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25 March 1996

Press Release


19960325 GENEVA, 25 March (UN Information Service) -- The Minister of Justice of Brazil presented the Commission on Human Rights with a draft national plan for human rights to help the country fight obstacles to the full enjoyment of citizenship. The plan, which is yet to be approved, came in response to the call in the Vienna Plan of Action of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights that States should examine the possibility of elaborating national plans of action.

According to the Minister, Nelson Jobim, in elaborating the plan, the Brazilian Government had tried to identify the most serious violations of human rights in the country. In a society in which serious imbalances still remained, it would be impossible to promote human rights without combating structural problems such as unemployment, hunger and lack of adequate housing, he said. The plan, to be implemented in close collaboration with non-governmental organizations, also contemplated specific activities on behalf of Brazil's indigenous people.

Also this morning, the Commission continued its discussion on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and heard the introduction of the latest report from the working group on the right to development.

Several delegates underlined the need to intensify the combat against racism and racial discrimination wherever it occurred. Speakers pointed out that racism and discrimination were often at the root of major conflicts.

Participating in the debate were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Pakistan, Senegal, Angola, India, Republic of Korea, Algeria, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and Czech Republic. Also, the following non-governmental organizations took part in the discussion: Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, International Movement against All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Racism, International Association against Torture, Centre Europe - Tiers Monde and International Association for World Peace.

Statement by Minister of Justice of Brazil

NELSON JOBIM, Minister of Justice of Brazil, presented his Government's national plan for human rights, which, he said, would help the country fight obstacles to the full enjoyment of citizenship by all. In Brazil, the promotion of human rights was associated with the full exercise of citizenship, in accordance with the principles adopted by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The plan would pay particular attention to education on human rights, a long-term objective, as recognized by the General Assembly in convening the United Nations decade for education on human rights.

The plan, which is yet to be approved, came in response to the call in the Vienna Plan of Action of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights that States should examine the possibility of elaborating national plans of action, he said. In elaborating the plan, the Government had tried to identify the most serious violations of human rights in the country. In a society in which serious imbalances still remained, it would be impossible to promote human rights without combating structural problems, such as unemployment, hunger and lack of adequate housing. The plan, to be implemented in close collaboration with non-governmental organizations, also contemplated specific activities on behalf of Brazil's indigenous people.

He said his Government had a firm commitment to delimitate indigenous land in the country. One tenth of the Brazilian territory was dedicated to the permanent usufruct of the indigenous population, who numbered around 330,000 citizens. The national plan for human rights contemplated specific activities on behalf of indigenous people, particularly with regard to health and education.


The Commission this morning continued its discussion concerning the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. The Commission had before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo.

GREGORY Y. LOUKIANTSEV (Russian Federation) said racism was broadening and acquiring more and more cruel forms. Even in bastions of humanistic European culture, tens of thousands of people were deprived of basic human rights because of racism. Russia had managed to prevent and avoid massive manifestations of inter-ethnic conflict through a concept of a multi-ethnic Russia reflected in the Constitution. Many steps had been taken to promote harmony. In March, members of a fascist group had been sentenced to prison sentences of varying length, in a precedent-setting trial in line with the

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national policy of thwarting those who tried to incite racial conflict. The Commission must strive to identify new forms of racism and improve efforts to combat racism. Substantive analyses were needed, as well as clear assessments of subtle forms of discrimination, such as those used against minorities or to restrict freedom of movement.

P. TORELLA DI ROMAGNANO (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and supported by Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Malta, said crimes committed in the name of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda were proof that ethnic hatred was often a determining element in triggering or aggravating conflicts. That was why racism and intolerance should be fought and eliminated everywhere, particularly through preventive action. That was the case in Burundi, where the European Union supported the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Many factors were at the root of racism and xenophobia, among them economic, social and cultural ones, he continued. Thus, the fight against racism called for comprehensive policies. The 1994 Summit of heads of State and government of the European Union had defined a common strategy to combat acts of racist violence and xenophobia and decided to establish a consultative commission to make recommendations related to cooperation between governments and those institutions promoting greater tolerance. That had been followed by the adoption of concrete measures to combat racism and xenophobia by the Union, including a programme of joint action at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference. That action complemented that already undertaken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe. Moreover, the European Union was desirous of cooperating closely with United Nations organs charged with dealing with racism and racial discrimination.

