24 February 2005
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the report of Luxembourg on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting the report was Alphonse Berns, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who said that Luxembourg was a country of immigrants and migrants, and for that reason discrimination based on race might arise and the Government was strengthening its legislation and institutions to fight that phenomenon.
In the course of the discussion, which was held over two meetings, the issues of immigration, trafficking in persons, asylum-seekers, and lack of statistical data were raised among other subjects.
In preliminary remarks, the country Rapporteur for the report, Committee Expert Régis de Gouttes, said the report had been useful and of high quality and the delegation had provided competent replies to the questions raised by the Experts. When drafting the concluding observations on the report, he would summarize all what the members of the Committee had said. The final document would also highlight the positive measures taken by the State party, and Luxembourg’s tremendous efforts to strengthen its legislation and institutions aimed at fighting racial discrimination. Nevertheless, more efforts must be undertaken to ensure practical implementation.
The Committee will present its final recommendations on the tenth to thirteenth periodic reports of Luxembourg, which were presented in one document, at the end of its session, which concludes on 11 March.
The delegation of Luxembourg also included representatives of the Ministry of the Family and Integration, the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will begin its examine communications in private. At 10 a.m. on Friday, 25 February, it will meet to discuss issues under its early warning and urgent action procedure.
Report of Luxembourg
The tenth to thirteenth periodic reports of Luxembourg are contained in one document CERD/C/449/Add.1. The document says that the total population of Luxembourg stands at 448,300 persons, of whom 170,000 are foreigners representing 161 different nationalities. In recent decades, the country has become a multi-cultural State in which people from all over Europe and other continents live side by side. Although the proportion of the resident population who are not Luxembourg nationals has increased to some 58 per cent, there has been no escalation in manifestations of intolerance and racism.
The Permanent Special Commission against Racial Discrimination, a standing subsidiary body of the National Council for Foreigners at the Complaints Office, has been established in Luxembourg, the report says. The Commission receives communications from individuals or groups of individuals subject to the jurisdiction of Luxembourg who claim to be victims of a violation by the State of any of the rights set forth in the Convention.
The report gives account of a number of legislative measures undertaken by the State party to give effect to the undertaking to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public and institutions act in conformity with the obligations under the Convention.
Presentation of Report
ALPHONSE BERNS, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that it was important to note that Luxembourg respected its obligations under the Convention. At the same time, the lack of vigilance might lead to shortcomings in the fight against discrimination..
Mr. Berns said Luxembourg was a country of immigrants and migrants, and for that reason discrimination based on race might arise. Today, 39 per cent of Luxembourg’s population had foreign origins. In the capital city, 62 per cent of residents were non-Luxembourg nationals. Daily border-crossing workers also worked in the country. Traditionally, the country had a multilingual society which was a richness as well as a challenge.
Questions Raised by Special Rapporteur and Committee Experts
REGIS DE GOUTTES, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur to the report of Luxembourg, said that Luxembourg had made considerable efforts during the last few years to strengthen its fight against racism and intolerance by creating the appropriate institutions for that purpose. It had also reformed the provisions of its Criminal Code relating to racial discrimination. However, the practical implementation of the provisions remained insufficient.
With regard to asylum seekers, Mr. de Gouttes asked for information on the number of asylum seekers during the period under review; and the estimated number of illegal immigrants who were found in the territory.
Concerning article 2 of the Convention, the Rapporteur said that although the State party indicated that the country’s legislation was an advanced one in the fight against racism and revisionism, a global and homogenous policy was essential for the fight against racism and xenophobia in the social, cultural and educational sectors. He wanted to know about the concrete measures taken in that area. In addition, the Committee was interested to know about the follow-up activities undertaken in response to the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted in 2001 during the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance.
With regard to article 3 of the Convention, Mr. de Gouttes wanted to know if there was a campaign to regroup certain migrant communities in specific areas of the country, as practiced in many countries. If it was the case, he asked the delegation to provide him with information on the communities, the number of persons affected, as well as the reasons for that phenomenon. He also asked about the measures undertaken to remedy the situation of segregation.
As regards article 4, the State party in 1997 had added an important legal provision to the Criminal Code with the aim of further fighting racism and intolerance, incriminating revisionist and negationist behaviour. The Criminal Code punished any form of incitement to hatred or racial violence. He asked if the State party envisaged to further reinforce the Code by stating aggravating circumstances when the crime was racially motivated. The Committee would welcome any information on measures taken to increase awareness of the fight against racism among the members of the police and the judiciary.
Mr. de Gouttes said the report had enumerated a number of juridical provisions and institutions aimed at guaranteeing the enjoyment without discrimination of all the rights enumerated under article 5 of the Convention. What measures had been carried out to prevent and punish discriminatory behaviour and bad treatment of foreigners by the police or representatives of the State.
Concerning the right to freedom of religion, Mr. de Gouttes asked if the request of the Muslim community for Islam to have an official status similar to the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox religions had been taken into consideration.
Mr. de Gouttes said the report contained statistical figures which revealed that few cases of acts of racism were registered. He asked the delegation to provide the Committee with statistical data on the number and nature of acts of racism, the number of complaints, and judgements. What measures had been taken to help victims, who did not speak any of the official languages of the country, overcome the difficulties they encountered in presenting their complaints to the police?
