Today the UN reviewed Cuba’s human rights record. But it tainted the process through fraud. A new report by UN Watch: How Cuba Hijacked its UPR.
Archive for the 'Cuba' Category
In a letter delivered to the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Warner (D-VA), urge the commission to investigate the death of Cuban democracy leader Oswaldo Payá in 2012. The commission is an arm of the Organization of American States.an investigation.
“We write to request that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights undertake an investigation into the troubling death of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá, who, along with youth activist Harold Cepero, was killed in a suspicious automobile accident on July 22, 2012, in Bayamo, Cuba,” the senators write. “Recent published interviews with the Spanish driver of the vehicle, Ángel Carromero, raise deeply troubling concerns that Payá’s car was deliberately targeted by Cuban government officials well known for their harassment of Payá.”
[Updated on March 22, 2013. The spokesman of UNSG Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the appeal in this UN briefing.]
Appeal for International Inquiry into the Death of Oswaldo Paya
An open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and Ambassadors of all Member States
12 March 2013
We urge you to support our demand for an international and independent investigation into the alleged murder of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, a world-renowned figure and recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, who died in a car crash in Bayamo, Cuba, on July 22, 2012, together with fellow activist Harold Cepero.
In dramatic new testimony by the driver of the car, Ángel Carromero describes, in a Washington Post interview dated 6 March 2013, how their vehicle was followed, harassed and ultimately rammed from behind by a car bearing government license plates. Mr. Carromero further alleges that, following the crash, he was drugged, mistreated and coerced by Cuban authorities into making a false confession.
The new revelations corroborate the claims made by the families of the victims and other witnesses, as well as the report by Spain’s ABC news agency about text messages sent contemporaneous with the incident from the mobile phones of Mr. Carromero and another passenger, Aron Modig, indicating that their car was chased and then hit, causing the crash.
Significantly, according to the family of Oswaldo Payá, state security agents had repeatedly threatened to kill him.
Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic, a leading figure in the human rights world, cannot go ignored by the international community.
The families of the victims, and the people of Cuba, have a right to know the truth, and they have a right to justice. This can only happen with the creation of an international and independent inquiry. We therefore respectfully urge you to support our call.
Declaración de United Nations Watch, Consejo de Derechos Humanos, 22 ª reunión, el tema 4, Dado por Rosa María Payá, 12 de marzo 2013
Gracias, señor presidente.
Mi nombre es Rosa María Payá, del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación e hija su coordinador nacional Oswaldo Payá, líder opositor y Premio Sajarov del Parlamento Europeo.
Mi padre dedicó su vida a trabajar por los cambios pacíficos legales para que los cubanos disfrutaran de todos los derechos.
Promovió el Proyecto Varela, demanda de referéndum apoyada por más de 25 000 ciudadanos, que han desafiado la represión para exigir cambios en las leyes que garanticen la libertad de expresión, asociación, elecciones libres, libertad de los presos políticos pacíficos y la posibilidad de tener empresas privadas. Hasta hoy el gobierno se niega a realizar este plebiscito y encarceló a la mayoría de sus líderes. Continue reading ‘Declaración de United Nations Watch, Dado por Rosa María Payá’
Statement by UN Watch to UN Human Rights Council, Agenda Item 4
Delivered by Rosa Maria Paya, 12 March 2013
Thank you, Mr. President.
My name is Rosa Maria Payá, member of the Christian Liberation Movement and daughter of its national coordinator, Oswaldo Payá, opposition leader and Sakharov Prize laureate of the European Parliament.
My father dedicated his life to working for legal and nonviolent change for Cubans to enjoy all basic human rights.
He promoted the Varela Project, a referendum supported by over 25,000 citizens, who have defied repression to demand legal reforms that guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of association, free elections, freedom of nonviolent political prisoners and the right to own private enterprises.
The government has so far refused to allow this plebiscite, and it imprisoned the majority of its leaders. Continue reading ‘Cuba tries to block UN speech by Oswaldo Paya’s daughter’
This week the UN was diverted from real human rights problems for a week-long political exercise on the so-called “right to peace.”
