Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand

Human Rights Council
MORNING 15 March 2012

The Human Rights Council this morning adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Thailand.

Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Swaziland, said that about 90 per cent of overall recommendations had received favourable responses from the Government. Torture was unlawful in Swaziland and the Government accepted the recommendation to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Swaziland was not ready to accept the recommendation related to permitting political parties to contest elections and rejected the recommendation to decriminalize same-sex activity. However, consensual same-sex relations between consenting adults were not prosecuted. Swaziland said that its human rights institutions and mechanisms were still in their infancy, and as such, not yet ready for a review; that was why the Government had rejected the recommendation to issue a standing invitation to Special Procedures.

In the discussion on Swaziland, speakers commended the country for accepting 107 out of 139 recommendations and for the bold measures undertaken to promote and protect human rights, including the establishment of the human rights commission to investigate human rights violations. The strides made in the education sector and the continued work to combat the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, address food security and eradicate poverty were positively noted. Swaziland should publicly set and adhere to a time frame for implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and amend laws which discriminated against women.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland.

Cuba, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Chad, Botswana, Angola and Kenya took the floor concerning Swaziland. International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, World Student Christian Federation, and Action Canada for Population and Development also spoke on Swaziland.

Therese Baptiste Cornelis, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, said that recommendations related to signing, ratifying or implementing international human rights treaties did not currently enjoy support of the Government. The position of the Government on the retention of capital punishment was clearly stated and corporal punishment was maintained as part of the penal code but was forbidden in schools. Trinidad and Tobago had received various recommendations related to the strengthening of national organizations designed to monitor the use of force by the protective services and readily agreed to examine them. Domestic legislation which dealt with discrimination was in the process of being amended to include a person’s HIV/AIDS status as one of the recognized protected categories.

In the discussion on Trinidad and Tobago, speakers said that despite the challenges, much progress had been made in promoting and protecting human rights, and in the areas of health and education. Speakers appreciated that the recommendations on combating crime and extreme poverty, and ensuring compulsory education between ages six and 18 years had been accepted. Several speakers expressed concern and regret that the recommendation on abolishing the death penalty was rejected and said that progress remained to be done in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, preventing torture in prisons and improving the conditions of detention.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking in the discussion on Trinidad and Tobago were Cuba, Algeria, Morocco, and the United States. The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, and Action Canada for Population and Development in a joint statement.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Special Envoy of Thailand, said that the Government had received a total of 172 recommendations and that 134 recommendations were accepted by the Government, with the remaining 38 under consideration; no recommendations were rejected. The Government had signed the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and had withdrawn its reservation on the death penalty on persons below 18 years of age. The Government had pursed efforts on national reconciliation and investigations and legal proceedings were ongoing in order to bring perpetrators to account and provide justice for all. Thailand was determined to purse further efforts to address the root causes of the problem of political violence including in the Southern Border Provinces.

In the discussion on Thailand, speakers noted the progress made in the areas of the protection of women’s rights, national reconciliation, and social security for all groups, and welcomed the active role of Thailand in combating human trafficking. Countries welcomed the voluntary pledge and commitment to ensure that its criminal laws were aligned with the Convention against Torture and to include a definition of torture in its criminal code in line with article 1 of the Convention. Speakers regretted the rejection of the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and urged the Government to work towards adopting the recommendations on freedom of expression, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and the ratification of the Rome Statute.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Thailand.

Cuba, Viet Nam, China, Algeria, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Brunei Darrusalam, Cambodia and Singapore took the floor. The National Commission on Human rights of Thailand also spoke, as did the Association for the Prevention of Torture, Human Rights Watch, Forum Asia, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and Amnesty International.

During its midday meeting today, the Council will consider the Universal Periodic Review on Ireland, Togo and Syria.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland

MGWAGWA GAMEDZE, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Swaziland, said in February 2012, a training workshop was conducted on the treaty body reporting mechanism, through which officers attained broad knowledge and competency in relation to the role and function of the treaty monitoring bodies. About 90 per cent of overall recommendations made during Swaziland’s Universal Periodic Review received favourable responses from the Government. For the time being, the Kingdom was not ready to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and abolish the death penalty. Torture was unlawful in Swaziland. With respect to extra-judicial killings, all deaths were investigated by law enforcement officers, hence acceptance of the recommendation to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. By virtue of section 79 of the Constitution, election to public office was by individual merit and therefore political parties could not field candidates in national elections. Swaziland was not ready to accept recommendations related to permitting political parties to contest elections. On the recommendation to issue a standing invitation to Special Rapporteurs and other Special Procedures, the human rights institutions and mechanisms of Swaziland were still in their infancy, and as such, the Kingdom felt they were not yet ready for review. The country did not accept the decriminalization of same-sex activity. However, Swaziland did not prosecute consensual same-sex relations between consenting adults.

