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Human Rights Council concludes general debate on racism, racial discrimination, implementation of the Durban Declaration

Human Rights Council


21 March 2017

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its general debate on its agenda item on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
During the discussion, speakers stressed the importance of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and outlined various ways in which it addressed issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.  The human rights situation in various countries was also addressed, as was the particular situation of various minorities within countries.  Some focused on the rights of women, noting the crucial importance of women’s participation in realizing the Durban Declaration’s vision.
The first part of the general debate was held on Monday, 20 March and a summary can be found here.
The following civil society organizations took the floor: Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation, International Humanist and Ethical Union, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, World Environment and Resources Council, United Schools International, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Association pour l’intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, International-Lawyers.org, Prahar, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, World Barua Organization, Centre for Inquiry, Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Americans for Democracy and human rights in Bahrain Inc., Alsalam Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Liberation, United Nations Watch, Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue, European Union of Jewish Students, Amuta for NGO Responsibility, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Auspice Stella,  Centre for Organisation Research and Education International Education Development, Meezan Centre for Human Rights, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme and Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development.
The Council has a full day of meetings scheduled today.  At 10 a.m., it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum. 
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
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights noted that racial discrimination and intolerance continued to exist in many parts of the world and expressed concern about centuries-old discriminatory practices in India.  Dalits, or untouchables, continued to suffer murder, rape and other crimes.  The Council should undertake concrete steps to combat all kinds of discrimination.
Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation said that the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka had been subjected to racial discrimination and genocide since its independence in 1948.  Buddhism was given a constitutional prominence, and violence and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities was widespread.  Buddhists continued to impose their cultural domination on others in Sri Lanka.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that its recent report had identified
12 countries in which apostasy was an offence punishable by the death penalty and many of those were members of the Human Rights Council.  Freedom of speech must be guaranteed to all without violence and discrimination as long as they did not advocate violence and incited hate.
African Regional Agricultural Credit Association said that Pakistan openly discriminated against the Baluchi people.  It had imposed Urdu language on the Baluchi in 1948 and showed intolerance towards ethnic and religious minorities.  The Council should hold Pakistan accountable for violating almost every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
World Environment and Resources Council said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action attributed a key role to women in combatting gender violence.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were seeing their rights coming into conflict with the authorities in Pakistan.  Being gay was illegal and Pakistan did not have civil rights laws protecting sexual orientation.
United Schools International said since 2001, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had proposed measures to combat racism.  The international community should tackle racism and xenophobia; racism was distinguishing races as superior or inferior to each other.  Iraq had the world’s highest levels of xenophobia, and measures should be taken to combat that. 
International Association for Democracy in Africa said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action called for the attainment of goals, such as ending slavery in various forms.  Iran was a source and destination country for sex trafficking.  Pakistan also suffered the phenomenon, with bonded labour continuing despite laws outlawing the practice.  
Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said the Armed Forces Special Forces Act in India was a racist law which allowed the Indian army to commit murder.  The Human Rights Council was asked to communicate with India regarding the law, with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, as well as with the experts on children in armed conflict.
Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee drew the attention of the Council to the centuries-old racial discrimination and hate by Hindus in Panjab against Sikhs.  Panjabis did not even have the right to control their own electricity supply as all electricity produced in the region was given to other states at no cost.
Association pour l’intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi spoke about gender-based discrimination in India and said that Dalit women remained most vulnerable due to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  Minorities which did not regard cows as sacred were attacked.  The plight of Dalits in India required the urgent attention of the Council.
International-Lawyers.Org said that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was the guiding international instrument for the global fight against racial discrimination.  The goals of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action must be achieved.  The Council should urgently prepare a multi-year programme of activities as requested by the General Assembly.
Prahar drew attention to the growing discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities in north-east India, and informed the Council about various such incidents, including in Bangalore.  India must protect ethnic and religious minorities in the north-east from violence and racial discrimination.
Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said genocide was a crime against humanity.  Genocide was one of the most frightening terms one could hear.  One of the best known genocides was known as the Holocaust.  So much planning and detail had been put into the Holocaust it was almost impossible to know how far it reached. 
European Union of Public Relations said non-discrimination was a core element of the normative human rights framework.  Non-discrimination required States to protect vulnerable communities in particular.  The principles of equality and non-discrimination had to be respected, and it was critical to gather disaggregated data on vulnerable segments of society.
Canners International Permanent Committee said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action reasserted the rights of victims, assigning the primary responsibility of combatting xenophobia to States.  Iran was among the world’s most racist countries, and the Middle East contained many countries shaped by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  Iranian intolerance and abuse of refugees and workers was well known.
Centre for Environment and Management Studies underlined the importance of education as a powerful tool to lift marginalized children and adults from poverty.  The right to education was a human right recognized by the United Nations.  The progressive introduction of primary education and access to higher education should be ensured without any discrimination. 
Pan African Union for Science and Technology regretted that even in the twenty-first century discrimination pervaded, and drew attention to the mistreatment of Christian minorities in Iran and Pakistan.  The distribution of Christian literature in Farsi was strictly forbidden, whereas blasphemy laws were used to target Christians. 
