GENEVA - The UN's human rights body on Friday condemned a barrage of racist slurs against France's black justice minister, including a magazine cover comparing her to a monkey.
"We condemn the racist attacks that have been taking place against French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira over the past few weeks," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.
"This utterly unacceptable abuse of a prominent politician, on the basis of her colour, is a stark manifestation of the rising racism, xenophobia and intolerance aimed at members of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as migrants, in many European countries," he told reporters.
This week's edition of French far-right magazine Minute published a cover showing Taubira with the headline "Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back".
Colville rejected Minute's assertion that it was simply using two common French expressions, the second of which refers to someone so happy that their smile is as big as a banana.
"The underlying racist intent of this play on words could not be more clear," he said.
Taubira is a hate figure for some on the right in French politics as she was the minister responsible for the legalisation of gay marriage earlier this year, and the slurs from her adversaries have mounted over recent weeks.
Last month, a local election candidate from the far-right Front National said in a TV documentary that she would rather see Taubira "swinging from the branches rather than in government".
And demonstrators, including children, protesting gay marriage brandished banana skins at Taubira and shouted "Monkey, eat your banana".
Critics say the French political mainstream was tardy in leaping to Taubira's defence, until an outcry over the Minute cover.
Colville said it was crucial for politicians to speak out, and that he welcomed the "prompt and unequivocal condemnation" by the government and other politicians.
The treatment of Taubira has sparked soul-searching among liberal commentators over whether racism is widely acceptable in parts of French society.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently urged France to step up its efforts.
Colville said that in July, the UN also slammed abuse of Italy's integration minister, Congo-born Cecile Kyenge, who a top politician compared to an orangutan.
"We strongly condemn these blatantly racist comments and acts, which are utterly unacceptable whether aimed at politicians, footballers or, less visibly, on a daily basis, at ordinary citizens," he added.