Economic woes no excuse for discrimination: Ban Ki-moon

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned wealthy European countries on Tuesday to avoid using economic woes as a excuse for discrimination and anti-immigration policies.

"In many developed countries, there is growing anxiety over migration and economic hard times -- anxieties that are used, increasingly, to justify policies of discrimination and exclusion," Ban said in a speech to the Council of Europe.

"Human rights are not a menu, from which we can pick and choose. When it comes to human rights, there should be no selectivity."

Ban's speech, ahead of next month's celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, came before a European meeting on Wednesday to discuss integration of the Roma, Europe's largest minority.

"Let this be the moment when governments reaffirm their commitment to the highest human rights standards for all," he said.

The plight of the Roma was brought into the spotlight in the summer following a French government crackdown on illegal camps and high-profile deportations of more than 1,000 Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria.

Ban also criticised European nations for their failure to ratify the UN's Convention on Migrant Workers.

"Twenty years after it was adopted, none of Europe's largest and most wealthy powers have signed or ratified it," he said.

"In some of the world's most advanced democracies among nations, that take just pride in their long history of social progressiveness, migrants are being denied basic human rights," Ban said.

Ban said European countries needed to set international standards on human rights and ensure war criminals were brought to justice.

"Without strong judicial action, we can never end serious human rights abuses in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the use of rape as a weapon of war," he said.

"If national courts cannot deal with such crimes, the international community -- and possibly the ICC (International Criminal Court -- must step in."

© 2010 AFP

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