COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION DISCUSSES SITUATION IN GAMBIA UNDER REVIEW PROCEDURE

Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination
29 February 2008


Postpones Consideration of Overdue Reports of United Arab Emirates,
Monaco and Panama

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon examined implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination in Gambia, whose second to fourteenth reports had been overdue since 1982, in the absence of a report. It also decided to put off consideration of the situation in the United Arab Emirates, Monaco, and Panama under its review procedure for States parties whose reports are more than five years’ late, following assurances from those countries that their reports would soon be submitted.

The United Arab Emirates, whose twelfth to seventeenth periodic reports were 10 years’ overdue, sent a delegation to discuss the situation with the Committee, headed by Obeid Salem Al Zaabi, the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Office at Geneva. In his presentation, Mr. Al Zaabi noted that, since its foundation, the United Arab Emirates had managed to promote many advances in the field of human rights. As an example, in 2006, the Government had held its first legislative elections under a proportional representation system. Women had participated in an effective fashion, and one woman had been elected as a deputy, seven had been appointed members of the National Council (accounting for 22 per cent of the membership), and four women had been appointed members of the Federal Ministerial Council. The delay in presenting the report had not been due to ill-will; indeed, the Government had striven to ensure equality and protecting its people from discrimination in accordance with its Constitution and its laws and the international agreements to which it was a party. The United Arab Emirates thanked the Committee for agreeing to postpone consideration of the situation in the country, and reiterated its commitment to submit a single consolidated report by 30 June 2008.

The delegation of the United Arab Emirates also included other members of the Permanent Mission, as well as representatives from the Ministry of State and Federal National Council Affairs, and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.

Introducing the situation in Gambia, Kokou Mawuena Ika Kana (Dieudonné) Ewomsan, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the reports of Gambia, noted that three review procedures had already taken place for Gambia in the absence of a report, and this would be the fourth. Indeed, no report had been received from Gambia, which acceded to the Convention in 1978, since its initial report had been submitted. Attempts to enter into contact with Gambia, including letters sent, had not been replied to. To continue in this way appeared fruitless. Perhaps it might be useful to send a list of questions to the country, and in that way the Committee could resume a dialogue with the State party. If the Committee agreed, he would draw up a list.

Among concerns that could be included on the list, Mr. Ewomsan said that, according to information gleaned from various sources, such as Amnesty International and United Nations bodies, women were victims of racial discrimination in Gambia because they, together with children, constituted vulnerable groups and because of age-old traditional practices which contributed to keeping women in lower status. That was true in particular with regard to inheritance laws. There were also allegations of significant disparities in access to education for girls and children with disabilities and alarming reports of sexual exploitation of children, including trade in immigrant children for that purpose.

In the ensuing discussion, Experts expressed the need to limit questions specifically to those related to racial discrimination, and not to treat questions relating to religion, gender or children unless they specifically touched on race. Another subject of concern was accountability of Governments. Experts were concerned that, under the present system, States that did not fulfil their commitments to report appeared to have special treatment or protection. An Expert said that it appeared fruitless to pursue a dialogue with a country like Gambia by encouragement; rather, they should look at what kinds of sanctions could be applied to States parties that were in serious non-compliance. Other Experts pointed out that one of the strongest sanctions the Committee could impose was to take a thorough review of a country situation in the absence of a report, using other sources, and to formulate conclusions on it.

Following the discussion, it was decided to send a letter to Gambia with a list of questions from the Experts.

The Committee’s decisions to postpone the reviews of the situation in Monaco and Panama were taken on the basis of letters to the Committee by which Monaco had undertaken to submit its overdue initial to sixth periodic reports in May 2008, and Panama had promised to send its combined fifteenth to nineteenth overdue periodic reports between May and June 2008.

At the end of the meeting, the Committee discussed the issue of developing complementary standards for the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, within the context of follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. While several Experts felt that the Convention did not have any lacunae that needed filling, an Expert recalled that 33 years had passed since the Convention had been adopted and that it might be judicious to reflect on changes that had occurred since 1965, in particular contemporary manifestations of racism. Just because the Convention was old did not mean that it was out of date; his position was simply that it might not be a bad idea to consider whether it was outmoded or not. An Expert noted some of the key areas that a new protocol to the Convention could cover: procedurally, it could include inquiry procedures, a national mechanism, and in-country visits; substantively, it might look at the issue of religion as it related to the Convention, or the issue of multiple or double discrimination. An Expert felt that any complementary standards should rightly come from the States themselves, and not from the Committee.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Monday, 3 March, it is scheduled to continue its discussion on complementary standards for the Convention, and to hold a discussion on its draft general recommendation 32, on special measures (i.e. affirmative action).

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