Fifty-ninth General Assembly
35th Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR INFORMS THIRD COMMITTEE OF RISE OF NEW FORMS OF RACISM,
INCLUDING MANIFESTATIONS IN POLITICAL PLATFORMS, STRUGGLE AGAINST TERROR
Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries Also Addresses Committee
The rise of new forms of racism had dealt setbacks to the global fight against racism, making it more difficult to combat racial discrimination and xenophobia, Doudou Diène, the Special Rapporteur of the Committee on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, told the Third Commission (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it began its general discussion of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination.
Mr. Diène said the legitimate struggle against terrorism had undermined the protection of human rights and had led to new forms of racial discrimination, as well as to a growing acceptability of traditional forms of racism. This new ideological environment had led to a designation of categories as certain cultural or religious groups had come to be seen as a terrorist risk.
A further setback in the struggle against racism, he continued, was the growing encroachment across all continents of racist, xenophobic political platforms. What was novel about this trend was not the existence of such platforms, but their gradual, covert assimilation by democratic parties. As a result, he said, the world was witnessing a growing acceptability of racist and xenophobic discourse that posed grave threats to democracy. This trend had been accompanied by the intellectual legitimization of racism and xenophobia, not only by the media, but also in works of literature, indicating that the intellectual community, too, had lowered its guard against racism.
He said such setbacks required renewed and strengthened efforts to implement all international instruments aimed at combating racism. These efforts must be flanked by intellectual and cultural measures to combat the entrenched nature of racism, he added. This strategy should include the promotion of intercultural education aimed at the long-term construction of multiculturalism in all countries.
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with Mr. Diène were the representatives of Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Russian Federation, Egypt, Cuba, Indonesia, Venezuela and Canada.
The representative of Guatemala also spoke.
Responding to questions, Mr. Diène agreed that sport could play a positive role in combating racism, but pointed out that, while sport could serve to advance the cause of eliminating racism, many racist gestures and actions also occurred within the domain of sport. He said the Internet, too, played a similar dual role with regard to racism and discrimination. It could play a positive role in disseminating information to combat racism, but it could also be used to disseminate racist information. There was still no consensus on how best to use the Internet to combat racism.
Also addressing the Third Committee this morning was Shaista Shameem, the new Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. She said the ancient profession of mercenaries needed to be considered afresh -- theoretically, philosophically and pragmatically, from within a human rights framework. She said she was in the process of establishing a database of national legislation addressing the issue of mercenaries and would engage in regular dialogue with governments and with intergovernmental and non-State actors, as well as individuals working on issues related to mercenaries.
In response to the representative of Cuba, who alone took part in the subsequent question-and-answer session with Ms. Shameem, she stressed that she would continue to work within her mandate, focusing particularly on issues related to the link between mercenaries and terrorists and to the definition of a mercenary.
Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports to be considered by the Committee in its discussions on the elimination of racism and the right to self-determination.
Addressing the Committee in the general discussion of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination were the representatives of Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Egypt, China, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Poland and Japan.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, 4 November, to continue its general discussion of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its joint discussion on elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as on the right of peoples to self-determination.
It was expected to hold dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (presenting his report contained in document A/59/329), as well as the new Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. For summaries of the Special Rapporteurs’ conclusions, please see their following introductory statements.
On the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, the Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/59/275), which notes that, as of 1 July 2004, 169 States had ratified or acceded to the Convention, with 45 making the declaration under article 14 to recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive and consider communication from individuals or groups of individuals within their jurisdiction claiming to be victims of violation by those States parties of any of the rights set forth in the Convention.
The report of the Secretary-General on the Financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/59/276) notes that no State party assessments were made in 2003 and 2004, as financing for the Committee’s annual sessions was provided from the regular budget. However, a number of States parties were still in arrears from non-payment of previous assessment, with total arrears of $151,052.52 as of 1 July 2004.
A note by the Secretary-General on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/59/330) transmits the study on the question of political platforms that promote or incite racial discrimination. The study reviews political parties or other organizations that promote racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance worldwide.
The report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/59/18) was unavailable.
There was a report of the Secretary-General on Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/59/375), which focuses on activities undertaken by States, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and youth groups and organizations to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
On the Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/191), which notes the expiration of the term of the current Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights at the end of July 2004 and transmits a report that draws on the Special Rapporteur’s final report and updates information where relevant.
The report of the Secretary-General on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/59/376) contains an account of a consideration of the issue “the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation” at the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.
