Iran attempts domination of racism debate

In today’s afternoon meeting of the Durban II working group at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Iran was extremely active, proposing amendments and language changes in more paragraphs than any other state, and in a few instances, ignoring the Chair’s plea to hold off on certain paragraphs for the time being and engage in a constructive manner.

It requested a provision for legal remedies in Paragraph 7, which reaffirms the responsibilities of governments to protect individuals from racist or xenophobic crimes.

In paragraph 9, which declares that transparent, responsible and accountable democracy at the national level is essential to combating racism, Iran added language suggesting, “effective prevention combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance equally contribute to democracy and participatory governments at all levels.”

Iran added an additional paragraph on “defamation of religions” in an attempt to reinsert mention of the concept into the latest text. The proposed paragraph, which would follow paragraph 10, recognizing the negative effect of the stereotyping of religions, would read: “Seriously concerned at the instances of defamation of religions which manifest itself in projecting negative insulting and derogatory images of religions and religious personalities, generalized and stereotyped associations of religions, in particular Islam, with violence and terrorism, thus impacting negatively on the rights of individuals belonging to these religions including Muslim minorities and exposing them to hatred and discrimination”.

On Paragraph 13, which affirms the “principles of equality and non-discrimination are essential in the fight against racism,” Iran proposed a revised paragraph, extracted from the February version of the document, which it claimed is essential to the text. The proposed paragraph lists the obstacles hampering the collective struggle against racism, which include, inter alia, absence of political will, abuse of freedom of expression, counter terrorism measures, incitement to violence by the media and national security forces, and extremist violent political platforms; and calls for legal remedies to be provided as a cure to these phenomena.

In Section 1B, which focuses on victims of racism and related intolerance, Iran proposed an additional paragraph stressing the necessity of recognizing victims of colonialism and slavery of the past, and also that “victims of new and contemporary forms of manifestations of racism should be recognized and addressed promptly.”

On paragraph 30, a paragraph the Chair requested to save for a different discussion, Iran proposed wording to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the Human Rights Council and Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, an Algerian-chaired U.N. committee pushing for new standards to fundamentally alter human rights law by defining criticism of religion as a violation.

In paragraph 30, which acknowledges the importance of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to combating racism, Iran proposed to replace the last four words, “including their contemporary forms” with, “nevertheless, addressing of the new and contemporary forms of manifestations requires the development of new human rights instruments.” Implicitly, these new instruments are ones that would support the Islamic campaign to criminalize religious criticism (“defamation of religions”).

Despite the excessive participation of Iran, other countries were able to take the floor.

There was controversies over the wording, “worldwide implementation of the ICERD”.

Syria explained that some states are not members of the ICERD, and this could create a problem with the term, “worldwide”.

Pakistan suggested replacing “worldwide” with “universal”. Lichtenstein supported the Pakistani amendment, and then went on to challenge Syria, asking how Syria could see the ICERD as fundamental, and at the same time, express support to countries that have yet to ratify it.

Nigeria, Algeria, South Africa for the African Group, Bangladesh, Iran, and China, among others, requested the deletion of paragraph 34 which welcomes the interpretation of CERD to the definition of the concept racial discrimination.

The Czech Republic on behalf of the EU, and Switzerland vocalized support for the paragraph.

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