25 September 2012
Hears Presentation of Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards
The Human Rights Council today heard the presentation of a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, and then held a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.
Abdul Samad Minty, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, introducing the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, said that, during its fourth session in April 2012, the Committee had had substantive discussions on issues related to xenophobia, the establishment of national mechanisms to combat racism, and on procedural gaps with regards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The fourth session of the Ad Hoc Committee was quite successful as the programme of work had become more substantive, and it would continue working on those topics in the future.
In the general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, speakers reiterated the central role of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and urged the international community to continue to support a genuine culture of peace and tolerance. Speakers condemned the recent production of the film “The Innocence of Muslims” which tried to defame Islam and the personality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in a blatant attempt to provoke religious hatred, discrimination and intolerance. It was important to acknowledge that Islamophobia and discrimination on the basis of religion constituted a contemporary form of racism. Other speakers said the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance remained a global challenge that needed a multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach. Cultural relativism in the enjoyment of human rights was rejected as it undermined the universal natural of human rights.
Some speakers were alarmed by the growth in manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and the spread of far-right and neo-Nazi thinking in Europe that had taken threatening proportions. Speakers said that discrimination was worsening and xenophobic practices were increasing, especially in this time of crises. There had also been an upsurge of attacks against immigrants and degrading treatment towards minorities. Critical in the fight against this discrimination was international cooperation. Racism continued to be the cause of human rights violations, and new forms of racism continued to take shape. Speakers said that racism and xenophobia remained one of the most dangerous forms of discrimination and it was important to confront extremist ideologies, prejudices and stereotypes of cultural and religious intolerance. The main battle against racism and racial discrimination had to be fought at the national level, as set out in the Durban Declaration, but co-ordinated international efforts to combat racism and discrimination were also vital.
Speaking in the general debate were Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, Cyprus on behalf of the European Union, Russia, Cuba, China, Malaysia, Kuwait, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Libya, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, South Africa, Turkey, Iran, Council of Europe, Tunisia, Belarus and Venezuela.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Hellos Life Association, African Canadian Legal Clinic, Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute, Pasumai Thaayagam, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, World Barua Organization, Liberation, Indian Council of South America, World Muslim Congress, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, International Buddhist Relief Organization, International Educational Development Inc., Commission africaine des promoteurs de la sant’ des droits de l’homme, Fraternité Notre Dame, Association of World Citizens, Africa Culture International, Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, United Nations Watch, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples and
Latvia and Russia spoke in right of reply.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. During its afternoon meeting, it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia.
The Council has before it the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards on its fourth session (A/HRC/21/59).
Presentation of Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards
ABDUL SAMAD MINTY, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, introducing the report of the Ad Hoc Committee, said that, during its fourth session in April 2012, the Committee had had substantive discussions on issues related to xenophobia, the establishment of national mechanisms to combat racism, and on procedural gaps with regards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Committee had also agreed to adopt conclusions and recommendations. The report for example requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to send out a questionnaire to gather information regarding xenophobia, national mechanisms and procedural gaps. The fourth session of the Ad Hoc Committee was quite successful as the programme of work had become more substantive, and it would continue working on those topics in the future.
General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance
Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, was concerned by the rise of racism and xenophobia in the context of the economic crisis. The racism and xenophobia was supported by the fact that impunity reigned, which illustrated the need for the adoption of complementary standards to combat xenophobic actions and to hold perpetrators accountable. These concerns portrayed very clearly the problem of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; there was a generalisation of racist words and activities and they were being broadcasted in the media and on the Internet. Reiterating the central role of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community should continue to support a genuine culture of peace and tolerance. The need for this was clear after the recent broadcasting of an Islamophobic film.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the recent production of the film “The Innocence of Muslims” which tried to defame Islam and the personality of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, in a blatant attempt to provoke religious hatred, discrimination and intolerance that had led to an unfortunate loss of life and damage of property, and also condemned the violence that resulted in the deaths of a number of people, including diplomats from the United States. Despicable incidents involving the burning of the Holy Quran and the publication of defamatory cartoons constituted a flagrant incitement to violence and were therefore in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation had never advocated any prohibitions on freedom of expression but emphasised the problem of unchecked, unbridled and irresponsible statements. In Europe, there were laws that curbed anti-Semitic speech, Holocaust denial or racial slurs. It was important to acknowledge that Islamophobia and discrimination on the basis of religion constituted a contemporary form of racism.
Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance remained a global challenge that needed a multilateral and multi-stakeholder approach. The European Union addressed the problem of racism and xenophobia not only internally, but also by engaging constructively at regional and international levels. The European Union was convinced that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism Discrimination remained the key international instrument for combating all forms of racism and related intolerance. The primary goal needed to be the effective implementation of existing international instruments. The need for a clear distinction to be made when discussing racism and separately religious intolerance was stressed. There was a fine but important distinction between what people believed and criticizing who they were.
Russia said it was alarmed by the growth in manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and the spread of far-right and neo-Nazi thinking in Europe that had taken threatening proportions. Some sides continued to capitatalise on neo-Nazi ideas and some countries in Europe were openly in complicity. Russia called on the European Union to assume responsibility for what was happening in its association space and to take effective measures to combat the resurgence of Nazism.
Cuba said despite the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the approval of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action last year, mankind was still far from achieving the full implementation of important agreements reflected therein. Discrimination was worsening and xenophobic practices were increasing, especially in this time of crises. There had also been an upsurge of attacks against immigrants and degrading treatment towards minorities. Critical in the fight against this discrimination was international cooperation. The progress made could not be allowed to be lost.
China said that racism continued to be the cause of human rights violations, and that new forms of racism continued to take shape. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had pointed out the direction for the international community to combat intolerance. The international community should avoid politicization and implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. No forms of racism should be tolerated. For that reason, China supported the establishment of new instruments to react to the apparition of new forms of racism.
Malaysia strongly condemned the anti-Islamic video “The Innocence of Muslims” which had created violent anti-Western protests in a number of countries and resulted in the tragic death of American diplomats in Libya. Malaysia was troubled that nothing had been done to prevent the publication of the video in the name of freedom of expression. As a result, the rights of many had been ignored and violated. Extreme views could not be tolerated, and a sense of responsibility on the part of Governments was vital in curtailing the notion of hatred and defamation of religions.
Kuwait said that many communities had always co-existed in Kuwait, which demonstrated Kuwait’s commitment to combat all forms of racism in law and in practice, and to put an end to extremism. All international instruments that combated racism focused on the protection of religious beliefs. The publication of a film mocking Islam was a clear example of incitement to hatred. Attacks on religious beliefs and symbols had a negative impact on international stability. Kuwait called on the international community to commit itself to addressing such behaviour.
Norway said that racism and xenophobia remained one of the most dangerous forms of discrimination and it was important to confront extremist ideologies, prejudices and stereotypes of cultural and religious intolerance. The main battle against racism and racial discrimination had to be fought at the national level, as set out in the Durban Declaration, but co-ordinated international efforts to combat racism and discrimination were also vital. The international community should continue to find common approaches to address discrimination based on religion or belief, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the production of an anti-Islam film produced in the United States which mocked the Prophet and condemned acts of violence against American diplomats on the basis of the inviolability of embassies and diplomats both by Islam and international instruments. Hateful attacks on religious symbols could not be condoned on the basis of freedom of expression. Saudi Arabia called on Muslims around the world to show self restraint and refrain from acts of violence. Dialogue among faiths and cultures was crucial in order to combat racism and intolerance.
Bangladesh was concerned about the screening of a controversial film that defamed Islam and that some had defended such offensive material on the pretext of freedom of expression. Administrative and legal mechanisms should prevent actions that fomented hatred and intolerance, The Special Rapporteur on racism had noted that the defamation of religions could not be dissociated from an ominous trend of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance developing in the current political and ideological context. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers continued to be victims of xenophobia and ethnic intolerance.
Libya said that there was a need for interfaith dialogue. Libya condemned the anti-Islamic cartoons and film that had recently appeared and all attacks on Islam which were shameful. At a time when condemning all attacks on its religion, Libya rejected nonetheless the use of force or terrorism to kill innocents as part of a reaction to such behaviour. Libya called on the Human Rights Council and international society as a whole to take all measures to eliminate discriminatory practices and work together to find appropriate solutions.
