Archive for the 'Iran' Category

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UN Watch Congratulates Human Rights Activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam

UN Watch sends congratulations and warm wishes to  Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a devoted activist and cherished colleague in the cause of universal human rights, and to Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of Defence, on their recent marriage.

Iranian-born Afshin-Jam has earned international recognition for her tireless advocacy on behalf of human rights victims in the Islamic Republic of Iran, deepening her activism after she rose to prominence in Canada and beyond as a beauty queen, singer, model and actress.

UN Watch gave Afshin-Jam its Human Rights Hero Award in 2009 in recognition of her activism, including as president and co-founder of Stop Child Executions, which fights for minors facing execution in Iran.

Appearing together with dissident and former political prisoner Ahmad Batebi,  Afshin-Jam represented UN Watch in a dramatic speech before the UN Human Rights Council in 2009, reproduced below.

Continue reading ‘UN Watch Congratulates Human Rights Activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam’

Iran, Syria, N. Korea Condemned, But Not By All

Roll calls detailed below reveal which countries voted with Iran, Syria and North Korea as the UN General Assembly passed resolutions Dec. 19 denouncing the human rights records of those three regimes. As in past years, Afghanistan, where NATO-led forces continue to battle on behalf of the country, split with the alliance’s members for the vote on Iran, and voted with the Islamic republic.

1. Situation of Human Rights in Iran: 89 in favour, 30 against, 64 abstentions.

Against:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe. Continue reading ‘Iran, Syria, N. Korea Condemned, But Not By All’

Rights of Women in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran

UN Watch Testimony to UN Human Rights Council, Agenda Item 3, delivered by Alexia Bedat, 15 September 2011

Thank you, Madam President.

Under Articles 2, 5 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women are guaranteed equal treatment under the law and protection from degrading treatment. Today we ask: Is this promise being translated into practice?

To find the answer, we must see reality from the perspective of real women on the ground. Let us consider three concrete examples:

1. China. According to a panel of experts including US Congressman Chris Smith, as a result of the “One child policy,” every 2.4 seconds a woman in China undergoes a forced abortion.  Xiao Ai Ying is one of these women. Last year, eight months into her pregnancy, twelve government officials broke into her home, brutally kicked her in the stomach and dragged her screaming to the hospital.  Madam President, isn’t China a member of this Council, and therefore pledged to the highest standards of human rights? Continue reading ‘Rights of Women in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran’

AUDIO: Hillel Neuer on Toronto Radio urges UN to retract praise of Tehran terror conf

After UN chief Ban Ki-moon sent warm greetings to Iran’s “Anti-Terrorism” Conference, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer urges him to retract. Interviewed on the Arlene Bynon Show, Toronto Talk Radio AM 640, June 28, 2011. “This is like Bernie Madoff leading an initiative to combat fraud,” said Neuer.

UN confirms: Ban Ki-moon did send message to Iran’s “Anti-Terror” Conf

From today’s daily UN press conference: full transcript here, video here.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I have a report, message this morning from the organization UN Watch in Geneva about an international conference on global fight against terrorism in Tehran, which has a purported message from the Secretary-General — I am not vouching for the English on this — this is a reproduction from the conference’s website; it says:  “In a written message to international conference on fight against terrorism in Tehran, UN Secretary emphasized right against terrorism is a great responsibility for all nations and Governments.” My question to you is…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  You mean “fight”, not “right” against terrorism.

Question:  Pardon?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Fight against terrorism; not right against terrorism.

Question:  It said “fight”, I am reading… As I said, I am not vouching for the English.  Did the Secretary-General make such a statement?  In fact, did he say — I am sure he has said something like that any number of times, did he make this, send this particular statement directly on the occasion of this conference?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.  In fact there is a message that was delivered on his behalf.  Obviously, the Secretary-General did not deliver it first-hand; but a message has been delivered on his behalf.  We are getting the text, and we’ll put that out in fact this afternoon.  As you know, the Secretary-General believes that all nations, all peoples are affected by terrorism; and that it is imperative that we involved as many States, as many peoples as possible in the fight against terrorism.  

UN Defends Endorsement of Iran’s “Anti-Terror” Conf

GENEVA — After a UN spokesperson defended the world body’s endorsement of Iran’s “anti-terrorism” conference—which accused the US, Britain, and Israel of perpetrating terrorism, and asserted a cover-up concerning 9/11 and the Holocaust—UN Watch today called on US and British representatives to intervene.

