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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the situation in Andorra

GENEVA (25 April 2019) - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined initial and second to sixth periodic report of Andorra on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Introducing the report, Joan Forner, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said Andorra had worked to develop legal and social instruments to prevent, address and punish crimes related to racial discrimination.  The State had rolled out various activities in the fields of education and prevention.  The first article of the Andorran Constitution stipulated that the State must respect and promote the principles of liberty, equality, justice and tolerance, as well as human rights and human dignity.  Concerning the harmonization of the legislative and constitutional definitions of racial discrimination with that of the Convention, he recalled that article 6 of the Andorran Constitution established the absolute equality of people before the law rather than defined racial discrimination.  The legal hierarchy established in the Constitution gave primacy to international legislation.  Therefore, article 1 of the Convention had a supra-legal status and thus guided the implementation of all laws on racial discrimination as well as the way in which the judges interpreted them.

During the dialogue, Committee Experts inquired about the legal framework that regulated the activities of civil society.  They asked about cases where rights protected by the Convention were cited and protected by courts, and if the delegation could provide disaggregated data on racial discrimination, the number of final decisions handed down, as well as the number of pending cases.  While noting that the report was submitted over 10 years late, Experts commended the delegation for the quality of the document.  Additional information was requested on the law on equality and non-discrimination which was enacted on 21 March 2019.  An Expert asked which institutions were responsible to receive complaints related to racism and racial discrimination, noting that the absence of complaints on racism did not mean that racism was non-existent.  More information was requested about the education system, particularly as pertained to the private education institutions.  On Andorra’s diversity of ethnic groups, an Expert asked if educational projects were designed on a “one size fits all” basis, or if some of them targeted specific groups and were tailored to address specific issues accordingly.

Bakari Sidiki Diaby, Committee Rapporteur for Andorra, thanked the delegation for its honesty and openness.  Very few countries had ratified article 14 of the Convention, and the fact that Andorra was amongst them was commendable.

Mr. Forner, in his concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the frank dialogue.  The delegation would submit additional information in writing.  The Government would continue to work to increase civil society’s involvement.

Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, said the delegation had been able to answer a great number of questions in great detail in a short period of time.  The Committee looked forward to receiving Andorra’s next periodic report, as it was certain that it would reflect the dialogue that had just taken place.

The delegation of Andorra consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice and Home Affairs, the Criminal Court, and the Permanent Mission of Andorra to the United Nations Office at Geneva.  

The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m. to consider the combined sixteenth and seventeenth report of Guatemala (CERD/C/GTM/16-17).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial and second to sixth periodic report of Andorra (CERD/C/AND/1-6).

Presentation of the Report

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, at the outset said that he wished to engage in a constructive dialogue with members of the Committee.  While acknowledging that, following the ratification of the Convention in 2006, the initial report should have been submitted in 2007, he underscored that adhesion to human rights mechanisms, albeit indispensable, created a heavy workload for States parties.  Andorra’s human resources were limited, and meeting all the reporting commitments sometimes proved extremely difficult.  However, the fact that Andorra did not inform the Committee of its achievements did not mean that no efforts were made.  Quite to the contrary, Andorra had worked to develop legal and social instruments to prevent, address and punish crimes related to racial discrimination.  The State had rolled out various activities in the fields of education and prevention.  The first article of the Andorran Constitution stipulated that the State must respect and promote the principles of liberty, equality, justice and tolerance, as well as human rights and human dignity, he recalled.

In June 2018, the Government had enacted a law which reversed the burden of proof in cases of racial discrimination - a significant step for the country, and yet another example of its willingness to follow all recommendations that sought to further human rights.  Andorra had chosen the theme of democratic citizenship as the flagship of its presidency of the Council of Europe in 2012-2013.  While there were cases of discrimination or racial insults, the Ombudsman had not received complaints in the past 21 years.  In that regard, Andorra benefited from a serene atmosphere as regards its multicultural diversity.  Andorra recognized the value of immigration, and did not question its multiculturalism.  It had worked so that its values could be taught and shared through its education system. 

