COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CONCLUDES SIXTY-THIRD SESSION



CERD
63rd session
22 August 2003
Afternoon




Issues Observations on Reports of Albania, Bolivia, Cape Verde,
the Czech Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Finland,
the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
and the United Kingdom




The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon concluded its sixty-third session after examining reports by the Governments of Albania, Bolivia, Cape Verde, the Czech Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Finland, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the United Kingdom on how they implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Further, the Committee adopted conclusions on the situation in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and in Malawi under its review procedure which deals with countries who have never submitted a report or whose periodic reports are seriously overdue.
Experts also adopted their annual report on their meetings held during the sixty-second session in March and the sixty-third session of August.
The Committee, the first body created by the United Nations to review actions by States parties in fulfilling their obligations under a specific human rights agreement, held question-and-answer sessions with Government delegations from the presenting countries. All 169 State parties to the International Convention are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee, which consists of 18 Experts.
Also during this session, the Committee adopted a declaration calling upon Israel to revoke its Temporary Suspension Order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) on 31 July 2003, which suspends for a renewable one-year period, the possibility of family reunification, subject to limited and discretionary exceptions, in the cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the West Bank or Gaza, and to reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family unification on a non-discriminatory basis.
And the Committee addressed an urgent appeal to all States parties to the Convention that they proceed with the ratification of the amendment to Article 8 and deposit their instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General at the earliest possible opportunity so that the finances of the Committee can be covered by the regular UN budget.
With regard to the reports of Albania, the Committee noted with great satisfaction that in the past 10 years, Albania had made considerable progress in establishing the rule of law. It also welcomed the ratification by the State party of many international and regional human rights instruments. Among its recommendations, the Committee suggested that the State party carry out analyses to determine whether and to what extent the unfavourable situation of some minorities was the result of ethnic or racial discrimination.
In the case of Bolivia, the Committee welcomed the numerous measures undertaken for the promotion and protection of human rights and commended the State party’s efforts aimed at ensuring that members of the indigenous peoples were free and equal in dignity and rights and free from any discrimination. It further recommended that the State party take all necessary measures for the protection of human rights defenders against any violence or any arbitrary action as a consequence of their activities.
On Cape Verde, the Committee noted with appreciation the commitment to human rights manifested by Cape Verde through the ratification of a large number of human rights instruments as well as the establishment of relevant institutions and the implementation of pertinent programmes in the field of human rights. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party monitor closely the phenomenon of trafficking in persons; and that it take all appropriate measures to guarantee the equal enjoyment by women, in particular those of women of foreign origin, of the rights under the International Convention.
With regard to the Czech Republic, the Committee was encouraged by the legislative efforts of the State party to give effect to the provisions of the International Convention, and welcomed the existence of numerous advisory bodies of the Government dealing with human rights. Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to continue and intensify poverty reduction and employment programmes for the Roma, and to continue its activities in the area of research related to the problem of housing and seek solutions promoting social integration of the Roma.
After consideration of the reports of Iran, the Committee welcomed the social, economic and cultural measures taken by the State party, and recommended that the State party ensure that all persons were protected from discrimination based on race, colour or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of their religious belief. The Committee recommended that the State party consider expanding the operative sphere of certain specific institutions in order to ensure effective protection and remedies against all acts of racial discrimination.
In response to the report of Finland, The Committee encouraged the State party to continue monitoring all tendencies which could give rise to racist and xenophobic behaviour and to combat the negative consequences of such tendencies, and that the State party continue to promote at all levels of education general awareness of diversity and multiculturalism and put into practice effective measures to facilitate the integration of minority groups in Finnish society
In the case of the Republic of Korea, the Committee welcomed legislation adopted in July 2003, which provided foreign workers with the same labour protection as domestic workers, and recommended that the State party continue to take measures to improve the situation of all migrant workers.
After consideration of the reports of Latvia, the Committee welcomed the ongoing efforts of the State party to introduce legislative reform in accordance with international standards, and recommended that the State party intensify its efforts to adopt and improve legislation with the aim of providing effective protection and remedies against any acts of racial discrimination, including the right to seek reparation for discrimination, and that the State party pursue its efforts to combat prejudices and promote understanding and tolerance.
Having considered the report of Norway, the Committee commended the State party’s policy in respect of national minorities based on the principle of respect for cultural diversity. It also took note of the State party’s observation that a formal ban on organizations might not be very effective to combat racism, and recommended that the State party adopt the necessary legislation in order to ensure full compliance with the Convention in this respect.
Having reviewed the reports of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Committee welcomed the submission by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines of a report after a lapse of more than twenty years. It recommended, among other things, that the State party review and amend its domestic laws so that they fully comply with the Convention.
In response to the reports of the United Kingdom, the Committee commended the State party’s efforts to address more stringently the issue of incitement to racial hatred and the increase of the maximum penalty for incitement to racial discrimination. Among its recommendations the Committee suggested that the State party extend regulations to cover discrimination on the grounds of colour and nationality.
In the context of its review procedure, the Committee reviewed the situation in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and urged the State party to halt immediately acts of violence against the Hmong population. It requested the Lao authorities to urgently submit a special report containing information on the issues raised above and on measures taken to prevent further serious massive or persistent patterns of racial discrimination and in any way a report as due.
And on the situation in Malawi, also considered under its review procedure, the Committee strongly urged the Government of Malawi to avail itself of the technical assistance offered under the advisory services and technical assistance programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the aim of drawing up and submitting as soon as possible a report.
The Committee’s sixty-fourth session will be held at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 23 February to 12 March 2004, when it will review the reports of the Bahamas, Brazil, Lebanon, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Netherlands, Nepal, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, and Suriname.
Under its review procedure, the Committee will also take up the situation in Barbados, Guyana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Tanzania and Venezuela.

