Experts of the Human Rights Committee Commend Luxembourg on its Comprehensive Report, Ask about Incorporating Treaties in Domestic Law and Female Genital Mutilation
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Luxembourg on how it implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Committee Experts commended Luxembourg on the comprehensive report, while asking about constitutional procedures to include treaties in domestic law and female genital mutilation.
A Committee Expert commended Luxembourg on the report, which was comprehensive and well put together, with detailed responses. Another Committee Expert greatly appreciated the clarity of the report and the abundance of statistics included, which was evidence that the State took the matter of human rights seriously.
A Committee Expert asked if the delegation could specify the constitutional procedures to include treaties in domestic law? What happened if there was a conflict between a human rights convention and the Constitution of Luxembourg? How would a clash be fixed?
One Expert said that the issue of female genital mutilation had become of interest to Luxembourg recently. What was the percentage of women in the country suffering from this practice, compared to the total population? Were there planned awareness campaigns against this practice among concerned communities? In view of the absence of female genital mutilation in the most recent national action plan, what was being done to ensure the effective implementation of existing laws on the practice?
The delegation said that the legal order in Luxembourg recognised international and European standards above national law. If there was a contradiction between international and national standards, the Constitution would have to be changed to align them. The Constitution provided for the adoption of international treaties. There was a special procedure for the amendment of the Constitution.
Luxembourg was unfortunately not spared from the practice of female genital mutilation, said the delegation. Seventeen per cent of girls in Luxembourg who had lived in a country where this was practiced were at risk of female genital mutilation. The National Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was an opportunity to raise awareness of the practice and on its consequences. A campaign aimed to act proactively and demystify the subject and to indicate the risk for girls and women were they to be victims of this practice. A national strategy had been implemented which involved prevention, training, and caring for victims.
Sam Tanson, Minister of Justice of Luxembourg and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said Luxembourg had set four international-level priorities for human rights, as part of its mandate started at the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year. These included support for the rule of law, civic space, and human rights defenders; sustainable development and climate action; gender equality; and the protection of children’s rights. Ms. Tanson said that despite this progress, there was an international context of fragility from the crises which had impacted the world, including the pandemic, the unjustifiable war waged by Russia against Ukraine, and the questioning of women’s rights in the United States.
In concluding remarks, Marc Bichler, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee and was convinced that such meetings could lead to progress. Mechanisms like the Committee were the best way to ensure all that was said politically was met in reality. Human rights were a government-wide commitment in Luxembourg.
Photini Pazartzis, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, said the dialogue had been very constructive over the past two days. The Committee could see the commitment expressed by the Luxembourg delegation to human rights. Having such a thorough report and eloquent replies greatly contributed to the success of the dialogue. Ms. Pazartzis congratulated Luxembourg on their first mandate in the Human Rights Council
The delegation of Luxembourg was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs; the Ministry of State Legal Service; the Ministry of Family; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Labour; and the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Human Rights Committee’s one hundred and thirty-fifth session is being held from 27 June to 27 July. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee is next scheduled to meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to consider the sixth periodic report of Uruguay (CCPR/C/URY/6).
The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Luxembourg (CCPR/C/LUX/4).
Presentation of Report
SAM TANSON, Minister of Justice of Luxembourg and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said Luxembourg had set four international-level priorities for human rights, as part of its mandate started at the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this year. These included support for the rule of law, civic space and human rights defenders; sustainable development and climate action; gender equality; and the protection of children’s rights.
Ms. Tanson said that a constitutional review was currently underway in parliament. The Government was leading several bills concerning access to justice, with a focus on digitalisation to simplify procedures, judicial assistance, the training of legal professions, and the ongoing project for the creation of a national council of the judiciary. Following years of important work, the Government had officially tabled three essential bills relating to children’s rights in March 2022, covering criminal and procedural law for minors and a reform of youth protection. A report was published in March on racism and ethno-racial discrimination in Luxembourg, which found that many people were victims of racial discrimination. The report presented a series of concrete recommendations to improve the situation.
An important bill was tabled in June this year concerning hate crimes, which introduced an aggravating circumstance in criminal law for a crime which had discriminatory characteristics. In compliance with data protection, two bills were underway relating to police and justice files, strengthening the fundamental rights of those in contact with the authorities. Several awareness-raising campaigns had also been carried out with a focus on women, domestic violence, and the rights of victims of trafficking in human beings, or different forms of exploitation.