Concerning the harmonization of the legislative and constitutional definitions of racial discrimination with that of the Convention, Mr. Forner recalled that article 6 of the Andorran Constitution established the absolute equality of people before the law rather than defined racial discrimination.  The legal hierarchy established in the Constitution gave primacy to international legislation.  Therefore, article 1 of the Convention had a supra-legal status and thus guided the implementation of all laws on racial discrimination as well as the way in which the judges interpreted them.

Mr. Forner underscored the recent enactment, on 21 March 2019, of the law on equality and non-discrimination.  This law was the most recent example of the legislative branch’s work to elaborate on, and implement, the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution.  It provided a broad definition of non-discrimination in its first article, which it elaborated on in further details in following articles.  It notably forbade discrimination based on nationality, or lack thereof; racial or ethnic origin; religion; convictions or philosophical, political union-related opinions; age; and sexual orientation, amongst others.

The review of the Andorran criminal code had allowed the addition of provisions that could be found in article 4(b) of the Convention.  The criminal code enabled authorities to take action with measures like those referred to in article 4(b) of the Convention against any person responsible for propaganda activities seeking to stoke hate or spread discriminatory, racist, supremacist, or negationist opinions.  Further, the Ombudsman's role had been broadened to combat racism, notably by providing information and support to victims.  It was now entrusted with the responsibility to receive, manage, follow-up and act on complaints.

Andorra endeavoured to respect its international commitments and was very keen to foster prevention through education, Mr. Forner concluded.

Questions by Committee Experts

BAKARI SIDIKI DIABY, Committee Rapporteur for Andorra, recalled that Andorra’s report was submitted 12 years after it was due.  And yet, Andorra had submitted reports to other treaty bodies in the meanwhile.  He asked what the Government was doing to foster diversity?  He also asked for additional information about awareness-raising campaigns related to the Convention.  Who were the people involved in conducting these campaigns and who did they target?

Andorra had committed to creating a national human rights institution in 2015.  What steps had been taken to meet that commitment?  What would this national human rights institution look like?  He inquired about the legal framework that regulated the activities of civil society.  He asked about cases where rights protected by the Convention were cited and protected by courts.

The Rapporteur asked the delegation to provide disaggregated data on racial discrimination, the number of final decisions handed down by the courts or the human rights institution, as well as the number of pending cases.  Had the Government carried out surveys on perception of, and trust in, its institutions?

Concerning stateless persons or persons at risk of becoming stateless, he asked if Andorra was considering the adoption of laws and policies to protect them.  What had the Government done to improve the working conditions of migrant workers?

Concerning the media, the Rapporteur asked for figures on violations of the code of conduct of journalists that were related to discrimination.  How were these violations addressed?  He also asked if there was an authority regulating the media.  Were there measures in place to prevent and suppress hate speech online and on social media platforms?

Another Expert, while noting that the report was submitted over 10 years late, commended the delegation for the quality of the document.  In every country, there were forms of discrimination manifested on a daily basis.  Could the delegation provide additional information on the law on equality and non-discrimination which was enacted on 21 March 2019?  He inquired about children born to foreigners in Andorra.  Could they remain aliens and be prevented from becoming nationals of Andorra?  Recalling that the Roma were discriminated against throughout Europe, he asked the delegation for more information on their situation in Andorra.

Another Expert asked which institutions were responsible to receive complaints related to racism and racial discrimination.  The absence of complaints on racism did not mean that racism was non-existent.  Pointing out that there was a migrant population in Andorra, he inquired about their situation in the country.

Concerning the law on equality and non-discrimination, another Expert asked the delegation to describe the Government’s mind set at the time of its adoption.  What did the Government seek to achieve with this law?  She also asked for further information on the education system, particularly as pertained to the private education institutions.  It was important for the Committee to meet with Andorran representatives on a regular basis, she stressed, emphasizing the importance of an ongoing dialogue.

