William Schabas was early proponent of targeting Israel with Geneva Conventions

Schabas-330x390For only the third time in history, the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions met yesterday to condemn a country for violating the law of war. As on the previous two occasions, the country condemned was Israel.

After the Holocaust, the world gathered in Geneva to affirm the laws of war and enshrine the prohibition against targeting civilians.

One of the early champions of activating these legal conventions for the first time to single out Israel — while ignoring war crimes by Saddam, Qaddafi, and Arafat — was law professor William Schabas, who now chairs the UNHRC’s Commission of Inquiry on Gaza.

In 1999, before the International Criminal Court was even in operation, Schabas was an early campaigner for the indictment of Israeli leaders.

At a June 1999 Cairo meeting of the UN’s “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” Schabas embraced an extraordinary session on Israel — the first time the treaty was enforced against any state or non-state actor — to be held by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Schabas called the targeting of Israelis an “exciting opportunity.”

Speaking before opponents of Israel gathered from around the world, Schabas told the Cairo forum that member states were “under an obligation to prosecute” Israelis “suspected of committing grave breaches.” States are required to seek extradition of those whom Israel refuses to try, said Schabas.

If the result of threats of prosecution under article 146 would be “only to restrain the travel plans of Israeli civilian and military officials,” said Schabas, this may still constitute a “useful means of pressure.”

At a time when Islamic extremists are slaughtering men, women and children from Nigeria to Syria to Pakistan, and when Russia has swallowed Crimea and plunged eastern Ukraine into war, killing 4,700 and wounding 10,000 more, the world yesterday decided, as it did in 1999 and in 2001, to single out Israel alone for censure.

There was no condemnation of Hamas for firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, or of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for inciting murderous terrorist attacks on the streets of Jerusalem, and against worshippers in  a synagogue, all in gross breach of the Geneva Conventions, which the Palestinians signed earlier this year.

As NYU law professor Joseph Weiler noted in the European Journal of International Law, Schabas’ prior record of partisanship on this subject makes his a “self-evident case” where “the appearance of justice is compromised.”

Schabas is scheduled to present his report before the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015. Legally, however, he is obliged to recuse himself on account of his prior statements and actions which objectively create the appearance of bias.

2014 at the UN: 20 resolutions against Israel, 4 on rest of the world

UNGA 69th Session (2014)
20 Resolutions Singling Out Israel

FIRST COMMITTEE

The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (A/RES/69/78)
Committee Vote: 151 Yes, 4 No (Canada, Micronesia, Israel, United States), 20 Abstain
Plenary Vote: 161 Yes, 5 No (Canada, Micronesia, Israel, Palau, United States), 18 Abstain

Extract: “Reaffirms the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, in realizing the goal of universal adherence to the Treaty in the Middle East.”

SECOND COMMITTEE

Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (A/C.2/69/L.33*)
Committee Vote: 153 Yes, 5 No, 8 Abstain
Plenary Vote: TBD

Extract: “Expressing its concern about the exploitation by Israel, the occupying Power, of the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.”

Oil slick on Lebanese shores (A/C.2/69/L.21*)
Committee Vote: 155 Yes, 6 No (Australia, Canada, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, United States), 5 Abstain (Cameroon, Colombia, Central African Republic, Chad, Papua New Guinea)
Plenary Vote: TBD

Extract: “Reiterates…its deep concern about the adverse implications of the destruction by the Israeli Air Force of the oil storage tanks in the direct vicinity of the Lebanese Jiyeh electric power plant, for the achievement of sustainable development in Lebanon.”

Continue reading ‘2014 at the UN: 20 resolutions against Israel, 4 on rest of the world’

UN Watch letter to Samantha Power urges condemnation of UNRWA boycott call

Letter from UN Watch to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power  |  Click here for PDF
Click here to sign the petition

10 December 2014

Dear Ambassador Power,

We are shocked by UNRWA’s call to boycott one of Israel’s oldest newspapers and appeal to you to speak out and hold the organization to account. With the U.S. being the largest donor to UNRWA—giving $398 million this year alone—your clear voice on this matter can play a vital role in upholding the principles of the UN Charter.

Barely has the ink dried on the 2015 UNRWA-U.S. Framework for Cooperation—in which Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl solemnly promised that UNRWA would respect impartiality—and its top spokesman Chris Gunness, tweeting on Thursday from his official account, called to “Boycott the Jerusalem Post!”  The statement remains there and has not been renounced in any way by UNRWA, nor by the DC-based representatives of UNRWA USA whom we approached on this matter.