As reported today by The Jerusalem Post, a UN spokesperson defended Ban Ki-moon’s message to the conference, presented in person by a UN counter-terrorism official, saying, “the UN believes that it is important for all nations to work together in the fight against terrorism.”

UN Watch expressed “deep disappointment” with this reponse, and sent letters today to US Ambassador Susan Rice and British Ambassador Mark Justin Lyall Grant (see below), asking them to demand a UN retraction.

If the Chinese Communist Party will now organize an international conference for internet freedom, and if Syria’s President Assad will hold one for the right to peaceful protest, will the UN also endorse those, on grounds that it is important for all nations to work together in promoting human rights?” asked Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization.

“With Iran now trumpeting headlines such as ‘UN Chief Praises Tehran’s Anti-Terror Initiative,’ the UN must immediately distance itself from this insult to victims of Iranian terrorism worldwide. Mr. Ban should also condemn Iran’s president — as he has rightly done before — for insulting the memory of the victims of 9/11 and of the Holocaust.”

Click for letters

NGO Urges UN Chief to Retract Blessing for Cynical Iranian Conference on Terrorism

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhoundzadeh: “We are happy that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending his representatives to read out his message to Tehran conference.”

GENEVA — A watchdog organization is calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to retract his apparent endorsement of an Iranian government conference on terrorism that seeks to deny Iranian complicity, while instead blaming the US, Britain and Israel. The following letter was sent today to the UN chief by Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch.

# # # # #

His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon
The Secretary-General
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017

25 June 2011

Your Excellency,

Earlier this week, UN Watch warmly welcomed your deserved reelection as UN Secretary-General and applauded your principled leadership. It is in that spirit that we call upon you to distance yourself and the United Nations from a cynical conference now underway in Iran which claims to have your blessing and that of the United Nations.

Organized by the Iranian government, the conference is entitled “International Conference on Global Fight Against Terrorism.” It began today and ends tomorrow. The opening message by Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei attacked “the United States, Britain and some Western governments, with a black record in terrorist behaviors,” “satanic world powers,” and “terrorist organizations such as the Zionism International Agency.” (http://www.icterrorism.com/en/?news=163)

The Iranian Supreme Leader further says on the conference website that “the creation and growth of the wild and blind terrorism is basically the result of the wicked policy of America and England,” and that “it is a duty for all Muslims to confront and fight this inauspicious offspring which is the clear example of corruption on earth and fighting with God.” (http://www.icterrorism.com/en/?page=200) Continue reading ‘NGO Urges UN Chief to Retract Blessing for Cynical Iranian Conference on Terrorism’

Selected Resolutions from UNHRC 16th Session

Strengthening of technical cooperation and consultative services in the Republic of Guinea

Situation of Human Rights in Cote d’Ivoire

  • Resolution (does not include oral revisions)
  • Adopted by consensus as orally revised

Cooperation between Tunisia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Resolution (does not include oral revisions)
  • Adopted by consensus as orally revised

Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Promoting Human Rights through Traditional Values

Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief (Based on the former “Defamation of religions” resolution)

Outcome of HRC Review

  • Resolution
  • Adopted by consensus, USA disassociated itself

Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma)

  • Resolution
  • Adopted by consensus, China and Cuba disassociated themselves

Human Rights in the DRC

Human Rights in the Golan

Follow up to the Flotilla Report

Grave Violations in the OPT and East Jerusalem

Goldstone Follow up

Palestinian Right to Self Determination

Israeli Settlements

Text of Draft UN Rights Council Resolution on Iran

The Human Rights Council is considering a draft resolution on Iran that aims to establish a Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country. Co-sponsors of the resolution include Australia, the Maldives, and Norway. Click here for the draft text circulated today at informal consultations in Geneva, which were organized by Sweden, Moldova, Panama, Zambia, Macedonia, and the U.S.A.

Say No to Iran & Saudis Leading U.N. Women’s Rights Agency

50554_155483681160666_7408031_n.jpg Speak out for women who are hanged, lashed and stoned to death: go to this web page and click “Like.”

