NEWS - Archive September 2008

UN DURBAN REVIEW CONFERENCE

WEST ATTEMPTS TO DERAIL ANTI-RACISM CONFERENCE

Next year the United Nations Human Rights Council is scheduled to convene a conference on implementing the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, the final action-oriented document from the World Conference Against Racism held in South Africa seven years ago.

23/9/2008- Trouble is brewing with several western nations trying to derail the gathering, commonly referred to as “Durban II,” and scheduled for April 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. Western nations condemned the results of the first anti-racism conference, but reparations advocates are pushing the declaration, which includes recognition of slavery and colonialism as crimes against humanity and the need for restitution. According to the UN, the 2009 conference will identify concrete measures and initiatives that can and should be taken to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. The Durban Declaration, named for the site of the World Conference Against Racism in 2001, is viewed as a blueprint to combat racism and racial discrimination, according to the UN Human Rights Council. “Enacting laws and policies, establishing national action plans, providing remedies to victims and conducting public awareness and education campaigns were among the recommendations adopted seven-years-ago through the DDPA,” observed Bacre N’Diaye, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United States, Canada, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Britain and Israel have threatened to boycott Durban II claiming that anti-Israel tones by some nations would likely bring the review conference to a low point and hurt the image of participants and the United Nations.

At the UN, the U.S. laid out its argument for not wanting to participate. “The outcomes of the WCAR in 2001 were deeply flawed and divisive,” officials said. The U.S. delegation argued the follow-up meeting would be more of the same. “We see no change in the prospect of it being a biased one-sided, unproductive discussion,” said Benjamin Chang, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission. State Department officials have said attendance in Geneva would be left to the next administration. “Durban II isn’t about anti-semitism, which really has no place in the discussion period, as far as we are concerned,” said Dr. Conrad Worrill of the National United Black Front. “Our focus in participating in Durban II is to make sure that the international community holds steadfast to the declaration in the DDPA that the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery and colonialism are crimes against humanity; recognition of the economic basis of racism; and reparations for the descendents of the victims of these crimes,” Dr. Worrill told The Final Call. The National Black United Front and the Brooklyn-based December 12th Movement and International Secretariat led the “Durban 400,” the number of American Blacks that attended the World Conference Against Racism. Roger Wareham, an attorney and December 12th Movement member, spoke at a Prep Com for the 2009 conference that was held in Abuja, Nigeria on Aug. 24.

Mr. Wareham reminded delegates that the Western European & Other States Group took the “unprecedented” step of trying to reopen the Durban Declaration for reconsideration, mainly because of the demand for reparations. “The failure to implement the DDPA is the continuation of the WEO Group’s campaign to make the World Conference Against Racism go away,” Mr. Wareham said in Abuja. The UN General Assembly, in establishing the 2009 review conference, pointedly stated that its focus would be on implementation of the Durban Declaration and not re-opening the document for further considerations. “The final Declaration and Program of Action, though a consensus and thus a compromise document, was still a victory for the African continent and the African Diaspora,” Mr. Wareham said in Abuja. “This Prep Com provides us the opportunity to set an agenda to combat racism and racial discrimination and to ensure the enforcement of our collective human rights to development and self-determination in the 21st century,” he added.

Supporters of the 2009 meeting received a boost on Sept. 8 in Geneva, when the new UN human rights chief, Navanethem Pillay, a South African, criticized the threat by Western nations to stay away. “I urge those governments that have expressed an intention not to participate to reconsider their position,” she said. Mr. Wareham told The Final Call that Ms. Pillay’s position was a shot in the arm for Durban II. Another shot in the arm was recent news that Italy would pay reparations to Libya for damages done during colonization, he said. “That is why we added colonialism into the language of the DDPA, which is truly a crime against humanity,” Mr. Wareham said. One of the main points made during the Abuja Prep Com was that African nations are not going to back off their call for justice that is plainly laid out in the Durban Declaration, he said.
The Final Call

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UN VICTORY FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

The Human Rights Council has ruled that it s not necessary to establish a norm for defamation of religion.

20/9/2008- It’s a small victory for the defenders of free expression. The concept of defamation of religion promoted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and some African countries did not find favor in the Human Rights Council. It was this theme that concerned all member states this Spring and remains an issue that threatens the follow-up conference on racism (Durban II) which will be held in Geneva next April. If the Council cedes this point, warn certain Western nations ‘it is the end of the Council’s credibility’. On Thursday, Githu Muigai, the Special Rapporteur for contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, found it was not necessary to promote the sociological concept of defamation of religion but rather to adhere to juridical norms when it comes to inciting racial or religious hatred. In his report presented yesterday, Githu Muigai repeated the conclusions of his predecessor, Doudou Diène, France’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Speaking for the European Union, Jean-Baptiste Mattéi also applauded the reversal. ‘It is fundamental to make a distinction between criticizing religions and inciting religious hatred. Only the latter … should be banned.’ For France’s Ambassador, freedom of expression is an essential element for democracies. ‘One does not reduce tensions by preventing ideas about religion and belief.’

Speaking for Switzerland at the Council, Roberto Balzaretti also gave his support for this distinction. He referred to the report by Doudou Diène which compared a popular initiative against minarets to xenophobia. ‘The initiative in question reflected the position of a group of citizens and not that of Swiss authorities.’ The Ambassador stressed that Bern recommended defeating the initiative. Several Western and Latin American countries supported the refusal to create a new norm for defamation of religion. But some states with a Muslim majority have nevertheless did not give up. Algeria’s Ambassador to the UN, Idriss Jazaïry, rebelled against this vision of free expression. “Islamophobia has taken the place of anti-Semitism which has become politically incorrect in many rich nations. Freedom of expression must not allow the creation of a new form of anti-Semitism. [ed: Arabic is also a Semitic language] against Arabs and Muslims.’
The Syrian representative to the UN, Abdulmonem Annan, deplores the fact that ‘nations and institutions continue to interpret freedom of expression in an abusive manner to humiliate certain religious groups. He added that ‘it is surprising that freedom of expression doesn’t apply when one speaks of the siege of Gaza.’ At the end of the brief debate in the Council, the issue of defamation of religion was buried but there is no guarantee it won’t be resurrected.
Human Rights Tribune

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ARTICLE 19, CIHRS AND EIPR REJECT IDEA OF DEFAMATION OF RELIGION(Presss release)

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), with the support of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, have submitted a Joint Written Statement to the 9th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will take place in Geneva from 8-23 September 2008, criticising resolutions on ‘Defamation of Religion’ and calling on States not to support future resolutions of this sort on the basis that they justify excessive restrictions on freedom of expression. The Statement recognises the importance of the purported goals of the resolutions – which have in the past been sponsored by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and adopted by both the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council – namely to promote equality and understanding. But it also highlights three serious problems with the resolutions.