There was also a letter dated 16 March 2004 from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (document A/59/66-S/2004/219), submitting a memorandum on the legal aspects of the conflict in and around the Nagorny Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Also before the Committee was a document containing identical letters by the Observer of Palestine dated 8 October 2004 that had been submitted to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (document A/59/427-S/2004/806) to draw attention to grave and revealing statements made by a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the malevolent intentions of the Israeli Government in the presentation of its so-called “disengagement plan”.
Statement by Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights
BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports on the elimination of racism and the right to self-determination. Firstly, on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/59/275), he noted that, since the report’s submission, an additional State had ratified the Convention, bringing the total of States parties to 170.
Regarding the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/59/18), he noted that the two regular sessions held in 2004 had mainly been devoted to consideration of periodic reports submitted by States parties. The Committee had also reviewed the situation of two States parties, whose reports remained overdue by at least five years. Three decisions had been taken regarding the Committee’s early warning and urgent procedures. Additionally, the Committee had held a thematic discussion on non-citizens and racial discrimination, adopting a number of related recommendations. The Committee had also appointed a coordinator responsible for coordinating the body’s conclusions, as well as a five-member Working Group on early warning and urgent procedures. A paper on the effectiveness of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been transmitted to the Intergovernmental Working Group on that subject.
In 2005, the Committee planned to hold a thematic debate on prevention of genocide, he said, at which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on genocide would be invited to speak. It would also hold a general discussion on multiculturalism and consider a draft of new general recommendations on racial discrimination and the administration of justice.
On the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/59/375), he noted that the Intergovernmental Working Group had held its second session in early 2004. Its third session had concluded less than two weeks ago. During its sessions, the Working Group had considered the interrelations between racism and poverty and racism and education. It had adopted three new themes: racism and health; racism and internment; and racism and complementary standards.
The Working Group on people of African descent would soon conclude its fourth session in Geneva, he added. Its recent discussion had focused on racism’s impact on health, employment and housing. That Group was in the process of setting a date for its next meeting, planned for early 2005. At that time, it would assess international standards to combat racism with a view to preparing complementary standards.
The anti-discrimination unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had contributed to two regional seminars on racial discrimination, he continued. They had been held in the Czech Republic –- for Eastern European States -– and in Belgium –- for Western European States. Another seminar had been scheduled for late 2004 for the Asia and Pacific region, to be held in Thailand. That seminar would be preceded by an intergovernmental meeting in Brazil on addressing the health-related Millennium Development Goals. Other activities included technical cooperation to strengthen national human rights mechanisms to combat racism and to bolster dissemination activities related to the construction of a new Web site. Joint programmes with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme regarding HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) regarding HIV/AIDS standards for human rights were also being undertaken.
On the report on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/59/376), he said it gave a brief overview of the principle of self-determination and provided details of relevant deliberations by the Commission on Human Rights and the International Court of Justice. The report on the use of mercenaries (document A/59/191) had been based on responses to a note verbale received from Member States. Since its submission, an additional State had ratified the Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, bringing the total of States parties to 26.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Racism
DOUDOU DIENE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said the two reports he was presenting pivoted around two key issues: the new challenges in combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia; and the new approaches that must be taken to answer those threats. Since the Durban conference, the legitimate struggle against terror had undermined the protection of human rights and had led to a growing acceptability of traditional forms of racism, as well as to new forms of racism and racial discrimination. This new ideological environment had led to a designation of categories considered to be potentially terrorist -- that is, the identification of certain cultural or religious groups that had come to be seen as a terrorist risk. This had led to the proliferation of new forms of racism that had made it more difficult to combat racial discrimination and xenophobia.
A further setback in the struggle against racism was the growing encroachment across all continents of racist, xenophobic political platforms. What was novel about this trend was not the existence of such platforms, but their gradual, covert assimilation by democratic parties. As a result, he said, the world was witnessing a growing acceptability of racist, xenophobic discourse. Racism and xenophobia, therefore, posed the most serious threats to democracy.
Another setback, he continued, was the intellectual legitimization of racism and xenophobia in an increasingly open manner, not only by the media, but in works of literature. This indicated that the intellectual community had lowered its guard. An example of the lowering of the intellectual guard against racism was a new work by Samuel Huntington -- Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity -– whose central thesis was to confirm the threat posed to the American identity by the presence and culture of Latino people. Such discourse had encouraged discrimination against immigrants, refugees and any group perceived to be different.
