Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of Monaco

16 February 2010

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the combined initial to sixth periodic reports of Monaco on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Robert Fillon, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that racism was a phenomena that was virtually absent in Monaco, or at least marginal. That was due to the fact that Monaco was a very small country, and because the Government had put in place various appropriate policies in that regard. Racial acts that had led to investigations had been extremely rare. Between 2005 and 2009, no procedure linked to racial acts had been registered. The fact that the territory was so small also contributed to the mixing of communities, which was a direct obstacle to the emergence of any process of racism. Nevertheless, preventive steps had been taken to safeguard that situation of peaceful coexistence. The education curricula, for example, included a form of civic and ethical education, which helped preventing the emergence of racist ideologies among the younger generations.

In preliminary concluding observations, Nourredine Amir, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur for the report of Monaco, said the delegation had been precise and concise. It had allowed for a comprehensive overview of the situation in Monaco. He highlighted the efforts undertaken by the Principality in terms of human rights training programmes. In terms of interfaith dialogue, he thought that one could not do more as what Monaco was already doing. Monaco should however envisage becoming a member of the International Labour Organisation. Also, the elements of the Social Charter of the European Court of Human Rights could be perhaps introduced within Monaco’s international provisions.

Over the course of the two meetings with the delegation, Committee Experts raised questions and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, the possibility for Monegasque women to transmit their nationality; whether Muslims in Monaco had any facility for them to observe their faith; the reason behind the trend of French nationals leaving Monaco; measures taken to protect the Monegasque vernacular; statistics of racist acts; the state of interfaith dialogue in the Principality; the proportion of racial diversity in the country; and the role of Monaco’s Human Rights Unit.

The delegation of Monaco also included members of the Permanent Mission of the Principality of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Department for Foreign Affairs, the Directorate of Judicial Services, the Department for Social Affairs and Health and the Department of Interior.

The Committee will present its written observations and recommendations on the combined initial to sixth periodic reports of Monaco at the end of its session, which concludes on 12 March.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it is scheduled to take up the combined sixth to eighth periodic reports of Slovakia (CERD/C/SVK/8).

Report of Monaco

The initial to sixth periodic report of Monaco, submitted in one document (CERD/C/MCO/6), says that, in 2007, the population of Monaco was estimated at 35,000 persons, of whom 68.4 per cent were foreigners. The French community represents 36.8 per cent of the total foreign population and the Italian population 23 per cent. Some 126 nationalities live side by side in Monaco. French is the official language and the Monegasque vernacular, spoken by older inhabitants, is also taught in primary school from the ninth grade onwards. Although the Roman Catholic and apostolic religion is the State religion, freedom of religion occupies a position at the highest level of the hierarchy of norms of the Principality of Monaco. Catechism is taught at State schools, although parents may request exemptions for their children. The fact that Catholicism is the State religion of Monaco has never hampered the practice of the Jewish faith. Jewish children encounter no problems in practising their religion at school.

The Principality of Monaco energetically defends human rights and has taken a number of measures to combat racism and intolerance. These include the ratification of several international instruments, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Furthermore, a recently enacted law on freedom of public expression criminalizes incitement to racial hatred. There are no violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and anti-Semitism in Monaco. The fact is that, to date, the courts of the Principality have not handed down any convictions for offences motivated by racism and intolerance, nor were any racist acts reported to the competent authorities in 2005, 2006 or 2007. Although there is no independent body specializing in the protection of human rights in Monaco, following its accession to the Council of Europe the Principality established a unit in the Department of External Relations to deal with issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There does not appear to be any need to establish another specialized body, especially as there have been no complaints to date specifically about racism or racial discrimination. There are plans to incorporate a definition of racial discrimination into a new Criminal Code and to include as aggravating circumstances racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic motives for an offence. In any event, offences with such motives are currently punishable under ordinary law.

Presentation of Report

ROBERT FILLON, Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that the Principality of Monaco had signed the Convention in September 1995. They were only presenting the Principality’s initial report to the Committee today, combined with a synthesis of the following biannual reports, due to difficulties linked to the abundance of the various reports the Government had to provide and the fact that Monaco was a small State with a small number of staff. It was not, however, a sign of a lack of Monaco’s good will to implement of the provisions of the Convention.

On the situation in the Principality, Mr. Fillon said that racism was a phenomena that was virtually absent in Monaco, or at least marginal. That was due to the fact that Monaco was a very small country, and because the Government had put in place various appropriate policies in that regard.