Sri Lanka said that as a people of a country which had recently emerged from a 30-year protracted terrorist conflict, it was acutely aware of the manner in which racial and other monolithic ideologies could be manipulated by extremist elements seeking to foster fascist and separatist agendas and engender hatred and intolerance, which posed a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. This made it more cognizant of the importance of celebrating shared cultural heritage and consolidating peace while denouncing racism and related intolerance.
Iraq condemned all violations of human rights. One should not use rights to create a contradictory effect that would undermine another right. Iraq believed that the United Nations was built on an understanding of rapprochement between cultures and not just governments. A gap in the international system had given rise to a misunderstanding between people which was weakening the system. A balance was needed between freedom of expression and freedom of belief whilst respecting international instruments.
Morocco expressed its concern about the alarming rise of xenophobic tendencies towards different racial, religious and cultural groups. It condemned all hatred speeches and any other manifestations affecting Islam, its symbols and its values. The recent film defaming Islam was a despicable and deliberate attempt to provoke hatred. Morocco also strongly condemned the violence that resulted in the deaths of a number of people, including United States’ diplomats. Discrimination could only be addressed by the adoption of a holistic and coherent approach by the international community. The new Constitution of Morocco contained provisions against discrimination and prohibited incitement to hatred or violence.
Algeria was concerned that xenophobia continued to gain ground, and that new forms of xenophobia were appearing. Algeria expressed its concern that incitement to hatred went often unpunished, and called for the adoption of new instruments that could codify the concerns of States and adequately address the rise of new forms of religious and racist hatred.
South Africa said that the Ad Hoc Committee still faced challenges in ensuring that the Human Rights Council took meaningful action to combat xenophobia, and remained hopeful that the Committee would fully implement its mandate. South Africa also commended the work of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and called on all delegations to support the resolution recommending that the General Assembly proclaim a United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.
Turkey said that intolerance, xenophobia and cultural racism threatened peace and the harmonious fabric of modern societies. Turkey and Spain had launched the initiative of the Alliance of Civilizations to encourage greater cross-cultural understanding and Turkey had been an active supporter of Council resolution 16/18 on combating intolerance. The despicable movie that led to the appalling murder of several people, including American diplomats, constituted the zenith of hate, blind disrespect and irresponsibility, and had to be condemned in the strongest terms. Preventive measures to promote a culture of mutual tolerance and understanding were needed.
Iran said that despite efforts of the international community, racism continued to be a major obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among peoples and nations and posed a real challenge to the daily life of ethnic and religious minorities. In addition to traditional forms of discrimination faced by Muslims, right wing political parties and politicians had led to an upsurge of Islamphobia. Iran strongly condemned the desecration of Muslim symbols, including the film denigrating Islam and the publication of cartoons. These Islamophobic acts led to animosity among peoples and should be condemned. Measures should be taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination, xenophobia and incitement against Muslims.
Council of Europe said recent activities, such as the work of its control organs, the white paper on intercultural dialogue launched in 2008, and the youth education programme on human rights, aimed at promoting diversity and cohesion. The objective of intergovernmental cooperation on the protection of human rights in multicultural and diverse societies was to contribute to a better understanding of the interdependence and interconnectedness of human rights. In this regard, the European Commission of Human Rights had provided important examples that should guide legislation and practice at national levels.
Tunisia said that racial discrimination was a scandal for mankind. There was no doubt that the growth of racial discrimination in all its form was due to economic crises and the populist discourse of certain politicians. With reference to the recent film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, this could only fuel hatred and xenophobia. Tunisia called for respect of religion and strongly condemned the use of violence to demonstrate against the film.
Belarus condemned the monument recently established in Latvia. The opening of the monument with the participation of the Latvian authorities and school children was an outrage. It was a direct mockery of those who died and cynically ignored the results of the Nuremberg trials and the Second World War. The recent film that mocked the Prophet Mohammed could not be justified as freedom of opinion and expression.
Venezuela said that its Constitution enshrined the fundamental basis to establish a multi-ethnic and pluralistic society. As part of this, Venezuela currently applied the organic law against racial discrimination, approved in August 2011. Venezuela said additional norms had to be developed in the fight to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that the Council had called on Member States and the United Nations to intensify efforts to build support for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. No explanation had been received concerning the non-implementation of the relevant General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolution by the Office of the High Commissioner, which sent an unfortunate message that the international norms and standards on combating racism were not a high priority.
