Archive for the 'Human Rights Council (UNHRC)' Category

William Schabas was early proponent of targeting Israel with Geneva Conventions

Schabas-330x390For only the third time in history, the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions met yesterday to condemn a country for violating the law of war. As on the previous two occasions, the country condemned was Israel.

After the Holocaust, the world gathered in Geneva to affirm the laws of war and enshrine the prohibition against targeting civilians.

One of the early champions of activating these legal conventions for the first time to single out Israel — while ignoring war crimes by Saddam, Qaddafi, and Arafat — was law professor William Schabas, who now chairs the UNHRC’s Commission of Inquiry on Gaza.

In 1999, before the International Criminal Court was even in operation, Schabas was an early campaigner for the indictment of Israeli leaders.

At a June 1999 Cairo meeting of the UN’s “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” Schabas embraced an extraordinary session on Israel — the first time the treaty was enforced against any state or non-state actor — to be held by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Schabas called the targeting of Israelis an “exciting opportunity.”

Speaking before opponents of Israel gathered from around the world, Schabas told the Cairo forum that member states were “under an obligation to prosecute” Israelis “suspected of committing grave breaches.” States are required to seek extradition of those whom Israel refuses to try, said Schabas.

If the result of threats of prosecution under article 146 would be “only to restrain the travel plans of Israeli civilian and military officials,” said Schabas, this may still constitute a “useful means of pressure.”

At a time when Islamic extremists are slaughtering men, women and children from Nigeria to Syria to Pakistan, and when Russia has swallowed Crimea and plunged eastern Ukraine into war, killing 4,700 and wounding 10,000 more, the world yesterday decided, as it did in 1999 and in 2001, to single out Israel alone for censure.

There was no condemnation of Hamas for firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, or of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for inciting murderous terrorist attacks on the streets of Jerusalem, and against worshippers in  a synagogue, all in gross breach of the Geneva Conventions, which the Palestinians signed earlier this year.

As NYU law professor Joseph Weiler noted in the European Journal of International Law, Schabas’ prior record of partisanship on this subject makes his a “self-evident case” where “the appearance of justice is compromised.”

Schabas is scheduled to present his report before the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015. Legally, however, he is obliged to recuse himself on account of his prior statements and actions which objectively create the appearance of bias.

UN Watch letter to Samantha Power urges condemnation of UNRWA boycott call

Letter from UN Watch to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power  |  Click here for PDF
Click here to sign the petition

10 December 2014

Dear Ambassador Power,

We are shocked by UNRWA’s call to boycott one of Israel’s oldest newspapers and appeal to you to speak out and hold the organization to account. With the U.S. being the largest donor to UNRWA—giving $398 million this year alone—your clear voice on this matter can play a vital role in upholding the principles of the UN Charter.

Barely has the ink dried on the 2015 UNRWA-U.S. Framework for Cooperation—in which Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl solemnly promised that UNRWA would respect impartiality—and its top spokesman Chris Gunness, tweeting on Thursday from his official account, called to “Boycott the Jerusalem Post!”  The statement remains there and has not been renounced in any way by UNRWA, nor by the DC-based representatives of UNRWA USA whom we approached on this matter.

What so outraged Mr. Gunness was an op-ed by Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid that called for an audit of all allocated funds to UNRWA and the dismissal of its Hamas-affiliated employees. (“Proud Palestinians must lead the fight to reform UNRWA,” Dec. 1, 2014.) Rather than respond rationally, UNRWA lashed out. Never before has a UN humanitarian organization called to boycott a newspaper.

This was a political act inconsistent with the neutrality requirements applicable to all humanitarian agencies. Moreover, it violates the Framework agreement with the U.S., under which the agency is obliged to ensure “adherence to principles of neutrality,” and, specifically, “the neutrality of UNRWA’s staff.”

Mr. Gunness is a repeat offender. In July, to name one of numerous examples, he urged reporters to interview Dr. Mads Gilbert, a pro-Hamas Norwegian activist who in September 2001 supported the “moral right” of Al Qaeda to perpetrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Gunness is flagrantly abusing his humanitarian mandate for political advocacy. If you don’t hold him and UNRWA to account, I fear, no one will.

Sincerely,
Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

Germany to head HRC in 2015, pledges reforms

This morning, the Human Rights Council elected its President and four Vice-Presidents for the year 2015. What was also interesting was that we have geared up for new reform process for the Council, ahead of its 10 year anniversary in 2016.

