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Statements Special Procedures


30 May 2008

30 May 2008

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Doudou Diène, released the following statement today:

“I express my distress at the recent xenophobic violence targeting refugees, migrants and South African ethnic minorities in Johannesburg and surrounding townships, claiming the lives of over forty people. I condemn these acts in the strongest terms.

While I take note of the efforts of the Government of South Africa to address the crisis, I call upon authorities not only to carry out a thorough investigation of the acts of violence in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent the spread of atrocities, but also to stimulate a collective reflection on the root causes of these phenomena.

I also call upon authorities to engage in a comprehensive discussion of migration policies aiming at better integrating refugees and migrants economically, socially and culturally in South Africa. While the legal framework for the protection of minorities is fundamental, only a cultural and ethical approach can address the deep-rooted problems of racism and discrimination and promote long-term tolerance and living together among all communities.

The fact that these events took place in a country that has known the vicious implications of institutionalized racism in the form of apartheid underlines the universality of racial discrimination and xenophobia and the need for permanent vigilance and political will, both nationally and internationally, to address these problems. In light of similar events elsewhere, the relevance and legitimacy of the Durban Review Conference, which will be held in 2009, are further corroborated.”

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The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 by the Commission on Human Rights to examine incidents of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as governmental measures to overcome them. It was further extended by the Human Rights Council in its resolutions 5/1 and 7/34. A former director of UNESCO Department of Intercultural Dialogue, Mr. Diène is the second Special Rapporteur to hold the mandate.