GENEVA (27 September 2016) - The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The general debate started on 26 September and a summary of the statements can be found here.
Speakers in the general debate expressed concern about the rise in racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, including Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, in various parts of the world, as well as about the silence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration. It was deeply alarming as it sent a dangerous message to Member States and the global public. Speakers urged the Office to increase the resources dedicated to the fight against racism and racial discrimination and the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. More must be done to counter increasingly populist, deceitful and discriminatory rhetoric within the European Union and the United States, which often took place under the guise of freedom of expression. States were invited to implement the Council’s resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action which provided concrete legal and policy measures to create an enabling and inclusive environment for counter-speech.
Speaking in the general debate were Israel, Armenia, and Libya.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (joint statement), Tourner la page, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, British Humanist Association, Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme, Association des étudiants tamouls de France, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Indigenous People of Africa Coordination Committee, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Union of Arab Jurists, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, World Jewish Congress, Liberation, World Barua Organization, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Iraqi Development Organization, Prahar, World Muslim Congress, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Rencontre Africaine Pour la Defense des Droits de l'Homme, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, United Nations Watch, Article 19-International Centre Against Censorship, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Association Solidarité International pour l’Afrique, World Environment and Resources Council, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, United Schools International, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, and Sikh Human Rights Group.
Taking the floor to speak in right of reply were Estonia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Armenia.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today, and will next hear the presentation of the High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, followed by an interactive dialogue, then the presentation of the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by an interactive dialogue.
General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance
Israel expressed concern about the increase of xenophobia and racism. Anti-Semitic attacks were being committed all over the world, such as in Hungary, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Iran. Education continued to be the most important vehicle for combatting xenophobia and racism. Anti-Semitism was not the problem of one country. All had to join efforts to combat it. Israel called for avoiding the repetition of history.
Armenia said that manifestations of xenophobia and hatred coming from Azerbaijan were well documented. The policy of anti-Armenian hatred and discrimination was openly promulgated by Azeri leaders almost on a daily basis. Azerbaijan chose to turn a blind eye on the conclusions of the United Nations regarding the discrimination against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Libya condemned xenophobia and racial discrimination targeting Muslims in the context of migration. Those practices went against the basic principles of human rights. International solidarity and cooperation in addressing those problems were highly important. Libya stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to education and awareness raising to eliminate racism and xenophobia.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, in a joint statement with International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), noted that it was inexplicable that the Council would not adopt any annual resolution in 2016 on combatting racism and implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The silence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration was deeply alarming as it sent a dangerous message to Member States and the global public.
Tourner la page underlined that in 2009 Sri Lankan Government forces had killed more than 146,000 Tamils. Successive governments had continually violated the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the current Government had continued the trend and had detained numerous Tamil civilians without filing cause under the Emergency Law and Prevention against Terrorism Act.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that Muslims lived in fear of racist acts all over the world. Islamophobia was a new form of racism and a great number of attacks had been reported. Women made up a disproportionate number of the victims. Racial discrimination and racist speeches also took place in schools. Unity, respect and tolerance were the key words to remember in this context.
British Humanist Association said that many States were failing to address the problem of discrimination based on religion or belief, including in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the weeks prior and following the referendum on Britain’s European Union membership. In Egypt, the segregationist religious curriculum fuelled xenophobic attitudes and practices. All States should review their legislation to realize in practice the goal of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.
Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum said that gross human rights violations were being committed in Muslim societies in the name of religion, and urged all to start a serious dialogue with theologians and open the gates of creative re-thinking. Muslims must revisit the theology in the light of the twenty-first century – this was not the seventh century and societies could not be organized in that medieval fashion.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said Dalits had been facing caste-based discrimination for centuries, but since the formation of the present Government in India in 2014, there had been a rise in Hindu nationalism and an increase in the attacks against Dalits and religious minorities. Landless Dalits in India must be given land and dignified jobs, and discrimination against young Dalits at prestigious educational institutions must be dealt with strongly.
Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul noted that the Eelam Tamils were suffering from a massive amount of systematic discrimination. The Sri Lankan military had more high security zones in the Tamil lands and there was one soldier per six Tamils in the north and east of the country. Eelam Tamils called on the Government to withdraw all its armed forces from the Tamil homeland, and on the Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a mandate to investigate the situation and monitor a real peace process.