Decision
Israel
The Committee was concerned about Israel’s Temporary Suspension Order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) on 31 July 2003, which suspended for a renewable one-year period, the possibility of family reunification, subject to limited and discretionary exceptions, in the cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the West Bank or Gaza. The Committee noted with concern that the Suspension Order of May 2002 had already adversely affected many families and marriages. The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) raised serious issues under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Discrimination. The State party should revoke this ban and reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family unification on a non-discriminatory basis.

Review Procedure
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
The Committee deeply regretted that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had failed to honour its obligations under article 9 of the International Convention; expressed its grave concern at the information it had received of serious and repeated human rights violations in that country; was extremely disturbed to learn that some members of the Hmong minority had been subjected to severe brutalities; deplored the measures taken by the Lao authorities to prevent the reporting of any information concerning the situation of the Hmong people; and stressed that owing to the absence of a State delegation, it was unable to have an exchange of views with the State party.
In the light of this information, the Committee urged the State party to halt immediately acts of violence against the Hmong population; requested the Lao authorities to urgently submit a special report containing information on the issues raised above and on measures taken to prevent further serious massive or persistent patterns of racial discrimination and in any way a report as due; and requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to draw the attention of the competent United Nations bodies to the particularly disturbing human rights situation in the country and to request them to take all appropriate measures in this regard, including to dispatch a mission to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with a view to assisting the State party in honouring its obligations to protect human rights and to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination , and to request the programmes, institutions and specialized agencies of the United Nations to take appropriate measures to provide humanitarian assistance to the members of the Hmong people.

