COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
(Reissued as received)
GENEVA, 17 August (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning concluded its fifty-ninth session after examining reports on efforts by the Governments of Italy, China, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, United States, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Ukraine and Egypt to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Further, the Committee examined the situation of the implementation of the Convention in Mali and Liberia whose periodic reports were seriously overdue.
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 157 States parties to the Convention are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee, which consists of 18 independent Experts.
During its three-week session, the Committee Experts also spoke extensively about the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which will be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who is the Secretary-General of the World Conference, briefed the Committee about preparations for the gathering. She stressed that the Conference had the potential to be one of the most important human-rights events at the start of the century; and that it could and should mark a breakthrough in attitudes towards racism and in strengthening the international community's determination to combat it.
The Committee also adopted a text in which it expressed its strong disagreement with the statements made in a recent study prepared by Canadian academician Anne Bayefsky entitled "The UN Human Rights Treaty System:
(Universality at the Crossroads". The study, which was prepared at the request of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized the work of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies.
In closed meetings during the session, the Committee Experts dealt with communications received from individuals or groups of individuals who claimed that their rights under the Convention had been violated by a State party and who had exhausted all available domestic remedies. So far, 34 States parties have made the declaration under article 14.
The Committee's sixtieth session will be held from 4 to 22 March 2002 in Geneva. During that three-week session, Committee Experts are expected to examine periodic reports from Lithuania, Switzerland, Croatia, Austria, Qatar, Moldova, Denmark, Belgium, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Canada, Liechtenstein, Senegal, Armenia, Uganda and Yemen. It will also examine the situation in the following countries whose reports are seriously overdue: Côte d'Ivoire, Fiji, Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Zambia. A number of States listed for review are expected to request postponements.
Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Country Reports
Italy -- The Committee, among other things, noted with satisfaction that new courses on human rights implementation and principles had been set up for the police, the carabinieri and for the personnel of detention facilities.
The Committee, recognizing that 2.2 per cent of the population was foreign, recommended that active measures be taken to promote tolerance between all individuals and within the law enforcement authorities. It reiterated its encouragement to the State party to recognize the minority status of Roma populations whose members had resided in Italy for an extended period of time and who had become sedentary.
Taking note of the information provided by the State party according to which women represented 58.8 per cent of the immigrant labour force in domestic work, and of the possibility for them to be easily subjected to exploitation, the Committee recommended that the State party take all appropriate measures to reduce that risk.
The Committee also recommended that the State party intensify its efforts and its cooperation with other countries, including the countries of origin, in order to reduce illegal immigration, criminal trafficking and commercial exploitation of human beings.
China -- The Committee welcomed the efforts made by China to promote economic and social development in economically backward regions inhabited by minority population. It noted with interest the existence and functions of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission in charge of ethnic affairs; and it noted the creation of poverty alleviation projects financing the construction of primary schools in western China.
Regarding the prohibition of racial discrimination in general, the Committee recommended that the State party consider giving full effect to the provisions of the Convention in its domestic legal order and that it ensure the penalization of racial discrimination; and also, that it ensure access to effective protection and remedies through the competent national tribunals or other State institutions, against all acts of racial discrimination.
Some members of the Committee remained concerned with regard to the actual enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion by people belonging to national minorities in the State party, particularly in the Muslim part of Xinjiang and in Tibet. The Committee recalled that a distinctive religion was integral to the identity of several minorities and urged the State party to review legislation and practices that might restrict the right of persons belonging to minorities to freedom of religion.
Trinidad and Tobago -- The Committee welcomed the establishment of the Human Rights Unit in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs to address compliance with treaty obligations. It noted that the State party had taken significant steps which would contribute towards combatting racial discrimination, including the passage of the Equal Opportunity Act.
The Committee was concerned about the absence in the State party of specific legislative, administrative and other measures implementing article 4 of the Convention, especially article 4 (b), prohibiting racist organizations.
The Committee expressed its concern, among other things, at the absence of specific information on the indigenous populations as well as other numerically small ethnic groups of the State party; and about the Police Complaints Authority, which received complaints about the conduct of police officers and monitored their investigation, which had indicated that racial discrimination was not a category against which complaints were examined, due to the small number of such complaints.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party's reports be made readily available to the public from the time they were submitted and that the Committee's observations on them be similarly published.
Cyprus -- The Committee said that the Government of Cyprus was still prevented from implementing the provisions of the Convention throughout its national territory. The occupation since 1974 by Turkish forces of 37 per cent of the territory had caused the de facto separation of the various ethnic and religious communities. That artificial division was not only an obstacle to peace and the enjoyment of human rights in the region, but impeded the construction of a progressive anti-discrimination strategy for the island as a whole.
Concerning information on cases of violence by police against aliens entering Cyprus illegally, the Committee recommended that the authorities continue to monitor such incidents closely and take appropriate steps to deal with them. The Committee expressed its concern at the lack of law provisions expressly outlawing racial discrimination in education and employment, and recommended that the State party give attention to the development of such legislation.