Last July, Cuba presented a draft resolution on “The Right to Peace,” which recognized a “right to resist and oppose oppressive colonial foreign occupation or dictatorial domination.” We commented on it in this plenary speech:
According to experts, this could be seen as an avenue to legitimize terrorism. Countries such as Syria, Sudan, Belarus, China, Sri Lanka, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, supported the resolution, while countries such as the United States and the European Union did not. As the EU stated, they do not support the formation of the working group for many reasons including, but not limited to the fact that, “it is evident that there is no legal basis for the ‘right to peace’ in international law, either as an individual or collective right.”
On Friday, February 15, 2013, the OHCHR held a seminar on “International Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights.” The seminar was called for by a HRC resolution tabled by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It was yet another opportunity for oppresive regimes to attack Western democracies and the universal nature of human rights.
Iran, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reinforced the idea that cultural diversity was essential for human rights. “Countries should be allowed to protect human rights while taking into account their own national conditions.” Furthermore, it argued “It is not practical or feasible for all countries to adopt the same model.”
During the Q&A period, Iran raised the issue of sanctions as an impediment to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, hinting that the rights of Iranians were violated as a result of international sanctions. The Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran due to their non-cooperation with UN mechanisms which monitor their nuclear program.
Cuba stated that it was a shining example of the progress that can be made in the field of human rights with meager resources. The Cuban diplomat explained that measures to strengthen cooperation in the international arena have failed, due to the “politicization and manipulation of human rights mechanisms.” He said that they had hoped that the Human Rights Council would be a “new dawn,” but that it has followed the same failed destiny of the Commission on Human Rights. The Cuban diplomat concluded by expressing his dismay that things have not changed since the days of the Human Rights Commission.
This is how the U.N. Human Rights Council undermines the very principles it was founded to uphold. Today the Communist government of Cuba, a key backer of the Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, presented a draft resolution on “The Right to Peace.”
Not surprisingly, the resolution promotes a text by the council’s Advisory Committee which recognizes a “right to resist and oppose oppressive colonial, foreign occupation or dictatorial domination.” Experts say this can be read as legitimizing terrorism.
China, the main co-sponsor of the resolution, voiced strong support for the text. Iran also expressed support for the Cuban initiative. Russia welcomed it.
The Netherlands said “not every laudable goal can be phrased in terms of human rights”, and gave the example of the right to happiness. We need to set priorities and work on identifiable and distinguishable rights; establishing the right to peace would “come in the way of the establishing of existing rights.”
The U.S. stressed the importance of a spirit of “openness and flexibility”; we are “moving towards a divisive text rather than one that can build bridges within the Council.”
Today’s announcement by the office of UN human rights chief Navi Pillay about an “Expert Workshop on Human Rights and International Solidarity,” which it will organize on June 7-8 in Geneva, provides a classic example of the gobbledygook emanating from the highest quarters of the UN:
[This will be] a workshop for an exchange of views on, inter alia, the gender implications of international solidarity, the impact of a right to international solidarity, the role of international solidarity in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the realization of the right to development, with the participation of representatives from all interested States, the independent expert, the members of the Advisory Committee dealing with this issue, and civil society.” Continue reading ‘Latest U.N. Gobbledygook: “Gender Implications of International Solidarity”’
Three of yesterday’s UN Human Rights Council resolutions were sponsored by Castro’s Communist Cuba, which continues to exercise key influence in UN bodies, particularly as a leader of the 120-strong Non Aligned Movement.
One of the new resolutions will require the UN to hire professional staff according to “geographic balance” instead of merit. The US and EU said the move threatened basic standards of competence, qualifications and efficiency.
Another Cuban-sponsored text promotes the doctrine of “cultural rights,” often used at the UN by many Islamic, Communist and African governments to evade respecting their citizens’ universal human rights, and to justify the killing of gays in Iran, the execution of Christians for blasphemy in Pakistan, and the jailing of dissidents in China, Cuba and Zimbabwe.
The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy took place on March 13, 2012, organized by UN Watch and an international coalition of 20 NGOs. The Summit, which ran in parallel to the main session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, produced alternative draft resolutions for the Council to consider. These deal with urgent human rights situaitons that have so far been ignored by the international community. These are:
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in Cuba
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in Pakistan
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in Venezuela
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in Vietnam
- Draft resolution of the situation of human rights in China
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).
