France faces rough ride in UN anti-racism panel
France faced a rough ride in the UN's anti-racism panel on Thursday after members sharply criticised a resurgence in racism and xenophobia in the country.
The UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination entered the second and final day of its regular review of France's application of international standards, with French officials due to respond to questions from the body.
On Wednesday, several of the 18 experts on the UN panel made unusually sharp comments about the state of racial discrimination in one of Europe's biggest nations.
Despite legal safeguards, the country is experiencing a "significant resurgence of racism and xenophobia", Kokou Ewomsan, a Togolese human rights official, told the French delegation.
The treatment of Gipsy communities, the debate on national identity and immigration, minority rights and a hardening political discourse were questioned, in the midst of heightened political debate in France over those issues.
US lawyer and former State Department official Pierre-Richard Prosper, vice chairman of the committee, pointed to a lack of "real political will".
French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month announced draconian security measures on traveller communities following a spate of urban violence.
He has also threatened to strip foreign-born nationals of French citizenship if they committed some crimes.
One UN committee member said some of the measures on Gipsies were reminiscent of the period of France's Vichy government, which collaborated with the German Nazi occupiers in World War II.
Malik Salemkour of the League for Human Rights, a French pressure group, described the hearing as an unprecedented grilling for France.
The committee is due to release its written recommendations on France as well as Iran, Australia and several other countries at the end of its current session on August 27.
The committee oversees the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which has been ratified by 173 nations.
© 2010 AFP