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UN Human Rights Chief Condemns Rise In Hatred

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today strongly deplored the sharp rise in hatred globally - including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia - since 7 October, while at the same time expressing concerns about undue restrictions on protests over the conflict in Israel and Gaza, and related free expression.

The High Commissioner said he was disgusted by the sharp rise in cases of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other hate-speech, both online and offline, since 7 October.

“The impact of this crisis has been dramatic - at the regional and global level,” Türk said. “It has sent shockwaves across every region, dehumanising both Palestinians and Jews. We have witnessed a sharp spike in hate speech, violence and discrimination, deepening social fractures and polarisation, alongside the denial of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“I have heard from both Jews and Muslims that they don’t feel safe, and it saddens me.”

From the Americas and the Asia-Pacific to Europe and Africa, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic harassment, attacks and hate speech have multiplied, including in the context of protests relating to the conflict. Homes and religious buildings have been defaced with threatening symbols along with other images and messages meant to frighten and provoke hate. Inflammatory, toxic and hateful rhetoric has also been used by political leaders.

“At the same time, evil words have been accompanied by vile deeds – acts no doubt encouraged by the dehumanizing and vicious language found not only in our streets but political leaders.

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“The torrent of hateful language being used, including on social media, is abhorrent,” Türk said. “International human rights law is clear on this. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited.”

In this environment, it is also important to ensure the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression are protected, the High Commissioner said. Since 7 October, hundreds of thousands of people have exercised their rights in protests across the globe relating to the conflict that have not countenanced incitement to hatred or violence. Marches and rallies have been held to support both Israel and Palestine. Some countries have imposed wide-ranging restrictions, often referring to risks to national security, including risks related to incitement to hatred and glorification of terrorism.

“As tensions and emotions run high, it is the law that must guide us on protecting human rights,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“States must ensure a safe and enabling space for participation and debate. They cannot unduly restrict participation and debate or critical commentary about the conflict, or expressions of solidarity with either Israelis or Palestinians.”

Noting his concern over these measures, Türk emphasised that any restrictions on rights need to be consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“In some cases we have seen blanket or disproportionate restrictions on assembly predominantly in the context of pro-Palestinian protests,” Türk said.

“Any restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly must be based on law, where specifically necessary for and proportionate to the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

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