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Paris attacks: “Crime against humanity, crime against culture” – UN expert on cultural rights

GENEVA (17 November 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, today denounced in the strongest possible terms the 13 November terrorist attacks in Paris. “These attacks may constitute a crime against humanity and certainly one which viciously and deliberately targeted sites of arts and leisure where people come together to enjoy their cultural rights,” she said. 

“The language used in the reported claim of responsibility for the 13 November attacks by the so-called ‘Islamic State’, labeling the rock fans at Bataclan as ‘pagans’ and the city of Paris as the ‘capital of prostitution and vice’ demonstrates the hateful worldview motivating this violence,” Ms. Bennoune stressed.

For the human rights expert, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) when beginning the Bataclan massacre, as has been reported, “grossly misuses a religious pronouncement sacred to hundreds of millions of Muslim believers around the world who abhor such bloodshed, and increases the likelihood of hate and discrimination against them in response,” she said.

Ms. Bennoune expressed her “total compassion” for the victims and their families echoing the words of the rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, and noted his call for national unity in the face of this terrible ordeal. “International unity will likewise be critical in responding to such threats to culture and to those coming together to make and share it,” Ms. Bennoune added.

“I extend my solidarity and condolences to the people of Paris and hope they will soon experience a return to security as well as to an environment in which they can fully enjoy their rights and freedoms,” she said. The expert also called on the international community to urgently take all steps needed to assist French authorities in ensuring that any perpetrators still at large are brought to justice in accordance with international law.

“We must all cooperate to protect those around the world who face similar attacks from such gangs of death simply for participating in cultural life,” she noted.

Ms. Bennoune appealed to civil society around the world “to unite in exposing and opposing the fundamentalist ideology motivating such atrocities, as many have done in Muslim majority countries for years, and to support those resisting such fundamentalist assaults on cultural life on the frontlines from West Africa to South Asia and beyond.”

The Special Rapporteur also expressed her deep personal concern about other recent terrorist attacks such as that in Beirut on 12 November or the crash of the Russian plane in Egypt last month, which raise grave human rights issues largely beyond the scope of her mandate.

“I would like to emphasize the global equality of victims and the unavoidably international nature of the struggle against those who seek to deliberately kill civilians and culture itself, and above all to divide the human family,” she concluded. 

Karima Bennoune was appointed UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights in October 2015. She grew up in Algeria and the United States. She is Professor of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the University of California-Davis School of Law where she teaches courses on human rights and international law. Ms. Bennoune has worked in the field of human rights for more than 20 years. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/CulturalRights/Pages/SRCulturalRightsIndex.aspx 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For more information and media requests please contact Johanne Bouchard (+41 22 917 9605/ jbouchard@ohchr.org) or Mylène Bidault (+41 22 917 9254 / mbidault@ohchr.org) or write to srculturalrights@ohchr.org

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