Geneva, January 27, 2014.
Archive for the 'Cuba' Category
Dictatorships China and Cuba just took their new seats on the Executive Board of UNDP, whose stated priority is “Building democratic societies.” The tyrannies will help oversee UN democracy promotion through 2016.
Iran’s murderous and misogynistic regime is already a member, and will continue helping UNDP to “Empower women” through 2015.
Below: Watch Chinese dissident Yang Jianli and Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Paya oppose their countries’ election to the UN Human Rights Council.
On November 12, the UN General Assembly elected 14 new members for the Human Rights Council. Among the 14 elected were 6 countries that UN Watch evaluated as unqualified for membership: Algeria, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Vietnam. Their newfound membership of the UN’s top human rights body will be yet another occasion for these abusers to spew propaganda and silence dissidents and civil society – often the only ones who dare to tell the truth about these regimes. Since Tuesday’s election, members of the respective governments and representative of their UN Missions have commented on the election explaining that their victories were due to the international recognition of their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.
“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights. It has made remarkable achievements and has vigorously developed international cooperation in the field of human rights …China is fully qualified to be elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. China’s election to the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday also serves as the international community’s acknowledgment of China’s significant achievements in the field of human rights.”
Wang Min, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, 13 November 2013 (Source)
“Cuba’s selection is nothing less than a recognition of its consistent stance of rejecting double standards and the persistent efforts by Western powers to use the Council for political ends, to manipulate the issue of human rights in service of its interests and to convert this body into an inquisitor tribunal for the nations of the (global) South who don’t submit to their designs.”
Anayansi Rodriquez, Cuba’s UN ambassador in Geneva, 13 November 2013 (Source)
“The Kingdom’s election to the Human Rights Council for the third time in a row is yet another confirmation of its pioneering role in the council and the service of human rights issues.”
Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Ma’alami, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, 12 November 2013 (Source)
“This election confirms the Kingdom’s efforts in the enhancement of justice, equality and the protection and promotion of human rights at both domestic and international arenas, as well as the Kingdom’s firm positions towards issues of fair human rights in the world … This election confirms the Kingdom’s prestigious status and international respect and recognition for its roles in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Dr Al-Aiban, President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, 13 November 2013 (Source)
“The UN election was a ‘good result.’ We will work in order to strengthen cooperation and dialogue and create constructive working atmosphere in the council.”
Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, 12 November 2013 (Source)
“This is sound evidence that the international community supports our country’s policy of strengthening the collective base of the U.N. work in encouraging and protection of the human rights.”
Russian Foreign Ministry, 13 November 2013 (Source)
“This determination reflects the Vietnamese Party and State’s view of human rights as a common aspiration of human being as well as their consistent policy of respecting and ensuring human rights, and enhancing international cooperation in this field … Vietnam’s election to the UNHRC with the highest vote is of great significance. It shows the international community’s acknowledgement and appreciation of Vietnam’s policies and achievements in its comprehensive renewal process, including the building of a state of law that offers a better guarantee of citizens’ rights.”
Pham Binh Minh, Foreign Minister of Vietnam, 13 November 2013 (Source)
Today the UN will elect 14 out of 16 candidate countries to be new members of its top human rights body. UN Watch heads an international campaign of MPs and NGOs urging nations to oppose the election of Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. The other candidates are France, Macedonia, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Uruguay. Click here for UN Watch’s comprehensive report, analysis and comment.
Following are the remarks of Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Payá, delivered at UN headquarters on November 4, 2013, at a press conference organized by UN Watch and the Human Right Foundation.
On September 20, the Cuban government declared, in the Human Rights Council, that they would not allow democracy in my country. They reject democratic values, and they pretend to redefine them with twisted principles, in order to remain in power forever.
The Cuban mission declined all recommendations to stop political apartheid, and to ensure fundamental freedoms, among many rights requested by the Cuban people from the government.
My father Oswaldo Payá is the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement. He won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, and he struggled peacefully for the recognition, in law and practice, of the right of all Cubans to have rights. He promoted a referendum known as the Varela Project, which has the support of more than 25,000 citizens, more than the number requested by our Constitution. Ten years later, the Cuban government still refuses to answer this citizen call for a plebiscite, violating its own Constitution.
Appeal Against Unworthy UN Human Rights Candidacies
We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, call on you to publicly oppose the candidacies of Algeria, China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, for seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council, elections for which will be held on November 12, 2013. We urge you to take action to defeat these manifestly unworthy candidacies, which threaten to cast a shadow upon the reputation of the Council—and of the United Nations as a whole.
Candidates for the UN Human Rights Council, according to General Assembly Resolution 60/251, are supposed to be countries that “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Yet it is widely recognized that Algeria, China, Cuba Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam fail to meet these basic membership criteria. They have poor if not abysmal records on human rights protection at home, and on human rights promotion at the UN.
Rather than giving these non-democratic governments influence over vital decision on human rights, we urge you to introduce resolutions at the United Nations to hold these nations accountable, and to condemn their gross and systematic human rights violations.
Silence is complacency. For the sake of millions of victims worldwide who need a credible and effective international human rights body, please do not be silent.
Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP
European Parliament Vice-President for Human Rights & Democracy
Elmar Brok, MEP
Chair of Committee on Foreign Affairs, European Parliament
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP
Leader of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Former Prime Minister of Belgium
Sounding the alarm: in an interview on Canada’s CTV, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer calls on the U.S. and the EU to end their silence over the UN’s planned election next week of the world’s worst abusers to its highest human rights body.
