Tonga’s human rights record will be examined by a United Nations panel in Geneva on Monday, January 15.
This will be third time the kingdom’s human rights record has been studied since 2008.
Tonga will be represented at the review by the Solicitor General, Sione Sisifa.
It is likely that Tonga’s continued failure to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) will be a focus of attention.
Several delegations attending Tonga’s last review in 2013 urged Tonga to sign the convention and Amnesty International has also urged the kingdom to sign CEDAW.
Amnesty International has made a series of recommendations to all 13 nations taking part in the current round of United Nations human rights reviews.
In his presentation to the UN panel during the 2013 review, Lord Vaea, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, argued that the introduction of new human rights would involve a delicate balancing exercise of important factors, including limited resources, core Tongan cultural values, fundamental Christian beliefs and liberal ideologies.
“These circumstances should be recognized as the reason why Tonga has been slow to ratify the core human rights conventions”, he said.
Next week’s examination will be carried out by a panel of three countries, including Angola, Slovakia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE has become a major investor in the Pacific in recent years, especially in the field of renewable energy.
Since 2008, all 193 UN member States have been reviewed twice.
In its 2016 assessment of human rights in Tonga, the US State Department said the most persistent problems were domestic violence, discrimination against women and government corruption.
Other concerns included the lack of public defenders for the poor, women’s lack of rights to land, and the lack of comprehensive labour legislation.
Amnesty’s recommendations to the government of Tonga include:
Ratifying the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and opt-in to the inquiry and inter-state procedures;
Ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination against Women, as accepted in the previous review, and implement it in national law.
Adopting a comprehensive law on violence against women and girls that includes the provision of protection orders and appropriate penalties, and guarantees access to justice and redress, including compensation and other reparation, for the victims of such violence.
Repealing all provisions in national law that criminalize consensual same-sex relations.
Introducing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation to provide equal protection against discrimination for all persons and on all grounds, including sexual orientation or gender identity.
Recognising marriages between couples of the same sex, on the same basis and conferring all the same rights, as marriages between different-sex couples.