ACLU Criticizes U.S. Withdrawal from Anti-Racism Conference; Says America Has Responsibility to Speak Out in South Africa

September 4, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON –The American Civil Liberties Union today joined other leading civil and human rights organizations in condemning the Bush Administration’s decision to back out of the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism currently being held in Durban, South Africa.

“The Administration’s decision to leave the conference is disheartening,” said Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “An official American presence would have gone a long way in focusing the conference as a forum for the free and tolerant exchange of ideas on how to combat the brutalities of racism internationally.”

The Bush Administration decided to pull out of UN conference after failing to achieve an accord with the representatives of some Arab states who are pushing a controversial resolution equating Zionism with racism.

“This open forum, where all participants are able to present their views freely, is well in keeping with American First Amendment traditions,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, by pulling out, the US has squandered an opportunity to facilitate free speech in the global arena, to discuss effective methods of eliminating racism and to take to task those views with which we as a nation disagree.”

The conference is being held to tackle a myriad of international issues involving racism and xenophobia including: the growing problem of human trafficking, gender concerns, migration and racism, racism against indigenous peoples and how to ensure minority rights in multi-ethnic states.

Last week, the ACLU signed a joint statement urging the Bush Administration to send a high-level delegation including Secretary of State Colin Powell. That statement was signed by a large segment of the US civil and human rights community, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium and the United Methodist Church.

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