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
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
1. The Committee considered
the fourteenth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland (CERD/C/299/Add.9) at its 1185th and 1186th
meetings (CERD/C/SR.1185 and 1186), held on 3 and 4 March 1997.
At its 1204th and 1209th meetings, held on 14 and 19 March 1997,
it adopted the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes
the opportunity to continue its dialogue with the State party. It
also welcomes its fourteenth periodic report, and notes with appreciation
that information on Crown Dependencies and Dependent Territories
is contained therein. The Committee notes with great appreciation
that the report provides answers in detail to concerns expressed
and recommendations made by the Committee in its concluding observations
following the consideration of the thirteenth periodic report of
the State party (see documents CERD/C/263/Add.7 and A/51/18, paras.
219-255). The Committee further welcomes the comprehensive answers
provided by the delegation in the course of the dialogue.
3. The Committee notes
that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in
article 14 of the Convention, and some of its members requested
that the possibility of making such a declaration be considered.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the
implementation of the Convention
4. It is noted that
the position maintained by the Government with regard to the non-incorporation
of the full substance of the Convention within the domestic legal
order, as well as its restrictive interpretation of the provisions
of article 4 of the Convention, may hamper the full implementation
of the provisions of the Convention.
5. Moreover, it is noted
that the occurrence of racism and racially motivated attacks, as
well as incidents directed against members of ethnic minorities,
impede the implementation of the Convention.
C. Positive aspects
6. The various measures
taken to increase the participation of members of ethnic minorities
in public and government office and in the police are welcomed by
the Committee. The adoption of the Housing Act 1996 to combat racial
discrimination in the field of housing, the setting up of lay visiting
schemes which encompass inspection and supervision of detention
in police stations by members of local communities to prevent and
combat ill-treatment in custody, the drafting of changes to the
code of practice which regulates police powers and procedures in
the exercise of stop and search exercises, the creation of a Racial
Incidents Standing Committee to implement the report of the Racial
Attacks Group to combat racially motivated incidents, and the adoption
of a 10-Point Action Plan to raise the achievement of ethnic minority
pupils following the publication of a report by the Office for Standards
in Education are noted with appreciation by the Committee.
7. With respect to article
7 of the Convention, the holding of seminars and the setting up
of training programmes for judges, magistrates and law enforcement
officials, provided in particular by the Ethnic Minorities Advisory
Committee and the Police Training Centres, which are aimed at the
elimination of racial discrimination from the relationships between
members of these professions and members of ethnic minorities, are
welcomed by the Committee. The launching of a number of information
campaigns against racial discrimination addressed to the public
at large or to specific sectors of the public (such as the "Lets
kick racism out of football" campaign) is also welcomed by the Committee.
8. The adoption of the
Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 is noted, all the more
so since it contains special provisions relating to the Irish Traveller
communities. The fact that direct access to the courts and industrial
tribunals is granted for violations of the provisions of the Order
outlawing racial discrimination in the fields of employment, training,
education and housing and in the provision of goods and services
is also welcomed by the Committee.
9. It is noted with
satisfaction that, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations,
the United Kingdom Government requested the authorities of the Crown
Dependencies and the Dependent Territories to consider the introduction
of specific legislation against racial discrimination within their
respective legal orders, and that to this effect, it provided them
with draft model legislation in line with its Race Relations Act
1976. It is further noted with satisfaction that some of these authorities
have acceded to that request, i.e. those of Anguilla, Bermuda, the
British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands and Saint Helena.
10. The adoption of
the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Bill, which grants the right
to members of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong who have no other nationality
than their present British nationality to be registered as full
British citizens, and thus to enjoy the right of abode in the United
Kingdom, is noted with appreciation by the Committee.
11. It is also noted
with satisfaction that, after 140 years, equal status has been accorded
to Chinese with English in the Hong Kong courts at all levels, and
that the Hong Kong government is undertaking the translation into
Chinese of all the laws adopted in Hong Kong before 1989.
12. It is noted with
satisfaction that the Hong Kong government is now providing education
up to the secondary level to Vietnamese migrants in Hong Kong, and
that education services are provided to all Vietnamese children
in the detention centres free of charge. The fact that the syllabus
takes into account the future reintegration of these children into
the Vietnamese education system on their return to Viet Nam is viewed
as a positive measure by the Committee.
D. Principal subjects of concern
13. Concern is expressed
that full effect has not been given to the provisions of the Convention
within the domestic legal order, and that individuals cannot be
protected from any discriminatory practices that have not been prohibited
14. Special concern
is again expressed at the restrictive interpretation by the Government
of the provisions of article 4 of the Convention. In this regard,
it is noted that such an interpretation is in conflict with the
State party's obligations under article 4 (b) of the Convention
to prohibit organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination
and to declare the participation therein an offence and is not in
accord with the Committee's General Recommendation No. XV (42).
15. Concern is expressed
that the race relations legislation concerning Northern Ireland
tabled in Parliament contains two grounds for exemption, namely
public order and public safety, which are additional to the ones
already enshrined in the Race Relations Act of 1976, and that bodies
working in the field of health, education, social services, planning
and housing do not have the same positive legal duty to eliminate
discrimination as that which applies to local authorities in Britain.