Continue reading ‘Cuba Slams UN Watch For ‘Undermining’ Human Rights Council, Interrupts Speech on Dissident Barred From Geneva Conference’
During today’s debate on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council, a number of Western states voiced concerns about barriers to the full participation of legitimate NGOs in the UPR process, with the U.S. saying it is “troubled by practices of countries seeking to silence criticism by lining up friendly speakers. This has a chilling effect on the purpose and spirit of the UPR.” Continue reading ‘Cuba and Sri Lanka Attack UN Watch & Other Human Rights NGOs’
At the meeting to adopt the report on Cuban rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council today, of the ten slots allotted for NGO speeches, eight were awarded to GONGOs (“Government-backed NGOs,” i.e., front groups) that bestowed lavish praise on the Castro regime. Continue reading ‘Cuban GONGOs Dominate NGO Speaker’s List’
The U.N.’s human rights officers work hard at allowing NGOs to speak, but today the system failed. Theoretically, NGOs were to form a line outside the Human Rights Council chamber, to sign up to speak at tomorrow’s adoption of reports on the human rights situations in Cuba, Saudi Arabia and other countries. With only ten available slots for NGOs speeches on each country, queuing began at the early hours of the morning, though the sign-up only officially opened at 2:45 PM. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps raised serious questions about the fairness of the process in the eyes of several NGOs. Some claimed they had been told not to arrive at the U.N. before 8 AM (when NGOs are allowed to enter the building), yet reportedly found a line of GONGOs (“Government-backed NGOs,” i.e., front groups) already waiting by the desk long before. If Cuba’s GONGOs manage to take up the whole alloted time, the Castro regime will have blocked the voices of its victims. Continue reading ‘Cuban Front Groups Queue Up to Block Victim Voices’
Speaking at the high-level segment of the Durban Review Conference on Tuesday, Cuba said that “in the industrialized countries you see racism most developed” and compared racism to the “growing gap between the rich and the poor.” It also encouraged reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, decried anti-terror legislation as a form of racism, and stressed its support for the Palestinian people and solidarity with the people of the third World. Referring to the countries that stayed away from Durban II, Cuba complained about the “artificial allegations of a small number of countries who chose to isolate themselves from our efforts.”
At the initiative of the Cuban government, the UN Human Rights Council will convene on May 23, 2008 for an emergency “special session” to address rising food prices. Several EU states also added their names to the Cuban request.
The world food crisis is certainly an urgent issue, but few expect this meeting to achieve anything other than provide a platform for attacks against the West and free markets. All of which will distract the council from matters it could more suitably address, starting with violations that have a clear victim, perpetrator and remedy. But the countries that lock people up without fair trials prefer to change the subject.
And if “the right to food” were really their concern, why are council members failing to hold an emergency session on Myanmar’s unconscionable denial of that right for millions of its starving, post-cyclone citizens?
When this question was posed yesterday to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the reply was that “the Council had a very full programme. . .so it was a pretty packed schedule at the moment and it would be difficult to fit it in.”
Jean Ziegler Supported Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro, Co-Founded “Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Geneva, March 25, 2008 — One day before the UN Human Rights Council votes to elect its 18 expert advisors, an activist for Darfur victims, a former political prisoner from Cuba, the former deputy prime minister of Sweden, and Canada’s leading human rights advocate have joined to urge Swiss President Pascal Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey to suspend their nomination of Jean Ziegler, 1989 co-founder of the “Muammar Khaddadi Human Rights Prize,” pending an independent and impartial inquiry into his record. (See full text of appeal below.)
Under the direction of Mrs. Calmy-Rey, who has close political ties with Ziegler, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has been engaged in an intense campaign of UN vote-trading in order to elect the former socialist politician from Geneva in tomorrow’s vote. A glossy Swiss campaign brochure, sent to capitals around the world, describes Ziegler as a highly qualified champion of human rights.
However, Ziegler’s qualifications for the UN human rights post are challenged by activists Angel De Fana, a former political prisoner who spent 20 years in a Cuban jail, Gibreil Hamid, who heads the Darfur Peace and Development Center and often testifies for Darfur victims before the UN Human Rights Council, former Swediish deputy prime minister Per Ahlmark, and McGill University law professor Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister who served as counsel to political prisoners Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov.
