PLO’s Draft UN Resolution on Gaza Inquiry is All About the ICC

-Acting via the Islamic group, the Palestinians have just submitted a draft resolution this evening that would have the UN Human Rights Council call on all countries to implement the recommendations of the Gaza inquiry, which effectively means to pursue the investigation and prosecution of Israel’s political and military leaders for “possible” war crimes.

The text, officially sponsored by the 57-strong Organization of Islamic Cooperation chaired by Pakistan, will win an automatic majority from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and other members of the 47-nation council when it it put to a vote on Thursday or Friday this week. The U.S. will vote No, while the Europeans are likely to either vote Yes or abstain. Continue reading ‘PLO’s Draft UN Resolution on Gaza Inquiry is All About the ICC’

Wife of Jailed Venezuelan Opposition Leader Addresses U.N.

Testimony of Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuelan opposition leader and prisoner of conscience Leopoldo Lopez, before UN Human Rights Council, 30 June 2015.

Thank you, Mr. President.

My name is Lilian Tintori and I am Venezuelan. I have the honor to make this declaration on behalf of UN Watch.

IMAG1584Article 2 of the Durban Declaration prohibits all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on political or other opinions.

I am here for all the names I have on my chest and my back. They are tortured, persecuted and killed. My husband Leopoldo Lopez, opposition leader in Venezuela, unjustly in jail, is only one of many cases. I speak in his name and in the name of all those silenced, like Geraldine Moreno, assassinated in close range, and Jose Manuel Carrasco, raped with a weapon in his anus, both by state security forces.

My husband Leopoldo is in jail for speaking out against the human rights violations that occur in our country, the right to life is violated every 20 minutes, homicides last year were above 25,000, inflation, medicine and food scarcity is more that 72%. Leopoldo has been in jail for 16 month, 9 of which in solitary confinement, with inhuman treatment and torture. In 2014, there were more than 3700 arbitrary detentions. I am here as a wife, as a mother that is raising her two children alone.

Continue reading ‘Wife of Jailed Venezuelan Opposition Leader Addresses U.N.’

Legal Expert: UN’s Gaza report “not based on credible military operational expertise”

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Lt. Col. Corn, law professor & former senior law of war adviser for U.S. army, addresses UN Human Rights Council on the report of the Gaza inquiry. Geneva, June 29, 2015.

Thank you, Mr. President. I am Geoffrey Corn, a Professor of Law and the U.S. Army’s former senior expert on the Law of Armed Conflict. I advised an independent JINSA-commissioned Task Force on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

I commend the Report’s recognition that all parties to armed conflict must implement and respect the Law of Armed Conflict. While objective critiques of military operations can contribute substantially to the understanding, implementation, and evolution of theLaw of Armed Conflict, findings and recommendations must derive from credible information, legal interpretation, and operational expertise. Otherwise, any critique risks distorting the essential balance between mitigating the suffering of armed conflict and the dictates of military necessity – one that has defined the law since its inception. Continue reading ‘Legal Expert: UN’s Gaza report “not based on credible military operational expertise”’

U.S. General Blasts Gaza Report in UNHRC Testimony

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 12.08.37 AMMajor-General Michael D. Jones, former Chief of Staff, U.S. Central Command, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of UN Watch, in the debate on the Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. Geneva, June 29, 2015.

Mr. President,

My name is Mike Jones, a retired U.S. Army general officer who, with four other retired U.S. generals, conducted a JINSA-sponsored, but independent, study of the 2014 Gaza conflict. We conducted research, and interviewed Israeli, UN, and Palestinian Authority officials. Our focus was what the U.S. should learn from the conflict, but our report is relevant to the Council.

I am pleased your report acknowledged that all combatants are required to abide by the law, and that Hamas’ and other groups’ indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel was unlawful.

However, it is disappointing that the report fails to condemn these groups for unlawfully failing to distinguish themselves as combatants, as well as purposefully co-locating amongst civilians, knowingly placing them at risk, with absolutely no military necessity to do so.

I am also disappointed that the report, while acknowledging that lawful targeting is a balance between the military necessity and the known risk to civilians, came to conclusions without sufficient information to make a judgment. Specifically, they condemn the IDF for engagements without any information on the IDF’s objectives, military necessity, or known information on risk. Continue reading ‘U.S. General Blasts Gaza Report in UNHRC Testimony’

Col. Kemp tells UNHRC it’s become “tool of Hamas’ murderous strategy”

Address of Colonel Richard Kemp to the United Nations Human Rights Council, debate on report of the Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict, Geneva, 29 June 2015.

Mr. President, I fought in combat zones around the world during 30 years’ service in the British Army. I was present as an observer throughout the conflict in Gaza.

Mr.  President, during the 2014 Gaza conflict, Hamas, to its eternal shame, did more to deliberately and systematically inflict death, suffering and destruction on its own civilian population, including its children, than any other terrorist group in history. Continue reading ‘Col. Kemp tells UNHRC it’s become “tool of Hamas’ murderous strategy”’

UN: “No comment” on Saudi cash-for-HRC-seat scandal

The UN won’t comment on the scandal, revealed by UN Watch, that Saudi Arabia used money and UN votes to buy itself a seat on the UN Human Rights Council:

UN Watch’s blog post on Saudi Arabia’s secret quid pro quo deals with Russia and other states is here.

Leaked cables: Saudi Arabia & Russia traded votes for UNHRC seats

Saudi Putin

By Hillel Neuer

Now in its 29th session, we are asked by many to believe that the UN Human Rights Council is a serious, effective and credible body.