Cuba, Venezuela, Sri Lanka support phony Chinese NGO event
GENEVA, Oct. 21, 2013 – On the eve of the UN Human Rights Council’s review of China’s human rights record, a panel was held today at UNHRC headquarters by Chinese “non-governmental” organizations, who showered China with praise for its supposed civil society progress.
It has become commonplace at the United Nations for authoritarian governments to accredit front groups as NGOs, who then take the floor or organize side to influence UN debates on the country concerned. They are known as phony NGOs, or “GONGOs” — government-run NGOs.
Today’s phony NGO panel was organized by “China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE),” a UN-accredited NGO.
They were joined by the “China Association for NPO (non-profit organizations),” the “Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Hebei Province,” and the “China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture and China Ethnic Minorities Association for External Exchanges.”
Panelists spoke of the “booming and changing” development of NGOs in China, claiming there are 506,000 social organizations and one to three million grass-roots NGOs active in China today. These promote economic development by focusing on education, social service, agriculture, ecological environment, law and religion, it was said. These organizations exercise autonomy as long as they work in accordance with the law and that the functions of the government are separated from those of social organizations.
At the end of the presentation, as if on cue, diplomats from Cuba, Venezuela and Sri Lanka – major allies of the Chinese regime — took the floor to praised the Chinese GONGOs for their active civil society. Cuba reaffirmed the importance of having such a genuine dialogue about civil society in China, and commended the government and people of China for all that has been done in the field of human rights.
On 17 September 2013, UN Watch, together with Liberal International and Directorio Democratico Cubano, hosted an event entitled “Cuba’s UPR: A Shadow Report.”
A view of the panelists
The panelists were:
- OFELIA PAYA ACEVEDO: Widow of the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in a suspicious car crash a year ago, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.
- YRIS TAMARA PEREZ AGUILERA: Human rights defender in Cuba, founder and leader of the Rosa Parks Feminine Civic Rights Movement, a women rights organization in Cuba.
- OSVALDO ALFONSO VALDES: Former prisoner of conscience, Director of Misceláneas de Cuba, published in Sweden in collaboration with independent journalists in Cuba, Vice-President of Union Liberal Cubana and representative of Liberal International.
Also: for first time, an official UN document is published calling for inquiry into Oswaldo Paya’s death, signed by 125 world leaders
GENEVA, Sept. 17 – Cuba’s delegate to the UN Human Rights Council today interrupted testimony by the widow of famed Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, in a failed bid to block her from requesting an international inquiry into the death of her husband.
Ofelia Acevedo, who was invited to deliver testimony in the UNHRC plenary by UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization, was interrupted first by Cuba, which demanded that the Chair block her from speaking, and then by China, which supported Havana’s point of order.
But the U.S. immediately took the floor to defend UN Watch’s right to speak. The Chair effectively overruled Cuba’s objection by allowing Acevedo to continue her testimony.
“We commend the U.S. for being the only one today to defy Cuba’s bullying tactics and defend this courageous woman’s right to speak, and her right to find out whether the Castro regime killed her husband, a champion of non-violent reform who was Cuba’s Nelson Mandela,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
Timed with Acevedo’s testimony, UN Watch formally presented an international petition to the UNHRC demanding an inquiry into Paya’s death, circulated today to all delegates as official UN document HRC/NGO/3 under the council’s agenda item on “human rights situations requiring the council’s attention.”
Signatories of UN Watch’s appeal include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, numerous former presidents, foreign ministers & ambassadors, MPs and human rights activists.
This is the first time that the demand for an inquiry into Paya’s death was published as an official UN document.
November 1, 2007, in Havana, Cuba: Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on The Right to Food (L) is welcomed by Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque. Ziegler’s visit marks the first time in many years that Cuba has allowed a UN envoy to visit Cuba on human rights issues. “Ziegler shares the view of the ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro that it is a crime against humanity to use agriculturally productive soil for growing crops for biofuel production instead of for foodstuffs.” (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)
Jean Ziegler, co-founder, co-manager and 2002 recipient of the Qaddafi human rights prize, is hoping to return to the UN Human Rights Council in September, thanks to the sponsorship and lobbying efforts of the Swiss government.
While Switzerland’s Note Verbale on Ziegler’s behalf invokes his prior work as a UNHRC expert, the truth is that his record there was marked by shameless politicization and propaganda for some of the world’s most autocratic regimes.
A classic example is Ziegler’s use of his UN mandate to propagandize for the Communist regime of Fidel Castro. Continue reading ‘How Cuba Will Use UNHRC Nominee Jean Ziegler to Spread Lies, Propaganda’
Cuba held a ceremony on Friday to celebrate UNESCO’s despicable decision to include “The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara” among 54 new additions to the Memory of the World Register, approved on June 18 by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
Spanish news agency EFE has the most information on the ceremony, with quotes from Che’s family members who attended the event. Here is the official UNESCO page documenting the inclusion of 431 manuscripts by Che and 567 documents about Che or related to him.
Claudia Rosett offers the best analysis, explaining the absurdity and immorality in UNESCO’s decision, and quoting historian Paul Berman’s 2004 Slate article on Guevara. Continue reading ‘UNESCO honors executioner Che Guevara’
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.
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.