Supported by an international coalition of more than 20 non-governmental organizations, the activists point to Ziegler’s long record of support for serial human rights violators including Libya’s Khaddafi, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Zimbabwe‘s Robert Mugabe, and Ethiopian strongman Colonel Mengistu.
In 1962, Fidel Castro’s police threw Angel De Fana in jail for being a member of a pro-democracy group named after José Martí, the Cuban writer and national hero. ”We had to hide to assemble,” said De Fana, who languished in prison from 1962 to 1983, adding that he and fellow prisoners had to endure years of forced labor. “I was forced to cut stone in a quarry.”
However, as UN expert on the right to food, Ziegler recently visited Cuba and hailed the Castro regime as a model government, and refused to meet with dissidents.
In the past five days, the Swiss president and foreign minister have also been flooded with hundreds of email appeals from around the world urging the suspension of the Ziegler nomination.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization, published a new video last week together with extensive documentation on Ziegler’s questionable record, and urged NGO activists to take action through a campaign on its website.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Letter to Swiss President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey
Dear President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey,
We urge you to withdraw your government’s nomination of Jean Ziegler to the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the election for which is scheduled on March 26, 2008.
If elected, Mr. Ziegler would occupy one of the only three seats allotted to Western countries. The official criteria for the position are expertise in human rights, high moral standing, independence and impartiality. An analysis of Mr. Ziegler’s record raises serious questions as to his satisfaction of these requirements. Concerns include:
• Mr. Ziegler’s abuse of his current UN Mandate: UN special rapporteur on the right to food for the past seven years, Mr. Ziegler ignored many of the world’s most starving populations, instead focusing attention on his personal political agenda. As documented in the UN Watch report “Blind to Burundi,” during 2000 to 2004, Mr. Ziegler systematically failed to speak out for numerous food emergencies, in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.
• Mr. Zieger’s support for serial violators of human rights: In 1986, Mr. Ziegler served as advisor to Ethiopian dictator Colonel Mengistu on a constitution instituting one-party rule. In 2002 he praised the Zimbabwean dictator, saying, “Mugabe has history and morality with him.” He paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Il-Sung in North Korea. Mr. Ziegler is also a long-time supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whose regime Mr. Ziegler hailed during an official visit in October, while he refused to meet Cuban dissidents. Also this year, during an interview in Lebanon, Mr. Ziegler said, “I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It is a national resistance movement. I can understand Hezbollah when they kidnap soldiers…”
• Mr. Ziegler’s involvement with Libyan propaganda: In 1989, shortly after Libyan agents blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Mr. Ziegler went to Libya to co-found the “Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize,” and served as its Geneva spokesman. The prize has since been awarded to anti-Western dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. It has also been awarded to notorious racists and anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad. Bizarrely, although he once boasted of it, Mr. Ziegler now denies any involvement with the prize. All of this was documented in a front-page story in your country’s leading newspaper. (M. Haefliger, “Ziegler’s Libyen Connection,” Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June 25, 2006.)
• Ziegler’s support for Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy: In 1996, Mr. Ziegler publicly defended Roger Garaudy, a French Stalinist whose book, The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, denies the Holocaust. “All your work as a writer and philosopher,” Mr. Ziegler wrote on April 1, 1996, “attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering honesty of your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of our time.” In 2002, Mr. Garaudy was awarded the Khaddafi Prize—the same year that Mr. Ziegler received it as well.
Many of the world’s leading authorities have objected to Mr. Ziegler’s practices. In 2005, both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner Louise Arbour publicly denounced Mr. Ziegler for having compared Israeli soldiers to concentration camp guards. He is the only UN expert to have been so reprimanded. Seventy U.S. congressmen wrote to the UN, citing Mr. Ziegler for anti-Semitism, while the Canadian government filed an official protest.
In April 2006, an international coalition of 15 non-governmental organizations, including victims of Cuban and Libyan abuses, protested Mr. Ziegler’s nomination as a UN expert, citing his disturbing record. Similarly, many scholars have questioned Mr. Ziegler’s academic credentials. For example, when he was made professor at the University of Geneva, eminent historian Herbert Luthy returned his honorary doctorate in protest.