Leaked Saudi cables, however, document what we knew all along: that despite the UNHRC’s official membership criteria —  “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto” — dictatorships strike backroom deals to elect each other onto the 47-nation body, in Kofi Annan’s words, “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.”

Amid the trove of Saudi diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks are at least a dozen that explain how the Saudis bought their seat with money, and by bartering their UN votes. Continue reading ‘Leaked cables: Saudi Arabia & Russia traded votes for UNHRC seats’

In Defense of Naming and Shaming: High Commissioner Zeid

Zeid_Hussein

I am often told in this chamber, in our debates, that I should not be “naming and shaming” member states. Somehow the naming is, or has become, the very shame itself. This is a disfigurement of the truth, which we must now reset.

The shame comes not from the naming: it comes from the actions themselves, the conduct or violations, alleged with supporting evidence or proven. The greatest factory of shame is the blanket denial of human rights. The denial of the right to life shames unreservedly. Killing on a massive scale, shames stunningly, and inexhaustibly. The denial of the right to development also shames. The denial of human dignity shames. Torture shames. Arbitrary arrests shame. Rape shames.

We name; the shame of States, where it exists, has already been self-inflicted. The loss of face for the affected countries has come well before OHCHR raises its independent voice. We say what we believe to be the truth, on behalf of victims. We have no monopoly over truth, but we believe our contentions can be supported by fact.

— UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, statement to UNHRC, June 15, 2015

Hillel Neuer tells UN: “Why did you reward Iran & Saudi Arabia with top posts?”

Testimony today by UN Watch Executive Director before the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Thank you, Mr. President. The High Commissioner spoke of the need to end impunity. Yet what we are witnessing here at the United Nations is this: Countries that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights are not only given immunity, but they are actually rewarded with high positions.

When member states are silent, the High Commissioner must lead. We urge him to consider, and we ask:

Why is it that Saudi Arabia, which subjugates women, which just expelled a student from university because she lowered her veil on a female-only schoolbus, is rewarded by the UN with a seat on this Human Rights Council? Continue reading ‘Hillel Neuer tells UN: “Why did you reward Iran & Saudi Arabia with top posts?”’

“Israel’s war was just,” reports Australian general after mission on Gaza conflict

Israel showed care in a just Gaza war

The Australian, June 1o, 2015

By Major-General Jim Molan (Ret.)

molan jimWe sat in the Israeli kibbutz 800m from the closest Gaza Strip buildings. Four Israeli women told ­stories of life during Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day conflict last year between Israel and Hamas, of the rain of rockets and mortars, 15 seconds’ warning, days in shelters and of a four-year-old child killed by shrapnel.

The rockets impacted on every aspect of life but the effect of finding one of the many sophisticated tunnels dug over several years at the very door step of the kibbutz for Hamas fighters to kill civilians more precisely and personally was an even greater shock. Continue reading ‘“Israel’s war was just,” reports Australian general after mission on Gaza conflict’

Key Preliminary Findings of the High Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict

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Key preliminary findings on the 2014 Gaza Conflict by a high level international military group as submitted to the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, which is expected to issue its report next week. 

PDF of Report & Cover Letter to UNHRC

______

HIGH LEVEL INTERNATIONAL MILITARY GROUP
THE GAZA CONFLICT IN 2014

From 18th – 22nd May 2015, the High Level International Military Group, made up of 11 former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia visited Israel for a fact-finding mission on the 2014 Gaza conflict. We were led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the most senior officer in the Alliance, and Giulio Terzi, former Foreign Minister of Italy. Also in the group were Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, formerly US State Department Ambassador at Large for war crimes issues; and Mr Rafael Bardaji, former National Security Adviser to the Government of Spain.

This was part of a longer term project by our group, whose principal concern is how civilian lives can be protected and military forces can fight effectively when operations must be conducted in a densely packed civilian area. We will be producing a full report this autumn.

Continue reading ‘Key Preliminary Findings of the High Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict’

UN Racism Expert Condemns Antisemitism – But It Is Not Enough

In his regular report (A/HRC/29/46) to the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism, the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, focuses on the issue of racial profiling, which in his view affects primarily people of African descent and Middle Eastern origin. However, in his second report (A/HRC/29/47) that will be presented to the same HRC session, the Special Rapporteur addresses the issue of the resurgence of neo-Nazi ideologies.

Muslim and Jews, as well as the Roma communities are the minority groups suffering the most from stigmatization and violence in their respective countries, as pointed out by the Special Rapporteur. Political leaders have used the constant stigmatization of certain “vulnerable groups,” especially during austerity periods to justify “high unemployment rates, cuts in social benefits and increasing poverty.”

Continue reading ‘UN Racism Expert Condemns Antisemitism – But It Is Not Enough’

Beheadline goes viral

Saudi executioner sword

Was the alleged typo in our viral headline “Saudi Lose Bid to Behead of UN Human Rights Council” intentional, or not?

Autocorrect will do just the darnedest things when the word “Saudi” is in context?

One thing is sure: the faux typo caught the attention of the world’s leading news agencies, whose reporters posted it all over Twitter — turning a global spotlight on Saudi Arabia’s shockingly cruel system of gross and systematic human rights abuses.

The buzz sparked a feature debate on Twitchy.com, which concluded: “Amazing UN Watch ‘typo’ regarding Saudi Arabia ‘has to be on purpose’.”

