Human Rigths: UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination publishes findings on Bolivia, Bulgaria, Germany, Morocco, South Africa and Viet Nam

Geneva, 8 December, 2023.- The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Friday issued its findings on Bolivia, Bulgaria, Germany, Morocco, South Africa and Viet Nam after reviewing the six States parties in its latest session.

The findings contain the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as positive aspects. Key highlights include:

The Committee expressed concerns about persistent structural issues within Bolivia’s justice system, such as the lack of independence, inadequate budget, limited geographical coverage, and the absence of translation and interpretation in Indigenous languages in justice services. The Committee recommended that Bolivia expedite its judiciary reforms to ensure autonomy and impartiality, guarantee comprehensive coverage, including the remote areas, and provide culturally sensitive adaptations in the justice services to protect victims of racial discrimination. It also called for sufficient allocation of resources to the Plurinational Public Defence Service to empower the judicial system.

The Committee restated its concern that the non-discrimination principle had not been applied adequately and that there weren’t enough steps taken to address structural racism, stereotypes, and prejudices, impeding the establishment of a pluralistic society. It recommended that Bolivia consult with Indigenous Original Campesino Peoples and Nations, the Afro-Bolivian People, and other human rights groups for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons, to implement guidelines to combat racism. The Committee also proposed the establishment of inclusive spaces for intercultural dialogue through the Departmental Committees to nurture mutual understanding and acceptance within Bolivia’s diverse society.

The Committee voiced its concerns about the absence of comprehensive integration programs for migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons, as well as the continuous difficulties in their access to essential services such as education and healthcare. The Committee recommended that Bulgaria establish a functional local integration mechanism for these people in education, employment, housing, social assistance, and healthcare services, and adopt a national strategy and an action plan with a time frame for monitoring the implementation.

The Committee was concerned that a considerable number of Roma were unable to obtain identity documents, limiting their access to education, work, health care, voting and free movement, and hindering their marriage and birth registrations. It suggested that Bulgaria speed up the amendment of the Civil Registry Act to address the administrative shortcomings in order to remove the legal and other barriers to Roma people obtaining identity cards. It also asked Bulgaria to provide durable solutions to ensure that people without identity documents can enjoy their fundamental rights under the Convention.

Despite the measures adopted by the State party, the Committee was disturbed by the increasing number of extremist organisations and groups, including right-wing extremist political parties, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose programme is reportedly based on a national-ethnic concept. The Committee called on Germany to implement effective measures to prevent and combat the creation and registration of organisations or groups, including political parties that promote and incite racial hatred and to ensure that electoral democratic processes do not tolerate such groups, including political parties that promote ideas of superiority of one race. The Committee was also concerned about alleged racial profiling and excessive use of force and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers against ethnic minorities. The Committee asked Germany to prohibit racial profiling by law and establish an independent complaint mechanism to investigate all such abuses.

The Committee welcomed Germany’s acknowledgement and apology for the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples and colonial wrongdoings in Tanzania. The Committee, however, voiced its concern over the lack of a full reparation for colonial wrongdoings. The Committee recommended that Germany implement comprehensive restitution and compensation for the descendants of victims. It also asked the State party to adopt an extensive policy for repatriating colonial objects and cultural artefacts, particularly the restitution and repatriation of ancestors’ human remains.

While welcoming the official recognition of the Amazigh language in the Constitution, the Committee expressed concern that it was not sufficiently taught in schools and had limited broadcasting space in the audiovisual media, making it difficult for Amazighs to use their language in legal proceedings and official documents. It recommended that Morocco intensify its efforts to implement the constitutional provisions and the relevant Organic Law and increase the teaching of Amazigh at all levels of education. It also asked Morocco to improve the presence of the Amazigh language and culture in the audiovisual media and to revise the legal framework so that the Amazigh language is used equally with Arabic in courts.

The Committee welcomed the 2013 National Immigration and Asylum Strategy but expressed concern about allegations of racial profiling and excessive use of force by Moroccan police and other law enforcement officials against migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees, as well as arbitrary arrests, detentions, and forced relocation from the north to the south, which disproportionately affected black migrants from sub-Saharan countries. The Committee called on Morocco to prohibit racial profiling in its legislation and take appropriate measures to end arbitrary arrests and detentions, forced relocations, and excessive use of force, particularly regarding migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees from sub-Saharan countries. It also asked the State party to investigate all racial profiling, ill-treatment, and abuse of authority by law enforcement officials, prosecute and sanction those responsible, and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.

South Africa
The Committee raised concerns about the delay in adopting the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill since 2016, and the lack of comprehensive laws criminalising racist hate speech and hate crimes. It also expressed concerns about the prevalence of hate crime and racist hate speech, including in the media, on the Internet and in social media, particularly against non-citizens. The Committee called on South Africa to accelerate the legislation process and adopt measures to address the spread of racist hate speech across all platforms.

The Committee was alarmed by the rise in harassment and large-scale and organised violent attacks against refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and migrants perpetuated by civilians, organised vigilante groups and law enforcement officials. It was also concerned about the lack of information on investigations into these violations and abuses as well as on remedies and support for victims. The Committee urged South Africa to conduct effective and impartial investigations and to ensure that law enforcement authorities respond objectively and proportionately to hate speech, harassment and violent attacks against non-citizens and guarantee their protection, including the protection of their property.

Viet Nam
The Committee called for a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolish it, citing concerns about its disproportionate application in cases involving ethnic minorities, many of whom were convicted under vague and broad Criminal Code provisions. The Committee also raised its concern that official data on the number of individuals sentenced to death, on death row and executed is not published. It recommended that Viet Nam collect and publish death penalty data, disaggregated by ethnicity and national origin, following the United Nations Safeguards protecting the rights of those facing the death penalty.

The Committee expressed its deep concern about alleged harassment, intimidation, threats, and the use of force against ethno-religious minority groups, including the Christian Montagnards and Buddhist Khmer Krom, who refuse to renounce their faith or join the State-controlled religious associations. The Committee called for an immediate end to such acts in conjunction with investigations, prosecutions, proportionate penalties for those convicted and effective remedies for victims. While raising its concern over registration requirements for religious associations, the Committee recommended that Viet Nam review and amend these requirements while guaranteeing the equal enjoyment of everyone, particularly those from ethno-religious minority groups, to manifest their religion or belief.

The above findings, officially named Concluding Observations, are now available online on the session webpage

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