International community, redouble efforts to racial discrimination

20Mar 2019
Editor
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
International community, redouble efforts to racial discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. 

This year’s 2019 Theme is: “Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies” 

Racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist agendas are spreading in various parts of the world, fueling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, often targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.

In its recent resolution on eliminating racism, the United Nations General Assembly reiterated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. The resolution also emphasised that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume, in her recent report on nationalist populism, analyzed the threat posed by nationalist populism to the fundamental human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality. She condemned nationalist populism that advances exclusionary or repressive practices and policies that harm individuals or groups on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories.

In her report on glorification of Nazism online,   Achiume identified recent trends and manifestations of glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. She highlighted States’ obligations under human rights law to counter such extreme ideologies online, as well as the responsibilities of technology companies in the light of human rights principles. 

After a day of demonstrations against pass laws, a crowd of about 5,000 to 7,000 protesters went to the police station. The South African Police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people and injuring 180 others. Sources disagree as to the behaviour of the crowd; some state that the crowd was peaceful, while others state that the crowd had been hurling stones at the police, and that the shooting started when the crowd started advancing toward the fence around the police station. There were 249 casualties in total, including 29 children. Many sustained back injuries from being shot as they fled.  

The massacre was photographed by photographer Ian Berry, who initially believed the police were firing blanks. In present-day South Africa, 21 March is celebrated as a public holiday in honour of human rights and to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre. 

  In South Africa, Human Rights Day is a public holiday celebrated on 21 March each year. This day commemorates the lives that have been lost to fight for democracy and equal human rights in South Africa during the Apartheid regime (a regime which embraced racial discrimination). The Sharpeville Massacre during Apartheid on 21 March 1960 is the particular reference day for this public holiday.