Malawi
Under it’s special review procedure for countries without a report, the Committee regretted that the State party had not yet reported to the Committee since it ratified the Convention in 1996. It expressed concern that, although the State party had ratified the main international human rights instruments, it had not fulfilled its reporting requirements to the human rights treaty bodies. The Committee was aware that the State party was currently facing a very difficult situation, due in part to serious food shortages and a very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst the population, and further noted that the insufficient education infrastructure and the high illiteracy rate constituted impediments to the full implementation of the Convention.
The Committee welcomed the establishment of the Malawi Human Rights Commission in 1999, endowed with the task of protecting and promoting human rights, investigating human rights violations, and following up individual complaints. The Committee noted that the State party’s Constitution prohibited discrimination, particularly on the grounds of race, colour, language, nationality, religion, and ethnic origin, and allowed for the adoption of legislation to address inequalities in society and to prohibit discriminatory practices.
The Committee strongly urged the Government of Malawi to avail itself of the technical assistance offered under the advisory services and technical assistance programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the aim of drawing up and submitting as soon as possible a report. The Committee also decided that a communication be sent to the Government of Malawi setting out its reporting obligations and urging that the dialogue with the Committee start as soon as possible.

Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Country Reports
Albania
The Committee noted with great satisfaction that in the past ten years, Albania had made considerable progress in establishing the rule of law. It also welcomed the ratification by the State party of many international and regional human rights instruments. The Committee also commended the action taken by the Albanian authorities against organized crime and corruption. It welcomed with satisfaction the measures adopted to protect religious freedom and the considerable efforts made to promote the education and cultural rights of persons belonging to national minorities.
The Committee recommended that the State party collect precise statistical data on persons belonging to minorities in Albania. The Committee also recommended that the State party carry out analyses to determine whether and to what extent the unfavourable situation of some minorities was the result of ethnic or racial discrimination against them. It also recommended that the State party ensure that the rights of members of minorities were not unduly restricted outside areas where these minorities were concentrated.
The Committee recommended that the State party intensify the efforts it was making on behalf of the Roma minority. The Committee also invited the State party to adopt appropriate measures to guarantee that access to all places and services intended for public use was not denied to anyone on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry or national or ethnic origin.

Bolivia
The Committee welcomed the numerous measures undertaken for the promotion and protection of human rights and commended the State party’s efforts aimed at ensuring that members of the indigenous peoples are free and equal in dignity and rights and free from any discrimination.
The Committee also recommended that the State party take all necessary measures for the protection of human rights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or adverse discrimination, pressure or any arbitrary action as a consequence of their activities.
While understanding the need for policies aimed at reducing illegal production and trafficking of coca, the Committee was concerned about the possible negative consequences of these policies for the indigenous communities. Noting that the State party would strongly welcome support from the international community in solving this difficult problem, the Committee continued to be concerned by the lack of alternative sources of production.

Cape Verde
The Committee took note that Cape Verde was a developing country, which became independent rather recently and suffered from a poor natural resource base, including serious water shortages exacerbated by cycles of long-term drought. It also noted the State party’s geographic spread over several islands, which, combined with other difficulties, posed problems in the provision of services.
Among positive aspects, the Committee noted with appreciation the commitment to human rights manifested by Cape Verde through the ratification of a large number of international instruments as well as the establishment of relevant institutions and the implementation of pertinent programmes in the field of human rights. The creation of a National Human Rights Committee in 2001 was welcomed, as was the establishment of the office of the Ombudsman (Provedor da Justica) and the adoption of a new Penal Code.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party take appropriate measures to combat stereotyping of certain groups of immigrants; that the State party monitor closely the phenomenon of trafficking in persons; and that it take all appropriate measures to guarantee the equal enjoyment by women, in particular those of women of foreign origin, of the rights under the International Convention.