Germany was chosen from the WEOG group to be the Council’s President for 2015, while Albania, Botswana, Kazakhstan and Paraguay were chosen as Vice-Presidents, representing the other regions.

The Council has no scheduled reform up ahead, other than the GA to consider the status of the Council (subsidiary to the GA or on an equal level as a principal body) “at an appropriate moment and at a time no sooner than ten years and no later than fifteen years.” Yet, today’s organization meeting may have kicked off a new round of reforms for the HRC, which still has not been able to full implement its mandate and efficiently assist  human rights victims around the world.

The outgoing President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella, outlined a long list of suggested reforms, including “the agenda of the Council, the number of resolutions, the number of panels, the functioning of certain groups related to activities of the Council, such as the advisory group […] and the Group on Situations, the role of special procedures, the participation of NGOs in the work of the Council, and the Treaty bodies.” The President said that this process should be completed by 2016  and concluded his remarks by saying “we should always bear in mind the reasons the led to the disappearance of the Human Rights Commission.”

Ambassador Joachim Rucker of Germany, the HRC’s President-elect, went a step further and proposed a first round of informal discussions in Berlin, on May 21-23, on the role of the Council and how to further improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

The reform process for the HRC in 2016 has been officially inaugurated. UN Watch will of course be present throughout this process and advocate for what is right.

ICC examining U.S. military for war crimes in Afghanistan

The International Criminal Court is examining the U.S. for possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, a move that some experts believe is unjustified and could undermine the tribunal’s work.

The ICC prosecutor’s latest annual report alleges that “members of the US military in Afghanistan used so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against conflict-related detainees,” which could amount to the war crimes of “cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity as defined under international jurisprudence.” (See full excerpts below.)

According to NYU law professor Ryan Goodman, writing in Just Security, the ICC’s examination of U.S. detention operations appears to have reached an advanced phase and “crossed over the important threshold of a finding that there is a reasonable basis to believe U.S. forces committed war crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”

The court is now at the stage of weighing the gravity of the alleged U.S. war crimes, and whether America’s own system of investigations and willingness to prosecute (“national proceedings”) are genuine.

“Whatever one’s views regarding U.S. detention policy in Afghanistan from 2003-2008,” writes Ryan Vogel, professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, “the alleged U.S. conduct is surely not what the world had in mind when it established the ICC to address ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.'”

The ICC, argues Vogel, who formerly served in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, was “designed to end impunity for the most egregious and shocking breaches of the law,” and “it is hard to see how alleged detainee abuse by U.S. forces meets that standard.”

“The Prosecutor appears to have spent valuable and finite resources pushing an examination of the United States,” writes Vogel. The prosecutor “risks irreparably harming the ICC’s important relationship with the United States, while accomplishing virtually nothing in return, aside from (hollowly) demonstrating that the ICC intends to take cases outside of Africa.”

Excerpts from the prosecutor’s 2014 annual report, released this week:

94. The Office has been assessing available information relating to the alleged abuse of detainees by international forces within the temporal jurisdiction of the Court. In particular, the alleged torture or ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees by US armed forces in Afghanistan in the period 2003-2008 forms another potential case identified by the Office. In accordance with the Presidential Directive of 7 February 2002, Taliban detainees were denied the status of prisoner of war under article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention but were required to be treated humanely. In this context, the information available suggests that between May 2003 and June 2004, members of the US military in Afghanistan used so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” against conflict-related detainees in an effort to improve the level of actionable intelligence obtained from interrogations. The development and implementation of such techniques is documented inter alia in declassified US Government documents released to the public, including Department of Defense reports as well as the US Senate Armed Services Committee’s inquiry. These reports describe interrogation techniques approved for use as including food deprivation, deprivation of clothing, environmental manipulation, sleep adjustment, use of individual fears, use of stress positions, sensory deprivation (deprivation of light and sound), and sensory overstimulation.

95. Certain of the enhanced interrogation techniques apparently approved by US senior commanders in Afghanistan in the period from February 2003 through June 2004, could, depending on the severity and duration of their use, amount to cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity as defined under international jurisprudence. In addition, there is information available that interrogators allegedly committed abuses that were outside the scope of any approved techniques, such as severe beating, especially beating on the soles of the feet, suspension by the wrists, and threats to shoot or kill.

