Posted on August 29, 2008

‘Racism Should Be Criminalised’

News24 (Cape Town), August 27, 2008

African nations decided on Tuesday to push for laws that prohibit racism and xenophobia next year at an international conference to discuss the practices.

Africa will specifically want the Geneva conference to provide for sanctions “for those who violate the law” according to the action plan by African governments and civil society organisations at the end of a meeting in the Nigerian administrative capital on Tuesday.

“Prohibiting by law and adopting necessary policy measures to combat the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred and incitement to hatred,” will be part of Africa’s goals, read part of the 101 recommendations for the Geneva conference.

The Geneva conference due next April is to carry out a review of the decisions taken at a similar meeting in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

The three-day Abuja talks also recommended “protecting the human rights of migrants whether regular or irregular” and “countering anti-immigration ideologies advocating the criminalisation of irregular migration”.

A Geneva-based human rights group, UN Watch, however slammed a document adopted by the meeting saying that it threatened to “derail” the UN’s follow up to the Durban conference.

The text according to UN-Watch’s executive director Hillel Neuer, “flouts international human rights principles, and breaches the red lines set by France, Britain, the Netherlands, and other Western states, which they have warned could trigger their boycott of the 2009 meeting in Geneva”.

He said the meeting had failed to review African countries’ performance on racism since 2001 conference.

“This message of impunity for African states places all Africans at risk,” said Neuer, citing the adopted document which he said fails to review the Sudanese government’s racist crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The rights watchdog also took at a swipe at the text’s failure to “review the xenophobic attacks that recently broke out in South Africa—the key organiser of the Abuja meeting and the overall Durban process—where foreigners . . . were targeted in May during a wave of anti-immigrant attacks.”

At least 62 imigrants were killed and tens of thousands were displaced during the attacks in South Africa.