Arab Commission for Human Rights regretted that undermining the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action seemed to be a conscious policy. It called on all Member States to engage with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on restoring staff resources to anti-racial discrimination work. The absence of an annual resolution on combatting racism in 2016 had to be urgently corrected.
Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme reminded that justice had been denied to persons of African descent for decades and the organization thus called for reparatory justice for them, including full recognition of the wrongs committed. However, that would not be possible without a strong United Nations commitment. Civil society resolutions on the issue were important as they created awareness about that issue.
Association des étudiants tamouls de France said that the rights to freedom and to security were being violated in Sri Lanka. Tamils were suffering from systematic discrimination. The military forces of Sri Lanka had carried out a genocidal war, and the people of Eelam Tamil sought justice, calling on the armed forces of Sri Lanka to withdraw from all Tamil areas.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that all humans were one race. The caste system practiced in the Indian sub-continent was evil. No progress had been made on eliminating that evil. The caste system was a form of discrimination, with the low class being deprived of a range of things, such as education, homes, employment, and land ownership.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee said that in India, segregation was still practiced, with discrimination more prevalent in some states. Widows were victims of particular discriminatory rules. The Council was urged to put an end to racial discrimination against minorities, and take note of the killing of Christians and forced religious conversion of minorities to Hinduism under the umbrella of the Government.
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that people in various parts of the world were suffering from racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and at the same time, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had reduced the budget to address those issues as mandated by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Racism and racial discrimination were ongoing in the occupied Palestinian territories by Israel, which had some 50 laws which were discriminatory against Palestinians.
Union of Arab Jurists was alarmed about the increase in racist crimes and speech in developed countries, directed against immigrants and minorities, and stressed the need to uphold the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and protect them from attacks. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should increase resources dedicated to the fight against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and ensure the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights spoke about the historic discrimination against Dalits in India, who were considered untouchable and socially inferior. Truck drivers carrying food for the Kashmiris were being arrested, while the Indian soldiers in Kashmir enjoyed impunity for their crimes and were protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Human Rights Council should urgently address the humanitarian crisis in this region.
World Jewish Congress reminded that Israel and the United States had withdrawn from the Durban Declaration talks in 2001. Many Western countries had boycotted the Durban II and Durban III conferences due to anti-Semitic language. Anti-Semitism was on the rise worldwide and the fight against racism and xenophobia was a vital commitment that had to be shared by all.
Liberation noted that caste and descent based discrimination was the need of the hour because caste-affected communities across the globe were victims of structural and institutional discrimination in their daily lives. The organization called on caste-affected countries – India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, African countries and the United Kingdom – to come forward and forge a movement for effectively tackling caste and descent based discrimination.
World Barua Organization drew attention to scheduled caste people who were referred to as “untouchables”. Scheduled caste people, especially the Buddhist community, wanted their rights to survive in the cruel caste-based society of India. The organization appealed to the Human Rights Council to call on the Indian Government to end racial discrimination in Indian society.
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that the Durban Declaration had been welcomed by the international community, and added that in Tippura, indigenous minority people had been attacked while attending a peaceful rally, with 35 of them seriously injured. The Human Rights Council was asked to look into the situation; the Council should urge the Government of India to solve the current problem.
Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said that racial discrimination continued to be a barrier to the exercise of human rights, noting that yesterday, a Christian Arab had been murdered Jordan by a terrorist. That was a bitter tragedy. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were persecuting authentic indigenous peoples. Societies of the Gulf area were undermined by that. Saudi Arabia trampled underfoot international agreements and conventions.
Alsalam Foundation expressed concern about the serious and growing threat of sectarian discrimination to stability in Bahrain. Hate speech placed Shia communities in danger of violence and discrimination. The Government of Bahrain was called on to stop endorsing sectarian hate speech against the Shia and to ensure their rights and the rights of other religious and ethnic minorities to non-discrimination.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain was concerned about half a million people who were deprived of their nationality in Saudi Arabia, and the lack of laws to protect them. They had to deal with many complications with marriage, registration of birth, education and health care, and many were joining terrorist groups as they were suffering greatly. The hopes of an entire generation were being dashed.
Iraqi Development Organization expressed concern about the situation in Yemen as a result of the war launched by Saudi Arabia, which had brought out sectarianism and hateful racism between different ethnic groups. Following this cruel war launched by the Saudi Alliance, crimes were being committed against Christians and their places of worship, in this country in which Muslims, Christian and Jews had historically lived in peace and coexistence.