What so outraged Mr. Gunness was an op-ed by Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid that called for an audit of all allocated funds to UNRWA and the dismissal of its Hamas-affiliated employees. (“Proud Palestinians must lead the fight to reform UNRWA,” Dec. 1, 2014.) Rather than respond rationally, UNRWA lashed out. Never before has a UN humanitarian organization called to boycott a newspaper.

This was a political act inconsistent with the neutrality requirements applicable to all humanitarian agencies. Moreover, it violates the Framework agreement with the U.S., under which the agency is obliged to ensure “adherence to principles of neutrality,” and, specifically, “the neutrality of UNRWA’s staff.”

Mr. Gunness is a repeat offender. In July, to name one of numerous examples, he urged reporters to interview Dr. Mads Gilbert, a pro-Hamas Norwegian activist who in September 2001 supported the “moral right” of Al Qaeda to perpetrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Gunness is flagrantly abusing his humanitarian mandate for political advocacy. If you don’t hold him and UNRWA to account, I fear, no one will.

Sincerely,
Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

Germany to head HRC in 2015, pledges reforms

This morning, the Human Rights Council elected its President and four Vice-Presidents for the year 2015. What was also interesting was that we have geared up for new reform process for the Council, ahead of its 10 year anniversary in 2016.

Germany was chosen from the WEOG group to be the Council’s President for 2015, while Albania, Botswana, Kazakhstan and Paraguay were chosen as Vice-Presidents, representing the other regions.

The Council has no scheduled reform up ahead, other than the GA to consider the status of the Council (subsidiary to the GA or on an equal level as a principal body) “at an appropriate moment and at a time no sooner than ten years and no later than fifteen years.” Yet, today’s organization meeting may have kicked off a new round of reforms for the HRC, which still has not been able to full implement its mandate and efficiently assist  human rights victims around the world.

The outgoing President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, outlined a long list of suggested reforms, including “the agenda of the Council, the number of resolutions, the number of panels, the functioning of certain groups related to activities of the Council, such as the advisory group […] and the Group on Situations, the role of special procedures, the participation of NGOs in the work of the Council, and the Treaty bodies.” The President said that this process should be completed by 2016  and concluded his remarks by saying “we should always bear in mind the reasons the led to the disappearance of the Human Rights Commission.”

Ambassador Joachim Rucker of Germany, the HRC’s President-elect, went a step further and proposed a first round of informal discussions in Berlin, on May 21-23, on the role of the Council and how to further improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

The reform process for the HRC in 2016 has been officially inaugurated. UN Watch will of course be present throughout this process and advocate for what is right.

Watchdog urges U.N. chief and Samantha Power to investigate UNRWA for breach of neutrality agreement

GENEVA, December 5 – A U.N. watchdog group is urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power to investigate UNRWA for breaching its recently-signed commitment to the U.S. on neutrality, after the billion-dollar relief agency’s top spokesman called for a boycott of Israel’s largest English-language newspaper.

In an emotional outburst on his official UNRWA Twitter account, Chris Gunness today published the following tweet: “Ultra-right @Jerusalem_Post carries anti-UNRWA garbage boycotting me ie no quote. Ask @stevelinde y Boycott the JPost! Don’t read their lies.” Continue reading ‘Watchdog urges U.N. chief and Samantha Power to investigate UNRWA for breach of neutrality agreement’

ICC examining U.S. military for war crimes in Afghanistan

The International Criminal Court is examining the U.S. for possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, a move that some experts believe is unjustified and could undermine the tribunal’s work.

The ICC prosecutor’s latest annual report alleges that “members of the US military in Afghanistan used so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against conflict-related detainees,” which could amount to the war crimes of “cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity as defined under international jurisprudence.” (See full excerpts below.)

According to NYU law professor Ryan Goodman, writing in Just Security, the ICC’s examination of U.S. detention operations appears to have reached an advanced phase and “crossed over the important threshold of a finding that there is a reasonable basis to believe U.S. forces committed war crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”

The court is now at the stage of weighing the gravity of the alleged U.S. war crimes, and whether America’s own system of investigations and willingness to prosecute (“national proceedings”) are genuine.

“Whatever one’s views regarding U.S. detention policy in Afghanistan from 2003-2008,” writes Ryan Vogel, professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, “the alleged U.S. conduct is surely not what the world had in mind when it established the ICC to address ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.'”

The ICC, argues Vogel, who formerly served in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, was “designed to end impunity for the most egregious and shocking breaches of the law,” and “it is hard to see how alleged detainee abuse by U.S. forces meets that standard.”

