2008 - 2009

In 2008 and 2009 we did:

 

 


Statement of Core Principles for WCAR Follow-up

Language versions (PDF): English - Francais - Espagnol

Sign the statement - Core principles statement read out at the UN - Publicity

In 2001, more than three thousand people participated in the Non-Governmental Forum of the United Nations third World Conference against Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) to chart a course for future generations to eradicate racism, discrimination and intolerance. Participants pledged to adhere to established international human rights standards and operate with transparency and respect for democratic discourse.

Many civil society representatives were disappointed, when the NGO process, which raised the profile of important contemporary racism problems and the historic wounds of slavery and discrimination, was discredited. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson spoke out against what she called the "hateful, even racist" antisemitic atmosphere that plagued the NGO forum. She refused to commend it to governments for their consideration. Leading international human rights organizations called some of the human rights language in the declaration inaccurate, inappropriate and even counterproductive. They regretted that progress on vital issues such as discrimination against Roma and caste discrimination was thereby diminished. Observers were shocked by violations of procedure in the preparatory and drafting processes, the racist treatment including violence, exclusion, and intimidation against Jewish participants, and the misuse of human rights terminology in the document related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of groups was silent or refused to speak out. In the years since, many have reflected that the result was a regrettable vacuum of moral leadership.

The organizations below pledge to reject hatred and incitement in all its forms, including antisemitism, to learn from the shortcomings of the 2001 WCAR, and to work together in a spirit of mutual respect.

  1. We are united in our deep commitment to the goals of the WCAR to chart a course for future generations to eradicate racism, discrimination and intolerance in all its forms.
  2. Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance afflict peoples in many Member States. We are committed to the important mission of NGOs to monitor and hold accountable those responsible for policy failures and for lack of implementation of measures to prevent and punish such acts.
  3. However, the global effort to eradicate racism cannot be advanced by branding whole peoples with a stigma of ultimate evil, fomenting hateful stereotyping in the name of human rights.
  4. The UN and its human rights fora must not serve as a vehicle for any form of racism, including antisemitism, and must bar incitement to hatred against any group in the guise of criticism of a particular government. We pledge to prevent this from happening again.
  5. We pledge to uphold language and behavior that unites rather than divides. As NGOs we commit to use language in accordance with international human rights standards and conduct ourselves with civility and with respect for human rights standards.

Signed by (updated signatories list per April 30, 2008.)

  1. Magenta Foundation
  2. Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
  3. International League for Human Rights
  4. Human Rights First
  5. ENAR - European Network Against Racism
  6. UNITED for Intercultural Action - European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees
  7. Anti-Defamation League
  8. ACP - "Culture of peace" Association (Romania)
  9. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (USA)
  10. SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russian Federation)
  11. Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (USA)
  12. European Jewish Congress
  13. ILGA-Europe, International Lesbian and Gay Association
  14. LICRA - Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisemitisme
  15. B'nai B'rith International
  16. Simon Wiesenthal Centre
  17. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  18. CCDN - Celebrating Cultural Diversity Network (UK)
  19. CRARR - Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (Canada)
  20. Observatorio sobre Conflictos Etnicos en la Argentina - OSCEA
  21. CAERS - The Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society
  22. Citizens' Watch (Russia)
  23. AFRICAN UNION Social organization of St.Petersburg (Russia)
  24. NEVER AGAIN Association (Poland)
  25. Asian American Justice Center
  26. CIDI (Netherlands)
  27. European Council of WIZO Federations
  28. GRA Foundation against racism and antisemitism (Switzerland)
  29. Dženo Association (Czech Republic)
  30. AJC - American Jewish Committee
  31. Hadassah
  32. Freedom House (USA)
  33. Human Rights Without Frontiers International
  34. World Jewish Congress
  35. Athinganoi, the Romani Student Association (Czech Republic)
  36. Jewish Labor Committee (USA)
  37. DACoRD - Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination (Denmark)
  38. Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (Spain)
  39. Civitas Bosnia and Herzegovina
  40. ZARA - Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit (Austria)
  41. United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA)
  42. Roma Virtual Network (RVN)
  43. International Institute for Education and Research of Antisemitism (Germany/UK)
  44. Amadeu Antonio Stiftung (Germany)
  45. RADAR (Netherlands)
  46. CEJI - A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe
  47. B'nai B'rith Europe
  48. NIK - Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands
  49. United Nations Watch (Switzerland)
  50. International Council of Jewish Women
  51. Rabbis for Human Rights (Israel)
  52. MAPP (France)
  53. Association ESTER (Slovakia)
  54. Na'amat (Belgium)
  55. The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (Kyrgyz Republic)
  56. Le Conseil des Femmes Juives de Belgique - CFJB (Belgium)
  57. Bund Schweizerischer Jüdischer Frauenorganisationen - BSJF (Switzerland)
  58. The Citizens Accord Forum between Jews and Arabs in Israel - CAF
  59. Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations (EU)
  60. Roma National Congress (RNC)
  61. Israeli Association for Immigrant Children
  62. National Roma Centrum (Macedonia)
  63. New Israel Fund - NIF
  64. Union of Balkans Egyptians (Macedonia)
  65. Roma National Centre (Moldova)
  66. National Campaign for Nomadic Tribes Human Rights - NCNTHR (India)
  67. Association of citizens Sumnal (Macedonia)
  68. Tribuna Israelita (Mexico)
  69. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Moldova
  70. Defence for Children International (Czech section)
  71. Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Justice Office - SCP (Ireland)
  72. Centro de Cultura e Pesquisas Axé - CCPA (Brazil)
  73. Yad Sarah (Israel)
  74. International Women's Rights Action Watch (USA)
  75. Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities
  76. The International Council of Christians and Jews - ICCJ
  77. The American association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
  78. ORT America/World ORT
  79. Canadian Ethnocultural Council
  80. Comite Central de la Comunidad Judia de Mexico -JCCM
  81. Physicians for Human Rights
  82. The Advocates for Human Rights - formerly Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (USA)
  83. Antinazi Initiative (Greece)
  84. World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues
  85. Jewish Council for Public Affairs (USA)
  86. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (Sweden)
  87. The Bahá'í International Community
  88. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USA)
  89. The Canadian Helsinki Watch Group
  90. Moscow Helsinki Group
  91. Roma Democratic Development Association SUN (Macedonia)
  92. INACH - International Network Against Cyber Hate
  93. European Union of Jewish Students - EUJS
  94. The Tandem Project, international HR NGO promoting tolerance and preventing discrimination based on religion or belief (USA)
  95. DAIA, The Delegation of Argentinian Jewish Organizations
  96. American Jewish Congress
  97. European Roma Rights Centre
  98. American Psychological Association