Cuba said Swaziland faced real challenges including that over 60 per cent of the population lived in poverty. The Government had made the eradication of extreme poverty a priority. In the health sector, policies were in place to control tuberculosis and contain malaria. Swaziland must continue to apply economic and social development plans to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Algeria said Swaziland had accepted 107 out of 139 recommendations which demonstrated the commitment of the country to human rights. The international community should continue to provide assistance to the Government in securing access to food, the right to health and education and other critical development areas.

Morocco said a frank and constructive debate had occurred with the Government of Swaziland during its Universal Periodic Review. Ninety per cent of the recommendations had been accepted including an evaluation of the assistance needed from the World Health Organization to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and the creation of an integrated programme for human development.

South Africa noted positively the strides made in the education sector by Swaziland, especially in the provision of free primary education. South Africa commended the progress made towards the achievement of the education-related Millennium Development Goal. South Africa welcomed the continued work being undertaken to combat the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, including the establishment of the National Emergency Response Council and an increased focus on testing and counseling.

Chad congratulated Botswana for its clear statement. The delegation welcomed that Swaziland had accepted the recommendations proposed during its examination by the working group. Chad recommended that Swaziland appeal for financial and technical assistance from the international community to confront its problems related to human rights. The Council should adopt the report on Swaziland.

Botswana said that despite its resource limitations and other constraints, Swaziland should be commended for the bold measures undertaken to promote and protect human rights. Botswana commended Swaziland for accepting the vast majority of recommendations, in particular the recommendation to strengthen institutions to protect democracy. As a small, developing country, Swaziland should be allowed sufficient policy space to deliver on its voluntary commitments and its obligations to international treaty bodies.

Angola welcomed the establishment of an independent human rights commission to investigate human rights violations in Swaziland. The Government had drafted policies to address education, health, food security and the promotion of the rights of women and had increased the number of women employed. Angola commended Government efforts that emphasized the right to life, the right to education and policies that supported vulnerable groups.

Kenya said Swaziland’s commitment to ensure food security, poverty reduction and access to health were important. The fulfilment of these commitments would not only allow Swaziland to promote and protect human rights but also to achieve its Millennium Development Goals. Kenya called on the international community to extend all assistance to Swaziland.

International Commission of Jurists said that forces within the judiciary and executive had persistently interfered with the independence of the judiciary. Swaziland must act to ensure the protection of human rights, the rule of law and judicial independence.

Amnesty International said the Government should publicly set and adhere to a time frame for implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and amending laws which discriminated against women. Amnesty International welcomed the acceptance of a large number of recommendations.

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme took note of the new constitution adopted in 2005 and welcomed measures taken by the authorities to promote and protect human rights. The country had improved health care despite financial constraints. However, work needed to be done to promote civil society.

World Student Christian Federation urged Swaziland to enact legislation enabling registration and operation of political parties, repeal restrictive legislation, stop political inference in the freedom of expression, eliminate legislative discrimination against women, and abolish other discriminatory practices.

Action Canada for Population and Development, speaking in a joint statement, said that the failure of the Government of Swaziland to fulfil its human right obligations to women and other vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should be addressed. The Government must meet its obligations in line with international human rights treaties.

MGWAGWA GAMEDZE, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of Swaziland, in concluding remarks, said that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was a journey rather than a destination and all the issues raised would be covered in time. The Government was committed to promoting and protecting human rights and the strides made in this area would be sustained.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Trinidad and Tobago

THERESE BAPTISTE CORNELIS, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, said the first and most prominent theme related to the Universal Periodic Review recommendations was of signing, ratifying or implementing international human rights treaties which did not currently enjoy support. The position of the Government on the retention of capital punishment was clearly stated. This in no way implied that the Government took lightly issues such as torture or other cruel or degrading treatment. Corporal punishment was maintained as part of the penal code but was forbidden in schools. Education had been identified as the key link in the necessary paradigm shift in relation to corporal punishment as a disciplinary mechanism. The Government had committed a great deal of resources to improving the accessibility of educational opportunities. Trinidad and Tobago had received various recommendations related to the strengthening of national organizations designed to monitor the use of force by the protective services and readily agreed to examine them. Trinidad and Tobago undertook to examine issues surrounding discrimination of persons based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status. As with many other prominent human rights matters, the very thinking of the population needed to be changed in order to address these issues adequately. Domestic legislation which dealt with discrimination was in the process of being amended to include a person’s HIV/AIDS status as one of the recognized protected categories.

Cuba said that despite the challenges faced by the people of Trinidad and Tobago much progress had been made in promoting and protecting human rights. In the areas of health and education the Government had achieved universal primary education; 100 per cent State funding was provided for medicine; and free oncological treatment and antiretroviral medicine was provided. The Government should continue to make improvements in gender equity and rights for women.

Algeria said 118 recommendations were received and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had accepted many despite their limited economic resources. Algeria appreciated that the recommendations on combating crime and extreme poverty, and ensuring compulsory education between ages six and 18 years had been accepted. Algeria was pleased the Ombudsman’s office was considering the application of the Paris Principles and encouraged the Government to strengthen social development and humanitarian efforts.

Morocco said the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had shown openness throughout the Universal Periodic Review process and noted with satisfaction the important number of recommendations that were accepted. Morocco was pleased that the recommendations on acceding to the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were both accepted and encouraged the Government to spare no efforts in implementing all accepted recommendations.

United States congratulated the delegation on the adoption of the report and said it had been a pleasure to work as a member of the troika and have an opportunity to see the work done in Trinidad and Tobago on the promotion and protection of human rights. The United States asked the delegation of this country to clarify the position on recommendations contained in the addendum.

THERESE BAPTISTE CORNELIS, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago, said that the 52 recommendations had been noted.

Amnesty International encouraged the Government to finalize the act on gender-based violence and on human trafficking. Amnesty International regretted the rejection of the recommendation to abolish the death penalty and said that the desire of the public to maintain the death penalty was due to their need to feel protected from crime and violence in the society.

Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme said it was concerning that the death penalty remained. Progress remained to be done in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, preventing torture in prisons and improving the conditions of detention.

Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, commended the delegation for embracing consideration of gender identity and sexual orientation during the Universal Periodic Review. The Council should extend support to the national human rights campaign and the establishment of a national human rights institution.

THERESE BAPTISTE CORNELIS, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, in concluding remarks, reiterated the Government’s appreciation for the active exchange involved in preparing the Universal Periodic Review and its consideration by the Council. The comments of Action Canada for Population and Development about the Equal Opportunity Act would be relayed to the Government, which prided itself on dialogue and transparency. Change could only be made in consultation with the national populous.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Trinidad and Tobago.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Thailand

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW, Special Envoy of Thailand, said that the Government had received a total of 172 recommendations and that 134 recommendations were accepted by the Government, with the remaining 38 under consideration; no recommendations were rejected. Thailand was committed to the full implementation of all accepted recommendations and had already begun efforts in this area. The Government had signed the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances and would consider becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communication procedure. Thailand had withdrawn its reservation to article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women regarding marriage and family relations and reservations on articles 6 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the death penalty on persons below 18 years and to bring arrested persons promptly before a judge. The Government had pursed efforts on national reconciliation including a compensation package for all those affected by past violence. Investigations and legal proceedings were ongoing in order to bring perpetrators to account and provide justice for all. Thailand was determined to purse further efforts to address the root causes of the problem of political violence including in the Southern Border Provinces, be they social justice, development, the rule of law or the recognition of cultural identities.

Cuba noted the progress made in Thailand in reducing poverty and illiteracy among the population, including among ethnic groups. Cuba encouraged Thailand to continue protecting the economic, social and cultural rights of its entire people and to move successfully along the path of socio-economic development and human rights for all.

Viet Nam took positive note of the progress achieved by Thailand and commended its entire efforts in the implementation of recommendations accepted during the review. Viet Nam highly appreciated the acceptance of recommendations put forward by Viet Nam and urged the Council to adopt the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Thailand.

China appreciated Thailand’s accession to the main human rights treaties and its second National Action Plan. China welcomed the promotion and protection of human rights in Thailand in a comprehensive manner and the active measures taken to protect the rights of women, children, elderly and migrants, as well as the active role of Thailand in combating human trafficking.

Algeria said that 172 recommendations were submitted and Thailand had accepted the vast majority of these. The two recommendations in favour of protecting women and addressing violence against them and in favour of ensuring adequate living standards for all the population were both accepted. Algeria encouraged the Government to move forward on a path toward reconciliation and recommended the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report on Thailand.

Indonesia took note of Thailand’s consistent and genuine commitment to human rights, not only at the national but also at the regional and international levels. Indonesia appreciated the acceptance of the recommendation to strengthen law enforcement in order to provide adequate protection, guarantee the minimum wage and work safety and to ensure equal access to health services and justice for migrant workers.

Myanmar commended Thailand for playing a positive and active role in the Human Rights Council. Myanmar was convinced that Thailand would continue to strengthen the legal measures to promote the rights of migrant workers and their families and wished Thailand the best in implementing all accepted recommendations.