Such setbacks required renewed and strengthened efforts to implement all international instruments aimed at combating racism, including the programme of action proposed at the Durban conference. Those efforts must be flanked by intellectual and cultural measures to combat the entrenched nature of racism, he added. This strategy required global measures to put an end to the increasing proliferation of new forms of racism, as well as the promotion of intercultural education and the long term construction of multiculturalism in all countries.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Racism
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were the representatives of Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Russian Federation, Egypt, Cuba, Indonesia, Venezuela and Canada.
In response to their questions, Mr. DIENE agreed that sport could play a positive role in combating racism, but also stressed that there were two sides to the issue. The fundamental basis of sport could serve to advance the cause of eliminating racism, but many racist gestures and actions also occurred within the domain of sport. He had met with leaders of large sporting organizations, viewing them as the real actors in combating racism through sport. For instance, he had met with the President of the International Olympic Committee, who had expressed his view that there was no racism in the Games, but had also promised to be vigilant against such discrimination.
The Internet played a similar dual role regarding racism and discrimination, he added. It could play a positive role in disseminating information to combat racism, as could all new information and communications technologies, but it could also be used to disseminate racist information. The Internet had brought together contradictory principles related to the right to freedom of expression and privacy and those laid down in international legal instruments. There was still no consensus on how best to use the Internet to combat racism, he concluded.
He also stressed that, while many resolutions had referred to the role to be played by education in combating racism, education in itself could not be seen as a weapon to combat racism. Nazi Germany had been an educated country, but the concentration camps had still been built. Educated communities could be found in all countries where racism had been perpetrated. Thus, education could not be seen simply as a channel to transmit values; there must be a focus on the actual educational content. He had urged inclusion of inter-cultural education and emphasis on democratic values.
Many countries continued to focus attention at the international level, he said, neglecting to elaborate national plans to combat racism and racial discrimination. This reflected a move backwards, as the fight must be fought primarily at the national level. One of the most serious moves backwards concerning racism and discrimination was represented by attempts to diffuse the shapes and forms of racism. For example, certain forms of racism were considered more urgent than others. This challenged the universality of combating racism; there must be equal treatment for all forms of racism and xenophobia.
Although racist political platforms had always been promulgated, he said the current issue was their rising influence upon democratic parties. Examining the situation of certain countries in which extreme-right parties had obtained a certain electoral percentage, one could see that the electoral process had absorbed some of these forms of racism and there was wider acceptance of such racist stances.
Concerning methods of work, he said he continued to work for cooperation and synergies with other mechanisms, particularly regional mechanisms. He had recently attended a meeting with the European Monitoring Centre on Racism in Brussels, at which modalities for cooperation had been laid down. If the Centre did its jobs properly, his next report would reflect upon that cooperation.
He had also built on prior cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he added. Moreover, next week, he would host a meeting in Barcelona, at which all institutions and fronts for combating racism would be brought together to address anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia.
Also regarding his work, he said that his country visits should be seen as constituting part of an ongoing process. During a visit, he attempted to take stock of how a country was dealing with problems of racism and to provide constructive criticism where necessary. Those visits enabled him to draw up reports based on his discussions with governments, as well as to establish close links with those individuals and communities most affected by the phenomenon of racism and discrimination. Moreover, as he felt it was unethical to turn his back on countries just because he had concluded his report, he followed-up those visits. Therefore, all countries should consider his visits to be part of an ongoing process and should allow him to return to the country to take stock of their efforts.
Concerning specific national situations, he noted that the Russian Federation had disagreed with his portrayal of the situation in that country, but stressed that the incidents referred to in his report remained very serious. Just last week, an Asian individual had been beaten to death in Saint Petersburg. Moreover, the Group of African Ambassadors in Moscow had requested official protection for foreign students and themselves, due to the aggression they had encountered in their daily lives. Recognizing the problem, the country’s authorities had requested him to draw up a report on the activities of Neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, indicating that they saw such activities as one of the chief causes of rising discrimination. He would be visiting the Russian Federation in June, he added, and hoped to put forward a more detailed analysis of the situation at that time.
To Egypt, he said that tensions between communities, whether ethnic or religious, existed in all countries. He remained quite certain that, in a country such as Egypt, those tensions had existed throughout history and continued to exist; only the degree of tension had varied throughout history. Like other countries, Egypt remained sensitive to the international climate.
Concerning the situation of Amerindians, he stressed that his visit to Central American countries had confirmed his impression of the historical legacy of discrimination and racism against the indigenous peoples of the region. They had been the primary historic victims of racism and discrimination; ever since their initial contact with Europeans, they had been subjected to racism. Genocide had been perpetrated against Amerindians, and whole populations had been wiped out. That situation had led to slavery, as the demographically weakened Amerindians had had to be replaced by forcibly enslaved Africans. The map of misery, poverty and marginalization of Central America covered the maps of various ethnic communities. Examining these maps in a crosscutting manner allowed one to observe the continuing discrimination against them.
