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Committee on Racial Discrimination discusses online hate speech and absence of extreme parties in dialogue with Iceland

15 August 2019 - The spread of hate speech online and the relative absence of extreme and far-right parties were among topics broached by Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as it considered the combined twenty-first to twenty-third periodic report of Iceland on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Committee Experts said it was concerning to read in the report of the State party that “hate speech is rather easily found on Icelandic websites”.  They enquired why, in the delegation’s opinion, Islamophobia and far-right parties were not taking hold in Icelandic elections.

Haukur Gudmundsson, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said that hate speech could be easily found on websites and social media in Iceland.  Then again, where on the Internet could one not find examples of hate speech?  The Penal Code provided for the imposition of a fine or up to two years of imprisonment for people engaging in hate speech.  The freedom of expression and open public dialogue was the most important weapon in the fight against intolerance.  He added that there were many people who spoke up against hate speech, responding to hateful message posted in the comments sections of various media outlets’ websites. 

Iceland had not seen to this date an increase in the activities of far-right and extreme parties.  Refusing to ascribe this particularity to the Government’s actions, he said that, perhaps, Iceland was a few years behind its neighbours.  Other members of the Icelandic delegation added that, in any case, this situation could provide Iceland with the opportunity to learn from other countries’ experience.

A Committee Expert said that in its 2010 concluding observations, the Committee had recommended that the State party continue to maintain its vigilance against acts of racism, including hate speech on the Internet, and increase efforts to prevent and combat prejudice and to promote understanding and tolerance in all spheres of life.  In that regard, the Committee would like to be informed of the results of awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes for law enforcement officials on hate crimes in Iceland, undertaken in cooperation with experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In his concluding remarks, Mark Bossuyt, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for the report of Iceland, said that the dialogue had been fruitful and interesting, which had allowed those present to go into details on matters relevant to the Convention.  It was very positive that the delegation had shown the willingness to learn from other countries.  The Committee hoped to see a delegation from Iceland again soon, and that the country would resume the practice of coming regularly before the Committee, as it had once done in the past.

Mr. Gudmundsson thanked the Committee for the thoughtful questions.  Iceland was fully committed to equality and non-discrimination and the human rights set forth in the Convention.  Iceland was thankful for this dialogue and looked forward to continuing this dialogue.

Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, said the dialogue had made it possible for each of those present to listen to the other.  He thanked the delegation.  It was important for the Committee to work with States parties, hand in hand, to achieve the objectives of the Convention.

The delegation of Iceland consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 15 August at 3 p.m. to consider the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic report of Mongolia (CERD/C/MNG/23-24).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined twenty-first to twenty-third periodic report of Iceland (CERD/C/ISL/21-23).

Presentation of the Report

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said that the Icelandic Government was committed to continue working towards the promotion and protection of the human rights of all individuals as well as to the work being done by the United Nations in this field.  

In a relatively short time, the Icelandic population had changed significantly.  While over the turn of the century, Iceland was one of the most homogenous countries in the world, its labour market currently had more foreign workers than any other Nordic country.  The number of immigrants in 2018 was 43,736 or 12.6 per cent of the population.  This was a significant increase from 2008, when immigrants made up 7.4 per cent of the population.  These figures did not include those who had obtained Icelandic citizenship.  It was a priority for the Icelandic Government to promote equality and fight against racial discrimination and any other type of discrimination.  While this change had been a challenge for the Government and society in general, the climate had generally been positive.  A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Social Science Research Institute found the general attitude was quite positive: 60 per cent believed that immigrants had a positive impact on the economy and 18 per cent thought that their impact was negative.

Article 65 of the Icelandic Constitution included the principle of equality.  The legislature was obliged to observe the principle of equality as defined in the Constitution when adopting legislation.  This principle also imposed restraints on the executive authority as well as the judiciary. The Act on Foreigners had entered into force in 2017, which had strengthened procedures.  This piece of legislation had been and would continue to be under constant review.  The Icelandic Penal Code Committee was currently considering whether it was desirable or not to amend the Icelandic Penal Code so as to include racist motivation as an aggravating circumstance for all offences.  This Committee was expected to make its recommendations to the Minister of Justice this fall.