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NGO Slams Iranian Non-Compliance in UN Human Rights Council Review

Geneva, June 10,  2010 – The Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group, expressed disappointment today that it was removed from its top spot on the coveted list of speakers for today’s UN Human Rights Council review of Iran’s human rights record. (See below written copy of UN Watch testimony as submitted to the UN for its official record.)    Continue reading ‘NGO Slams Iranian Non-Compliance in UN Human Rights Council Review’

Iran names Seyed Mohammad Sajjadi as rep to UN Human Rights Council

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a new Geneva ambassador to represent his fundamentalist regime at the UN Human Rights Council — see UN announcement below. Iran currently sits on the council as an observer, and, despite its abysmal record of brutality and repression, is now a competitive candidate to become a full voting member in elections to be held in May. Continue reading ‘Iran names Seyed Mohammad Sajjadi as rep to UN Human Rights Council’

Call for UN investigation of Ahmadinejad to be on UN Rights Council agenda next week

In September, 50 Iranian human rights activists made an appeal to the United Nations for urgent intervention. UN Watch has now submitted this appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council as an official document (A/HRC/13/NGO/117), which will be formally circulated by the Human Rights Council next week when it debates “Agenda Item 4: Situations that require the Council’s attention.” Click here for original PDF, or see below. This doesn’t mean any action will be taken, but at least ensures that the issue is placed squarely before the assembled delegates and UN officials. Continue reading ‘Call for UN investigation of Ahmadinejad to be on UN Rights Council agenda next week’

Rights Group Calls UN Review of Iran ‘Insufficent’; Urges Emergency Session, Inquiry, and Permanent Monitor

GENEVA, February 15, 2010 –  Following Iran’s review today by the UN Human Rights Council (click here for summary and full transcript), Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch commended the U.S., France and other democracies for their “forceful criticism” of Iran’s abuses, but expressed alarm over a report by Le Monde that Asian countries might facilitate Iran’s election this May to the 47-member body, “an eventuality underscored by the litany of speeches today — by China, Cuba, Libya and others — falsely praising Iran.”

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer welcomed the statements made today on behalf of Iranian rights victims, but cautioned that the outcome of today’s UN procedure is limited to a “toothless” report to be adopted on Wednesday.

“There are recognized and significant ways for the UN Human Rights Council to place a country on its watchlist of abusers, but this week’s procedure, which all states undergo automatically every four years, is not one of them,” said Neuer.

“If the Human Rights Council is serious about tackling Iran’s wide-scale and escalating attacks on its own citizens — and this an open question — then it must use its available tools to convene an emergency session; adopt a resolution condemning the violations and establishing an international inquiry into Iran’s post-election arrests, rapes, show-trials and exections; and reinstate the permanent post of a Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the Iranian government’s compliance with international human right covenants.” Continue reading ‘Rights Group Calls UN Review of Iran ‘Insufficent’; Urges Emergency Session, Inquiry, and Permanent Monitor’

Democracies slam Iran abuses at UN review, others offer praise

Iran’s record was reviewed today by the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, under its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure. Click here for UN Watch’s full transcript of the debate, or see summary below. The video webcast archive will be available here.

Iran’s delegation was headed by Mohammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, who used the N-word to describe President Obama in a recent speech to the Islamic Engineers Society in Tehran. He mentioned to the UN today that his brother is Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.

Continue reading ‘Democracies slam Iran abuses at UN review, others offer praise’

GA condemns Burma, DPRK, Iran

On Thursday, November 19, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee adopted a resolution that “strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar,” with 92 countries voting in favor, 26 voting against, and 65 abstaining.  Sweden, representing the European Union, as the main sponsor of this resolution, explained “there are still over 2,000 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains in house arrest.  Fundamental freedoms in Myanmar, including the freedom of assembly and expression, remain severely restricted.”

The Third Committee also approved a resolution expressing “very serious concern at the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”  97 nations voted in favor of the resolution, 19 voted against, and 65 abstained.  Sweden, for the European Union, was also this resolution’s main sponsor.  In its statement, it criticized the government of the DPRK for “the grave, widespread, and systematic violations of human rights” and noted that “the DPRK has made no substantial effort to meet earlier requests made by the international community.”

On Friday, November 20, a draft resolution on the human rights situation in Iran was approved by a vote of 74 in favor to 48 against, with 59 abstentions.  Before voting on the resolution, Canada, as the main sponsor, explained:

“What is routine is Iran’s consistent failure to live up to its international human rights obligations.  These failings were only made all the more evident following the June 12th presidential election when the use of force by Iranian security forces resulted in the death, injury and arrest of many individuals, when many of those who were detained were subject to torture and denied access to legal representation, when freedom of association, assembly and expression were drastically curtailed.”

Iran, however, argued that the draft text represented an example of an “unhealthy and dangerous trend” of politicization and abuse of human rights mechanisms.  After the vote, Iran considered the abstentions and absences to represent, alongside the “no” votes, support for Iran. 

Additionally, on November 19, the representative of Zambia, on behalf of the African Group, introduced a draft decision on the Report of the Human Rights Council.  The Committee will likely be taking action on this resolution within the next few days.