An Expert, underscoring the linkage between climate change and other phenomena such as migration, asked the delegation to comment on the State’s responsibility and role in that regard.  Did Andorra have any policy that took into account the International Decade of People of African Descent?

On Andorra’s diversity of ethnic groups, an Expert asked if the educational projects were designed on a “one size fits all” basis.  Did some of them target specific groups?  Were some of them tailored to address specific issues accordingly? Concerning economic and social rights, she asked if there were any segments of the population that worked in the lower levels of the tourism and service industry.

Recalling that there were two levels of jurisdiction in Andorra, an Expert asked about the constituency of the High Council.  He also inquired about the number of courts and judges.

In a similar vein, an Expert asked for more information on the members of the Supreme Council.  Did the delegation have any statistics on the representation of minorities in Parliament and in Government?

Another Expert noted the existence of three education systems, one in French, one in Catalan and another in Spanish.  Could all three be accessed free of charge?  Were they all public?

Replies by the Delegation

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, recalled that Andorra was a small country and that there had not been any registered cases of racial discrimination.  He said that adhering to the Convention and receiving recommendations was helpful.  Mobilizing civil society was difficult, because it was not very well organized.  He assured the Committee that things were changing slowly but surely.  Someone had been appointed to coordinate the submission of human rights reports.  At first, Andorra had not realized what a great asset its education system was.  Andorra was a village with the responsibilities and obligations of a big country, he added.

The delegation said the High Council was independent; it was comprised of five judges who served six-year terms.  On the perception of the judiciary, it was difficult to analyze.  The perception of corruption amongst judges was favourable, according to a recent review.  There was public trust in the judicial system in Andorra, at levels that were above the European average.  There was a free legal consultation service which could be accessed on a walk-in basis.  Legal aid was offered to people in unfavourable financial situations.  Regardless of the nationality, detainees benefitted from access to lawyers, which were paid for by the State if the detainee could not afford the legal fees.  If an issue related to racial discrimination was brought to the attention of judges, they had to refer it to the criminal sphere. When there was a discriminatory component to a crime, it was considered aggravated.  And both the legislation on non-discrimination and the laws relevant to the crime per se were applied in that context.

A Committee Expert asked for information about persons in prison, and what was the breakdown of the incarcerated population.

The delegation replied that about 50 per cent of the prison population was Andorran, but given that there were only 80 inmates, approximately, the makeup could vary significantly if an arrest was made.

On education, the delegation explained that a specialized education law dating from 1993 established coexistence as a core value of the education system.  International agreements regulated the three education systems, as did international conventions.  Concerning the curricula, there were frameworks that bound all three systems.  The systems were public, and each family could choose the system they preferred for their child, without any restriction.  Likewise, newcomers could also choose which education system their child would join.  Out of the 220 children with disabilities in Andorra, 209 went to regular schools.  Three million euros were earmarked to ensure their proper integration in the regular education system.  In French-language and Spanish-language schools, there were Catalan classes as well as Andorran history classes, as the Government believed that this fostered cohesion.

A Committee Expert asked if pupils learned about the history of France and Spain.

The delegation responded that the curricula in French-language and Spanish-language schools were based on that of France and Spain, respectively.  An Andorran component complemented these curricula.

The Government had put in place a cross-cutting programme to combat gender-based violence and all forms of violence, as well as discrimination against all vulnerable groups.  The Equality Service had created a white paper that led to a law on those issues.  The Service sought to raise awareness and ensure that Andorrans understood the need for a paradigm shift regarding inequalities.  It covered issues faced by women, but also persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and the elderly, amongst others.  This work was conducted in collaboration with associations such as the Red Cross.  In addition, an Observatory on Inequalities had been created and a comprehensive law on the protection of children had been enacted. 

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, recalled that the objective of the interactive dialogue was to improve Andorra’s human rights performance.  He stressed that the delegation was looking forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations. 

The delegation said that Andorra had created an Equality Service to address the needs of people who had been victims of discrimination.  The nature of their grievance was noted and a jurist was appointed to support them.  They were also offered psychological support.  The Equality Service also organized prevention campaigns.  

