Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism

1 November 2010

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism

1 November 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism


Racism — a problem everywhere in the world — was growing due to xenophobic teachings and violence, and it was the duty of States to enforce internationally recognized standards to prevent discrimination, Githu Muigai, the United Nations top expert on contemporary forms of racism and xenophobia told correspondents today at a Headquarters press conference.

Political parties needed to live up to their responsibilities to foster democracy and distance themselves from parties that, in recent years, had assumed a “radical and human rights-hostile form of agenda”, said Mr. Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, after submitting a pair of reports to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on efforts to eliminate racism and dangers resulting from the growth of racism.  (See Press Release GA/SHC/3991)

“I spoke to the Assembly about the need for ensuring that there is, in every country, a system to monitor and respond to these forms of xenophobic and racist propaganda and violence, and to strengthen judicial and other systems, and to ensure that law enforcement officials are well-trained and sensitive to these issues,” he continued.

Mr. Muigai, who, under his mandate, visited Singapore and the United Arab Emirates over the past year and planned to travel to Bolivia in the beginning of December, said countries needed to create domestic programmes that met their international legal obligations on racism and xenophobia.

Mr. Muigai, a lawyer from Kenya specializing in international human rights, cited hate speech as an example where more work was needed; most people believed hate speech drove racist and xenophobic violence, yet many countries did not have legislation to deal with the problem.  Even if it was in statute books, he added, many legal systems were not sensitive to the fact that hate speech required special deterrence.  “Domestic judicial institutions need to respond to the problem as a problem, and not just another case of violence,” he said.

Asked why he had not mentioned specific examples of countries in his press conference, he said his reports dealt with numerous examples of racism and xenophobia around the world, and he did not wish to use the forum to isolate one specific country and give the impression it was a particular problem.

To a query on whether an annual United Nations resolution declaring defamation of religion as a violation of international law was at odds with principles of freedom of expression, Mr. Muigai said there were already enough straightforward tools within international law to address problems of religious discrimination, and “we need to be able to ensure that our legal responses are not compromised by opening an open-ended ideological debate on the concept of defamation of religion”.

Asked about the plight of indigenous peoples in South America and what he hoped to accomplish in Bolivia, he said wanted to emphasize that his visits were not a condemnation of practices within a country, but could also be an examination of a country that represented best practices within a region.  He needed cooperation and an invitation to visit a country, he said, and Bolivia had been very forthcoming.

To a question on which other countries planned to visit within his mandate, he said he hoped to be able to visit South Africa next year, and Egypt and Nigeria in the not-too-distant future.

Asked about the ongoing controversy of immigration laws in Arizona, in the United States, as well as opinions on immigration professed by the country’s “Tea Party” movement, he said that immigrants bore the brunt of xenophobic intolerance around the world, but since the Tea Party was not a political party, he would hesitate to classify it in the same bracket as other parties in Europe that campaigned on essentially racist platforms.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.