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UN officials decry reported Taliban edict on singling out non-Muslims

UN officials decry reported Taliban edict on singling out non-Muslims

United Nations officials today decried a reported proposal by the Taliban which would require all non-Muslims in Afghanistan to wear identity labels on their clothing.

A spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Mr. Annan was "dismayed" by the proposal, which "would constitute a grave violation of human rights, and recalls some of the most deplorable acts of discrimination in history."

The Secretary-General appealed to the Taliban leadership to reject the idea, and "to focus their efforts on alleviating the suffering of their people, who yearn for peace and security," his spokesman said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and the Director-General of the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura, also issued a statement expressing outrage over the proposed edict.

The joint statement, released in Geneva and Paris, noted that the decree "harks back to the darkest periods of human history."

"Prescribing how certain groups of people should dress or otherwise singling them out so that they can be easily identifiable is at best discriminatory," the two officials observed. "Similar practices in the past -- from Nazi Germany in the 1930s to Rwanda in the early 1990s -- have led to the most horrible crimes."

Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Matsuura said the edict's stated aim, namely the protection of minority groups, could best be achieved through the strict observance of internationally recognized human rights principles.

The two officials declared that the proposed edict "brings home in a most forceful way the urgent need to address bias and discrimination, which are at the root of major human rights violations."