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UN expert says increased violent racism threatens human rights

[JURIST] Increasing institutionalization of racist political ideologies and violent expressions of racism seriously threaten democracy and human rights, a United Nations expert told the General Assembly Wednesday. In his report [PDF text] to the General Assembly's Third Committee [official website], UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Doudou Diene [OAS profile, DOC] wrote that ethical and cultural strategies to uncover the cause of racist ideologies will help lawmakers establish a balance between freedom of expression and the freedoms and rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. While noting that nations should use both legal and social methods to combat racism, Diene specifically encouraged the adoption of legal, political and administrative methods to ensure universal human rights, particularly the freedoms of religion and expression. The increases in violent racism and xenophobia in general are not limited to citizens - the report shows that immigrants and asylum seekers are also targets - and Diene said that their rights must be respected and guarded rather than overlooked in furtherance of security and national identity. The report does not specify laws that societies should adopt, but Diene said that nations should look to the ICCPR and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action [text, PDF]. The UN News Centre has more.

Diene warned the UN [JURIST report] in early 2006 about a worldwide increase in racism and xenophobia, which were no longer confined to extremist groups but had become integral to mainstream democratic systems. Diene said that the fight against terrorism and other government initiatives had led to discriminatory immigration and asylum policies and a retreat from diversity and tolerance. Diene noted that racism was "commonplace" and ethnically and racially biased stances had become increasingly legitimized in intellectual discourse by respected scholars.

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