Ms. Tanson said that despite this progress, there was an international context of fragility from the crises which had impacted the world, including the pandemic, the unjustifiable war waged by Russia against Ukraine, and the questioning of women’s rights in the United States. During the pandemic, Luxembourg’s Government had had to make difficult decisions which had sometimes impacted the fundamental rights of its residents. A key challenge was to find a balance between individual rights and collective rights, and the interests of public health and safety. The main COVID-19 law, established in July 2020, had undergone many changes to adapt the measures by gauging their impact on the lives of people in Luxembourg. National debates on the measures were also conducted. Avenues for improvement in the crisis would be studied to prepare for the next crisis.
The war in Ukraine was another example of a crisis. Luxembourg was working to ensure the needs and rights of people who had come to find refuge, through providing them with temporary protection in Luxembourg, in accordance with international, European, and national provisions. Ms. Tanson concluded by stating that Luxembourg would focus on honouring the implementation of the recommendations that the Committee would make.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert greatly appreciated the clarity of the report and the abundance of statistics included, which was evidence that the State took the matter of human rights seriously. Could the delegation explain why a reservation was in place under article 10? How and why did the withdrawal of the reservation depend on the adoption of the draft bill on criminal justice for minors? Could the link to the constitutional amendment and the reservation to article 19 be explained? Could the delegation specify the constitutional procedures to include treaties in domestic law? What happened if there was conflict between a human rights convention and the Constitution of Luxembourg? How would a clash be fixed?
Another Committee Expert commended the delegation on the measures taken to raise awareness of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol. An inter-ministerial human rights committee had been appointed, tasked with implementing the recommendations made by the Committee. Had all the recommendations made by the Committee now been implemented in the State? What was the impact of the recommendation on the State party’s fight against discrimination, and was it efficient? Could information be provided on the difference between Luxembourg nationals and non-nationals when it came to the principles of equality for all before the law?
A Committee Expert commended Luxembourg on the report, which was comprehensive and well put together, with detailed responses. The Expert asked if Luxembourg took any measures to limit risks of terrorist activities from areas known to be under the control of terrorist groups? Was there cooperation between Luxembourg and other States outside the European Union in the domain of combatting terrorism? What was done to protect the rights of victims of terrorism? Could information be provided on the status of adoption of the bill pertaining to accessibility to public places for all, especially persons with disabilities?
One Committee Expert noted concern at the delay in the legislative process necessary to make the national action plan on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons a reality. How many non-urgent surgical procedures were conducted on intersex children over the reporting period? How many discriminatory cases pertained to intersex persons? Could the delegation clarify if the rules concerning homosexual men donating blood were being monitored in practice?
A Committee Expert asked for additional information on the current status of the constitutional reform, and when it could be acted on in parliament? What was the jurisprudence when the issue of the right to life came before the courts? Were there statistics on the deaths or injuries suffered by people due to weapons used by the police? Did the police use their firearms frequently or were cases isolated?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that concerning the reservation to article 10, the law on children had been repealed because it was no longer in line with international standards. This had taken a long time, which meant that national legislation was no longer in line. Several provisions on the detention of minors had been completely reformed, with the minor detention centre being replaced with a penitentiary establishment specialising in minors. A minimum age of criminal liability had been set at the age of 14. These draft bills were a significant advance in the Luxembourg legislation. Regarding article 19, this reservation had been to protect freedom of expression. Measures had been taken to regulate freedom of the press in the context of the pandemic.
The legal order in Luxembourg recognised international and European standards above national law. If there was a contradiction between international and national standards, the Constitution would have to be changed to align them. The Constitution provided for the adoption of international treaties. There was a special procedure for the amendment of the Constitution.
The responsibility of the inter-ministerial committee on human rights was coordinating all government actions regarding human rights, bringing together representatives from all ministries. Civil society organizations were also invited to participate in its meetings. All the recommendations of the Committee had been considered, and one or more ministries were appointed to work towards their implementation. The delegation could not guarantee that all recommendations had been implemented, but ministries were working towards this. Human rights were under attack all over the world, and States were called on to promote and protect them, which was the work of the inter-ministerial committee.
