COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ADOPTS CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS ON REPORTS OF TONGA AND NEPAL

AFTERNOON
HR/CERD/98/59
20 August 1998

Committee Discusses World Conference on Racism
and Racial Discrimination


The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted this afternoon its concluding observations on reports from the Governments of Tonga and Nepal on efforts to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In concluding recommendations on Tonga, the Committee expressed concern that the country had no express policy on the elimination of racial discrimination. It recommended the adoption of measures to incorporate in the school curricula subjects intended to promote tolerance among different ethnic groups.

Concerning Nepal, the Committee noted that widespread poverty and the presence of a large number of refugees from neighbouring countries may affect the full implementation of the Convention in that country. It expressed concern that despite the Government's abolition of the caste system by law, the system still functioned and appeared embedded in parts of the Nepalese culture.

Official, printed versions of the concluding observations on the reports will be issued Friday, 21 August, the final day of the Committee's three-week session.

During the meeting, the Committee exchanged views on the preparatory process for the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. It also discussed its own role in the process and its contribution to the Conference.

Also, the Committee examined a letter from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the Chief of the Support Services Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in which the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel expressed concern that Committee expert Michael P. Banton was undertaking an initiative to rewrite the concluding observations on the report of Israel already adopted during the Committee's March 1998 session. Mr. Banton, who served as country rapporteur to the ninth periodic report of Israel, rejected this claim, saying that it was unfounded allegation. Committee Chairman Mahmoud Abul Nasr said this incident was unacceptable. The Committee decided to mention what had happened in its final report.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 21 August, to adopt its final report before closing its three-week session.

Concluding Observations on Reports of Tonga and Nepal

In concluding observations on the report of Tonga, the Committee expressed concern at the lack of legislation intended to enforce the provisions contained in article 4 of the International Convention and at the statement contained in the report that Tonga had no express policy on the elimination of racial discrimination. It was also concerned that since the International Convention had not been incorporated into the domestic law, it could not be invoked in the courts.

The Committee recommended, among other things, that Tonga provide information on the demographic composition of the population and details describing the country's political, economic and social framework. It also recommended the adoption of measures to incorporate in the school curricula subjects intended to promote tolerance among different ethnic groups. It suggested that Tonga might wish to avail itself of the technical assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

With regard to Nepal, the Committee noted that widespread poverty and the presence of a large number of refugees from neighbouring countries may affect the full implementation of the Convention in that country. It also expressed concern that despite the Government's abolition of the caste system by law, the system still functioned and appeared embedded in parts of the Nepalese culture. In that connection, the Committee was also concerned at the limitations that the system imposed on the effective enjoyment by all groups of the rights enshrined in the International Convention.

Among other things, the Committee recommended that information be provided by Nepal on the implementation of practical measures to eradicate the practice of the caste system; on the implementation of article 4 of the Convention, especially on how it was reflected in domestic legislation and applied by judges, lawyers and civil servants; on the effective enjoyment of political and other civil rights by all ethnic groups; and on the existing legal mechanisms available to lodge complaints in cases of racial discrimination.

Discussion on the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

During its afternoon session, the Committee discussed a draft decision on the manner in which its preparatory work for the World Conference could be directed. According to the draft decision, the Committee would submit to the Commission on Human Rights, as well the High Commissioner for Human Rights, its initial suggestions for the objectives, agenda, topics for discussion, and ideas which might be taken into consideration in any final document which the World Conference might decide to adopt.

The convening of the World Conference was a decision of the General Assembly and the Committee was invited by the Commission on Human Rights to give high priority to the preparatory process for the World Conference and to present to it and the Preparatory Committee its contribution to the objectives of the Conference.

Committee members exchanged views on the issues to be studied for the purpose of the Conference. Some members were of the view that they needed time to study the whole series of subjects related to racial discrimination and xenophobia in order to contribute concrete suggestions and to properly affirm the Committee’s role in the preparation for the World Conference. Already, the Committee's three-member contact group had maintained its contacts with other bodies of the United Nations.