UN: Durban II meeting may not happen

Top human rights official says advocacy groups' lobbying could undermine racism conference.

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April 2, 2009 16:26
1 minute read.
UN: Durban II meeting may not happen

Pillay UN rights gaza 248.88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

Lobbying from advocacy groups could undermine next month's world racism conference, the UN's top human right official said Thursday. Jewish and Muslim groups have taken offense at draft statements being prepared for the meeting, pushing governments to demand changes before the April 20-24 conference in Geneva. A fresh draft circulated last month drew cautious welcome from most sides, though key countries including the United States have yet to say whether they will attend the meeting. "I have a healthy fear for the way states sometimes operate," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters in Geneva. "I am quite wary of the fact that someone or other may attempt to revisit the issues that were dropped in this last document." Dozens of Arab rights groups called Wednesday for specific references to Israel's treatment of Palestinians to be reinserted. The Arab Lawyer Union, the Arab Commission for Human Rights and others accuse Israel of "daily war crimes" against Palestinians. Meanwhile, the World Jewish Congress said it was lobbying European nations to prevent a repeat of a 2001 global racism meeting in Durban, South Africa. The United States and Israel walked out of that meeting because of a campaign by some delegations to single out Israel for criticism. Pillay defended the conference, saying it ended with a balanced statement that was welcomed by then-foreign minister Shimon Peres. Emotions at next month's meeting are likely to run high if activists are permitted to take the floor, Pillay acknowledged. "We do expect tensions, and victims should be allowed to speak loudly," she said. "I would not regard any of that as disrupting the conference."


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