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Human Rights Council Adopts Outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Eswatini, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago

23 March 2022
Afternoon

The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Eswatini, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking on the Universal Periodic Review of Eswatini were Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Lesotho, Mauritania, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria and South Africa. 

The following civil society organizations also took the floor on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Eswatini: Centre pour les Droits Civils et Politiques, Advocates for Human Rights, the Centre for Global Nonkilling, Action Canada for Population Development, International Commission of Jurists, United Nations Watch, and the United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation. 

Speaking on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Antigua and Barbuda were Nepal, South Africa, United Nations Women, Maldives, United Nations Population Fund, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Brazil, China, Cuba and Jamaica.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Antigua and Barbuda: Centre for Global Non-Killing, Advocates for Human Rights, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation.

Speaking on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Trinidad and Tobago were Brazil, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Jamaica, Maldives, Nepal, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Women, United Nations Population Fund, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Bahamas and Botswana.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor on the Universal Periodic Review outcome of Trinidad and Tobago: Advocates for Human Rights, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, United Nations Watch, and the United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 24 March, to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Thailand and Ireland.  It will then hear the presentation of reports under agenda item five on human rights bodies and mechanisms, followed by a general debate on that agenda item.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Eswatini

Presentation by Eswatini

PHOLILE P. SHAKANTU, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Eswatini, said Eswatini had acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness on 16 November 1999.  To this end, a number of initiatives had been carried out by Eswatini to give effect to these two Conventions.  Eswatini was also intensifying efforts to submit human rights reports to treaty bodies following the establishment of the National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up.  Eswatini appreciated the technical and financial support received from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and development partners.  On the elimination of gender-based and domestic violence, Eswatini had enacted the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act in 2018, subsequently adopting its Regulations in 2021.  Eswatini had also implemented the recommendations advocating for the amendment of the Public Order Act of 1963 and the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008.  These legislations were repealed and amended respectively, to bring them in line with international law.  The Public Order Act of 2017 fully protected and allowed citizens to enjoy the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  Like all other rights, these rights were not absolute - common limitations and boundaries applied.  Inciting violence, riots, violent gatherings, burning and destroying of public or private property was illegal and was not protected by freedom of speech or assembly.

The Minister further said that most of the noted recommendations called on Eswatini to sign, ratify or accede to outstanding international treaties.  As much as the country was not yet ready to ratify or accede them, there were ongoing internal debates and processes with relevant stakeholders to inform the right course of action to be taken.  On recommendations calling on the Government to implement compulsory free education at all levels of schooling, she stated that Eswatini appreciated the spirit in which these recommendations were made.  The Government of Eswatini believed in the provision of accessible quality education for all, and as a result offered free primary education for all children, as well as educational grants for orphaned and vulnerable children at all levels of schooling.  Regarding recommendations on the decriminalisation of abortion, Eswatini did not support this position because its Constitution protected the right to life for all persons, including the unborn child, and did not allow for any person to be deprived of life intentionally.  The Constitution only allowed abortion procedures to be carried out under exceptional circumstances, which included cases of rape, incest, serious malformation of the foetus, or risks to the health or life of the pregnant woman. 

Discussion

In the discussion on Eswatini, speakers commended that it had adopted the majority of the recommendations, including on the allocation of additional resources to put an end to preventable child and maternal mortality.  Eswatini should amplify its efforts towards implementing and ensuring the human rights of its population, and the international community should support it in this regard.  The commitment to take the necessary measures to implement recommendations, including all partners - civil society and development partners - was appreciated.  The Government should implement the accepted recommendations in order to ensure the enhanced promotion and protection of human rights, in particular with regard to civil society and human rights defenders.  It should continue to cooperate with United Nations mechanisms on the promotion and protection of human rights and to bolster the rule of law throughout its territory.  The efforts to approve access to justice and achieve reconciliation were commended, as were efforts to combat HIV and to ensure free primary education.

Some speakers said that the domestic violence act required updating.  The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Eswatini continued to face discrimination, and the international community should support the country to help make it safer and more inclusive for all.  Eswatini retained the death penalty, although a de facto moratorium had been established since 1993.  Overcrowding and lengthy pre-trial detention remained problems that needed to be addressed, as did the issue of torture by law enforcement officers, police violence, and extra-judicial killings in police custody.  The treatment of human rights defenders was of concern: they faced targeting under anti-terrorist laws for criticizing the King.  Violence against sex workers was also common, with criminalisation causing a lack of trust in the police, increasing violence perpetrated against sex workers, and impeding efforts to stop the spread of HIV.