First, they seek to impose restrictions on freedom of expression which go beyond what is permitted under international law, in particular by seeking to protect religions, as such, from criticism rather than focusing on protecting individuals against defamation or hate speech.

Second, the resolutions are not tailored to addressing the very serious problems of discrimination and intolerance but focus instead on limiting criticism of religion. Proper resolution of these deep-rooted social problems is possible only in the context of open and pluralistic debate. Experience demonstrates that minority religious communities, in most need of protection against discrimination, are also most likely to be targeted for so-called criticism of religion.

Finally, the resolutions are drafted in vague terms – even the central concept of defamation of religion is undefined and unclear – which leaves them open to being abused, for example to justified overly broad blasphemy laws.

ARTICLE 19, CIHRS and EIPR urge all States to vote against future attempts by UN bodies to adopt resolutions on defamation of religion. The organisations also plan to host a parallel event at the upcoming Human Rights Council, to highlight these problems, which will run from 1300-1430 on 17 September.

The statement in full
Article 19

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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS REPRESENTATIONS BY INDEPENDENT EXPERTS ON SITUATION OF HR IN LIBERIA AND SOMALIA

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Racism, Starts General Debate on Racism and Follow-Up to Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

19/9/2008- The Human Rights Council this afternoon listened to presentations by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Liberia and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism and related intolerance and started its general debate on racism and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, listening to presentations by Brazil and Nigeria on the outcomes of the Regional Preparatory Meetings for the Durban Review Conference.

Charlotte Abaka, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Liberia, said she was pleased to say that there had been improvements in the human rights situation in Somalia, particularly concerning economic, social and cultural rights. However, urgent measures needed to be taken to ensure that the discrimination and marginalization in political and economic terms were addressed, as well as access to effective justice. Shamsul Bari, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said that he had taken up his mandate on 1 May 2008 and he had undertaken a trip to the Horn of Africa from 28 June to 12 July. He had come back with some impressions. People were living in constant fear; the State was very weak and could not provide protection to the population. Despite all the pain and agony he had heard about, it could not obscure the fact that there was new hope, especially since the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General had helped to bring the parties to move forward in the peace process.

During the meeting, the Council also heard from Brazil and Nigeria on the outcomes of the first two Regional Preparatory Meetings for the Durban Review Conference which will be held in April 2009. Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, briefing the Council on the outcome of the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in Brasilia in June 2008, said that, during the meeting, most countries had expressed concern about the need to protect the rights of indigenous people, the need to eliminate discrimination against people of African descent and the need to fight discrimination against migrant workers. Countries from the region had also expressed concern at the legislation recently passed or proposed by some countries that ran counter to the commitments made under human rights and migrant workers conventions. Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Regional Preparatory Meeting had addressed the gaps in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action through a number of measures. It had addressed the measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The meeting had also fostered close cooperation between national human rights institutions, non governmental organizations, and governments, particularly in the identification of good practices to curtail both incitement and dissemination of racial hatred.

Speaking in the ensuing general debate, States said that racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia were phenomena that existed in all societies. The international community must thus unite itself to fight them. The Durban Review Conference must concentrate on implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action without re-opening discussion on these documents. Islamophobia constituted a threat and in this regard, national and international responses remained insufficient. Some States also called on other regions to follow the example set by Latin America and Africa and organise their own Regional Preparatory Meetings. Speaking in the general debate were the delegations of France on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Cuba on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Ghana, Indonesia, South Africa, Bolivia, China, Algeria, Georgia, the African Union, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Morocco, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Holy See, Libya, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Armenia and Denmark.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism and related intolerance. In concluding remarks, Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said that the shift from the concept of defamation of religion to incitement to religious hatred was intended to clarify the concept. It helped to move the discussion forward and to avoid difficult nomenclature. The Special Rapporteur said that there was a consensus gradually emerging. Especially after having consulted the documents of the Abuja Review Conference, delegations would see that there was more that united them than divided them. Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism were the delegations of Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Egypt, Kenya and Indonesia.

When the Council meets at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 September, it will meet behind closed doors to discuss its Complaint Procedure. At 3 p.m., it is scheduled to hold a panel discussion on missing persons. On Tuesday, 23 September at 10 a.m., the Council will hear statements on the presentations of the Independent Experts on the situation of human rights in Liberia and Somalia and will conclude its general debate on racism and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Document on Technical Cooperation and Advisory Service in Liberia
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on technical cooperation and advisory services in Liberia, Charlotte Abaka (A/HRC/9/15), setting out the findings of the independent expert's mission to Liberia in July 2008, notes that, for the first time in the history of Liberia, the Government has actually brought governance to the people by periodically holding cabinet meetings in the counties. Many ministries are effectively planning programmes taking into account the need for greater control at county level. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is nearing completion of its core activities, with public hearings coming to a close, and an extension of its mandate to December 2008 has been agreed. Furthermore the launching of a judicial training centre, and the possible introduction of paralegals in the very near future, are positive developments in the move to strengthen a weak judiciary. The installation of a new democratically elected Government which took office in January 2006 has led to accelerated progress on a number of human rights and development issues including economic and social rights. Rehabilitation of some schools and hospitals and construction of new premises and the adoption and launching of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper were all much needed achievements. Serious concerns remain however, including the continuing lack an effective national independent human rights commission, and an urgent need for far-reaching reforms in the policing, judiciary and correction sectors. In addition, action needs to be taken to ensure that protective and punitive measures are enforced in relation to the ongoing scourge of sexual violence. The lack of protection for children must be addressed immediately. The persistence of harmful traditional practices which include the inflicting of trials by ordeal on suspected witches and other alleged offenders of local communities, and the practice of female genital mutilation, are also major concerns.