Czech Republic
The Committee was encouraged by the legislative efforts of the State party to give effect to the provisions of the International Convention, in particular in the field of protection of national minorities, and welcomed the existence of numerous advisory bodies of the Government dealing with human rights. Furthermore, it welcomed the existence of numerous advisory bodies of the Government dealing with human rights and specifically the rights of national minorities, which work in cooperation with civil society.
Among its recommendations, the Committee encouraged the State party to complete its efforts with regard to the comprehensive anti-discrimination law promptly, and to subsequently ensure its effective enforcement. It urged the State party to incorporate the definition of discrimination as stipulated in article 1 of the International Convention in the new law. The Committee remained concerned at continuing acts of racially motivated violence, incitement to hatred, persistence of intolerance and de facto discrimination, in particular with regard to the Roma minority, and recommended that the Government pursue and intensify its efforts towards more effective application of existing legislation.
The Committee noted the efforts under way to facilitate access to the labour market by individuals experiencing difficulties in finding employment, including the Roma, asylum applicants, and other marginalized groups. The Committee urged the State party to continue and intensify poverty reduction and employment programmes for the Roma, and noted the significant efforts invested in seeking optimal solutions to their conditions, in particular the deteriorating housing situation. The Committee urged the State party to continue its activities in the area of research related to the problem of housing and seek solutions promoting social integration of the Roma.

Islamic Republic of Iran
The Committee welcomed the social, economic and cultural measures taken by the State party, and commended the State party’s efforts to host a large population of refugees coming from neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The Committee also welcomed the standing invitation to the thematic procedures of the Commission on Human Rights issued by the State party and the assurances given by the delegation that the trend towards reform in the State party is irreversible.
The Committee took note with concern of the reported discrimination faced by certain minorities, and recommended that the State party ensure that all persons were protected from discrimination based on race, colour or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of their religious belief. The Committee recommended that the State party consider expanding the operative sphere of certain specific institutions in order to ensure effective protection and remedies against all acts of racial discrimination.
The Committee also recommended that the State party should ensure that the lack of any complaints of racial discrimination were not the result of the victims’ ignorance of their rights, the lack of confidence on the part of individuals in the police and judicial authorities or the authorities’ lack of attention or sensitivity to cases of racial discrimination.

Finland
The Committee commended the State party’s excellent record of ratification of international human rights instruments. The Committee welcomed the adoption of a Plan of Action to combat ethnic discrimination and racism aiming to support and develop measures enhancing good inter-ethnic relations and preventing ethnic discrimination and racism in Finnish society. The Committee also welcomed the programmes and institutions put in place as well as the research and studies undertaken by the State party for the promotion and protection of human.
The Committee encouraged the State party to continue monitoring all tendencies which could give rise to racist and xenophobic behaviour and to combat the negative consequences of such tendencies. The Committee further recommended that the State party continue to promote at all levels of education general awareness of diversity and multiculturalism and put into practice effective measures to facilitate the integration of minority groups in Finnish society.
The Committee urged the State party to guarantee respect for the legal safeguards for asylum-seekers and to ensure that all its asylum procedures conform to its international obligations in this field. The Committee also recommended that the State party take all necessary measures with a view to promoting tolerance and overcoming prejudices and negative stereotypes in order to avoid any form of discrimination against member of the Roma community.

The Republic of Korea
The Committee welcomed legislation adopted in July 2003, which provided foreign workers with the same labour protection as domestic workers; and welcomed the amendment to education regulations, which allowed foreign children of compulsory school age, including those of undocumented migrant workers, equal access to local schools.
The Committee regretted the lack of specific information in the State party’s report on acts of racial discrimination, and complaints and legal action by victims. The Committee reminded the State party that the absence of complaints and legal actions by victims of racial discrimination may be the result of the absence of relevant specific legislation, or of a lack of awareness of availability of legal remedies, or of insufficient will by the authorities to prosecute.
The Committee remained concerned that foreign workers in the industrial trainee programme and undocumented migrants did not fully enjoy their rights as provided by article 5, and recommended that the State party continue to take measures to improve the situation of all migrant workers. The Committee was also concerned about the trafficking of foreign women to the State party for the purpose of prostitution and encouraged the State party to expand and strengthen ongoing efforts to prevent trafficking and provide support and assistance to victims.

