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 fourteenth periodic report of Iceland (CERD/C/299/Add.4), at
its 1202nd meeting (CERD/C/SR.1202), on 13 March 1997. At its 1212th
meeting, held on 20 March 1997, it adopted the following concluding
2. The Committee commends
the State party on the quality of its report, submitted in due time
and drawn up in accordance with the Committee's guidelines. 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 they provided
with regard to recent developments relating to the implementation
of the Convention in Iceland.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the
implementation of the Convention
3. The Committee notes
that whereas Iceland has incorporated the European Convention on
Human Rights into Icelandic law, by Act No. 62/1994, it has not
done so with regard to the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Conferring constitutional
status on the Convention would enhance its effectiveness by providing
for direct domestic application.
C. Positive factors
4. The Committee expresses
satisfaction that in February 1995 the Althing, Iceland's legislature,
amended its Constitution to reflect provisions of human rights treaties
to which Iceland is a party. The amendment provides for extensive
changes and additions to human rights provisions previously in effect.
Whereas the principle of equality had been unwritten law and practice
in Iceland, the new constitutional provisions now render it written
law. Of particular relevance to the Committee is section 65, subsection
1, which stipulates equality without regard to national origin,
race or colour. The Committee also welcomes the 1996 amendment to
the Personal Names Act, abolishing the requirement that a naturalized
foreigner assume an Icelandic-sounding family name. Henceforth,
both the naturalized person and his children can retain their family
5. The Committee welcomes
the fact that the Althing adopted changes to the Penal Code in December
1996 making racial discrimination punishable by law. This goes beyond
the previously existing penal provisions of section 233 (a) of the
Penal Code concerning public attacks on a group of persons on the
grounds of their nationality, colour, race or religion, and of section
125 concerning ridicule of the religion or worship of a lawful religious
community in Iceland.
6. Iceland's information
on the implementation of article 7 of the Convention is appreciated.
In particular, the Committee is pleased that Iceland has issued
and widely distributed a brochure containing the Convention, and
that Iceland's Human Rights Office undertakes special lectures on
human rights and tolerance for persons working with and teaching
immigrants. Human rights education is provided both in the schools
and for the adult population. In the Icelandic School for Policemen
a general course on human rights is compulsory, and all major international
conventions on human rights are introduced to the students.
7. The Committee commends
the State party for having distributed the Committee's concluding
observations concerning Iceland's previous reports to the public
media, most of which commented on them, thereby providing an occasion
for public debate in Iceland.
8. The Committee welcomes
the establishment of a special Information and Cultural Centre for
Foreigners in Reykjavik in 1994, which, inter alia, provides
practical information concerning residents' permits, health care,
social services, insurance and the school system.
9. The Committee notes
with satisfaction that Iceland has made the declaration under article
14 of the Convention, thus enabling its residents to avail themselves
of the individual communications procedure.
D. Principal subjects of concern
10. The Committee notes
that its previous concluding observations, dated 17 August 1994,
contained four recommendations concerning the Convention's status
in the domestic legal order of Iceland, measures to implement fully
the provisions of article 4 of the Convention, measures to combat
racial discrimination in the fields of teaching, education, culture
or information, and acceptance of the amendment to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention. Iceland has partially implemented only one
of those recommendations, concerning article 4 of the Convention,
and has not provided the Committee with any explanation of why it
has not been able to implement the other three.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
11. The Committee suggests
that further publicity be given to the State party's declaration
under article 14, so as to make this recourse more widely available
to the residents of Iceland.
12. The Committee reiterates
its previous recommendations to fully implement article 4 of the
Convention and to adopt measures according to article 7 in the field
of teaching, education, culture and information.
13. In its forthcoming
report, the Committee would welcome further information on the naturalization
law and its mechanisms.
14. The Committee invites
the State party to make its report and the Committee's concluding
observations widely available in Iceland with a view to enhancing
public awareness of the problems and dangers of racial discrimination.
The Committee would welcome information on relevant public debate
in the forthcoming report.
15. The Committee recommends
that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention adopted at the 14th meeting of States parties.
16. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report be an updating report
and that it address all the points raised during the consideration
of the report.