GENEVA (27 January 2021) – UN experts* said today States must take resolute action against rising antisemitism and ensure deniers of the Holocaust and all levels of society are effectively educated about the Holocaust and other manifestations of antisemitism. Reminding governments of their international human rights obligations, the UN experts issued the following statement marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on 27 January, 1945.
“In 2019, reports by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism documented a dramatic and persistent increase in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents in many countries in recent years, both offline and online. During 2020, these trends grew even more worrying, with widespread reports of antisemitic rhetoric on social media and in traditional media outlets, promoting outrageous conspiracy theories and attributing responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic to Jews, as noted by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief in an April 2020 statement and by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism in an August 2020 report.
The antisemitic rhetoric and incidents seen over the past year have included notable examples of Holocaust denial, including in some cases by government officials and state-sponsored media, with particular effect on young people in many countries, as well as distortions of the Holocaust’s scope and intentionality during public demonstrations in the context of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
It is clear that when left unchecked, distortion and denial of the Holocaust – in which six million Jews, alongside members of other targeted groups were murdered in a uniquely brutal, systematic and state-sanctioned campaign of antisemitic extermination, dehumanisation and persecution – can undermine States’ ability to protect and promote human rights. Not only can these and other forms of antisemitic expression create a climate of fear in which Jews are unable to manifest their religion and identity, but they can also threaten the rights to liberty and security and to take part in cultural life and equality and non-discrimination of all by encouraging the spread of conspiracy theories, stereotyping and harmful prejudices.
Today, we call for public figures to condemn Holocaust denial and distortion and for States to urgently step up educational, training and awareness-raising efforts that counter antisemitic stereotypes and prejudices and that include accurate information about the Holocaust, at all levels of society.
We commend recent efforts by some social media platforms to tackle cyberhate targeting Jews and other minorities, by prohibiting content that denies or distorts the Holocaust and by directing users to credible information about it.
These measures must be consistently and systematically adopted, implemented, and enforced, including through concrete regulatory policies and terms of service, while respecting the freedoms of expression and of the press.
We recall the 2005 UN General Assembly resolution 60/7, which urges Member States to educate future generations about the Holocaust and which reaffirms that it will ‘forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice’.
Recent events have served as a painful reminder of the potential for antisemitic conspiracy theories and misinformation to contribute to an environment in which violence, discrimination, and hatred can flourish. We urge stakeholders to come together and act, in line with a human rights approach, to ensure more effectively that the facts of the Holocaust are known and appreciated, and to counter Holocaust distortion and denial and other similarly harmful antisemitic narratives, in the years ahead.”
* The experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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