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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS


14 August 2003

COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CONSIDERS PERIODIC REPORTS FROM LATVIA

Committee Calls on Israel to Revoke Nationality and Entry into Israel Law; Appeals to States Parties to Adopt Amendments to Article 8



The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has concluded its review of the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Latvia on how that country implements the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee also adopted a decision in which it called on Israel to revoke the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) in order to facilitate family unification on a non-discriminatory basis.

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Also this morning, in the context of a request made by Committee Expert Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr during the current session, the Committee held a debate on the issue of Israel’s Temporary Suspension Order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) on 31 July 2003.

The Committee adopted a decision in which it expressed concern about the law, noting that the Suspension Order of May 2002 had already adversely affected many families and marriages. The Committee urged Israel to revoke this ban and reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family unification on a non-discriminatory basis. It should provide detailed information on this issue in its next periodic report.

Committee Experts Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr, Marc Bossuyt, Patrick Thornberry, Raghavan Vasudevan Pillai, Morten Kjaerum, Régis de Gouttes, Mario Jorge Yutzis, and Kurt Herndl participated in the debate which concluded in the adoption by consensus of the amended decision.

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Decision on Israeli Law

In decision 2 (63) (CERD/C/63/Misc.11 Rev.1), adopted by consensus, the Committee said it was concerned about Israel’s Temporary Suspension Order of May 2002, enacted into law as the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) on 31 July 2003, which suspended for a renewable one-year period, the possibility of family reunification, subject to limited and discretionary exceptions, in the cases of marriages between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the West Bank or Gaza. The Committee noted with concern that the Suspension Order of May 2002 had already adversely affected many families and marriages.

The Committee said that the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) raised serious issues under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The State party should revoke this ban and reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family unification on a non-discriminatory basis. It should provide detailed information on this issue in its next periodic report.

Discussion

MAHMOUD ABOUL-NASR, Committee Expert, said the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories was very well known to all members of the Committee, and the various violations were known, such as the refusal of Israel to allow Palestinians the right of return, destructions of homes, arbitrary imprisonment, the building of the Wall of Shame, and others. These violations had been condemned by the world at large, from all different geographical areas and attitudes, even the United States. Some of the members of the Committee wished to limit the discussion to the issue of the Temporary Suspension Order of May 2002, and therefore the draft decision had been written. This was word for word similar to a decision that had been adopted by consensus by the Human Rights Committee. He urged the Committee to participate in the discussion of this draft decision, and hoped it would be adopted rapidly.

MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Expert, said that with regard to the legislative measure before the Committee, the political and legal dimensions could be divided. He had reservations about the political dimension, and did not think that the decision was the best thing, particularly because it would not diminish the terrorist attacks in Israel. Further, the way that the State of Israel reacted to attacks of this type, with rigorous application of the law, would not have a good result on the population of Israel. It was important to emphasize the legal issue and not the political one, in this case that the right of family reunification as such was not embodied in human rights texts, and it was not the given State that should take responsibility for making this possible. It was not the Committee’s place to take such a decision. There was a need to consider whether this Israeli law was discriminatory, and it did appear to be so. A State had a broad margin to ascertain its security needs, but whether family reunification raised the chances of Israel suffering terrorist attacks was to be determined, and more information was required. The text proposed was moderate, but had the speaker been in the place of the Human Rights Committee, he would not have adopted it as read. He proposed amendments to the language.

PATRICK THORNBERRY, Committee Expert functioning as Group Rapporteur for Israel, suggested further changes in the text of the draft decision. He agreed with Mr. Bossuyt’s suggestions as to changes in the text.

RAGHAVAN VASUDEVAN PILLAI, Committee Expert, said that the decision should also highlight the highly discriminatory aspect of the law in the text, since it was clearly against the rights of certain categories of spouses, and Committee Expert REGIS DE GOUTTES agreed, and suggested that the discriminatory aspect of the law should be included in the decision.

KURT HERNDL, Committee Expert, noted that the matter was still pending before Israel’s highest judiciary instance, and was therefore still under discussion, since apparently an appeal had been made to the Supreme Court, and this was a circumstance that should be mentioned in the decision. Mr. Aboul-Nasr pointed out that the law was currently being applied, even though it was still under discussion. He suggested that the final drafting be left to Mr. Thornberry, after which it could be adopted.

Following this discussion, the text, as amended, was adopted by consensus.


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