UN Human Rights Commissioner disturbed by rising xenophobia in Europe
On 10 June the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern over rising racism and xenophobia in Europe. In her remarks opening the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pillay referenced the results of May's elections to the European Parliament, in which ultra-right parties scored gains.
Pillay warned that even in established democracies there is a risk that extremist political rhetoric will weaken the fight against discrimination. She pointed out the successes enjoyed by xenophobic parties in the European elections, giving as an example the Front National of France, whose head, Marine Le Pen, compared Muslims praying outdoors there to the Nazi occupation.
The High Commissioner says the number of Western European states in which political statements are "rooted in racist and xenophobic feelings and in religious intolerance" is disturbing. The South African, who is ending her six-year term, provided an overview of her time in office to the session.
In some areas, such as in the fight against the death penalty or in strengthening the Human Rights Council as an institution, Pillay said success has been achieved. However, at the same time she said it has been shown that "Regrettably, the international community remains unable to consistently react strongly and quickly to crises, including situations of grave human rights violations..."
Pillay sharply criticized the inability of the politically-blocked UN Security Council to suppress the civil war in Syria. She pointed out that China and Russia recently vetoed a resolution calling for the prosecution of war crimes in Syria at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"It is shocking that war crimes and crimes against humanity have become commonplace and occur with complete impunity," emphasized Pillay, whose successor as of 1 September will be Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, currently the Jordanian ambassador to the United Nations. The three-day session of the Human Rights Council was scheduled to review the situations in Belarus, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria, as well as broader topics such as violence against women, extreme poverty, migration, judicial independence, and the security of journalists.
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