96. While continuing to assess the seriousness and reliability of such allegations, the Office is analysing the relevance and genuineness of national proceedings by the competent national authorities for the alleged conduct described above as well as the gravity of the alleged crimes.

102. The Office will continue to analyse allegations of crimes committed in Afghanistan, and to assess the admissibility of the potential cases identified above in order to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation of the situation in Afghanistan pursuant to article 15(3) of the Statute.

 

Lawyers and rights activists question Schabas’ tenure on UN Gaza probe

A sample of the lawyers and human rights activist who have questioned the tenure of William Schabas as chair of the UN commission of inquiry on Gaza, in light of his prior prejudicial statements.


Swiss president tells UN Watch: no action on North Korean bank accounts

GENEVA – As reported by the Wall Street Journal, UN Watch has received a letter from the president of Switzerland, responding to the group’s call to freeze Swiss bank accounts held by North Korean regime figures,  indicating the government will not take any action unless “new developments take place at the Security Council.”

The initial UN Watch letter, signed by 20 North Korean defectors, emphasized that “Switzerland has no legal or moral reason to wait before proceeding with these vital targeted sanctions. ”

—————-

Letter from Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, dated 29 October 2014 — Click for PDF

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your open letter signed by 20 North Korean defectors of September, 19, 2014 regarding the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in particular regarding your request to Switzerland to immediately freeze all assets of the North Korean leadership within its territory.

As you know, the universal protection and promotion of human rights are a top priority of Swiss foreign policy provided for by the Federal Constitution. Hence, human rights issues are incorporated into its overall foreign policy and are regularly addressed at governmental level and in multilateral forums.

The serious and systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity that are being committed on a large scale in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — as established by the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in its detailed, well-documented and comprehensive findings — are a source of grave concern to Switzerland. As stated in the open letter, these serious violations of human rights need to be treated with the greatest urgency. Therefore, Switzerland supports in particular the Commission’s recommendation to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court.

The situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea already led Switzerland to take action, including legal steps. On 25 October 2006, the Confederation enacted a range of coercive measures in order to implement sanctions that had been ordered by the United Nations Security Council: the Ordinance instituting Measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea entails a list of 12 individuals and 20 organisations that are subject to such coercive measures, including a freeze of their assets. Regarding coercive measures, resolute and concerted action at the United Nations are key to improve the situation and Switzerland stands ready to adapt its own legal measures should new developments take place at the Security Council.

Switzerland will also continue to express its grave concern related to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea within the framework of its bilateral relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, such as during the political dialogue which will take place in November 2014, and will continue to be actively engaged regarding efforts in the UN General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council to improve the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Yours sincerely,

Didier Burkhalter

Continue reading ‘Swiss president tells UN Watch: no action on North Korean bank accounts’

Georgetown prof: UNHRC ‘killed my candidacy’ as Palestine investigator for not being ‘partial’ like William Schabas

Cerna

Georgetown University law professor Christina Cerna said the U.N.’s highest human rights body “killed” her candidacy as its expert on Palestine — despite her selection by a 5-member vetting committee — on account of her not being partial like William Schabas, whom the 47-nation council chose to chair its commission of inquiry on Gaza.

“I was selected as the consensus candidate of the Consultative Committee for the post of UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories earlier this year,” Cerna wrote in a comment on the blog of the European Journal of International Law, “but the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States both officially opposed me, which killed my candidacy.”

“They opposed me… because I had never said anything pro-Palestinian and consequently was not known to be ‘partial’ enough to win their support. The candidate that they officially supported was considered to be partial in their favor.”

“No other special procedures mandate is similarly biased,” wrote Cerna, who is the principal human rights specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“In my view Israel has a unique status in the UN Human Rights Council. “Impartiality is not a requirement sought by the Council for the appointment of experts when it comes to Israel.”

Significantly, the former top candidate to be the UNHRC’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Palestine stated that William Schabas was chosen to head the Gaza inquiry precisely because of his prior prejudicial statements”

“I don’t think Bill Schabas could have been selected to lead the “independent” inquiry if he hadn’t made the comments he had made about Netanyahu.

Cerna now joins numerous other legal scholars and human rights activists who believe Schabas’ tenure is inconsistent with the impartiality principle.

What turned Ken Roth into a Swiss reporter

KenRoth

With a little help from his 275 staff members, Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth voices moral outrage on his Twitter feed once every hour, 24 times a day, seven days a week.

