UN Rights Chief Urged to Address Serious Concerns about Durban Review Conference

Washington, DC – Human Rights First and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights have urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay to immediately address a number of serious concerns related to the Durban Review Conference, so as to ensure that the review conference is a forum for credible discussions on racial discrimination and related intolerance and not a repeat of the 2001 conference.

The letter raises several concerns that have emerged in the process of drafting an outcome document for the review conference, a document which is currently being negotiated by UN member states that will set forth the conclusions and recommendations of the April 2009 conference. Among the concerns are provisions submitted for inclusion in the draft outcome document, including:

– politicized language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict submitted by Asian states similar to that which helped lead to a walkout by the United States and others in 2001;

– a call for an international blasphemy code by the Organization for the Islamic Conference; and

– expansive provisions on incitement to racial and religious hatred that may endanger freedom of expression.

The letter urges High Commissioner Pillay to encourage states to squarely confront and resolve these concerns, stating: “If these challenges are not urgently addressed, the credibility of the review conference and the active participation by both states and civil society organizations will be irreversibly undermined.”

Human Rights First and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights are also encouraging participating states themselves to take an active role in the preparatory process in order to address these concerns. Both organizations support the recent Resolution of the U.S. House of Representatives (H. Res. 1361), which calls on the U.S. government to play such a role at the highest levels.

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Published on November 17, 2008

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