22 March 2000
Afternoon


Adopts Concluding Observations on Reports of Zimbabwe and Tonga

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon concluded its consideration of the report of Australia on how that country implements the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Philip Ruddock, a member of Australia's Parliament, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee and said that his attendance was a way to show how important the issue of combating racial discrimination was for his Government.

Gay McDougall, the Committee expert who served as country rapporteur to the report of Australia, said that reconciliation depended on the agreement of all parties, and would be successful only if the aggrieved party's point of view was recognized.

The final observations and recommendations on the report of Australia will be issued towards the end of the Committee's three week session which concludes on 24 March.

Also this afternoon, the Committee adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Zimbabwe and Tonga which it considered earlier in its session.

On the report of Zimbabwe, the Committee welcomed the country's recent enactment of the Prevention of Discrimination Act, and noted the amendment to the Administration of the Estates Act, addressing concerns in respect to the African Customary Laws. While noting the challenges faced by the State party with respect to land redistribution, the Committee regretted that very little progress had been made in this regard. It recommended that the State party introduce measures to improve access to financial and technical support for black farmers, and that it consider the possibility of communal access to commercial farm land.

On the report of Tonga, the Committee appreciated the country's information provided on the Constitutional protection of the enjoyment of rights enumerated in article 5 of the Convention, yet it was concerned about the lack of incorporation of the Convention into domestic law. It noted with concern the State party's repeated assertion that there was no racial discrimination as defined in article 1 of the Convention. The Committee was of the opinion that the absence of complaints and legal action by victims of racial discrimination could possibly be an indication of a lack of awareness of available legal remedies, or a result of the absence of relevant specific legislation.

The following Committee experts participated in the discussion this afternoon: Peter Nobel, Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, Yuri A. Rechetov, Francois Lonseny Fall, Patricia January-Bardill, Marc Bossuyt, Brun-Otto Bryde, Ion Diaconu, Deci Zou, Regis de Gouttes, Michael Banton, Raghavan Vasudevan Pillai, Agha Shahi, and Mario Jorge Yutzis.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 March to continue its adoption of concluding observations and to discuss short notice agenda items.

Discussion of the Report of Australia

The Australian delegation responded to questions on native titles and Australia's obligations under the Convention. It said that Australia's obligations under the Convention could be achieved t hroughdifferent measures.

Responding to a question on whether amendments to the Native Title Act had been challenged in the High Court of Australia, the delegation said that there had been no challenge to the amendments. The amendments to the Native Title Act gave greater protection to land rights of aboriginals than common law provided. They also benefited indigenous people by providing protections against extinguishing native titles.

GAY McDOUGALL, the Committee expert who served as rapporteur to the report of Australia, said that although the indigenous people owned 15 per cent of the land, this was still quite different from the situation 200 years ago. Reconciliation, she concluded, depended on the agreement by all parties, and would be successful only if the aggrieved party's point of view was recognized.

Adoption of Concluding Observations on Report of Zimbabwe

The Committee adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Zimbabwe on a paragraph by paragraph basis. The Committee welcomed the country's recent enactment of the Prevention of Discrimination Act, and noted the amendment to the Administration of the Estates Act, addressing concerns in respect to the African Customary Laws. The Committee also welcomed the country's initiative to introduce human rights training for Government employees, and appreciated its efforts concerning improvements in the educational system, including introduction of the use of minority languages.

The Committee was concerned about the restriction of the power of the Ombudsman to investigate the action of public officials in the field related to racial discrimination. It recommended that the State party take appropriate measures to enable the Ombudsman to fully investigate the use of powers by public officials. The Committee recommended that the next periodic report provide additional quantitative and qualitative information on racial segregation in schools. It also encouraged the State party to proceed with its proposal to give priority in the teacher training and curriculum development programmes to persons with minority languages.

The Committee noted with concern the insufficient information provided on the situation of refugees, migrants and non-nationals residing in Zimbabwe and asked for additional information in the next periodic report. While noting the challenges faced by the State party with respect to land redistribution, the Committee regretted that very little progress had been made in this regard. It recommended that the State party introduce measures to improve access to financial and technical support for black farmers, and that it consider the possibility of communal access to commercial farm land.

Adoption of Concluding Observations on Report of Tonga

The Committee adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Tonga on a paragraph by paragraph basis. The Committee regretted the absence of a delegation at the meeting, but recognized the difficulties inherent in the appointment of such a delegation for a small State like Tonga.

The Committee appreciated the country's information provided on the Constitutional protection of the enjoyment of rights enumerated in article 5 of the Convention, yet it was concerned about the lack of incorporation of the Convention into domestic law.

The Committee noted with concern the State party's repeated assertion that there was no racial discrimination as defined in article 1 of the Convention. The Committee was of the opinion that the absence of complaints and legal action by victims of racial discrimination could possibly be an indication of a lack of awareness of available legal remedies, or a result of the absence of relevant specific legislation. The Committee recommended that the State party take steps to ensure that national legislation was in full conformity with article 4 of the Convention.

Recommendations by the Committee included that the country provide information in its next report on factors affecting the right of women to equal enjoyment, further information on the measures taken in the field of education and culture in order to combat and prevent racial discrimination, and that the country prepare a core document in accordance with the Consolidated Guidelines for the Initial Part of the Reports of State Parties (A/45/636, paragraph 65).

The Committee recommended that Tonga's next periodic report be a comprehensive report and that it address all points raised in the present observations.


CORRIGENDUM


In the press release HR/CERD/00/20/Rev. 1 of 20 March, 2000, the fifth paragraph on the second page, which is part of a statement by Abdulaziz Attiat Allah Al-Khalifa, Governor of the capital of Bahrain and head of the delegation which presented Bahrain's report to the Committee, should read as follows:

Concerning the position of women in society, he said many women held important posts in the country, both in the private and public sectors. Those appointments were based on talent and not race or sex. For example, Bahrain's ambassador to France was a woman.



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