a drawing of lots who serve as rapporteurs and who are charged with preparing the report of the Working Group on the country review with the involvement of the State under review and assistance from the OHCHR. 

Media contact: Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711, rgomez@ohchr.org