Presentation by Independent Expert on Liberia
CHARLOTTE ABAKA, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Liberia, presenting her report, was pleased to say that there had been improvements in the human rights situation in Somalia, particularly concerning economic, social and cultural rights. More hospitals and clinics had been rehabilitated and new ones constructed. Affirmative Action Policies were being implemented to improve access to education in hitherto deprived areas, and also to encourage the girl child to go to school and further her education. However, Ms. Abaka said that urgent measures needed to be taken to ensure that the discrimination and marginalization in political and economic terms were addressed, as well as access to effective justice. For example, the description of some Liberians as "Civilized" and "Uncivilized" remained. Also, there were still too many gender-related crimes, such as rape. Although there had been some improvement in the correction sector, the over-crowding in the cells was totally unacceptable. In the prisons, over 70 per cent of the inmates were awaiting trial.

Regarding the death penalty, Ms. Abaka said that in July 2008 a law became effective that made certain crimes punishable by life imprisonment or death. Information received during her mission indicated that the last death penalty was carried out in 1979 during the late President Tolbert's time. In other words there appeared to be an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. She also said that thousands of Liberians had attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's hearing on 26 August 2008 where Prince Johnson, a former warlord, tried to justify his actions as necessary for the protection of his ethnic group of Nimba County. In conclusion, Ms. Abaka said that President Johnson Sirleaf had referred to the importance of establishing the Law Reform Commission as part of efforts to consolidate democracy and advance the reform agenda in her recent state of the republic address. However, she had been informed that the Act had not yet been sent to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

Presentation by Independent Expert on Somalia
SHAMSUL BARI, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, said that he had taken up his mandate on 1 May 2008 and he had undertaken a trip to the Horn of Africa from 28 June to 12 July. He had visited Kenya, but his visit to Somalia had been limited to some selected areas because of security reasons. He had also visited Djibouti City and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. He had met with several officials and representatives of non governmental organizations. He had come back with some impressions, confirming what he had read before on the situation. People were living in constant fear; the State was very weak and could not provide protection to the population. Despite all the pain and agony he had heard about, it could not obscure the fact that there was new hope, especially since the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General had helped to bring the parties to move forward in the peace process. But civil society sources and United Nations officials said that the situation had gotten worse in the past months. People were becoming increasingly internally displaced and refugees, a refugee camp in Kenya had thus become the largest refugee camp in the world, noted Mr. Bari.

Mr. Bari said that people had left the country from hopelessness. Some told him that after 18 years of conflicts they had lost all hopes to a return to normal life. Something had to be done. This something was linked to the hopes raised by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The international community had to do all that could be done to help the peace process. The ball was now in the camp of the warring parties. He said he had recommended to the Somali Government that they had to create an impression that they were caring for the people. People who left had done so because they had the sensation that nobody was looking after them. He hoped that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would be able to conclude agreements in favour of peace. If peace did not get a chance this time, he shattered to think what would happen to the people of Somalia. They deserved the attention of the international community. The situation would become far worse. Clan conflicts also played a role in the conflict; it was one of the most complex realities in the world of today. He hoped that this would be taken up seriously. Civil society could be involved in this regard.

Continuation of Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Racism and Other Forms of Intolerance
ZAID A. AL-HUSSAIN (Saudi Arabia) said that the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the defamation of religion was available only in French. Since the speaker did not understand French, he could not comment on the report. So Saudi Arabia would only comment on the presentation given by the Special Rapporteur, especially on the issue of Islamophobia. The defamation of religion was a matter relating to human values. The defamation of religion or attempts to distort them was a violation of resolutions of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization which said that religions were world heritages that had to be respected. Religions could be complementary to each other and to society. Not considering the matter of the defamation of religions through the Human Rights Council could be a source of discord, hostility and confrontation. Religious hatred had to be combated. One had to understand the values that brought together mankind.

MOUNINA MINT ABDELLAH (Mauritania) congratulated the new Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on his appointment and commended the former Special Rapporteur Mr. Diene for his high-quality work as mandate-holder. The report threw light on the threat for harmony in societies as a result of defamation of religion and racial discrimination. The right of societies to exercise their right to religion was fundamental. Mauritania welcomed all efforts to eradicate all forms of intolerance and discrimination and all actions to establish a climate of harmony between cultures and civilizations. Mauritania expressed its full support for the work of the Special Rapporteur and wished him all success.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt) said that the report had shown the depth and gravity of religious defamation in States and between States. Egypt stressed that this defamation of religions must be combated. Egypt reiterated the recommendations of the Durban Programme of Action and called for an immediate implementation of Articles 18 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to avoid having the freedom of expression lead to further hatred. Saying that defamation of religion and hatred went hand in hand with the freedom of expression was counter to human rights. Any kind of hierarchy between rights had to be avoided.

MARIA NZOMO (Kenya) said that Kenya was confident in the competence of the Special Rapporteur and welcomed his report. Kenya was concerned about the problems related to religious intolerance and the issue with regard to freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Unfortunately, recent worldwide events showed that violence on the basis of religious hatred had increased. Protecting the freedom of worship and association was a cornerstone of human rights.

KAMAPRADIPTA ISNOMO (Indonesia) noted with interest the focus of the report and said that Islamophobia fell under the wide umbrella of defamation of religion. Islam had in recent years suffered the particular and unfortunate infamy of being linked to security concerns and terrorism. This unfortunate stigma according to the Special Rapporteur stemmed from political or ideological influences that in recent years had become more insidious. Since the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2001 there had been many developments in the world regarding incidents of intolerance as well as violence carried out by some groups simply because of racial or religious intolerance. Indonesia drew attention to the resurgence of various manifestations of defamation of religion in several countries, some of which had been disguised under the heading of freedom of speech. Indonesia concurred with the Special Rapporteur's suggestion that the fight against all forms of defamation of religion should be treated in the same manner, without special preference being given to one or the other. Interfaith dialogue and an active effort geared towards tolerance remained the best method for disarming prejudice and religious misapprehension or bias.