“The Prosecutor appears to have spent valuable and finite resources pushing an examination of the United States,” writes Vogel. The prosecutor “risks irreparably harming the ICC’s important relationship with the United States, while accomplishing virtually nothing in return, aside from (hollowly) demonstrating that the ICC intends to take cases outside of Africa.”

Excerpts from the prosecutor’s 2014 annual report, released this week:

94. The Office has been assessing available information relating to the alleged abuse of detainees by international forces within the temporal jurisdiction of the Court. In particular, the alleged torture or ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees by US armed forces in Afghanistan in the period 2003-2008 forms another potential case identified by the Office. In accordance with the Presidential Directive of 7 February 2002, Taliban detainees were denied the status of prisoner of war under article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention but were required to be treated humanely. In this context, the information available suggests that between May 2003 and June 2004, members of the US military in Afghanistan used so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” against conflict-related detainees in an effort to improve the level of actionable intelligence obtained from interrogations. The development and implementation of such techniques is documented inter alia in declassified US Government documents released to the public, including Department of Defense reports as well as the US Senate Armed Services Committee’s inquiry. These reports describe interrogation techniques approved for use as including food deprivation, deprivation of clothing, environmental manipulation, sleep adjustment, use of individual fears, use of stress positions, sensory deprivation (deprivation of light and sound), and sensory overstimulation.

95. Certain of the enhanced interrogation techniques apparently approved by US senior commanders in Afghanistan in the period from February 2003 through June 2004, could, depending on the severity and duration of their use, amount to cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity as defined under international jurisprudence. In addition, there is information available that interrogators allegedly committed abuses that were outside the scope of any approved techniques, such as severe beating, especially beating on the soles of the feet, suspension by the wrists, and threats to shoot or kill.

96. While continuing to assess the seriousness and reliability of such allegations, the Office is analysing the relevance and genuineness of national proceedings by the competent national authorities for the alleged conduct described above as well as the gravity of the alleged crimes.

102. The Office will continue to analyse allegations of crimes committed in Afghanistan, and to assess the admissibility of the potential cases identified above in order to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation of the situation in Afghanistan pursuant to article 15(3) of the Statute.

 

The UN Committee Against Torture Reviews The US

Many contentious issues were raised at the examination of the United States by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) on November 13–14, as rapporteurs and committee members considered the United States adherence to the said convention.

Ambassador Keith Harper, the US representative to United Nations Human Rights Council initiated the US presentation by explaining how torture violates human rights and US law. Harper continued, that while under the Bush administration boundaries had been crossed, President Obama had made great strides to ensure that no form of torture, or violation of human rights would occur on US soil. Similarly, neither would the US transfer a detainee to a location in which there was the possibility of them experiencing inappropriate treatment. David Bitcall, deputy assistant of the criminal department of the Department of Justice explained that there was rigorous restructuring and reform to ensure that police officers as well as soldiers alike conducted themselves according to the army manual and discrepancies would be and were frequently punished. For example, over the past 5 years, 330 police officers have been reprimanded for misconduct on the job and this reform is only increasing. Bitcall further explained the rational regarding why the US do not use any forms of torture, which he concluded, was an ineffective tactic used to gain information.

Continue reading ‘The UN Committee Against Torture Reviews The US’

Today: UN set to adopt same nine anti-Israel resolutions interpreter called “a bit much”

Today, the UN’s Fourth Committee is set to adopt its usual nine politically-motivated anti-Israel resolutions, while ignoring the rest of the world.

One year ago, a hot mic caught a UN interpreter in a Spectacular UN Moment of Candor.

Unaware that her microphone was on and under the mistaken impression that she was speaking only to colleagues, the interpreter uttered the following words into the headphones of every UN delegate, and before a live webcast audience worldwide:

I think when you have… like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.

Laughter erupted among the delegates. “The interpreter apologizes,” said the unfortunate truth-teller, moments later, followed by her audible gasp.

One year after this amazing video made international headlines and became “an instant classic” thanks to UN Watch, the UN is about to do it again today. Why hasn’t the UN learned anything and is repeating today the same anti-Israel litany?

Continue reading ‘Today: UN set to adopt same nine anti-Israel resolutions interpreter called “a bit much”’

Lawyers and rights activists question Schabas’ tenure on UN Gaza probe

A sample of the lawyers and human rights activist who have questioned the tenure of William Schabas as chair of the UN commission of inquiry on Gaza, in light of his prior prejudicial statements.


