COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
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 twelfth to fifteenth periodic reports
of Costa Rica (CERD/C/338/Add.4), at its 1321st and 1322nd meetings
(CERD/C/SR.1321 and 1322), held on 11 and 12 March 1999, and adopted,
at its 1331st meeting (CERD/C/SR.1331), held on 18 March 1999, the following
2. The Committee welcomes the opportunity to resume its
dialogue with the State party after a lapse of seven years. The Committee
is satisfied with the frank and constructive approach taken by the representatives
of the reporting State in their dialogue with the Committee and for
the additional information provided orally.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee welcomes the information provided by
the State party that the Convention is directly applicable in the Costa
Rican legal system and that it takes precedence over domestic legislation.
4. The Committee notes with interest the State party's
efforts to promote equal opportunity for the indigenous population,
and in particular the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous
and Tribal Peoples (1989), the existence of the National Indigenous
Affairs Commission (CONAI) and the Office of the Ombudsman and the bill
for the autonomous development of the indigenous people, which has been
presented before the Legislative Assembly.
5. The Committee notes with appreciation that, even in
times of economic crisis or natural disaster, the State party has traditionally
maintained a generous refugee and immigration policy. It notes with
particular interest that a "migratory amnesty" is currently in force,
from 1 February 1999 to 31 July 1999, allowing for the regularization
of the situation of a large number of clandestine immigrants in order
to ensure their enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights, particularly
in regard to work.
C. Principal subjects of concern
6. While noting the concern of the State party to eliminate
any difference of treatment in law not based on rational elements, the
Committee is preoccupied that the legislation of Costa Rica does not
contain explicit norms forbidding discrimination on the grounds of national
or ethnic origin.
7. While noting that Act No. 4430 of 21 May 1968 and Act
No. 4466 of 19 November 1969 render punishable by a fine any racial
segregation with regard to the admission of people of different races
to public or private places, the Committee is concerned that the financial
penalties thus provided for do not constitute a sufficiently effective
measure to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of racial segregation,
as required by article 3 of the Convention.
8. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the Committee
is concerned about the lack of specific and adequate legislative provisions
prohibiting racial discrimination by private groups or associations.
It stresses that article 2, paragraph 1 (d), of the Convention makes
it an obligation for States parties to prohibit racial discrimination
committed not only by individuals but "by any persons, group or organization".
9. The Committee notes with concern recent manifestations
of xenophobia and racial discrimination, largely focused on immigrants,
in particular Nicaraguans. In this context, the Committee also expresses
its concern about the vulnerable status of refugees and clandestine
immigrants, who often live and work in the country in precarious conditions,
and who frequently become victims of discrimination in the terms of
article 5 of the Convention, in particular paragraph 5 (e).
10. The Committee remains concerned at the situation with
regard to the land rights of indigenous peoples in the State party.
Despite the efforts made, problems relating to the allocation of land
and/or compensation persist. Of special concern have been confrontations
arising over the ownership of property, in the course of which indigenous
people were killed and vandalism occurred, as in the case of Talamanca.
11. Noting that few cases of racial discrimination have
reached the courts or administrative bodies, the Committee is concerned
about the effective access to protection and remedies against any acts
of racial discrimination of, in particular, the indigenous population,
the black minority, refugees and immigrants.
12. The Committee notes with concern that the report of
the State party is devoted mainly to the existing legal and administrative
framework for ensuring protection against racial discrimination, whereas
insufficient information is given to allow an evaluation of the effective
enjoyment of the rights provided for by the Convention, in particular
by the indigenous population, the black minority, refugees and immigrants.
13. With respect to article 7 of the Convention, the Committee
notes that limited information has been given concerning the State party's
undertaking to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly
in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with
a view to combating prejudice which leads to racial discrimination.
D. Suggestions and recommendations
14. The Committee recommends that the State party take
all appropriate legislative measures to ensure that articles 2 and 4
of the Convention are fully reflected in domestic law. In particular,
the Committee emphasizes the importance of adequately prohibiting and
penalizing acts of racial segregation and discrimination, whether they
are committed by individuals or associations.
15. It is also recommended that the State party intensify
its measures aimed at preventing and prosecuting any act or manifestation
of racial discrimination or xenophobia, including acts of violence against
persons belonging to ethnic and national minorities.
16. The Committee recommends that the next periodic report
of the State party should include information on the scope and the implications
of the new immigration legislation.
17. It is also recommended that the State party take immediate
and appropriate measures to ensure the enjoyment of the provisions of
article 5 of the Convention also by the indigenous population, the black
minority, refugees and immigrants.
18. The Committee recommends that the State party intensify
its efforts to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of land, taking
into account the needs of the indigenous population. The Committee stresses
the importance that the land holds for indigenous peoples and their
spiritual and cultural identity, including the fact that they have a
different concept of land use and ownership. In this regard, the approval
by the Legislative Assembly of the bill for the autonomous development
of indigenous people would be of great importance.
19. With regard to article 6 of the Convention, the Committee
recommends that the State party make additional efforts to facilitate
equal access to the courts and administrative bodies, in particular
for the indigenous population, the black minority, refugees and immigrants,
in order to ensure equality for all persons.
20. The State party is invited to provide further information
on the following issues: (a) the effective enjoyment of the rights set
out in the Convention, in particular by the indigenous population, the
black population, refugees and immigrants and; (b) measures taken in
the field of teaching, education, culture and information in order to
combat racial discrimination, in compliance with article 7 of the Convention.
21. The Committee recommends that the State party ratify
the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6 of the Convention adopted on
15 January 1992 at the Fourteenth Meeting of State Parties to the Convention.
22. The Committee requests that the State party give wide
publicity to its report to the Committee, as well as the present concluding
23. The Committee recommends that the State party's next
periodic report, due on 4 January 2000, be an updating report and that
it address all the suggestions and recommendations contained in the
present concluding observations.