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Alternate Durban conference held in Geneva

GENEVA (JTA) — An alternate Durban conference was held in Geneva.

The Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy was held Sunday, the day before the opening of a controversial United Nations-sponsored conference to review progress on combating racism and discrimination.

Organized by the monitoring organization U.N. Watch, in cooperation with more than a dozen other human rights organizations, the conference featured presentations from rights activists and political dissidents.

Opening the conference, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-born human rights activist and co-founder of Stop Child Executions, issued a broadside against the Islamic Republic and its president, who is scheduled to address the U.N. conference on Monday.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini "do not represent the people of Iran," Afshin-Jam said, "but represent a regime of intolerance and the most brutal human rights violations one could imagine."

Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister, opened a session on genocide by noting that it is "astonishing" that 60 years after the adoption of the U.N. genocide convention, such crimes still take place.

"These genocides occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of a state-sanctioned incitement to genocide," Cotler said. "It was this teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other, this is where it all begins."

Cotler said Ahmadinejad’s Iran is an "epicenter" of such incitement, with its "toxic convergence" of anti-Semitism and threats against Israel.

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