Sixty-fifth session (2005)
General recommendation XXXI on the prevention of racial discrimination
in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the definition of racial discrimination set out in article 1 of the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention, under which States parties have an
obligation to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or
ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the right to equal treatment
before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice,
Recalling that article 6 of the Convention requires States parties to assure to everyone within
their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other
State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination, as well as the right to seek from such
tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such
discrimination,
Referring to paragraph 25 of the declaration adopted by the World Conference against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001,
which expressed “profound repudiation of the racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance that persist in some States in the functioning of the penal system and in the application of
the law, as well as in the actions and attitudes of institutions and individuals responsible for law
enforcement, especially where this has contributed to certain groups being overrepresented among
persons under detention or imprisoned”,
Referring to the work of the Commission on Human Rights and of the Sub-Commission on
the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (see E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/7) concerning discrimination
in the criminal justice system,
Bearing in mind the reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism,
racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,
Referring to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, in particular article 16,
which stipulates that “[a] refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all
Contracting States”,
Bearing in mind the observations relating to the functioning of the system of justice made in
the Committee’s conclusions concerning reports submitted by States parties and in general
recommendations XXVII (2000) on discrimination against Roma, XXIX (2002) on discrimination
based on descent and XXX (2004) on discrimination against non-citizens,
Convinced that, even though the system of justice may be regarded as impartial and not
affected by racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia, when racial or ethnic discrimination does
exist in the administration and functioning of the system of justice, it constitutes a particularly serious
violation of the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law, the principle of fair trial and the
right to an independent and impartial tribunal, through its direct effect on persons belonging to groups
which it is the very role of justice to protect,
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