Swiss president tells UN Watch: no action on North Korean bank accounts

GENEVA – As reported by the Wall Street Journal, UN Watch has received a letter from the president of Switzerland, responding to the group’s call to freeze Swiss bank accounts held by North Korean regime figures,  indicating the government will not take any action unless “new developments take place at the Security Council.”

The initial UN Watch letter, signed by 20 North Korean defectors, emphasized that “Switzerland has no legal or moral reason to wait before proceeding with these vital targeted sanctions. ”

—————-

Letter from Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, dated 29 October 2014 — Click for PDF

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your open letter signed by 20 North Korean defectors of September, 19, 2014 regarding the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in particular regarding your request to Switzerland to immediately freeze all assets of the North Korean leadership within its territory.

As you know, the universal protection and promotion of human rights are a top priority of Swiss foreign policy provided for by the Federal Constitution. Hence, human rights issues are incorporated into its overall foreign policy and are regularly addressed at governmental level and in multilateral forums.

The serious and systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity that are being committed on a large scale in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — as established by the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in its detailed, well-documented and comprehensive findings — are a source of grave concern to Switzerland. As stated in the open letter, these serious violations of human rights need to be treated with the greatest urgency. Therefore, Switzerland supports in particular the Commission’s recommendation to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court.

The situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea already led Switzerland to take action, including legal steps. On 25 October 2006, the Confederation enacted a range of coercive measures in order to implement sanctions that had been ordered by the United Nations Security Council: the Ordinance instituting Measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea entails a list of 12 individuals and 20 organisations that are subject to such coercive measures, including a freeze of their assets. Regarding coercive measures, resolute and concerted action at the United Nations are key to improve the situation and Switzerland stands ready to adapt its own legal measures should new developments take place at the Security Council.

Switzerland will also continue to express its grave concern related to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea within the framework of its bilateral relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, such as during the political dialogue which will take place in November 2014, and will continue to be actively engaged regarding efforts in the UN General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council to improve the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Yours sincerely,

Didier Burkhalter

Continue reading ‘Swiss president tells UN Watch: no action on North Korean bank accounts’

Georgetown prof: UNHRC ‘killed my candidacy’ as Palestine investigator for not being ‘partial’ like William Schabas

Cerna

Georgetown University law professor Christina Cerna said the U.N.’s highest human rights body “killed” her candidacy as its expert on Palestine — despite her selection by a 5-member vetting committee — on account of her not being partial like William Schabas, whom the 47-nation council chose to chair its commission of inquiry on Gaza.

“I was selected as the consensus candidate of the Consultative Committee for the post of UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories earlier this year,” Cerna wrote in a comment on the blog of the European Journal of International Law, “but the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States both officially opposed me, which killed my candidacy.”

“They opposed me… because I had never said anything pro-Palestinian and consequently was not known to be ‘partial’ enough to win their support. The candidate that they officially supported was considered to be partial in their favor.”

“No other special procedures mandate is similarly biased,” wrote Cerna, who is the principal human rights specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“In my view Israel has a unique status in the UN Human Rights Council. “Impartiality is not a requirement sought by the Council for the appointment of experts when it comes to Israel.”

Significantly, the former top candidate to be the UNHRC’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Palestine stated that William Schabas was chosen to head the Gaza inquiry precisely because of his prior prejudicial statements”

“I don’t think Bill Schabas could have been selected to lead the “independent” inquiry if he hadn’t made the comments he had made about Netanyahu.

Cerna now joins numerous other legal scholars and human rights activists who believe Schabas’ tenure is inconsistent with the impartiality principle.

Top international law professor blasts U.N.’s Schabas for “self-evident” appearance of bias

Schabas-330x390In September, a UN Watch delegation met in person with William Schabas, together with the other two members of his U.N. commission of inquiry on Gaza, and asked him to step down on account of his numerous prejudicial statements and actions that have created the appearance of bias.

Schabas insisted, however, that he had consulted with a “broad range of people” who confirmed his objectivity and impartiality.

Yet it is unclear who these people are, because several of the world’s leading international lawyers and human rights activists around the world have called for him to step down.

The latest towering scholar to state the obvious is Joseph Weiler, President of the European University Institute in Florence, the European Union Jean Monnet Chair at New York University School of Law, and Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law. Continue reading ‘Top international law professor blasts U.N.’s Schabas for “self-evident” appearance of bias’

What turned Ken Roth into a Swiss reporter

KenRoth

With a little help from his 275 staff members, Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth voices moral outrage on his Twitter feed once every hour, 24 times a day, seven days a week.

