Committee on the Elimination of
15 August 2006
Discusses Early Warning and Emergency Action Procedure
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon considered the situation in Saint Lucia and Namibia under its review procedure for countries whose reports are seriously overdue. It also discussed its early warning and emergency action procedure.
Reporting on the situation in Saint Lucia, whose initial to eighth periodic reports were overdue, Committee Expert Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah said there were no new elements to report. Still of concern were the issues of the status of the Convention in domestic law, specific anti-discrimination legislation in the State party, and remedies for discrimination claims and with regard to the mediator for racial discrimination complaints. There was also the issue of a lack of data on the racial composition of the inhabitants. The Committee decided to send a letter of reminder to the State party concerning its overdue periodic reports.
In a statement on Namibia, Issaskar Ndjoze, Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of Namibia, said that the Constitution specifically provided for the advancement of persons who had been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices. The process of land reform that the Government had embarked on since independence was to purchase white-owned farms in order to resettle black families that were landless. Since 1991, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement had acquired 191 farms at a cost of some 175 million Namibian dollars, and resettled 1,616 families on them.
On Namibia, Committee Expert Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill said that the Government’s San (Bushmen) development programme did not address the social and economic discrimination of that group, and the San still had no access to land, despite their dependence on agriculture. Regarding reports of politicians making derogatory remarks about minority groups, she welcomed the information today on the amended criminal act, which criminalized the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority, even when they did not lead to acts of violence. The Committee decided to request Namibia to submit its overdue periodic reports by 30 June 2007.
Committee Expert Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill, reporting on the actions of the Working Group on the Early Warning and Emergency Action Procedure, said that at its current session the Committee had received requests for action under the early warning and emergency action procedure concerning Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru, Suriname, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Suriname. Another issue she hoped to address was the case of the Western Shoshone, given the lack of response from the United States on the matter, which had been due in July.
On Brazil, it was decided to send a letter to the Government regarding the non-implementation of a Presidential decree on the demarcation of indigenous lands, which was the subject of complaints received. The cases of the five other countries, and the Western Shoshone would be addressed by the Committee tomorrow.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 August, it will continue its consideration of the early warning and urgent action procedure as well as consider the situation in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, under Article 15 of the Convention, and follow-up to the Durban Programme of Action.
FATIMATA-BINTA VICTOIRE DAH, the Committee Expert serving as Country Rapporteur, said that Saint Lucia had become problematic for the Committee. It had ratified the Convention in 1990 and received reminders from the Committee for the first time in 1998. It had been considered under the review procedure in 2004, and again in August 2005, following the State party’s failure to submit either a core report or a periodic report. The State party currently was late in its submission of its initial through the eighth periodic reports, representing a 15-year span.
There were no new elements to report. Concerning the country’s claim that there was no racial discrimination in its territory, the Committee had reminded Saint Lucia of the Committee’s position in regard to such claims. Still of concern were the issues of the status of the Convention in domestic law, specific anti-discrimination legislation in the State party, remedies for discrimination claims and with regard to the mediator for racial discrimination complaints. There was also the issue of a lack of data on the racial composition of the inhabitants, Ms. Dah said.
Ms. Dah noted that the Committee remained concerned that Kweyol was not incorporated in schools or in political life. The alleged resurgence of violence against women and the gender dimension of racial discrimination, among others, were also of concern.
In conclusion, Ms. Dah felt that the Committee had reached a deadlock. She proposed that a reminder letter be sent to conclude the current review procedure. In that letter she suggested that if Saint Lucia contested the information received by the Committee, that Saint Lucia undertake to provide that information itself. She also suggested the Committee explore alternative means of contacting the State party, including through other competent regional offices of the United Nations system or others – including through the offices of the International Organization of la Francophonie.
A representative of the International Organization for La Francophonie to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed the Committee and expressed his willingness to call upon States members of the Organization and encourage them to fulfil their obligations under the Convention.
The Secretary of the Committee said that she had contacted the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and could report that there were no OHCHR offices in Saint Lucia, or indeed in the nearby region.
It was decided to send a letter of reminder to the State party concerning its overdue periodic reports, as Ms. Dah had suggested. The Committee would also explore the possibility of working with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme or from the Organization of la Francophonie in the region to try and re-establish the dialogue with the State party.
