Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination : Trinidad and Tobago. 08/08/2001.
A/56/18,paras.343-359. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CERD
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Fifty-ninth session
30 July - 17 August 2001


TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

343. The Committee considered the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports of Trinidad and Tobago, due on 3 November 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000, respectively, submitted as one document (CERD/C/382/Add.1), at its 1470th and 1471st meetings (CERD/C/SR.1470 and 1471), on 1 and 2 August 2001. At its 1479th meeting (CERD/C/SR.1479), on 8 August 2001, it adopted the following concluding observations.

A. Introduction

344. The Committee welcomes the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports as well as the updated additional information that the State party’s delegation provided during its oral presentation, and expresses its appreciation for the opportunity to renew its dialogue with the State party after more than six years. The Committee notes with appreciation that the report was more exhaustive and of a higher quality than the previous periodic report.

B. Positive aspects

345. The Committee welcomes the relevant statistical information provided by the State party in the report, which demonstrates an encouraging effort to provide the Committee with information requested during the consideration of the tenth periodic report.

346. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Human Rights Unit in the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs to address, inter alia, the compliance with treaty obligations, and the positive announcement by the delegation of the various measures envisaged to disseminate the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the State party reports, as well as the concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee.

347. The Committee notes that the State party has taken significant steps which will contribute to combating racial discrimination, including the passage of the Equal Opportunities Act, No. 39 of 2000, the Judicial Review Act, No. 60 of 2000 and other pertinent legislation. The Committee furthermore welcomes the proposed steps to strengthen the powers of the Ombudsman, including to enable him to apply to the High Court for the enforcement of his recommendations. The recent introduction of public interest litigation by the Judicial Review Act should further assist in the effective work of the Ombudsman.

C. Concerns and recommendations

348. The assertion by the State party as to the absence of racial discrimination on its territory was not accepted by the Committee and it was recommended by the Committee that the State party reconsider this stand.

349. The Committee is concerned at the absence in the State party of specific legislative, administrative and other measures implementing article 4 of the Convention, especially article 4 (b) prohibiting racist organizations. While noting the opinion expressed by the delegation that criminalizing dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, as well as racist organizations, could have adverse effects, the Committee underlines the obligations in accordance with the Convention and reiterates its view as to the preventive role of such legislation. In this connection, the Committee also draws the attention of the State party to its general recommendations VII and XV on the compatibility of the prohibition of the dissemination of ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred with the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Welcoming the statement of the delegation that the State party is prepared to re-examine its position in accordance with its obligations under the Convention, the Committee urges the State party to give due consideration to adopting the necessary legislation in compliance with article 4, particularly article 4 (b), of the Convention as a matter of priority.

350. Moreover, the Committee requests the State party to include in its next periodic report statistical information on prosecutions launched and punishment awarded in cases of offences which have a bearing on racial discrimination, including indirect discrimination, and where the relevant provisions of the existing domestic legislation have found application. The Committee reminds the State party that absence of complaints by victims of racial discrimination could possibly be an indication of a lack of awareness of available legal remedies. It is therefore essential to inform the public of the availability of all legal remedies.

351. The Committee expresses its concern at the absence in this report of specific information on the indigenous population as well as other relatively small ethnic groups of the State party in the report, and particularly the absence of a specific categorization of the indigenous population as a separate ethnic group in official statistics on the population. The Committee encourages the Government to include the indigenous population in any statistical data as a separate ethnic group, and actively to seek consultations with them as to how they prefer to be identified, as well as on policies and programmes affecting them.

352. The Committee is concerned that the Police Complaints Authority, which receives complaints about the conduct of police officers and monitors their investigation, has indicated that racial discrimination is not a category of complaint which is examined, owing to the small number of such complaints. The Committee welcomes the assurances of the delegation that the Police Complaints Authority will be given clear instructions to identify complaints of racial discrimination as a separate category and to report to the higher authorities the results of investigations into cases of racial discrimination.

353. The Committee notes the absence of any reference in the report to the contribution of civil society organizations in the promotion of ethnic harmony and in the preparation of the periodic report, and expresses its hope that the next periodic report will reflect the contribution of such organizations, particularly those dealing with issues related to combating racial discrimination.

354. The Committee notes the lack of disaggregated data on the student population and encourages the Government to take appropriate steps to ensure the provision of adequate statistics on this segment of the population.

355. The State party is invited to provide further information in its next periodic report on the following issues: (a) the ethnic composition of the population and in particular statistical data relating to the numerically small ethnic groups; (b) sufficient data on the employment of different racial groups in government service in different sectors, including comparative data, so as to indicate changes in the ethnic distribution in government service; (c) the involvement of civil society organizations in addressing issues related to racial discrimination and in raising awareness of the Convention; (d) the outcome of investigations of complaints with the Ombudsman’s office and the respective remedies, particularly with regard to cases of racial discrimination; and (e) the functioning and impact of the new legislation pertinent to combating racial discrimination, in particular the new Equal Opportunities Act, No. 39 of 2000 and the corresponding institutional framework, particularly the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, with regard to their functioning, membership and performance.

356. It is noted that the State party has not made the optional declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention, and the Committee recommends that the possibility of such a declaration be considered.

357. The Committee recommends that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted on 15 January 1992 at the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention.

358. The Committee recommends that the State party’s reports be made readily available to the public from the time they are submitted and that the Committee’s observations on them be similarly publicized.

359. The Committee recommends that the State party submit its fifteenth periodic report jointly with its sixteenth periodic report, due on 3 November 2004, and that it address all points raised in the present observations.

1996-2001
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland