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Committee On Elimination Of Racial Discrimination


Committee On Elimination Of Racial Discrimination Concludes Sixty-Sixth Session

Issues Concluding Observations on Reports Presented by Lao People’s

Democratic Republic, France, Luxembourg, Australia, Ireland, Bahrain, Azerbaijan

(Reissued as received.)

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GENEVA, 11 March (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its sixty-sixth session and issued its concluding observations on reports presented by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, France, Luxembourg, Australia, Ireland, Bahrain and Azerbaijan on how those countries implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

On the reports of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Committee commended the efforts of the State party to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas and among ethnic groups. It noted with concern that no clear definition of racial discrimination existed in domestic legislation and that the Convention was not incorporated into domestic legislation. It recommended that the State party describe in its next periodic report the scope of a policy of resettling members of ethic groups from the mountains and highland plateaux to the plains, the ethnic groups concerned, and the impact of these policies on their lifestyles.

Concerning the reports of France, the Committee took note with satisfaction of the many legislative measures designed to reinforce efforts to combat racial discrimination. It expressed its concern about the de facto inequality affecting immigrants and population groups of immigrant origin vis-à-vis other nationals, in the field of employment and education, despite the State party’s substantial efforts in this area. It recommended that the State party take the necessary preventive measures to halt racist incidents involving members of the security forces.

With regards to the reports of Luxembourg, the Committee noted with satisfaction school curricula promoting interculturalism, the setting up of some classes in the mother tongue of immigrant children and the introduction of intercultural mediators in schools. While noting the State party’s efforts to tighten up its laws and strengthen its institutions combating racial discrimination, the Committee said that racist and xenophobic incidents, in particular against Arabs and Muslims, and discriminatory attitudes towards ethnic groups were still encountered in the country. It encouraged the State party to include within training a specific focus on the problems of racism and discrimination.

On the reports of Australia, the Committee noted with satisfaction that serious acts of racial hatred or incitement to racial hatred were criminal offences in most AustralianStates and Territories. The Committee expressed its concern about the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the main policy-making body in Aboriginal affairs. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to eliminate prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, and to ensure that enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation did not disproportionately impact on specific ethnic groups and people of other national origins.

With regards to the reports of Ireland, the Committee welcomed the enactment of a comprehensive legislative framework on anti-discrimination and welcomed the decision by the State party to include a question of ethnicity in the next consensus in 2006. It regretted that the State party had not yet incorporated the Convention into domestic legal order, particularly in light of the fact that the State party had incorporated other international instruments into domestic law. It encouraged the State party to review its security procedures and practices at entry points with a view to ensuring that they were carried out in a non-discriminatory manner.

Concerning the reports of Bahrain, the Committee welcomed the meaningful political, legal and economic reforms on which the State party had embarked. The Committee regretted that there was no national human rights institution in Bahrain and was concerned over the lack of integrationist multi-racial organizations and movements in the State party. It encouraged the State party to maintain a dialogue with all civil society organizations, including those critical of its policies.

And with regards to the reports of Azerbaijan, the Committee noted with satisfaction the enactment of new legislation containing anti-discrimination provisions. It was concerned that, according to reports, incidents of racial discrimination against Armenians occur and that a majority of the Armenians residing in Azerbaijan prefer to conceal their ethnic identity in order to avoid being discriminated against. Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party adopt measures to promote intercultural understanding and education between ethnic groups.

The Committee also issued decisions on the situations in the Sudan (concerning Darfur), New Zealand and Suriname.

On the Sudan, the Committee said that taking into consideration its regular practices, as well as its obligation to inform, under its early-warning and urgent-action procedure, of any warning signals that a situation may deteriorate still further, it recommended to the Secretary-General, and through him, the Security Council, the deployment, without further delay, of a sufficiently enlarged African Union force in Darfur with a Security Council mandate to protect the civilian population against war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the risk of genocide.

New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed
Concerning New Zealand, the Committee expressed its appreciation at having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issues involved, the New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 appeared to the Committee, on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and its failure to provide a guaranteed right of redress, notwithstanding the State party’s obligations under articles 5 and 6 of the Convention.

