COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CONCLUDES EIGHTIETH SESSION
Issues Concluding Observations on Reports of Mexico, Israel, Kuwait, Portugal, Viet Nam, Canada, Turkmenistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Jordan and Italy; adopts annual report to the General Assembly
9 March 2012
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded its four-week eightieth session on Friday 9 March and adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Mexico, Israel, Kuwait, Portugal, Viet Nam, Canada, Turkmenistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Jordan and Italy which were considered during the session. The conclusions were released today. The Committee also adopted its annual report to the United Nations General Assembly.
At the opening of the session the Committee adopted its agenda and elected a new bureau including a new Chairperson, Alexei Avtonomov, three Vice-Chairpersons: Amir Nourredine (Algeria), Jose Francisco Calitzay (Guatemala) and Dilip Lahiri (India) and Anastacia Crickley (Ireland) was elected Rapporteur.
During the course of the session, the Committee examined the periodic reports of eleven States parties and held three public meetings with non-governmental organizations. It held closed meetings with United Nations specialized agencies and other competent bodies, examined individual communications of violations of the Convention and considered follow-up information submitted by States parties in relation to the observations and recommendations of the Committee.
The concluding observations and recommendations, and the country reports, are available on the Committee’s webpage.
The eighty-first session of the Committee will be held from 6 to 31 August 2012, during which it is provisionally scheduled to consider the reports of Austria, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Finland, Liechtenstein, Tajikistan, Thailand, Senegal and Republic of South Korea. The Committee will also review Belize, in the absence of a report.
Concluding Observations and Recommendations
With regard to the combined sixteenth and seventeenth periodic reports of Mexico, the Committee welcomed the entry into force of the constitutional reform regarding criminal procedure and collective actions, and congratulated the country for giving constitutional value to treaties of international human rights it had ratified, including the Convention. The Committee welcomed the programmes and the institutions created in the country to combat racial discrimination, in particular the National Council to Prevent Discrimination, the General Law of Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Programme for the development of Indigenous Peoples 2009-2012.
The Committee reiterated its concern about the lack of access to justice faced by indigenous peoples and urged Mexico to respect the traditional systems of justice for indigenous peoples, including through the establishment of a special indigenous jurisdiction. The Committee expressed grave concern about reports of violence in the context of the fight against organized crime, and its possible impact on the protection of human rights of the population. It urged Mexico to prevent the violence in strict compliance with human rights. The Committee expressed its deep concern at the serious recent events which had undermined the physical integrity of human rights defenders working with indigenous peoples. It recommended Mexico investigate the killings and punish those responsible. Mexico was also urged to accelerate the adoption of specific legislation which would guarantee the protection of human rights defenders.
The Committee reiterated its request that Mexico provide information on persons of African descent living in the country, who were few and vulnerable. Although Mexico had undertaken significant legislative reforms, the Committee noted with concern that the definition of discrimination contained in the Federal Law on the Prevention and Elimination of Discrimination did not mention racial discrimination. The Committee was also concerned that the legislation applicable to cases involving indigenous peoples varied greatly among states. The Committee expressed concern regarding the lack of domestic legislation criminalizing the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination or violence, particularly against indigenous people and Afro-descendants. Finally, the Committee expressed concern about the situation of migrant workers in Mexico, and expressed its grave concern over the vulnerability of those communities to kidnapping, torture and killings and urged the State party to take action to protect all migrant workers.
With regard to the fourteenth to sixteenth periodic reports of Israel, the Committee welcomed efforts and progress made by Israel to address inequalities, particularly in the areas of employment and education. The Committee welcomed affirmative action measures taken by Israel to enhance the integration of the Arab and Druze population into the civil service, establishment of a joint inter-ministerial team for implementing the Treaty Bodies’ concluding observations on Israel and new legislation such as the 2008 Prohibition of Violence in Sport Law and the 2011 Expansion of Adequate Representation for Persons of the Ethiopian Community in the Public Service Law.
The Committee noted the willingness of Israel to discuss the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but regretted the lack of any information about the population of those territories. The Committee was deeply concerned by Israel’s position that the Convention did not apply to all the territories under its effective control, which not only included Israel proper but also the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Occupied Syrian Golan and strongly urged Israel to review its approach. The Committee reiterated its view that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were not only illegal under international law but were an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population. The Committee was concerned about the situation of Bedouin communities, particularly with regard to the policy of demolitions of homes and increasing difficulties to gain access equal with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health. The Committee recommended that Israel address satisfactorily the problems faced by Bedouin communities, in particular with regard to land issues, and withdraw the 2012 discriminatory proposed Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, which would legalize the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities.