Another Expert asked about the number of complaints the Ombudsman received in line with the provisions of the Convention, and how many of those cases had been resolved. With regard to the Roma, there was a need to reflect in the report about the educational facilities of the Roma children and how police dealt with the Roma in general.
An Expert said that the State party should react in conformity with the Convention on Cyber Crime in order to prevent crimes through the Internet. The crimes committed through the Internet were worrisome phenomenon, to which the State party should take appropriate measures by monitoring the activities of the service providers.
On the freedom of association, another Expert said racist organizations were not banned because of their constitutional guarantees to the right to freedom of association. However, he wanted to know if individual members of such associations who were responsible for racist acts were prosecuted, and whether victims were rehabilitated.
Referring to paragraph 39 of the report, another Expert disagreed that the use of "nigger" was not an insult. He said article 4 of the Convention should be applied to that effect. The speaker asked why Islam was not recognized like other religions. Were there Mosques or places of worship for the Muslim community? What were the criteria to build a Mosque?
Response by Delegation of Luxembourg
Responding to questions raised by Experts, the delegation said statistical data on illegal immigrants was not available because of the complicated situation to establish their exact number.
The Police Academy provided intensive training for police on the prevention of racial discrimination, intolerance and to improve contacts with all sectors of the community, the delegation said. Another aspect of the training consisted of ensuring integration of the immigrant population. Lessons were also provided on how to deal with foreigners during police interrogation.
Officers having contacts with asylum seekers were provided with training with the aim of respecting the European standard for the treatment of asylum seekers, the delegation said.
With regard to measures against prostitution and trafficking, the Government had taken appropriate measures to confront such problems that affected the country, the delegation said. The first measure concerned the restriction of visas issued by Belgium on behalf of Luxembourg. When visa provision in Kiev was halted, the number of Ukrainian women coming to Luxembourg for prostitution purposes had drastically decreased. However, a special provision was made for cabaret artists coming to the country.
Concerning the office of the Ombudsman, the delegation said the Chamber of Deputies elected the person in charge by a majority vote and the Ombudsman was accountable to that body. As a recent institution, created by the law of July 2003, the office of the Ombudsman had so far received 929 complaints, out of which 627 had been finalized while the rest were still under consideration. The Ombudsman’s mandate was to assist individuals in challenging administrative decisions by the State and the communes and by public establishments.
In case racist organizations exist in Luxembourg, according to legislation, members committing racial discrimination shall be prosecuted. Criminalizing certain organizations pursuing racist activities might prompt them to continue their activities in clandestine, and for that reason, the authorities prosecuted individuals who committed acts of racial discrimination.
The General Inspectorate of the Police had issued 16 disciplinary sanctions against police officers, out of which only three cases had been in relation to racial discrimination; written warnings had been addressed to the individuals, the delegation said. For private individuals who committed crimes of racial discrimination, penalties of imprisonment or fines could be handed down.
Luxembourg was planning to put in place a provision for dual nationality, which was not the case at present, the delegation said. In recent years, requests for the acquisition of Luxembourg’s nationality had doubled.
Responding to a question on the status of Muslims in the country, the delegation said that a series of discussion had been carried out in the Ministry of Religion on this issue. The various Muslim communities were required to form one group in order to pursue discussion with the authorities in one voice. The Government also required that the discussion could be held on the basis of respect for public order and non-gender discrimination. The provision on the right to freedom of religion allowed that any religion could exist in the country without the State recognizing it. Ritual slaughtering was legally and materially inconvenient to carry out. The law required that the animal should be anaesthetized before it was slaughtered.
Luxembourg did not discriminate on the basis of whatsoever religion in providing permission to build a worship centre, the delegation said. Permission for building was provided to individuals or religious communities if they fulfilled the criteria required by the authorities.
Children of foreign parents were provided with language courses in Luxembourg’s languages for their better integration in the society, the delegation said. German and French languages were widely used in the country. However, courses were also provided in some mother tongues of foreign students in addition to the Luxembourg’s languages.
Asylum seekers illegally found in Luxembourg were invited to leave the country and return to their countries of origin, the delegation said. Cases of illness could be taken into consideration to allow an individual to stay on humanitarian grounds.
On the expulsion of foreigners suspected of terrorist links, the delegation said that since the 11 September attacks, some individuals had been expelled from the country on the basis of serious suspicion of their links to terrorist groups.
REGIS DE GOUTTES, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur to the report of Luxembourg, said the report had been useful and of high quality and the delegation had provided competent replies to the questions raised by the Experts. When he drafted the concluding observations on the report, he would summarize all what the members of the Committee had said. The final document would also highlight the positive measures taken by the State party. During the last few years, Luxembourg had made tremendous efforts to strengthen its legislation aimed at fighting racial discrimination. Nevertheless, more efforts must be undertaken to ensure practical implementation. It had also set up institutions in order to reinforce its efforts in combating the crimes of racial discrimination, including the creation of a complaints receiving office. The adoption of the new press law was an important step in that fight.
Luxembourg had also taken positive measures to integrate children of immigrants in the society. Several Experts had expressed their wish that Luxembourg ratify the ILO Convention no. 169, the United Nations Convention on statelessness and the Convention on Cyber Crime, among others.
This press release is not an official record and is provided for public information only.