And with regards to Suriname, which was reviewed under the follow-up procedure, the Committee noted that under the draft Mining Act in the State party, indigenous and tribal peoples would be required to accept mining activities on their lands following agreement on compensation with the concession holders, and that, if agreement could not be reached, the matter would be settled by the executive, and not the judiciary. It recommended that indigenous and tribal peoples should be granted the right of appeal to the courts, or any independent body specially created for that purpose, in order to uphold their traditional rights and their right to be consulted before concessions are granted and to be fairly compensated for any damage.

The Committee also adopted a declaration on the prevention of genocide which was prepared by Committee Expert Agha Shahi following a thematic discussion on the subject during the session. Among other things, the declaration expressed the Committee’s resolve to strengthen and refine its anti-racial discrimination early warning and urgent action, as well as follow-up procedures in all situations with indications of possible violent conflict and genocide.

The Committee agreed to continue its general debate on multiculturalism at its next session to analyse the ways in which it had been addressing this issue when adopting its decisions and recommendations and to improve its work in this regard.

The Committee’s sixty-seventh session will be held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 1 to 19 August 2005, when the Experts will review the reports of Nigeria, Barbados, Georgia, Venezuela, Zambia, Turkmenistan, Iceland, Tanzania and Lithuania. Under its review procedures, the Committee will review the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Seychelles, Saint Lucia, Malawi and Mozambique.

Concluding Observations on Country Reports Considered this Session

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

After considering the sixth to fifteenth periodic reports of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Committee commended the efforts of the State party to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas and among ethnic groups. The Committee noted with satisfaction that the State party had adopted penal measures in 2004 to combat trafficking in persons and was pleased to learn that the Convention had been translated into Lao. The Committee also welcomed the programme of cooperation undertaken by the State party and the United Nations Development Programme relating to the ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments.

The Committee noted with concern that no clear definition of racial discrimination existed in domestic legislation and that the Convention was not incorporated into domestic legislation. It also regretted that there was no national human rights institution in the country. The Committee noted the absence of legislative provisions criminalizing acts of violence and incitement to violence on racial grounds and recommended that the State party conduct studies with a view to assessing and evaluating in concrete terms the extent to which racial discrimination existed in the country and to ascertain its principal causes. While noting that the State party had adopted a policy of resettling members of ethic groups from the mountains and highland plateaux to the plains, the Committee recommended that the State party describe in its next periodic report the scope of the resettlement policies being implemented, the ethnic groups concerned, and the impact of these policies on the lifestyles of these groups and on the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.

The Committee also remained concerned by persistent allegations of conflict between the Government and certain members of the Hmong minority who took refuge in forest and mountainous areas of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic after 1975 and strongly encouraged the State party to authorize United Nations agencies to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to this group. The Committee was also concerned about reports of violence that had been perpetrated against members of this group, in particular allegations that soldiers had brutalized and killed a group of five Hmong children in May 2004.

France

Following its review of the fifteenth and sixteenth periodic reports of France, the Committee took note with satisfaction of the many legislative measures designed to reinforce efforts to combat racial discrimination, and in particular the Act of 16 November 2001 concerning measures to combat discrimination; the Social Modernization Act of 17 January 2002; the Act of 9 March 2004 on the adaptation of the system of justice to developments in the area of crime; and the Act of 30 December 2004 setting up a High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality. The Committee also welcomed the provision in the Act of 10 December 2003 widening the scope of refugee protection to include those persecuted by non-State actors and the fact that, since the adoption of its ruling of 1 June 2002, the Criminal Division of the Court of Cassation had allowed the practice of discrimination testing as a form of evidence in the area of racial discrimination, and encouraged the State party to promote more frequent recourse to it.

The Committee expressed its concern about the de facto inequality affecting immigrants and population groups of immigrant origin vis-à-vis other nationals, in the field of employment and education, despite the State party’s substantial efforts in this area. Despite the State party’s efforts, the Committee remained concerned about the situation of non-citizens and asylum-seekers in holding centres and areas, as well as delays in processing applications from refugees for family reunification. Among other things, the Committee recommended to the State party that it should strengthen the supervision of police personnel responsible for the reception and day-to-day monitoring of holding centres for non-citizens and asylum-seekers. The Committee shared the concerns expressed by the delegation relating to the increase in racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic acts and encouraged the State party to apply more effectively the existing provisions designed to combat such acts.

The Committee also recommended that the State party take the necessary preventive measures to halt racist incidents involving members of the security forces. It encouraged the State party to criminalize attempts to deny war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined in the statute of the International Criminal Court, and not only those committed during the Second World War. Moreover, the Committee recommended that the State party should take all appropriate steps to ensure that local population groups in overseas departments who did not have full command of French benefited from the services of translator/interpreters, especially in their contacts with the system of justice.