Hellos Life Association indicated that love was the answer to racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Fear was the main reason behind discrimination and, as one of the measures of prevention, education and protection, the Durban Declaration was urged to promote a greater knowledge. It was not possible to eliminate racism, discrimination and intolerance, but it was possible to bring in attitudes of love and acceptance.
African Canadian Legal Clinic said that the experience of people of African descent was one of extreme marginalization and disadvantage, restricted access to housing and health care, racial profiling in policing, security and education, and underrepresentation in institutions and organizations of influence and power. Tools for measuring the efficacy of legislation, policies and other measures were also necessary for these measures to be meaningful.
Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute said that today’s Islamic world was faced with extensive negative sentiments against Islamic culture and belief. It believed that the Human Rights Council must not only deliberate the damages and suffering caused by Islamophobia and racism, but also adopt positive measures at national, regional and international levels to eliminate the factors that escalated them and targeted world peace.
Pasumai Thaayagam said that since the proclaimed end of the armed conflict in May 2009, the Sinhalese led Government of Sri Lanka had accelerated its systematic discrimination against the Tamil-speaking peoples. It requested the Special Rapporteur on racism to carry out an official visit to Sri Lanka to make an assessment of the underlying structural inequalities and escalating intolerance there.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the recent film insulting Islam was an ignorant and tasteless amateur production that should have been left to perish in the waste-bin of ignorance. To treat such garbage as a major attack on millions of individuals was quite simply nonsense and those who had used that incident to whip up the violence and mayhem that had led to the deaths of almost 100 people must be held to account for their crimes.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that for Muslims, to whom one of the most sacred concepts of religion and everyday life was the Prophet, the film was a blatant violation of freedom of expression and belief. When under the pretext of freedom of expression an individual or group targeted the holies of another group and then described their pain and anger as inhuman and uncivilized, this constituted a violation of human rights.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance constituted a negation of the purpose and principles of the United Nations Charter. Racism and Islamophobia continued even today and a global fight was necessary to address these global issues. The Durban Declaration also made reference to racism perpetrated against those under occupation.
World Barua Organization brought the Council’s attention towards the plight of the Dalit people. Despite the fact that untouchability had been removed from the Constitution, in practice they remained trodden by caste-biased people. Dalit families continued to work as bounded labourers and they were paid less wages. Severe punishment was given for minor mistakes and Dalit funds, allotted by central governments for development, were often diverted by local governments.
Liberation said that while individuals of Dalit origin in the Indian diaspora no longer pursued the ‘polluting’ occupations associated with their caste, the ‘untouchability mindset’ persisted in the form of direct and indirect discrimination in the United Kingdom. Liberation urged the United Kingdom’s Government to, among others, put into action a comprehensive national strategy with the participation of members of affected communities to eliminate caste discrimination.
Indian Council of South America said that indigenous peoples in all parts of the globe suffered from institutional racism resulting from the 1492 Papal Bull Decree. That foundation of law adhered to and promoted the superiority of the white race and was still embedded in the domestic law of the United States. The Council had turned a blind eye by allowing the former Special Rapporteur on racism to visit the United States and completely ignore the institutional racism, and called upon it to look into this.
World Muslim Congress said there was a need to acknowledge that the threat that Islam was seen as posing to the world was imagined rather than real. The rise of religious nationalism, the economic marginalization of religious minorities and the abuses of counter-terrorism laws had all led to a growing pattern of persecution against religious minorities globally. The World Muslim Congress appealed to States and religious leaders across the globe to engage in partnership.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik noted the reports that indicated incidents of racism and xenophobia in Israel against people of African and Palestinian descent. In Iran, specific ethnic minorities remained victims of systematic xenophobia and among them were members of the Afghan community who over the past three decades continued to face significant obstacles in accessing their rights.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that all religions called for the respect of values inspired by mutual respect, tolerance and dignity. Hatred and phobias against religions, particularly Islam, was a new phenomenon. The recent video offensive to the Prophet had deeply wounded the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that Dalits in India were deprived from education because of discriminatory practices, regardless of the Government policy guaranteeing compulsory education until the age of 14. India was one of the few countries in the world where the right to education was a fundamental right, but Dalit children were frequently treated in a humiliating manner in schools and colleges.