Yet when a Hamas terrorist today rammed his car into a crowd of Israelis in Jerusalem, and then got out to attack them further with an iron bar, Ken Roth’s voice suddenly turned into that of a neutral Swiss reporter. Continue reading ‘What turned Ken Roth into a Swiss reporter’

Iran blames Western “media blitz” for execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari

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Iran’s representative just told the UN Human Rights Council that the West and its “media blitz” and “propaganda” is the real one to blame for its execution on Saturday of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, chief of human rights in Iran’s government, said:

One issue was about a  recent execution. Let me explain. Reyhaneh Jabbari had numerous judges, numerous lawyers. The lawyers defended her. Court came back with an indictment that it was first degree murder with intention, with capital punishment.

It is considered Qesas, the right of the victim. The judiciary not in position to execute. We tried and lobbied a lot to solicit forgiveness from relatives of victims. We unfortunately were not able. One reason was because of huge propaganda created in this case. In my last meeting with sons, I urged him to “let not even others also not lose a beloved one; forgive.”

He replied: “We had the intention to forgive, but because of the media blitz — they accused our father of forced rape — we cannot deal with this humiliation.”

So this execution went ahead. We’re very sorry that two nationals lost their life. Western countries should look into it. This idea of  “the West and the rest, only the west has good things,” this is wrong. Please accept the idea that others have a good way of life. Westrn lifestyle isn’t only way of doing things.

Christian priest to UN: “Israel only Mideast country not persecuting Christians”

Mr. President, I am speaking to you on behalf of UN Watch.

Standing before you is Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian citizen from Nazareth, the city in which Christ was raised and where he proselytized.

Dear Sirs, while I stand before you today, the earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily.

Do you know that at the start of the 20th century, Christians comprised 20% of the population of the Middle East? Continue reading ‘Christian priest to UN: “Israel only Mideast country not persecuting Christians”’

UN Watch condemns EU majority for backing Venezuela’s Security Council bid

Neuer: “Like making a pyromaniac into the fire chief”

venezuela unsc

U.N. representatives for Venezuela, including Foreign Minister
Rafael Ramirez, right, celebrate after being elected to a two year
term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

GENEVA, October 16, 2014 – Despite Venezuela’s record of human rights abuses against judges, students and peaceful protesters, and its backing of Syria’s Assad regime, a majority of EU member states today were among the 181 states that voted Venezuela onto the UN Security Council, drawing the ire of human rights activists.

“It’s an outrage that at least 16 of 28 EU states today empowered and legitimized a repressive government that openly sides with the murderous Syrian regime,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, an independent human rights group which recently brought Venezuelan human rights victims to testify before the world body.

“Electing Venezuela to the UN Security Council is like making a pyromaniac into the fire chief,” said Neuer. Continue reading ‘UN Watch condemns EU majority for backing Venezuela’s Security Council bid’

Arab states outraged as EU walks out on anti-Israel UN debate

In an important development, the European Union has stopped participating in the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda item against Israel. This has the Arab and Islamic states up in arms. Below from the recent debate on September 23, 2014, under Agenda Item 7, “The Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

The State of Palestine expressed its disappointment at Israel’s decision not to participate in this agenda item of the Council. The occupation and numerous human rights violations by Israel for the last 47 years made Israel the world’s biggest violator of human rights.

United Arab Emirates for the Arab Group expressed extreme discontent about the European Union’s decision to boycott this agenda item.

Iran for the Non-Aligned Movement condemned in the strongest terms the violations of human rights as a result of Israel’s military aggression against Palestine. The Non-Aligned Movement was deeply disappointed by the decision of certain s Continue reading ‘Arab states outraged as EU walks out on anti-Israel UN debate’

Resolutions and Voting Results of 27th HRC Session

Condemnatory Country-Specific Resolutions

The continuing grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/27/L.5/Rev.1)
Sponsors: France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK, USA
Vote result: 32 in favor, 5 against (China, Cuba, Russia), 10 abstentions

Non-Condemnatory Country-Specific Resolutions

Technical assistance and capacity building to further improve human rights in the Sudan (A/HRC/27/L.30/Rev.1)
Sponsors: Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights (A/HRC/27/L.9/Rev.1)
Sponsors: Netherlands, Yemen
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Assistance technique et renforcement des capacités en matière des droits de l’homme en République démocratique du Congo (A/HRC/27/L.32)
Sponsors: Ethiopia on behalf of the African group
Result: Adopted without a vote.

