Rights body wants reparation discussed at racism conference

New York- UN (PANA) -- Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation, has promised to press for concrete measures on reparation for slavery, caste discrimination and discrimination in the administration of justice at the forthcoming world conference on racism.
The rights organisation's interest in the above issues comes as the US administration warns that it would not participate at the conference if the issues of reparation for slavery and consideration of Zionism as a form of racism were placed on the conference agenda.
Disagreement on the two issues has stalled the conclusion of preparatory discussions on an outcome document for the conference scheduled for 31 August to 7 September in Durban, South Africa.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch urged the US government to support and participate in the conference.
On the issue of reparation, the organisation said it would argue at the conference for governments that are responsible to provide reparations to counter the continuing effects of slavery and segregation.
"National and international panels should be created with maximum transparency and public participation to identify and acknowledge past abuses, and to guide action to counter their present day effects," the organisation said.
It further pointed out that the primary purpose of reparation should be to address the social and economic foundations of the marginalisation of slavery's victims through investment in education, housing, health care and job creation.
African governments and Africans in Diaspora have made a case for inclusion of reparation for slavery on the agenda in Durban.
Human rights advocates have argued for discussions to also include modern-day slavery.
Trafficking in children and women for sex and slave labour in some African countries made the media headlines in recent months.
Contributing to the debate on whether Zionism should be discussed at the conference, Human Rights Watch noted that bringing up the issue would amount to pinpointing Israel for a form of racism that several other countries are involved in.
Another controversial topic for the conference has been the issue of caste discrimination, which the rights organisation promises to bring up for discussion.
Saying 250 million people suffer caste marginalisation, Human Rights Watch said the issue has remained hidden over the years.
At the conference, the organisation would be calling for a recognition that the practice exists and thus the need to adopt measures to facilitate its abolition.
But in preparatory discussions, governments of countries where caste discrimination is practised have fought to exclude the subject from the conference agenda.
Another issue that Human Rights Watch promises to press at the conference is the status and treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
These groups of people are often subjected to racial discrimination, racist attacks and xenophobia, the organisation observed.
It therefore stressed the need for the conference to call on governments to reverse policies and practices that discriminate against these groups.
A related issue concerns people stripped of their citizenship because of their race or ethnicity.
These situations occur when nations break up or when citizenship is granted to male nationals only.
Human Rights Watch wants the conference to "place the issue of racial discrimination in the conferring of citizenship firmly on the agenda.
" The treatment of racial, ethnic and other minorities especially in the administration of justice is also to be pursued by Human Rights Watch.
In many countries, the organisation said, these minority groups are subjected to harassment, detention and abusive treatment by law enforcement and the courts.
The position of the rights organisation is that the conference recommends measures to identify and remedy the racist effects of law or practices in the administration of justice.
Meanwhile, as preparatory discussions ahead of the conference still face hurdles, Secretary General Kofi Annan recently stressed the need for the meeting not to be mired in issues concerning past racism but to focus more on preventing its recurrence in the future.

01 august 2001 22:44:00

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