Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination
6 August 2003
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has concluded its consideration of the third to twelfth periodic reports of Cape Verde on how that country implements the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the reports, José Eduardo Barbosa, General Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of Cape Verde and Head of the delegation, said that from independence to the present, Cape Verde had made a great deal of effort towards the search for the welfare of everyone on its territory, both nationals and foreigners, namely in the field of human rights and the combat against all forms of racial discrimination. The almost complete absence of social conflicts of a racial character was due mainly to the fact that Cape Verde had an essentially mixed population, where the problems related to colour of skin or ethnic origin were practically non-existent.
Mr. Barbosa said that beyond this, it was still important to make efforts in order to reinforce the role of public institutions and civil society with regard to education, sensitisation and awareness of all nationals and aliens alike, in order that the progress already achieved could be consolidated.
Committee Experts, including the group’s rapporteur for the reports of Cape Verde, Jose A. Lindgren Alves, raised a series of questions including whether religious minorities felt segregated; why there was no legislation making punishable acts of racial discrimination; and socio-economic problems such as unemployment and how this impacted on the emigration of the population of the islands as well as on the implementation of the provisions of the human rights conventions Cape Verde had acceded to and ratified.
Taking part in the debate, which was held over two meetings, were Committee Experts Kurt Herndl, Luis Valencia Rodriguez, Marc Bossuyt, Mario Jorge Yutzis, Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill, Chengyuan Tang, Mohamed Aly Thiam, Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, Régis de Gouttes, Nourredine Amir, and Patrick Thornberry.
Members of the Cape Verde delegation also included António Pedro Alves Lopes, Chargé d’Affaires at the Permanent Mission of Cape Verde to the United Nations; and Vera Duarte, Judge Counsellor of the Supreme Court of Justice and National Coordinator for Human Rights.
The final conclusions and recommendations on the report of Cape Verde will be issued towards the end of the session, which concludes on 22 August. In preliminary remarks, Mr. Lindgren Alves said his enthusiasm for Cape Verde was explained by the fact that he truly knew that it was a racially harmonious democracy due to its long-standing mix of ethnicities. Cape Verde’s Government had made a great effort to comply with its international obligations in all possible areas, despite its handicaps with regard to economic financing and drought.
Mr. Barbosa said in concluding remarks that the whole history of Cape Verde was one which had at its heart the great confidence of the people of that country in themselves. What had been lacking was the support of the international community, and it was hoped that this would be given, which was why so many promises had been made to the Committee. Much had been learned during the meeting, and the delegation would try to be a bridge between the Committee and the Government.
As one of the 169 States parties to the International Convention, Cape Verde must present periodic reports to the Committee on efforts to eradicate such bias.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will consider the sixteenth and seventeenth periodic reports of the United Kingdom (CERD/C/430/Add.3).
Reports of Cape Verde
The third to twelfth periodic reports of Cape Verde, contained in document (CERD/C/426/Add.1) describe progress in the field of human rights and in particular in the fight against racial discrimination. Details on the land and people of Cape Verde, including physical and geographical aspects, the emergence and consolidation of Cape Verdean society and the socio-economic characteristics of Cape Verde are provided, as are details of the work done on the elimination of racial discrimination, including the status of the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and efforts made to that effect.
The Cape Verdean people emerged from a historic background of settlement by men and women of different races and cultures. Cape Verdeans share the same feeling of belonging and being, the same pride, strength, convictions, sensitivities, approach to the world and ambitions, and carry their own identity and personality. As a people, they have a collective consciousness. The almost complete lack of racially inclined social conflict is due mainly to the fact that Cape Verde has a population of essentially mixed races, where problems related to skin colour or ethnic origin are practically non-existent.
The Republic of Cape Verde rejects and strongly condemns any act of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, therefore any acts that are not in conformity with this principle and standard are deemed illegal. In any case, civil society is watchful for any forms of behaviour or passive manifestations with any connotation of discrimination on grounds of race, religious creed, or social or economic origin, and runs organizations of its own engaged in civic activities aimed at informing and creating awareness among the public.
Introduction of Reports
JOSE EDUARDO BARBOSA, General Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of Cape Verde and Head of the Delegation, said the present report covered the period from 1984 to this date. It reflected the significant changes that took place in Cape Verde’s political, economic and social panorama, in order to better apprehend the causes and effects of the present situation as regarding human rights in general. The report was still not, however, the desired one, as despite efforts it had still not been possible to obtain the information associated with the questions raised when the previous reports were submitted. Notwithstanding, a great deal of effort had been made to put forward the report, with the assurance and commitment that subsequent reports would be more insightful and comprehensive.