Here’s Henry Tricks, regional bureau chief in Mexico City of The Economist: Continue reading ‘Beheadline goes viral’

“Saudi Arabia Withdraws Its Alarming Candidacy,” reports Tribune de Genève

Pressure caused Saudi representative to backtracked, yet tensions remain

Translated from Tribune de Genève, June 8, 2015

By Alain Jourdan

Facing with an outcry over its candidacy, Saudi Arabia finally renounced its bid for the presidency of the Human Rights Council. Riyadh asked its representative to the UN in Geneva, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, to shelve his ambitions. The diplomat, who took up his post in 2014, had been campaigning for several weeks in the Asia group to become its candidate and secure his tenure as head of the Human Rights Council when the presidency rotates in 2016.

Despite this decision, the “puzzle” remains unsolved, commented a European diplomat. Finding someone to succeed the German Joachim Ruecker in the Asia group promises to be complicated to say the least. The position of president has great symbolic value. The effect would be disastrous for the Council if a representative were appointed from a country that is clearly at odds with the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Continue reading ‘“Saudi Arabia Withdraws Its Alarming Candidacy,” reports Tribune de Genève’

No Joke: Venezuela wins UN award for combating hunger as its people scrounge for food

FAO Venezuela

June 9, 2015 - As Venezuela’s citizens scrounge for food, with hundreds desperately waiting in long lines only to reach empty store shelves, the Maduro government was recognized yesterday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for “meeting the UN millennium goal of halving malnutrition,” according to Venezuelan news reports.

“This is simply absurd and immoral, and a betrayal of the UN’s own values,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “Venezuelan media is now trumpeting the UN recognition as propaganda to legitimize a regime that is responsible for causing a desperate food situation for millions of their own people.” Continue reading ‘No Joke: Venezuela wins UN award for combating hunger as its people scrounge for food’

Saudis Lose Bid to Behead of the UN Human Rights Council

Saudi executioner swordBREAKING NEWS

GENEVA, June 4, 2015 - First, the good news: following UN Watch’s forceful protest campaign, covered in newspapers worldwide, Swiss TV is now reporting that Saudi Arabia has failed in its bid to be head of the UN Human Rights Council next year.

“Before we break out the champagne,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group, “the truth is that the presidency is mostly symbolic, yet the Saudi monarchy — a regime that is beheading more people than ever before — retains their power as a full voting member of the council.”

“The real question is why the U.S. or the EU refused to utter even one word of protest when we urged them, together with Saudi dissidents, to oppose the monarchy’s election in 2013? It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles.”

 

Now, the bad news: The UNHRC today legitimized the Islamic fundamentalist regime by allowing it to play host to a “religious freedom” conference in Jeddah, a short stroll away from where they lashed blogger Raif Badawi for “insulting Islam.”

Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, is outraged.

UN Watch has the full story on today’s Jeddah farce here.

 

 

 

 

 

Farce: Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom

UNHRC president Ruecker on right


UN Human Rights Council President (right) in Jeddah addressed
a Saudi-hosted conference on religious freedom

GENEVA, June 4, 2015 –  Despite its reputation as one the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, Saudi Arabia is now hosting in Jeddah a UN human rights conference on combating intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council and other top international representatives.

“It’s time for the politics of oil to stop trumping the basic principles of human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group.

“It’s bad enough that the oppressive and fundamentalist Saudi monarchy was elected to sit on the UN Human Rights Council. But for top UN human rights officials to now visit Jeddah and smile while human rights activist Raif Badawi languishes in prison for the crime of religious dissent, still under threat of further flogging, is to pour salt in the wounds. It’s astonishing.” Continue reading ‘Farce: Saudi Arabia Hosting UN Human Rights Conference on Religious Freedom’

Venezuelan political prisoner in critical state

Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristobal, is about to die. He has been on hunger strike since May 22 along with Leopoldo López, Venezuelan political leader and another six political prisioners. Their demand is to fix a date for parliamentary elections–due to take place this year–allow for international election observers, and free all political prisoners.
Ceballos was detained in March 2014 under allegations of conspiracy and other charges related to student demonstrations in his city last year.
To date, the government has taken no steps to attend to any of these demands, and family members fear he will soon die as his kidneys are shutting down and has face and hands paralysis. We call upon the government of Venezuela to release all political prisoners without delay and open the way for free and democratic elections.
Below the OHCHR spokesman release on this matter:

Continue reading ‘Venezuelan political prisoner in critical state’

Erdogan’s Turkey Deports Palestinians to War-Torn Syria

Erdogan angry

Based on report by Action Group for Palestinians of Syria

May 30, 2015 – Unprecedented: Turkish authorities deported nine Palestinian Syrian refugees to the north of Syria, who were arrested while trying to reach Greece.

According to one of the deportees, they had been arrested in the Turkish city of Izmir, where they were harassed by the security men. They were then deported by bus to a border camp, as they were told.

Suddenly, however, at the border the soldiers transferred them outside of the Turkish border, telling them they were forbidden from entering Turkish territory for a year.

The refugees stressed that the Turkish authorities did not give them any official document confirming the reason for deportation.

For their part, activists saw that this move constitutes a great threat to the lives of refugees owning to the acts of bombing and clashes in northern Syria, and noted this violated international law prohibiting the return of refugees to areas of conflict from which they fled.

