THEME: “Urgency of combating racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

By Kiyana Newell / GICJ

On the 21st of March 1960, during a peaceful protest against 'laws passed' on apartheid, police opened fire and killed 69 people in Sharpsville, South Africa. In 1966, this day was recognised as the International Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the United Nations to honour the victims that were massacred by police brutality (Res. 2142/XXI). 

The theme for 2023 is: Urgency of combating racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established 75 years ago by the international community to set common values and rights enjoyed by every human. The UDHR recognises that everyone, regardless of race and colour. 

In 2001, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) was agreed at the World Conference against Racism to combat racism, xenophobia, and racial discrimination. Additionally, in 2011 the UN General Assembly held a high-level meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the DDPA. However, work is still being done to legally bind the declaration and establish a special rapporteur for racism. 

There is still progress to be made in eliminating racial discrimination. There are several accounts globally that need to be addressed. In particular, globally, African Descendants, Arabs, migrants, Indigenous Peoples, and refugees face intolerance, racism and xenophobia daily. Because of the injustices of the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, and recent migration, African descendants are among the poorest and most marginalised racial groups. Also, victims of racial discrimination face intersectional discrimination based on sex, age, religion, and disability, among other statuses. 

Current Challenges That Victims Face That Deserve Attention

Racism against African Migrants In Italy  

Hundreds of people in Italy demanded justice during a march on the 6th of August 2022, after the murder of Alika Ogorchukwu. Alika Ogorchukwu, a Nigerian street vendor, was selling handkerchiefs when he was chased and beaten to death by Filippo Ferlazzo. Demonstrators were outraged due to police ruling out racial motives and instead stated that the killing was due to his "asking for money". This is not the first time a white person in the country attacked someone of African Descendant.  

Luca Traini opened fire on six African migrants on the 3rd of February 2018, wounding them all. Police found extreme right-wing paraphernalia in his home. Most blame the increase in discrimination and violence on the rise of the right-wing movement in the country. Parties and groups such as the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), Lega (League), and Forza Italia (Forward Italy) are at the forefront of anti-immigration sentiments. Recently elected, President Meloni also pushed anti-immigration rhetoric during her presidential campaign and plans on implementing anti-immigration policies. Italy has still not recognised issues regarding structural racism.

Rising Racist Tensions in Tunisia 

Tunisia is facing large amounts of racism against people of African Descents within the country. Migrants in the country have loudly protested about their experiences of harsh treatment because of their racial background. The country's president is implementing anti-immigration laws targeted explicitly at African Descendants. In addition, there have been accounts of gangs entering homes at night to drag out black migrant families and burn their possessions.

The president denies allegations of racial discrimination in the country. Although he went on a tirade on the 21st of February 2023, proclaiming the migration from sub-Saharan Africa as a "criminal enterprise to change the demographic composition of Africa". The black population of Tunisia is less than one percent. Black migrants fear for their safety as many camped outside embassies or UN organisations to be sent back home [1].

Violence Against Ethnic Minorities in China 

In China, there are accounts of discrimination against the Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic groups. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on China on November 2022 to investigate allegations of torture, ill-treatment, in detention centres, amongst other violations against the Uyghurs. The Committee indicated that the conditions in the reeducation camps were harsh, and there were reports of torture and cruel treatment within the camps. There have been at least a million Muslim detainees since 2017. Last year the OHCRH

Charges of being detained remain vague so China can purposely target these ethnic minorities who did not commit any real crimes. There is little information available, but from what information is gathered, being detained is based on being in contact with people from countries China thinks are sensitive (Turkey and Afghanistan), attending mosques, having more than three children, and sending texts with Quranic verses.

Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ)

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) acknowledges the work being done by the international community and the UN High Commissioner's Office for Human Rights to combat and eliminate racial discrimination since the establishment of UDHR. However, we are still alarmed at how UN member states are still complicit in racial discrimination and enacting policies that discriminate against racial minorities. We call on member states and the international community to fully commit to and promote the elimination of racial discrimination through agenda-setting and policy change. GICJ believes it is vital for governments, organisations, and civil society to enact equality pursuant to the UDHR. 

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