The Republic of Cape Verde, he said, rejected and strongly condemned any act of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin; therefore any acts that were against this principle and value were illicit. The Constitution and internal laws protected rights and fundamental freedoms. It was a consensus amongst Cape Verdean society that there were no violations of civil and political rights involving the direct responsibility and complicity of the State.
The most important international instruments had already been ratified or acceded to by the country, and a number of provisions and institutional mechanisms aimed at protecting the rights and essential liberties were already in place. Cape Verde had thus been selected as one of the pilot countries for the programme of reinforcement of human rights.
All individuals who resided either permanently or temporarily in Cape Verde enjoyed almost all rights that were recognised by the Constitution and by internal laws to Cape Verdean citizens. Cape Verde supported the rights of people to self-determination and independence, and at the same time it was against terrorism and transnational organised crime.
From independence to the present, Cape Verde, building over the important contribution given to the efforts of the international community against racism and racial discrimination through its liberation struggle, had made a great deal of effort towards the search for the welfare of everyone on its territory, both nationals and foreigners, namely in the field of human rights and the combat against all forms of racial discrimination. The almost complete absence of social conflicts of racial character was due mainly to the fact that Cape Verde had an essentially mixed population, where problems related to colour of skin or ethnic origin were practically non-existent. Beyond this, it was still important to make efforts in order to reinforce the role of public institutions and of civil society with regard to education, sensitisation and awareness of all nationals and aliens alike, in order that the progress already achieved may be consolidated.
JOSE A. LINDGREN ALVES, the Committee Expert who served as country rapporteur for the reports of Cape Verde, said he understood that with the changes that had taken place in the political scene in the early nineties, Cape Verde must have faced serious bureaucratic deficiencies in order not to comply with its obligation to report, but he did not understand why the country did not send a representative to talk to the Committee before or when its situation had to be reviewed in 1996 without a report. Cape Verde was a country that had never had anything to hide in any area, especially in the area of racial discrimination.
The document was a consolidation of the reports owed over a period of 20 years. During this period, the political situation of the country had changed so much that it was difficult to envisage it as Cape Verde’s twelfth report, or a consolidation of what should have been its third to twelfth reports. He believed it was more of a first report. There were, however, many positive aspects to the report, and the information provided was good enough for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to have good glimpse at the country’s situation.
Noting that Catholicism prevailed but that there were also other Christian denominations and that Muslims had started to come to the islands, Mr Lindgren Alves asked whether these religious minorities felt segregated. He also noted that the country still faced socio-economic difficulties, and that extraordinary efforts must have been required in order to achieve the now positive economic indicators. He also noted that it was important to avoid the creation of stereotypes based on the cases of individuals incriminated in misdeeds, in the context of the recent increase in the numbers of immigrants from the Community of West African States.
Cape Verde’s Constitution gave precedence to international norms over internal ones ranking below the Constitution, once international treaties had taken effect in the international and domestic legal order. The International Convention therefore could be invoked and applied by the courts of the country. However, the country had not yet made a declaration on article 14, nor had it ratified the amendment to article 8. It was suggested that Cape Verde did so as soon as possible. The greatest flaw in the legislation of Cape Verde concerning the Convention, as registered in the report, was the lack of legislation to punish acts of racial discrimination.
The Rapporteur concluded by saying that he strongly believed what was stated in the report, that the “almost complete lack of racially inclined social conflict is due mainly to the fact that Cape Verde has a population of essentially mixed races, where problems related to skin colour or ethnic origin are practically nonexistent”.
Other members of the Committee also raised questions. They asked questions, among other things, on issues such as why the report did not follow the guidelines and did not comment on the issues raised by the International Convention, which perpetuated the lack of information provided to the Committee; why there was no legislation making punishable acts of racial discrimination; what was being done to remedy gender inequality, both publicly and privately; socio-economic problems such as unemployment and how this impacted on the emigration of the population of the islands as well as on the implementation of the provisions of the human rights conventions which Cape Verde had acceded to and ratified; information on the status of recommendations made by the Committee previously; dissemination of the International Convention; what modalities were adopted for judiciary expulsions of those who had committed a crime; apparent macro-economic contradictions contained within the report; which group of the population was suffering mainly from long-term unemployment and whether this group could be identified by racial factors; how independent the Human Rights Committee was, who funded it, and did it have the power to monitor and assess the situation; and the trafficking in human beings, which was apparently a thriving element in the country, and whether there were any efforts being made to limit this.
