Samoa Ombudsman Issues First Human Rights Report

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Document weaves together Fa‘asamoa and human, rights principles

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Aug. 18, 2015) – The Office of the Ombudsman as the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) launched its first State of Human Rights Report to Parliament last night. The report highlights the nature and extent of human rights issues experienced in Samoa.

The report dispels misconceptions that currently exist in Samoa about the nature and purpose of human rights and discusses the relationship between Fa’asamoa and the international human rights system, including the relationship between individual and community rights. As the Ombudsman stated last night "This report is very much for Samoa, by Samoa … the weaving together of Fa’asamoa and human rights principles will make a stronger and more harmonious society."

The report further explores the Fa’asamoa principles of equality, respect and protection, which complement basic human rights in international law, and the relationship between these principles and the bigger picture issues which form the basis of the report, namely, the equality, respect and protection of vulnerable populations; all aspects of health; environmental health; and religious and economic freedoms.

The main focus of the report is the need for better safeguards for equality and respect for women, children, people with disabilities (PWDs) and prisoners. It was clear from the research and outreach the NHRI conducted that these groups are the most vulnerable in Samoan society and the most in need of stronger human rights protections.

The report concludes with a discussion of the emerging issues of mental health and freedom of speech. Also contained within the report are a number of recommendations made to relevant Government ministries and agencies in order to better strengthen human rights protections for the people of Samoa.

[PIR editor’s note: Samoa Observer reported that ‘One in every five Samoans live in poverty. ... That is one of the issues identified by the first State of Human Rights Report for Samoa officially launched last night.’]

The report was formally launched by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi who commended the NHRI on its work and called for the formation of a Parliamentary Committee tasked with following up on the report’s recommendations. The Prime Minister also urged relevant government ministries to implement the report’s recommendations. Also in attendance at the launch were representatives from Government ministries, civil society, community groups and international organizations who all provided valuable input which underpinned the findings of the report.

The Ombudsman echoed the Prime Minister’s comments, thanked the government and civil society for their cooperation, and stated that it was in "this spirit of cooperation that we [the NHRI] seek to work with all stakeholders to ensure that human rights are protected for everyone in Samoa."

The Status of Human Rights Report will be debated when Parliament is next in session. It is available on the Office of the Ombudsman’s website – www.ombudsman.gov.ws

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