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Open and Free Expression Exposes Bigotry and Hatred to the Forces of Reason and Criticism
July 3, 2012

Item 9 – Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Emily Fleckner
Human Rights Council 20th Session
July 3, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur for his two reports – the first he has submitted to this Council since his appointment.  We are profoundly committed to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and firmly agree with the Special Rapporteur that the importance and value of preventive measures cannot be overemphasized.

We support his recognition, in particular, that efforts to prevent and combat racism and racial discrimination must have meaningful participation by groups or individuals discriminated against in political life and decision-making processes on the grounds of their race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin. For our part, the United States is committed to ensuring full political participation in our democratic process through enforcement of our voting rights laws.  The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government – it is the lifeblood of our democracy.

We also welcome the Special Rapporteur’s call, in particular, to leaders to condemn political messages based on racism, racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance and xenophobia – including religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, and the targeting of individuals on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In response to the Special Rapporteur‘s reliance throughout his reports on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as a normative framework, we would like to reiterate our well-known concerns.  We cannot agree with the idea that criminalizing speech or prohibiting expression are effective approaches to combating the roots of racial discrimination and bigotry.  We have learned over the course of our history that open and free expression exposes bigotry and hatred to the forces of reason and criticism and is therefore part of the solution in ending discrimination.  Further, we cannot support the DDPA’s unfair singling out of one country.

The United States is committed to effectively implementing our human rights treaty obligations with respect to non-discrimination and equal opportunity, including under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  To this end, the United States recently created an Equality Working Group to coordinate efforts by U.S. federal agencies in this regard.  The Working Group will provide a mechanism to integrate and implement more fully a human rights perspective in U.S. agencies’ programmatic and enforcement responsibilities in this area and engage with civil society.

The United States is deeply committed to engaging in an ongoing, thoughtful dialogue that can result in vigorous action to effectively combat racism and racial discrimination.  We hope to work together to find common ground on concrete approaches that both protect the freedom of expression and combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination through constructive mechanisms.

We appreciate the extent of the information the Special Rapporteur has presented on political extremism in a given context, but wonder if he could provide additional information on the challenges faced globally?

Thank you, Madame President.