Luxembourg

After reviewing the tenth to thirteenth periodic reports of Luxembourg, the Committee noted with appreciation the information provided by the delegation on the implementation of a national plan of action on the follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Committee welcomed the entry into force of the Act of 8 June 2004 on freedom of expression in the media, which called for a code of ethics to govern the pursuit of journalistic activity. The Committee also noted with satisfaction school curricula promoting interculturalism, the setting up of some classes in the mother tongue of immigrant children and the introduction of intercultural mediators in schools.

While noting the State party’s efforts to tighten up its laws and strengthen its institutions combating racial discrimination, the Committee said that racist and xenophobic incidents, in particular against Arabs and Muslims, and discriminatory attitudes towards ethnic groups were still encountered in the country. The Committee encouraged the State party to combat racist and xenophobic propaganda found on Internet sites and suggested that the State party ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems. While recognizing the steps taken by the State party to combat racial discrimination, the Committee noted with concern that certain vulnerable groups, such as non-nationals, refugees and asylum-seekers, were not afforded sufficient protection.

The Committee expressed its concern that a number of non-nationals were illegally employed in Luxembourg, and might, thus, be exposed to abuse by their employers. The Committee encouraged the State party to take concrete steps to prevent and provide redress for the serious problems faced by non-citizen workers in this regard, ensuring that employers that employed illegal workers were sanctioned. The Committee also encouraged the State party to include within training a specific focus on the problems of racism and discrimination, and to ensure that all officials who come into contact with minority groups receive training of this type.

Australia

After considering the thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports of Australia, the Committee noted with satisfaction that serious acts of racial hatred or incitement to racial hatred were criminal offences in most AustralianStates and Territories. The Committee noted with satisfaction that significant progress had been achieved in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by the indigenous peoples. It welcomed the commitment of all Australian governments to work together on this issue through the Council of Australian Governments, as well as the adoption of a national strategy on indigenous family violence. The Committee also noted with great interest the diversionary and preventative programmes aimed at reducing the number of indigenous juveniles entering the criminal justice system, as well as the development of culturally sensitive procedures and practices among the police and the judiciary.

The Committee expressed its concern about the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the main policy-making body in Aboriginal affairs which consisted of elected indigenous representatives. The Committee also noted with concern reports that prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in Australia had increased and that the enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation may have an indirect discriminatory effect against Arab and Muslim Australians. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to eliminate such prejudice, and ensure that enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation does not disproportionately impact on specific ethnic groups and people of other national origins. The Committee noted with concern the persistence of diverging perceptions between governmental authorities and indigenous peoples and others on the compatibility of the 1998 amendments to the Native Title Act with the Convention and further recommended that the State party reopen discussions with indigenous peoples with a view to discussing possible amendments to the Native Title Act and finding solutions acceptable to all.

The Committee remained concerned about the striking over-representation of indigenous people in prisons, as well as the percentage of indigenous deaths in custody. The Committee expressed concern about the mandatory detention of illegal migrants, including asylum-seekers, in particular when such detention affected women, children, unaccompanied minors, and those who were considered to be stateless. It also expressed its concern that many persons had been in such administrative detention for over three years. The Committee recommended that the State party review the mandatory, automatic and indeterminate character of the detention of illegal migrants.

Ireland

After considering the initial and second periodic reports of Ireland, the Committee commended the State party for the recent adoption of the first National Action Plan against Racism, and the extensive consultations with civil society organizations during the drafting of this plan and noted with appreciation the establishment of several independent institutions with competence in the field of human rights and racial discrimination, namely the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Equality Authority and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. The Committee welcomed the enactment of a comprehensive legislative framework on anti-discrimination and welcomed the decision by the State party to include a question of ethnicity in the next consensus in 2006. It encouraged the State party to include in its next periodic report detailed information on the population, including non-citizens.