UN Watch to Appeal to 54-Nation Body to Overturn NGO Status for Hamas Front

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Above: Antisemitic image posted on Facebook by Majed Al-Zeer,
Director-General of the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre

GENEVA, June 2, 2015 – UN Watch announced that it will contest yesterday’s “incomprehensible” decision by a UN committee to recommend NGO status for a group intimately linked to the Hamas terrorist organization, by appealing for it to be overturned by the 54-nation ECOSOC when it meets in July to consider the application.

At UN headquarters in New York yesterday, the 19-nation Committee on NGOs yesterday voted in favor of the application by the Palestinian Return Centre, a Hamas affiliate in Europe, by a vote of 12 to 3.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Canada, Israel, Japan, and the United States, and, its armed wing is designated a terrorist organization by Australia and the United Kingdom.

Continue reading ‘UN Watch to Appeal to 54-Nation Body to Overturn NGO Status for Hamas Front’

Bill Clinton addressing UN body on same day it’s set to accredit Hamas front group

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GENEVA, May 28, 2015 – Former U.S. president Bill Clinton is today addressing ECOSOC, a top 54-nation UN body, on the same day that its Committee on NGOs is set to grant official UN status to a Hamas front group.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer urged Mr. Clinton to speak out against the application by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which has documented ties with a U.S.-designated terrorist entity. See full details in today’s UN Watch press release on the PRC.

Neuer also called on Mr. Clinton to condemn ECOSOC for “absurdly electing misognystic Iran last month to the Executive Board of UN Women.”

In addition, Neuer called on Clinton “to condemn ECOSOC for stacking its UN committee that oversees human rights groups with non-democracies including Iran, Sudan, China, Cuba, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela.”

“These are the regimes that will today decide whether to grant coveted ECOSOC status to a front group of the Hamas terrorist organization. Mr. Clinton cannot allow himself to be seen as legitimizing the pernicious and anti-democratic actions of ECOSOC.”

 

UN status for antisemitic Hamas front group to be decided today

filastin-gaza-21-3-2014 cartoonScreen Shot 2015-05-28 at 3.57.27 PM

Above: Antisemitic image posted on Facebook by Majed Al-Zeer,
Director-General of the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre

GENEVA, May 28, 2015 – A UN committee dominated by Iran and its allies will decide today whether to grant official observer status to an antisemitic front group of the Hamas terrorist organization, warned UN Watch. The Geneva-based independent monitoring group called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to speak out against a “an alarming development that would negate the very principles of the United Nations.”

According to a UN timetable, the world body’s 19-member Committee on NGOs — which is is stacked with non-democracies including Iran, Sudan, China, Cuba, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela — is scheduled to decide on the application of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) to receive official UN accreditation as a non-governmental observer organization.

Iran, the main backer of Hamas, along with Sudan, also a Hamas ally, have spoken out in support of the group, most recently during a February meeting of the UN committee.

NGO status would allow representatives of the Hamas-linked PRC  to acquire official UN badges, full access to UN facilities and participation in debates in New York, Geneva, and Vienna, and, perhaps most significantly, global legitimacy.

PRC haniyeh

Above: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, with (on his left)
Majed Al-Zeer, director-general of the Palestinian Return Centre

Despite its pose as pro-Palestinian human rights group, the PRC is one of the few Palestinian advocacy groups to have been banned by Israel, on account of its deep entanglement with top leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization based in Gaza and abroad.

According to a report in The Telegraph, the PRC “has regularly hosted Palestinian leaders, including [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, at its annual conferences.”

According to an intelligence digest monitoring worldwide activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, PRC leaders include Ghassan Faour, who is part of Interpal, designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist entity, for being one of several front groups that “provide support to Hamas and form part of its funding network in Europe”; and Zaher Birawi, head of programming for Al-Hiwar TV, which frequently features Hamas individuals and organizations, and which was founded by Azzam Al-Tamimi, a U.K Muslim Brotherhood leader who is “close to Hamas.”

PRC’s deep ties to senior Hamas officials was further documented in a detailed, 80-page report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. The study, replete with photos of PRC leaders with Hamas officials, concludes that the PRC “is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and “some of its senior figures are Hamas activists who found refuge in Britain.”

UN casts Israel as only violator of health rights in the world

 

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By: Hillel C. Neuer
© 2015

GENEVA, May 20, 2015 - As Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for escalating numbers of wounded Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks, the U.N. reached new heights of absurdity today by accusing Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan.

By a vote of 104 to 4, with 6 abstentions and 65 absent, the Jewish state was the only country in the world to be singled out as a violator of health rights when its alleged victims were spotlighted by the annual assembly of the U.N.’s World Health Organization.

The resolution on the plight of Israel’s alleged victims, which was the 2015 assembly’s only treatment of a specific country situation, sent an unmistakable message when it ordered “health-related technical assistance” for “the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan,” and when it called on the director-general of the World Health Organization to report on “the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan” at next year’s session.

By calling for next year’s report to focus on “the effect of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental and physical health,” and particularly “the health consequences of the Israeli military detention system on Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially child detainees, ” the UN frames and delegitimizes Israel’s defensive measures against terrorism as a presumed cause of mental and physical illness. The mandate for the report completely ignores actions by the PA, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

Continue reading ‘UN casts Israel as only violator of health rights in the world’

Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo’s Former Editor, Wins Geneva Human Rights Prize

En francais: pour l’émouvant discours de Philippe Val, cliquez ici

GENEVA, May 17 – Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch awarded its prestigious annual human rights prize to Philippe Val, the French author, humorist, and former editor of Charlie Hebdo, “for having the courage to speak out when others were silent, defending democracy and the human right to live, think, and laugh.”