Prahar said that the indigenous people of north-east India – Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal, Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland - were experiencing the worst kind of discrimination in their daily lives. The fear of rape was common among the women. The United Nations should urge India to take effective measures to address racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance in the society on the basis of caste, creed and race.
World Muslim Congress said that racism, prejudice and xenophobia were rampant in India. India systematically denied numerous people their basic human rights because of the caste system, colour, race, ethnicity, descent or national origin. It urged the Council to call on the Government of India to end its policy of caste-based discrimination and profiling of religious minorities and people of Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture noted that the world was facing the worst terrorist threat. Racial discrimination was rampant in the Middle Eastern region and claimed thousands of lives. Iraqi people had mobilized all their strength to fight terrorism and they had managed to deter the plan of the neo-fascist terrorists, such as Da’esh. It was possible to stop these terrorists by drying their resources and stopping those countries that supported them.
International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations drew attention to India’s persecution of Kashmiri students. The presence of the military in and around civilian spaces, especially educational institutions, had caused impediments for students to have free and safe access to schools. The whole region of Indian-occupied Kashmir had been brought under a state of permanent surveillance and emergency.
Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme said that Member States were still struggling to implement the Durban Programme, with xenophobia rising around the world. Despite the engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, there was much left to do with regard to the rise of racism in society. Racism was a major cause of conflict and war.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle said that the escalation of Islamophobia in Europe was a phenomenon that had been increasing to the extent of physical violence being used. “Burkini”-clad women had been abused, in a stark example of discrimination. Cultural characteristics could not be strict obstacles between countries. Respect for cultural diversity and rejection of hatred among civilizations was called for. Islamophobia was an unjustified phobia based on misconceptions and naïve ignorance.
United Nations Watch said that the cause of fighting racism was being misused to promote a political agenda. Iran was pursuing racist discrimination against a number of groups, including Bahá’ís. It was noted that a note verbale had just been circulated in the Council, where Saudi Arabia sought re-election to the Human Rights Council while promoting its efforts as regards the rights of women. If the Council was serious about the rights of women, Saudi Arabia could not be re-elected.
Article 19-International Centre Against Censorship said that more must be done to counter increasingly populist, deceitful and discriminatory rhetoric within the European Union and the United States. Demagogues often claimed to embody the principles of freedom of expression to spread their hatred. These States must implement the Council’s resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action which provided concrete legal and policy measures to create an enabling and inclusive environment for counter-speech.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said Afghani refugees were victims of xenophobia and racism in Iran, and were severely restricted in the enjoyment of their rights. They were harassed and discriminated against by authorities and civilians, and in recent years they were increasingly recruited to fight in support of Assad in Syria, in exchange for permanent residence in Iran and considerable salaries.
Association Solidarité International pour l’Afrique said that in 2009, Sri Lanka had carried out a genocidal war against Tamils by killing more than 146,000 in a short period of six months. The Tamils continued to suffer discrimination despite the defeat of their military movement. Ezhuka Thamzih – Let Tamil rise up, the biggest uprising to take place in the country of Elam Tamils, had been declared on 24 September 2016, with the support of more than 30,000 people.
World Environment and Resources Council stated that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had often been used as justification for mob justice against minorities. Blasphemy laws inappropriately positioned governments as arbiters of truth or religious righteousness as they empowered officials to enforce particular religious views against individuals, minorities and dissenters.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace called attention to a wave of intolerance that had been spreading across Pakistan where the Ahmadis were targeted, Christian villages were set on fire, and the Shia Hazara community faced even more severe forms of discrimination and abuse of human rights than other non-Muslim communities. Hindus had been treated as anti-State and anti-Islamic elements.
International Association for Democracy in Africa reminded that minority rights were essential in the overall protection of human rights. However, there were a number of countries where being a minority implied the worst form of destitution. Religious extremism in Pakistan was sanctioned openly or tacitly. Christian girls had been systematically abused and kidnapped in that country, faced rape and did not receive adequate protection.