The Ministry of Justice had been working towards the creation of a national human rights institution.  As sufficient funding had not been provided for that initiative, the delegation could not for the moment provide information on when a national human rights institution compliant with the Paris Principles would be established in the country.  

The #MeToo movement had exposed the multiple discrimination suffered by migrant women in a country that had always been relatively ethnically homogenous.  The Government had funded projects to address this reality.  The Women’s Story Circle provided a space for immigrant women where they could seek support and strengthen their social network.  Also, an analysis was ongoing of all the research that had been done on the situation of women with an immigration background.  

Turning to hate speech, Mr. Gudmundsson said that the Media Commission had received some complaints about hate speech in the media in recent years.  However, the Commission had found that the cases examined amounted to single instances of incitement to hatred, and were not therefore in violation of the Penal Code, which required incitement to hatred to be systematic.

Changes had been made to the Foreign Nationals Right to Work Act.  It notably allowed the issuance of temporary work permits under certain conditions.  All foreigners with a permanent resident permit were now completely exempt from the obligation to have a work permit.  On refugees, the Government had increased its resettlement programme.  Since 2015, Icelandic authorities had accepted refugees yearly.  Since 2012, the Multicultural Centre had been established by law.  It provided immigrants with information about their rights and had a website with comprehensive information in six languages.  

Moving on to education, he pointed out that equality was one of the pillars of the Icelandic education system.  A new national curriculum had been established in 2011 for pre-primary, compulsory and upper secondary schools.  The Committee on the Rights of the Child and other international bodies had been consulted during the development of this curriculum.  The principles of equality, as well as human rights in general, were to be interwoven in all education activities and form the core of all learning, teaching and social activities in schools. 

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Member and Rapporteur for the report of Iceland, noted that Iceland was the country with the lowest population density in Europe.  Over the last years, its population growth had been either low or negative.  The number of foreigners was rising; it had gone up from 2.6 per cent of the total population in 2000 to 10.8 per cent in 2016.  He also underlined that the present combined periodic report had been due on 4 January 2013 and had been submitted on 10 July 2018 - a considerable delay compared with the rather regular submission of Iceland’s previous reports.

Starting with the Convention in domestic law and the institutional and policy framework for its implementation, the Committee believed that the best way to ensure the implementation of the obligations under the Convention in a dualistic country was by incorporating its substantive provisions into domestic law.  The Committee recommended that Iceland do so, noting that Iceland had undertaken such action with the European Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Could the delegation explain why this different approach between these two conventions and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination should not be considered discriminatory?

While article 70 of the Penal Code indicated that the motive of the offender should be taken into account when imposing a penalty, it would be welcome if a provision was inserted in it to make racist motivation an aggravating circumstance for all criminal offences.  He requested information on complaints lodged for violations of article 180 and 233 (a) of the Criminal Code as well as on related investigations, penalties and reparations.

It was concerning for the Committee to read in the report of the State party that “hate speech is rather easily found on Icelandic websites”.  For fines to be applied or licences revoked in line with the Media Act of 2011, the violations had to be serious and repeated.  It was advisable to suppress the latter condition, he stated.

He asked for more information about the content, implementation and effectiveness of the national action plan on the integration of non-nationals, which included a chapter on refugees.  Had progress been made in bringing the integration measures and services for refugees from the asylum system to similar levels as quota refugees, especially as concerned access to housing, employment and Icelandic language classes?  He asked if progress had been made on the development of a national action plan against sexual and domestic violence that took into account the specific needs and vulnerabilities of immigrant women.  

Mr. Bossuyt pointed out that a Multicultural and Information Centre was operating in Isfjödur and offered a full range of services in Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Spanish, Lithuanian and Russian.  The Committee recommended that such a centre be established in Reykjavik to provide services and assistance in a wide variety of languages.