Human Rights and Freedom go hand in hand for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Nazanin Afshin-Jam

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, international human rights activist and President of Stop Child Executions, was hosted by UN Watch in September 2009 for a panel discussion during the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 12th session. She also spoke before the Council on grave human rights abuses in Iran following the election crisis. Read below her update about a recent meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Continue reading ‘Human Rights and Freedom go hand in hand for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Nazanin Afshin-Jam’

Iran’s Ahmadinejad government attacks UN Watch for lack of “decency”

Following UN Watch’s speech today before the UN Human Rights Council exposing Iran’s abuses, the Ahmadinejad government fired back, accusing UN Watch of “unsubstantiated allegations” and  lacking “accuracy and decency.” See our statement, delivered by Iranian human rights defender Nazanin Afshin-Jam, and Iran’s reply below. Continue reading ‘Iran’s Ahmadinejad government attacks UN Watch for lack of “decency”’

Proven dead wrong on Iran, will NYT’s Roger Cohen resign?

For the past year, the New York Times columns of Roger Cohen urged us week after week to “think again about Iran.” He characterized the 1979 Khomeini revolution as an act of liberation, under which “freedom has ebbed and flowed.” Iran boasted “significant margins of liberty, even democracy.”

Cohen was obsessed. Not just on the topic of Iran, but of Iran and Israel, the title of one of his latest dispatches.

Our greatest threat, Cohen insisted, came not from Iran, Hamas, or Hezbollah—whose grievances he legitimized—but from warmongering Americans and chauvinist, rapacious Israelis bent on distorting the Tehran government’s peaceful and democratic nature.

On June 10 (“Iran Awakens Yet Again”), Cohen raved about Iran’s “incomplete” but “vigorous” democracy. His concluding paragraph came back to his chief preoccupation: the “anti-Iran hawks” and their “foolishness.”

In his latest piece — after the world witnessed what we at UN Watch knew well from listening to victims like Ahamad Batebi and their champions like Nazanin Afshin-Jam — Cohen now offers that he “erred,” somewhat, in a qualified mea culpa that he buried deep down at paragraph 14.

Cohen is guilty not of a minor “error.” No, what Cohen did this year was use the unparalleled global platform of the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune to legitimize a regime that brutalizes its own people even as it seeks to the same to its neighbors. He did so in face of the most glaring evidence to the contrary.

Roger Cohen was not wrong just about something; he was spectacularly wrong about the single greatest question facing the international community today. On the question of what to do about Iran’s race to acquire a nuclear weapon and threaten the world, his answer essentially was: nothing.

Nothing, and blame Israel.

In his March 2, 2009 column — where he spoke of Iran’s “significant margins of liberty, even democracy” and argued that “anything but mad, the mullahs have proved malleable” — Cohen described Hamas and Hezbollah as “broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force.” 

His March 23, 2009 column on the Iran nuclear question, entitled “From Tehran to Tel Aviv,” concludes with Cohen’s thesis and overriding concern:

“[T]his much is clear to me: Obama’s new Middle Eastern diplomacy and engagement will involve reining in Israeli bellicosity and a probable cooling of U.S.-Israeli relations. It’s about time. America’s Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy has been disastrous, not least for Israel’s security.” 

His column of April 13, 2009, “Realpolitik for Iran,” had the same prescription for what to do about a nuclear Iran: 

“To avoid that nightmare Obama will have to get tougher with Israel than any U.S. president in recent years. It’s time.”

Cohen’s obsessive columns were nasty, odd, and spectacularly wrong.

If he has the slighest sense of responsibility for what he did this year — and if he searches his soul for why he did it — he will draw the necessary conclusions.

Since Cohen’s “error” can only be compared in scale to that of Neville Chamberlain, perhaps the Times’ readers will echo the 1940 demand by a member of the English Parliament to the disgraced leader: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Iran Cites Canadian Violations of Women’s Rights

In today’s debate on the adoption of the periodic report to examine Canadian rights violations, Cuba, Russia, Iran, and Algeria all condemned Canada for failing to accede to the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and withdrawing from the Durban Review Conference, “isolating itself from international cooperation in efforts to combat racism,” according to Russia. Continue reading ‘Iran Cites Canadian Violations of Women’s Rights’

Israel Squares Off With Iran, Syria In Rights Debate

During the afternoon session of the U.N. Human Rights Council today, Israel accused Syria and Iran of gross violations of human rights. The two countries both responded with hyperbolic accusations against Israel. Continue reading ‘Israel Squares Off With Iran, Syria In Rights Debate’

Iranian representatives attempting intimidation of activists

There are reports that Iranian representatives and front groups have tried to intimidate activists at Durban II, but they have failed to silence any voices.