Finally, in response to the Special Rapporteur’s reply regarding religious tension in his country, the representative of Egypt said he had not referred to tension among Copts and Muslims in his original question. There was no doubt that inter- and intra-religious tension existed worldwide. However, the Special Rapporteur had referred to State-sponsored discrimination in his report, and the delegation of Egypt had asked him to substantiate his statement in that regard. There were Copts in Egypt, but they were Egyptians with constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries
SHAISTA SHAMEEM, Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said the ancient profession of mercenaries needed to be considered afresh -- theoretically, philosophically and pragmatically, from within a human rights framework.
She noted that any activity of mercenaries beyond that of violating human rights and undermining the self-determination of peoples was not within her jurisdiction. Nor could she consider and report on the activities of groups, private companies or associations that were not engaged in violation of human rights and impeding the right of peoples to self-determination. She said it was important to spell out the parameters of her mandate so as not to confuse mercenaries with other actors in the fields, such as terrorists, freedom-fighters, volunteers, part-time soldiers, and private security companies supplying security services to individuals and organizations in trouble spots throughout the world.
She said her preliminary observations on the issue of mercenaries had led her to formulate questions she would address in her reports. What was the impact of the changing nature of conflict and the reformulation of the concept of “armed forces” on the recruitment, financing and training of mercenaries? What were the reasons for the possible lack of interest in the widespread ratification and accession by Member States of the international convention against mercenaries? Would the licensing and regulation of private security companies contribute to greater accountability for such companies and enable the identification of organizations engaging in mercenary activity? She would also address Member States’ opinions of the proposed new legal definitions of a mercenary and examine the legal and other mechanisms in place nationally, regionally and internationally to monitor the activities of mercenaries who violated human rights and impeded the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination.
She said she was in contact with the Governments of the United States and Equatorial Guinea to finalize dates and arrangements for missions to be undertaken within the next few months. The findings of these visits would inform her reports in 2005. She was also in the process of establishing a database of national legislation addressing the issue of mercenaries. She would engage in regular dialogue with governments and would consult with intergovernmental, non-state actors and individuals working on related issues.
Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Use of Mercenaries
In response to the representative of Cuba, who alone took part in the subsequent question-and-answer session with the new Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries, Ms. SHAMEEM stressed that she would continue to work within her mandate, focusing particularly on issues related to the link between mercenaries and terrorists, as well as the definition of a mercenary.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the elimination of racism and other forms of intolerance was a goal shared by all. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, endorsed by the Assembly in resolution 56/266, constituted a cornerstone in the universal fight against manifestations of racism and racial discrimination; manifestations that contradicted the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and violated human rights and fundamental freedoms. A resolute and renewed political will, adequate funding and sustained international cooperation were indispensable for the effective implementation of the Durban outcome.
He stressed the importance of the two working groups established by the Commission on Human Rights to facilitate implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and elaboration of contemporary standards with a view to updating international instruments against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Such an update should include an optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, he said. Welcoming a statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights that she would “make the struggle against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia a priority”, he said the envisaged role of actors such as international and regional organizations together with civil society and non-governmental organizations was encouraging.
The Group of 77 and China was deeply concerned about the increase of the use of the new information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, as means to disseminate hateful and racist propaganda and to incite to racial hatred and xenophobic sentiments, he said. Member States must take the necessary measures, including legal sanctions, to fight that phenomenon. As the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination had ended last year without completely achieving the objectives of its Programme of Action, focus should now be directed towards the realization of those objectives within the overall framework of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
MOHAMED ABDELSATTAR M. ELBADRI (Egypt) said the principle of self-determination constituted one of the main principles of the human rights system. It was a basic foundation of international law, recognized by all States, and the hope of people suffering under occupation. It was the guiding light of peoples whose tragic destiny had fated them to sail the bitter waters of occupation. If the international community upheld the individual rights of people contained in international instruments, then the right to self-determination must be upheld as the right through which all others were realized. The principle of self-determination also constituted a basic principle of democracy; not upholding it contradicted the moral and ethical code.
