Human Rights Commissioner on Anti Racism Day

21.03.2014 - Press release

Christoph Strässer, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, issued the following statement to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March 2014):

The global fight against racism and discrimination is a key priority for the German Government. To discriminate against people because of their ethnic origin, skin colour, religion, culture, faith, gender or beliefs is to disregard the fundamental rights of every individual. Racism violates human dignity.

Our duty to do what we can to ensure human dignity is respected is not limited to the international sphere, however. In Germany too, we need to do more to fight racism and discrimination. We have not always been successful in this endeavour in recent years. In the context of the Universal Periodical Review, for example, the handling of the NSU crimes, continued use of racial profiling and the treatment of asylum seekers drew international criticism.

I would like to use this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as an occasion to reiterate the vital importance of combating racism and discrimination in everyday life. Regrettably, there are many situations in which racism is the rule rather than the exception. I therefore call for consistent efforts to ensure respect for the dignity of each and every human being.

Background information

Marked on 21 March each year, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is intended to recall to mind Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The date goes back to an anti apartheid demonstration held in Sharpeville, South Africa, in which the peaceful demonstrators were brutally beaten by police. Sixty nine people lost their lives, while another 180 were injured, some of them severely. Six years later, on 21 March 1966, the United Nations declared an International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in response to the massacre. It has been honoured annually since then to commemorate not only the casualties of the Sharpeville protest but also all those who face racially motivated acts day to day.

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