Concluding Remarks by Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance
GITHU MUIGAI, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in concluding remarks, said that the shift from the concept of defamation of religion to incitement to religious hatred was intended to clarify the concept. It helped to move the discussion forward and to avoided difficult nomenclature. The Special Rapporteur said that there was a consensus gradually emerging. Especially after having consulted the documents of the Abuja Review Conference, delegations would see that there was more that united them than divided them. Finally, he confirmed that he wanted to work with the Alliance of Civilizations and had taken first steps for cooperation.

Presentation of Reports on Outcome of Regional Preparatory Meetings for the Durban Review Conference Held in Brasilia and Abuja
SILVIANE TUSI BREWER (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, briefing the Council on the outcome of the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in Brasilia in June 2008, said that the Minister of Promotion of Racial Equality of Brazil had presided over the Preparatory Meeting. The themes discussed in the plenary of the meeting had been the study of progress and evaluation of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action; the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms on racism, racial-discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and the identification of good practices in efforts to combat them as well as challenges and future actions.

Experts on the themes made presentations and delegates of the Latin American and the Caribbean region addressed the main legislative and institutional changes that had occurred in their countries since the Durban Conference and shared experiences related to the implementation of policies directed to the promotion of racial equality. Most countries had expressed concern about the need to protect the rights of indigenous people, the need to eliminate discrimination against people of African descent and the need to fight discrimination against migrant workers. A representative from civil society had also mentioned that besides the achievements, the reality of exclusions persisted in the region.

The final document of the Regional Preparatory Meeting was divided in four parts. The first part evaluated the progress and challenges in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. Among the identified progress, it highlighted the widespread adoption of legislation to promote equality and to eradicate racism. Among the identified challenges, the document highlighted, among others, the creation of specific programmes to prevent, investigate and bring to trail and punish acts of serious misconduct by police. Countries from the region had also expressed concern at the legislation recently passed or proposed by some countries that ran counter to the commitments made under human rights and migrant workers conventions.

The second part evaluated the effectiveness of the Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms. The countries of the region recognized the importance of such mechanisms and considered it appropriate to strengthen them. The third part referred to the good practices that had been taken forward by countries of the region, with a view to their possible replication. The fourth part of the document addressed the way forward and acknowledged the need to make progress in terms of including a gender focus in programmes of action against racism. It also reiterated that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade were and should always be a crime against humanity and called upon States to take urgent action to make available actual and fitting resources, compensation, redress and other measures at all levels for people of African descent.

The Regional Preparatory Meeting was considered successful. The members of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries believed that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance had seriously aggravated poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation and insecurity in different parts of the world. It was noted that the first regional preparatory conference had taken place in their region, as an example of the willingness of their countries to fight racism. All were aware of the difficulties and obstacles that were faced in 2001; however, the will of the international community had been capable to overcome it.

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Regional Preparatory Meeting on the Durban Review Conference had been held in Abuja, Nigeria from 24 to 26 August. Nigeria had been delighted at the level of attendance and thanked all the participants. The historic World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in South Africa in 2001, had produced the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which had marked a milestone in the global efforts to address the multifaceted evils of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. A critical element of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was to ensure follow-up to the process and this was the reason for the hosting of the Regional Preparatory Meeting to ensure compliance and adequate participation by all for the Durban Review Conference scheduled for April 2009. So far, Latin America and Africa had implemented that essential aspect of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The African Regional Preparatory Meeting had addressed the gaps in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action through a number of measures. It had addressed the measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at all levels as well as strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including the international community and enhancement of the United Nations and other international mechanisms. The meeting had fostered close cooperation between national human rights institutions, non governmental organizations and governments, particularly in the identification of good practices to curtail both incitement and dissemination of racial hatred. The meeting had agreed with the recommendations that identification of focal points by and close cooperation between the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and national human rights institutions could help eliminate unnecessary bottlenecks in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and accelerate follow up to the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The meeting had underlined the importance of the Durban Review Process for all the areas in which differences had been expressed following the 2001 World Conference and had acknowledged that the failure of that process would pave the way for intensification of worrying racist and xenophobic trends. It had been recommended that States establish mechanisms for effective collection of disaggregated information on health, education, access to housing, employment and other issues as regards to people of African descent and that such information provided the basis for new policies and practices that addressed any form of discrimination. It had assessed the state of universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and had urged serious consideration for the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Nigeria said it had been honoured to host this meeting. Nigeria remained strongly committed to the Durban process. Nigeria urged all those concerned to join Africa in ensuring that the forthcoming Review Conference successfully took place and met its desired targets and objectives.

General Debate on Racism and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-Up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI, (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia were phenomena that existed in all societies. The international community must thus unite itself to fight them. The Durban Review Conference must concentrate on implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action without re-opening discussion on these documents. The Review Conference represented an unprecedented opportunity to rationalize the implementation follow-up mechanisms for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in order to be more effective in the fight against racism. The European Union also supported the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which had demonstrated the relevance and value of the Convention in combating contemporary manifestations of racism. The European Union reiterated that the fight against racism should unite the international community instead of dividing it. No hierarchy should be drawn up and all victims should be treated equally.

IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that Islamophobia constituted a threat. In this regard, national and international responses remained insufficient. All rights had to be exercised with responsibility. States should take measures to punish those responsible for hate speech. Muslims were exposed to stereotyping. Such manifestations were just the tip of the iceberg. Muslims were being dehumanized, just as other communities had been in the inter-war period. The literature informing the West about Islam often demonized it and was giving a wrong view about it. The Organization of the Islamic Conference also condemned efforts to equate Islam with terrorism. Muslims were also often victims of terrorism themselves. The Organization of the Islamic Conference strongly supported the outcome of the Durban Review Conference and was committed to remain engaged in the process.

MARIA DEL CARMEN HERRERA (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, said that the Non Aligned Movement had historically maintained a clear and unequivocal principled position against all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. These principles had been reconfirmed by Heads of State and of Government of the Member States and the Ministers of the Non Aligned Movement in the meetings held in September 2006 and July 2008, respectively.

