28 August 2009
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
3-28 August 2009
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
1. The Committee considered the consolidated fifth and sixth periodic reports of Azerbaijan (CERD/C/AZE/6) at its 1946th and 1947th meetings (CERD/C/SR/1946 and CERD/C/SR/1947), held on 11th and 12th August 2009. At its 1968th meeting (CERD/C/SR/1968), held on 26 August 2009, it adopted the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the timely submission of the fifth and sixth joint periodic report of Azerbaijan (CERD/C/AZE/6), which has been prepared in conformity with the reporting guidelines. The Committee was encouraged by the attendance of the high-ranking delegation and expresses its appreciation for the opportunity to continue its dialogue with the State party. The Committee, while expressing its satisfaction for the updated information provided orally by the delegation, would have preferred that the written replies in response to the list of issues were submitted well in advance to allow timely translation into all the Committee’s working languages.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention
3. While acknowledging the State party’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, the Committee is deeply concerned about the persistence of this conflict and its negative influence, at the national and regional levels, on the exercise and full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Convention, in particular by internally displaced persons.
C. Positive aspects
4. The Committee commends the State party for the continuing process of bringing its domestic legislation into line with the provisions of the Convention and other human rights treaties. It welcomes the legislative, administrative and practical measures taken, as well as the constitutional amendments made, to improve the promotion and protection of human rights in the State party since the examination of the forth periodic report, in particular:
a) The “National Plan of Action for the Protection of Human Rights in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, approved by Decree of the Head of State of 28 December 2006, aimed at inter alia strengthening the dialogue between cultures and cooperation among religions, protection and further development of the cultural heritage of national minorities, development of legal awareness and legal culture of the population and the prohibition of discrimination;
b) The amendment to Article 25 of the Constitution to introduce the prohibition of the granting of privileges or denial of benefits to anyone on the basis of race, nationality, religion, language, sex or other grounds;
c) The ratification by the State party in January 2009 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, as well as of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
d) The measures undertaken by the State party to simplify migration procedures, such as the Presidential Decree of 4 March 2009 on the application of the “single window” principle, the establishment by Decree 560 (2007) of the State Migration Service, the cancellation of entry-exit visas for foreigners and stateless persons who have received permission for temporary and permanent residence in the State party, and the preparation of a draft Migration Code, which the Committee hopes will be fully consistent with the rights recognized by the Convention and other international human rights treaties;
e) The efforts undertaken by the State party to promote culture of religious tolerance, as already emphasized in the Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, on her mission to Azerbaijan (A/HRC/4/21/Add.2);
f) The reforms undertaken in the judiciary and in particular the progress made during the reporting period, with regard to the amendment of the Judges Act, the adoption of the Judicial Council Act, the establishment of the statute of the Judges’ Selection Committee and the Code of Ethics for Judges;
g) The activities carried out by the Ombudsperson’s Office to raise awareness with regard to provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination the opening of regional centres of the Ombudsperson in different districts of the Republic of Azerbaijan, namely in Guba, Sheki, Gandja and Jalilabad;
h) The progress made in combating trafficking in human beings, through the adoption of the Law on Combating Human Trafficking in 2005, the amendment of the Criminal Code in 2005, the adoption of the National Plan of Action of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for the period 2009-2013 and the creation of a relief fund for victims of human trafficking.
D. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
5. While noting that significant progress has been made by the State party in protecting the economic, social and cultural rights of persons affected by internal displacement, as well as asylum-seekers and refugees, the Committee is still concerned that asylum-seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons continue to experience discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing and health. The Committee notes with concern that internally displaced women and children remain in a particularly vulnerable and marginalized situation. The Committee further observes that, while the State party generally endeavours to comply with the standards of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, some asylum-seekers, including Russian citizens from Chechnya, are allegedly excluded from the refugee determination procedure of the State party.
The Committee calls upon the State party to ensure the non-discriminatory implementation of each of the rights and freedoms referred to in Article 5 of the Convention for all groups of the populations. The Committee requests the State party to include, in its next periodic report, information on measures taken in this regard, and draws the attention of the State party to its general recommendation No. 30 (2004) on discrimination against non-citizens. Furthermore, the Committee requests the State party:
a) to ensure equal opportunities for displaced persons, and to allow for their enhanced participation in the formulation of Sate policies and programmes concerning their interests, in particular with regard to the planning of new settlements, improved access to employment, housing, health care and quality education, and measures to encourage mixed schooling with local children. In this respect, it recommends the State party pay special attention to the situation of women and children;
b) to ensure that all refugees and asylum-seekers receive equal treatment and to remedy the difficulties encountered by some asylum-seekers, including the Russian citizens from Chechnya, to access refugee status determination procedure and a residence registration (“propiska”) in order to access employment, health, and other social and economic rights. The Committee also recommends that the State party consider granting a temporary form of protection for persons who are requesting refugee status under the 1951 Convention but who nonetheless are in need of international protection during the consideration of their request. The Committee also recommends that the State party provide training to public officials and law enforcement officers with the aim of avoiding any tendency towards discriminatory conduct.
6. The Committee, while commending the efforts of the State party to reduce poverty, including through adoption of the Targeted State Social Assistance Act, which entered into force on 1 January 2006, remains concerned about significant disparities in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that persist in the State party and particularly affect ethnic groups in rural and remote mountainous areas (Article 5 (e)).
The Committee recalls that a low level of economic and social development of areas inhabited by certain ethnic groups as compared with the rest of the population might be an indication of de facto discrimination, even if it is not the result of deliberate Government policies. The Committee therefore recommends that the State party conduct studies with a view to assessing and evaluating the level of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by different ethnic groups and provide statistics disaggregated by ethnic group on political participation and the standard of living of the population in its next periodic report.
7. While acknowledging the State party’s efforts to combat human trafficking including foreign victims, especially through adoption of the National Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (2009-2013) and the creation of a relief fund for victims of human trafficking, the Committee is concerned that human trafficking remains a serious problem (Article 5).