Press Release

2 March 2004


Decides to Establish Working Group to Draft New General Comment on Non-citizens

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held over two days a thematic discussion on the issue of non-citizens and racial discrimination during which Committee Experts exchanged views with representatives of States parties, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies.

The debate was held within the framework of the Committee’s intention to draft a revised version of its general comment on non-citizens. The Chairperson of the Committee, Mario Jorge Yutzis, said the aim of the general discussion was to raise awareness of the situation of non-citizens and to find solutions to the daily problems that these people faced.

At the end of the debate, the Committee decided to create an open-ended Working Group to draft a revised general comment on non-citizens. Committee Expert Morten Kjaerum was designated to serve as coordinator and rapporteur to this Working Group.

David Weissbrodt, Special Rapporteur on the rights of non-citizens of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, said there was still a very substantial gap between the legal principles and the actual situation facing non-citizens in many parts of the world. Mr. Weissbrodt expressed hope that the Committee would be motivated to draft a revised and updated general comment on the rights of non-citizens as a result of the information received in the course of the discussion.

Doudou Diène, the Special Rapporteur on racism of the Commission on Human Rights, stated that discrimination against non-citizens was a new type of discrimination and was connected to discrimination against refugees and immigrants. Non-citizens were extremely vulnerable in terms of exercising their rights and receiving social protection, including the right to health. In general, there had been a narrowing of their protection. He said that very few countries were able to accept non-citizens as members of their own culture and added that non-citizens were viewed as dangerous figures in many countries.




ABBAS SHIBBLAK, of Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, said he had recently completed an overall study of refugees in the Arab region where some of the largest concentrations of refugees were located. He singled out the Palestinian refugees who were stateless, mostly as a result of the armed conflict. Mr. Shibblak highlighted the causes which contributed to this situation, among them was the fact that many of the laws in the region were out of date and not up to the standards of current international human rights law.


MERRILYN ONISKO, of the Palestinian Human Rights Organization, stated that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon had been deprived of human and civil rights and that Lebanon had been discriminating against them in every aspect of life. Lebanese discrimination affected Palestinian refugees with regard to the right to own property, the right to work, the right to health care, the right to freedom of movement and the right to nationality. She asked the Committee to urge the Lebanese Government to reverse these policies.


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