FELICE GAER (United States) said almost every conflict stemmed from discriminatory and exclusivist policies. Presumptions of racial or ethnic superiority had led to acts of the utmost cruelty. Racial intolerance was a global phenomenon. Fortunately, there was growing recognition that the nations of the world should find the means to fight the rising incidence of racial discrimination, wherever it occurred and whatever form it took. Few countries had lived as closely with the questions of race, discrimination and diversity as the United States. Indeed, no other country had so openly -- and painfully -- struggled with its racial heritage and history.

Turning to the report of the Special Rapporteur on racism, the delegate urged him to take advantage of what non-governmental organization had learned to look for. For example, she said, those who monitored ethnic cleansing reported on intimidation, the destruction of houses of worship and the deliberate displacement of millions. His treatment of anti-Semitism seemed to

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repeat stereotypes, rather than clarifying what was wrong and identifying steps to address specific incidents worldwide.

KHALID JAWED (Pakistan) said it was fitting for all to feel good over the abolition of apartheid, but the world could not rest on its laurels. What had occurred in Bosnia was due in part to racism and, in truth, more enlightened and timely action by the international community could have avoided that genocidal catastrophe. There was a disturbing trend of discrimination and even violence against Muslim minorities in a number of countries, and lives had been lost because of it. More concerted attention should be paid to that alarming problem. Sufficient funding must be found to overcome the financial crisis of the United Nations to allow all programmes of the Third Decade to be carried out with vigour.

IBOU N'DIAYE (Senegal) said the adoption of many legal instruments and three decades of struggle had not made it possible to eliminate racial discrimination. Indeed, the situation had worsened. Racial hatred now appeared in more serious forms, such as ethnic cleansing. The Commission would only be able to retain its impact, credibility and authority if it found concrete responses to meet the aspirations of the oppressed. There was a need for all Member States to adopt legislation to meet the provisions of international instruments. Senegal proposed, among other things, that the Commission pursue the harmonization of national legislations to meet the requirements of international instruments.

ADRIANO A. TEXEIRA PARREIRA (Angola) said the report of the Special Rapporteur should be studied by all. It was a disturbing finding that racism persisted throughout the world, and was found even in such places as police departments. Computer networks, used internationally, were used to transmit all kinds of racist and xenophobic propaganda. Angola would introduce a resolution in the Commission calling for the banning of the use of such networks as the Internet by racist organizations. The Centre for Human Rights must receive sufficient resources to carry out the activities of the Third Decade, despite the current financial crisis. Sufficient attention must be paid, furthermore, to trends in racism against blacks in developed countries.

ARUNDHATI GHOSE (India), quoting from a statement made by the Indian delegation to the fiftieth session of the General Assembly, said: "we do not accept a racial basis for discriminating against legal migrants. We do not accept that nationhood is based on race, any more than it is based on religion or any other exclusive attribute". The Special Rapporteur had drawn attention to the reluctance he had observed in many otherwise democratic and tolerant societies to accept the idea of multi-culturalism. It was essential that all countries ensure the full enjoyment of individual rights and freedoms by all segments of society, without discrimination of any kind. The reservations of some countries to article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms

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of Racial Discrimination, which provided for the prohibition of racist propaganda and organizations, on the grounds of maintaining freedom of speech and expression posed an obstacle to effective curbs on the incitement to racism.

PARK CHANG IL (Republic of Korea) said the resurgence of nationalism had intensified group identities, which unfortunately had become in some cases a matter of hatred and intolerance. In addition, economic competition and pressure had led to resentment of migrants and minorities. There also had been a rise in groups and political parties that espoused racism and xenophobia. The Special Rapporteur must continue his study of new forms of racism, and his review of the situations in specific countries. Such was the commitment of the Republic of Korea to eliminating racism that it had hosted in 1994 the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Conference on Tolerance and Democracy.