Continue reading ‘Iranian representatives attempting intimidation of activists’

Ahmadinejad speaks at Durban II; EU walks out

During Iranian President Ahmadinejad‘s address to the Durban Review Conference, representatives of the European Union and other delegations admirably left the chamber in protest when he accused Western countries of “resorting to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of protecting Jews” following World War II.

As he began to talk, a man in a clown wig ran through the hall, calling out the Iranian President as a racist. Ahmadinejad asked the guests to “forgive these ignorant people.”

As expected, Ahmadinejad focused his attacks on the West and Israel. He condemned the “cruel and racist regime in Palestine,” complaining that the U.N. Security Council has enabled its survival over the last sixty years. “The word Zionism personifies racism,” he said. “Efforts must be made to silence the will of Zionists and their supporters.”

Ahmadinejad then deplored “world powers” who “mobilize all their resources, including their economic and political resources and the world media, to render support to the vain Zionist regime.” He continued, “Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed to eradicated this barbaric racism.” These remarks were met with applause from the audience.

Ahmadinejad also blasted the U.S. in particular, suggesting that racism is the root cause of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and support of the “usurper Zionist regime.” 

He blamed the global economic crisis on the U.S. and decried market economies in general, which he claimed deny opportunities for other economies in the world. He encouraged reform of the world financial institutions and the Security Council.

The following speech by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store vigorously challenged Ahmadinejad, calling him “the odd man out to hijack the conference.”

“We will not surrender the floor of the United Nations to extremism,” Gahr Store said.

Referring to the draft Durban II text, the minister stated, “Freedom of expression, yes, but our document is also clear on incitement of hatred and this is what I heard in the President’s speech — incitement to hatred.”

While saying Norway could accept the text as is, he criticized it for inadequately addressing the Holocaust, and said that the conference alone will not solve the problem of racism.

UPDATE:   In its right of reply, Iran condemned the statement of Norway, along with those of Argentina, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. “We strongly reject the unwarranted and unsubstantiated references made in those statements and consider them as malicious, unacceptable and out of order” the representative said. “It is regrettable that the right of freedom of expression is so wrongly and narrowly defined by some.”

The delegate expressed his wish that the Norwegian foreign minister would have heard the applause given the President of Iran by so many delegations in participation. He said the President should be allowed to strongly condemn the “mass killing of innocent people.”

Moreover, the delegate deplored the remarks by “certain high ranking officials of the United Nations,” including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He said they should uphold the “principle of impartiality” and “refrain from making judgmental remarks.”

True voice of Iran preempts Ahmadinejad at Durban II

Just moments before Iranian President Ahmadinejad was set to address the Durban Review Conference today, another gathering in the Palais des Nations challenged the U.N. for giving a forum– during a conference meant to address racism and intolerance– to a leader who violates the rights of his own people and incites genocide.

Speaking at a side even organized by UN Watch, Iranian dissident and former prisoner of conscience, Ahmad Batebi, argued that Ahmadinejad does not represent the Iranian people. The Iranian people do not want to wipe Israel off the map nor do they support terrorism, as does the Iranian government. He went on to cite various abuses of the State, noting that 112 students currently languish in Iranian prisons for protesting government policies.

Batebi said that just today he was threatened by a representative of the Islamic Republic, who told him he would be killed at the U.N.

Batebi was followed by Fakhteh Zamani, President of the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani political prisoners in Iran. She addressed the urgent plight of Iranian Azeris who face consistent, state-sanctioned persecution as an ethnic minority.

Canadian MP Irwin Cotler also addressed the gathering, describing Ahmadinejad as a man who incites genocide, stands in violation of the U.N. Charter, and represses his own people. It shames the cause of human rights and anti-racism for such a leader to be a welcome guest at the conference, he said.

Iran attempts domination of racism debate

In today’s afternoon meeting of the Durban II working group at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Iran was extremely active, proposing amendments and language changes in more paragraphs than any other state, and in a few instances, ignoring the Chair’s plea to hold off on certain paragraphs for the time being and engage in a constructive manner.

Continue reading ‘Iran attempts domination of racism debate’

Iran concerned about pre-Durban II human rights summit featuring former prisoner Ahmed Batebi

Speaking today at a working group for Durban II at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Iran voiced its concern about an upcoming Geneva summit of human rights activists, to be held on the eve of Durban II, which will feature former Iranian prisoner of conscience Ahmed Batebi, made famous by his front cover picture in The Economist, holding the bloodied t-shirt of a fellow student demonstrator.