In its 2010 concluding observations, the Committee had recommended that the State party continue to maintain its vigilance against acts of racism, including hate speech on the Internet, and efforts to prevent and combat prejudice and to promote understanding and tolerance in all spheres of life.  In that regard, the Committee would like to be informed of the results of awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes for law enforcement officials on hate crimes in Iceland, undertaken in cooperation with experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Questions by Committee Experts

GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, recalled that the Committee had adopted concluding observations on Iceland in March 2010 and had expected an interim report within one year.  Unfortunately, no interim report had been submitted.  The Committee attached great importance to the follow-up procedure.  In its upcoming concluding observations, the Committee would again choose issues that it deemed important and ask the State party to submit a follow-up report on these issues within one year.  In that regard, timeliness would be important, he stressed.

A Committee Expert said that he hoped that the Committee and Iceland would meet on a more regular basis.  On trafficking in persons, he noted that there had been trafficking for both labour and sexual purposes in the country recently.  He requested information about the implementation of the related provisions of the Penal Code, notably the number of investigations carried out and penalties imposed.  He noted with satisfaction that the Government had offered shelter to all female victims of trafficking since 2014.  How many of them had received such services?  Did male victims have access to support as well?  He asked for information about the situation of the Roma people in the country and the State party’s participation in the International Decade of People of African Descent.

Another Expert said the practice of Black Face was unacceptable.  He asked what the State was doing to combat hate speech targeting Muslims.  Did the State party have laws making these speeches and propagating hateful doctrines illegal?  The State should adopt laws that recognized the importance of the training of foreigners for a greater number of jobs and provide a greater number of Icelandic teachers.  The national Government should provide a greater level of support to migrants and refugees to mitigate gaps in the various kinds of support offered in various regions and towns in the country.

It did not seem that civil society had been particularly involved in the drafting of the report, an Expert remarked.  How could the Government tolerate the existence of the Organization against Polish People?  Could the delegation provide information on its activities?

Another Expert said the Head of Delegation had reaffirmed Iceland’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Could the delegation tell the Committee how it was contributing to Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 17, which sought to respectively address the climate crisis, and foster partnerships for the achievement of the Goals?  He pointed out that the unemployment rate was higher for women compared to men.  Could the delegation explain this difference?  What challenges was the State party facing in that regard?

Replies by the Delegation

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said there were two methods to give international conventions the force of law in Iceland, notably adaptation of a law to the Convention and incorporation of the Convention into domestic legislation.  The former method was most commonly used.  The European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child were the only two conventions that were incorporated in domestic legislation.  In general, domestic laws were interpreted in accordance with international agreement to which Iceland was party.  The Government considered that the Convention, albeit not incorporated in domestic legislation, provided legal protection that was fully guaranteed in practice in Iceland.

Hate speech could be easily found on websites and social media in Iceland.  Then again, where on the Internet could one not find examples of hate speech?  The Penal Code provided for the imposition of a fine or up to two years of imprisonment for people engaging in hate speech.  Freedom of expression and an open public dialogue were the most important weapons in the fight against intolerance.  It was important to emphasize the importance of education and awareness raising in the fight against hate speech.  To that end, Iceland had participated in the European Union No Hate Speech movement.  The Government had also launched an awareness-raising television campaign on discrimination against immigrants in 2016.  It should be mentioned that the Government had welcomed numerous refugees and had supported the Icelandic Centre for a Safer Internet, which aimed to foster the positive use of the Internet.  There were many people who spoke up against hate speech, responding to hateful messages posted in the comments sections of various media outlets’ websites.  There were also strong non-governmental organizations that were very active in defending the rights of minorities, such as the National Queer Organization.

On the dropout rate of students with an immigration background, he said it had been a significant challenge to meet these children’s needs.  The action plan on immigration issues focused on the equality of opportunities and set out very ambitious objectives in that regard.  The dropout rate was a problem, not least for children with an immigration background.  The Government had developed a white paper for education reform to address this issue.  While the objectives it had set out - such as 60 per cent graduation rate from upper secondary schools - had not been met, progress had been made.  The graduation rate stood at 54 per cent in 2017.  Mr. Gudmundsson said they were on the right track.  In that regard, efforts had been made to increase the emphasis on native language teaching and the promotion of active bilingualism and plurilingualism.