The Committee was concerned about the increase in racist violence and acts of vandalism on the part of Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory targeting non-Jews, including Muslims and Christians and their holy places, and reports that 90 per cent of Israeli police investigations into settler-related violence between 2005 and 2010 were closed without prosecution. The Committee was particularly alarmed by reports of impunity of terrorist groups such as Price Tag. The Committee noted with interest establishment of a ministerial team to address matters relating to settler violence, and urged Israel to ensure that all forms of violence and harassment were impartially investigated by the judiciary and that perpetrators were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Committee was extremely concerned by policies which amounted to de facto segregation, such as Jewish and non-Jewish sectors in Israeli society, the existence of two systems of education, in Hebrew and in Arabic, and its implementation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of two entirely separate legal systems for Jewish communities in illegal settlements on one hand and Palestinian populations living in Palestinian towns and villages on the other hand. The Committee urged Israel to make every effort to eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
With regard to the combined fifteenth to twentieth periodic reports of Kuwait, the Committee welcomed Kuwait’s ongoing efforts to revise its legislation in order to give effect to the Convention, such as the amendment to the Electoral Act which granted Kuwaiti women full rights to vote and to stand for elections. The Committee noted with interest that Kuwait had acceded to Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to the International Labour Organization Convention on the Prohibition of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. The Committee also welcomed the prohibition on confiscating travel documents of workers and the establishment of the Central Bureau for Illegal Residents with a view to resolving the issue of the Bidun (stateless persons).
The Committee was concerned about the situations of stateless persons and of children born in Kuwait to foreigners and stateless persons. The Committee was also concerned by the low rate of naturalizations and that not all stateless persons enjoyed some basic human rights such as the right to obtain civil documentation, as well as access to adequate social services, education, housing, property, business registration and employment. The Committee recommended that Kuwait provide a just, humane and comprehensive solution to the situation of stateless persons, with respect for their dignity, and considered naturalizing those who had lived in Kuwait for a long time or had served in State institutions, as well as children born in Kuwait of foreigners and stateless persons. The Committee recommended that Kuwait issued civil documents to all persons in its territory and provided access to adequate social services, education, housing, property, business registration and employment to stateless persons.
The Committee was concerned at the lack of specific labour legislation that would ensure the protection of foreign and domestic workers. The current sponsorship system for domestic workers did not provide safeguards for their legal protection, and domestic workers in dispute with their employers were often deported by administrative decision, without a court order or possibility of appeal. The Committee was concerned by the abuses suffered by some domestic workers at the hands of police and immigration officials, and by the unavailability of legal remedies to victims. The Committee recommended that Kuwait adopt specific labour legislation ensuring the protection of foreign and domestic workers. It also recommended that Kuwait replaced the sponsorship system with residency permits for domestic workers and established a public body that would regulate the employment of workers in the private sector. The Committee recommended that abusers of domestic workers be investigated, prosecuted and punished, and that quality human rights training be provided to law enforcement officials. The Committee was also concerned that current legislation did not allow Kuwaiti women who married foreigners to pass on their nationality to their children and spouses on an equal footing with Kuwaiti men.
With regard to the combined twelfth to fourteenth periodic reports of Portugal, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments and activities undertaken in fighting racial discrimination, including the amendments introduced to the Portuguese Nationality Act shifting towards a Jus Soli regime for nationality, and establishment of a suspensive effect of the appeal in the admissibility phase of the asylum procedure. The Committee welcomed new action plans for the integration of immigrants, against human trafficking, and for the inclusion of the Roma communities. It also welcomed the creation of the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue and its work to support and foster intercultural dialogue, the establishment of the Roma Support Office, and particularly commended the innovative policies, laws and actions regarding the integration of immigrants.
The Committee noted efforts to address discrimination against Ciganos and Roma peoples, but expressed its deep concern that they were still the most discriminated against and most vulnerable people in Portugal. In addition to housing, there were persistent and continuing concerns with regard to their right to education, health, employment, access to public services and participation in public life. The Committee urged Portugal to promote the economic, social and cultural rights of the Ciganos and Roma, while respecting their culture and ensure that all policies affecting them were designed and implemented with full participation by Ciganos, Roma and their organizations.