Iran complained to the U.N. meeting that the April 19th Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy reserved the premier conference location across the street from the UN, while an alternative gathering — one spearheaded by a pro-Libyan group — will take place in a more remote location in the city. The Geneva Summit, said Iran, “had decided, with a lot of possibility, to reserve the Geneva Center for International Conferences, while other NGOs are forced to use Plainpalais.”

Iran issued the comment in the context of paragraph 139 of the Durban II draft text, which proposes funding for NGOs. Iran said that NGOs and experts in general should not be funded, but only those coming from developing countries.

The Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union (EU), opposed Iran’s amendment, saying, “We want all NGO’s and experts to be supported and not only the ones from developing countries.”

As for Iran’s comment that only certain NGOs can reserve the Geneva Conference Center whereas others (from developing countries) are forced to use Plainpalais due to financial and technical issues, the chairman replied that he thinks Plainpalais is beautiful and lively, which produced some laughter in the room.

Other issues discussed today included the flawed follow-up mechanisms to implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA), as well as the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The EU said that it wanted to have a debate about follow-up mechanisms in the context of the Durban II negotiations, whereas most other countries objected that this should be a task of the Human Rights Council (where the U.N. African-Islamic majority will have an easier time pushing its agenda).

The debate on the OHCHR centered on a paragraph regarding an OHCHR observatory to implement the DDPA. At the end of the session, a representative of the OHCHR spoke, explaining that the observatory “is not a mechanism by itself, nor a monitoring tool, nor a tool to rank countries or compare their performances. It is a tool to enhance the effectiveness of mechanisms.” Following the clarification, the OHCHR observatory paragraph was adopted by consensus.

ABOUT THE GENEVA SUMMIT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, TOLERANCE, AND DEMOCRACY

Organized by 40 human rights NGOs including UN Watch, SOS Racisme, and Freedom House, and to take place one day before the opening of the U.N. Durban Review Conference, the Geneva Summit—bringing together some of the world’s most well-known human rights heroes, genocide survivors, prisoners of conscience, anti-racism activists, and scholars of international law—will be a critical opportunity for NGO representatives from around the globe to call on the international community to address urgent and ongoing situations of genocide, ethnic cleansing, racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and political discrimination.The speakers at the Geneva Summit include some of today’s most prominent figures in the global human rights movement: Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt; Bo Kyi of Burma; Ester Mujawayo of Rwanda; Floyd Abrams from the United States; Ahmed Batebi of Iran; Irwin Cotler from Canada; and Jose Castillo from Cuba. In addition, the new generation of activists and cyber-dissidents will be represented by Bart Woord of the International Federation of Liberal Youth, and Esra’a al Shafei, who recently won an award from Harvard University award for her cutting-edge blog for human rights in the Middle East. TO REGISTER, CLICK ON Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy .

Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi again slams Swiss FM Calmy-Rey for meeting Ahmadinejad

panel1It is rare when the UN hosts an event that speaks truth to power. But that is exactly what happened in Geneva today when Iranian human rights defender and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and Nigerian author and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka appeared on a panel, in the magnificent Salle des Assemblées, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), organized by the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

The event was chaired by UNOG Director-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze and attracted a full room, mostly with students and Iranian expats, as well as diplomats and NGO activists.

Ordzhonikidze opened with a speech, followed by a clip on the adoption of the UDHR, which showcased speeches and key figures behind the document, as well as the actual 1948 vote. The film only showed three positive votes from the roll call, but omitted to mention the 8 abstentions that came from the USSR and its vassals and satellites (Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine), Yugoslavia, apartheid South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Both Nobel laureates made passionate statements, reaffirming the universality of human rights. They spoke against dictatorships, non-democratic Islamic states and oppression. Both condemned the notion of cultural relativism as an excuse for not implementing human rights.

Ebadi spoke of “human rights defenders [who] are silenced as ‘heretics’”, and dictatorships that use religion to oppress their people. Soyinka deplored the situation in Zimbabwe and also criticized the US Patriot Act.

Following the two speeches, a panel of Swiss journalists asked questions, and, in a Davos-style setting, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. panel2

The first question from a Swiss journalist was to Ebadi, saying how much the Swiss were “shocked” to see Swiss FM Micheline Calmy-Rey meet with Ahmadinejad this year, and asking her opinion.

