UN racism expert condemns SA violence

The United Nations independent expert on racism urged South Africa on Friday to bring to justice those responsible for recent xenophobic violence that claimed more than 50 lives this month.

“I condemn these acts in the strongest terms,” special rapporteur Doudou Diene said as he called on South African authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and to prevent the spread of atrocities.

It is crucial, he said, for migration policies to help integrate refugees and migrants both economically and socially.

South Africa’s own history of apartheid and institutional racism made it even more necessary to be vigilant against xenophobia and to encourage political will to combat it worldwide, he added.

“While I take note of the efforts of the government of South Africa to address the crisis, I call upon authorities not only to carry out a thorough investigation of the acts of violence in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent the spread of atrocities, but also to stimulate a collective reflection on the root causes of these phenomena,” he said.

The South African government on Thursday cited poverty as the main cause for bloody xenophobic violence in the nation’s informal settlements. Earlier it had denied that its sluggish response to the poor was responsible.

Diene, who monitors racism and xenophobia worldwide and reports to the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly, appealed for a “collective reflection on the profound causes of this phenomenon,” saying only a cultural and ethical approach could promote tolerance and coexistence.

Violence against Zimbabweans and other immigrants flared up on May 11 in a Johannesburg township before spreading to other poor districts, killing at least 56 people, wounding hundreds and displacing 35 000 others.—Sapa-AFP

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