European Commission against Racism and Intolerance highlights the role of equality bodies in new reports

On 16 May 2017 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published two country reports and four conclusions on the implementation of previous recommendations. In their publications, ECRI pays special attention to the need for independent equality bodies with sufficient resources and powers.

Country reports

In the framework of its country monitoring work, ECRI examines the situation concerning manifestations of racism and intolerance in each of the Council of Europe member states. ECRI’s findings, along with recommendations as to how each country might deal with the problems identified, are published in country reports. These reports are drawn up after a contact visit to the country in question and a confidential dialogue with the national authorities.

On 16 May, ECRI published its report from Serbia and Denmark:

  • Country Report Serbia: The Commisssion finds that the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality (CPE) rests upon a solid legal framework and has a high degree of independence. However, CPE still lacks the power to take up cases of discrimination ex officio and to request the production of documents and other elements, and to seize such items when investigating cases of discrimination. ECRI recommends that CPE is granted such powers.
  • Country Report Demark: ECRI finds that the Board of Equal Treatment has powers and mandate mostly in line with ECRI recommendations, but some gaps still remain. ECRI therefore recommends to extend the mandate of the Board to include expressly the ground of language in the list of enumerated grounds applicable to the employment field, and the grounds of colour, religion, citizenship and language in the list of enumerated grounds applicable outside the employment field. The report also highlights the role of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, who has provided ECRI with key information concerning the equality situation in Denmark.

Conclusions: New process of interim follow-up

As part of its fifth round of monitoring work, ECRI has renewed its process of interim follow-up with respect to two specific recommendations made in each of its country reports. These conclusions concern only the specific interim recommendations and do not aim at providing a comprehensive analysis of all developments in the fight against racism and intolerance in the State concerned. On 16 May, ECRI published such conclusions for Bulgaria, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland:

  • Conclusions to the Slovak Republic: In 2014, ECRI recommended that the Slovak National Centre for Human Rigts should be given sufficient financial and human resources in order to fulfill independently and efficiently the tasks assigned to it by the Anti-discrimination Act. ECRI finds that a comprehensive reform is necessary, and that the slight increase in resources provided to the Centre since 2014 is not sufficient.
  • Conclusions to Bulgaria: In it’s 2014 country report, ECRI recommended that the Commission for Protection against Discrimination should produce and publish information about discrimination, and explain the procedures for discrimination complaints, in a variety of languages used in the country and disseminate it widely. ECRI finds that there have been some improvements on this issue, but that the recommendation is only considered partially implemented.
  • Conclusions to Switzerland: In its report on Switzerland published in 2014, ECRI recommended that the Swiss authorities confer on the Federal Commission against Racism tasks and responsibilities for providing aid and assistance to victim. ECRI finds that there have been improvements made at both the federal and the cantonal levels as concerns legal aid and assistance for victims, but it nonetheless notes with regret that the Swiss authorities have no plans to set up, at the national level, specialist bodies in charge of receiving complaints and tasked with settling them through amicable conciliation or legally binding decisions.

The conclusions to Romania does not concern equality bodies in particular.

Standards for equality bodies

Several of the issues raised by ECRI concerning the mandate, powers and resources of equality bodies/specialised bodies are strongly linked to Equinet’s call to develop for standards for equality bodies. ECRI is currently revising its General Policy Recommendation (GPR) No. 2 on Specialised bodies to combat racism and intolerance at national level. The recommendation will be discussed at ECRI’s seminar with Equality bodies on 23 and 24 May 2017 in Strasbourg.

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