Pan African Union for Science and Technology said that since its inception, Pakistan had been in the midst of a fight to define its religious and cultural identity that had at times been hijacked by xenophobic elements. Minority communities had been treated like second-class citizens, with the Government looking the other way when religious fanatics attacked Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said that the Hazaras, a Persian-speaking Shia minority, had immigrated to Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, from Afghanistan more than a century ago. More than 600 Hazaras had been killed in Quetta but no perpetrators had been brought to justice. The Pakistani Government had no policy on how to protect the basic rights of communities such as the Hazaras.
United Schools International said that Pakistan had been indulging in xenophobia towards Afghan refugees, who had wrongly been blamed for draining Pakistani funds, taking over jobs, an increase in crime, and lately for terrorism. Refugees were often blamed for everything that was wrong with the host country. The xenophobia displayed toward them had no place in a civilised society.
European Union of Public Relations said that Pakistani minorities were under attacks and that Ahmadis had been declared non-Muslims through an amendment to the Constitution. Pakistan continued to be in denial about the treatment of Ahmadis in Pakistan and refused to accept that the slow trickle of violence and the levels of discrimination against them was untenable and unacceptable.
Canners International Permanent Committee called the attention of the Council to the systemic pressure against Shias by State patronized extremist groups, to debilitate and annihilate them from practicing their religion without fear. Sectarian violence in Pakistan was mainly being perpetrated by hard-line Sunni Muslim groups against minority Shia Muslims who made up about one fifth of the population.
Centre for Environmental and Management Studies said that minorities in Pakistan were victims of xenophobia, the worst forms of hatred, State-sponsored violence and the most virulent forms of racism. Muslim groups such as Shias were often targeted by violent extremists, while Ahmadis had been declared non-Muslims by the writ of the State. Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs were victims of suicide bomb attacks and conversion to Islam against their will.
Sikh Human Rights Group explained that a turban was an intrinsic part of what being a Sikh was and that it maintained dignity in public. Sikhs were discriminated against involuntarily because of the lacuna in legal categories. Most countries had accepted the specific character of Sikhs and had made sure that there was no discrimination against Sikhs, except for France which was the only country that forbade the wearing of the turban by Sikhs. Wearing a turban was not a threat to anyone and Sikhs were legitimate and honest citizens.
Right of Reply
Estonia, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the statement by the Russian Federation regarding the investigation of the murder of Dmitri Ganin. The criminal case had been immediately initiated and the police had ever since been actively investigating the case. Different expert assessments had been carried out to determine more exact facts of the murder. Despite the continued efforts, it had not been possible to identify the person who had committed the murder.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, noted that Azerbaijan was a unique place where the west and east met and where cultures harmoniously complemented each other. As the result of the military aggression of Armenia, part of Azerbaijan’s territory remained under occupation and about one million Azeris remained displaced. Azerbaijan called on Armenia to end the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh. As for the allegations of discrimination, Muslim Azeris had been expelled from Nagorno-Karabakh, whereas Armenians continued to live in Azerbaijan. Armenia lectured others while it continued to glorify terrorists and use terrorist organizations for subversive actions against Azerbaijan. If Armenia did not end its policy of aggression, the consequences for that country would become worse.
Iran, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the statement made by the Israeli regime. It was not the first time that Iran had faced Israel’s baseless accusations. Such behaviour was a way to cover up Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.
Armenia, speaking in a right of reply, said that the Council had already been informed of the practices of Azerbaijan as regarded racism and xenophobia. The numbers that Azerbaijan had cited were not factual. Citizens of third countries were intimidated and harassed for bearing an Armenian family name. It was ludicrous that Azerbaijan took the floor to disseminate anti-Armenian hysteria. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should condemn racial discrimination prevalent in Azerbaijan. Speculative and absurd statements tried to link Armenia with the Second World War.
Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that instead of protecting its people, the leadership of Armenia continued to incite to war and aggression and propagate dangerous ideas of hatred not just toward Azerbaijan but toward other countries in the region. Racial superiority and hatred was the State policy of Armenia. Azerbaijan asked Armenia where the Azerbaijan citizens who had lived in Armenia and in the occupied territories had gone.
Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, said that those Azerbaijanis had left settlements in Armenia in an orderly fashion when unrest had erupted in some areas and towns. The Azerbaijani record on human rights was well-documented. It had been repeatedly brought to the attention of the international community. Azerbaijani authorities tried to deceive the international community. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to look into organizing a seminar on racism for young diplomats in need of such information.
For use of the information media; not an official record