Mr. Fillon also noted that the Principality was made of communities of various nationalities and that several of them were multiracial. Racial acts that had led to investigations had been extremely rare. Between 2005 and 2009, no procedure linked to racial acts had been registered.

The fact that the territory was so small also contributed to the mixing of communities, which was a direct obstacle to the emergence of any process of racism, Mr. Fillon observed. That situation had characterized the historical development of the country, during which no process had constituted a factor that could have had favoured the emergence of racism.

Nevertheless, preventive steps had been taken to safeguard that situation of peaceful coexistence, Mr. Fillon underscored. Human rights awareness and training programmes were being carried out for officials in the legal field, for magistrates, for the security forces, as well for schoolchildren at the secondary level. In the Principality, the only distinction made for the granting of rights or advantages was solely based on nationality or residency.

Since the incorporation of the Convention into the Principality’s domestic legislation, the Authorities had been revising the Monegasque legal norms. Many things had been done in that regard. As an example, Mr. Fillon cited the 2007 Law on Education, which said that education was compulsory for all children of both sexes, aged between 6 and 16. That also included foreign children, whose parents lived in Monaco. As such, no child of school age could be excluded from the education system.

Mr. Fillon further noted that the education curricula included a form of civic and ethical education, which helped preventing the emergence of racist ideologies among the younger generations.

Response by the Delegation to Written Questions Submitted in Advance

Responding to the list of issues submitted by the Committee in advance, Mr. Fillon said that the Constitution provided for different treatment depending on whether one was a Monegasque national or a foreigner. The criteria for that distinction was only nationality, it was not based on a racial distinction. The Constitution also said that Monegasques had the right to free primary education. However, the same right for education applied to foreign residents.

On the question of whether measures had been taken to set up a system for the collection of data related to hate crimes, Mr. Fillon said that as there were very few problems linked to racism in Monaco no such specific system was in place. That was also due to the size of the Principality. Crimes were already being monitored in general data collection systems.

Regarding whether the Act on Civil Servants included enough provisions to protect against discrimination, Mr. Fillon said that it was planned to change the Act accordingly.

Mr. Fillon noted that Monaco also had a Human Rights Unit, which had several functions. It served as the focal point for the promotion of human rights and carried out training and awareness raising courses. An Ombudsman was also in charge of examining human rights issues.

On whether Monegasque judges and police officers were receiving any training in human rights, Mr. Fillon noted that Monegasque judges and magistrates were receiving the same training as their French counterparts, as courses were being provided by the French Magistrates’ School.

Turning to the question of incorporating a definition of racial discrimination in the Monegasque Criminal Code, Mr. Fillon said that this was an issue that was currently being studied.

With regard to naturalization procedures, Mr. Fillon noted that naturalization procedures in Monaco required no information to be provided on the applicant’s religion or racial background. The authorities were solely looking at the judicial history and criminal record of the applicant. It was also required that the applicant had lived for more than 10 years in the Principality.

On measures to combat direct or indirect racial discrimination in the employment sector, Mr. Fillon said that the rights recognized in the sphere of employment applied equally to everyone. The only distinctions were made on the basis of nationality or residence. Given the large number of foreign workers in Monaco, the current rules and laws had no impact on the possibility for foreigners to work in Monaco.

As to whether there was a Code of Ethics for Monegasque journalists linked to hate speech and whether Monaco planned to establish a body dealing with complaints linked to the media, Mr. Fillon affirmed that there was no such Code of Conducts for Monegasque journalists. Indeed, such a Code would not make much sense in Monaco, as most of the press published in the Principality was edited and printed in foreign countries. However, an individual who felt he had been victim of racism in a foreign publication sold in Monaco could file a complaint before the Monegasque courts.

Oral Questions Raised by the Rapporteur and Experts

NOURREDINE AMIR, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Monaco, highlighted the geographical situation of the Principality and acknowledged that the size of the country influenced the situation concerning legislation. The strength of the Principality was that the actual Prince and Head of State had enacted the separation of powers and had brought Monaco to join the United Nations.

On the question of nationality, Mr. Amir wondered whether a Monegasque woman could transmit nationality to her child. He was also concerned by the fact that in cases of divorce women were loosing their citizenship.

Turning to freedom of belief, Mr. Amir noted that there were many non-nationals from Muslim countries in Monaco. He wondered whether the Muslims in Monaco were practising their religion and if so where and whether there were any facility for them to observe their faith.

Mr. Amir also wondered whether there was any space in Monaco’s public opinion to be better informed about the work done by the Committee.