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in a joint statement, reminded that not enough substantive results had been reached in the protection of persons of African descent from racism and discrimination.  Implementation strategies had to be taken into account, including the participation of civil society.  More attention had to be paid to the visibility of the Decade of Persons of African Descent.
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities recalled the obligation of States to protect religious sites and prevent acts and threats of violence.  In Yemen, Houthi and Saleh militias were practicing the worst forms of racial discrimination and violence, blowing up religious sites, displacing religious and ethnic minorities, and turning mosques and other religious sites into military camps.
World Barua Organization said that people of India faced multiple forms of discrimination based on caste, ethnicity, religion and language.  Political and other kinds of polarization and intolerance in university campuses were reaching alarming levels.  The caste system must be incorporated as grounds for discrimination in international treaties.
Centre for Inquiry was deeply concerned about many States which were promoting intolerance, tolerating intolerance and violating the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action through their racial profiling and stereotyping.  Restricting freedom of expression, conscience and inquiry was not the best way to counter intolerance.
Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said discrimination was spreading in the Gulf except in Oman which was immune to the scourge.  Resources were being looted, and prison sentences were being imposed on parliamentarians in Bahrain.  Countries which were allies of the Gulf Cooperation Council were in partnership with oppression of peoples.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc. said there was religious discrimination in Saudi Arabia, with Shi’a minority members being marginalized.  Their important cultural and religious sites were being destroyed, including a neighbourhood which was several centuries old.  Measures were taken against Shi’a activists who were brought before courts to fight terrorism. 
Alsalam Foundation expressed concern about racism as mentioned in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in Bahrain where Shi’a were targeted by various measures.  They were facing restrictions on freedom of assembly and individuals had had their nationality revoked.  Travel bans were also instituted.  Some associations were banned from their activities. 
Iraqi Development Organization expressed concern about grave human rights violations in Yemen committed by the Saudi-led coalition which did not have the mandate of the United Nations.  Some groups were targeted because they were accused of being Houthis.  The organization called on the international community to investigate the crimes committed by those who were acting without the consent of the United Nations.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik regretted that in Iran negative stereotyping and discrimination of religious minorities, such as Baha’is, was commonplace.  They were denied access to justice and were socially excluded.  The only one who could amend the Constitution was the supreme religious leader of Iran.   
Liberation drew attention to the persecution of Christians in India by Hindu nationalists who acted with impunity.  There was a clear pattern of religious and nationalist discrimination across the Indian subcontinent.  Christians were often from the lowest castes and were already facing severe deprivation.  Liberation called on the Council to impress upon the Indian Government to protect the human rights of Christians in India.
United Nations Watch remained steadfast in the fight against racism and racial discrimination and proposed a new paragraph to the draft resolution on Iran which would urge the Government of Iran to end discrimination against women and girls, and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities.  Palestine should sanction teachers who incited hatred among their pupils.
CIRID (Centre indépendant de Recherches et d’Initiatives pour le Dialogue) remarked that the Palestinian people continued to suffer all forms of racism and racial discrimination at the hands of Israel, the occupying power.  The Houthi militias in Yemen committed numerous violations against people on the grounds of race or religion, including displacing ethnic and religious minorities in several cities in Yemen, and destroying the social fabric and multi-cultural character of the country.
European Union of Jewish Students spoke of incidents against Jews in Paris and expressed concern over a rise in anti-Semitism before the very eyes of the international community.  Jewish rights were human rights and vice-versa.  The situation of Roma, the largest minority in Europe, was also of concern.    
Amuta for NGO Responsibility said the Durban Conference had targeted Israel, and non-governmental organizations engaged in promoting discriminatory boycotts, divestments and sanctions measures received money from the European Union with their propaganda reports.  The funding raised questions about due diligence and Switzerland was commended for ending such destructive funding to such non-governmental organizations.
Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle said international law forbid discrimination and non-discrimination was vital.  There had been backtracking when it came to religious discrimination, and there was Islamophobia in Europe.  There was a ban on certain Muslims entering the United States, and Turkish communities in Europe were not able to organize demonstrations on the Turkish referendum.
Auspice Stella presented testimony of beneficiaries of interim measures granted by the Commission for Human Rights and proceeded to read a statement from a person stating that there was a struggle for land rights against Chilean authorities.  Cases in court had led to arbitrary sentences. 
Centre for Organisation Research and Education drew attention to discrimination against minorities in India, such as Dalits and Sikhs.  A number of attacks against minorities had been recorded by Indian experts.  The organization urged the Human Rights Council to provide safety to all Indian minorities.
International Education Development noted that the lack of agreed upon indicators to define “racist regimes” was a factor in the dismal failure of the Council to properly respond to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, where clearly a war by a “racist regime” against the Tamil people had been underway.   Acts of violence against ethnically different groups were also occurring against the Hmong peoples in Lao People’s Democratic Republic and ethnic nationalities in Myanmar.
Meezaan Centre for Human Rights reminded that Israel placed its approximately 1.5 million Palestinian citizens under a system of racial discrimination and exclusion that privileged Jews over non-Jews.  More than 50 Israeli laws discriminated against Palestinian citizens.  Recently, incitement to racism, hatred and violence against Palestinians had increased.
Rencontre Africaine Pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme welcomed last week’s debate on racial profiling in the context of migration and noted that regardless of the outcomes of the Durban Review Conference, many States had still not made their action plans to combat racism and racial discrimination.  It was absolutely vital for migration and police officers to meet minimum standards of dignity in dealing with migrants.
Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development was deeply concerned about the spread of Islamophobia and the subjecting of Muslims to numerous violations, including in countries which were robust democracies.  Freedom of expression must not be used as a pretext to spread hate and incite violence against others.  The Council should redouble its efforts to combat all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, and promote a culture of peace.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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