MOHAMED HASSAINE (Algeria) said the international community had again witnessed appalling atrocities in which thousands of human lives had been lost. In Europe, foreigners were incorrectly seen as the cause of social and employment problems, while racist messages were becoming commonplace, for which the media bore some responsibility. Foreigners often lived in legal insecurity and were having to prove their goodwill. Moreover, violent groups were being established to victimize foreigners. The international community had a primary role in strengthening legislation to promote racial harmony. The implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination must be given its full meaning.

TUGAY ULUCEVIK (Turkey) said racism appeared to be a disease of modern times and new forms of racism were growing in virulence. There should be an international mechanism for preventing the use of the mass media for purposes of inciting racial hatred and xenophobia. It was ironic that the world's richer countries, despite their laws and infrastructures, were the sites of some of the most pronounced acts of racism. Often that racism was inflicted on Turkish migrant workers -- they were relentlessly harassed, insulted, attacked and even burned in their own homes. Racism was a test case for the United Nations human rights system. The Special Rapporteur's mandate should be extended for another three years.

LORIA MARKIDES (Cyprus) said Turkey had practised racism since it invaded Cyprus in 1974, occupying 37 per cent of the island. The people in that part of Cyprus suffered gross violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the agreement reached in Vienna in August 1975. In the 21 years since the conclusion of that agreement, the Turkish occupation army, in a deliberate and planned manner, had pressured, harassed, intimidated and persecuted the enclaved Greek Cypriots in order to force them to move to the

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Government-controlled area. Contrary to international humanitarian law and the Vienna accord, the enclaved Greek Cypriots lived under highly restrictive conditions in their villages. The Commission should send a clear message to Turkey that the continuation of practices of racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing could no longer be tolerated.

RAPHAEL WALDEN (Israel) said that, unfortunately, there was no clear relation between the amount of United Nations attention paid to racism and the achievement of good results, although obviously the effort must continue. Two years ago, the Commission's resolution on combating racism had included reference to anti-Semitism for the first time. It was a matter of concern, perhaps, that it took so long for that form of racism -- perhaps the original form -- to be cited by the Organization. It was somewhat discouraging that the Special Rapporteur had only passed on reports of anti-Semitism made available to him by the Government of Israel. He might have commented on and analysed those cases, as his mandate allowed him to do. Israel supported a comprehensive and fearless continuation of the Special Rapporteur's work.

ZDENEK VENERA (Czech Republic) called for a harmonized strategy that would take account of the vastly different situations in many countries regarding the fight against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. The Constitutions of all democratic States contained either direct or indirect prohibition of discrimination covering daily life. Indeed, the Czech Constitution explicitly forbade any kind of discrimination. Moreover, the principle of non-discrimination was contained in a number of other legal provisions. The Government of the Czech Republic had acted to deter hate-motivated crimes by passing a law which increased sentences for those people convicted of crimes motivated by violence against a group of inhabitants or an individual, by defamation of the nation, or by incitement to national and racial hatred. The Government had also initiated monitoring and analysis of such cases on a regular basis. The legal and institutional structures already existed. The key need was education -- to build a "culture of tolerance".

JEAN-JACQUES KIRKYACHARIAN, of the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, asked whether one could deny that in developed countries questions of racism were connected to questions of immigration, asylum and migrant labour. Political action seemed to promote the growth of racist fantasies in some cases, and so did extreme restrictions on obtaining citizenship. Current economic conditions were perhaps a threat to racial harmony, but investigation showed that the roots were deeper. For example, the children of migrants were the victims of racism based on the age-old reason that they were different and came from supposedly "disgraced" lineage. The mass media also had a role in stirring up racism, and that must be curbed.

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ATSUKO TANAKA, of the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, said in Japan a number of people suffered from deep-rooted discrimination based on descent or national or ethnic origin. Those people included an increasing number of migrant workers, especially from other Asian countries. The Government of Japan should fully implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and as soon as possible consider withdrawing its reservation concerning the right of petition of individuals under its article.

