GENEVA, September 19, 2014 – When the UN rights council this morning debates North Korea’s record, a human rights NGO will take the floor to present an open letter sent today by 20 North Korean defectors to Swiss president Didier Burkhalter calling to freeze the regime’s bank accounts held in the country.
“The international community must show that it truly cares for the suffering people of North Korea with deeds—not just words,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that will present the letter in an intervention during today’s Universal Periodic Review debate on North Korea.
Noam Chomsky spoke today at the Geneva Press Club, at the initiative and with the support of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, the Ministry’s State Secretary Yves Rossier and the Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Alexandre Fasel were in attendance. There was a direct video link with the Foreign Ministry in Bern (Bundehaus West), where MFA staff could watch Chomsky’s lecture and ask questions.
Chomsky’s lecture was entitled “USA, Iran, Israel and the Arab World: Where are we?” In his 35 min speech he only kept accusing “neocolonialist” Israel and its American backers. Only in the last minute did he say he worried about the situation in Syria and Egypt.
His talk was incoherent, using selective evidence, poorly-formulated arguments, distorting historical facts and with conspiracy theory undertones such as “the American media is hiding the truth from us.” Among his claims was that there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and, if it does, it is for defensive purposes only. Also he thought the model of the Ottoman Empire is something we could use in the Middle East, forgetting that the Ottoman military was guaranteeing the stability of the empire.
If the Swiss government is genuinely interested in supporting the peace process in the region, there are more relevant thinkers they should consider inviting.
Transcript from today’s concluding remarks by Maina Kai, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Video of full speech above.
…I cannot address all the questions that have been brought in. But I would like to refer to just a few things. One is that breaches of freedom of association and breaches of peaceful assembly cut across the entire world. There’s not a single region in this world that has not received a communication from my mandate regarding violations or alleged violations. They cut across, and the breaches are both in law and in practice.
There are some places, some countries, where the laws are particularly harsh in terms of restricting the freedom of association, and for these ones, I’ll just mention just a few: in Algeria, Belarus, Canada, in particular in terms of the province of Quebec, Ethiopia, Jordan, Malaysia, Russian Federation, and Switzerland, in the Canton of Geneva, especially. But I’ve also got to note that in some of these countries, these laws are being challenged in court, as is in Malaysia and as well in Switzerland.
But what I’m trying to show with this is that the risk to the freedom of expression cuts right across the world and there’s no country exempt from them, and there’s no way I will pick and choose which countries I will pay attention to.