Other Committee Experts raised questions and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, the fact that there was a current trend of French nationals leaving Monaco. What was the reason causing this? Could that be some subtle form of discrimination?

Noting that many European regional languages were currently disappearing, an Expert observed that those languages were part of the common heritage of Europe, and wondered whether there were any additional measures to promote and preserve the Monegasque vernacular other than teaching in the language in secondary schools. For example, was there any provision for adults who wanted to learn the language?

An Expert noted that Monaco could not give ethnic or racial statistics with regard to its population, as it would be incompatible with its Constitution, but wondered whether there was any other way to use comparative methods to get an idea of the situation in the country?

On statistics of racist acts, an Expert understood the delegation’s explanation that there were none in Monaco and that the lack of offence was linked to the size of the State and that it was a multinational community. However, he highlighted the fact that the absence of any complaints, or a low number thereof, should not necessarily be seen as a positive thing, as it might be a sign for the lack of information available to victims, the complicity of the judicial system or the lack of confidence in judicial authorities.

On the development of interfaith dialogue in Monaco, an Expert said that a lot of very encouraging information was included in the report. However, were there any difficulties in that regard, or had Monaco encountered any situations as was the case in other countries of this European region?

Looking at the report’s statistical breakdown of the foreign communities established in Monaco, a Committee Expert said that racial diversity would obviously be very small in the Principality. From the statistics, it was possible to make assumptions on the skin colour of residents and it looked as approximately only 1 to 2 per cent of Monaco’s inhabitant would be persons of colour. Had the delegation any idea on why people of colour were not gravitating to the country?

It would also be interesting to get a socio-economic breakdown of the inhabitants of the Principality. For example, statistics showed that there were a large number of people from the Philippines in Monaco. Was that a labour or a domestic force?

Another Expert noted that Monaco had not ratified the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and asked why, as well as if Monaco gad ever considered ratifying that instrument?

Response by Delegation

Addressing questions put by Experts, the delegation clarified that Monegasque women who divorced did not loose their nationality. That had been done to prevent women from becoming stateless. Indeed, it was very difficult to loose the Monegasque nationality and the delegation could not thing of a single such case.

On the inter-religious dialogue taking place in Monaco and the Muslim faith, the delegation said that to their knowledge there was no collective place for people of Muslim faith to worship. There were, however, several private places where people of Muslim faith were meeting and practising their faith.

Concerning training of magistrates, the delegation indicated that various training opportunities had been put in place since 2005. Seminars and training courses on human rights had been organized with the participation of, inter alia, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. The Council of Europe was also providing Monaco with case law. The effects of the trainings had been felt in the courts, as the various human rights conventions were increasingly being mentioned in hearings.

As to whether Monaco was planning to ratify International Labour Organisation Convention No. 111, on discrimination in employment and occupation, the delegation noted that participation in the Convention was reserved to ILO Members. However, as it had indicated before the Universal Periodic Review, Monaco was considering the possibility of joining the ILO.

Regarding legal norms, the delegation said it did seem necessary to establish a specific offence of racial discrimination in the Penal Code and a legal study had been conducted on the subject. The Government’s Judicial Services Directorate was aware of the issue. However, there was also a need not to ensure they did not create too large number of offences, so that magistrates could properly apply the Code. They would also first have to define the term of racial discrimination in itself; that would probably be very similar to that of the United Nations. The Penal Code would probably be amended accordingly by next year.

The delegation also highlighted that racial discrimination was already being tackled in several other articles, bills and laws, such as those on freedom of expression; on personal data protection; on crimes against children; on information systems; and on the status of civil service.

On the status of the Convention in Monaco, the delegation said that hierarchically speaking, the Constitution of the Principality came first, followed by multilateral treaties and that the national law came in third place. The Monegasque Authorities had decided to give international treaties primacy over the domestic law.

Turning to Monaco’s Human Rights Unit, the delegation said that its role was to ensure that Monegasque law was in line with international human rights standards. It also analysed all bills that Monaco wanted to promulgate. The Unit participated in the different expert committees and examined jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and used it to bring Monaco’s jurisprudence in-line. It further reviewed the human rights conventions, particularly those that Monaco intended to sign, but also new ones that Monaco might want to ratify in the future. The Unit provided ongoing counselling on all those issues.

Monaco was not planning to create a national human rights institution. One of the reasons was the fact that there was no human rights organization or association established in Monaco, even though it was not be difficult for a group to create an organization or association in Monaco. There were also no Monaco sections of the major international human rights non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International. As a human rights institution principally served as a link with civil society, it made no sense to have one when there was no existing civil society and no real request by the civil society to create such an institution. If such a request arose, Monaco would surely respond to it. Also, none of the other small European States, except Luxembourg, had a national human rights institution.