The Committee was concerned at the incidence of racist and xenophobic speech emanating from a few extremist political parties, and manifestations of racism and intolerance in sport towards members of ethnic minorities. The Committee was also concerned about reported cases of discriminatory conduct and manifestations of racist stereotypes and prejudice towards individuals of foreign origin and other groups vulnerable to racial discrimination by law enforcement officials. The Committee noted with concern that immigrant women and women belonging to minority groups faced multiple discrimination. The Committee urged Portugal to take effective measures to prevent and prosecute manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and to ensure that training sessions organized for law enforcement officials fully equiped them to respect and protect the fundamental rights of all persons without discrimination. The Committee also urged Portugal to evaluate and monitor racial discrimination against women, particularly immigrant women and women belonging to minority groups.
With regard to the tenth to fourteenth periodic reports of Viet Nam, the Committee welcomed new laws including the Law on Gender Equality, the Law on Resident and the 2008 amendment to the Nationality Law, as well as the establishment of the Ethnic Council. The Committee noted with appreciation the allocation of VND100 billion from state budget to support five ethnic groups, namely Si La, Pu Peo, O du, Brau and Ro Man. It welcomed special measures for the poorest ethnic minorities in the fields of housing, education and language learning.
While noting various measures taken by the State party to reduce poverty and its outstanding achievement of economic development, the Committee remained concerned that not all communities benefited in practice from the economic growth. The Committee was deeply concerned about the sizeable socio-economic gap between disadvantaged ethnic minorities and the majority Kinh, even when they lived in the same mountain area. The State party should take measures to promote equal opportunities for all persons and stimulate economic growth and development for the ethnic minorities groups and the indigenous communities, especially with regard to employment, education and healthcare.
The Committee was concerned about protection for refugees and asylum seekers and reports of forced repatriation, in collaboration with the governments of neighbouring countries, of members of indigenous peoples and of ethnic minorities seeking refuge. The Committee recommended that the State party review the current refugee policy and establish national asylum legislation as well as procedures related to protection of refugees and asylum-seekers in line with international human rights standards. The Committee was deeply concerned about the lack of acknowledgement by governmental officials and the general public of the existence of racial discrimination and inequality between ethnic groups, as well as the persistence of negative societal attitudes and stereotypes against persons of minority ethnic origin. The Committee recommended that the State party took effective steps, including educational campaigns, to eradicate misperceptions and discriminatory stereotypes that stigmatized and marginalized ethnic minorities in order to enhance the capacity of government officials to better protect the rights and interests of minority groups.
With regard to the nineteenth to twentieth periodic reports of Canada, the Committee noted with appreciation new laws and policies including amendments to the Citizenship Act, the Canadian Human Rights act and the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. It noted with appreciation the formal apology delivered, in June 2008, by the Prime Minister of Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to former students, their families and communities for Canada’s role in the operation of the Indian Residential School System; and the apology by the Government of Canada for relocating Inuit from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to the High Arctic in the 1950’s and for the hardship, suffering and loss they experienced. The endorsement by Canada of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was also noted with appreciation.
While appreciating the State party’s efforts, the Committee continued to have residual doubts about use of the term “visible minorities”, which was considered objectionable by certain minorities who claimed that it homogenized experiences of different ethnic groups, and recommended that Canada review implications of using the term “visible minorities” to refer to “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race and non-white in colour”. The Committee was concerned at reports that African Canadians, in particular in Toronto, were subject to racial profiling and harsher treatment by police and judicial officers than the rest of the population, which contributed to overrepresentation of African Canadians in the criminal justice system. The Committee reminded the State party that racial profiling should be prevented at all stages of criminal procedure, and recommended that it take steps to prevent targeting of different groups, particularly African Canadians, on the basis of their ethnicity, and investigate and punish the practice of racial profiling.
The Committee remained concerned that Aboriginal women and girls were disproportionately victims of life-threatening forms of violence, spousal homicides and disappearances and recommended that Canada consider adopting a national plan of action on Aboriginal gender-based violence and conduct culturally-sensitive awareness-raising campaigns on the issue. The Committee was concerned at the persistent marginalization and difficulties faced by Aboriginal people in respect of employment, housing, drinking water, health and education, in particular the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people including Aboriginal women, in prisons and recommended that Canada gave preference, wherever possible, to alternatives to imprisonment. It urged Canada to train its prosecutors, judges, lawyers and police on the Criminal Code, to increase efforts to address socio-economic marginalization of Aboriginal people and realize their economic, social and cultural rights.
