GENEVA (30 August 2018) - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) received recently three inter-state communications. It is the first time that a human rights treaty body receives an inter-state communication. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), adopted on 21 December 1965, is the oldest UN human rights treaty and entered into force on 4 January 1969.
Under article 11 of the Convention, a State party may file a communication to the Committee when it considers that another State party is not giving effect to the provisions of this Convention. On 8 March 2018, the State of Qatar submitted an inter-state communication against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as another inter-state communication against the United Arab Emirates. On 23 April 2018, the State of Palestine submitted an inter-state communication against the State of Israel. In May 2018, the Committee decided to transmit those three communications to the respective States concerned. The deadline for response was 7 August 2018. Both the United Arab Emirates and Israel submitted their response to the Committee within the deadline and the Committee decided to transmit the responses to the submitting States. The Committee also granted the request from Saudi Arabia for an extension of 30 days. Once the response from Saudi Arabia will be received, the Committee decided that it will be transmitted to Qatar.
Under article 11 of the Convention, “if the matter is not adjusted to the satisfaction of both. parties, either by bilateral negotiations or by any other procedure open to them, within six months after the receipt by the receiving State of the initial communication, either State shall have the right to refer the matter again to the Committee by notifying the Committee and also the other State”. Consequently, if one of the States will refer the matter again to the Committee before 8 November 2018, the Committee will have to consider the admissibility of the communication. The Committee has also to ascertain that all available domestic remedies have been exhausted. Moreover, the Committee may call upon the State parties concerned to supply any other relevant information. According to article 11, paragraph 5, the Committee will invite the States parties concerned to send a representative to take part in the proceedings of the Committee, without voting rights. In view of those provisions, the Committee will not be in a position to deal with preliminary issues such as jurisdiction and admissibility before its 98th session which will take place in April/May 2019.
If the communication is considered admissible, the Chairperson of the Committee will then, under article 12 of the Convention, appoint five members of an ad hoc Conciliation Commission, serving in their individual capacity, to consider the matter. The members of the Commission, appointed with the unanimous consent of the parties to the dispute, shall make their good offices available to the States concerned with a view to an amicable solution of the matter on the basis of respect for the Convention. Members of the Commission not agreed upon by the States parties shall be elected by secret ballot by a two thirds majority vote of the Committee.
It is noteworthy that on 11 June 2018, the State of Qatar instituted proceedings against the United Arab Emirates at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with regard to alleged violations of the same Convention. On 23 July 2018, the ICJ delivered its Order on the Request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Qatar in the case concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Qatar v. United Arab Emirates).