The Vice-President of the Council informed that out of 222 recommendations received, 156 enjoyed the support of Eswatini, and 66 were noted.

Concluding Remarks

PHOLILE P. SHAKANTU, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Eswatini, expressed gratitude to the working group, members of the troika and countries and civil society organizations for their constructive recommendations.  Eswatini was committed to systematically implement all supported recommendations for citizens to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Eswatini acknowledged the technical assistance that it was receiving from the Office of the High Commissioner and other development partners in relation to building capacity on human rights treaty reporting.  It looked forward to the continued support in capacitating the newly established National Mechanism for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up to ensure the implementation of recommendations from human rights mechanisms.  Eswatini was committed to ensuring a conducive environment for the enjoyment of the fundamental rights and freedoms for all its people.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Antigua and Barbuda

Presentation by Antigua and Barbuda

VANESSA MOE, Crown Solicitor, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda, said Antigua and Barbuda was committed to promoting and protecting human rights, and was constantly reviewing its laws and policies to be in line with international human rights standards.  The Constitution, which was its supreme law, enshrined the fundamental principles set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  In 2017, Hurricane Irma, which was a category five hurricane, had devastated the island of Barbuda, destroying 90 per cent of the buildings.  Like the rest of the world, Antigua and Barbuda had been significantly impacted by COVID-19, with the tourism industry taking the hardest hit as the largest and main driver of economic growth in the country. 

It was against this backdrop that the Government had managed to implement policies and proceed on development projects in line with international human rights standards.  As a clean environment was integral to a good standard of living, the Government had placed a ban on single use plastics since 2018, being the first in the region so to do.  Indeed, the environment must be rehabilitated, restored and maintained for the benefit of future generations.  The establishment of the Sexual Offenses Court in 2019 provided the timely and gender sensitive management of sexual offense cases.  Antigua and Barbuda had focused efforts on tackling corruption by strengthening mechanisms within public procurement and it was an active member of the peer review process under the American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.  Indeed, Antigua and Barbuda worked to improve access to justice, uphold the rule of law and implement projects and policies in line with international human rights standards.

Discussion

Speakers applauded Antigua and Barbuda for accepting most of the recommendations received during the thirty-ninth session of the Working Group, including those to integrate children with disabilities into regular schools and enhance awareness among women of their rights under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.  Antigua and Barbuda were also commended for leadership in environmental commitments and efforts to bring net emissions down to zero by 2050.  Their commitment to environmental protection, research, and action as well as the decision to ban single use plastics was also applauded, as were measures taken to protect the coastline.  Climate policies and programmes should be responsive to the unique needs of vulnerable groups.  Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts to prevent trafficking in persons through the adoption of the Trafficking in Person Act 2019, and the establishment of the subsequent Committee, were commended.  It was noted that Antigua and Barbuda had taken great efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the country was praised by the progress achieved in the promotion of gender, equality, poverty alleviation and access to education. 

Speakers commended the actions taken by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to promote gender equality and to address gender-based violence, particularly work done to ensure that gender-based violence survivors had access to a range of multi-sectoral services.  While noting the progress made, there was concern that gender-based violence, including domestic violence, remains underreported and continues to restrict the realization of women and girls’ rights and fundamental freedoms.  It was recommended that the Government further advance efforts to address gender-based violence, including by criminalizing marital rape and improving judicial proceedings and ensuring access for women to justice.  Disappointment was expressed that Antigua and Barbuda had not abolished the death penalty, with the country urged to pass local legislation criminalizing torture.  There were challenges when it came to schooling, including that there were not enough school.

The Vice-President of the Council informed that out of 155 recommendations received, 36 enjoyed the support of Antigua and Barbuda and 119 were noted.