At a Geneva ceremony held on May 7, 2015, adjacent to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, before an audience of UN ambassadors, Swiss political leaders and community leaders, Mr. Val received the 2015 Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, named after the civil rights advocate, diplomat and UN delegate who founded the watchdog NGO in 1993.

Val speaking - for blog

“Human rights defenders in dictatorships deserve awards more than I do,” said Val, however, “it’s hard to defend human rights in democracies as well.” Continue reading ‘Philippe Val, Charlie Hebdo’s Former Editor, Wins Geneva Human Rights Prize’

UN Watch Condemns Saudi Bid to Head UN Rights Council, Urges World Leaders to Oppose “Oppressive, Fundamentalist Regime”

Saudi Salman and Ban

GENEVA, May 13, 2015 – The fundamentalist Saudi monarchy is seeking to head the world’s top human rights body, a move liable to be “the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of a body that already counts dictatorships like China, Cuba, and Russia as members, and whose top advisor is co-founder of the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group. 

“We urge U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini to denounce this despicable act of cynicism by a regime that beheads people in the town square, systematically oppresses women, Christians, and gays, and jails innocent bloggers like Raif Badawi for the crime of challenging the rulers’ radical brand of Wahabbist Islam.” Continue reading ‘UN Watch Condemns Saudi Bid to Head UN Rights Council, Urges World Leaders to Oppose “Oppressive, Fundamentalist Regime”’

Dictatorships blast U.S. human rights record at U.N. review

Some of the world’s worst regimes blasted America’s human rights record at a review session held by the UN Human Rights Council yesterday. Every one of the UN’s 193 member states is obliged to undergo the drilling by its peers once every four years.

Sudan took the floor to say it was “concerned about the situation of the human rights in the United States of America,” and it urged Washington “to eliminate any form of racial discrimination” and “to bring its legislation and laws in line with human rights obligations.”

Continue reading ‘Dictatorships blast U.S. human rights record at U.N. review’

UN announces “review” of bookstore after protest over books targeting Jews and Israel

images from UN bookstore

GENEVA, April 30, 2015 - The head of the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva has initiated a review of its concession arrangement with the bookstore operating next to the Human Rights Council in response to allegations over book displays that deliberately target Jews and Israel.

The world body announced the action in response to a March 26th protest by UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights monitoring group in Geneva, over the bookstore’s display of a series of books such as “How I Stopped Being a Jew,” which accuses the Jewish religion of being “genocidal.” (See UN Watch’s March 26th letter at bottom for list of other titles.) The controversy was reported in a major Israeli newspaper article.

“We welcome this prompt action by the United Nations, which is founded on the principles of equality and tolerance,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.

“At a time when Jews across Europe are being targeted by violent attacks and incitement, it is deeply distressing that the UN Headquarters in Europe would promote books on ‘how to stop being a Jew.’ It’s impossible to miss that no other books in the shop target or even criticize any other religious or ethnic group,” he added.

In its letter to  Neuer (see below), the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) announced that Acting Director-General Michael Moller “has initiated an administrative review by the relevant services at UNOG of the existing concession arrangements and related procedures.”

Saying that it “sensitive to the gist” of UN Watch’s complaint, the world body said that it has “reaffirmed” to the bookstore “the requirement that varied viewpoints be presented on the shop’s bookshelves,” to ensure that the choice of books in the UN shop is “diverse and balanced, as befits an outlet affiliated with the United Nations Organization.”

____________

Click here for PDF

United Nations Office at Geneva
CHEF DE CABINET

24 April 2015

Dear Mr. Neuer,

Thank you for your letter of 26 March 2015 addressed to the Acting Director- General of UNOG, expressing concern about the selection of books in the United Nations Bookshop at the Palais des Nations, which has been duly noted.

The bookshop is operated by a commercial vendor and the selection for sale at the bookshop of items other than United Nations publications and souvenirs bearing the UN logo, is not subject to a substantive vetting procedure by the United Nations. Nor does the selection by the management of the bookstore of printed material for sale constitute any endorsement by the United Nations of the outside publications, the responsibility for which lies with the author s and the relevant publishing house.

That said, and sensitive to the gist of your argument in the above-referenced letter, UNOG has reaffirmed to the vendor the requirement that varied viewpoints be presented on the shop’s bookshelves, as part of the ongoing effort to ensure that the choice of books on offer is diverse and balanced, as befits an outlet affiliated with the United Nations Organization.

In addition, the Acting Director-General has initiated an administrative review by the relevant services at UNOG of the existing concession arrangements and related procedures.

Yours sincerely,
David A. Chikvaidze

—————

March 26th Letter by UN Watch director
Hillel Neuer to the United Nations
PDF

Michael Moller
Acting Director-General
United Nations Office at Geneva
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10

26 March 2015

Dear Mr. Moller,

UN Watch is deeply concerned by the highly suspect selection of books featured in the United Nations Bookshop, and we urge you to investigate. (Photos are enclosed.)

Perusing the shelf displays, one cannot miss the carefully orchestrated line-up of anti-American and anti-Israeli book titles, from “Reflections on Israel’s War Against Palestinians” to “The Punishment of Gaza.” Worse, the UN bookshop—situated just below the Human Rights Council prominently displays a book entitled “How I Stopped Being a Jew.” The author accuses the Jewish religion of a “genocidal Yahwestic tradition.”

