Universal Periodic Review


First session meeting highlights

7 April 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the human rights obligations of Ecuador this afternoon, during which 33 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

Presenting the national report of Ecuador was GUSTAVO JALKH, Minister of Justice of Ecuador, who said Ecuador was convinced that the Universal Periodic Review would make a significant advancement in the area of human rights around the world. It was noted that there had been a degree of instability in the country and that over the past ten years there had been six Presidents. In 1998, a new Constitution was adopted which was the result of a popular referendum indicating that 83% of the population was in favor of a new legislative framework. As regards Ecuador’s human rights situation, the State was party to most international human rights instruments, most recently the Convention on Disabilities. It was also noted that Ecuador was one of the founders of the Human Rights Council and that over the last six years Ecuador had received five Special Procedures per a standing invitation it had extended to them. Moreover, there was a national development plan intended to institute a rights-based plan for public policy upholding human rights. There was also a peace plan in lieu of the situation along its northern border. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights was also established recently, through which, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, the country’s human rights policies would be updated in order to measure progress in the area of human rights. Ecuador had also ratified the Rome Statute and set up a commission for international human rights law. It was also noted that there was no capital punishment in Ecuador.

Intensive human rights training was also underway in the country as were efforts to combat juvenile delinquency and impunity for human rights offenders, the Minister added. The State had also developed a human rights manual with regard to combating all forms of torture which was part of the police training. Through this process the National Constituent Assembly, together with a number of civil society bodies, the Criminal Code was currently being updated as part of the State’s efforts to combat impunity. The Minister also indicated that the State had created the Truth Commission to ensure that no crimes of the past went unpunished. The Commission had been reviewing the past 25 years of activities of the various offices of the Government of Ecuador. Another priority issue was the improvement of prison conditions. In this regard, several efforts had been taken to address the problem of prison overcrowding. A criminal defense unit was also set up to improve access to public defenders. Ecuador was also promoting a flexible mechanism to provide pardons for prisoners who were terminally ill or suffered from poor health, or for those who were handed down unfair prison sentences. With regard to the situation of human rights defenders, the National Constituent Assembly had granted a pardon for all persons who were convicted of charges in connection with carrying out their activities as human rights defenders.

A new programme with regard to access to justice was also being conducted and efforts were made to allow for greater independence of the judiciary. The Minister noted that there had been a 38% increase in the national budget allocated to social investment with the main goal of providing better access to citizens in the areas of health, education and employment opportunities. A number of programmes and polices had been implemented with regard to the eradication of child labor and the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. As to persons with disabilities, the Vice President’s Office was conducting a number of programmes, one of which was titled “Ecuador Without Barriers”, which was a priority of the Government. Ecuador had established a ministry for migrants for the implementation of migrant policies and the establishment of centers for attention to migrants. A national plan was also in place which would work over a four-year period. The Minister noted that there were some 50,000 refugees requesting status in Ecuador. UNHCR had noted that Ecuador was one of the countries with the best practices on refugees. Refugee status was granted with a view to social integration thus allowing them access to all services afforded to all Ecuadorians. Specific public policies had also been undertaken to come up with plans adapted to improve the situation of Afro-Ecuadorians.

Issues raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to prison sentences and pardons for prisoners; measures adopted with respect to domestic violence; efforts to combat torture, and, in particular, efforts to set up national plan to combat torture and the State’s intention to ratify the optional protocol on the Convention against Torture; the improvement of health services; intercultural and bi-lingual education in terms of the large indigenous population and whether it was mandatory in the country; the implementation of the national human rights plan of action and efforts to combat corruption; judicial reform and civil society’s involvement in that regard; and the implementation of the National Action Plan for Human Rights adopted by the State in 1998. Moreover, delegations drew attention to the standing invitation extended to Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council; and the recently established Truth Commission.

Other issues raised during the three-hour dialogue concerned the condition of detainees and whether Ecuador had a national register of detainees; measures to uphold freedom of expression and opinion; the existence of a law on access to information; access to justice and judicial reform and the involvement of citizens in this regard; the situation of asylum seekers and measures taken by the Government to ensure non-discrimination of those seeking asylum; measures to strengthen the judicial system; coordination between the various human rights bodies in Ecuador; the percentage of children not enrolled in the school system and the deadline set by the Government for 100% compulsory education; penitentiary reform; and efforts to combat discrimination on any grounds, as well as xenophobia and religious intolerance.

Additional information was sought on the human rights of person with disabilities; efforts to combat human trafficking; efforts to ensure the integrity and independence of the judiciary; the plans of the State to fully implement and enforce its child labor plans; military and police courts; indigenous justice system; discrimination against women of ethnic minorities; death threats against gays and lesbians in Ecuador and allegations of torture and abuse against persons of sexual minorities; the rights of elderly persons and migrants; the plans of the State to establish a national human rights institution; efforts to prosecute members of security forces exercising an excessive use of force; the process of Constitutional reform and how it will factored into the national plan on human rights; the situation of Afro-Ecuadorian and efforts undertaken to improve their enjoyment of human rights in the country; and the situation of street children.

Members States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Mexico, the Russian Federation, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, France, China, Cuba, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Slovenia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Italy, Nicaragua, Germany and Ghana.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Tunisia, Argentina, Sweden, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Honduras, Australia, the United States and the Holy See.

The 17-person delegation of Ecuador consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Coordination and Social Development, the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, the Office of Social Movements and Citizenship Participation, the Office of the Under-Secretary of Policy Coordination, the National Council of Women, the Migrant National Secretariat, and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Ecuador are Italy, Mexico and India.

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 Ecuador can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Ecuador on Wednesday, 9 April.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. it will review the human rights obligations of Tunisia.

 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