The Committee said it shared the State party's concern that despite efforts undertaken by the Government of Cyprus to organize bi-communal activities, there were continuous difficulties for the Turkish and Greek communities to meet together and restore mutual confidence; it recommended that the State party continue to adopt confidence-building measures in order to promote a climate of respect for the human rights of all its citizens.
The United States -- Among the positive aspects of the report, the Committee noted that the State party in recent years had ratified or acceded to certain international human rights treaties, including the Convention, and encouraged that development. It also noted as positive the continuous increase in the number of persons belonging to, in particular, the African-American and Hispanic communities in fields of employment previously predominantly occupied by Whites.
Under its concerns and recommendations, the Committee was concerned about the implication of the State party's reservation on the implementation of article 4 of the Convention and recommended that the State party review its legislation in view of the new requirements of preventing and combatting racial discrimination.
The Committee noted with concern the incidents of police violence and brutality, including cases of deaths as a result of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, which affected, particularly minority groups and foreigners; and it recommended that the State party take immediate and effective measures to ensure the appropriate training of the police force.
The Committee noted with concern that the majority of federal, state and local prison and jail inmates in the United States were members of ethnic or national minorities, and that the incarceration rate was particularly high with regard to African-Americans and Hispanics; it recommended that the State party take firm action to guarantee the rights of everyone without distinction. It said that there was a disturbing correlation between race, both of the victim and the defendant, and the imposition of death penalty; and the Committee urged that the State party ensure, possibly by imposing a moratorium, that no death penalty was imposed as a result of racial bias.
Sri Lanka -- The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report the establishment of the Permanent Inter-Ministerial Standing Committee on Human Rights; acknowledged that steps had been taken to address human rights violations; and noted the Government's proposal for constitutional reform which included a devolution of power to regions.
The Committee said it was concerned about the restrictions placed on civil and political rights under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations and its allegedly discriminatory application with regard to Tamils; it hoped that the situation would improve so that the state of emergency could be lifted; concern was also expressed about the situation of civilians living in the north and east of the country, particularly persons who were internally displaced by the conflict; and it recommended that the State party continue to provide assistance to the civilian population in the northern and eastern provinces and to cooperate with humanitarian agencies.
Further, the Committee was concerned that a large number of Tamils of Indian origin and their descendants, particularly plantation workers, still had not been granted citizenship, many of them continuing to be stateless; Tamils without Sri Lankan citizenship were allegedly discriminated against and did not fully enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights; and the State party was recommended to take effective measures to solve this problem.
Viet Nam -- Among positive aspects, the Committee welcomed the steps taken by the State party to disseminate information on its human rights obligations; and commended its efforts to rebuild and renew the social and economic structure of Vietnamese society through its Strategy Plan for Social Economic Stabilization and Development.
The Committee noted that Viet Nam's Constitution devoted an entire chapter to the fundamental rights and obligations of citizens and that several laws had been enacted to put the Constitution into concrete terms, thereby creating a legal environment for its implementation, but it would welcome the adoption of more specific anti-discrimination legislation to implement the Convention.
The Committee said that bearing in mind allegations of forced sterilization of mountainous ethnic minority women, it would welcome information from the State party on the impact of its population planning policy on the enjoyment of reproductive rights by members of all ethnic minorities; it encouraged the State party to continue its efforts to ensure that members of ethnic groups, particularly the mountainous minorities, could enjoy equal rights.
Further, the Committee was concerned about reports of discrimination in the exercise of religious freedom by minority ethnic groups. Taking note of the response of the State party's delegation denying that allegation, the Committee said it would request additional information from Viet Nam on the exercise of that right by ethnic minorities; it was further concerned about the alleged population transfer to territories inhabited by indigenous groups.
Ukraine -- Among positive aspects, the Committee noted with satisfaction the continued efforts of the State party to reform its legislation, including its criminal code, and the creation of an appeals court system. It welcomed the abolition of the death penalty as well as the provisions prohibiting the dissemination of racial and ethnic hate propaganda and the creation of organizations and political parties that were based upon racial hatred or discrimination; and it commended the continued efforts of the State party to resettle and rehabilitate the Crimean Tatars, who were deported decades earlier.
Under its concerns and recommendations, the Committee regretted the lack of information in the report, despite the Committee's previous request to that effect, giving demographic data that compared the socio-economic status of various racial and ethnic groups in the population; if possible that data should be disaggregated by gender.
The Committee expressed concern about reports of continuing discriminatory treatment of Roma and violence against them and their property; it was particularly concerned about reports of police brutality against the Roma population, including torture, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention; and the Committee recommended that the State party take immediate and effective steps to stop these abuses.
The Committee said it was disturbed by the oral statement of the delegation that many nationals of a certain African country were involved in drug-trafficking in Ukraine; and it strongly recommended that the State party take action to counter any tendency to target or stereotype particular population groups, which could lead to their racial profiling by police and immigration officers as well as in the media and society at large.
