1. The Committee considered
the initial report of Gabon (CCPR/C/31/Add.4) at its 1541st to 1543rd
meetings, on 28 and 29 October 1996, and adopted at its 1556th meeting,
held on 6 November 1996 the following observations.
2. The Committee welcomes
the opportunity to initiate its dialogue with the Government of Gabon
while regretting that this follows a lapse of over 12 years in the submission
of the report by the State Party. While the Committee regrets the scarcity
of information contained in the written report, it expresses its appreciation
for the high-level delegation, as well as for the detailed and up-dated
additional information provided for by the delegation in response to the
questions posed by the Committee.
B. Factors and difficulties affecting the application of the Covenant
3. The Committee notes the
existence in the State party of customs and traditions, particularly in
the area of equality between men and women, which may impede the full
observance of relevant provisions of the Covenant.
C. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes
the positive political evolution of Gabon towards a multi-party and pluralistic
democracy since the entry into force of the 1991 Constitution and its
amendment of 18 March 1994. It notes with satisfaction the establishment
in 1987 of a Ministry of Communication, Culture, Art and Human Rights,
which includes human rights among the subjects for which it has responsibility.
The Committee appreciates the statement made by the delegation to the
effect that the Government intends to establish, as a statutory, autonomous
body, a National Human Rights Commission for the promotion and protection
of human rights.
5. The Committee welcomes
Gabon's accession without any reservation to various international human
6. The Committee notes with
satisfaction that pursuant to the introduction of the multi-party system,
20 political parties have been created and that, further to the promulgation
of the 1994 Labour Code and of the 1993 Act on trade-union organizations
of public servants, the previous trade union monopoly system has been
7. The Committee appreciates
the statement by the delegation that information on international human
rights instruments and in particular of the provisions of the Covenant
would be disseminated among the public.
D. Principal subjects of concern
8. The Committee regrets that
the opportunity was not taken by the drafters of the Constitution to include
in the 1994 Constitution, which refers to other international human rights
instruments, a specific reference to the Covenant and its legal relationship
with the domestic legal order. It further regrets that all rights provided
for in the Covenant are not incorporated into domestic law and that effective
remedies are not provided in all cases of violation of rights protected
under the Covenant.
9. The Committee is concerned
that the non-discrimination clauses in the Covenant, as laid down in its
articles 2, 3 and 26 are not fully reflected in the Constitution. Particular
concern is expressed at the prevailing discriminatory attitudes in society
towards women and at the insufficiency and lack of effectiveness of measures
adopted to prevent them.
10. The Committee is concerned
about the lack of safeguards and effective remedies available to individuals
during a state of emergency and particularly regrets the lack of information
on the situation of non-derogable rights in such circumstances.
11. The Committee regrets
that despite the Government's declared policy of not applying the death
penalty, no legal steps have yet been taken to abolish it.
12. The Committee is concerned
that the guarantees contained in articles 7, 9 and 10 of the Covenant
are not fully complied with either in law or in practice. In particular,
it is seriously concerned about the length of time that individuals may
have to spend in police custody and pre-trial detention.
13. The Committee is concerned
about the practice of imprisonment for civil debt, in contravention of
article 11 of the Covenant.
14. The Committee is also
concerned about the "dilapidated state of jail cells" and notes
that insufficient measures have been taken to provide law enforcement
officials with appropriate training in the field of human rights, and
to inform arrested persons and detainees of their rights. The Committee
further deplores the fact that the police force is a component of the
country's military forces and, as such, is subject to the military command
of the Ministry of Defense.
15. The Committee is concerned
about the lack of information on measures to ensure the independence and
impartiality of the judiciary in conformity with article 14 of the Covenant.
16. With regard to the rights
of non-Gabonese citizens and refugees living in Gabon, the Committee is
concerned about legal impediments to their freedom of movement within
the country as well as by the requirement of an exit visa for foreign
workers, which run counter to the provisions in article 12 of the Covenant.
It is particularly worried by the appalling conditions prevailing in refugee
centres, including at the Libreville Detention Camp, which led to the
death of a number of persons through suffocation and dehydration.
17. The Committee is concerned
about the lack of measures taken to implement the rights of persons belonging
to minorities, as set forth in article 27 of the Covenant.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
18. The Committee recommends that the Covenant be incorporated in the domestic
legal order and that its provisions be made directly applicable before the
courts. In this connection, the Committee emphasizes the importance of establishing
a National Commission on Human Rights as a permanent and independent mechanism
to monitor the effective implementation of the Covenant and to provide training
to law enforcement officials and appropriate information to the public.
19. The Committee recommends
that all grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, as provided for
in articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant, be incorporated in the relevant
provisions of the Constitution. It further recommends that article 2 of
the Constitution be amended to ensure its compatibility with articles
2 (1), 3 and 26 of the Covenant and that affirmative measures be taken
to strengthen the participation of women in the political, economic and
social life of the country and to overcome the discriminatory effects
of customary laws.
20. The Committee recommends
that the State party urgently adopt and incorporate all relevant provisions
of article 4 of the Covenant into the Constitution.
21. The Committee recommends
that the State party consider the abolition of the death penalty and accession
to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant.
22. The Committee recommends
that all legal provisions or executive orders be reviewed to ensure their
compatibility with articles 7, 9 and 10 of the Covenant and their effective
implementation in practice. Urgent steps should be taken to review the
duration of police custody and preventive detention and to ensure the
independent investigation of all allegations of ill-treatment by police
and prison officers.
23. The Committee recommends
that prison conditions should be brought into compliance with article
10 of the Covenant and with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules
for the Treatment of Prisoners and to make these standards accessible
to the police, armed forces, prison personnel and other persons responsible
for holding interrogations as well as to persons deprived of their liberty.
24. The Committee urgently
recommends the abolition of imprisonment for civil debt, in compliance
with article 11 of the Covenant.
25. The Committee strongly
recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to ensure
that the police be transformed into a civilian force not subject to the
military command of the Ministry of Defence. The Committee also recommends
that the State party include in its second periodic report information
on measures to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
26. Existing provisions such
as article 1, paragraph 3 of the Constitution limiting or restricting
the exercise of the right to freedom of movement for non-Gabonese citizens,
including the requirement of exit visas should be reviewed to bring the
legislation fully in conformity with article 12 of the Covenant. The Committee
further recommends that the State party consider adopting measures to
improve refugee status and living conditions in refugee centres.
27. The Committee recommends
that the Government of Gabon develop information and awareness programmes
on the principles and provisions of the Covenant in the various languages
spoken in Gabon. Additionally, the Committee recommends that human rights
education be provided at all levels in schools and comprehensive human
rights training be provided to all segments of the population, including
law enforcement officers and all the persons involved in the administration
of justice. In this regard, the Committee suggests that the State party
avail itself of the technical cooperation services of the High Commissioner/Centre
for Human Rights.
28. The Committee encourages
the State party to disseminate widely the State party's report and the
concluding observations adopted by the Committee following its consideration
of the report.
29. The Committee recommends
that full and comprehensive information on the implementation of the provisions
of the Covenant, in law and in practice, be incorporated in the State
party's next periodic report.