The 2001 World Conference had become a milestone in the struggle for equal rights among all human beings. The effective implementation of Durban Declaration and Programme of Work posed a major challenge and still remained to be done in addition to the Durban Review Process. Thus, the Non Aligned Movement supported the ongoing process for the elaboration of the complementary standards. The international community was witnessing a worrisome re-emergence and consolidation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in various parts of the world, such as social marginalization and exclusion of indigenous peoples, the proliferation of discriminatory laws and policies, the negative stereotyping of religions, defamation of holy books, to name some. In this connection, the Non Aligned Movement considered that the upcoming Durban Review Conference should concentrate on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and further actions, initiatives and practical solutions for combating all the contemporary surges of racism. The Non Aligned Movement welcomed the decision of the Government of Bolivia to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to investigate the violent and racist acts against indigenous peoples. The Non Aligned Movement expressed its support and solidarity with the Government of democratically elected President Evo Morales.

SILVIANE TUSI BREWER (Brazil) said since 2002 Brazil had taken various steps to implement the recommendations of the Durban Conference. Consultations with civil society played a crucial role in Brazil's policies. The Durban Review Conference should assess ways and means for the implementation of recommendations emanating from the Durban Conference. In Brazil's view, issues such as the right of people of African decent, migrants, women, persons with disabilities and cross-cutting issues such as health and democracy should merit special attention in the preparatory process and the conference itself.

SEBASTIAN ROSALES (Argentina) thanked Brazil for hosting the regional conference. Argentina had actively participated in it and they would continue working in all the mechanisms preparing for the Durban Review Conference. They had also participated in the drafting committee. The objectives of the Preparatory Meeting had been implemented in Argentina.

OMAR SHALABY (Egypt) welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur and reports from the Regional Preparatory Meetings in Brasilia and Abuja. Egypt thanked the Governments of Brazil and Nigeria for their initiative in hosting those meetings. The meeting in Abuja, Nigeria had adopted a global declaration, which would reinforce the Durban Review Process and would enable the combat against new forms of racism that had emerged after September 11. The review process was on the right path. The will of all stakeholders was necessary to ensure the success of the Durban Review Conference. Egypt called on other regions to follow the example set by Latin America and Africa and organise their own Regional Preparatory Meetings and demonstrate how serious they were in combating the scourge of terrorism that daily affected billions of people. Egypt was willing to work with all stakeholders in the African Group to ensure the success of the Durban Review Process.

NATALIA ZOLOTOVA (Russian Federation) said that overcoming racism was only possible with joint international, regional and national efforts. Now only six months were left to the Durban Review Conference, but the list of things that needed to be done was only getting longer. The Russian Federation was concerned that some countries were not taking part in the Conference and others were not contributing financially to the preparatory process and the Conference. Despite solid regional tools to counter racism, a policy of discrimination was increasing on the European continent. Minorities were being discriminated against on the labour market. Because of repressive linguistic programmes, teachers who were teaching the Russian language were victims in the new countries of the European Union. Those repressions were aimed at making Russian speakers return to their ethnic homeland. Russia was also were concerned about the increasing number of neo-fascist movements in Europe. It had noticed a new phobia the Russiaphobia which used stereotypes that went back to the Cold War.

ROBERTO BALZARETTI (Switzerland) said that since the Durban Conference, Switzerland had been active on the front to combat racial discrimination. The list of measures taken on the legislative, institutional and educational areas was quite lengthy, yet racism had not been eliminated. Reacting to the report of the Special Rapporteur, which mentioned the Swiss policy initiative prohibiting the building of minarets, as an example of discrimination, Switzerland stressed that this was the position of the Swiss citizens and not of the Government. Citizens had started an initiative in this regard but the Government had noted that this possibly constituted a violation of human rights and were considering cancelling this people's initiative.

MERCY YVONNE AMOAH (Ghana) said that Ghana believed that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action constituted a good foundation for the elimination of all manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. Several obstacles and challenges had prevented the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered that the risks of discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system had increased in recent years partly as a result of the rise in immigration and population movements, which had prompted prejudice and feelings of xenophobia in certain regions. That was one of the reasons Ghana believed it was necessary to review the progress made and assess whether or not they were on the right track and assess the extent to which racism posed a challenge to development. Ghana commended the Latin American region for being the first to host a Regional Preparatory Meeting and for their contribution to the process. The meeting in Abuja had provided additional input for the review. Although it was clear that not all the regions would hold the Regional Preparatory Meetings, Ghana strongly echoed the views of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Durban Review Process would benefit from active participation of all. Without that participation, the anti-racism debate and agenda would be impoverished.

BENNY YAN PIETER SIAHAAN (Indonesia) said that the Special Rapporteur's masterful analysis of the mechanism of religious intolerance compelled all to reflect further on the remedies to be sought in order to eradicate this particularly unjust form of discrimination. Not only did it harm entire communities through their religious beliefs and symbols, it also deeply undermined the social and cultural fabric which constituted the life of these communities. Indonesia further stated that far from disappearing with the abolition of slavery or the end of colonialism, racism had unfortunately blossomed all over again under the effect of new circumstances. In particular, the vast and constant migration movements from the South to the North had resulted in a mix of races and put a considerable pressure on host populations.

LUVUYO NDIMENI (South Africa) thanked Nigeria for their generosity in hosting the regional conference. The meeting in Abuja reaffirmed that genocide was the most serious form of racism. South Africa was taking measures to combat racism and to eradicate all of its forms. South Africa encouraged States to address the unbalance in the two sets of rights: civil and political and economic, social and cultural. They were confident that the people of the world would work together for the Review Conference to achieve its goals.

