Human Rights Watch today decried the decision of the United States delegation to withdraw from the United Nations World Conference against Racism.
"This Conference presents a unique opportunity for the nations of the world to define, condemn, and remedy racism and racial discrimination," said Reed Brody, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch. "The U.S. should be part of that process, and its departure is a deep disappointment to the victims of racism who have placed their hopes in this meeting."
Secretary of State Colin Powell announced today that the U.S. delegation was going home, saying that the conference was bound to contain hateful language against Israel, and that negotiations would be futile.
Human Rights Watch said that the U.S. should have stayed at the conference and worked to ensure that objectionable language on Israel that was proposed in the draft be removed. The group also emphasized that the question of Israel's treatment of Palestinians is only one of many before the conference.
"The U.S. is squandering a unique opportunity to stand against intolerance, take pride in its own successes, and face up to the challenges in the long fight for equality at home and abroad," said Brody. "This meeting is about the millions of refugees who are fleeing racism but who find intolerance, about the so-called untouchables of South Asia, about how HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects people of color, about the unique ways racism and sexism interact, and about racism in the application of the death penalty. These are issues that the United States wanted to avoid, but clearly it cannot."