HPS report 11th session of the Human Rights Council (2-19 June 2009) 10 June 2009 Item 6: Universal Periodic Review Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review outcome on Cameroon Document: A/HRC/11/21 Opening statement by the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Commonwealth Affairs H.E Mr. Joseph Dion Ngute started by expressing gratitude, on behalf of the government and people of Cameroon, to the countries who supported the renewal of its mandate to the Human Rights Council. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to human rights, reiterating Cameroon’s determination to work for the advancement of this cause. He also thanked the troika that helped in the assessment of the Universal Periodic Review, namely China, Cuba and Senegal. He continued, by expressing the satisfaction at the UPR process and stating that his country had accepted 41 recommendations, objected to 9 and were still examining the feasibility of 4 recommendations. He then explained his country rejection of the Council’s recommendation to decriminalize homosexuality, claiming articles 22 and 29 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights that allow a country to restrict certain liberties, if it is in the best interest of the State. He explained that homosexuality was not a value espoused by society in Cameroon, but insisted that the Government does not discriminate against any of its citizens. He also congratulated his country on setting up an independent election management body (ELECAM). He stated that this body constituted an important step towards a diplomatic society. He reiterated his respect for the Human Rights Council and hoped that, with the United Nations and other partners, Cameroon would be able to implement the recommendations. Interactive dialogue States In the interactive dialogue, the following delegations took the floor: Algeria, Belarus, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, United States of America, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Chad. The dialogue was, in general, courteous and most of the aforementioned countries congratulated Cameroon on its openness and willingness to discuss human rights issues. Allusions were made to the numerous human rights instruments that Cameroon was in the process of implementing. The United States of America raised a concern regarding the freedom of the press and suggested that the government abolish the penalties for press offences. She also questioned the independence of the election management body. Non-governmental Organisations The different NGOs raised a number of issues: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network insisted that the government repeal Art.347 of the penal code, which criminalizes homosexuality and suggested that more attention be paid to cases concerning harassment and arbitrary detention, which appeared to be on the rise. Franciscan International deplored that street children were devoid of all legal protection, which led to their abuse and exploitation. Recommendations were also made to combat child labour, child rape and to address the vulnerability of handicapped children. The lack of schools was also hampering the efforts to provide education to all children. They also stressed that the disparity between the number of boys and girls, who were attending school, was truly worrying. International Federation of the Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) congratulated Cameroon on its decision to accelerate the reform of the legal system. However they regretted the endemic corruption that took place in prisons throughout the country. They also reminded the audience that 60% of detainees were awaiting trial and demanded that the government ensure that no impunity be offered to cases concerning torture in prisons. Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine (CRED) urged the government to provide better funding to the National Committee on Human Rights in order that the institution could function. They were also dismayed at the number of citizens that had been made homeless because of mismanaged national projects. Rencontre africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme emphasized that the legal system was failing and needed urgent reforms. Furthermore, 110 people were killed in recent demonstrations against the high price of living. They also noted that a number of students had also been detained. Reply by the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Commonwealth Affairs H.E Mr. Joseph Dion Ngute reiterated his respect for the Human Rights Council, whilst reminding the assembly that his country is in reform. He insisted that Cameroon would meet its international obligations and continue in the promotion and protection of Human Rights. He assured the Council that his government would try and resolve as many points as possible.