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10 years of combating racism

Palais de l’Europe, Room 1
Strasbourg, Thursday 18 March 2004

Combating racism while fighting terrorism

Terrorism and terrorist activities, irrespective of their origin, are incompatible with and threaten the values, principles and ideals of liberty, democracy, justice and human rights. Terrorism builds upon hatred and fanaticism, which in turn lead to discrimination and human rights violations.

At the same time, the response to the threat of terrorism should not itself encroach upon the very values and principles that democratic societies aim to safeguard, and should not in any way weaken the protection and promotion of human rights.

ECRI has noted with concern that, as a result of the fight against terrorism engaged since the events of 11 September 2001, certain groups of persons, notably Arabs, Jews, Muslims, certain asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, and certain visible minorities, have become particularly vulnerable to racism and/or to racial discrimination across many fields of public life including education, employment, housing, access to goods and services, access to public places and freedom of movement. As a response to these worrying developments ECRI is currently preparing its General Policy Recommendation No.8 on this issue.

This Recommendation, whose adoption by ECRI is envisaged for March 2004, can be seen as the contribution of an independent human rights monitoring body in the field of combating racism and intolerance to the more general efforts underway in the Council of Europe to ensure respect for human rights while fighting against terrorism, reflected notably in the Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Human Rights and the Fight against Terrorism.

Based on the experience gathered in the framework of its country-by-country monitoring mechanism, ECRI will address in this Recommendation the need for member States to refrain from the adoption of anti-terrorist measures which discriminate against persons, notably on grounds of “race”, colour, language, religion, nationality and national or ethnic origin, and the need to ensure that legislation and regulations, including those adopted in connection with the fight against terrorism, are applied in a non-discriminatory way. It will also address the need to ensure that the right to seek asylum is not jeopardised in law or in practice as a result of the fight against terrorism. Finally, ECRI will also address the responsibility of the State to react promptly and effectively, including through legal means, to manifestations of racism and racial discrimination by individuals and organisations that result from the deterioration of the general climate generated by the fight against terrorism.

As ECRI stated it in its Declaration following the terrorists attacks of 11 September 2001, “terrorism should be combated, but it should not become a pretext under which discrimination and intolerance are allowed to flourish”.