AMSTERDAM – A U.N. human rights panel says Dutch government should ensure that those who think the fantasy figure of "Black Pete" is a racist caricature are allowed to speak out.
In the Dutch holiday tradition, St. Nicholas is assisted not by elves but by "Black Petes" — people wearing blackface makeup, "Afro" wigs and red lipstick. Most Dutch — 90 percent of whom have European ancestry — feel Pete is a positive figure and not offensive.
The United Nations panel said in a statement Thursday that the critics of the tradition face "virulent intolerance" from the Dutch majority.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said folk traditions are outside the realm of politics.