Let us be clear: under no circumstances whatsoever would we presume to dictate to the UN bookshop which books to sell. We unflinchingly support the freedom of expression and full exchange of ideas, good and bad. Yet the unmistakable pattern of anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish books is a matter that requires your attention. We recall the promise of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the historic 2004 United Nations gathering against anti- Semitism: “The fight against anti-Semitism must be our fight,” said Mr. Annan, “and Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home, too.” As I am sure you will agree, the selective offering of one-sided and inflammatory books that demean Israelis and Jews does not contribute to the culture of acceptance promised by Mr. Annan.

At a time when Jews across Europe are being targeted by violent attacks and incitement, it is deeply distressing that the United Nations Headquarters in Europe would promote books on “how to stop being a Jew.” Significantly, we note there are no other books in the shop targeting or criticizing any other religious or ethnic group.

Numerous visitors pass through the UN bookshop every day, including young students who take the UN tour in order to learn about the UN Charter values of equality, tolerance and peace. We urge the United Nations to live up to its founding values, and to prevent yet another UN institution from falling victim to selectivity and politicization. We sincerely hope that you will investigate this serious matter, and take remedial action as necessary.

Yours truly,

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director

Explosive: UN admits Palestinians fired rockets from UNRWA schools

 

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The UN finally investigated the Palestinian storing of rockets in UNRWA schools and their use of the schools to launch rockets against Israel, all of which constitute grave violations of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law.

Key findings gleaned from the UN report:

  • Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad stored rockets in UNRWA schools. The board found, in the case of the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary “C” and Ayyobiya Boys School, referring to the discovery of weapons there on 22 July 2014, that “it was highly likely that a Palestinian armed group might have used the premises to hide weapons.”
  • Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad stored rockets in schools that were in active use by children. During the war, former PLO lawyer Diana Buttu famously said on Al Jazeera that “the rockets that were found in the schools in UNRWA were schools that are not being used by anybody—school is out, I’ll have you know.” However, in the UNRWA Gaza Beach Elementary Co-educational “B” School, on 16 July 2014, the UN Board of Inquiry notes that the school gate was unlocked during the period leading up to the incident “in order to allow children access to the schoolyard.” School was out, but UNRWA was inviting the children back in to play.
  •  Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad fired rockets from UNRWA schools. In the Jabalia school listed above, the board found that “it was highly likely that an unidentified Palestinian armed group could have used the school premises to launch attacks on or around 14 July.” Similarly, concerning weaponry stored at the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Co- educational “B” School, the UN inquiry found that “the premises could have been used for an unknown period of time by members of a Palestinian armed group”  — and that “it was likely that such a group may have fired the mortar from within the premises of the school.”

Extracts follow below.

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Extracts  from the UN report on rockets stored in and fired from UNRWA facilities

Incident (h): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Gaza Beach Elementary Co- educational “B” School on 16 July 2014

49. Gaza Beach Elementary Co-educational “B” School is located in the heart of the Beach refugee camp, in the midst of a densely populated area of Gaza city. Four other UNRWA schools and an UNRWA health centre are located on the opposite side of the street. The school buildings are enclosed by a wall and there is one main gate. On two of its four sides, the schoolyard is surrounded by houses, which are built on the school’s boundary wall. These houses have windows opening on to the schoolyard on their lower floors; and one house connects with the schoolyard through a gate. Also next to the school, adjacent to the house with the connecting gate, is a private building, whose main gate is located next to the school’s gate. This house was bombed during Operation Protective Edge, prior to the incident.

50. Due to the summer vacation, the school was not in use at the time of Operation Protective Edge, nor was it used as a designated emergency shelter.

51. The Board was informed that two UNRWA school attendants were looking arier the school prior to and on the day of the incident. One worked the morning shift and the other, the afternoon. Five guards hired as part of UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP) were also assigned to the school, one worldng the morning shift and the other four sharing the night shift in pairs of two. In addition, the school principal inspected all the classrooms on some days.

52. The Board was informed that one of the school attendants had testified that he had performed his normal duties prior to and on the day of the incident. The other had testified that, for safety reasons, he was told to stay away fi’om the school and to relocate to the health centre across the street and watch the school from there. Prior to and on the day of the incident, the JCP guards were also not at the school, but at the health centre, in accordance with the same instruction. The Board was informed that an UNRWA official had issued this instruction for fear that the building next door to the school would be shelled again.

53. The Board was informed that the school gate was unlocked during the period leading up to the incident in order to allow children access to the schoolyard. It was also informed that there were two sets of keys to the classrooms, one for the morning shift and the other for the afternoon. One set of keys was kept in the school principal’s office. It was unclear where the other set was kept.

54. A team of Operations Support Officers (OSO) had inspected the school on 2 June as part of a regular inspection programme for all UNRWA facilities, designed to prevent breaches of their “neutrality”. No weapons or signs of militant activity had been reported by the team during that inspection. No further inspections had been conducted by OSO teams after that date due to the declaration by UNRWA’s Gaza Field Office of a state of emergency on 8 July. The OSO teams had then ceased to operate and their members been assigned to other, emergency-related functions.

55. On 16 July 2015, a 120 MM mortar tube, a mortar bipod and twenty 120 MM mortar-round containers, with ammunition, were discovered under a blanket in the corner of a locked classroom. The weapom’y was photographed.

