Thursday, March 4, 2021

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

(Source: Human Rights Law Teaching Material

Demelash Shiferaw & Yonas Tesfa) 

In 1969, seven years before the afore discussed two covenants entered into force, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) entered into force after having been adopted in 1965 by the General Assembly. The Convention, which as of January 2001 has 156 states parties, was the first United Nations human rights instrument outside the provisions on Human Rights in the Charter that established an international monitoring system, including a procedure for individual complaints. At the time of the elaboration of its provisions the Commission on Human Rights was occupied with drafting the two covenants. The convention was essentially the work of the General Assembly itself, in consolation with various other bodies. The conclusion of the Convention was a priority objective not the least of the new member states of the UN, which had just gained their independence in the early 1960s. 

 

The Convention contains 25 articles, of which the first seven articles are of a normative character. A broad definition of racial discrimination is found in Article 1, and the Convention sets out a number of detailed prohibitions and obligations to prevent discrimination based on the grounds of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin. States are under an obligation to criminalize dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority and hatred and participation in racial organizations or activities. The committee established under the treaty reminded states that its undertaking was not only an obligation to enact certain criminal laws but also to ensure that the laws are effectively enforced.

 

The international monitoring procedures are dealt with in the second part of the Convention (Articles 8 to 16). A Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), consisting of 18 independent experts created by the states parties after being nominated by such states parties, examines and comments on reports submitted by the parties. Such report has to be submitted initially one year after the convention enters in to force for a state and thereafter every two years. The committee was also competent to deal with complaints of a state party about non-fulfillment of the treaty obligations by another state party. The committee is empowered to play a role of inquiry and conciliation, aiming at reaching an amicable solution of the dispute (Articles 11 to 13). So far there have been no inter-state complaints. 

 

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