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        General Assembly
19 March 1999

Report of the
Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination

Fifty-fourth session (1-19 March 1999)

Fifty-fifth session (2-27 August 1999)

General Assembly
Official Records Fifty-fourth Session
Supplement No. 18 (A/54/18)


Letter of transmittal

27 August 1999


In the letter transmitting the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's last annual report, I drew attention to a decision in the first chapter recommending the convening of winter sessions of the Committee in New York in accordance with article 10, paragraph 4, of the Convention. A significant number of States parties to the Convention, virtually all from developing countries, lack diplomatic representation in Geneva while maintaining Permanent Missions in New York. Our experience has demonstrated that many of these States are frequently unable to send representatives to Geneva to present their reports and engage in dialogue with the Committee. I recall this decision because our arguments have not yet been addressed and the Committee has now adopted a further decision, 4 (55), to be found in the present chapter I.

As you are aware, the Committee at present includes only one expert from Africa. The Committee hopes that when the States parties meet early in 2000 to elect members to serve a new term of office their attention will be drawn to article 8, paragraph 1, of the Convention, which stipulates that consideration should be given to equitable geographical distribution and to the representation of the different forms of civilization as well as of the principal legal systems.

The Committee is alarmed that in many regions of the world political tensions find expression in racial and ethnic conflict. It takes such action as its mandate permits to draw attention to impending ethnic conflict. Chapter II reports our decisions and statements concerning five States parties, the human rights of the Kurdish people, the abuses in Kosovo (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and the problems in some African States.

Chapter III reports on our examination of the reports and information received from States parties. Under the Convention, periodic reports are due every two years, but some States are seriously overdue in their submission of reports. Since it may be important to consider the application of the Convention in non-reporting States, the Committee undertakes a review when a report is overdue by five years or more. By the end of 1998, 95 States had been scheduled for review. In 35 instances, States responded by submitting the overdue report, while others requested deferment to enable them to prepare a report. In 53 instances application of the Convention in a State has been considered in the absence of a report; sometimes, the State has been represented, sometimes it has not. As can be seen from chapter VII, section A, of this report, despite the Convention's relatively short reporting cycle, the Committee has no backlog of reports awaiting consideration.

Chapter VIII includes information on the Committee's contribution to preparations for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be convened in 2001.

Accept, Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.

(Signed) Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations
New York


Chapter I

Organizational and related matters

A. States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

1. As at 27 August 1999, the closing date of the fifty-fifth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, there were 155 States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which was adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 2106 A (XX) of 21 December 1965 and opened for signature and ratification in New York on 7 March 1966. The Convention entered into force on 4 January 1969 in accordance with the provisions of its article 19.

2. By the closing date of the fifty-fifth session, 28 of the 155 States parties to the Convention had made the declaration envisaged in article 14, paragraph 1, of the Convention. Article 14 of the Convention entered into force on 3 December 1982, following the deposit with the Secretary-General of the tenth declaration recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals or groups of individuals who claim to be victims of a violation by the State party concerned of any of the rights set forth in the Convention. Lists of States parties to the Convention and of those which have made the declaration under article 14 are contained in annex I to the present report, as is a list of the 24 States parties that have accepted the amendments to the Convention adopted at the fourteenth meeting of States parties, as at 27 August 1999.


Syrian Arab Republic

B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention

169. The Committee notes that the State party, as a result of the Israeli occupation of part of its territory, is not in a position to exercise control over all its territory and consequently cannot ensure the implementation of the Convention in the Golan Heights. The Committee also takes note of the difficulties caused by the fact that the State party has hosted a great number of refugees for several decades. It is also noted that the state of emergency, which continues to be in force in the State party, militates against the unrestricted implementation of some of the provisions of article 5 of the Convention.

C. Positive aspects

170. The Committee expresses its satisfaction at the fact that the international conventions to which the State party has acceded, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, have become an integral part of its domestic legislation and are binding on the judicial and other authorities of the State.

171. Efforts made by the State party to host Palestinian refugees, of whom 351,189 have been registered, and let them retain their identity are also noted with satisfaction.


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