56. UNRWA senior management notified the local authorities in Gaza and asked that the weapons be removed. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) contacted the Special Protection Unit (SPU) of the local police and also asked that the weapons be removed, apparently through the local police’s explosive ordnance detachment. The SPU asked that the United Nations guarantee that the IDF would not strike while the weapons were being removed and that a United Nations vehicle be used to remove the weapons. DSS refused.

57. The Board was informed that UNRWA had received testimony that two individuals identifying themselves as policemen had come to the school, alleged that they knew who was responsible for the cache of weapons and left a telephone number. Upon being contacted, one of these individuals stated that the weapons would be removed fi’om the school in the early morning. The Board was further informed that, early in the morning of 17 July, the door to the classroom in question was found locked, with no signs of forced entry or exit, and that it was noted that the weapons had been removed.

58. On 17 July, UNRWA informed Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the finding of the weapons and their subsequent disappearance. In the afternoon of 17 July, UNRWA issued a press release stating that a cache of approximately 20 rockets (sic) had been found hidden in a vacant school. Under a misapprehension that the explosive ordnance detachment of the local police had removed the weapom’y, the press release stated that UNRWA had informed the relevant parties and had successfully taken all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.

59. The Board found that, in the light of the situation in the vicinity, the security measures at the school were weak prior to and on the day of the incident, partly due to the fact that the personnel charged with the school’s security were subject to life-threatening circumstances. It also found that an unidentified Palestinian armed group had used the school premises to hide the weaponry.

Incident (i): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary “C” and Ayyobiya Boys School on 22 July 2014

60. The Jabalia Elementary “C” and Ayyobiya Boys School is one in a row of five schools situated in an urban area to the east of the Jabalia refugee camp. Behind the school is a large open area with small-scale agricultural land. The Board was informed that this area was known for its use as a firing site for armed groups and that it had been targeted by the IDF in past conflicts.

61. The school was never identified in UNRWA’s emergency management plan as a potential shelter due to security and safety concerns. At the time of the incident, it was in recess for the summer.

62. The Board was informed that the school normally employed four school attendants, but that, at the time of the incident, ttu’ee of them were absent. One school attendant resided at the school, but was on leave at the time and, afraid, spent most of his time indoors. In addition, the Board was informed that five guards hired as part of UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP) had been assigned to the school and were scheduled to work there from evening to morning. However, at the time of the incident, none of them was at the school. The school has one main gate, which, the Board was informed, was not usually locked. The school wall is not high enough to prevent intruders from climbing into the school.

63. A team of Operations Support Officers (OSO) had inspected the school on 12 May as part of the regular inspection programme for all UNRWA facilities described above.

No issues had been identified that compromised the neutrality of the premises. No further inspections had been conducted by OSO teams after that date for the reasons outlined above.

64. However, following the discovery of weaponry at the Gaza Beach Elementary Co-educational “B” School on 16 July, UNRWA management issued an instruction on 17 July that daily inspections be conducted of all UNRWA schools, including those that were not being used as shelters, to ensure that no weapons were being stored in them and that they were not being abused. Two UNRWA staff members were then tasked to conduct daily inspections of all schools in the area concerned. School attendants present at the schools were instructed to ensure that the daily inspections were conducted. The Board was informed that the school had been inspected on 19 July and that nothing unusual had been found, though not every part of the premises had been checked.

65. The area behind the school wall was known at the time for being used by militants, including for the firing of projectiles. The Board accordingly noted the dangerous nature of the inspection of the premises and found that, although a thorough inspection of the premises should have been conducted, such inspection could only have taken place in the presence of qualified security personnel.

66. In the morning of 22 July 2014, a crowd of approximately 300 persons arrived at the school gate and entered the schoolyard. Heavy shelling was occurring at the time in the area of Beit Hanoun, near Jabalia, and the IDF had dropped leaflets over Beit Hanoun warning the civilian population to evacuate the area. This had created a mass movement of people seeking shelter.

67. UNRWA management was alerted to the arrival of the displaced persons and sent an official to the school to ascertain whether it could be opened as a designated emergency shelter. Upon arrival, the official was immediately alerted by the displaced persons to the presence of an object, seemingly a weapon. Other UNRWA officials then came to the school to inspect the premises. They saw an object, seemingly a weapon, covered with a piece of cloth, in an area under the cover of some trees behind the toilet block and near the boundary wall separating the school from the open area behind it. No one approached the object to confirm whether it was a weapon. No photographs of it were taken; and, for this reason, the Board was unable to confirm with certainty what type of weapon may have been hidden at the school. However, it concluded that it was highly likely that a Palestinian armed group might have used the premises to hide weapons.

68. The area was immediately evacuated and the UNRWA officials went to the neighbouring schools to determine whether any of them would be suitable to shelter the hundreds of displaced persons an’iving in the area. About an hour later, they returned to the school, to be informed by the displaced persons that the object had been removed. They then confirmed that the object was no longer at the rear of the school.

69. Following the finding of the object, UNRWA officials contacted the local authorities in Gaza, Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administa’ation (CLA) and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the evening of 22 July, UNRWA issued a press release stating that rockets (sic) had been found hidden in a vacant school in Gaza and that UNRWA was pursuing all possible measures for their removal in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. The Board was informed that, at the time, UNRWA senior officials understood that the suspected weapon or weapons were still at the school. The following morning, the Deputy Commissioner General informed Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the plan to remove the suspected weapon or weapons. Later that same day, having learned of their disappearance, she informed the Ministry of this. The Board found that communications within UNRWA may have been confusing at critical times during the management of the incident. However, it also noted the enormous pressure under which UNRWA staff were operating, often handling multiple complex and life-threatening situations.

