Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Geneva — Leading CSOs from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu made a rare appearance at the United Human Rights Council (UNHRC) here and called on their governments to abide by their national and international commitments to rule of law, citizens rights especially to freedom of expression, assembly and gender equality.

The statement was read by Ms. Lusia Lagilevu, legal officer at the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) in Fiji, to a packed and attentive audience in the imposing main Council hall on behalf of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) which sponsored the visit by the delegation from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

The statement called upon Fiji to swiftly implement the Convention against Torture which it ratified in 2016 and urged Papua New Guinea to institute a National Human Rights Commission and crackdown against continuing “Sorcery Accusation Related Violence “with upto 7-10 cases every week of SARV there. We urge the government to enforce existing laws and prosecute both perpetrators and instigators.” Vanuatu civil society was concerned by accounts of violence against women and “sub-standard correctional facilities”.

The CSOs associated with the statement are CCF, PNG Tribal Foundation and Transparency International Vanuatu. The spokesperson addressed the Council from the NGOs forum at the back of the hall, as part of a process connecting human rights defenders, environmental activists and others to the HRC, giving them space, time and voice to respond to governments and societal issues.

The representatives are to address a panel discussion later today on human rights challenges in their countries.

Below is the full statement that was read by Ms Lagilevu at the 40th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, 12 March 2019:

Thank you, Mr. President.

We congratulate Fiji and the Bahamas, the first Pacific and Caribbean small island states on their election as members of the Human Rights Council. We welcome this opportunity to address and promote the critical human rights challenges for the people of small island states.

Mr. President, we are pleased by the positive steps taken by Fiji to promote human rights including the ratification of UNCAT and we urge the Fijian Government to swiftly implement the convention.

Mr. President, based on information provided by our partner organisations Citizen`s Constitutional Forum, PNG Tribal Foundation and Transparency International Vanuatu, we share concerns about the need to expand civil society space, including freedom of expression, assembly, media and access to information in these countries.

Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by continuing sorcery accusation related violence in Papua New Guinea with upto 7-10 cases every week of SARV there. We urge the government to enforce existing laws and prosecute both perpetrators and instigators. We believe this will be strengthened by the creation of a much needed National Human Rights Commission.

In Vanuatu, reports of extensive violence against women, including sexual violence, are deeply distressing as are sub-standard correctional facilities for detainees, particularly lack of counselling.

We urge the HRC member countries to support these SIDS in the implementation of their international and regional obligations.

Thank you Mr President.

ENDS

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