Statement by Representative of Namibia
ISSASKAR V. K. NDJOZE, Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of Namibia, said that, since the last report in 1996, Namibia had made significant strides in overcoming the legacy of racial discrimination, in particular in the elimination of prior legislation that perpetuated racial discrimination. The Constitution provided that the practices of racial discrimination and apartheid were prohibited and were punishable offences. The Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act of 1991 set out criminal penalties for a variety of discriminatory acts. The Government had also taken legislative measures in terms of the 1991 Act to amend certain colonial laws which sought to perpetuate racial discrimination whereby black persons were not permitted to live or own real property in urban areas.
Concerning affirmative action, Mr. Ndjoze observed that the Constitution specifically provided that Parliament might enact legislation providing directly or indirectly for the advancement of persons who had been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices. The Government was also empowered to implement policies and programmes to redress social, economic or educational imbalances in Namibian society arising from past discriminatory laws, including to achieve a balanced structuring of the public service, the police force, the prisons service, and others. In 1998, the Government had enacted the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act to redress discrimination and to advance the disadvantaged in the sphere of employment.
Mr. Ndoze said that the Government of Namibia was committed to a land redistribution process in the country to reduce income disparities between the previously advantaged white minority and the poor black majority, who presently had to eke out a living in congested communal areas. The process of land reform that the Government had embarked on since independence was to purchase white-owned farms in order to resettle black families that were landless. Since 1991, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement had acquired 191 farms at a cost of some 175 million Namibian dollars, and resettled 1,616 families on them.
Turning to the issue of the San/Bushmen, Mr. Ndoze said that in November 2005, the Cabinet had decided to develop a focused and dedicated programme for the development of the San communities. The San Development Programme would seek to improve the socio-economic status of the San through the creation of conservancies.
Presentation by Country Rapporteur
PATRICIA NOZIPHO JANUARY-BARDILL, the Committee Expert serving as Country Rapporteur, recalled that the fourth through seventh periodic reports of Namibia had been presented to the Committee in 1996. In examining the 1996 report, the Committee had found many things to commend, for example the land redistribution act, and the policies of affirmative action in areas such as employment and education. She welcomed the information from the delegation this afternoon concerning the additional legislation that had been enacted in 1996 to strengthen that prior legislation.
The Committee had found, however, with regard to its previous report, that the information on the national groups within Namibia had been superficial and sparse. Ms. January-Bardill said the total marginalization of the San (Bushmen) was the most clear-cut minority rights issue, but there was also concern with regard to the exclusion of the Mfuwe people, which had led to secessionist movements in the region where they lived.
Regarding the San development programme, no action had been taken to address the social and economic discrimination of those groups. The San still had no access to land, despite their dependence on agriculture. Only one farm of those purchased under the Land Redistribution Act had been allocated to the San community, where 100 families had been settled, Ms. January-Bardill pointed out.
Turning to Article 4 issues, Ms. January-Bardill said that there had been reports of politicians making derogatory remarks about minority groups without being held accountable. For that reason the Committee welcomed the information today on the amended criminal act, which criminalized the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority, even when they did not lead to acts of violence.
In conclusion, Ms. January-Bardill requested Namibia to submit a report before 30 June 2007.
Following a discussion with Experts and the delegation, the Committee decided to send a letter to Namibia, reminding the Government of the commitment it undertook today to submit its overdue reports by 30 June 2007. Along with the letter, a list of issues raised today, which should be addressed in the report, would be sent to the delegation.
Early Warning and Emergency Action Procedure
PATRICIA NOZIPHO JANUARY-BARDILL, Committee Expert, reporting on the actions of the Working Group on the Early Warning and Emergency Action Procedure, said that at its current session the Committee had received requests for action under the early warning and emergency action procedure concerning Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru, Suriname, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Suriname. Another issue she hoped to address was the case of the Western Shoshone, given the lack of response from the United States on the matter, which had been due in July.
On Brazil, the request had been made on behalf of the indigenous peoples in the State of Roraima, who claimed their land was being illegally exploited. There was a Presidential decree in place to demarcate indigenous reserves and ensure their protection, but non-indigenous illegal occupants had not yet been removed from the territory, which had led to the persistence of legal disputes and physical attacks. The working group recommended that a letter be sent to the State party asking for information and highlighting the urgency of the case. Following a response by the State party the Committee could then judge how it would use the early warning and urgent action procedure. The letter should also urge the Government and the competent authorities to take the necessary measures to protect the peoples concerned and to prevent the further erosion of the land or resources that they had traditionally occupied or used. The working group suggested requesting the State party to respond by 31 December 2006, so that by February/March 2007 the Committee could address the matter.
Committee Experts suggested that it would perhaps be better to simply address a letter to the Government requesting the reasons why the Presidential decree on land demarcation had not entered into force.
Accordingly, the Committee decided to draft such a letter to the Government.