A white paper on equality had been published in Andorra by the Government.  Civil society organizations and other stakeholders had been involved in the drafting process.  Surveys had been conducted to draw up a map of the situation, and efforts had been made to ensure the proper representation of vulnerable groups.  A thorough consultation process with civil society had been put in place, even though some of the organizations that were consulted considered themselves as cultural organizations rather than service providers.  The white paper on equality had also been built on the basis of an online survey, which indicated that a majority of people thought that Andorra did not have an adequate system to address racial discrimination.  This survey had been conducted before the adoption of the March 2019 law on equal treatment and non-discrimination, which was in part inspired by its results.  The establishment of an Observatory on Equality was one of the priorities that stemmed from the white paper.

Concerning Andorran labour law, the delegation reiterated that a standards hierarchy was in place, which established the primacy of the Constitution and international law.  Andorra abided by the standards created by organizations such as the International Labour Organization.  The head of the Andorran Labour Directorate said it had not received any complaints related to racial discrimination. Turning to statistical data on discrimination, Andorra did not compile statistics based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, origin, etc., as the Government believed that gathering such data could in fact lead to discrimination.  

On human trafficking, the delegation said there had only been one case in recent years, which involved prostitutes and a pimp, who were all Ukrainian nationals.  Following the adoption of a law, the country had adopted a protocol which would guide the way in which human trafficking instances were addressed, so as to offer victims the appropriate assistance.  The Ministry of the Interior determined whether or not a person should be considered a victim of human trafficking.  Efforts were made to disseminate information on the governmental services and policies related to human trafficking.

Turning to the situation of Roma, the delegation said there were no Roma living in Andorra, and there had been no reports of any Roma passing through the country.  They had no reason to go to Andorra; it was more advantageous for them to stay in the Schengen area.  There were people who could be considered of gypsy origin.  They were not, however, considered vulnerable by the Government, as they themselves did not consider themselves vulnerable and did not necessarily identify as gypsies.  The Andorran statistics office had not conducted any statistical investigations on religious affiliations. 

While civil society was not very well organized to work on human rights issues, there were numerous associations in Andorra.  There was a qualified law on association in Andorra, which allowed any Andorran national or any person residing in Andorra to create an association.  This was the legal framework that regulated civil society.  The Andorran system for managing migration was based on quotas, for seasonal workers, for instance.  

To acquire nationality in Andorra, one must have been born there, reside in the country for 20 years, or marry an Andorran.  In the past three years, 238 people had appeared before the nationality commission to obtain the Andorran nationality, and 24 of them saw their application rejected.  This denial was due to technical, precise reasons.  Applicants had to demonstrate a mastery of official languages as well as sufficient knowledge of the country’s history.  These were the only two criteria that the commission could use to deny the Andorran nationality to eligible candidates.

On the arrival of aliens and asylum seekers, the delegation stressed that Andorra was not a member of the European Union nor was it part of the Schengen area.   It did not have an airport.   For these reasons, there were numerous technical issues specific to Andorra that had to be taken into consideration when discussing these topics.

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said all Andorran laws took into consideration racial discrimination issues.  For instance, article 4 of the Labour Code referred to racial discrimination, and so did the qualified law on childhood and adolescence.  Concerning the Office of the Ombudsperson, he acknowledged that its powers should be increased.  Campaigns should be organized to promote it.  The latest person to be appointed ombudsperson was an extremely well-known figure and his powers had been extended.  Since 2017, his office has been able to cover racial discrimination, but no complaints related to racial discrimination had been received.  

Mr. Forner said that Andorra only recently started raising taxes, and this had impacted its international cooperation policies.  Andorra had started to contribute financially to international cooperation programmes.  The delegation said Andorra provided funding for projects rolled-out in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund in Congo, for instance.  Andorra also funded projects in Guatemala.  Further, the Government sought to raise awareness on diversity and multiculturalism.  It allocated funds to non-governmental organizations in Andorra to that end.