The Centre for Equal Treatment did not have legal powers and could not take on any binding legal decisions. Regarding the report on racial intolerance, it had recommended that the Centre for Equal Treatment be granted the right to receive complaints and to carry out efficient investigations. A draft bill was underway to give the Centre these powers. The delegation said that the Constitution’s text meant equality before the law for all, even if the text detailed “those from Luxembourg” and “those not from Luxembourg”. No one was treated differently when they were in the territory of Luxembourg. While the delegation accepted this criticism, nothing would change in this area.
On counter terrorism measures, the delegation said it was a crucial balance between the rights of individuals and public security. Beyond legislative measures, an online platform “respect.lu” focused on the concept of radicalisation. A specialised service had been created for victims, and a special protective unit within the police had been established.
Three draft bills were underway containing an exact definition of persons with disabilities within the Covenant. A lack of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities was an infraction under the Criminal Code. There were individuals with disabilities still living in institutions as they did not have an available housing system which suited their needs. A new system would be proposed for financing which favoured the autonomy of individuals, bearing in mind their specific needs. The results of a census would be used to gather more detailed data on persons with disabilities in Luxembourg.
An inter-ministerial group had looked at the possibly of including a third gender group within the civil registry, and progress had been made on this. A draft law was aiming to include this third option, and the pronouns which went with it, which was based on the self-determination of the individual. The implementation of a structural forum for statistics was underway. Numbers on intersex individuals were collated in hospitals, and once the project was implemented, the delegation would know how many intersex treatments were offered. There were no legislative provisions which restricted the right to give blood based on sexual orientation. Centres performing blood transfusions were required to ask about sexual practices, not sexual orientation.
The delegation said that cases where police officers used their firearms were isolated cases and were not something which happened regularly. There was a new law which had entered into force in Luxembourg in February this year on firearms.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about international cooperation between Luxembourg and States that were not members of the European Union. Were there activities undertaken in the area of counter terrorism with these States?
Another Committee Expert congratulated Luxembourg on the advancements it had made in human rights. However, the Expert expressed concern at the issue of racial discrimination, particularly against black people. What measures were being taken by the State party in regard to enforcement on the streets, and how the situation could be improved?
A Committee Expert asked if the lack of an expressed provision on the right to life in the Constitution of Luxembourg had given rise to problems in court cases?
One Committee Expert asked whether there were specific procedures or a mechanism in place, in the case that the Committee issued a complaint about the implementation of its recommendations?
A Committee Expert asked whether data and sharing agreements in regard to terrorism were under any kind of oversight?
Another Committee Expert noted that legislation on the state of emergency was still in force and periodically amended. Could more information be provided on this legislation?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the very first framework on terrorism was provided by the United Nations, which Luxembourg followed. Procedures had been set up to share information between different ministries throughout the country, the police department, and other relevant services. There was a separate dimension, which included the protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism. There was a programme between the European Union, the African Union, and the United Nations, which incorporated multi-faceted training in human rights. Another cooperation framework was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which addressed security measures, including counter terrorism. Luxembourg was a member of the Organization of Cooperation in Europe, which aimed to build the capacity of many countries from all over the world when it came to combatting terrorism. Respect for human rights was a priority for all measures they undertook.
The fight against discrimination was a cross-cutting component present across all policies. A study had been conducted to have a clear snapshot of the current situation of racism in Luxembourg. The study had quantitative and qualitative components. The study had found that racism was predominantly based on cultural stereotypes, which people viewed as micro-aggressions in their daily lives. As a result of these results, training had been conducted and lectures had been offered to the general public. Workshops had been held on public housing and education, which were viewed as important sectors within the report. A pilot project for black people had been launched, and more details would be provided in writing. New legislative and criminal measures were in place, including the hate crime draft bill. The right to life was enshrined in all national instruments and was the foundation of laws in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg had shown its belief in the Committee and valued its opinion. If the Committee believed that Luxembourg was failing in its international obligations, it was up to the Government to address the consequences. If there was a recommendation or complaint from the Committee, this would be based on the Covenant, and there may be legal proceedings established to address the complaint. This would be done on a case-by-case basis.
A new legal framework for data gathering was being developed. Given this subject matter was constantly changing, and the need to ensure cooperation at a European level, there was a reform on data gathering. Regarding the state of emergency, all measures relating to this were included in a law, which was amended 20 times to adapt to the evolution of the pandemic. It was adapted until the decision was made to remove wearing a mask in public.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked for more information about the draft bill on the certificate of mortality? The Expert welcomed the draft bill on international protection, which was currently underway, asking if the website portal for welcoming procedures was already functioning? Did this cover all welcoming procedures for those seeking international protection?