Turning to Neo-Nazis and other extreme groups, the Government was mindful of the changing political climate elsewhere in Europe and all over the world that saw the rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim parties, amongst others, gaining ground.  Fortunately, this development had not affected Iceland in a significant way.  Iceland should be a country of opportunity for all, and authorities were cognizant of the fact that specific measures had to be taken to address the needs of vulnerable groups, such as immigrants and religious minorities.  A specific emphasis had notably been put on funding projects aimed at fostering a multicultural society.

Responding to the Committee’s comments on the late submission of the report, Mr. Gudmundsson said that Iceland had faced serious resource problems about 10 years ago, and this had caused a large number of periodic reports not to be delivered in a timely manner for a number of years.  Every report represented a serious undertaking for such an extremely small administration.  Iceland had come a long way towards catching up with the submission of those reports, including this report to the Committee.  It would be able to submit any additional information in a timely manner and report to this Committee in the future in line with its obligations.  As for the cooperation with civil society during the drafting of this report, it could have been better.  It was a priority to turn in the report and this unfortunately had come at the expense of the full participation of civil society.  A Government Steering Committee on Human Rights - consisting of representatives from all ministries - had been established in 2017 to increase cooperation and coordination on human rights; it regularly consulted and cooperated with civil society.  A meeting had been held with human rights organizations this spring and such consultations were expected to be held at least annually.

As previously mentioned, article 65 of the Icelandic Constitution included the principle of equality.  Constitutional provisions were deemed to be applicable to horizontal relations in Icelandic law.  In addition to this constitutional provision, the principle of equality was implemented through several national laws.  To better combat discrimination and ensure equal treatment, two anti-discrimination pieces of legislation had entered into force in September 2018.

Regarding the question on indigenous peoples in Iceland, it should be noted that when settlers arrived in Iceland in the ninth century, there were no known indigenous populations.  The settlers were of Norse and Celtic origin and had been living there since then without any other populations.

The delegation acknowledged that the Roma around the world were often subjected to a wide range of human rights violations, in particular racial violence and discrimination, but the Government was not aware of any allegations in that regard in Iceland.  Almost half of all immigrants in Iceland came from either Poland or Lithuania.  There was a relatively small number of Icelandic immigrants of African descent.  Several awareness raising campaigns had been aimed at combatting racism as well as other forms of discrimination that affected people of African descent.  

Regarding the online group against Polish people, it should be reiterated that the website had been closed, and to the best of the knowledge of the delegation no such organization or group existed in Iceland today. 

In 2016, a four-year Action Plan on Immigrant Issues had been adopted by the Icelandic Parliament to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of individual characteristics and circumstances.  A new action plan would be submitted to Parliament every four year. 

The delegation explained that amongst the actions that had been implemented in that context, there was a survey on the general attitude towards immigrants and the multicultural society that found that the general attitude was positive.
In cooperation with the Intercultural City, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Ministry of Social Affairs, seminars had been held for workers and specialists who were in the front line of the service institutions and who dealt with people in face-to-face situations, e.g. social workers, nurses, teachers and policemen. The seminars had been held in three regions in Iceland. 

In order to support women who had been living in abusive relationships, the Ministry of Social Affairs had signed a contract with the Women’s Shelter and the Icelandic Human Rights Centre to implement a project raising awareness about various social assistance and legal remedies available to them.  An analysis had been conducted by Statistics Iceland on whether immigrants received the same salaries as Icelanders for the same or similar jobs in certain areas in which large proportions of immigrants worked. The results had shown that for the period 2008-2017, immigrants earned about 8 per cent less than Icelanders, after accounting for gender, age, education, family structure, residence, and various employment related factors.  The Government took these results seriously.

Turning to refugees, the delegation said that there had been a considerable increase of people receiving international protection in Iceland in recent years.  In 2012, 12 persons had received international protect in Iceland.  In 2018, there had been 289 persons.  

The Action Plan on Immigrant Issues for 2016-2019 notably aimed at coordinating and improving the reception of refugees after asylum proceedings as well as offered every refugee education and consultation on their rights and obligations, including basic information about Icelandic society, employment opportunities, housing, the Icelandic language, and education in general. 