Continue reading ‘Resolutions and Voting Results of 27th HRC Session’

UN airbrushes Clooney’s wife out of its history books

amal11e

The United Nations has airbrushed George Clooney’s wife out of its history books, as a new report by the world body eliminates all mention of its ill-fated appointment of Ms. Amal Alamuddin last month as a member of its commission of inquiry on the Gaza conflict.

The U.N.’s August 11th announcement that the Hollywood star’s then-fiancee would serve on the probe made world headlines. Only hours later, however — possibly due to the immediate controversy that erupted over the the inquiry’s chair, William Schabas — Alamuddin abruptly withdrew.

UN Watch was the first to question the impartiality of Schabas due to his many prior statements calling to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged war crimes.

Alamuddin’s withdrawal was a significant embarrassment for the UN, which quickly replaced her with another woman, as the Palestinian ambassador said would happen.

In a new UN report summarizing the history of the probe, Alamuddin’s appointment and withdrawal are completely absent:

On 11 and 25 August 2014, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed William Schabas (Canada) as Chair, Doudou Diène (Senegal) and Mary McGowan Davis (United States of America) to serve as members on the Commission of Inquiry.

True story: Palestinian UN rep criticized states for criticizing Israel

An extraordinary event took place at the Human Rights Council on September 16, when the Palestinian representative took the floor to attack countries for attacking Israel.

The incident took place while the HRC was discussing human rights situations around the world, under Agenda Item 4.

What angered the Palestinians is that European and other Western countries — such as Denmark, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan — decided to raise their criticisms of Israel under the normal agenda item for criticizing countries, rather than under Agenda Item 7, which is the council’s special agenda item targeting Israel, entitled  “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”

Israel is the only country singled out by a special agenda item. Not even Syria, Sudan or North Korea have their own agenda item. Under that biased framework, Israel is attacked by venomous accusations, and targeted under more than half of the HRC’s country resolutions. Even UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the institution of this agenda item.

In the past year, the EU has refused to take the floor under Agenda Item 7, denying it legitimacy. Instead, they speak about Israel, when they feel the need, under Item 4. Gradually, Item 7 threatens to become a dead letter.

This triggered an angry response from the Palestinian representative who criticized these democracies — and also challenged Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorism. Of course, the Palestinians did not object to Iran criticizing Israel under item 4, or other authoritarian countries who are willing to do so at every opportunity.

Continue reading ‘True story: Palestinian UN rep criticized states for criticizing Israel’

“I was tortured by Russian-sponsored militants,” Ukrainian woman tells UN

Irina

Irina Dovgan, a Ukrainian woman who recently made international headlines after she was publicly abused by Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine, testified today before the UN Human Rights Council.

Invited by UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group accredited with the United Nations, Ms. Dovgan testified before the world forum about the arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture and public humiliation she suffered.

She discussed the situation of human rights in eastern Ukraine, one week before the council will hear a new report and debate the subject.

Continue reading ‘“I was tortured by Russian-sponsored militants,” Ukrainian woman tells UN’

When William Schabas was convicted in 1974, he tried to disqualify the judges for bias

Although William Schabas has mocked calls by eminent jurists for him to step down from the UN’s Gaza inquiry on account of bias — refusing to provide any legal response, instead telling an Arab newspaper that “even if Spider-Man were appointed to head the commission they would attack him — when he himself was once in the dock, Schabas tried to evade conviction by accusing all members of the tribunal with bias.

In 1974, when Schabas was a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Toronto, and a leader in the radical SDS group, he was charged and convicted with violating human rights and freedoms by physically obstructing a visiting Harvard professor from speaking on campus.

Schabas was found guilty on four charges and suspended from the university for four years, later reduced to two.

Interviewed about the episode in 2003, Schabas was “unrepentant about the incident,” reported Toronto Star literary critic Philip Marchand (“Monsters deserve to have their say, too,” Toronto Star, Feb. 1, 2003.)

“Human rights takes the view that speech that promotes hate should be prohibited by law,” said Schabas. “My view hasn’t changed one iota on that.”

Schabas’ actions marked a turning point in Canadian academic culture, according to Marchand, setting a negative precedent for “political correctness and ideological bullying,” and putting an end to “a genuinely adventurous spirit on university campuses.” The episode paved the way to “a pervasive culture of belligerent complaint allied to whining self-righteousness.”