Another Committee Expert noted that the lengthening of the time frame from three to six months, to request family reunification, was a positive development. Was the State party considering making more amendments to facilitate this process further? Could information be provided on measures to prevent unaccompanied children from being placed in detention centres? More information was needed on why there was no exception for people who had been recognised as stateless to receive special resident permits.
A Committee Expert understood that the issue of female genital mutilation had become of interest to Luxembourg recently. What was the percentage of women in the country suffering from this practice, compared to the total population? Were there planned awareness campaigns against this practice among concerned communities? In view of the absence of female genital mutilation in the most recent national action plan, what was being done to ensure effective implementation of existing laws on the practice? What would be the mechanism for victims to bring cases to justice?
One Committee Expert drew attention to the grave levels of physical and psychological suffering that intersex persons were undergoing due to irreversible medical procedures, stating this must be addressed by the Government. What was the status of the bill to prohibit non-consensual reassignment surgery on intersex persons? What were the main reasons for the delay and lack of progress, aside from the pandemic? How many cases had been investigated and received criminal penalties, under the data protection act, in the context of the pandemic? During the tracing of infected persons, how many of those people were informed about the use of their person data?
The Expert noted that the Government planned to introduce a comprehensive framework for the protection of whistle blowers. Could the delegation inform the Committee on the latest developments in drafting such a bill? The Expert reminded the delegation of the Committee’s comments that States should consider the decriminalisation of defamation. Imprisonment should never be an appropriate penalty. Could the delegation clarify its stance on the decriminalisation of defamation? What was the status of the preliminary bill which the State planned to introduce in relation to defamation offences?
One Committee Expert noted with satisfaction the creation of the inter-ministerial committee for human rights, asking for information on the authority of that committee? Which department was it under? What role did it play in the protection of human rights?
A Committee Expert asked who made the decision to refuse a request for free legal aid and if this could be appealed? Were there caps on the hours that lawyers could spend for each case?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the certificate of mortality did not exist as such, however, there was a draft law on the verification of honourability. The legislation provided oversight on honourability in certain professions.
The website for welcoming procedures for those seeking international protection was still being put together. The translation of different documents remained to be completed; however, things were moving ahead. This portal would cover all welcoming procedures for those requesting international protection.
Requests for family reunification were kept in mind, and these were responded to as quickly as possible. The law did not set forth for the concept of extended family and did not cover brothers and sisters; it was only parental. Unaccompanied minors were taken care of by the office of welcoming and were not placed in detention centres. Luxembourg implemented the New York Convention on statelessness, and the office of immigration had determined that a legislative process did not need to be undertaken, given the Convention. Once there was a determination of statelessness, the individual needed to make a request to receive a resident’s card.
Luxembourg was unfortunately not spared from the practice of female genital mutilation. Seventeen per cent of girls in Luxembourg who had lived in a country where this was practiced were at risk of female genital mutilation. The National Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was an opportunity to raise awareness of the practice and on its consequences. A campaign aimed to act proactively and demystify the subject and to indicate the risk for girls and women were they to be victims of this practice. Training was offered to all those who worked with women seeking international protection to identify cases where this had occurred and prevent it from occurring further. A national strategy had been implemented which involved prevention, training and caring for victims. If a case of female genital mutilation were to happen, the victim could present a complaint. The judge would verify the competence of the case and take several factors into account.
The delegation said that the bill for the protection of intersex persons was still being drafted. The pandemic had had an impact on the progress, and the matter was complicated. The goal was to have an efficient framework. The delegation agreed that these practices needed to be prohibited to improve the lives of intersex persons. The inclusion of a third group to the civil status would better protect the rights of intersex persons.
The delegation said that information had been available on a website, which informed the public how the pandemic was being managed. An internal mechanism was in place for the treatment of data. Information would be sent in writing to illustrate how Luxembourg had used the directive of the European Union on people who believed their data had been violated.
The delegation said the inter-ministerial human rights committee was created in June 2015 and was a permanent body with an official mandate. It had allowed Luxembourg to significantly improve the reporting to treaty bodies, and had an important awareness-raising role on international human rights treaties, working in consultation with national human rights institutions, while respecting their independence, in accordance with the Paris Principles.
