UN Human Rights Council should promote tolerance among cultures urge rights experts

Mehr Khan Williams, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in concluding discussions on incitement to racial and religious hatred reaffirmed that the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) would continue to support the 47-member Council on these matters.Calling for the Council to work on how to promote tolerance among cultures, she also said it would be useful for the UN’s Special Rapporteurs, unpaid independent human rights experts, to elaborate on these areas.Doudou Diene, Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, called on the Council to look at its strategy on this issue, taking into account that it needed to be long-term and acknowledge the complexity of religious plurality. In her remarks, Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, stressed that infringements on the freedom of religion or belief had to be denounced and fought at all levels of society.Representatives from more than 20 countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) spoke in the debate after the reports were presented.In another session today, the Council discussed reports of its Special Rapporteurs on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the right to food; and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders.Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, said that right was one of the most extensive and complex human rights in the international code, highlighting that neglected diseases had been affecting the poorest people in the poorest communities.Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reducing hunger would not be met by their target date of 2015 and while there had been progress in the world, he held the World Trade Organization (WTO) responsible for massive malnutrition through its decisions.Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human right defenders, said that several governments had recognized the role and status of human rights defenders although serious concerns persisted with regard to their protection. She highlighted that during 2005, she had assessed the situation of human rights defenders in 118 countries, in addition to her three country visits.Representatives from Uganda, Guatemala, India, Brazil and Israel spoke in this debate as concerned countries.This second session of the Council, set up earlier this year to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights, opened on Monday and will run until 6 October.

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