Continue reading ‘When William Schabas was convicted in 1974, he tried to disqualify the judges for bias’

Why it matters when UN rights chief fails to call out worst abusers

In his maiden speech to the Human Rights Council, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein mentioned several human rights situations, with varying degrees of emergency, ranging from Syria and Iraq to Greece, Australia and Cyprus.

The references to Iraq and Syria were extensive. The reference to Russia was only in passing, about their role “to protect civilians” in relation to the conflict in Ukraine that has already left 3000 people dead. On Greece, the new High Commissioner was concerned “by the shooting of Bangladeshi strawberry pickers in Greece after they had asked for months of back pay, and the acquittal of several of the farmers involved.” Continue reading ‘Why it matters when UN rights chief fails to call out worst abusers’

Jordanian Prince Zeid’s inaugural speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights

zeif headshot

Inaugural speech by Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the new U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, before the U.N. Human Rights Council, September 8, 2014

Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. President, I thank you for your warm welcome for which I am truly grateful.    Twenty years ago, I was exposed to a cruel, pointless, war.  I was serving with the UN Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia, and learnt then a number of simple lessons. Violence at the extreme is so callous, so sickening and beyond the absurd, the human mind can barely edit into comprehensible thoughts what it sees.  No war is worse than another in this regard; all wars, big and small, reveal factories spewing the same wickedness.  And yet, astonishingly, the authors of the crimes themselves, and their supporting communities, will always believe their actions were somehow necessary, even if they knew they were also wrong.  Indeed, every individual, political party, association, ethnic, sectarian, or national group, or government discriminating and inflicting violence on others, believes that when doing so they are excused, or absolved, by circumstance or history.  Continue reading ‘Jordanian Prince Zeid’s inaugural speech as the UN’s new High Commissioner for Human Rights’

UN rushes against Israel, stalls on Eritrea

The UN Human Rights Council has appointed the three Commissioners for the CoI on Gaza. Yet, a similar one established on Eritrea a month before is stalled for at least six more months.

At a July 23 special session on Gaza–its seventh against the Jewish state, more than any other country in the world–it was decided to establish “an independent, international commission of inquiry … to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014.”

On August 11, the three Commissioners were named, and after one declined, a third one was appointed on August 25.

Yet, a similar Commission of Inquiry, established a month before on June 23, seems to have dropped as a UN priority. It focuses on Eritrea, “one of the most closed countries in the world,” with a mandate “to investigate all alleged violations of human rights.”

The Commissioners have yet to be named. In addition, the President of the Human Rights Council revealed in a meeting with NGOs yesterday, that in his meetings with UN officials from the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) as well as its ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions), the budget has still not been approved. This will happen around October 2014 with the CoI to begin its work in January 2015.

The UN Human Rights Council has again showed how Israel-bashing is on top of its priorities, and overrides all other issues. It is another example of the well-known fact that resolutions against Israel serve to keep dictatorial regimes safe from UN scrutiny. Please explain that to the millions suffering of human rights abuses around the world.

 

Double standard: UN on Iraq-ISIS vs. UN on Israel-Hamas

Hamas collaborators

Whatever their differences, the Sunni Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Gaza share a great deal in common: they believe in and perpetrate the killing of civilians in the name of Jihad, they despise the West and its culture of freedom and democracy, and they seek to dominate their subject populations by theocratic, fascist, misogynistic, and homophobic regimes. ISIS has been far more successful than Hamas, but not for the latter’s lack of effort.

At the UN Human Rights Council, however, they are treated very differently. The Islamic terrorists fighting Israel get preferred treatment.

Consider today’s resolution on Iraq in comparison with the council’s recently-adopted resolution on Gaza.

Treatment of Islamic terrorists:

  • Today’s UNHRC resolution on Iraq condemned ISIS 10 times.
  • The July UNHRC resolution on Gaza mentioned Hamas 0 times.

Treatment of governments responding to Islamic terrorists:

  • Today’s UNHRC resolution on Iraq condemned the Baghdad government 0 times — even though Baghdad’s troops dropped barrel bombs on civilians, carried out summary executions of Sunnis, and perpetrated indiscriminate airstrikes on populated areas and other war crimes.
  • The UNHRC’s July resolution on Gaza condemned the Israeli government 18 times, even though Jerusalem took unprecedented measures to avoid harming civilians, including warnings with phone calls, text messages, leaflets, and roof knocking; and also aborting aerial strikes seconds before they were to be carried out, due to civilians being present at the site of the target.