Responding to the questions, Mr. BARBOSA said almost 90 per cent of Cape Verdeans were Catholic. There were other Christian denominations, as well as Muslims; however, Cape Verde was a lay State, and this was one of the main guarantees that no religion would be discriminated against. The entire Government of Cape Verde, past, present and future, and irrespective of party lines, had promoted the integration of Cape Verdean emigrants at political, social, economic and cultural levels.
There was an increase in the number of foreigners who were immigrating to Cape Verde, he said, and efforts were being made to further improve the statistics. The positive judgment of the development that had taken place in Cape Verde was clearly supported by the fact that Cape Verde had one of the best performances in Africa in the field of human development.
The courts, as was the case with all other treaties validly approved by Cape Verde, could directly invoke the International Convention. The declaration on article 14 would be made as soon as possible. Suggestions on the ratification of the amended article 8 would be submitted immediately to the Government. On his return, the head of delegation would advise the Government of the need for an extra effort for adhering or ratifying the other Conventions mentioned by the Committee.
Cape Verde would not, he said, wait for a new report to respond to outstanding questions; instead, answers would be provided in writing as soon as possible. The struggle against racial discrimination was being promoted in several fields: education, work, and at the political level. The country already had legislation concerning child trafficking, and legislation on the trafficking of persons and smuggling would be approved next year. The Permanent Mission in Geneva would be upgraded so that it could better fulfill its duties in the context of Geneva’s growing importance in the field of multilateral diplomacy.
Members of the Committee then made further comments and questions on such topics as the pending legislation on trafficking in persons and whether it could be speeded up and whether there was a Plan of Action; that racial discrimination existed everywhere even if it was only in potential and therefore the application of the International Convention was paramount; the valorization of the Creole language; and the work done to limit negative stereotypes linked to ethnic appearance. The Committee also applauded the frankness of the report and the answers given by the delegation to its questions.
With regard to slavery in Cape Verde, which, being an archipelago, was settled at different times, there were islands where slavery had had very little impact compared to the main island. Further, there were always some elements of racism in various areas, but the report stated that the level was very low and almost non-existent in some of the islands, which had a true mixed society. From the beginning, the country had seen a fusion of races, and this was why racism was practically non-existent. She then recommended that the Committee find new methods to combat racism. It should try to discover new more ethnic heroes and heroines for young people in order to have a positive impact at an early age. The Committee greeted this last suggestion positively.
Preliminary Remarks by Rapporteur
In preliminary remarks, Mr. LINDGREN ALVES said Cape Verde was running smoothly, with no political problems. His enthusiasm for Cape Verde was explained by his visits there; he truly knew that it was a racially harmonious democracy due to its long-standing mix of ethnicities and that there was no person in the country with only one ethnicity in his or her genetic heritage. The delegation had answered all the questions presented to it in a very satisfactory manner. It was very important to use the multilateral diplomacy of Geneva to its full extent, and Cape Verde was encouraged to upgrade its Mission. Cape Verde’s Government had made a great effort to comply with its international obligations in all possible areas, despite its handicaps with regard to economic financing and drought
Concluding Remarks by Delegation
In conclusion, Mr. BARBOSA said that he would like to thank the Committee members for expressing their views. He then explained that with regard to trafficking of persons, the legislation had already been passed, but it was not yet in force. This, however, would take place at the beginning of next year. With regard to emigrants, there was a need to distinguish that when the islands were originally moved into by the ancestors of its current inhabitants, the new arrivals had then intermarried notwithstanding their original ethnic origin, which had resulted in a general disregard for skin colour among the modern inhabitants.
Finally, Mr. Barbosa said the whole history of Cape Verde was one which had at its heart the great confidence of the people of that country in themselves. What had been lacking was the support of the international community, and it was hoped that this would be given, which was why so many promises had been made to the Committee. Progress was expected to be easy, and both the Government and society of Cape Verde saw this in the same way. Much had been learned during the meeting, and the delegation would try to be a bridge between the Committee and the Government, and would try to improve cooperation.
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