The Committee regretted that the State party had not yet incorporated the Convention into domestic legal order, particularly in light of the fact that the State party had incorporated other international instruments into domestic law. The Committee encouraged the State party to continue to combat prejudice and xenophobic stereotyping, especially in the media, and to fight prejudice and discriminatory attitudes. In this context, the Committee recommended that the State party introduce in its criminal law a provision that committing an offence with a racist motivation or aim constituted aggravating circumstance allowing for a more severe punishment. The Committee was concerned about reported instances of exploitation of foreign workers by some employers and of violations of labour regulations prohibiting discrimination and encouraged the State party to ensure full practical implementation of legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment and in the labour market. The Committee also regretted the absence of special detention facilities for asylum seekers whose request for asylum had been rejected and for undocumented migrants awaiting deportation and noted the reported occurrence of instances of discriminatory treatment against foreign nationals entering Ireland during security checks at airports. It encouraged the State party to review its security procedures and practices at entry points with a view to ensuring that they were carried out in a non-discriminatory manner.

The Committee also expressed concern about allegations of discriminatory behaviour by the police towards members of minority groups and regretted that data on complaints of racial discrimination against the police had not been provided in the report. While noting the efforts made so far by the State party with regard to the situation of members of the Traveller community in the field of health, housing, employment and education, the Committee remained concerned about the effectiveness of policies and measures in these areas. In this context, it recommended that the State party intensify its efforts to fully implement the recommendations of the Task Force on the Traveller community, and that all necessary measures be urgently taken to improve access by Travellers to all levels of education, their employment rates, as well as their access to health services and to accommodation suitable to their lifestyle.

Bahrain

Following its consideration of the sixth and seventh periodic reports of Bahrain, the Committee welcomed the meaningful political, legal and economic reforms on which the State party had embarked, and noted in particular the adoption of the National Action Charter in 2001, the promulgation of the amended Constitution and the creation of the Constitutional Court in 2002, as well as the establishment of a new bi-cameral parliament with an elected chamber of deputies. The Committee appreciated the establishment of Trade Unions in 2002 for the first time in Bahrain, as well as of cultural associations composed of foreigners. The Committee also welcomed the organization of several training programmes addressed to the judiciary and law enforcement officials on the promotion and protection of human rights in the field of racial discrimination.

The Committee regretted that the State party had not provided specific data on the ethnic composition of the population, and recalled that such information was necessary to assess the practical implementation of the Convention. The Committee took note of the abolition of the Human Rights Committee which was designed to provide advice to the head of State and to the executive authorities on a wide range of human rights issues, including those matters relating specifically to the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee regretted that there was no national human rights institution in Bahrain. The Committee was also concerned over the lack of integrationist multiracial organizations and movements in the State party and in particular over the banning of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. It encouraged the State party to maintain a dialogue with all civil society organizations, including those critical of its policies.

The Committee noted with concern the reported disparate treatment and discrimination faced by members of some groups, including in particular the Shi’a that may be distinguishable by virtue of their tribal or national origin, descent, culture and language. The Committee was especially concerned about apparent disparate opportunities that were afforded to such groups. The Committee also regretted that no statistics were provided on cases where the relevant provisions of domestic legislation concerning racial discrimination were applied and recommended that the State party consider whether the lack of formal complaints may be the result of the victims’ lack of awareness of their rights, lack of confidence in the police and judicial authorities, or the authorities’ lack of attention, sensitivity, or commitment to cases of racial discrimination.

Azerbaijan

After reviewing the third and fourth periodic reports of Azerbaijan, the Committee noted with satisfaction the enactment of new legislation containing anti-discrimination provisions, including the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure and welcomed the establishment of the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Republic of Azerbaijan, pursuant to the Constitutional Act on the Ombudsman, adopted in December 2001. The Committee also welcomed the State party’s ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2000, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 2002 and the European Social Charter in 2004.

The Committee was concerned that, according to reports, incidents of racial discrimination against Armenians occur and that a majority of the Armenians residing in Azerbaijan prefer to conceal their ethnic identity in order to avoid being discriminated against. While welcoming the information provided by the delegation on counter-trafficking measures taken by the State party, the Committee expressed its concern that human trafficking, including of foreign women, men and children remained a serious problem in the State party, which was a country of origin and a transit point. The Committee expressed its concern that asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons, displaced persons and long-term residents residing in Azerbaijan experienced discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing and health. The Committee requested the State party to ensure that its asylum procedures did not discriminate in purpose or effect between asylum seekers on the basis of race, colour or ethnic or national origin.

Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party adopt measures to promote intercultural understanding and education between ethnic groups. The Committee also encouraged the State party to expand and strengthen existing efforts regarding human rights education and requested the State party to pay particular attention to the specific training of law enforcement officials in this regard. It also noted the lack of sufficient information on efforts taken by the State party to involve non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the periodic report and encouraged the State party to consult with civil society working in the area of combating racial discrimination in the elaboration of its next periodic report.

Decisions

Decision on Situation in Darfur

The Committee, taking into consideration its regular practices, as well as its obligation to inform, under its early-warning and urgent-action procedure, of any warning signals that a situation may deteriorate still further, referring to its decision adopted at its last session on Darfur, and recalling its declaration on the Prevention on Genocide of 11 March 2005, recommended to the Secretary-General, and through him, the Security Council, the deployment, without further delay, of a sufficiently enlarged African Union force in Darfur with a Security Council mandate to protect the civilian population, including those in camps, displaced persons and refugees returning to their homes in Darfur, against war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the risk of genocide.

Decision on Situation in New Zealand

In a decision on New Zealand, the Committee noted its review of the compatibility of the New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 with the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the light of information received both from the Government of New Zealand and a number of Maori non-governmental organizations and taking into account its General Recommendation No. XXIII on indigenous peoples. The Committee expressed its appreciation at having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party and the State party’s written and oral responses to its requests for information related to the legislation, including those submitted on 17 February and 9 March 2005. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issues involved, the legislation appeared to the Committee, on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and its failure to provide a guaranteed right of redress, notwithstanding the State party’s obligations under articles 5 and 6 of the Convention.

The Committee acknowledged with appreciation the State party’s tradition of negotiation with the Maori on all matters concerning them and urged the State party, in a spirit of goodwill and in accordance with the ideals of the Waitangi Treaty, to resume a dialogue with the Maori community with regard to the legislation in order to seek ways of lessening its discriminatory effects, including where necessary through legislative amendment. Moreover, the Committee requested the State party to monitor closely the implementation of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, its impact on the Maori population and the developing State of race relations in New Zealand and to take steps to minimize any negative effects, especially by way of a flexible application of the legislation and by broadening the scope of redress available to the Maori.

Suriname

After having reviewed the country situation in Suriname in private session under its follow-up procedure, the Committee noted that, under the draft Mining Act in the State party, indigenous and tribal peoples would be required to accept mining activities on their lands following agreement on compensation with the concession holders, and that, if agreement could not be reached, the matter would be settled by the executive, and not the judiciary. The Committee expressed its concern that indigenous and tribal peoples could not as such seek recognition of their traditional rights before the courts because they were not recognized legally as juridical persons. It recommended that indigenous and tribal peoples should be granted the right of appeal to the courts, or any independent body specially created for that purpose, in order to uphold their traditional rights and their right to be consulted before concessions are granted and to be fairly compensated for any damage. Moreover, the Committee recommended to the State party that it ensure the compliance of the revised draft Mining Act with the International Convention, as well as with the Committee’s recommendations issued in March 2004.

Declaration on Prevention of Genocide

On the closing day of the session, the Committee adopted a declaration on the prevention of genocide which was prepared by Committee Expert Agha Shahi following a thematic discussion on the subject during the session. The main elements of the declaration are as follows:

The Committee welcomed the appointment of a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide with the mandate to sound early warning and make appropriate recommendations for prevention to the Security Council through the Secretary-General to enable the international community to take timely action to prevent genocide from occurring, and declared its determination to provide the Special Adviser with relevant information on laws, policies and practices that may indicate systematic discrimination. Moreover, as suggested by the Special Adviser, the Committee intended to develop a set of indicators related to genocide, including the cultural and historic roots of genocide.

The Committee expressed its resolve to strengthen and refine its anti-racial discrimination early warning and urgent action, as well as follow-up procedures in all situations where indications of possible violent conflict and genocide prevail and in such cases it would consider in-country visits to obtain first-hand information. The Committee considered it of vital importance that stronger interaction is established between the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and the Security Council and agreed with the findings of the High-Level Panel in the current Threats, Challenges and Change that developed countries had a particular responsibility to do more to transform their armies into units suitable for deployment to peace operations, among other things.

The Committee also considered it imperative to dispel the climate of impunity that was hospitable to war crimes and crimes against humanity by referral of perpetrators of these crimes to the International Criminal Court at an early stage of indications of genocide. It also urged the international community to look at the need for a comprehensive understanding of the dimensions of genocide, including in the context of situations of economic globalization adversely affecting indigenous and disadvantaged communities.


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