ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
4-22 March 2002
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 sixteenth periodic report
of Costa Rica (CERD/C/384/Add.5), which was due on 4 January
2000, at its 1513th and 1514th meetings, held on 15 and
18 March 2002 (CERD/C/SR.1513 and 1514). At its 1521st
meeting (CERD/C/SR.1521), held on 21 March 2002, it adopted
the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the detailed report submitted
by the State party, the contents of which correspond to
the Committee's revised reporting guidelines (CERD/C/70/Rev.5),
and the fact that the report was prepared in consultation
with non-governmental organizations.
3. The Committee commends the State party for the regularity
of its submission of its periodic reports under the Convention.
The Committee expresses its appreciation for the self-critical
tone of the report and for the frank and constructive
dialogue held with the representatives of the State party.
The Committee appreciates the substantial additional oral
information provided by the delegation in response to
the questions asked.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee notes that according to article 7 of
the Constitution of Costa Rica, international human rights
treaties take precedence over domestic legislation. It
also welcomes the fact that such treaties, insofar as
they recognize a broader range of rights or guarantees
than in the Constitution, take precedence over constitutional
provisions. It further welcomes the fact that international
human rights treaties can be invoked directly before the
5. The Committee notes the adoption in May 1999 of article
76 of the Constitution, according to which the State shall
ensure that the national indigenous languages are safeguarded.
6. The Committee notes with satisfaction that during the
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the President of Costa
Rica publicly apologized for past errors committed against
Afro-Costa Ricans. It further welcomes the commemoration
of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination in schools, in accordance with paragraph
131 of the Durban Programme of Action.
7. The Committee welcomes the recent (January 2002) adoption
of a resolution by the Office of the National Control
of Propaganda prohibiting any radio broadcast or transmission,
or any commercial product depicting bias against women,
particularly black women.
8. The Committee welcomes the State party's ratification
of the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention.
9. The Committee welcomes the recently issued standing
invitation to visit the country transmitted by the Government
of Costa Rica to all mechanisms of the Commission on Human
Rights, including the Special Rapporteur on contemporary
forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and
C. Concerns and recommendations
10. The Committee is concerned that under Costa Rican
legislation racial discrimination is considered merely
a misdemeanour subject to a financial penalty. The State
party is invited to consider whether such penalties are
commensurate with the gravity of the acts committed.
11. The Committee is concerned at the situation of indigenous
people, in particularly:
(a) Information according to which indigenous people living
in remote regions suffer, inter alia, from lack of health
care, education, drinking water and electricity;
(b) Problems of ownership of land; that land has reportedly
been appropriated by migrants and transnational enterprises;
(c) Difficulties faced by indigenous people in obtaining
public funds for the improvement of their living standards;
(d) The fact that infant mortality among indigenous communities
is reportedly three times higher than the national average.
The Committee invites the State party to continue to pay
due attention to the specific needs of this population.
It recommends that the State party undertake the necessary
measures to protect indigenous lands from being invaded
and to enable the restitution of those lands that have
been occupied by non-indigenous persons.
12. The Committee takes note of the fact that the draft
Act for the Autonomous Development of the Indigenous Peoples,
aimed at granting full autonomy to indigenous peoples
and recognizing their right to enjoy their own cultures,
as well as the right to administer their territories,
was withdrawn in the Legislative Assembly. The Committee
notes that in June 2001, a draft act, similar in content
to the draft Act for the Autonomous Development of the
Indigenous Peoples, was presented in the Legislative Assembly.
The Committee requests the State party to provide information
about developments in this regard.
13. The Committee notes with concern the shortcomings
of the State party in its activities on behalf of indigenous
peoples, as reported by the Office of the Ombudsman, in
particular the failure on the part of the authorities
to maintain communication with the indigenous population
and the absence of specific government plans for them.
In this context, the Committee wishes to refer to its
general recommendation XXIII, in which it calls upon States
parties to ensure that members of indigenous peoples have
equal rights in respect of effective participation in
public life and that no decisions directly relating to
their rights and interests are taken without their informed
14. The Committee expresses concern at alleged manifestations
in the media of racism, xenophobia and intolerance against
minority groups. The State party should support the adoption
of a code of ethics for the media.
15. The Committee is also concerned at the living and
working conditions of immigrants, most of them from Nicaragua,
who may become victims of discrimination in terms of article
5 of the Convention. The Committee recommends that the
State party continue its efforts to ensure the rights
of the immigrant population as regards discrimination
on the grounds of race or ethnic or national origin. In
this context, the Committee notes that a new immigration
law is currently being considered by the Legislative Assembly.
The Committee requests the State party to provide further
information on developments in this regard in its next
16. The Committee expresses concern at the alleged discriminatory
application of legislation in force on refugee status
determination procedure. According to information received,
the requirements set by that legislation to determine
refugee status are applied differently to different nationalities.
The Committee recommends that the State party ensure equal
treatment for all asylum-seekers in refugee status determination
proceedings, and in particular Colombians.
17. While commending the efficiency and credibility of
the Costa Rican judicial system, the Committee expresses
concern at information concerning the lack of equal access
to the courts,
particularly by minority and ethnic groups. The Committee
encourages the State party to continue to make efforts
to ensure de facto equal access to the courts to all persons,
including members of minority and ethnic groups.
18. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of
representation of minorities at the judicial and governmental
levels. The Committee recommends that the State party
undertake affirmative action to ensure such minority representation.
19. While noting that there is no regulation of the Internet
in national legislation, the Committee encourages the
State party to adopt legislation in conformity with the
Convention and to disseminate and promote the Convention
by every means possible, including the Internet.
20. The Committee recommends that the State party continue
to undertake educational campaigns to raise awareness
of human rights, and in particular of issues concerning
racism, xenophobia and intolerance, in order to prevent
and combat all forms of discrimination.
21. The Committee recommends that the State party's reports
be made readily available to the public from the time
they are submitted and that the Committee's concluding
observations on them be similarly publicized. It encourages
the State party to continue inserting the Committee's
concluding observations on the appropriate web site.
22. The Committee recommends that the State party take
into account the relevant parts of the Durban Declaration
and Programme of Action when implementing the Convention
in the domestic legal order, in particular in respect
of articles 2 to 7 of the Convention, and that it include
in its next periodic report information on action plans
or other measures taken to implement the Durban Declaration
and Programme of Action at national level.
23. The Committee recommends that the State party submit
its seventeenth periodic report jointly with its eighteenth
periodic report, due on 4 January 2004, as an updating
report, and that it address the points raised in the present
* Please note that the symbol CERD/C/Session No./CO/… will
from now on replace the previous symbol CERD/C/304/Add…