We note that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nominated Mr. Ziegler for the same post in 2004, but that he failed to win election.
In order to protect the credibility of the world’s highest intergovernmental human rights body—with which Switzerland is heavily involved—we urge you to withdraw this nomination. At a minimum, it should be suspended pending the results of an independent and impartial inquiry into Mr. Ziegler’s record. Thank you.
Professor Irwin Cotler, M.P.
Human Rights Advocate
Member of Canadian Parliament & Opposition Critic on Human Rights
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General
President, Darfur Peace and Development Center
Former Peputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Angel De Fana
Director of political prisoners’ organization
Plantados Hasta la Libertad y la Democracia
Non-Governmental Organizations Supporting the Joint Appeal:
Dr Charles Mwape, Hope for Africa International, Regional Director for Africa
Roy W. Brown, Main Representative, UN Geneva, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Sally Thompson, Deputy Executive Director, Thailand Burma Border Consortium, Thailand
Dr. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, United Nations Reform Advocates
Sylvia G. Iriondo, President, Mothers & Women Against Repression (M.A.R. Por Cuba)
Alessandro Pettenuzzo, President, European Union of Public Relations
Einat Erlanger, Help Others Help Themselves, Switzerland
Janisset Rivero, Cuban Democratic Directorate
Wendy Wright, President, Concerned Women for America
Wayne L. Kines, President, World Media Institute, Canada
Naghma Imdad, Director, Acid Survivors’ Foundation, Pakistan
Babette Francis, Endeavour Forum, Australia
Rama Enav, Representative to the UN in Geneva, WIZO
Rhoda Gueta, Secretariat, Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochem TNCs, Philippines
Janisset Rivero, Directorio Democratico Cubano
Professor Cesar Tolosa, Spokesperson, Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights), Philippines
Danilo Ramos, Secretary General, Asian Peasant Coalition
Anna Maria Cervone, Centrist Democrat International
Wiko lamain, Former Child Laborer, Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts
Nirvana González Rosa, Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, Puerto Rico
The 7th session of the Human Rights Council opened its second week with an address by Timor Leste Minister of Justice Lucia Labato. She condemned Mideast violence on both sides, while recognizing Israel’s right to self-defense.
The council also debated the reports of the UN experts on migrants’ rights, toxic waste, sale of children, torture, arbitrary detention, mercenaries and disappearances.
In a jab at the U.S., Cuba insisted on the need to fight “private military and security companies which are increasingly being used to shore up regimes based on foreign occupation and imperial conquest.”
It called on a UN panel to study “the activities of terrorist groups which are operating in impunity on the territory of the US and who have resorted to recruiting mercenaries to carry out their missions of death against the Cuban People.”
Special rapporteur on arbitrary detention Leila Zerrougui expressed concerns over transfer of individuals in the war on terror. She said the working group on arbitrary detention will soon visit the United States.
Cuba criticized the U.S. “arbitrary [judiciary] regime” and mentioned in this respect “five political prisoners who have been kept unjustly in U.S. prisons because they tried to protect Cuban people from the terrorist actions organized by the anti Cuban mafia of Miami with the complaisance of the US government.”
Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic group, in an apparent reference to the U.S., expressed concerns on the link between detention conditions in some countries and the fight against terrorism.
To read the official UN summary of today’s debates, click here.
For the video webcast, click here.
In an address to the UN Human Rights Council, British Foreign Secretary Mark Malloch-Brown strongly spoke of Iran’s “horrendous” human rights violations towards women and minors, and Zimbabwe’s “actions against its people.”
Sweden criticized Cuba‘s record.
In response to the U.K., the Iranian representative said his country was free to choose its own judicial system. Cuba responded to Sweden by accusing the Scandinavian country of undemocratic practices. “There is not a single model of democracy,” said the Cuban envoy.
Zimbabwe criticized the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying it faced unyielding “pressure” by “dubious non-governmental organizations.” Zimbabwe also accused the British government of “well-funded demonization” of Zimbabwe.