Latvia
The Committee welcomed the ongoing efforts of the State party to introduce legislative reform in accordance with international standards, and was encouraged by the efforts of the State party to support and facilitate the process of naturalization through legal measures and targeted projects. It also welcomed the National Programme for Society in Latvia adopted in February 2001 and the establishment in 2002 of a post of Minister for Special Assignments for Society Integration.
The Committee was concerned that the legal provisions defining racial discrimination were not in full conformity with the International Convention. The Committee recommended that the State party pursue its efforts with regard to the preparation of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and of amendments to the Labour Law. The Committee also recommended that the State party ensure that the State Language Law did not result in unnecessary restrictions, which could have the effect of creating or perpetuating ethnic discrimination.
The Committee also recommended that the State party review its domestic legislation and that it adopt specific legislation on organized and other propaganda activities which promoted and incited racial discrimination, irrespective of the legal status of the group or organization. The Committee recommended that the State party intensify its efforts to adopt and improve legislation with the aim of providing effective protection and remedies against any acts of racial discrimination, including the right to seek reparation for discrimination. It also recommended that the State party pursue its efforts to combat prejudices and promote understanding and tolerance.

Norway
The Committee took note of the amendments to Norway’s Immigration Act in 2000, namely the transfer of responsibility for the State party’s immigration policy, as well as the appointment of a Committee to revise the Immigration Act. It also commended the adoption of a second National Plan of Action to Combat Racial Discrimination, and the State party’s policy in respect of national minorities based on the principle of respect for cultural diversity.
The Committee took note of the State party’s observation that a formal ban on organizations might not be very effective to combat racism, due to the fact that the groups involved in most of the racist activities were loose networks and not formal organizations. The Committee recommended that the State party adopt the necessary legislation in order to ensure full compliance with the Convention in this respect.
While the Committee acknowledged the frankness of the State party and its efforts to combat discrimination faced by minorities in relation to the housing and labour markets, it remained concerned about the persistence of such discrimination, and encouraged the State party to intensify its efforts in these fields. The Committee also encouraged the State party to include adequate provisions to combat discrimination in relation to access to places intended for use by the general public in the Proposed Act on the protection against ethnic discrimination.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The Committee welcomed the submission by the State party of a report after a lapse of more than twenty years, and took note of the difficulties presently faced by the State party, in particular its economic vulnerability in the context of globalization, and the massive infrastructural damage caused by natural disasters and of the fact that its limited resources are to be devoted to reconstruction rather than development.
The Committee welcomed the information provided by the State party on the content of its Constitution regarding human rights, and in particular the right not to be discriminated against. The Committee recommended that the State party review and amend its domestic laws so that they fully comply with the Convention. The Committee recommended that information on the ethnic composition of the population, the various languages spoken, as well as on interethnic relations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines be included in the next periodic report.
Recalling the intersectionality of racial discrimination and poverty issues, the Committee recommended that the State party include in its next periodic report information on affirmative action measures adopted, in conformity with article 2 paragraph 2 of the Convention, in order to ensure the adequate development and protection of minority groups, in particular the Caribs.

The United Kingdom
The Committee welcomed, among other things, the Race Relations Amendment Act of 2000 as well as the Race Relations Act (Amendment) Regulations of 2003, and commended the State party’s efforts to address more stringently the issue of incitement to racial hatred and the increase of the maximum penalty for incitement to racial discrimination. The Committee also commended the State party’s efforts to prepare a National Plan of Action against Racism.
The Committee recommended that the State party review its legislation in order to give full effect to the provisions of the International Convention in its domestic legal order. The Committee also reiterated its concern over the fact that the State party continued to uphold its restrictive interpretation of the provisions of article 4, and recommended that the State party reconsider its interpretation.
The Committee was also concerned about the increasing racial prejudice against ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and immigrants, as reflected in the media. It was also concerned by reports of attacks on asylum seekers, and recommended that the State party adopt further measures and intensify its efforts to counter racial tensions generated through asylum issues. The Committee also recommended that the State party extend regulations to cover discrimination on the grounds of colour and nationality, and while acknowledging the State party’s national security concerns, recommended that the State party seek to balance these concerns with the protection of human rights and its international legal obligations.



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