Yet when a Hamas terrorist today rammed his car into a crowd of Israelis in Jerusalem, and then got out to attack them further with an iron bar, Ken Roth’s voice suddenly turned into that of a neutral Swiss reporter. Continue reading ‘What turned Ken Roth into a Swiss reporter’

Iran blames Western “media blitz” for execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari

larijani

Iran’s representative just told the UN Human Rights Council that the West and its “media blitz” and “propaganda” is the real one to blame for its execution on Saturday of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, chief of human rights in Iran’s government, said:

One issue was about a  recent execution. Let me explain. Reyhaneh Jabbari had numerous judges, numerous lawyers. The lawyers defended her. Court came back with an indictment that it was first degree murder with intention, with capital punishment.

It is considered Qesas, the right of the victim. The judiciary not in position to execute. We tried and lobbied a lot to solicit forgiveness from relatives of victims. We unfortunately were not able. One reason was because of huge propaganda created in this case. In my last meeting with sons, I urged him to “let not even others also not lose a beloved one; forgive.”

He replied: “We had the intention to forgive, but because of the media blitz — they accused our father of forced rape — we cannot deal with this humiliation.”

So this execution went ahead. We’re very sorry that two nationals lost their life. Western countries should look into it. This idea of  “the West and the rest, only the west has good things,” this is wrong. Please accept the idea that others have a good way of life. Westrn lifestyle isn’t only way of doing things.

Christian priest to UN: “Israel only Mideast country not persecuting Christians”

Mr. President, I am speaking to you on behalf of UN Watch.

Standing before you is Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian citizen from Nazareth, the city in which Christ was raised and where he proselytized.

Dear Sirs, while I stand before you today, the earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily.

Do you know that at the start of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20% of the population of the Middle East? Continue reading ‘Christian priest to UN: “Israel only Mideast country not persecuting Christians”’

Norway speaks out against dictators controlling UN

Last week, at the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum, the annual meeting of human rights and democracy activists from around the world, Bård Glad Pedersen, Norway’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had very strong words in support of human rights defenders and against dictatorships. He pointed out how autocratic regimes coordinate at the UN to undermine human rights, something that also hurts confidence in the UN, as he said.

Below is this rare excerpt coming from a European democracy, admitting the sad reality of the UN Human Rights Council which UN Watch consistently fights to expose.

 

We need to defend those who bravely stand up to protect human rights. We must show that the world is watching. We advocate the importance of protection of human rights defenders in the UN. We support the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. We support individuals, organizations and networks that are promoting human rights for all. We support security training and capacity building but I think we can do more and we must do more.

The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place today. However, the gap between commitment on one hand and reality on the ground on the other hand is unacceptable. I think it is important that we recognize that the international system to promote and protect human rights is not equipped to address all these challenges fully and adequately.

In the UN, states with bad human rights records are actively working to undermine human rights and they are building alliances among themselves. This threatens human rights and also confidence in the UN. The answer is not to cave in, the answer is to respond forcefully. I believe it is even more important that we, we who believe in human rights, are active, committed and visible within the system and that we actively advocate the right of civil society to be heard in these forums. To promote human rights, we must work multilaterally in the UN and must work to strengthen the system. We must work regionally through the Council of Europe and support similar institutions in other regions of the world. We must work bilaterally, address issues, share concerns and build alliances across geographies.

The most rewarding and perhaps important part of my job is to meet human rights defenders. Sometimes part of the importance is that it is visible for totalitarian regimes that we meet. Other times, I am asked not to talk about the meetings because it would increase risks for the brave people who share their stories. The meetings are valuable because it gives insight and inspiration to continue also our efforts. Your strong voices and bravery makes a powerful impression.

UN reviews Israel’s human right record

Many contentious issues were raised regarding Israel’s human rights record on October 20, as the UN Human Rights Committee considered Israel’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In presenting the report, the Israeli delegation noted that despite constant security challenges, Israel had taken significant steps in the implementation of the Covenant. Operation “Protective Edge” was further acknowledged with mention of Hamas’s actions necessitating a military response. Nevertheless, “Israel remained committed to the realization of a peaceful future and was willing to make painful compromises to see the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state living side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel,” said Eviator Manor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

Further, the promotion of Israeli civil and political rights were examined with emphasis placed on initiatives aimed to advance the Arab population living within Israel. These included the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs initiative to enhance cooperation between State authorities, scholars and civil society organizations in the reporting process and in the implementation of human rights conventions; in conjunction with the establishment of a joint inter-ministerial team which primarily functions to review the concluding observations of the human rights committees.

