Extract from E/CN.4/2005/61/Add.1 15 March 2005
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, Sixty-first session, Item 11(e) of the provisional agenda
CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE QUESTION OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir
Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Communications and replies received
Para 282. On 26 March 2004, the Special Rapporteur sent a communication to the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in connection with information received according to which on 18 March 2004, vandals had attacked around 40 Muslim graves at a cemetery in Charlton, south-east London, in an apparent hate crime. Headstones were reportedly smashed and pictures removed from graves. British Islamic leaders had allegedly warned about a possible backlash against Muslims in the wake of attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda or other hard-line Islamic groups.
Para 283. By letter dated 10 September 2004, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland provided the Special Rapporteur with a summary prepared by the United Kingdom Home Office, the department with lead responsibility for these issues.
Para 284. On 18 March 2004, approximately 72 graves in Charlton Cemetery, south-east London, were discovered to have been desecrated or damaged in the course of the previous night. Some of the headstones had been pushed over and the flowers that had been placed by relatives removed and thrown about. Other headstones had been smashed to pieces with what appeared to have been a hammer. The desecration had been limited to a part of the cemetery that was occupied mainly by the deceased of Turkish or Cypriot descent and Muslim faith. The majority of the desecrated graves had markings or writing on them that would indicate that the occupant was of Muslim faith. One Catholic grave, which was situated next to the Muslim plots, had also been desecrated.
Para 285. The Government indicated that three suspects were charged with Racially Aggravated Criminal Damage contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 as defined by section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The suspects admitted involvement in the desecration but two of them denied any racial or religious motivation
for the attacks. The names of the suspects could not be disclosed as all three were juveniles. The cases had been committed to the Crown Court for trial. Although no trial date had been set yet, it was expected to take place sometime next year.
Para 286. According to the Government’s response, considerable resources were allocated to the investigation in its early stages and the inquiry team worked over two weekends to ensure a rapid response to all information. New Scotland Yard deployed a Metropolitan Police Officer with connections to the Turkish community and a Turkish-speaking police officer was employed during the investigation to assist with the victims of this crime. This had a very positive effect on the victims, who expressed their thanks both verbally and in writing.
Para 287. The Government indicated that a National Community Tension Team had been established through the Home Office. The team's core business was to receive reports of tension from all forces in the United Kingdom and compile them into a national assessment. Particular focus was given to Muslim communities because of the fear they have of victimization. The Association of Chief Police Officers had recommended that all forces specifically record religiously aggravated offences and this would happen once local recording systems were updated. Police meetings with community representatives would be held following such incidents to ensure that any police responses were sensitive to community fears. All police forces have third party reporting schemes that could be used to enable better reporting of Islamophobic incidents and a help line for this purpose was also being considered.
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