19 April 2021
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today opened its one-hundred and third virtual session during which it will review anti-discrimination efforts by Belgium. The Committee heard an address by Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopted the session’s programme of work and revised agenda.
In his opening statement, Mr. Cissé-Gouro paid tribute to the late Ms. Mohamed Yemhelhe Mint, a dear member of the Committee, who passed away last November. She was remembered as invariably friendly, courteous and constructive and her contributions were appreciated, including the particular attention she placed on issues of racial discrimination in the justice system. He welcomed Vadili Mohamed Rais who had been designated by Mauritania to serve the remainder of Ms. Mohamed’s term, expiring on 19 January 2024.
He welcomed the Committee’s decision to conduct its first online review of a State’s periodic report, despite the numerous challenges such an exercise entailed. This was yet another indication of the Committee’s tireless efforts since the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid a protection gap by maintaining the continuous functioning of the treaty body system. The pandemic had highlighted and deepened inequalities everywhere in the globe, which had particularly affected the most vulnerable people, including people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In this context, an increasing number of incidents of racial discrimination, stigmatisation, racist hate speech and hate crimes, including against Asians and people of Asian descent, were being reported.
Last year, the Committee had highlighted in its statement on COVID-19 that access to vaccines should be non-discriminatory. A resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth session, as well as two recent statements of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on access to vaccines, had repeated and deepened this message. All hoped that the international community would follow up to these recommendations to make vaccines available to everybody, everywhere.
On the implementation of the Council resolution 43/1 on the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials, the High Commissioner, in her recent update to the Council, had noted ongoing consultations with various stakeholders, which would feed into the report she would submit to the Council at its next session. These consultations showed that the victims and their families still encountered difficulties in interacting with the police and the judicial authorities, in particular the reluctance of these authorities to investigate the violations, including the killings. These early results demonstrated the need to pay more attention to the issue of racial discrimination in law enforcement.
Mr. Cissé-Gouro added that, in her letter dated 25 March 2021, the High Commissioner had alerted States to the consequences of their decisions in terms of finance and human resources allocated to treaty bodies. She had stressed that despite the intense mobilisation among Member States, the General Assembly had not approved the corresponding increase in terms of human resources, including the additional resources requested to support treaty bodies in their work on individual communications, which had increased by 80 per cent in the past period.
Because of the Secretariat-wide recruitment freeze, the Secretariat team of the Committee had been reduced last year. It was still premature, however, to know when a staff increase might occur, and if it would happen in 2021. Mr. Cissé-Gouro would keep the Committed informed as this situation evolved.
The Committee then adopted its agenda and formally approved of the designation of Vadili Mohamed Rais (Mauritius) as a replacement for Mohamed Yemhelhe Mint.
Ms. Mohamed was not connected to the meeting to make her solemn declaration.
Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and third session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 20 April, at 12.30 p.m. to consider the combined twentieth to twenty-second periodic report of Belgium (CERD/C/BEL/20-22).