States should pay close attention to early signs of racism that may eventually lead to conflicts and grave human rights violations, Mutuma Ruteere, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has said.
Mr. Ruteere cited in particular the rise in extremist political parties, movements and groups, and the serious problem of racism in sport, such as in the context of the UEFA Football Championship.
“The rise in extremist political parties, movements and groups continues to pose major challenges, particularly in the context of the current economic and financial crisis,” Mr. Ruteere told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “In this context, vulnerable groups have been made the scapegoats for the rise in unemployment and State debt, and labelled a threat to the standard of living of the general population by extremist political parties.”
The Special Rapporteur said racist, xenophobic and intolerant acts were continuing to be perpetrated against people of African descent and members of minorities such as the Roma, foreign students, Jews, Muslims and migrants.
“I am particularly concerned that some traditional political parties have also embraced the openly racist, xenophobic and nationalistic rhetoric of extremist political parties,” he said. “Due to the audience they reach and their moral authority, political party leaders should refrain from such discourses and strongly condemn all political messages that disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred and incite racial discrimination and xenophobia.”
He added that recent incidents of violence and racism in the context of the UEFA Football Championships show that racism in sport is a serious problem.
“The presence of extremist groups, including neo-Nazi and skinhead groups, in sporting events is a matter of serious concern,” Mr. Ruteere said. “Neo-Nazi symbols, slogans and banners displayed during football matches and racist chants against players or supporters of African origin should not be tolerated. I call upon States to intensify the fight against racism in sport and to strengthen the role of sports in promoting cultural diversity.”
“In particular, in light of the upcoming Olympics it is crucial that further preventive measures be taken to avoid racist incidents during this event which is going to reach out to all regions of the world,” he added.
The Special Rapporteur also warned that impunity for crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia and intolerance encourages recurrence of such acts. He called on States to ensure that thorough and impartial investigations into such crimes are promptly carried out, those responsible are prosecuted, and victims have effective access to remedies.