ACLU Joins Civil and Human Rights Leaders in Urging the Bush Administration To Participate Fully in Anti-Racism Conference in South Africa

August 29, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today joined a diverse array of civil and human rights leaders attending the World Conference Against Racism in urging the U.S. government to participate fully in the symposium set to open Friday in Durban, South Africa.

“America must establish its world leadership in combating racism and racial discrimination by sending a full and high-level delegation to the conference,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office and a signatory of a joint statement released by the civil and human rights groups. “The U.N. conference has the similar goals of liberty, equality and racial tolerance as America’s own Bill of Rights.”

The Bush Administration has been hesitant to send a delegation to the conference over concerns with a conference resolution advanced by the Arab League equating Zionism with racism.

“The Administration should not use the potential for controversy or offense as an excuse not to participate in a significant, inclusive worldwide dialogue on race,” Murphy said. “A discussion of racism will necessarily involve some controversial issues. But it will also provide an opportunity to discuss methods of ending racism on both the international and domestic fronts.”

“An American boycott,” Murphy added, “sends a message that we’re a nation that is unconcerned with this serious international social problem.”

The conference is set 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. This will be the third United Nations conference dealing with racism and racial discrimination. The ACLU is represented at the conference by Legislative Counsel Rachel King. Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s Executive Director-select, is also attending.

In addition to the ACLU, the statement urging the Bush Administration to fully participate in the conference was signed by, among others, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium and the United Methodist Church.

“This open forum, where all participants will be able to present their views freely, is well in keeping with America’s respect for free speech,” Murphy said. “We should avail ourselves of this opportunity to promote justice, tolerance and equality in the global community.”

The US Civil and Human Rights Leaders’ Statement can be found at:

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