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Press Release – 17.02.2003

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) releases a Recommendation on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination

Strasbourg, 17.02.2003 - The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe has releases a Recommendation containing the elements which it considers should feature in the national legislation of the member States of the Council of Europe in order to combat racism and racial discrimination effectively.

In recent years, the fight against racism and racial discrimination has been high on the World and European political agenda. The World Conference against Racism held in Durban in August-September 2001 highlighted the role of national legislation as an indispensable tool, albeit not sufficient alone, to fight against racism and racial discrimination. In June 2000, the European Union adopted two directives aimed at combating discrimination on different grounds, including race and ethnic origin. Moreover, in November 2000 Protocol N 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights was adopted, containing a general non-discrimination clause.

With its new Recommendation – the seventh in its series of General Policy Recommendations addressed to all member States of the Council of Europe – ECRI intends to make a positive contribution to the international debate on these issues, and in particular to provide an outline of useful legal provisions at a moment when most of the member States of the Council of Europe are engaged in the process of reviewing their anti-discrimination legislation.

In a context in which European societies are increasingly characterised by diversity and population movements globally and within Europe are on the rise, ECRI's Recommendation calls for the strengthening of legal tools aimed at guaranteeing protection of individuals against racism and racial discrimination and at promoting genuine equality of all persons. Thus, ECRI calls for more effective legal protection from acts of racism and discrimination on the basis of race, colour and national or ethnic origin, but also of language, religion and nationality.

ECRI recommends that the prohibition of discrimination should apply to a very broad range of areas, including the activities of the police and border control officials. It recommends the creation of independent specialised bodies to combat racism and racial discrimination in each member State, which can not only monitor the situation and formulate recommendations to governments, but also assist or represent complainants in pursuing their legal claims and carry out investigations.

Reflecting its approach that racism and discrimination should not only be countered when they manifest themselves, but should also be prevented through the promotion of equality and awareness raising, ECRI furthermore recommends that all public authorities be subjected to a legal obligation to promote equality and to prevent discrimination in carrying out their functions.