ANGELICA NAVARRO LLANOS (Bolivia) recognised that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action enshrined the duty to protect all the people who were victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. One of the essential goals of the Bolivian State was to guarantee well-being, development, protection and security of all its citizens, with mutual respect for intercultural and multilingual dialogue. Paragraph 14 of the new Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination. Bolivia fully lived up to its responsibilities in the fight against discrimination in its national standing. Opposition groups promoted racial discrimination for political objectives. They used hired assassins with the support of minority groups who held economic power. Those assassins, wearing black and swastikas in the neo-fascist and Hitler style, were clubbing indigenous women with no political activity whatsoever, fired on authorities refusing to give up land, burned offices and killed indigenous peoples, as had happened on September 11. The Government of Bolivia was resolved not to let these acts unpunished. The Government was committed to build a peaceful society and promote a culture of peace and human rights. Criminal acts were committed by criminals. Bolivia had detained the persons responsible for the massacre of September 11, who would be put on trial.

ZHOU XIANFENG (China) said that the efforts to implement the recommendations of the Durban Conference should be stepped up. China was worried to see that Islamophobia, neo-fascism and other forms of racism and xenophobia were on the rise. The Council had to fight against racism and support countries in their political will to implement strategies. The Asian Group was actively engaged in the preparations of the Durban Review Conference which were going well. China hoped that all States would join efforts and bring hope to the victims.

IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) welcomed the regional conferences that had taken place in Brasilia and Abuja. But Algeria was also concerned that conferences in the other regions had not yet been held. Racism was not particular to one specific region; it affected all regions and everyone. The success of the Review Conference depended on the participation of all. The final outcome document of the Conference should imperatively help to protect better the victims of racism. Algeria further called on the High Commissioner to appoint, as had been the case for Durban, an Executive Director to assist her during the Review Conference.

TAMAR TAMASHVILI (Georgia) said that the one key denominator to all human rights was the principle of non-discrimination. This principle could be traced to international humanitarian law values as well. The majority of stakeholders took measures to promote the well-being of their citizens in a non-discriminatory manner. The principle of non-discrimination was the fundamental principle of public policy and was of particular importance to Georgia, as it saw displacement of ethnic Georgians in the 1990s and again during the recent international armed conflict. Georgia hoped that the Human Rights Council would pay attention to contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and measures of prevention and prosecution.

YAKDHAN EL HABIB (African Union) said that the African Union was actively engaged in fighting racism in all its forms. The low level of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the apparition of new forms and manifestations constituted the major challenges that the Durban Review Conference would face. The Commission of the African Union supported the draft resolution on the mandate of the Working Group on People of African Descent that was submitted by South Africa on behalf of the African Group. Further, special attention had to be given to the outcomes of the preparatory conferences in Nigeria and Brazil as they had identified the major obstacles for implementation.

MARCEL STEFANIK, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that they attached great importance to human rights as much as to the work to protect humanitarian values. The Federation's President had recently delivered a statement on his views of human rights which corresponded to those of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights. They were also conducting education programmes for children, but it was up to Governments to do their utmost to protect human rights. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had worked closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on a number of issues and they hoped that this collaboration would go on.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) congratulated Nigeria for the excellent organization of the African Regional Preparatory Meeting. The African Group had produced a document that reflected the concern of African countries in the matters of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Abuja meeting had been an opportunity to assess the progress made since the Durban Conference and to discuss the ways to overcome socio-economic obstacles. The contributions of African countries demonstrated their commitment to the combat against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Morocco hoped the same kind of spirit would prevail at the meeting in October 2008. Morocco highly appreciated the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure the success of the Durban Review Conference. Morocco had undertaken institutional and legal reforms in line with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. This effort had in part focused on the elimination of discrimination from the Criminal Code. Morocco had also set up regional agencies in addition to the national initiative for development, in order to ensure equal access to development and eliminate social disparities.

VENETIA SEBUDANDI (Rwanda) said Rwanda supported the holding of the Durban Review Conference. It would also provide an opportunity to discuss new forms of racism. While some progress had been made, especially in creating new mechanisms, a lot had to be done to fully implement the recommendations of the Durban Conference that took place seven years ago. Regarding the genocide that took place in Rwanda and the implication of other countries in the genocide, Rwanda drew the attention of countries that had mentioned this genocide earlier to a number of reports that analyzed this issue.

SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) wondered why freedom of expression was given a higher status above other rights, without taking into account the diverse limitations of this right. The Democratic Republic of the Congo condemned Islamophobia. As regards to anti-Semitism, States had to take efforts to discourage its reappearance. Major vigilance was needed concerning Christianophobia; it was already affecting certain communities. It was vital to tackle every form of discrimination in a global manner, because they had the same source.

HUBERTUS MATHEUS VAN MEGEN (Holy See) said that in recent weeks and in several geographic regions they had witnessed increased cases of racism and religious intolerance. People had been uprooted, homes destroyed, places of warship damaged. Impunity gave the message that destruction of people of different religions was acceptable. The road to the implementation of the freedom of expression, religion and beliefs was still arduous. The Holy See concurred with the advice of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance which was offered to the Human Rights Council to refocus its reflection on racism and discrimination away from vague sociological concepts to juridical ones and to think about the measures to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The ultimate responsibility was that of the States, with national legislation, civil society, and the media. Concerted efforts would bring about positive results and must be done in a holistic, constructive and cooperative manner. The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religious Beliefs could be the framework for a new treaty or for the development of guidelines and standards.

ADEL SHALTUT (Libya) commended the international community on efforts made to fight racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Libya was confident that a serious dialogue would help peoples of the world enjoy equal rights. It condemned any attempt to ridicule religions or religious symbols. Further, Libya called on the Council to condemn terrorism and reaffirmed the relevance of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said that emerging new forms of racism, after September 11 and the pretext of the war on terror, had launched a campaign against Muslims around the world. The increasing racist violence in many areas of the world was alarming. The recent anti-Islam gatherings in Germany were a vivid example of Islamophobia and this required attention. Iran was of the view that the Durban Review Conference could provide the international community with an opportunity to take stock of the Durban commitments and to address contemporary forms and manifestations of racism. Iran also welcomed the initiative of the High Commissioner to further study the implication of the balance between freedom of expression and of religious hatred.