Continue reading ‘UN reviews Israel’s human right record’

UN Watch condemns EU majority for backing Venezuela’s Security Council bid

Neuer: “Like making a pyromaniac into the fire chief”

venezuela unsc

U.N. representatives for Venezuela, including Foreign Minister
Rafael Ramirez, right, celebrate after being elected to a two year
term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

GENEVA, October 16, 2014 – Despite Venezuela’s record of human rights abuses against judges, students and peaceful protesters, and its backing of Syria’s Assad regime, a majority of EU member states today were among the 181 states that voted Venezuela onto the UN Security Council, drawing the ire of human rights activists.

“It’s an outrage that at least 16 of 28 EU states today empowered and legitimized a repressive government that openly sides with the murderous Syrian regime,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, an independent human rights group which recently brought Venezuelan human rights victims to testify before the world body.

“Electing Venezuela to the UN Security Council is like making a pyromaniac into the fire chief,” said Neuer. Continue reading ‘UN Watch condemns EU majority for backing Venezuela’s Security Council bid’

Arab states outraged as EU walks out on anti-Israel UN debate

In an important development, the European Union has stopped participating in the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda item against Israel. This has the Arab and Islamic states up in arms. Below from the recent debate on September 23, 2014, under Agenda Item 7, “The Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

The State of Palestine expressed its disappointment at Israel’s decision not to participate in this agenda item of the Council. The occupation and numerous human rights violations by Israel for the last 47 years made Israel the world’s biggest violator of human rights.

United Arab Emirates for the Arab Group expressed extreme discontent about the European Union’s decision to boycott this agenda item.

Iran for the Non-Aligned Movement condemned in the strongest terms the violations of human rights as a result of Israel’s military aggression against Palestine. The Non-Aligned Movement was deeply disappointed by the decision of certain s Continue reading ‘Arab states outraged as EU walks out on anti-Israel UN debate’

Resolutions and Voting Results of 27th HRC Session

Condemnatory Country-Specific Resolutions

The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/27/L.5/Rev.1)
Sponsors: France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK, USA
Vote result: 32 in favor, 5 against (China, Cuba, Russia), 10 abstentions

Non-Condemnatory Country-Specific Resolutions

Technical assistance and capacity building to further improve human rights in the Sudan (A/HRC/27/L.30/Rev.1)
Sponsors: Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights (A/HRC/27/L.9/Rev.1)
Sponsors: Netherlands, Yemen
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Assistance technique et renforcement des capacités en matière des droits de l’homme en République démocratique du Congo (A/HRC/27/L.32)
Sponsors: Ethiopia on behalf of the African group
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Continue reading ‘Resolutions and Voting Results of 27th HRC Session’

Exclusive: Schabas’ own colleague, human rights icon Aryeh Neier, calls for him to quit UN Gaza probe due to prior statements

GENEVA, September 30 – A top figure in the human rights world has called for William Schabas to “recuse himself” from the new UN probe on Gaza, undermining Schabas’ claim that the only people who believe he should go are critics of the UN.

The statement was made last week by Aryeh Neier, founding director of Human Rights Watch, former head of the ACLU, and President Emeritus of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and revealed today in a Wall Street Journal interview with UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

In a lecture at the SciencesPo Paris School of International Affairs, where Neier teaches together with Schabas, the former said that commissions of inquiry are one of the few good things to come out of the UN Human Rights Council.

Turning to Schabas, Neier called him a well known and leading scholar. However, given Schabas’ statement on bringing Netanyahu to ICC, Neier said that “Schabas should recuse himself.”

Neier said that “any judge who had previously called for the indictment of the defendant would recuse himself.”

Schabas’ appointment gives Israel a perfect excuse to denounce the UN commission of inquiry, said Neier. “Why make it so easy for Israel to do so?” he asked.

Neier went on to say that the sheer quantity of resolutions against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council gives Israel the ability to cast the HRC as “anti-Israel” and therefore to “justify its own rejections of the HRC.”

The revelation comes one day after a similar call by Mordechai Kremnitzer, a top Israeli legal scholar who serves on the Public Council of the human rights group B’Tselem.

“The damage to the inquiry is redoubled when its chair has already declared his desire to see the prime minister of Israel in the dock at the International Court of Justice,” wrote Kremnitzer in an op-ed. “He cannot be perceived as an unbiased investigator.”

UN airbrushes Clooney’s wife out of its history books

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The United Nations has airbrushed George Clooney’s wife out of its history books, as a new report by the world body eliminates all mention of its ill-fated appointment of Ms. Amal Alamuddin last month as a member of its commission of inquiry on the Gaza conflict.

