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UN special rapporteur calls for Russian anti-racism institution

MOSCOW, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - A United Nations expert on racism said Friday that Russia needs to establish a national institution to fight racism.

Doudou Diene, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, is visiting Russia from 12 to 17 June 2006 to gather first-hand information on racism, in particular in relation to a number of minority communities.

He is scheduled to meet with government representatives, both at the national and local levels, with members of the legislative and judiciary branches, with non-governmental organizations and individuals dealing with issues related to his mandate, as well as with United Nations officials.

Diene, who is from Senegal, told a news conference in Moscow there was an urgent need to create a national anti-racism institution ensuring the active involvement of all sections of society, especially those suffering from racism, adding that a similar institution existed in United Kingdom.

He said Russian society was not racist, but legal and political strategies were essential to prevent it from becoming such.

Diene said the political strategy included political will to fight racism in all its forms, whereas the legal strategy involved the creation of judicial and legal mechanisms to prevent racism and xenophobia, as well as fight them.

He urged the Russian government to face up to these problems in Russian society and show political will to deal with them resolutely.

Amnesty International said in a report released in May that racially motivated attacks were on the increase in Russia and blamed the government for not doing enough to tackle the problem.

Non-white foreigners have been the victims of a number of attacks in recent months across the country, but particularly in St. Petersburg - the location for this year's annual summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations on July 15-17.

The human-rights group cited figures from Moscow's Sova analytical agency that said 28 people had been murdered and 366 attacked on racially motivated grounds in 2005. But it said the real figure "could be much higher as many racially motivated crimes are either not reported at all or not registered as such," as many are filed under charges of "hooliganism."

Routine attacks by skinheads and youth gangs on foreigners with non-Slavic features have also been reported in other Russian cities. The central city of Voronezh alone has seen at least seven apparently racially motivated killings over the past six years, including the murder of a Peruvian student in October last year.

The special rapporteur will include a summary of his findings on his visit to Russia in his interim report to the General Assembly this autumn. He will submit a final report on the visit to the new United Nations Human Rights Council.

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