Moving on to unemployment, Mr. Gudmundsson remarked that the unemployment rate among foreign nationals was around 7.4 per cent while it was only 3.4 per cent in general.  It stood at 3.3 per cent among men and 3.7 per cent among women.  Regarding these discrepancies, it should be noted that the Icelandic labour market was small.  Therefore, fluctuations could have a lot of impact.

Various measures had been taken to assist unemployed foreigners, such as Icelandic language education as well as the implementation of various job training programmes.  The Directorate of Labour had participated in the European project EMPOWER, which revolved around providing women with support and assistance to develop the necessary skills to be successful in the labour market.

The delegation pointed out that the Ministry of Justice issued its Action Plan entitled “Emphases in Actions to Combat Human Trafficking and Other Forms of Exploitation” in March this year.  The new Action Plan included numerous action points to further increase awareness among the general public, provide education to and raise awareness amongst workers, and increase the institutional knowledge on how to better understand and identify the nature of human trafficking.

From 2015 to March 2019, there had been 74 potential trafficking cases referred to police, 27 of which were formally investigated.  The number of recognized victims of human trafficking for the same time period stood at 88.  There had only been one conviction related to human trafficking in Iceland, in 2010.

The Ministry of Social Affairs had signed a contract with the Women’s Shelter to provide women that were victims of human trafficking and their children with secured housing.  Last year, four women had received such support.  A total of 25 men had received similar support in the last two years, due to suspected labour trafficking.  They had been provided financial aid and secure housing.  Both potential victims of human trafficking and victims of human trafficking were provided with a permit to work if requested.

Mr. Gudmundsson added that, over the last few years, the Government had registered quite a number of cases where it had observed and supported victims of human trafficking even though it had not been successful in criminally prosecuting cases. 

It was necessary to approach these statistics with some caution.  The Government did not set the bar for helping victims of human trafficking very high.  People in dire circumstances received help, even though it may be highly questionable that their situation fell under the criminal definition of trafficking in human beings.  That definition required that there be a measure of coercion that may not always be present in individual cases and in any case may be very hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt.  The Government would be putting a lot of emphasis on improving police investigations on those cases.

The delegation, turning to violence against immigrant women, pointed out that the annual report of the Women’s Shelter from 2018 stated that 35 per cent of women seeking its services because of domestic violence were foreigners.  An Action Plan on Sexual Offences had been approved in 2017, and, in 2018, a cross-ministerial steering group on coherent action against sexual violence had been established to implement this Plan.  The primary role of the group was to form progressive and concentrated public policies towards the elimination of violence against women and girls, ensuring that Iceland continued being at the forefront on gender equality globally.  Emphasis was put on multiple discrimination against migrant women.

The steering group was also tasked with responding to the revelations of the #MeToo movement, both in general and on behalf of the Government as an employer.  The group would particularly focus on multiple discrimination against migrant women, women who lived in poverty, disabled women and lesbian, gay, transgender, amongst others, women.  The steering group had developed a draft plan for the next three years and expected to finish its work before the second quarter of 2021.

Various measures had been taken to provide support to immigrant women in Iceland, including the allocation of funds to the Icelandic Human Rights Centre and the Women’s Shelter to carry out an information and empowerment programme for foreign women, especially those in a vulnerable position and at risk of isolation.   There were multidisciplinary reception centres for victims of violence both in Reykjavik and Akureyri, which provided all the necessary support in one location.

Regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, the delegation remarked that the Prime Minister of Iceland just this July had presented a report on their implementation in the country at the High-Level Political Forum in New York.  Iceland was fully committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, both nationally and internationally.  The Sustainable Development Goals had been integrated into Government policy on social, economic and environmental affairs, with a particular emphasis on building a peaceful and just society, free from fear and violence.

Domestically, the Government aimed to identify and better serve marginalized groups in society and to build partnerships to address the large environmental footprint of modern lifestyle.  Iceland was still a net contributor to climate change, but it would achieve carbon-neutrality at the latest in 2040.

Internationally, Iceland shared its expertise on gender equality, land restoration and the use of sustainable natural marine and energy resources through its international cooperation, contributing to global progress on Sustainable Development Goals 5, 7, 13, 14 and 15.  The promotion of human rights for all, – including lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex persons –  was a cornerstone of Iceland’s foreign policy and its international development cooperation, in line with Agenda 2030 and the Government’s domestic priorities.