Racism and racial discrimination against asylum seekers and migrant workers were taking the most alarming turn, especially in Europe, she went on. Last year in Belgium, for example, only 10 per cent of requests for asylum were granted. The European Union had been criticized for some time for its immigration and asylum policies. A proposal called "Starting Point" had been devised by a group of independent experts who recognized the urgent need to combat racism and xenophobia within the framework of a forthcoming intergovernmental conference in order to remedy the shortcomings of the Treaty of Rome. Since almost all member States of the European Union had ratified the Convention and the Union's treaty upholding the principle of non-discrimination, there should be no obstacle to their support of the proposal.

ROGER WAREHAM, of the International Association against Torture, said his organization was concerned that the United Nations should eliminate the double standard used in the past in its approach to eliminating racism. The Special Rapporteur, for example, was charged with focusing on developed countries, yet his resources had been limited. It was hard to believe there would have been insufficient funding if his mandate had focused on developing countries. In a developed country, the United States, racism continued to increase. Blacks and other minorities were treated glaringly unequally by the criminal justice and prison systems. Laws about to be passed would restrict immigration, especially for people of colour. Laws in California had helped to double the number of attacks against Asian-Americans and affirmative-action programmes continued to be dismantled. Furthermore, among developed countries the United States had no monopoly on racism.

CYNTHIA NEURY, of Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, said that in his report on contemporary forms of racism, the Special Rapporteur had described the full range of the problems faced. Many countries currently sent back very large numbers of asylum seekers and migrants. It was no coincidence that the people affected by such measures were also most often the victims of racist acts. Through their legislative acts, governments pointed the finger at certain communities. Certain groups in turn used such signals to act on their racism. It was for that reason that her organization called upon States to reject legislation which created inequality. Racism was an architecture which had as

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its building materials discontent and frustration. It was not rational, so it was very difficult to stop.

WILDA SPALDING, of the International Association of Educators for World Peace, said progress for economic and cultural development could not take place with the poison of racism present in the world. Concrete measures and solutions were called for. Action and courage were needed, as were cooperation between countries and between non-governmental organizations, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, regional associations and others. It was time for specific, concrete action against racism.

Right to Development

Among the documents the Commission will have available as it considers the right to development are: the report of the working group on the right to development on its fourth session, which reviews activities to implement the Declaration of the Right to Development by Governments, treaty-monitoring bodies, regional commissions, and world conferences and summits; the report of the working group's fifth session, which covers the scope and implications of the Declaration, obstacles to its implementation and realization, and proposals and recommendations for overcoming them; and the report of the Secretary-General on implementation of Commission resolution 1995/17 on the right to development, which reviews activities by, among other bodies of the United Nations system, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Bretton Woods institutions.

MOHAMED ENNACEUR, chairman-rapporteur of the working group on the right to development, presenting the group's report, recalled that it had been mandated to identify obstacles to development and to elaborate strategies for overcoming them, so that development could be made available to all. The group had found that those obstacles were wide-ranging and complex. Nationally, they were epitomized by sectoral and limited approaches. Internationally, they were best seen in the prevailing economic system and environment, which worked against development in some parts of the world.

A major obstacle at first had been the lack of any broad consensus about the right to development or about how to apply the Declaration, he said. There were imagined or real fears among some countries that expectations of others for development were excessive. Those fears had not been helped by politicization of the discussion which had reduced debate to the simplest terms. Luckily, that was in the past. The cooperation and consensus achieved in Vienna had helped the working group greatly.

It was clear that primary responsibility for effectively carrying out development belonged to States, he added. State success in development seemed to depend most on attitude and approach. Without an open, fair and

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enlightened attitude, development efforts seemed bound to fail, whatever their material support. International assistance, of course, could help greatly in those efforts, and establishing an international environment conducive to development was necessary and vital for progress.

The working group had not made value judgments but rather had approached the problem from the point of view of the universality of the right to development and of other human rights, he said. The group had not taken an approach of interfering in countries' internal affairs or individual strategies for development. It was understood that development was an ongoing process intertwined with the realization of other basic human rights, and that the process would take time. In following up the working group's findings and recommendations, the Commission faced the ambitious task of drawing up a coordinated plan for implementing the Declaration, he said. It also was necessary to publicize the Declaration.

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For information media. Not an official record.