Sign!

NGOs that want to support and endorse this statement, please send your endorsement to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Statement read out at the UN

On Monday, April 28, 2008 during the first substantive Preparatory Committee meeting for the UN Durban Review Conference 2009 at the Palais des Nations in Genva, Mr. Ted Stahnke of Human Rights First read the Statement of Core Principles for WCAR follow-up in the plenary. Click here to watch it on video (RealVideo).

Publicity

Groups Hope to Avoid 'Moral Leadership Vacuum' at UN Racism Meeting (CSNEWS.COM)
U.N. Anti-Racism Conference Won’t Be in Durban This Time Around (Forward)
Editorial - 'Well, that's a real strong statement!' ICARE News.
NGOs Call for Civility at 2009 Conference Against Racism. UNA-USA E-Newsletter.
Pro-divestment group gains access to U.N. parley JTA.

 


 

New publication: Blasphemous matter - Blasphemy, defamation of religion and Human Rights

cover

NEW PUBLICATION

Blasphemous matter - Blasphemy, defamation of religion and Human Rights
by Angela Evenhuis. A Magenta Foundation publication, September 2008

Summary

'Blasphemous Matter' is a direct response to the international campaign against 'defamation of religion' within international bodies that work on fundamental human rights. It gives a historic insight into the origins and development of the concept of blasphemy and religious defamation in a Judeo-Christian and Islamic context. It shows that blasphemy law was mainly used in order to regulate public expressions with the aim of maintaining public peace and order.

The booklet elaborates on the way in which defamation of religion and blasphemy law negate human rights such as the freedom of religion and belief and the freedom of expression. Contrary to the opinion of some critics that a tolerant society requires blasphemy law, it is argued that the only thing such a law creates is a sphere of religious intolerance wherein one religious view is valued more than another. Moreover, blasphemy law can easily be abused to silence critics of human rights. This is enhanced by the wrong conflation of race and religion that is suggested by the term 'defamation of religion' and blasphemy law, increasingly regarded as an obligatory instrument to protect cultural differences. The booklet offers several recommendations.

Click here to download.

 


Magenta Foundation Intervention on OSCE/Civil Society Relations during the OSCE Human  Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) 2008

Interaction Civil society & OSCE/ODIHR

The annual Human Dimension Implementation meeting covers a whole range of subjects and attracts many NGOs, also due to ODIHR’s successful outreach efforts. So many that at times, because of the full agendas and excess of interventions the speaking time can sharply drop, hampering NGOs in making their full contribution and valuable recommendations and hampering participating states to fully benefit from NGO input. This weeks sessions were prime examples of this.
Those who have been following the Tolerance conferences of the last few years will have noted that it is now a common practice to have a Preparatory Civil Society meeting preceding those conferences.
Civil Society preparatory meetings enable NGOs to prepare in an intersectional way, share experiences and opinions, learn and benefit from each other and articulate their ideas and recommendations jointly in a spirit of mutual cooperation and solidarity, resulting in a NGO document presented to the plenary. This does in no way restrict NGOs from bringing their individual contributions to the plenary.
The longstanding tradition in the OSCE of granting civil society almost equal footing at events is a much-treasured one. To ensure full Civil Society participation and interaction during the HDIM, we recommend to the participating states and ODIHR to:

  • Facilitate Civil Society preparatory meetings at the HDIM, analogue to the preparatory meetings facilitated by the TnD program staff and others, but organized and controlled by Civil Society itself.
  • Safeguard at all times the right of NGOs to fully participate in the HDIM, including the right to do individual interventions and give recommendations.