Not only did today’s resolution fail to criticize Iraq’s Shiite government in any way, but the UNHRC actually praised the Sunni-killing Baghdad regime’s purported “efforts to foster religious freedom and pluralism.”

Just like , in 2009, the 47-nation council praised Sri Lanka — after it murdered 40,000 Tamils — for “promoting and protecting human rights.”

Rights group criticizes UN resolution for giving free pass to Baghdad abuses, sending low-level mission on ISIS

Iraq UN Watch against genocide

GENEVA, September 1, 2014 – A 21-year-old Iraqi Christian woman made an impassioned appeal today before a UN meeting on ISIS atrocities, speaking on behalf of the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, which spearheaded this month’s campaign by rights activists, MPs and Iraqi minority leaders calling for the emergency session, with a rally, press conference and diplomatic marathon featuring Iraqi Christian and Yazidi leaders. (See Maryam Wahida’s testimony below.)

“Today’s urgent session on the Islamic State’s butchering of Iraq’s Christians, Yazidis and other minorities is long overdue, but it’s better late than never,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer. Continue reading ‘Rights group criticizes UN resolution for giving free pass to Baghdad abuses, sending low-level mission on ISIS’

Geneva Press Statement from Yazidi Leadership

MEDIA RELEASE

tahseen

Left to right: Iraqi Christians Ramzi Wahida and Maryam Wahida, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, Yazidi spokesman Breen Tahseen

Statement by Breen Tahseen, on behalf of  Prince Tahseen, Leader of the Yazidi People

GENEVA, Aug. 20 - Today I conducted valuable meetings in Geneva, , on behalf of the Yazidi people,  with UN representatives of the United States and the European Union, and with the UN human rights office.

We are grateful for the extensive, in-depth and productive discussions concerning the desperate plight of the Yazidi people.

We reached important consensus about the need for the international community to act. We appreciate their efforts and trust that concrete and effective action will follow.

On behalf of Prince Tahseen and the Yazidi people, we appeal to High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to lead the call for the UN Human Rights Council to hold an emergency session to focus world attention on the desperate plight of the Yazidi people. The outcome of the session should be focused on the following key objectives:

  • Release of the approximately 5,000 Yazidi people kidnapped by ISIS.
  • Resettlement of Yazidi refugees in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia, with priority to the victims of genocide and their families.
  • Creation of a safe zone in Iraq for displaced persons, supervised by the UN and administered by Christians and Yazidis.
  • Compensation to victims for material and moral damages, and an allocation to them under the Iraqi budget.

We request that negotiations by the international community with Iraq should also include consultation with the Yazidi people.

Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to the human rights group UN Watch for successfully organizing my visit to Geneva, along with an inspiring solidarity rally, UN press conference and diplomatic meetings.

Rally Against Genocide in Iraq, Aug. 19, 2014

Speakers:

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch
Pierre Weiss, Member of Geneva Parliament
Breen Tahseen, son of head of Yazidi community
Ramzi Wahida, member of the Christian Iraqi community
Maryam Wahida,  member of the Christian Iraqi community

 

  • Playlist of all videos from rally
  • Photos from rally
  • Audio from the press conference

 

Yazidi and Christian Leaders to Unite in Geneva, Demand UNHRC Action

 

GENEVA, August 18, 2014 –  Breen Tahseen (photo above), an Iraqi diplomat whose father, Prince Tahseen Saeed Bek, is the leader of the Yazidi people, will join together with leaders from the Iraqi Christian community at a rally tomorrow in Geneva calling for the UN Human Rights Council to meet urgently on the destruction of minorities in Iraq.

Organized by the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, the rally will call on UN rights chief Navi Pillay to take action to convene an urgent session of the 47-nation council on the ISIS atrocities in Iraq against minorities, echoing a recent appeal by more than 20 MPs and human rights activists.

UN Watch has also arranged for the Yazidi and Christian leaders to meet with key diplomatic figures in the UNHRC system.

Diplomats in Geneva have quietly discussed a special session, with the Vatican also pressing for action, but some prefer waiting several weeks until the regular session opens in the second week of September.