FATIH ULUSOY (Turkey) said that racism in all its forms continued to impact the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was their responsibility to review the effect of instruments to fight this scourge. The Regional Preparatory Meetings were the first step in the process. The second meeting that would take place in October would have to determine the modalities for the preparation of the Durban Review Conference outcome document. It was thus important to receive the valued contribution of regional groups. Turkey noted all parties agreed on the need to have a successful Review Conference. Thus, all parties should focus on the principle of non-opening and non-negotiating the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. They must avoid politicisation of discrimination and focus efforts on tackling real problems on the agenda. Turkey said it would continue to contribute constructively to the Durban Review Conference.

ABDULMONEM ANNAN (Syria) said that racism was a global reality that required a global response. Also, the easy access to communication means facilitated the proliferation of hatred. There was an urgent necessity to review the recommendations of the Durban Conference, among others, regarding Islamophobia, the plight of the Palestinian people, and dissemination of ideas on racial superiority.

HASMIK SIMONYAN (Armenia) said that the Durban Conference had brought together all nations of the world to discuss racism, xenophobia and other forms of related intolerance. It had provided a wide framework to combat these scourges. Armenia welcomed the important outcomes of the regional conferences and was looking forward to other contributions by other regions.

LARS VOLCK MADSEN (Denmark) said that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance confronted all contemporary societies. Freedom of expression, religion and beliefs were the principles our societies had been built on. The freedom of expression meant the possibility of openly discussing the differences, and was distinct from incitement to religious hatred, which must be legally prohibited. International human rights law protected the right to exercise religion and not religion as such. Denmark looked forward to the Durban Review Conference and said it was important that all parties engaged in a transparent manner. It was also important that the Conference was successful in implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and combating serious problems of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Therefore, Denmark did not elicit any opening of the elements of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action or introduction of elements not previously contained in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
UNOG

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NEW UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CALLS FOR RACISM DEBATE

8/9/2008- The new U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanetham Pillay, called on Monday for an open debate about racism and religious intolerance, taking aim at countries threatening to boycott a summit on those issues. In her first speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the former International Criminal Court judge said next April's already-contentious U.N. conference on racism and xenophobia would be impoverished if the United States and others sat it out. "Let's not forget that diversity of opinions is often an inherent and welcome characteristic of relationships among peers," she said. "Should differences be allowed to become pretexts for inaction, the hopes and aspirations of the many victims of intolerance would be dashed, perhaps irreparably." The United States and Israel walked out of the last big U.N. summit on anti-racism, held in Durban in 2001, saying it had become a forum for anti-Semitism. Canada has said it will not take part in the follow-up meeting planned for Geneva, and the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and France have said they may stay away if Israel's treatment of the Palestinians again stands to eclipse all else. Some are also concerned that Islamic countries will try to use the conference to push a declaration that could stifle free expression by labelling criticism of religions as defamatory. Without mentioning any country by name, Pillay said it was one of her priorities to ensure full and thorough participation at the April 2009 conference, known as "Durban-2". "I urge those governments that have expressed an intention not to participate in the conference to reconsider their position," she said. "I will do all in my power to bring everyone to the table."

In her speech to the Geneva-based Council, Pillay said her views on the merit of airing differing views came from Nelson Mandela, whose government made her the first non-white woman to serve on the High Court of South Africa. "Nelson Mandela has taught me that, far from being appeasement, coming to terms with other people's experiences and points of view may serve the interest of justice better than strategies that leave no room for negotiation," she said. Her remarks were criticised by UN Watch, a human rights watchdog, whose executive director Hillel Neuer said the U.S. and Israeli 2001 walk-out was the reason "the most virulent language" was removed from the meeting's final declaration. "The threat of Western non-participation remains the only force with the slightest chance of preventing the conference (Durban-2) from degenerating into an out-and-out fiasco," Neuer said in a statement. Pillay's wide-ranging remarks also included an appeal to countries to make good on promises to combat discrimination against women and girls. And she said preventing genocide would be among her major preoccupations in the United Nations post, following her work at International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Reuters

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UN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF TRIES TO SWAY ISRAEL, U.S. ON ANTI-RACISM SUMMIT

1/9/2008- The UN's new human rights chief said Monday she hopes to persuade the United States and Israel to drop their opposition to an upcoming global racism conference. "My instinct would be to get as many countries to participate as possible," Navi Pillay said on her first day as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The so-called Durban II meeting in Geneva next year will review progress in fighting racism since the global body's first such conference seven years ago. The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, because of a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and compared Zionism to racism. The resolution was never adopted. Israeli officials say their country will likely stay away from Durban II because of anti-Semitic excesses at and around the first meeting. The United States has not yet decided whether to take part, but used a vote in the UN General Assembly last year to protest the conference. Libya chairs the preparation committee for Durban II, and Iran and Cuba are also involved, indicating that there will be more bashing of Israel, Itzhak Levanon, the Jewish state's former UN envoy in Geneva, told The Associated Press last month. Canada is the only country that has explicitly said it will not take part in the April 20-25 meeting. Pillay, a South African jurist, takes over the post of UN rights chief after serving for five years as an appeals chamber judge with the Dutch-based International Criminal Court. "The High Commissioner should fearlessly focus on protecting the victims around the world, and that does involve speaking out against the violators as well," she said. "I intend to do that without the application of any double standards." Pillay's office has 1,000 staff working in 50 countries with a total annual budget of some $150 million.
Associated Press

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RUN-UP TO UN ANTI-RACISM CONFERENCE: DAYAN NOMINATED FACILITATOR FOR ASIA (Sri Lanka)

1/9/2008- Upon recommendation by the Ambassador/Permanent Representative of China, the Asian Group Co-ordinator, the Asian Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka as the facilitator to negotiate an outcome document of the Asian Region, as a contribution to the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference. The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 and produced the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which provided an important new framework for combating racism and intolerance with a wide range of action-oriented measures. The Review Conference of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action has been scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 20-24 April 2009 to evaluate progress towards the goals set by the 2001 World Conference. For this purpose Regional Groups are requested to contribute by providing inputs to the above Review Conference. Against this backdrop Ambassador Jayatilleka has been appointed as Facilitator by the Asian Group to negotiate an outcome document of the Asian Region in order to provide inputs from the Asian Region to the above Review Conference. Latin America and African Regions already had their Regional Meetings in Brasilia and Abuja respectively and have prepared their inputs to the above Review Conference.
The Island