Malaysia was pleased to note that Thailand had already embarked on implementing some of the recommendations from its Universal Periodic Review. Malaysia was aware that Thailand needed to be accorded the necessary time and space to continue improvements in the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that Thailand had accepted a large number of recommendations and noted the progress made by the Government in the area of the protection of women’s rights, national reconciliation and social security for all groups. Lao People’s Democratic Republic noted Thailand’s withdrawal of reservations on some of the provisions of international human rights treaties and recommended that the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand be adopted.

Brunei Darussalam appreciated Thailand’s cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and supported its commitment to promote social equality and the priority accorded to human rights. Brunei Darussalam welcomed the efforts of Thailand in protecting the rights of its entire people and particularly of vulnerable groups.

Cambodia noted with appreciation the efforts and achievements the Government of Thailand had made to advance human rights in the country, noticeably in the fields of social development and the well-being of its people. The advancement of democratic processes in Thailand through the attainment of political stability and national reconciliation was critical. Cambodia welcomed Thailand’s decision to extend its cooperation with Special Procedures in its efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Singapore welcomed the constructive approach which Thailand had shown throughout the Universal Periodic Review process. The Government had demonstrated commitment towards improving its policies to enhance the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people. As a fellow Association of South East Asian Nations’ country, Singapore looked forward to continued cooperation with Thailand in strengthening the promotion of human rights in the region.

National Human Rights Commission of Thailand said the Government should strive to strengthen the rule of law as it was a necessary framework for human rights protection. Special protection should be provided to various vulnerable groups. For the 38 recommendations not accepted by Thailand, the Government should work towards adopting those recommendations related to the death penalty, freedom of expression, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and the ratification of the Rome Statue.

Association for the Prevention of Torture welcomed Thailand’s voluntary pledge and commitment to ensure that its criminal laws were aligned with the Convention against Torture and to include a definition of torture in its criminal code in line with article 1 of the Convention. The Association for the Prevention of Torture urged Thailand to ensure that the amendments to its laws fully implemented the treaty.

Human Rights Watch regretted that Thailand rejected all recommendations to review lese majeste to safeguard freedom of expression. The Government needed to provide the necessary support to recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand and to address impunity for civilian deaths that occurred during the long-running civil armed conflict in the southern border provinces.

Forum Asia said that Thailand needed to provide the timeline for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Also, Thailand should prioritize national reconciliation and ensure the focus of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on establishing facts of human rights violations.

Asian Legal Resource Centre noted with concern a pattern of growing threats to political freedom in Thailand and an increase in lese majeste cases and called for a country visit of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression. Rights violations connected to development projects and land and natural resources grabbing should also be addressed.

Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice said that Thailand should take all measures to integrate in the education system children belonging to the most vulnerable groups, in particular those living in rural areas. The quality of education for children that belonged to ethnic minorities and children with disabilities should be improved.

Action Canada for Population and Development, speaking in a joint statement, said that the Government should develop concrete strategies to address the underlying factors that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health care services for sex workers, namely stigma and discrimination. There was a need to facilitate the participation of marginalized groups into the policy process.

International Commission of Jurists welcomed the commitment of Thailand to combat impunity and said that the implementation of those recommendations required the revision of the special security laws operating in the southernmost provinces of Thailand to ensure their conformity with international human rights law and standards.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues regretted that Thailand rejected key recommendations related to the core human rights concerns, including the restriction of freedom of expression through the use of the lèse-majesté law and the Computer-related Crimes Act. It was deeply regrettable that Thailand refused to accept the recommendation to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International was dismayed that Thailand had resumed executions in 2009 after the hiatus of six years and called on this country to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty International urged the Government to ensure that counter-insurgence operations in the southern-most provinces respected international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to hold accountable alleged perpetrators of human rights violations.

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW, Special Envoy of Thailand, in concluding remarks, said that the Government was committed to national reconciliation and would ensure an inclusive process of political dialogue. The Government would also do more to reaffirm the rights and needs of vulnerable persons including sex workers. Concerning Thailand’s security laws, the Government would move towards ending the use of security laws in areas of the country as the situation improved. Section 17 of the Emergency Decree did not grant immunity for State officials and did not preclude the rights of persons to seek compensation for the wrong doing of State officials. The Government could not repeal the provision of the Emergency Decree but it had accepted the recommendation to enhance efforts to put an end to impunity. Although Thailand was not a State party to the Convention on the Status of Refugees, it had never evaded its humanitarian responsibilities towards persons in need of protection outside their home countries. With 3 million migrants out of a population of 68 million, Thailand had made progress in protecting migrant workers and would continue to study the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. On the question of freedom of expression, which centred on the lese majeste law, only the people of Thailand could sort this out through a process that was ongoing. Thailand was now entering the important phase of national implementation of the accepted recommendations and the Government would work with all relevant stakeholders including the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and civil society organizations.

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