70. The Government of Israel showed the Board a video, which the Board concluded was authentic, showing the launching of a projectile from within the school premises on 14 July. The Government also provided a document which was said to identify the places close to the school from which rockets had been launched, together with the dates of those launches. The Board concluded that it was highly likely that an unidentified Palestinian armed group could have used the school premises to launch attacks on or around 14 July.

Incident (j): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Co- educational “B” School on 29 July 2014 and on 17 August 2014

71.  The UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Co-educational “B” School is located in a semi- rural area, northwest of the Nuseirat Camp, south of Gaza city. Two houses and a mosque are located less than one metre from the school wall and an apartment building, less than a hundred metres away. The school is enclosed by a wall. There is one main gate and a small pedestrian door adjacent to it and one secondary gate in a side wall.

72. The school was on recess at the time of the incident. It was not used as a designated emergency shelter.

73. The Board was informed that the main gate was locked during the recess, but not the adjacent pedestrian gate. The secondary gate was kept locked. Students would regularly climb up the front wall and enter the school. At the time of the incident, none of the classrooms were locked.

74. The school had only two attendants, who worked the morning shift on alternate days. One did not attend some days because of the security situation and the shelling. In addition, five guards hired as part of UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme (JCP) were assigned to the school, one on the afternoon shift and the others, in pairs of two, on the night shift. There was evidence that, on several occasions, the JCP guards were not present at the school when the school attendant an’ived in the morning, including the day of the incident.

75. A team of Operations Support Officers (OSO) had inspected the school on 19 May as part of the regular inspection programme for all UNRWA facilities described above. The team reported no weapons or signs of militant activity. No further inspections had been conducted by OSO teams after that date for the reasons set out above. As of the discovery of weapons at the Gaza Beach Elementary Co-educational “B” School on 16 July, the school attendants were instructed to inspect the school daily. However, the Board was informed that one of the attendants did not do so. The last inspection was carried out on 27 July. The day after was Eid al-Fitr and there was no school attendant at the school, though the JCP guards were present.

76. On 29 July, a 120 MM mortal” tube, a 120 MM mortar bipod and three 120 MM mortar containers were found, covered by a blanket, behind a locked internal gate leading to a stairwell. The weapons were photographed.

77. That same day, UNRWA officials informed the Israeli authorities and the local authorities in Gaza. In accordance with guidance provided by United Nations Headquarters, a mission was arranged for later that day to verify the weapons and render them safe. However, it was later called off because of the security situation in the vicinity of the school. In the evening, UNRWA issued a press release reporting that rockets (sic) had been found in an UNRWA school, that all parties had been informed and that United Nations munitions experts had been unable to access the school because of the security situation, but would do so once it improved.

78. On 30 July, UNRWA officials went to the school, ahead of a visit by United Nations munitions experts. They found no school attendants or JCP guards at the premises and that the lock of the gate to the stairwell had been broken and the weapons had disappeared.

79. The Board was informed that, between 30 July and 17 August, security at the school may have been compromised at least on one occasion by the presence of unidentified individuals and, possibly, of mortar weaponry.

80. On 17 August, a 120 MM mortar tube, a 120 MM mortar bipod and twenty 120 MM mortar containers were found in a small room under a stairwell. Water,

lubricant-oil bottles and boards apparently used as beds were also found, as well as writing in Arabic on a blackboard, seemingly depicting military operations. At the rear of the school, a mortar base plate was found, embedded in the sand. These items were photographed. The mortar cases, mortar tube, bipod and base plate were removed from the school and rendered safe.

81. The Board was informed that UNRWA officials contacted the Israeli authorities and explained that the weapons were in the possession of the United Nations and that they would not be handed over to any party. The Deputy Prime Minister of the Palestinian Govermnent of National Consensus was also informed.

82. The Board found that, in light of the security situation around the school at the time, the security measures at the school were weak, both prior to and on the days of the two incidents, partly due to the fact that the personnel charged with security at the school were subject to life-tba’eatening circumstances. The Board also found that the presence of weapons and other evidence found in the school indicated that the premises could have been used for an unknown period of time by members of a Palestinian armed group and that it was likely that such a group may have fired the mortar from within the premises of the school.

Continue reading ‘Explosive: UN admits Palestinians fired rockets from UNRWA schools’

Full Text: UN Board of Inquiry on Gaza

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Summary of UN Board of Inquiry on Gaza- PDF

The President of the Security Council presents her compliments to the members of the Council and has the honour to transmit herewith, for their information, a copy of a letter dated 27 April 2015 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, and its enclosure. Continue reading ‘Full Text: UN Board of Inquiry on Gaza’

Richard Falk defends Palestinian resort to violence, praises Hamas for pursuing “peaceful co-existence,” attacks UN Watch for “defamatory campaign”

Former U.N. investigator Richard Falk hails Hamas’ “spirit of resistance,” justifies the Palestinian use of violence, says Hamas aims for “long-term peaceful co-existence,” and attacks UN Watch for ruining his 6-year term as Special Rapporteur on Palestine.

“I was very much attacked in a kind of defamatory way by UN Watch and other very extreme Zionist organizations. Wherever I went, anywhere in the world, they would try to prevent me from speaking, mounted a defamatory campaign, called me an antisemite, a leading antisemite. The Wiesenthal Center in LA listed me as the third most dangerous antisemite in the world, which made feel I must be doing something right, in this role…”