Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

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Human Rights Activists Urge Swiss to Suspend Tomorrow’s UN Nomination of Khaddafi Ally Pending Independent Inquiry

Jean Ziegler Supported Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro, Co-Founded “Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize”


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.

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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

Gibreil Hamid
Darfur Survivor
President, Darfur Peace and Development Center

Per Ahlmark
Former Peputy Prime Minister of Sweden

Angel De Fana
Ex-political prisoner
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

Cuba calls for UN examination of American “missions of death against the Cuban People”

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.  

Malloch-Brown speaks out on abuse in Iran, Zimbabwe

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.

UN Ends Scrutiny of Cuba and Belarus, Indicts Israel

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’

U.N. Chief Urged to Investigate Official’s Complicity With Undercover Castro Agents

“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.

Continue reading ‘U.N. Chief Urged to Investigate Official’s Complicity With Undercover Castro Agents’

Timeline: How the UN Human Rights Council Was Born

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’

Reform or Regression? Latest from the U.N. Human Rights Council

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.”

Continue reading ‘Reform or Regression? Latest from the U.N. Human Rights Council’

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