Egypt -- The Committee considered, among other things, as very positive the significant role of the Supreme Constitutional Court in the judicial system of Egypt in upholding human rights and constitutional guarantees, particularly with regard to the protection of equal rights, as well as the prevention and elimination of discrimination; and it noted with satisfaction that the Court defined racial discrimination in terms very close to the definition given by the Convention.
The Committee recommended that the State party provide information on its ethnic groups, in particular economic and social indicators reflecting their situation, including their participation in public life and the preservation of their culture; it said it remained concerned that the State party did not seem to respond fully to the requirements of article 4 of the Convention, especially article 4 (a).
The Committee expressed its concern about the nationality law which prevented an Egyptian mother married to a foreigner from passing on her nationality to her children; it was also concerned that children born to Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers were faced with discrimination in the field of education.
Moreover, the Committee recommended that the State party continue its efforts for training all personnel working in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement officials in the spirit of respect for human rights and non-discrimination on ethnic or racial grounds.
On the Situation in Liberia -- The Committee regretted that the State party had failed to submit any report in accordance to article 9 of the Convention since it had ratified the Convention in 1976; and it also regretted that after numerous invitations and inquiries, Liberia had failed to send a representative to engage in a dialogue with the Committee.
Among its concerns and recommendations, the Committee said it was concerned that national legislation did not contain explicit provisions prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic or national origin in conformity with the requirements of the Convention; it recommended that the State party take all appropriate legislative measures to ensure that the provisions of the Convention were fully reflected in domestic law.
The Committee expressed grave concern about the numerous reported instances of racial discrimination in the country based on ethnicity; it was especially concerned about reports of extrajudicial killings, allegations of torture and rape, and the lack of accountability of perpetrators, including Government security forces, for those abuses.
On the Situation in Mali -- The Committee reviewed the situation in Mali in the absence of an overdue report but in the presence of a delegation from Mali. The Committee issued no concluding observations and recommendations after its dialogue.
Cyprus -- The Committee, having considered the fifteenth and sixteenth periodic reports of Cyprus, reaffirmed the importance of putting an end to the foreign occupation of Cyprus so that all human rights and freedoms were enjoyed by all Cypriots irrespective of their ethnic origin as envisaged in the Convention, in particular the rights to freedom of movement and residence, and to own property.
The Committee requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to call the attention of the Security Council, the General Assembly and other appropriate bodies of the United Nations to that decision, in the earnest hope that they would take the measures required for the implementation of their relevant resolutions and decisions.
Liberia -- In a decision on the situation in Liberia, the Committee said it considered the situation in that country to be extremely grave with respect to the implementation of the Convention; it urged the Government of Liberia to take immediate and effective measures to fulfil its obligations under the Convention, including its reporting obligations under article 9; and it expressed its willingness to send one or more of its members to visit Liberia with a view to initiating a dialogue with the Government of Liberia and assisting it in fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.
World Conference against Racism
The Committee adopted the following text without a vote to assist the Preparatory Committee of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in its work.
"The World Conference, reaffirming the principles of dignity and equality inherent in all human beings who are entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination, recognizes the consequences on the enjoyment of human rights of slavery, the slave trade, colonialism, apartheid, foreign occupation and other forms of servitude.
The World Conference, taking into account the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, encourages States to promulgate and apply social, economic, cultural and other measures to make reparation for and correct the adverse consequences of those practices on victims who are still most affected by them, with the purpose of ensuring the adequate development and protection of those victims."
Text on Study on Human Rights Treaty Bodies
The Committee approved a text in which it expressed its strong disagreement with the statements made in a recent study prepared by Canadian academician Anne Bayefsky, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled "The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads". It said the report had been utilized by at least one Government to deliver a political critique of the Committee.
The Committee strongly rejected the report's allegations of bias in its concluding observations on State reports under the Convention, and equally resented the allegation that its early warning procedures were driven by political considerations; on the contrary, the Committee had solid grounds to invoke those procedures in relation to serious human rights situations. No evidence was offered by the author for the claims of bias which struck at the heart of the treaty body system, the text said.
Regrettably, the Committee said, any merits in the report as a whole were outweighed by its distorted account of the Committee's work, which did not reflect its particular and significant contribution to the improvement of human rights.
Committee Membership and Officers
The members of the Committee, elected in their individual capacity, are: Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr (Egypt); Marc Bossuyt (Belgium); Gabriele Britz (Germany); Ion Diaconu (Romania); Francois Lonsény Fall (Guinea); Régis de Gouttes (France); Carlos Lechuga Hevia (Cuba); Patricia Nozipho January-Bardill (South Africa); Gay McDougall (United States); Raghavan Vasudevan Pillai (India); Yuri A. Reshetov (Russian Federation); Luis Valencia Rodriguez (Ecuador); Agha Shahi (Pakistan); Michael E. Sherifis (Cyprus); and Mario Jorge Yutzis (Argentina).
Mr. Sherifis is the Chairperson. The Vice Chairpersons are Mr. Rechetov, Mr. Valencia Rodriguez, and Mr. Fall.
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Durban, South Africa