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RWANDA: UN RACISM CONFERENCE UNDER FIRE FOR IGNORING GENOCIDE

28/8/2008- The upcoming United Nations Durban Review Conference in South Africa-billed as an international effort to achieve racial reconciliation-is likely to make a mockery of any bona fide attempt to overcome racial discrimination, an influential campaign group says. The Conference, scheduled for 2009, will review the international progress made in response to the "Durban Declaration and Programme of Action" released by the first Durban conference in 2001. This earlier conference was initially an attempt to bring together representatives from fifty-three nations in order to proclaim the equality of all men and to condemn racial hatred and discrimination around the world. Rather than producing a clear statement against racism, however, as the Washington-based Center for Just Society says, the conference crumbled under the weight of the racist impulses of the countries involved. The faith-leaning group does not feel the 2009 conference is anything to go by because the previous Durban Declaration also neglected to make any mention of racial Genocide. The group describing itself as a defender of Judeo-Christian principles says the word "genocide" is only used six times in the Durban Declaration, and no specific cases of Genocide are ever discussed. "Some of the worst cases of racial hatred in the past century involved massive genocide, including the millions of Jews slaughtered by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust, the ethnic genocide waged by the Bosnian Serbs, and the murder of nearly one million Tutsi people by the Hutu militia in Rwanda", author Mr. Ken Connor points out. "Refusing to address these events and others like them erased the credibility of the Durban conference."

In Nigeria, Africa countries meet there this week from August 24-26 for the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Durban Review Conference. Ministers from the continent were working on a document that should form the basis for review of their countries' progress in fighting racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Human rights abusers may yet dominate this upcoming conference, according to campaigners urging the United States and other western countries not to relent in their efforts to overcome racial hatred. "Racial hatred is a great evil, and it has adversely affected virtually all countries at one time or another", they note. Among those countries attending the 2001 conference were China, Columbia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. The Center for Just Society says this is just out of question because Syria and Cuba are on the U.S. top ten list of worst human rights violators, and China was only just dropped from the list in 2008. It became clear early on that the first Durban conference would not achieve any great leap forward in racial equality, Mr. Connor says in an assessment posted on the Center's website. The United States and Israel are said to have quickly seen that they were going to be the scapegoats of the conference, as delegates from the Middle East sought to condemn Zionism and the Western slave trade as the prime examples of racism in human history. "Not surprisingly, the United States and Israel withdrew their delegations a few days into the conference", Mr. Connor notes. Then U.S Secretary of State Collin Powel eventually rubbished the conference. Mr. Connor says a well-framed international condemnation of racism has the potential to transform the global discussion on race and discrimination. All countries ought to acknowledge their own shortcomings as we work to overcome racial hatred at home and around the world, he says.
Rwanda News Agency/Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media

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AFRICANS BACK ANTI-RACISM LAW

28/8/2008- African delegates to the Abuja conference propose that racism and xenophobia should be criminalised and sanctioned with appropriate sentences. Representatives of governments and NGOs in 21 African countries are expected to formalise their proposal at the next international racism and xenophobia conference in Geneva in April next year. Delegates proposed a ban on the spread of ideas aimed at inciting hatred or racial supriority. They also recommended "the protection of the rights of migrants" against criminalization campaigns meted out to them in some countries. Nigerian government has assured the preparatory meeting for the Durban Review Conference of its commitment to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance seat. "Nigeria believes that gaps in the existing international instruments to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should be bridged through a number of measures, including provision of support and technical assistance to states as appropriate," said Nigeria's foreign affairs minister Alhaji Tijani Kaura. He urged international bodies to reinforce the fight against racism and xenophobia. "It is only by doing so that we can justify the sacrifices of our heroes past, some of who laid down their lives in the struggle against colonialism, racism, apartheid, racial injustice and other forms of discrimination."
Afrol News

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27/8/2008- The Federal Government has expressed disappointment over reluctance by UN-member nations to take action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) is part of a global effort to address the multi-faceted scourge of racism adopted in 2001 at the World Conference on Racism at Durban, South Africa. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (1), Alhaji Tijjani Kaura, stated this in Abuja at the opening of a two-day African Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Durban Review Conference. “Unnecessary wrangling and squabbles have characterised deliberations at sessions of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference held in Geneva. “As if these were not enough, a profound lack of political will from a section of the international community continues to hamper the implementation of DDPA,’’ he said. The minister expressed the belief that the gaps in the existing instruments to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should be bridged. He explained that effective cooperation between governments, NGOs and civil society-based organisations in the identification of good practices could help curtail incitement and dissemination of racial hatred. “Identification of focal points and liaison between the Committee on the Elimination of Racism and national institutions could help eliminate unnecessary bottlenecks in the implementation of DDPA,’’ he said.

Kaura pointed out that Nigeria had already put in place a national framework for the implementation of the DDPA. He said that the framework which touched on the various aspects of national life included gender mainstreaming, inter-religious tolerance and rights of minorities. A representative of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Bacre N’diaye, said in order to effectively combat racism, discrimination and intolerance, the scourge must first be recognised as a global problem. He said there was the need to also recognise that universal human rights norms and standards provided guidance for protecting vulnerable groups from racism and intolerance. N’diaye said that to date DDPA remained the widest ranging and most substantive platform ever devised to combat racism. He further explained that it represented a solemn commitment by states and the international community to work together toward a common and comprehensive anti-racism agenda. N’diaye also said that though Africa often was presented as the place where human rights violation occurs on unprecedented scale, it had made great strides on human rights and accommodation of diversity. “The rapid adoption and coming into force of the Protocol on The Rights of Women as well as the establishment of the African Court on Human Rights add to the framework for the protection and promotion of such rights in the continent,’’ he said. Our correspondent reports that the Abuja meeting is intended to serve as a critical benchmark to ensure compliance and adequate preparations by all for the review conference scheduled for April 2009 in Geneva. It would also examine the progress made so far by member states, and new tendencies and manifestations of racism and racial discrimination that have emerged since the Durban 2001 conference. More than 40 countries, NGOs and civil society organisations are attending the meeting.
The Tide Online

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