As to why there was a trend of French nationals leaving the Principality, the delegation noted that the presence of French nationals on their territory was a part of their history and identity. There had always been a large number of French nationals present in Monaco. However, the economic climate of the past years could be a factor that acted as a counterforce to that. There was no will by the Monegasque Authorities behind this trend.

On the Monegasque language, the delegation said it was being taught in primary school and could be taken as an option in secondary school. The Government provided help in maintaining it. It had, however, never been at any time in history Monegasque’s official language and was principally an oral language. There were only a few books in the Monegasque language. Any adult could also learn that language in University.

Tuning to the issue of the punishment of banishment, the delegation indicated that courts could not hand banishment down as a sentence. The punishment was not being applied and had not been used for several decades. The punishment should be abridged and would probably be completely removed in the current overhaul of Monaco’s legislation.

On Monaco’s reservation to Article 4 of the Convention, the delegation said that it had been taken in 1995, when the Principality had ratified the Convention. Since then, the situation had changed, as the domestic legislation had been changed. The reservations were aimed at three areas: freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom to assemble. Those reservations would have to be analysed again, in order to check if they were still pertinent.

Further Oral Questions Posed by Experts

An Expert picked up again the issue of the interfaith dialogue, and noted that in the Catholic Church there was a certain hierarchy and that Catholics following it obeyed that hierarchy. In other faiths, such as the Muslim one, there was no such clear hierarchy. Thus he wondered whether, when a dialogue happened between Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, if the Muslims felt compelled or obligated by what was being said by the Catholic representatives.

Another Expert wondered what the mission of Monaco’s Human Rights Unit precisely was, with regard to protection of human rights. Also, was it only the absence of civil society involvement which prevented the creation of a national human rights institution in Monaco?

An Expert asked if there was any presence of or problem with the Roma population in the Principality.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to those questions and others, the delegation said, on the interfaith dialogue, that it was rather difficult for them to say whether or not Muslims were listening to what their representatives were saying. Also, the interfaith dialogue was not a Governmental institution.

The delegation also noted that multiculturalism helped in the construction of social cohesion. Multiculturalism went hand-in-hand with Monaco; it was deep-seated in the Principality and part of their identity. It was difficult to think of a Monaco that would not be multicultural.

Concerning the Roma situation in Monaco, the delegation had no information about it and said that it would inform the Committee accordingly.

Preliminary Concluding Observations

In preliminary concluding observations, NOURREDINE AMIR, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur for the report of Monaco, said he could draw his conclusions on three pillars. The first pillar was a general overview of the exchange between the delegation and the Committee. The delegation had been precise and concise. It had allowed for a comprehensive overview of the situation in Monaco.

Mr. Amir said that there was not doubt that Monaco was a small urban land, with no agricultural sector. One of Monaco’s strengths was that it had been able to source its economy from the Mediterranean and had engaged in international trade and thereby was enjoying real international cooperation. Also, Monaco had been particularly helpful to poor and developing countries with its financial aid policy.

There was no such thing as small or large countries, Mr. Amir stressed. There were only countries. These existed by virtue of their institutions, whatever their size of their territory. Monaco had such institutions and its dynasty had managed to survive up to this day.

Mr. Amir further highlighted the trustworthiness of Monaco and said this had also been felt in the discussions with the delegation. Monaco was an example to be followed by other countries.

The second pillar of his conclusions was on the Convention itself and particularly on Articles 4 and 5, said Mr. Amir. He highlighted the efforts undertaken by the Principality in terms of human rights training programmes. In terms of interfaith dialogue, he thought that one could not do more than what Monaco was already doing. He also noted that while the United Nations counted almost 200 members, 125 different nationalities where represented in Monaco.

Monaco should, however, envisage becoming a member of the International Labour Organization, said Mr. Amir. Also, the elements of the Social Charter of the European Court of Human Rights could be perhaps introduced within Monaco’s international provisions.

The third pillar of his conclusions was to look at the future, including that of the future cooperation between the Principality and the Committee and the implementation of the Convention. Mr. Amir noted that as the world was standing at the threshold of the twenty-first century. Humankind was facing, more than ever, major hazards, such as had been recently witnessed in Haiti. Countries, such as the Pacific Islands, could be submerged as an effect of climate change. Such catastrophes were always hitting the poorest sectors of the population. It was important to keep human rights at the centre of those challenges.
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