University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, United Arab Emirates, U.N. Doc. A/50/18, paras. 542-572 (1995).



Forty-seventh session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination

United Arab Emirates

The Committee considered the eleventh periodic report of the United Arab Emirates (CERD/C/279/Add.1) at its 1114th meeting, on 9 August 1995 (CERD/C/SR.1113).

The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who asked the Committee to excuse his Government's absence from the Committee's work for a number of years and the late submission of the periodic report, which was due to external circumstances and to administrative factors. He recalled that his country was a young country, which had not gained its independence until 2 December 1971.

He explained that the Constitution and a number of legislative provisions, some of them enacted under the British Protectorate, guaranteed all persons within the territory of the United Arab Emirates freedom of opinion and expression, religious freedom and the right of appeal to the courts if those rights were violated.

Foreign communities in the United Arab Emirates had the right to open private schools providing instruction in their own language and according to their own methods. In 1980, a labour relations act had been adopted. The United Arab Emirates had also ratified a number of ILO Conventions such as Conventions Nos. 1, 29, 81 and 89. In 1981, Act No. 20 had been adopted, guaranteeing the freedom to form occupational associations without State interference.

The United Arab Emirates also provided considerable development cooperation assistance, in particular to Africa.

The members of the Committee welcomed the presence of a high-level delegation to re-establish the dialogue on the implementation of the Convention in the State party. They noted with regret, however, the long delay in submitting the periodic report, which was the first since 1986. They also pointed out that there were many gaps in the report, particularly with regard to statistics on the composition of the population and the socio-economic situation of the various population groups, and that it had not been drawn up according to the Committee's guidelines for the preparation of reports. However, some of those gaps had been filled in by the delegation's oral explanations.

The members of the Committee asked for a more detailed explanation than was given in the Government's report regarding the status of the Convention in the internal legal order.

One obvious deficiency noted concerned the application of article 4 of the Convention. Although offending against religious beliefs and defamation were punishable, it was difficult to treat such offences as racist propaganda or incitement to racial discrimination. Consequently, the members of the Committee urged the Government to review its legislation and ensure that it was in conformity with article 4 of the Convention.

With regard to the application of article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked to what extent foreign workers - who, according to some sources, made up 80 per cent of the total labour force - were entitled to have their children join them and to have them educated in their own language, and whether those children were free to practise their religion. They also asked which countries had bilateral agreements with the United Arab Emirates regarding the status of foreign workers and what was the content of those agreements. The members of the Committee expressed their deep concern at information from various sources that foreign workers, particularly women from Asian countries, were subjected to inhuman treatment, and asked for clarification in that regard. They also asked whether aliens living in the United Arab Emirates had the right to assemble freely and practise their culture.

The members of the Committee asked about the current situation of the four Indian citizens living in the United Arab Emirates who had been sentenced to imprisonment by the authorities for having insulted Islam in a theatrical performance given by an Indian association in 1992. They also asked about the situation of the three aliens arrested in 1993 for anti-Islamic activities.

Clarification was requested regarding the remedies available to victims of racist acts: were such offences dealt with by the secular or Islamic courts? Could the Convention be invoked directly by individuals before the Islamic courts? Had the Convention ever been invoked before any court?

Replying to the Committee's questions and observations, the representative of the State party said that the Committee would be provided with full statistics and written replies to some of its questions.

Regarding the status of the Convention in the internal legal order, under article 120 of the Constitution, the President of the Federal Supreme Council approved international instruments by decree, and any decree approving an international treaty was enforceable and could be invoked before the courts like any other law. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination had thus far never been invoked before a court.

With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the delegation assured the Committee that it would endeavour to encourage the legislature to enact special legislation implementing that article.

With regard to article 5, the representative of the State party explained that, with the exception of political matters and the acquisition of nationality, aliens living in the United Arab Emirates enjoyed the same rights as nationals.
Concluding observations

At its 1124th meeting, held on 16 August 1995, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations:

(a) Introduction

Resumption of the dialogue with the State party, which had submitted no report since 1986, and the presence of a high-level delegation are noted with satisfaction. Note is also taken of the quality of the dialogue and the constructive spirit of the delegation.

It is noted that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention, and members of the Committee requested that consideration should be given to the possibility of making that declaration.

(b) Positive aspects

The legislation adopted in accordance with the Convention since the last periodic report was submitted, in particular that concerning the right of foreign communities established in the territory of the State party to open private schools for teaching in their mother tongue and that concerning labour relations, is noted with satisfaction.

Appreciation is also expressed for the useful information presented orally by the delegation, including the promise that consideration would be given to introducing legislation to implement article 4 of the Convention.

Note is also taken of the readiness of the delegation to submit to its Government the concerns of the Committee with regard to certain inadequacies in the legislation.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

Owing to the inadequacy of the information contained in the report of the State party concerning legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures taken to give effect to the Convention, the Committee is unable to form an exact idea of the progress achieved in implementing the Convention.

It is noted with concern that the provisions of article 4 of the Convention are not reflected in the country's national legislation. It is recalled in this connection that penal legislation should contain specific provisions against racist acts.

Although information was provided on mother-tongue education and on access to health and work, more information is needed about the implementation of other aspects of article 5 of the Convention.

Keen concern was expressed as to the allegations of ill-treatment of foreign workers, including women domestic servants of foreign origin. The delegation clarified certain aspects of this question, which should nevertheless be given special attention.

The information provided by the State party regarding effective remedies against any acts of racial discrimination is insufficient.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

The Committee requests the Government of the State party to provide in its next report the information whose absence or insufficiency has been noted.

The Committee recommends that the State party discharge all the obligations set out in article 4 of the Convention. The Government should to that end take into account the Committee's General Recommendation XV.

The Committee recommends that the State party show the utmost diligence in preventing acts of ill-treatment being committed against foreign workers, especially foreign women domestic servants, and take all appropriate measures to ensure that they are not subjected to any racial discrimination.

The Committee recommends that the State party should ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, as adopted by the 14th meeting of States parties.

The Committee recommends that the twelfth periodic report of the State party, due on 21 July 1997, should be comprehensive.

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