With regard to the sixth to seventh periodic reports of Turkmenistan, the Committee noted with interest the adoption of a new version of the Constitution on 26 September 2008 and other legislative acts, and notes with appreciation Turkmenistan’s accession to or ratification of international instruments including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and International Labour Organization Conventions on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and on the status of stateless persons. The Committee also welcomed the new Interdepartmental Commission to enforce human rights obligations, and measures to facilitate return of 7,309 ethnic Turkmens from abroad between 2006 and 2011, to take up residence in their homeland; granting of citizenship to over 13,000 refugees and awarding permanent residence to more than 3,000 other refugees.
While noting that the Labour Code referred to some of the grounds of discrimination enumerated in the Convention, particularly race, the Committee expressed concern at the absence of prohibition of discrimination based on colour and national and ethnic origin, and also at past reported instances of hate speech against national and ethnic minorities by high-ranking officials. The Committee recommends the Government consider amending the Labour Code to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on colour and national and ethnic origin, in line with the Convention, as well as indirect discrimination. The Committee was concerned that children belonging to ethnic minorities had limited possibilities to study and receive education in their mother tongue and urged Turkmenistan to take necessary measures to increase access for children belonging to ethnic and national minorities to study of their mother tongue, through the establishment of schools and provision of textbooks in minority languages. The State party should also take all measures to improve the situation of minority women and girls by enhancing their access to education, health care and employment.
The Committee expressed concerned at reported limitations on access to internet for non-governmental organizations involved in the promotion of human rights, mainly concerning minority groups, in violation of the freedom of expression. The Committee recommended that Turkmenistan avoid arbitrary impediments to receiving and disseminating information through the internet, in accordance with the Convention and other international human rights instruments; and refrain from restricting the operation of websites, blogs or any other internet-based information in violation of the freedom of expression as provided for by international law.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
With regard to the sixteenth to eighteenth periodic reports of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Committee welcomed legislative and policy measures taken by the State party which contribute to combating racial discrimination and the scientific study undertaken on the ethnic composition of the State party’s population which has led to the formal recognition of 49 ethnicities classified into 4 ethno-linguistic groups. It welcomed ratification of five international instruments and noted the improvement in the representation of smaller ethnic groups in elected and public bodies.
While noting the answer given by the delegation of the State party concerning the investigation conducted on the allegations of killings of young Hmong persons in the Xaisomboune Special Zone in May 2004, the Committee remained concerned that allegations of acts of violence against Hmong people were not properly and impartially investigated. The Committee urged the State party to investigate promptly, thoroughly and impartially all allegations of acts of violence against members of the Hmong ethnic group and to invite United Nations human rights bodies to visit the areas where members of the Hmong ethnic groups had taken refuge.
The Committee noted the political will of the State party to reduce poverty in rural areas and improve ethnic groups’ enjoyment of economic and social rights but was concerned that some ethnic groups did not have equal access to public services, such as health and education, either because of language barriers or because of poor provision of those services in remote locations. The Committee noted the development objective of the relocation policy which aimed to settle scattered ethnic communities of the mountainous areas in lowland villages with better access to public services and infrastructure, but was seriously concerned that the policy had uprooted communities who have been forced to adopt new lifestyles and livelihoods. The Committee called upon the State party to continue to address the ethnic and geographical disparities in the delivery of, and access to, public services, and to ensure that those services are culturally adequate.
With regards to the combined thirteenth to sixteenth periodic reports of Qatar, the Committee noted with satisfaction Qatar’s continuing efforts to improve its legal framework to ensure greater protection of human rights of its citizens and foreign residents in Qatar, including the establishment of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the enactment of the Labour Code. The Committee welcomed the recent accession of Qatar to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of the Qatari foundation to Combat Human Trafficking and the Qatari Foundation for the Protection of Women and Children.
The Committee noted with concern that domestic workers were not protected under the Labour Code, but only under bilateral agreements with sending countries. The Committee was concerned that such bilateral agreements may lead to discrimination.
The Committee also noted the Domestic Workers’ Bill, which was to be adopted in June 2012 but regretted that there was a lack of information regarding the contents of the Domestic Workers’ Bill. The Committee requested that Qatar provided information regarding bilateral agreements with sending countries and about the process of the Domestic Worker’s Bill and strongly urged Qatar to put in place effective measures to address multiple-discrimination against female domestic workers, including in their place of work.