What: Demonstration in support of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq
When: Tuesday, August 19, 2014, at 1:00 pm
Where: Place des Nations, in front of the UN European headquarters in Geneva

“End the siege in Gaza!” – But there is no siege

With so many worldwide seeking to justify Hamas aggression, the following Israeli response to the myth of the “siege” in Gaza is a must-read.  

The Myth of an Israeli Siege on Gaza

There is no Israeli “siege” on the Gaza Strip. First of all, Gaza shares borders not only with Israel, but with Egypt as well. There is a 13 kilometer (8 mile) frontier between Gaza and Egypt. That country, and not Israel, controls the Rafah crossing into Gaza which has been used primarily by people travelling to and from Egypt, and from there to the rest of the world.

Most importantly, for the past four years all goods are allowed to enter Gaza from Israel, except for weapons and a short list of dual-use items which can be exploited by terrorists. The ban on weapons and the restrictions on dual-use items stem from the fact that since 2007, Gaza has been ruled by a terrorist organization, namely Hamas, whose declared aim is the destruction of Israel. They are in place solely to protect Israel’s citizens from Hamas’ ongoing terrorist attacks. Continue reading ‘“End the siege in Gaza!” – But there is no siege’

Transcript of Neuer-Buttu Al Jazeera Debate

AL JAZEERA HOST (Adrian Finighan): Some findings in his report, Richard Goldstone said that new information showed that Israel did not deliberately target civilians. Let’s bring in our guests today: from Ramallah we’re joined by Diana Buttu, former Palestinian peace negotiator and human rights lawyer. In Geneva we have Hillel Neuer, Executive Director at UN Watch and an international lawyer. And also from Ramallah we’re joined by Bill van Esveld, the Israel and Palestine researcher at Human Rights Watch. Bill, we’ll start with you first. As far as Human Rights Watch is concerned, could war crimes have been committed by either side in this current conflict? Continue reading ‘Transcript of Neuer-Buttu Al Jazeera Debate’

UN’s Schabas digs deeper hole, won’t say if he’ll investigate Hamas or if it’s a terror group

This may go down as one of the all-time worst TV interviews by a UN figure. Asked by Israeli TV’s Channel 2 why he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his “favorite” to indict in the International Criminal Court — instead of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad or Hamas leader Khaled Mashal — Schabas explained that he merely “echoed” the Goldstone Report. Except that Netanyahu wasn’t in power then — and, in fact, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Goldstone Report. Schabas fumbled for a defense, and miserably failed.

There are other doozies: Continue reading ‘UN’s Schabas digs deeper hole, won’t say if he’ll investigate Hamas or if it’s a terror group’

NGO: William Schabas must recuse himself from UN Gaza inquiry

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Aug. 12 Update: Clooney fiancee pulls out
of Gaza probe 
after protests over its bias 

Click here to see new Schabas TV interview
justifying his call to indict Netanyahu

GENEVA, Aug. 11 — A Geneva-based human rights group called on William Schabas to recuse himself from the UN’s new Gaza inquiry, saying that he is legally disqualified by prior statements expressing his wish to see Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres indicted before the International Criminal Court.

“Under international law, William Schabas is obliged to recuse himself because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof,” said Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and executive director of UN Watch, accredited to the United Nations as a non-governmental organization mandated to monitor the world’s body’s adherence to the UN Charter.

“You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge,” said Neuer. “It’s absurd — and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.”

Egg on its face: Clooney fiancee contradicts UN story, denies being on probe

Contradicting the announcement of UN rights chief Navi Pillay’s office, Hollywood star George Clooney’s fiancee Amal Alamuddin denied ever accepting to be on the inquiry. UN Watch urged Pillay to explain the unprecedented situation, an embarrassment that has never happened before on any UNHRC inquiry. Continue reading ‘NGO: William Schabas must recuse himself from UN Gaza inquiry’

Urgent Appeal to UN: Stop Genocide in Iraq

MPs and Human Rights Activists Urge UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to Call Emergency Session for Iraqi Minorities Threatened by ISIS Slaughter

Excellency,

Faced with shocking reports of mass slaughter threatened by the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) against numerous minority groups, possibly amounting to genocide, we, an international coalition of parliamentarians, dissidents, and human rights activists, urge you—in the name of humanity—to call for and take immediate action to convene an emergency special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to protect the right to life of these vulnerable populations who are now in very grave danger. Continue reading ‘Urgent Appeal to UN: Stop Genocide in Iraq’