The delegation said the number of hours of legal assistance would be provided later.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that Luxembourg had justified the State’s financing of religious communities. Who represented religious communities? Which communities received subsidies? Did the financing of religious communities run counter to the State’s neutrality on religious matters? Was it possible that the financing could reduce the autonomy of communities that benefited from the subsidies? Regarding the life and society classes, Luxembourg had a forward-looking position and had received a certificate of good practice from the European network, showing this project was forward looking. Could an impact of the project be provided? Was it welcomed favourably? Were there any hostile reactions in the country? What was the content of the national strategy against anti-Semitism? What was the impact of the SOS radicalisation programme? Did it have a positive impact? Had there been a decrease in radicalisation? What were procedures for protests and gatherings in Luxembourg?
Another Committee Expert asked for further details around legal assistance. What was the current situation for those seeking legal assistance?
One Committee Expert asked about the continuing effects of COVID-19 on the judiciary? Were there any delays? What specific measures were taken to protect vulnerable people during this time?
A Committee Expert said information had been received indicating that children could be detained under certain exceptional circumstances in detention centre facilities adapted to their specific age, for up to seven days. Were these legal provisions enforced and what was their scope?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that each religious community had the choice of determining the person that would represent them in their relations with the State. The State did not meddle in their religious affairs. The communities were free to not receive financing, and therefore this meant that it was not an issue of neutrality to the State. Financing would not limit the autonomy of the religious communities, as they needed to commit to financial transparency. The operations of these communities did not depend on the subsidies of the State.
The SOS radicalisation programme provided support and listening to those who faced extremism and radicalisation. There were also consultations, training and awareness raising. A programme on hate speech was implemented to provide people with different alternatives.
The Government was delighted at how the life and society classes were received, replacing traditional religious classes in schools with these classes. There was no knowledge of hostile reactions to the programme, but this would be looked at more closely.
The Constitution guaranteed the right to unarmed peaceful assembly, and there was a need for equality in these events. There was a well thought out procedure for requesting these kinds of events. There had been protests which had gotten out of hand due to the pandemic, and the police had introduced measures depending on the proportionality of the response. The delegation said public leaders sought to ensure order when there were events of this nature, and authorisation online was required.
Luxembourg believed that the measures taken during the pandemic were limited in their scope and time. The legal procedures for involving the Luxembourg parliament were respected. During the pandemic, the Government had adopted measures relating to jurisdictional timetables. Measures were taken to facilitate the transfer of documents electronically, rather than through the post or in person. Many of the vulnerable populations, including the elderly or those with disabilities, had not been able to participate in programmes due to the pandemic. The Government had remunerated those who had to take care of individuals at home while the support systems were closed. The Government had called for an evaluation of the measures implemented.
Financial support had been provided to organizations focused on fighting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. A system was in place for the homeless during the COVID period to preserve their health. The Government had sought to help all vulnerable people while still respecting the health provisions. The Government also took measures to support those with low income who were impacted by the pandemic.
Legislation stated that minors could not be detained except as a last resort. The idea was to keep the holding period as brief as possible, and minors could only be held under exceptional circumstances. Families with minors were given access to appropriate facilities, and the time period in which they were held could not exceed 72 hours.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if there was a backlog of criminal cases, and were there measures to ensure it was handled in a reasonable time?
Another Committee Expert said that all problems with radicalisation could be remedied with the educational system, which was why the life and society classes were a cutting edge. A better assessment of the impact of the programme would be appreciated. How was the State’s contribution from religious communities executed? Was the same sum given to all communities equally? What criteria were used in assessing the amount given to these religious communities?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the criteria for financing religious communities were set with each community.
MARC BICHLER, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee and was convinced that such meetings could lead to progress. It was clear that dialogues such as this were an indispensable tool in materialising what had been adopted politically or through a legally binding instrument, as well as the Covenant, treaties and conventions. Mechanisms like the Committee were the best way to ensure all that was said politically was met in reality. Human rights were a government-wide commitment in Luxembourg.
PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Committee Chairperson, said the dialogue had been very constructive over the past two days. The Committee could see the commitment expressed by the Luxembourg delegation to human rights. Having such a thorough report and eloquent replies greatly contributed to the success of the dialogue. The progress of the State had been noted as well as challenges faced. It was important to have this dialogue between the Committee and the State party. Ms. Pazartzis congratulated Luxembourg on their first mandate in the Human Rights Council.
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