On behalf of:
Magenta Foundation, The Netherlands; Amnesty International, United Kingdom; Penal Reform International office Central Asia; Feminist League Kazachstan; Turkmenistan’s Aydynlyk; Sova Centre for information and analyses, Russian Federation; SONDIP, Finland; Association of Citizen’s Sumnal, Republic of
Macedonia; We Remember Foundation, Belarus; Romani CRISS Romania; Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union; Russian-Chechen Friendship Society; Human Rights First, United States; Freudenberg Foundation, Germany and Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance, Bulgaria;


Intervention by Ronald Eissens on behalf of Magenta Foundation,

On Monday, October 6, 2008 - working session 10: Tolerance and non-discrimination II (continued): Review of the implementation of commitments, promotion of mutual respect and understanding and addressing hate crimes: Combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, also focusing on intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions; Combating anti-Semitism; Combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims.


OSCE HUMAN DIMENSION IMPLEMENTATION MEETING
29 September to 10 October 2008
Warsaw, Poland

Recently, we have noted that for those working on Human Rights and anti-racism the issue of defamation of religion and blasphemy increasingly becomes an obstacle for addressing human rights violations and discrimination against individuals because of their race, gender, religion, sexual nature or other characteristics.

A campaign to outlaw defamation of religion has surfaced in international bodies like the United Nations and the OSCE. Some claim that criticism of a religion, its tenets or religious laws, equal defamation or blasphemy. Others even argue that defamation of religion should be outlawed because criticizing a religion discriminates the group of people that adhere to the religion in question. This conflation of religion and Human Rights is counterproductive and troublesome.

Hatred for and / or criticizing a religion in general cannot be part of the anti-racism or anti-discrimination discourse. The victims of racism or discrimination are the people, not religion itself. People, because of their unchangeable characteristics, are the subject of racism, discrimination and Human Rights abuses, while religion is just a body of ideas that someone can adopt, change or reject.
The frequently used labels for hate against Muslims and Christians, ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘Christianophobia’ are not very helpful in keeping religion and human rights apart. The labels suggest that vilifying religion is an equivalent of discrimination of, or hatred towards adherents of this particular religion.
Moreover, the terms Defamation of religion, Islamophobia and Christianophobia bear the danger of being abused to silence undesired voices. For example, some governments use defamation laws for their own purposes, shutting down religious minorities and at the international level, the religious block argues that GLBT-rights are an attack on their religion. Overall, there seems to be a tendency by religious groups in general to perceive the rights of others as blasphemous.
We have noted that Ambassador Ömur Orhun, Personal Representative to the OSCE Chair in Office on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims is using the term 'discrimination against Muslims' rather then 'Islamophobia', which is commendable.
We are concerned about Human Rights violations and all forms of discrimination, like hate against Muslims, which is a growing problem that needs to be addressed and about discrimination against others because of their religion. We worry equally about the growing influence of religions on society.
Individuals must be able to freely and peacefully express their opinions; this is a fundamental aspect of the freedom of thought and the freedom of expression. Religious as well as non-religious groups must tolerate public statements about their activities, teachings and beliefs, even if it is something that they do not want to hear. It is exactly these kinds of unwanted and controversial opinions that need to be protected, since generally accepted opinions can be done without trouble. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that underpins many other freedoms
We recommend the OSCE participating states to:

  • Assure their citizens that they will be protected against all forms of discrimination and hatred
  • Strive to abolish laws on blasphemy or defamation of religions from their legal system.
  • Make -and keep- a clear distinction at all times between race and religion.
  • Oppose proposals for codifying “defamation of religion” at national and international levels.
  • Filter-out religion as a subject of protection from the international Human Rights discourse.
  • Rephrase the terms Islamophobia and Christianophobia as ‘hate against Muslims’ and ‘hate against Christians’.

Lastly, you can find our just released publication Blasphemous matter - Blasphemy, defamation of religion and Human Rights, on the tables outside the room.


Magenta Foundation Intervention on Blasphemy and Religious defamation during the 2nd substantive PrepCom for the UN Durban Review Conference (Realvideo)


 

In 2009, we also started the ICARE Hate Crime News - www.hatecrimenews.icare.to