The U.N.’s August 11th announcement that the Hollywood star’s then-fiancee would serve on the probe made world headlines. Only hours later, however — possibly due to the immediate controversy that erupted over the the inquiry’s chair, William Schabas — Alamuddin abruptly withdrew.

UN Watch was the first to question the impartiality of Schabas due to his many prior statements calling to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged war crimes.

Alamuddin’s withdrawal was a significant embarrassment for the UN, which quickly replaced her with another woman, as the Palestinian ambassador said would happen.

In a new UN report summarizing the history of the probe, Alamuddin’s appointment and withdrawal are completely absent:

On 11 and 25 August 2014, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed William Schabas (Canada) as Chair, Doudou Diène (Senegal) and Mary McGowan Davis (United States of America) to serve as members on the Commission of Inquiry.

Video: UN Watch calls out false praise for Qatar’s rights record by China, Iran, Turkey

When the UN Human Rights Council presented a report that was 90 percent full of false praise for Qatar’s human rights record — from the likes of China, Iran and Turkey — UN Watch took the floor and called them out. UN Watch articulated objections from Qatar’s migrant workers, women, and other victims, yet the chair said “I see no objection,” and adopted the report.

True story: Palestinian UN rep criticized states for criticizing Israel

An extraordinary event took place at the Human Rights Council on September 16, when the Palestinian representative took the floor to attack countries for attacking Israel.

The incident took place while the HRC was discussing human rights situations around the world, under Agenda Item 4.

What angered the Palestinians is that European and other Western countries — such as Denmark, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan — decided to raise their criticisms of Israel under the normal agenda item for criticizing countries, rather than under Agenda Item 7, which is the council’s special agenda item targeting Israel, entitled  “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

Israel is the only country singled out by a special agenda item. Not even Syria, Sudan or North Korea have their own agenda item. Under that biased framework, Israel is attacked by venomous accusations, and targeted under more than half of the HRC’s country resolutions. Even UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the institution of this agenda item.

In the past year, the EU has refused to take the floor under Agenda Item 7, denying it legitimacy. Instead, they speak about Israel, when they feel the need, under Item 4. Gradually, Item 7 threatens to become a dead letter.

This triggered an angry response from the Palestinian representative who criticized these democracies — and also challenged Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorism. Of course, the Palestinians did not object to Iran criticizing Israel under item 4, or other authoritarian countries who are willing to do so at every opportunity.

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UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices

Press Release from Flaherty Law Group in Geneva:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 21 SEPTEMBER 2014

UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices

On 19 September 2014, the World Intellectual Property Agency (WIPO) fired Mr Moncef Kateb, president of the WIPO Staff Association, the accredited trade union of the UN specialized agency’s staff, in retaliation for his defense of staff and continued opposition to alleged misconduct by the WIPO Director General and his administration. Continue reading ‘UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices’

UNHRC on Qatar: “I see no objection”

Testimony by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer at UN Human Rights Council adoption of its report on Qatar’s human rights record, September 19, 2014

Thank you, Mr. President.

Today we ask: Does the cause of human rights support — or object — to the adoption of today’s UN Human Rights Council report on Qatar’s human rights record?

Let me read from the report:

  • “China appreciated the efforts expended by Qatar to promote and protect human rights”
  • “Bangladesh praised Qatar for the progress made in empowering women”
  • “Iran commended Qatar on its integrated social development, and for improving the situation of women”
  • “Sudan applauded the steps taken by Qatar”
  • “Turkey commended the progress achieved by Qatar in human rights”

Mr. President,

No less than 78 out of the 84 country statements in this report offer praise for the human rights record of Qatar. That’s over 90 percent.

Yet the truth, Mr. President, is the opposite.

Let us be clear:

The truth is that the 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar object to this report because they are dying at the rate of one a day from inhuman conditions. At the current pace, more than 4,000 migrant workers will die to build the infrastructure for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup.

The truth is that the women of Qatar object to this report because they are denied basic rights to equality, for example denied the right to be elected to the Shura legislative council.

The truth is that journalists and aid workers who are abducted by the ISIS terrorist group and face beheading object to this report. In the words of Germany’s development aid minister, Gerd Mueller, from August 20th: “Who is financing these troops? Hint: Qatar.”

The truth is that the Palestinians, Israelis and other victims of Hamas war crimes — their exploitation and targeting of civilian populations, mosques, hospitals and schools — object to this report. As one Arab diplomat said to the FDD, as quoted in its testimony before the U.S. Congress, “Qatar finances Hamas strongly.”