Ebadi said that she was surprised that a Cabinet Minister from a country with such respect for human rights would agree to meet with such a government and sign an agreement with them, which is to the detriment of the Iranian people, instead of meeting with representatives of civil society. The room gave Ebadi a round of applause.

Ordzhonikidze was quick to respond in support of the Swiss Foreign Minister, saying that he disagreed with Ebadi and agreed with Calmy-Rey. He said that her visit means that diplomacy is working. Diplomats have to meet each other to make peace in the world. Negotiations are happening all around the world between hostile nations. If not, the other option would be war. He said he fully supported what Calmy-Rey did. Few applauded this statement.

The moderator, the head of UNITAR, invited Ebadi to respond. Ebadi said she doesn’t oppose dialogue. It is normal for countries to have dialogue. But Calmy-Rey’s trip to Iran was not to talk of peace or human rights, and she was not prepared to meet with even one person from Iran’s civil society. Agreements were signed, pictures were taken and Calmy-Rey left. It was only done for economic reasons, and to the detriment of the people of Iran. Ebadi received another round of applause.

For the rest of the discussion, Ebadi spoke about women’s rights in Iran. About how a woman is only worth half of a man’s life. How the Bahais are discriminated in Iran and suffer from a “cultural genocide.” How Iranian law establishes religious discrimination. Bahais have no rights under the law. For the last 30 years, they are barred from universities.

When some Bahai leaders were arrested, nobody wanted to represent them, so she did. The official Iranian News Agency sought to defame Ebadi by claiming she was a Bahai convert. In Iran, a convert is liable to execution for apostasy. These discriminatory laws need to be reformed.

A Kurd from Iran also asked a question and Ebadi responded that it is true that Kurdish leaders have been assassinated and she thinks that violence can never be justified.

Ebadi shared a story about the Commission on Human Rights. A few years ago she came to Geneva to meet with diplomats from the Commission and tell them about women’s rights in Iran. She entered the room and saw eight diplomats — five of whom represented countries where the situation of women’s rights is even worse that in Iran! So she said hello, and left the room. She said this needs to change.

Soyinka deplored the weak performance of the Human Rights Council. He also deplored the lack of UN response to the great human rights disaster in Darfur, and said that the UN has still not learned the lessons of the Rwandan genocide. He also criticized China for its support to Sudan.

The event concluded with a speech by the Prince of Monaco, Albert II. The Prince repeated many of the notions of the discussion. He said that today is an anniversary but not a celebration. Relativism has emerged as a new enemy of the universality of human rights. How can it be acceptable to turns one’s back on the oneness of humanity?

The ambassador of Sri Lanka was reportedly quite upset that he was not recognized by the chair to ask a question.

The event was a rare instance of fresh air at the UN. The doors of the UN were opened to human rights defenders and victims, and oppressive regimes were named and shamed.

To watch the entire event, click here: http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/specialevents/2008/se081210geneva-eng.rm

Libya Preaches to Durban II on Racism Against Maids, as Qaddafi Jr. Arrested for Beating Maids

Many newspapers over the past few weeks have reported on Libya’s hostile measures against Switzerland and its citizens. Few, though, have noted the irony of it all, a part of which relates to the United Nations.

The Incident

The conflict began after Hannibal, the youngest son of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi, and his wife Aline were arrested by Geneva police in their luxury hotel, which is situated next to the UN human rights office. Two of their servants, a Moroccan man and a Tunisian woman, had complained of being beaten with a belt and coat hanger, causing hotel staff to call in the authorities. (The desert despot’s 32-year-old son has a long record of violent run-ins with the law across European capitals.)

The couple were charged with assault. Hannibal spent two evenings in detention while his wife, who came to Geneva to give birth, was transferred to a maternity unit. Released on $500,000 bail, they flew back to Libya escorted by doctors from Geneva’s main hospital.

Qaddafi’s Revenge

Retaliation was swift. Aisha Qadaffi, sister of the accused, warned that her country would respond on the principle of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” The Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution halted all oil shipments to the Helvetic confederation. Swiss companies in Libya, including Nestlé, were shut down or padlocked, and diplomats sent packing. Two Swiss nationals were seized as hostages. “Spontaneous” demonstrations against the Swiss aggressor erupted in the capital.

The outrage has ebbed, but the crisis remains. Today’s Tribune de Geneve reports that Foreign Minster Micheline Calmy-Rey may head on a special mission to Libya. Which bring us to the irony of it all.

Swiss Ironies

Of all Western democracies, the current Swiss government must be the last to ever have imagined being targeted by mad Middle East dictators, who have always felt so at home at Geneva’s hotels, boutiques and banks — so much so, that their spoiled progeny jet over to have their babies born there.