Questions by Committee Experts and Responses by the Delegation

MARC BOSSUYT, Committee Member and Rapporteur for the report of Iceland, thanked the delegation for the detailed answers that were very much to the point.  On asylum seekers, he noted that an increase in the number of applications could create problems.  In other countries, such an increase had led to a spike in xenophobia and the emergence of anti-immigrant political parties.  He requested information on the state of affairs in Iceland in that regard.  What was the recognition rate?  What happened to those who were not recognized as refugees?  In general, what was the Government response with respect to the rise in asylum applications?

Another Expert said that the International Decade of People of African Descent was not only designed for people of African descent.  

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said the increase in the number of asylum applications had been challenge for the Government.  Most of the asylum seekers came from mainland Europe.  Quite a number of them had claimed asylum in another European country, and some of them came from European countries where persecution was not rampant.  This explained the fact that the recognition rate was rather low.  There was also quite an increase in people coming from much more troubled countries, such as Afghanistan and Syria.  The Government policy was to receive those that needed protection and go as quickly as possible through the application process to ensure that those that did not need protection were turned away and that those that did received adequate protection. 

He added that he took due note of the Committee’s comments regarding the International Decade of People of African Descent and would take them back to Iceland.

Another Expert said it was important to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking as well as punish the perpetrators.  A lot of domestic workers were foreigners.  Had Iceland considered ratifying the International Labour Organization’s Convention 189 on Domestic Workers?

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said the Government agreed on the need to strengthen the efforts to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases. 

The delegation said it would take the question on the International Labour Organization’s Convention 189 on Domestic Workers back to its capital to consult with relevant Government experts.

An Expert thanked the delegation for the quality of information that it had provided the Committee.  He had observed a rise of the far-right in nations that neighboured Iceland, which notably targeted Islam.   It seemed that this Islamophobia was not taking hold in Icelandinc elections.  He asked what were the factors that might explain, in the delegation’s opinion, this phenomenon.

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said the increase in the rejection of immigrants and Islam was an important topic.  Iceland had not seen to date an increase in the activities of far-right and extreme parties.  He could not really go so far as to ascribe this particularity to the Government’s actions.  Perhaps, Iceland was a few years behind its neighbours.

On the same topic, the delegation said the Government did not believe it was different from any other country.  This situation could provide it with the opportunity to learn from other countries’ experience.

An Expert, underlining that only 20 per cent of the country’s territory was inhabited, asked the delegation how the Government was envisaging its future, with regard to demographic changes.  How did the Government address racism in sport, notably in football, as part of its integration efforts?

Was there a Constitutional Court tasked with taking in complaints related to human rights, asked another Expert.

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, said that Iceland did not have a Constitutional Court.  Regular courts were fully equipped and mandated to adjudicate on whether laws and rulings were in line with human rights principles, notably those enshrined in the Constitution.  On demographic changes, it was not the Government policy to populate Iceland to the extent of European countries like Belgium.  Large expanses of Iceland’s territory were covered with glaciers, he recalled.

The delegation said the Government had a project to assist through sport children who were not privileged, notably immigrant children, which dealt with issues such as hate speech and equal opportunity.  It was an important tool to combat racism and discrimination.

Concluding Remarks

MARK BOSSUYT, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Iceland, thanked the delegation.  The dialogue had been fruitful and interesting.  It had allowed those present to go into details on matters relevant to the Convention.  It was very positive that the delegation had shown the willingness to learn from others.  The Committee hoped to see it again soon, and that it would resume the practice of coming regularly before the Committee as it had once done in the past.

HAUKUR GUDMUNDSSON, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Iceland, thanked the Committee for the thoughtful questions.  Iceland was fully committed to equality, non-discrimination and the human rights set forth in the Convention.  Iceland was thankful for this dialogue and looked forward to continuing it.

NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, said the dialogue had made it possible for each of those present to listen to each other.  He thanked the delegation.  It was important for the Committee to work with States parties, hand in hand, to achieve the objectives of the Convention.

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