Concluding Remarks

VANESSA MOE, Crown Solicitor, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda, said as Antigua and Barbuda looked back on the review, it reflected on all the recommendations put forward by the distinguished members of the Human Rights Counsel and the progress made by Antigua and Barbuda since its last Universal Periodic Review.  The impact of COVID-19 and the resulting downturn in its tourism-based economy had had the effect of diverting limited resources from planned priority activities.  Despite this, the Government remained committed to promoting and protecting human rights.  This was demonstrated by its focus on implementing various development programmes and projects, especially to assist the more vulnerable groups in society.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Trinidad and Tobago

Presentation by Trinidad and Tobago

IAN RAMPERSAD, Director of International Law and Human Rights Unit, Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Legal Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said it was a great honour to address the Human Rights Council on this auspicious occasion.  Trinidad and Tobago greatly appreciated the opportunity to underscore its development and progress under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  Mr. Rampersad thanked all stakeholders involved in the country review process.  This included the members of the Troika; the Netherlands, Mauritania and Indonesia, the delegations which provided recommendations, members of civil society and the Universal Periodic Review Secretariat, as well as the technical support received from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Discussion

In the discussion on Trinidad and Tobago, speakers said the Government had made progress on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, including in prohibiting child marriage, the moratorium on the application of the death penalty, and legislative reforms allowing access to the justice system.  Trinidad and Tobago had incorporated a human rights perspective into the national development process.  It had worked to protect the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, and migrants, and provide housing to low-income groups.  Priority had been given to social programmes to help minority communities.  The interactive dialogue during the working session of the Universal Periodic Review had been a useful opportunity to garner the country’s experience, and the acceptance of so many recommendations was evidence of its continuing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Government had implemented reforms aimed at safeguarding the most vulnerable, such as persons with disabilities, women and children.  It also paid attention to dealing with climate change, and policies alleviating the impact of COVID-19.

Speakers said the Government should continue its efforts towards technical cooperation with its international development partners.  Gender-based violence figures remained high, and the Government should prioritise the adoption and implementation of the national plan on gender-based and sexual violence, and increase the capacity of duty-bearers on gender issues and administrative violence.  It should continue to strengthen capacity building and cooperation across all areas linked to sex trafficking.  The death penalty, even though there was a de facto moratorium, should be eliminated, as courts had sentenced people with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities to death, and the Government had not signed the Convention Against Torture or its Optional Protocol.  In 2022, reports of violence against women and girls had increased, and the Government should commit to more sustainable programmes to alleviate this, and ensure that women and girls had equal access to the decision-making process with regard to the development of policies concerning them.

The Vice-President of the Council informed that out of 166 recommendations received, 65 enjoyed the support of Trinidad and Tobago, and 101 were noted.

Concluding Remarks

IAN RAMPERSAD, Director of International Law and Human Rights Unit, Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Legal Affairs, said Trinidad and Tobago remained fully committed to ensuring that its people had full access to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.  In terms of recommendations adopted, Trinidad and Tobago had made significant strides in ensuring the protection of vulnerable groups.  The country had implemented the National Policy on Persons with Disabilities, established in June 2020.  The Government remained committed to eliminating discrimination and eradicating violence against women.  This was evident through the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act, 2020 and the Sexual Offences Act, 2021, which established the National Sexual Offenders Registry.  Additionally, the launch of the Gender-Based Violence Unit and the Sexual Offences Unit within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service highlighted the Government’s commitment to a multi-sectoral approach to treating issues affecting women.  The Government continued to work to develop environments which fostered the protection and empowerment of children.  In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago had accepted the recommendation to abolish child marriage and in 2017, there was the historic proclamation of the Marriage Act, 2017, which harmonised the legal age to contract to marriage in Trinidad and Tobago to 18 years for both males and females. 

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago had focused on the issue of economic migrants being distinguished from refugees and asylum seeker and had 22,000 registered asylum seekers and 3,000 refugees.  Significant efforts had been made to strengthen existing policies to combat human trafficking and identify victims, including the development of a National Action Plan for 2021-2023.  The recommendations received regarding the use of capital punishment had been noted, however, Trinidad and Tobago’s position on this matter remained unchanged.  The country was unable to ratify any instrument which contradicted its domestic law at this time.  This did not indicate that Trinidad and Tobago condoned the issues around torture or other inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.  The Government recognised the link between climate change and the protection of human rights.  Trinidad and Tobago had embarked upon ambitious plans to reduce emissions and build climate resilience.  Mr. Rampersad concluded by stating that Trinidad and Tobago had made conclusive strides as a nation in improving its human rights protections and said the country remained grateful for the kind support and encouragement of the international community.

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/afternoon-human-rights-council-adopts-outcomes-universal

 

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