Mr. Forner, while acknowledging that the ability to speak Catalan was an advantage for job seekers in Andorra, said that it was by no means absolutely necessary.  There were, for instance, several seasonal workers from Argentina who worked in ski resorts who did not speak Catalan.  The Andorran Ministry of Culture offered Catalan lessons free of charge, he recalled.

The delegation explained that, in 2008, a centre had been created to offer cross-cutting services to refugees.  The Government had taken steps to welcome refugee families, by notably offering them social security and language lessons.  The refugee families had been able to choose which of the three Andorran education systems their children would attend.

Concerning democratic citizenship, Andorra had developed a European reference framework to provide skills and knowledge to people who wished to participate fully in democratic and open societies.  The programme sought to encourage the acquisition of skills, such as multilingualism, and foster attitudes such as openness to different worldviews.  It also developed a critical understanding of the world, human rights, media, the economy and sustainable development.  There were multicultural days organized in schools.  In order to obtain their baccalauréat, pupils had to complete a community project, such as teaching less privileged children to play a musical instrument.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked for clarification regarding the process through which foreigners could acquire Andorran citizenship.

BAKARI SIDIKI DIABY, Committee Rapporteur for Andorra, commended the delegation for the thoroughness of its answers.  He looked forward to receiving more detailed responses in writing.

A Committee Expert encouraged the delegation to think creatively about its participation in the International Decade for People of African Descent.  The Decade was created to promote and raise awareness about the heritage and contribution of people of African descent.  Taking part in it would be beneficial, even if there were few of them in Andorra.  The same went, she said, for the Roma: it would be useful to educate the Andorran population about Roma’s contribution to European culture.

Responses by the Delegation

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, thanked the Expert for her suggestions and said the Government would take them into consideration.  It could partner with Andorran associations to that end.

On citizenship, the delegation assured that any person that had been a resident in Andorra for 20 years could ask for citizenship.  The only grounds for denial were insufficient mastery of Catalan and insufficient knowledge of Andorran geography, institutions and history.

Turning to the rights, freedom and security issues, the delegation pointed out that article 5 of the Constitution replicated provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The safety and security of a person could never be nullified; only a crime or a disaster could justify that a person’s freedom of movement be curtailed.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert commended the creation of an Observatory on Equality.  Could the delegation provide more information on the statistical investigations on equality?  What was Andorra doing to follow up on the findings?

NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, asked whether international law prevailed over constitutional law in Andorra.  Was the Convention incorporated in constitutional law?  Was the definition of racial discrimination embodied in the Andorran criminal code?  He asked the delegation to comment on the rise of populism, and its effects on Andorran and European politics.  Populist thought would reject the premise of article 4 of the Convention, he stated.  

Responses by the Delegation

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said article 4 of the Convention was transposed in the criminal code.  Populism was a matter of great concern for Andorra and European countries.  The Government had been able to put in place mechanisms to undercut hate speech, but remained vigilant and acted with caution. In that context, its promotion of democratic citizenship through education reflected a long-term vision.  “The children of today are the adults of tomorrow,” he added.

The delegation explained that persons could benefit from legal advice through a programme that was distinct from legal aid.  This programme offered free and anonymous access to legal advice.  Although there had not been any rulings pertaining to racial discrimination, the Government knew it had to be prepared for that possibility.

Concluding Remarks

BAKARI SIDIKI DIABY, Committee Rapporteur for Andorra, thanked the delegation for its honesty and openness.  Very few countries had ratified article 14 of the Convention, and the fact that Andorra was amongst them was commendable.

JOAN FORNER, Director of the Department for Bilateral and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, in his concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the frank dialogue.  The delegation would submit additional information in writing.  The Government would continue to work to increase civil society’s involvement.

NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, said the delegation had been able to answer a great number of questions in great detail in a short period of time.  The Committee looked forward to receiving Andorra’s next periodic report, as it was certain that it would reflect the dialogue that had just taken place.

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