Speaking before a United Nations audience, Simone Veil, Holocaust survivor and former president of the European Parliament, urged the international community to prevent a recurrence of the 2001 Durban debacle, where a world conference on racism became a hatefest for demonstrators attacking Israel and distributing leaflets praising Hitler.
In Geneva, we are now starting to look forward to the conference which will follow that of Durban in 2001. May I make an appeal? I would not like there to be the same form of overspill, the same events which occurred in the sidelines of Durban. I know that the international community would condemn that if it were to recur.
Veil’s comments were part of her keynote address to the UN’s annual conference of non-governmental organizations, held for the first time in Paris to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing there of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The declaration had been a reaction against the crimes of the World War II, said Veil. Still, many countries today committed such crimes, and flouted the most basic rights of their citizens. Non-governmental organizations had a vital role to play in defending human rights, even as many countries imposed restrictions on their work, said Veil.