International Educational Development Inc. considered that ethnic chauvinism and triumphalism constituted racism. Constant demonising of ethnic groups by governments had had devastating results. Few countries had responded to the Council’s procedure on the incompatibility between democracy and racism and International Educational Development called on racism mandate holders to address ethnic chauvinism in Turkey and Sri Lanka.
Commission africaine des promoteurs de la sant’ des droits de l’homme said that during the International Year on People of African Descent, several events had taken place with the support of governments and international organizations. In this context, the World Summit Afromadrid 2014, approved by Congress in 2009, would have education and justice as key elements of historical reparation, and the contribution of people of African descent to society and to European and world cultures.
Fraternité Notre Dame drew the Council’s attention to Christianophobia and anti-Christian racism coming from groups affiliated with a religion because of their own rites and invocation of Satan and whose aim was to annihilate Christianity and drive young people into suicide, collective violence and murder. Societies seemed to be currently impregnated with a trend in which all deeds were justified.
Association of World Citizens drew attention to the case of the ‘boat people’. It called upon the European Union, the High Commissioner for Refugees and certain African countries to react, and suggested that radio stations be set up in refugee camps to facilitate communication with families.
Africa Culture International was concerned about the situation in West Africa, including Mali. It firmly condemned the ill-treatment of children, sexual abuse, child labour and forced or premature marriages of young women between the age of 13 and 15, as well as their mutilation. Africa Culture International appealed to the entire United Nations human rights system to provide further solutions and impose sanctions on perpetrators.
Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru said that since the Durban Conference and the tragic events that took place on September 11, racism and racial discrimination had taken on dramatic dimensions. The recent publication of the caricature of the Prophet Mohammed in France, the expulsion of Roma from France, as well as the emergence of new fascist parties in Europe constituted new contemporary forms of racism.
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People said that the right to vote was a cornerstone of democracy and that the United States created a patchwork of divergent laws and procedures marked by a history of barriers to voting. The Special Rapporteur on racism should investigate racially discriminatory election laws and the Council should examine those practices and make recommendations that would restore the political and voting rights of all citizens.
United Nations Watch continued to join in the struggle against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and wished to consider how the Council could help the victims and speak on their behalf. In Sweden, which was often considered a model in tolerance for the world, anti-Semitism was spreading and the Government was not doing enough to stop it, particularly in Malmo. The United Nations Watch suggested that the mayor be reprimanded for his defamatory remarks.
Arab Commission for Human Rights reminded the Council of paragraph 12 of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which condemned all acts of racism and racial discrimination including defamation of Islam. The international community should stand against all forms of racism in all parts of the world and the Council should stop all practices of the occupying power Israel against the Palestinian people.
Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples welcomed the French Prime Minister’s recent announcement that France would develop a plan of action against racism and anti-Semitism, based on education. It hoped that civil society organizations would be associated to the plan and its implementation. The Government’s policy regarding the Roma was still of grave concern.
Tiye International strongly reaffirmed its commitment to play an active part in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action and in favour of the promotion of solidarity with all victims of discrimination, and in particular discrimination faced by persons of African descent. Some non-governmental organizations and States however had acted negatively on the occasion of the Conference, which had led to weakened results in the application of the outcome documents.
Right of Reply
Latvia, speaking in a right of reply, condemned in absolute terms all totalitarian ideologies and the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the World War II. Usage of totalitarian symbols or terminology was prohibited, as were any forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Despite this, expressions of extremism could still be found.
Russia, speaking in a right of reply, said it did not deny that extremist groups including neo-Nazis existed also in Russia, but the Government was actively fighting
them on national and international levels. Russian people would never forget the horrors brought about by Hitler and would never let it happen again. Unlike Latvian authorities, Russia was aware of the problem and was fighting it. Many international mechanisms in the area of human rights had indicated to the authorities of Latvia that racist and xenophobic acts and behaviours of citizens, including some of the politicians, were inadmissible.
For use of the information media; not an official record