16. Concern is expressed
by the Committee with respect to the continuing failure to incorporate
questions relating to the racial or ethnic origin of persons in
the Northern Ireland population census questionnaires. The Committee
is of the view that the identification of minority groups and the
analysis of their civil, political, economic and social status are
a precondition for identifying the difficulties that they may be
facing and for assessing whether and how such difficulties may be
due to racial discrimination, and thus for evaluating the need to
adopt specific measures, laws and regulations to overcome those
17. With respect to
the effective enjoyment of the rights provided for in article 5
of the Convention by all parts of the population without discrimination,
concern is expressed at remaining instances of racial discrimination
in the field of employment, notably the opportunities for professional
promotions, in the private as well as in the public sectors, in
the fields of housing and education, in the exercise of stop and
search powers by the police, and with respect to occurrences of
ill-treatment by the police.
18. It is noted with
concern that the implementation of some of the provisions of the
Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 may be detrimental to the protection
of asylum seekers against any racial discrimination. In this regard,
particular concern is expressed at the fact that asylum claims may
a priori be considered to be unfounded, and thus be dealt
with more swiftly, when the claimants come from certain countries
considered by the United Kingdom not to "generally give rise to
a serious risk of persecution", and at the fact that no right of
in-country appeal is granted to asylum seekers sent back to certain
safe third countries. Moreover, while noting the assurances provided
in the report that the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 in itself
will not affect the United Kingdom's obligations under the Convention,
it is underlined that the definition of racial discrimination under
article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention includes the effect as
well as the purpose of an act, and it is thus noted that the Asylum
and Immigration Act 1996, in its effects, may be contrary to the
19. Concern is also
expressed that specific legislation against racial discrimination
is not yet available in all the Dependent Territories and Crown
Dependencies, and that in some cases such legislation should be
deemed unnecessary by the relevant authorities on the ground of
the alleged non-existence of racial discrimination in the territories.
20. The absence of a
provision in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance protecting persons
from racial discrimination to which they may be subjected by private
persons, groups or organizations is a matter of concern for the
Committee. In this regard, it is stressed that article 2, paragraph
1 (d), of the Convention makes it an obligation for States parties
to prohibit, including by the adoption of legislation, racial discrimination
"by any persons, groups or organizations".
21. With respect to
the "two-week rule" applying to foreign workers in Hong Kong which
prohibits them from seeking employment or remaining in Hong Kong
more than two weeks after the expiration of their employment contracts,
concern is expressed that such a rule may have discriminatory effects,
since it applies mostly to domestic workers of Filipino origin,
and that it may leave the workers concerned extremely vulnerable
and in precarious conditions.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
22. The Committee recommends
that the State party consider giving full effect to the provisions
of the Convention in its domestic legal order.
23. The Committee reaffirms
that the provisions of article 4 of the Convention are mandatory,
as noted in its General Recommendation VII (32). The Committee stresses
that the United Kingdom should again consider the possibility of
adopting the necessary legislation as requested by the provisions
of article 4. In doing so, the Government should take into account
the Committee's General Recommendation XV (42).
24. The Committee recommends
that questions relating to the racial or ethnic origin of persons
be incorporated in the questionnaires established within the framework
of the population census in all the territories under the jurisdiction
of the United Kingdom. In this regard, the Committee stresses that
such information is useful for the effective assessment of progress
achieved towards the full implementation of the provisions of the
Convention for the benefit of all groups of the population.
25. The Committee recommends
that the United Kingdom continue and strengthen its efforts towards
the full enjoyment by all ethnic groups of all the rights provided
for in article 5 of the Convention. The Committee recommends in
particular that close attention be given to the issue of the deaths
in police custody and to the monitoring of the conditions and the
treatment of persons detained in police stations.
26. The Committee suggests
that in its next report the State party include, for a recent year,
(a) a review of the number of cases commenced under the Race Relations
Act 1976 and their outcomes; and (b) information on the number of
prosecutions for offences of a racist character, with an indication
of sentences imposed in representative cases.
27. The Committee further
recommends that the implementation of the Asylum and Immigration
Act 1996 be closely monitored, so as to avoid any possible discrimination
against certain categories of asylum seekers and to ascertain that
its effects may in no way "nullify or impair the recognition, enjoyment
or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental
freedoms" of the persons affected by this Act, in accordance with
article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
28. The Committee also
recommends that further consideration be given by the authorities
of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat
and the Turks and Caicos Islands to the adoption of specific legislation
prohibiting racial discrimination, in line with the provisions of
the Convention. Noting that racial discrimination is deemed not
to exist in some territories, the Committee suggests that the preventive
function of the principles laid down in the Convention be given
priority in the drafting of any future legislation.
29. The Committee also
recommends that special attention be given by the government of
Hong Kong to the situation of the foreign workers subject to the
"two-week rule" and that all the necessary measures, including the
modification or repeal of this specific rule, be undertaken to ensure
the protection of all their rights under the Convention.
30. The Committee further
recommends that the fourteenth periodic report of the State party,
as well as the present concluding observations, be given publicity
and be widely disseminated among the public at large.
31. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report, due on 7 March 1998,
be a comprehensive report and that it address all the points raised
during the consideration of the report.