By a vote of 165 to 7, a UN General Assembly committee last Friday approved “institution-building” changes to the Human Rights Council that actually weaken or eliminate several of its key institutions. The package scraps the independent investigators of abuses in Cuba and Belarus, makes it harder to criticize specific countries for violations, and institutes the permanent censure of Israel as a fixed agenda item, an initiative pushed by the group of Islamic states.
The U.S., Canada, Australia, Israel and three Pacific Island states voted in opposition. The European Union countries supported the package, arguing it was the best possible compromise to preserve a functioning council.
The changes were first adopted on June 19, 2007 by the Human Rights Council in Geneva under dubious circumstances. As documented by a UN Watch photo timeline, “How the Human Rights Council Was Born” — an eye-opener into the dark side of international law and diplomacy — the package was rammed through in middle of the night, with Canada denied its right to vote. Continue reading ‘UN Ends Scrutiny of Cuba and Belarus, Indicts Israel’
“Until Mr. Ban and Ms. Arbour take action, Jean Ziegler’s unethical conduct will cast a shadow upon the reputation and integrity of all the independent experts” — Hillel Neuer, UN Watch
Geneva, Nov. 13, 2007 — The U.N. expressed “regret” after one of its officials allowed undercover Cuban diplomats to attend a news conference where they sought information on a French journalist asking questions about Fidel Castro’s regime, the Associated Press reported today. UN Watch, the Geneva-based monitoring organization, called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and members of the UN Human Rights Council to order a full investigation into “the tangled web of Jean Ziegler’s collusion with the Castro regime.”
Mr. Ziegler, mandated by the council to address the “right to food,” recently returned to his native Geneva after an 11-day mission to Cuba, which he hailed as a world model for how it feeds its people.
At an October 11 press conference convened by Ziegler prior to his departure — where he announced that he would visit Cuba not to investigate violations but rather to praise its government — a journalist who asked critical questions was quickly singled out by undercover Cuban diplomats who had entered the room in violation of a strict U.N. prohibition. The officials asked other journalists to identify the name and agency of the reporter who debated Ziegler.
No one’s talking about it, but soon — perhaps in early November — the UN General Assembly will be asked to approve the new configuration of the UN Human Rights Council. If you want to know how it was all conceived, see the compelling new timeline (with photos!) released today for the first time by UN Watch: How the Human Rights Council Was Born. It’s an eye-opener into the dark side of diplomacy that sometimes lurks behind international law and its institutions.
And now, a contest. If you can identify any point at which the council legally adopted the June 2007 draft institution-building package — purporting to establish the council’s rules of procedure, governing agenda, country and thematic investigatory mandates, and the much bally-hooed universal periodic review mechanism — I will buy you dinner at one of Geneva’s finest restaurants. (To try your luck, enter the contest by posting a comment below.) Continue reading ‘Timeline: How the UN Human Rights Council Was Born’
Discredited Council Opens Second Year
The UN Human Rights Council is in the middle of a three-week session in Geneva, its first after the conclusion of a year-long process of reform and institution building. The first ten days of the Council were largely technical, with discussion of the council’s mandate-holders, the new Advisory Committee, and of its new mechanism, Universal Periodic Review (UPR), under which all states are supposed to be reviewed. The council debated the appointment process for the experts who will serve on the Advisory Committee and hold the various country and thematic mandates. One issue was how to balance merit factors — education, experience in the field of human rights, and field work — with other considerations such as gender balance and regional diversity. A compromise is expected to emerge later in the session.
Third World Countries to be Reviewed Last
Wednesday the Council tested a system for randomly selecting countries for the UPR mechanism. While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was selected in the trial session, council secretary Eric Tistounet assured the member states that the least developed countries — a category that includes Sudan, Burma, and Bangladesh — will not be selected for the UPR’s debut review in the spring of 2008.
Islamic Bloc Accuses West of “Defamation of Religion”
In a clever maneuver, Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic group and Egypt managed to have the report on “religious defamation” placed under the agenda item dealing with the Durban Declaration. Of course, that document says nothing about “religious defamation,” which is the banner under which the 56-strong Islamic bloc seeks to impose its agenda upon all public debate and discourse. Any criticism of Islamic extremism, or any free discussion by Muslims of their own religion — whether in the West or locally in the Middle East — is all liable to be branded as “defaming Islam.”