The Committee welcomed efforts to improve the sponsorship programme for migrant workers, but was concerned that the fundamental nature of the programme increased the dependency of migrant workers on sponsors rendering them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The Committee also noted concern about discriminatory nationality laws which prevented Qatari women married to non-citizens from transmitting Qatari nationality to their children, which could potentially lead to stateless status of children. The State party was recommended to ensure legal provisions protecting the rights of migrant workers under the sponsorship programme were fully enforced and to provide effective legal remedies to migrant workers whose rights were violated. The Committee also recommended that Qatar revised its nationality laws to allow Qatari women to transmit their citizenship to their children without discrimination.
With regard to the combined thirteenth to seventeenth periodic reports of Jordan, the Committee welcomed the recent amendments to its Labour Code, in August 2010, which enlarged the scope of labour law to include migrant domestic workers. The Committee noted with appreciation the establishment, in 2002, of a National Human Rights Centre in accordance with the Paris Principles, and Jordan’s accession to several international instruments including the Convention against Transnational Crime, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and International Labour Organisation Convention 182.
The Committee expressed deep concern about the State party’s withdrawal of nationality from nationals who were of Palestinian origin, and said it violated Jordanian and international law. The Committee also expressed grave concern that those persons may be rendered stateless and without rights to education, health care, property, or residency in Jordan. The Committee urged Jordan to discontinue the withdrawal of nationality from persons originating from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and called for the restoration of nationality to persons affected by previous and current nationality withdrawal. The Committee also recommended that Jordan consider accession to the Convention on the Status of Refugees, the Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
The Committee remained concerned by the absence of a Constitutional Court to oversee the conformity of Jordanian legislation with the Constitution and the Convention, and by the absence of information on complaints, judgements and compensation awards arising from racist acts. The Committee urged Jordan to expeditiously establish an operational mechanism to receive complains about racist acts, investigate them and issue commensurate sanctions and compensation. Jordan was also urged to systematically compile information on complaints received and the specific actions taken in response to them. The Committee urged Jordan to undertake a systematic and inter-agency assessment of its existing measures to combat racial prejudice and discrimination, and that such an assessment be used to guide further Government policies and programmes to address discrimination in education, culture, media, as well as to facilitate further increase in knowledge of the Convention.
With regard to the combined sixteenth to eighteenth periodic reports of Italy, the Committee welcomed legislative measures reversing the burden of proof on the defendant for civil cases of racial discrimination and the creation of a working group tasked to prepare by September 2012 a new National Plan of Action against all forms of racial discrimination. The Committee noted with particular interest the creation of a new Ministry for Cooperation and Integration, to be responsible for interethnic relations, and the upcoming revision of Law No. 482/1999 to allow the recognition of Roma, Sinti and Camminanti communities as minorities.
The Committee deplored the targeted evictions of Roma and Sinti communities which have taken place since 2008 and that the Roma, Sinti and Camminanti populations, both citizens and non-citizens, lived in a situation of de facto segregation from the rest of the population in camps that often lacked the most basic facilities. The Committee expressed extreme concern by the “Nomad Emergency Decree” regarding the settlements of nomad communities in Italy, and the May 2008 census, in the course of which fingerprints and photographs of camps’ residents Roma and Sinti, including children, were collected. The Committee encouraged Italy to intensify efforts to avoid residential segregation of Roma and Sinti communities, both citizens and non-citizens, and to develop social housing programmes for them. It also recommended that Italy refrained from conducting emergency censuses targeted at minority groups and informed the communities concerned that data from the previous emergency census had been destroyed.
The Committee was extremely concerned by several cases of racist violence and the murders of a number of migrants, and the prevalence of racist discourse, stigmatization and stereotypes directed against people of African descent, Roma, Sinti, Camminanti and non-citizens. It also expressed concern about the precarious conditions in assistance, reception and identification centres have worsened with the arrival of migrants from North Africa, particularly in recent years. The Committee recommended that Italy ensure that racist statements in the media were prosecuted and victims granted reparations, and raise awareness among media professionals of their responsibility not to disseminate prejudice. It also recommended adoption of measures to prevent racially motivated acts of violence, to ensure prompt action by the police, prosecutors and judges and ensure that perpetrators, including political authorities, did not enjoy de jure or de facto impunity. The Committee recommended Italy take necessary measures to ensure that conditions in centres for refugees and asylum-seekers met international standards.
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