30 Rights Groups Join UN Watch, Urge World Body’s Rights Chief
to Protest Cuban Restraint on Rights Defender
GENEVA, March 4, 2010 – Cuba created a stir at the UN Human Rights Council today when its envoy began banging his country name-plate on the table to interrupt a speech by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in support of a leading Cuban dissident, a former political prisoner who is being barred from attending a Geneva conference of dissidents, to be held by 30 NGOs this Monday. Click here to watch 4-minute video of UN clash (requires RealPlayer).
In an interactive council debate with UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer asked her to respond to today’s appeal by 30 human rights groups from Morocco, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Venezuela, the U.S and other countries, calling on the UN rights chief to intervene on behalf of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, a former prisoner of consicence who was freed after five years in jail and a worldwide Amnesty International campaign.
Mr. Lobaina is currently being barred by the Cuban government from leaving the country to join other dissidents and address Monday’s Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy. The Cuban delegate accused Neuer of “throwing down a challenge to the work of the council,” of showing a “lack of respect” for the “very serious work” of the UN Human Rights Council, and of “undermining” the 47-nation body.
Although many of the speakers in the debate had also made references to specific country situtations, the president of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen of Belgium, issued a ruling that appeared to side with Cuba’s objection. The UN Watch delegate understood that he was not entitled to complete his question on Cuba or ask the High Commissioner to intervene. See text of UN Watch speech below, followed by the text of today’s appeal by 30 NGOs for Cuban political prisoner.
UN Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner Navi Pillay
Delivered by Hillel Neuer, 4 March 2010
Thank you, Mr. President.
Madam High Commissioner, UN Watch welcomes your annual report and this opportunity to discuss it with you.
We wish to ask three questions.
First, your report addresses the importance of protecting human rights defenders. In this regard, we call your attention to the appeal submitted to you today by 30 NGOs from Morocco, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Venezuela and the U.S., concerning the situation of human rights defender Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, the former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
Although Mr. Lobaina is a scheduled speaker this Monday, together with other internationally-renowned dissidents and activists, at the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Cuba is denying him the right to leave…
[CUBAN DELEGATE BEGINS BANGING ON TABLE, INTERRUPTS WITH POINT OF ORDER]
[Following UN chair's ruling in favor of Cuba, the following portion was left unspoken: "...in contravention of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Accordingly, Madam High Commissioner, will you be intervening on his behalf?"]
Second, we commend you for speaking out today against the grave violations committed by Sri Lanka, where an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed. In this regard, we recall that last May a group of democracies initiated a special session of this Council to hold Sri Lanka accountable.
We supported your call for an independent and credible international investigation into these violations, which you rightly echoed today. Yet Sri Lanka and its allies, being a majority, reversed the proposed resolution. The council ended up celebrating Sri Lanka for its “promotion and protection of all human rights.”
Given this devastating result for victims, why on Monday did you praise the special sessions of this Council as being “notable”?
Third, given that the Council has only convened 9 special sessions to scrutinize countries, of which 6 targeted one single country (Israel) — and that urgent abuses in 188 other countries have gone ignored — would you not agree that we are in fact letting down the world’s victims?
In this session’s document HRC/13/NGO/117, 50 Iranian activists urge you to call for an immediate special session and investigation into the atrocities committed by Iran, violations that you referenced today. According to a February 15, 2010 report of the New York Times, you said that you would be unable to visit Iran before 2011.
Given that innocent Iranians are being brutalized, arrested, raped and executed right now, can you please reconsider, and announce that you will visit Iran immediately?
Thank you, Mr. President. Click here to watch 4-minute video (requires RealPlayer).