The right to self-determination applied fully to the occupied Palestinian people, he affirmed, just as it had applied to all those suffering under tyranny and occupation over the centuries. The Palestinian people continued to suffer under the abominable Israeli occupation and the usurpation of their rights, including at the forefront, the right to establish a State on their national soil. Their struggle to do so had been legitimized by the international community. Israel must realize that the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories had been condemned by the international community.
How long would the occupation continue? he asked. How long would widows continue to mourn their husbands, parents their children? The occupation would continue to serve as a source of instability and of hatred threatening coexistence between peoples. Egypt looked forward to the day when the Palestinians would exercise their right to self-determination and establish a PalestinianState on their national soil. This was not a dream, he stressed, but the impending truth. Israel remained the last fortress of colonization in the modern world.
XIE BOHUA (China) said his Government had consistently held that the elimination of racism and racial discrimination called for treating both the symptoms and the causes. That was primarily a responsibility of national governments. When taking measures to eradicate the traditional root causes of racism, they should remain alert to modern manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. China called on all governments to ratify and implement the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
China also called for the restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination to enable an early settlement of the Palestinian issue in a just and reasonable manner. He said that was the key to durable peace in the Middle East. China deplored the Israeli Government’s construction of the separation wall and its expansion of settlements. Countering violence with violence did not resolve any problem but only served to exacerbate tensions. China called on the international community to join in the efforts for the restoration of the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people to bring long-lasting stability to the Middle East region.
EEUWKE FABER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union attached great importance to the fight against racial discrimination in all its policies, internal and external. He affirmed that all States had the obligation to take measures to protect all persons in their territory against such discrimination. An international legal framework had been created in that regard; however, there were new challenges to be met.
Those challenges, he said, included terrorism, which must be fought in compliance with international non-discrimination norms. Anti-Semitism had also reared its ugly head again, fuelled by media exploitation of Middle East events. Political discontent with the policies of the State of Israel should never be used as an excuse to promote prejudices about Jews. In addition, integration policies must allow immigrants to contribute to the cultural richness of their new homes, and the fight against caste-based discrimination must be intensified.
He urged all governments to cooperate with and support international institutions that fought racism. He also described European Union internal policies in that regard, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the draft European Constitution and major legislation for equal employment opportunities and benefits. He strongly supported efforts made by the OSCE and the Council of Europe to combat anti-Semitism and welcomed the increased priority being given by European organizations to addressing racism and discrimination against the Roma, Sinti and Travellers, and to fighting the proliferation of discrimination through the Internet.
JAKUB T. WOLSKI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said he wished to address the issue of anti-Semitism. Recalling that, during the Nazi occupation, Poland had been the scene of the most horrific crime in the history of modern Europe -– the Holocaust -– he noted that the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp was to be commemorated in January 2005. Some had tended to disregard the terrible lessons of the past, or to approach them with indifference. At a time in which many values were being questioned, anti-Semitism was now being considered less shameful than it really was. A false understanding of tolerance had encouraged some to treat the victims of oppression and the oppressor with equal distance. Such an approach must be resisted.
The international community must show resolve in the face of anti-Semitism, he stressed. Opposition to racial prejudice and hatred remained the common duty of mankind, and fulfilling that duty was imperative for the maintenance of standards of decency and self-respect. At the global level, the Durban Platform had served as a springboard for action, and achievements had been recorded at the regional level as well.
Poland had recently adopted a National Programme of Action against Racism, Racial Discrimination and related Intolerance for the years 2004 to 2009, he noted. The Programme would focus on education and awareness -- targeting youth in particular, and launching a number of campaigns in the media, schools and other public institutions. Poland also remained proud of the activities of its non-governmental organizations, particularly the International Education Centre, established in the framework of the Auschwitz-BirkenauMuseum. An international centre for genocide studies was also expected to open there.
ATSUKO HESHIKI (Japan), stressing his Government’s efforts to end racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, said the fight against racism must confront ignorance and prejudice through the understanding of history and the education of succeeding generations about the dignity and worth of each human being. Japan hoped the resolution adopted by the Commission on Human Rights for “a world programme for human rights education” would contribute to the promotion of human rights and to the reduction of violence based on racial discrimination.
She said some of the cruellest forms of human rights violations and discrimination had been experienced by people during and after conflicts instigated by racial and ethnic animosities. It was, therefore, important to protect and empower the socially vulnerable who tended to be adversely affected in any emergency, especially when plunged into the turmoil of armed conflict.
Addressing the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the representative of Guatemala expressed her country’s gratitude for the Special Rapporteur’s 2004 visit. She also expressed gratitude for his cooperation with the Government of Guatemala and looked forward to his forthcoming report on that visit.
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