11 August 2014
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination opened its eighty-fifth session this morning, hearing an address by Carla Edelenbos, Chief of the Petitions and Inquiries Section, Human Rights Treaties Division. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work, which includes review of the reports of El Salvador, United States, Peru, Cameron, Iraq, Japan and Estonia as well as informal consultations with non-governmental organization representatives.
In her opening statement, Carla Edelenbos, Chief of the Petitions and Inquiries Section, Human Rights Treaties Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted developments of interest to the Committee since its last session in February 2014. The ratification of the Convention by the State of Palestine on 2 April 2014 brought the number of States parties to 177, a high number which reflected the international community’s continuing interest in advancing the objectives of the Convention. She also announced that under the General Assembly resolution on treaty body strengthening the Committee had been granted four extra weeks of plenary time next year, which would be used to deal with in-coming reports as well as to reduce its backlog.
Together with Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, Chairperson of the Committee, Ms. Edelenbos held a discussion with Committee members in which matters raised included the allocation of time to hear from the large number of non-governmental organization representatives taking part in the session, as well as plans for the allocation of the extra four weeks of plenary time, and questions about the scheduled review of the report of Iraq.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon at the Palais Wilson for a public informal meeting with non-governmental organizations who would talk about the situation in El Salvador and Peru. On Tuesday, 12 August it will hold a public informal meeting with non-governmental organizations from the United States, at 10 a.m. in Room XVIII of the Palais des Nations. The reports of those countries, and the Committee’s programme of work, can be accessed in the background press release.
CARLA EDELENBOS, Chief of the Petitions and Inquiries Section, Human Rights Treaties Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, began by extending her gratitude to the Committee for its continued efforts to combat and condemn racial discrimination around the world. The Committee had a heavy agenda this session, including the examination of seven State party reports, follow-up procedure for several countries, an individual communication and discussions on working methods. Highlighting developments of interest to the Committee since its last session in February 2014, Ms. Edelenbos said the ratification of the Convention by the State of Palestine on 2 April 2014 brought the number of States parties to 177 – a high number that reflected the international community’s continuing interest in advancing the objectives of the Convention.
Ms. Edelenbos announced that the Committee had been granted four extra weeks of plenary time next year under the General Assembly resolution adopted in April on strengthening the human rights treaty body system. The time would be used to deal with in-coming reports and to reduce the Committee’s backlog. Ms. Edelenbos also informed the Committee of a new activity undertaken by the Petitions Section; the production of a treaty body case law note. The trimestral note would summarize highlights of recent developments in the jurisprudence of all treaty bodies through individual cases.
On developments in the field of non-discrimination, Ms. Edelenbos said the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to take place in New York on 22 and 23 September 2014, was expected to produce an action-orientated document to promote the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights. The draft resolution asked the human rights treaty bodies to help in its implementation, she noted. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism delivered a report on racism on the internet and social media at the June session of the Human Rights Council. The report emphasized that although the internet was a formidable vehicle for the exercise of free speech, it could also provide a powerful platform for the rapid dissemination of racist ideas, ideologies and incitement to hatred, and the Special Rapporteur specifically acknowledged the significant contributions made by the Committee to the discussion, including its General Recommendation on combating racist hate speech.
In her address Ms. Edelenbos referred to a recent statement by the Special Rapporteur on minority issues which called upon European Governments and institutions to increase their efforts to include Roma populations in decision-making and politics. She also briefed on the fourteenth session of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which met in Geneva earlier this year to discuss access to justice for people of African descent. The Working Group had called upon Member States to take into account the Committee’s General Recommendation Number 32 on the issue.
In the discussion Committee members raised several issues. An expert asked whether the scheduled review of the report of Iraq would be able to take place effectively, given the current crisis in the country. Another asked about a new mechanism to encourage States parties to submit their report on time. The use of the extra four weeks of plenary time given to the Committee was also considered.
JOSE FRANCISCO CALI TZAY, Chairperson of the Committee, answered the question about the planned review of Iraq. He said that when a State expressed a desire to come and present its report, the Committee could not tell them not to come. Iraq had signalled its intention to attend with a 15 person delegation, led by the Minister for Human Rights. The Chairperson said he thought it would be an excellent opportunity for the Minister to share his experiences of the current situation. It was indeed a very exceptional situation in Iraq, but the delegation wanted to come and therefore the Committee would welcome them.
Ms. Edelenbos responded to the other questions. She explained that the new, simpler reporting process would make it much easier for States to submit their initial reports, because those reports would now simply be responses to questions set by the Committee. She also spoke about possibilities of new capacity-building efforts for States from 1 January 2015, and said meetings had been arranged for discussions on how the additional four weeks of plenary time could best be used.
Adoption of Agenda and Programme of Work
JOSE FRANCISCO CALI TZAY, Chairperson of the Committee, welcomed the very large number of non-governmental organization representatives from the States parties being reviewed, as well as members of the indigenous populations around the world, who were in Geneva to take part in the session. The Committee had received a wealth of alternative reports. As a consequence of the large number of non-governmental organizations from the United States, the Committee had revised its programme of work in order to dedicate all of the Tuesday morning meeting with them, he noted.
The Committee then adopted its agenda and the programme of work.
For use of the information media; not an official record