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Press briefing note on Germany / Synagogue attack

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville  
Location: Geneva 
Date: 11 October 2019
Subject:  Germany / Synagogue attack

Germany / Synagogue attack

We echo the Secretary-General’s strong condemnation of Wednesday’s attempted attack on worshippers in a synagogue in Halle in Germany, during which two people were killed and two others wounded.   

Reports from the German authorities are already suggesting this was almost certainly a white nationalist attack, and a clear example of extreme anti-Semitism – deliberately carried out on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. 
Copies of the live-streamed video had reportedly been downloaded before their removal from the broadcasting platform and are still circulating online. The attempt by the Halle gunman to copy the methodology of the man who killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, including by live streaming his planned – but fortunately in this case unfulfilled – mass killing on social media, underscores the need to deal more effectively with spreading white nationalist extremism, and indeed all forms of racism and xenophobia.

This horrific attack is the latest example of an extremely disturbing rise in violence directed at Jews in many places, including a sharp rise in incidents in Germany. We need to take notice, and take further action to address the fear and insecurity that the increase in violence is sowing. The links between incitement to hatred and violence and the actual carrying out of violent hate crimes, based on race, religion or ethnicity, should no longer be in any doubt in anyone’s mind. Nor should the dangerous cross-fertilization of violent extremism of all sorts via the internet and social media. No society can consider itself immune from this form of viral hatred.

The most recent report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief* notes with serious concern that the frequency of anti-Semitic incidents appears to be increasing in magnitude in several countries where monitors are attempting to document it, including online, and that the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes and the risk of violence against Jewish individuals and sites appears to be significant elsewhere as well.

We echo the Secretary-General’s heartfelt statement that places of worship around the world “must be safe havens for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror,” and that greater efforts should be made to identify and take measures to safeguard religious sites at risk.

* See the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to the General Assembly, 23 September 2019 (A/74/358), available at https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/A_74_47921ADV.pdf

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.orgor Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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