Some say Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey stumbled in her early handling of the current crisis. No wonder. She must have been in a state of shock.

After all, was it not she who, to seal a $28 billion gas deal, recently visited with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at a time when no other self-respecting democratic leader would do the same? Did she not go the extra mile to pose smilingly with the world’s most dangerous fomentor of racist hatred, even donning the Islamic headscarf, for added measure? Did she not keep silent over the brutal human rights situation in Iran, despite being asked to speak out by Shirin Ebadi, the renowned women’s rights advocate?

But it’s more.

The current Swiss government has always profited from special ties with Qaddafi – the extent to which the current episode has highlighted as never before. It turns out that half of Switzerland’s oil comes from Libya. That Libyan company Tamoil owns one of Switzerland’s two oil refineries and runs 320 filling stations in the country. The Libyans also threatened to withdraw their assets from Swiss banks. And how much is that? Some $6 billion.

But it’s more, more than just oil, investments and trade. It’s political and moral support. In the past year, Calmy-Rey and her diplomats worldwide waged a massive campaign to elect her Geneva friend Jean Ziegler — the 1989 co-founder of the “Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize” — as a senior adviser to the UN Human Rights Council. When the vote was won, Swiss UN ambassador Blaise Godet literally embraced his colleague from Cuba’s Castro regime, Ziegler’s other favorite government, thereby revealing another unholy alliance.

This week in Geneva the council’s advisors feted Ziegler at their inaugural session, while choosing as their chair the Cuban Alfonso Martinez — whose long record on a predecessor UN body included killing a resolution for the Kurdish victims gassed by Saddam in Halabja. When the current stand-off was ignited in July, Swiss newspaper Le Matin suggested Ziegler as a natural mediator. “I think Qaddafi appreciates me as a writer and intellectual, because he reads my books which are translated into Arabic in Cairo,” Ziegler told the newspaper. “There is a relationship of mutual respect and listening between us,” said Ziegler, from his place of vacation in Calabria, Italy.

However, the newspaper noted, “the sociologist categorically refuses to comment on the current crisis between Switzerland and Libya.” Nor did Ziegler ever say a word — or lift a finger – over all the years that the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor were cruelly held hostage in Libyan jails.

Durban II: Libya Pledges to Confront “New Form of Racism Related to Maids”  

Perhaps the greatest unspoken irony is that of Libya’s role. The country currently chairs the planning of the April 2009 Durban Review Conference, the UN’s next world conference against racism and intolerance. In advance of an African preparatory session later this month, Libya has just submitted a UN questionnaire on its policies and practices.

Here we learn that the sixth principle of Qaddafi’s Green Charter “defines Libya’s society of non-discrimination.” And that the penal code “does not discriminate between local or foreign workers in Libya.”  And that Article 420 prohibits “all forms of slavery” and “forced labor.” Finally, “Libya does not only not practice racism but we combat the practice of regimes against the African people.” How? By confronting — get this — a “new form of racism related to house helpers (maids).” No less.

Yes, over the next year the world shall look to the Guide of the Revolution to guide us all on how to treat foreigners, how to practice tolerance, and — as its most shining example — how to treat house helpers and maids.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the mother of the abused Moroccan servant has been thrown into jail, and his brother forced into hiding.

Eventually, a deal will be struck, Calmy-Rey will kowtow before Qaddafi, the criminal case will be closed. Hannibal will then be free to return to his beloved Lake Geneva playground.

As Libya’s leading expert on how to address what it calls a new form of racism — how to treat house helpers — why not have Hannibal Qaddafi take the place of the current Libyan represenative and personally head the UN’s Durban II process? More than anyone, he will appreciate the job’s diplomatic immunity.

Mullahs tell UN Durban II conference: Iran is free of racism

In advance of next week’s first major planning session of the UN’s “Durban II” conference on racism, member states have filled out questionnaires on their actions and policies to combat discrimination. Iran’s submission, however, dodges any questions of racism in that country, which it says is blessed with “the absence of any division based on race or ethnicity in any walk of life.”

Asked by the UN to identify manifestations of racism “with a view to eliminating them in your country,” Iran sidestepped any reference to its own treatment of minorities. Instead, Tehran pointed the finger at other countries, accusing them of “defamation of religions” and Islamophobia, and devoted a large section to “gross and systematic violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian
Territories.”

Although the UN General Assembly condemned Iran in December for its violations against Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, Sunni Muslims and Baha’is, the submission by the fundamentalist regime made no reference to its treatment of these groups.

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.




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