Mr. President,

For all of these reasons, let me be clear: the victims of human rights abuse around the world object to the adoption of this report.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[…]

President of UNHRC Session: May I now propose that the Council adopt the decision of the UPR on Qatar as appears on screen. I see no objection. The decision is adopted.

Today: As UN debates North Korean human rights, 20 famous survivors of atrocities urge Switzerland to freeze regime bank accounts

GENEVA, September 19, 2014 – When the UN rights council this morning debates North Korea’s record, a human rights NGO will take the floor to present an open letter sent today by 20 North Korean defectors to Swiss president Didier Burkhalter calling to freeze the regime’s bank accounts held in the country.

“The international community must show that it truly cares for the suffering people of North Korea with deeds—not just words,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that will present the letter in an intervention during today’s Universal Periodic Review debate on North Korea.

“As a Swiss NGO, we begin by asking our own country to show moral leadership. To its credit, Switzerland sponsored the UNHRC resolution that created an excellent commission of inquiry, and the UNHRC resolution that specifically called for ‘effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.'” Continue reading ‘Today: As UN debates North Korean human rights, 20 famous survivors of atrocities urge Switzerland to freeze regime bank accounts’

“I was tortured by Russian-sponsored militants,” Ukrainian woman tells UN

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Irina Dovgan, a Ukrainian woman who recently made international headlines after she was publicly abused by Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine, testified today before the UN Human Rights Council.

Invited by UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group accredited with the United Nations, Ms. Dovgan testified before the world forum about the arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture and public humiliation she suffered.

She discussed the situation of human rights in eastern Ukraine, one week before the council will hear a new report and debate the subject.

Continue reading ‘“I was tortured by Russian-sponsored militants,” Ukrainian woman tells UN’

Russia blames Ukraine, West for the conflict

Russia organized an event at the UN to blame Ukraine and the West for the ongoing conflict.

On September 9, in the midst of the 27th session of Human Rights Council, the Russian UN Mission, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, and the Russian Peace Foundation held a parallel meeting on the conflict in Ukraine. This meeting specifically focused on the human rights dimension.

The meeting opened with strong patriotic sentiments from the Russian panelists. Regarding the Ukrainian refugees in Russia, Anatoly Salutsky, from the Russian Peace Foundation who moderated the panel, said he was happy to see them “coming home, which is completely understandable.” He was followed by Andrey Nikiforov, a Russian diplomat. Nikiforov focused on the peaceful measures the Russians are taking to alleviate the situation in Ukraine. He first drew attention to the deteriorating conditions of social infrastructure in the conflict zone, arguing that “humanitarian supplies from Russia have eased the situation but not enough to deal with the crisis.” He added, “the recently proposed peace plan supported by President Putin contains 7 points that will make it possible to resolve the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. In this context, it is paramount to follow the conclusion of Geneva declaration, including the language rights of the Russian-speaking minority. We continue to call upon Kiev to follow up with their end of the deal.”

Continue reading ‘Russia blames Ukraine, West for the conflict’

When William Schabas was convicted in 1974, he tried to disqualify the judges for bias

Although William Schabas has mocked calls by eminent jurists for him to step down from the UN’s Gaza inquiry on account of bias — refusing to provide any legal response, instead telling an Arab newspaper that “even if Spider-Man were appointed to head the commission they would attack him — when he himself was once in the dock, Schabas tried to evade conviction by accusing all members of the tribunal with bias.

In 1974, when Schabas was a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Toronto, and a leader in the radical SDS group, he was charged and convicted with violating human rights and freedoms by physically obstructing a visiting Harvard professor from speaking on campus.

Schabas was found guilty on four charges and suspended from the university for four years, later reduced to two.

Interviewed about the episode in 2003, Schabas was “unrepentant about the incident,” reported Toronto Star literary critic Philip Marchand (“Monsters deserve to have their say, too,” Toronto Star, Feb. 1, 2003.)

“Human rights takes the view that speech that promotes hate should be prohibited by law,” said Schabas. “My view hasn’t changed one iota on that.”

Schabas’ actions marked a turning point in Canadian academic culture, according to Marchand, setting a negative precedent for “political correctness and ideological bullying,” and putting an end to “a genuinely adventurous spirit on university campuses.” The episode paved the way to “a pervasive culture of belligerent complaint allied to whining self-righteousness.”

Continue reading ‘When William Schabas was convicted in 1974, he tried to disqualify the judges for bias’