Cabo Verde and its long-awaited initial review before the Human Rights Committee

Published on 31 Oct 2019, 04:15 PM

Cabo Verdean economy is slowly on the rise. However, tourism alone accounts for the 90% of the national income and poverty is still a widespread phenomenon across the archipelago. (Photo credit: )

On 22 and 23 October 2019, Cabo Verde underwent its first ever review before the Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the ICCPR. Having ratified the ICCPR in 1993, the First Optional Protocol in 2002 and the Second Optional Protocol in 2000, Cabo Verde waited until 2018 for the submission of its initial report, leading the Committee to remind the State Party of its reporting obligations.

The State delegation opened the review by listing a number of recent achievements, particularly in the areas of democracy and rule of law. However, they also acknowledged that many steps still need to be taken in order to ensure the comprehensive respect, promotion and fulfilment of civil and political rights. Among the concerns raised by the Committee during the discussion were the Cabo Verdean national human right institutions (NHRIs), the administration of justice and the non-discrimination legislation.

Preoccupations were also raised on climate change and the way public participation to decision-making is guaranteed, human trafficking, exploitation of migrant workers and children, especially in the informal sector. Finally, remarks were made by the Committee on corruption, following allegations received by civil society. The Cabo Verdean delegation, however, argued that there is no unanimous political will to adopt a government bill against nepotism.

The webcast is available here: pt. 1 and pt. 2

"A significant economic growth would be the only propulsion factor for a more effective and comprehensive fulfilment of Cabo Verde's international human rights obligations."

- Head of Cabo Verde Delegation

Crime, detention and juvenile justice

Despite the recent adoption of a Security and Citizenship Plan, a new Code on the Execution of Prison Sentences and a number of social reinsertion programs, crime in Cabo Verde ramps up. This leads to prison overcrowding, also due to the lengthy and overloaded judicial system.

Four out of the five Cabo Verdean detention facilities remain overcrowded. The Committee raised questions on how effective those national plans are in practice and what (if any) measures are in place to encourage courts to hand down alternative sentences to detention. The State delegation affirmed that a national plan for social reintegration will be approved soon and other legislative measures have already been adopted (i.e. crime reform, 2015) to enhance the use of house arrest and electronic monitoring as alternative sentences.


Another significant problem touched upon during the review was juvenile detention. Only two prisons (Praia and São Vicente) are in line with the ICCPR standards and with the Beijing Rules, according to which juvenile detainees must be kept separated from adult detainees. The State Delegation argued that they are well aware of the international obligations, but due to the lack of resources and facilities they can either guarantee the juvenile-adults separation or combat overcrowding, in order to exacerbate at least one issue. The Committee insisted on the equal and utmost importance of the two obligations and instructed the State Party to provide a time-frame in which they are planning to comply with their obligations.

Refugees and asylum seekers

The Committee showed concerns on the current Cabo Verdean system of reception of immigrants and asylum seekers, and on the fact that Cabo Verde has not yet ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention. The Committee indicated that the principle of non-refoulement is allegedly disregarded by the State Party, to the extent that “inadequate or disrespectful treatments” have been recorded at its borders.

The State Party acknowledged the flaws that still exist in the refugee determination mechanism, however they justified their current system by claiming that their domestic legislation on entry and admission is sound, objective and it relies on the general principle that if someone shows to be eligible for protection, they will receive it.

Budgetary constraints

Throughout the dialogue with the Human Rights Committee, the delegation insistently kept referring to budgetary constraints. The lack of resources was invoked in almost every answer. According to the delegation, the lack of budget is a significant problem for a nation state, in particular if the state is a small, post-colonial archipelago whose economy has just begun a growing curve. This issue considerably affects Cabo Verde’s reporting obligations under international human rights law too. The Committee asked the State Party to provide data and statistics on a variety of subjects but such information was either insufficient or missing.


The delegation stressed a few times that significant economic growth would be the only propulsion factor for a more effective and comprehensive fulfilment of its international human rights obligations. However, the State committed, from now on, to a more timely and consistent participation in the UN Treaty Body system. On the other hand, the Committee acknowledged the difficulties encountered by Cabo Verde vis à vis its international obligations and invited it, as a general rule, to put in place progressive steps and measures towards a full and effective implementation of the ICCPR and human rights as a whole. 

Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee

The State party is requested to provide, by 8 November 2021, information on the following recommendations from the Committee’s Concluding Observations.

National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)

The State party shall reform the National Commission of Human Rights and Citizenship to ensure full compliance with the Paris Principles. In particular it should:

  •  ensure a fully independent, transparent and participative process for the selection and appointment of the members of the Commission with a view to guaranteeing their independence
  •  increase the independence of the Commission, including removing any oversight by Governmental entities
  •  provide the Committee with the human and financial resources necessary to enable it to carry out its mandate effectively
  •  make sure that the Commission’s geographical coverage is strengthened to disperse its functions across the State party’s territory

Equality between men and women

  •  ensure the passing into law of the Parity Bill and its effective implementation to increase women’s participation in all spheres of public and private life
  •  strengthen education and awareness-raising initiatives for the general public to eliminate gender stereotypes on the subordination of women and on the respective and equivalent roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society
  • collect comprehensive data to monitor the efficacy of initiatives to achieve gender equality


  •  take measures to ensure robust public participation in decision-making during the decentralization efforts

The next constructive dialogue with Cabo Verde will take place during 2027.

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