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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

RD/960
6 September 2001

ADDRESSING RACISM CONFERENCE, NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS CALL

FOR URGENT ACTION BY MEMBER STATES TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION


DURBAN, 6 September -- As the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance neared the end of its deliberation, a number of international human rights organizations and national rights groups maintained that governments were failing in their responsibility to deal with the human rights crises that generated so much anger and frustration in civil society.

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The NGOs from all regions of the world have been a vocal presence in Durban since the Conference opened last Friday, approving an NGO Declaration and Programme of Action, which were presented to the President of the Conference yesterday.

The Conference, which opened last week and ends tomorrow, 7 September, has set as a goal adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that can be used as a framework by individual countries, governments and their civil society partners to promote policies of tolerance and further protect citizens from all forms of discrimination.

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Statements

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M. LOUIS MARIE BASTIDE (Mali): Human dignity is essential for all people, regardless of any distinction. Differences between peoples should be celebrated. The challenge is to foster tolerance. Discriminatory practices sometimes lead to gratuitous ill-treatment to the most vulnerable people. We must outlaw all racism in order to build a new mankind. How can we build for the future without looking at the present and reviewing the past? The slave trade and colonization should be condemned. The slave trade, accompanied by the enslavement of the African people, will haunt the collective consciousness of the world. How can this Conference turn a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinian people?

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ORGANIZATION FOR THE SOLIDARITY OF THE PEOPLES OF ASIA, AFRICA AND LATIN AMERICA: More that 4.5 billion human beings living in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the so-called third world, look to this Conference with great expectations and the hope of seeing their aspirations and legitimate demands taken seriously. Crushing levels of poverty, unemployment and other social ills are underpinned by the racist attitudes of countries who, by colonialism and now imperialism, participated in the plundering of our countries. We came here in peace in the hope to be understood so that the gates of the rich and powerful would be opened to the poor. Unless those doors are opened, the people will have to open them themselves. We urge you to remedy the genocide of peoples of the third world, including the people of Palestine.

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Racism is a blatant attack of the very notion of human rights, and those who suffer abuse have a legitimate expectation of redress through the law. Unfortunately, legal and judicial systems frequently mirror the prejudices of their society. Patterns of arrest, conviction and sentencing, as well as the treatment of refugees, show that governments around the world turn a blind eye to racial discrimination. Where there is racism, there can be no justice. Amnesty International is calling on governments to adopt national strategies and plans of action to combat racism in the administration of justice. We are concerned that several key issues are still unresolved or ignored. First, there is evidence that the death penalty continues to be applied in a racially biased manner in a number of countries. We urge governments of countries where such punishment is still used to investigate any disproportionate impact of the death penalty on racial groups. We also call on governments to declare a moratorium on executions, pending such an investigation. The Conference should recognize the plight of the Dalits as a group suffering from racially discrimination based on descent. The Conference should also acknowledge that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are being increasingly subjected to xenophobia and racism. Lastly, Amnesty urges governments to address the issue of reparations for past abuses, including those related to slavery and colonialism, and to address the human rights crisis in the Middle East by applying consistently and fully a framework based on human rights rather than politics.

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