Two Burmese dissident journalists spotlighted during UN Watch’s September human rights summit in New York are among political prisoners just released by the Burmese government.
The plights of Sithu Zeya, 21, and Hla Hla Win, 27, featured in the We Have a Dream presentation of Dr. Thaung Htun, United Nations representative of the opposition-in-exile National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
They were serving lengthy prison terms – 18 years for Sithu Zeya; 27 years for Hla Hla Win – for dispatching news video to the exiled Democratic Voice of Burma news service (DVB).
Newsweek magazine published a UN Watch Letter to the Editor opposing rogue regimes’ misuse of the UN… Forbes quoted UN Watch on the hypocrisy of the UN Human Rights Council’ (HRC)… The Associated Press and leading Brazilian daily Estadao de Sao Paulo quoted UN Watch’s critique of the HRC’s wasteful session on Haiti, provoking sharp protests from the Brazilian government, who initiated the event… The Chicago Sun Times and The Jerusalem Post previewed UN Watch’s upcoming 2010 Report Card on the performance of the HRC and reported on UN Watch’s testimony at the U.S. Congress last week. See quotes below. For more, see www.unwatch.org/inthenews. Continue reading ‘UN WATCH IN THE NEWS: Jan-Feb 2010’
Click above to see UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer interviewed on CTV’s “Canada AM” over the UN’s $23 million ceiling art for its new Human Rights Council chamber, and quoted by FOX News “Special Report with Brit Hume”. Transcripts below. Al Jazeera video clip coming soon.
Fox News Transcript, Brit Hume, host of “The Grapevine,” November 19, 2008:
… Both the United Nations and the Spanish government are coming under fire for a work of art at the U.N.’s Switzerland offices.
The 16,000 square-foot ceiling mural adorns the ceiling of the new Human Rights Council chamber. It took Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo two years and $23 million to complete. It was unveiled Tuesday during a ceremony attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While Spanish taxpayers picked up most of the tab, around 633,000 came from funds normally used to help alleviate poverty and boost health care in poor countries. Spain’s Opposition Party blasted the Spanish government and Executive Director of U.N. Watch Hillel Neuersays they “took money from starving children in Africa — and spent it on colorful stalactites.”
The U.N. also bumped talks aimed at easing tensions between Georgia and Russia from Tuesday to Wednesday to make way for the ceremony…
CTV Television, CANADA AM 7:43:55 ET, November 20, 2008 Thursday
“UN Human Rights Council accused of wasteful spending on art”
ANCHOR: SEAMUS O’REGAN
GUEST: HILLEL NEUER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UN WATCH
O’REGAN: It’s a spectacular and controversial new work of art. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has unveiled its new mural on the ceiling. It’s a 16,000-square-foot piece featuring hundreds of colourful, dangling icicles. The controversy comes from the price tag. The work cost $23 million, a good portion of which came from the Spanish government.
And for more on what’s at issue here, we’re joined on the line from Geneva by the executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much for joining us. First of all, what’s your reaction to this?
NEUER: Well, Seamus, I’ve just been to see the chamber right now. And you talked about icicles. Frankly, I prefer the beautiful icicles that we see in Montreal and Toronto around this time of year, rather than ones that I just saw with a price tag of $23 million. Look, as a regular speaker at the Human Rights Council, I can confirm that we needed a better chamber.
The old one needed repairs. But $23 million, from money that was supposed to go into the Spanish foreign aid budget to starving children in Africa, is just an extravagance that in these difficult financial times for families around the world makes the United Nations seem frivolous. And it just sends absolutely the wrong message.
O’REGAN: Mr. Neuer, the Spanish government says, they said, look, you know, this money may have been in the foreign aid budget but it was separate from any poverty-alleviation budget. But, I mean, you know, no question, $23 million by any stretch of the imagination is quite a lot, I mean, for a work of art.
NEUER: Well, look, there are two separate issues here. One is what the Spanish taxpayer wants to pay for. And in Spain today the opposition parties and the leading newspapers are sharply critical of the government’s decision. And that’s really for the Spanish taxpayers.
But it’s up to the United Nations to decide what kinds of purchases it allows. And this kind of a thing is really symbolic of what’s happened with the Human Rights Council which, unfortunately, has become a lot of colourful rhetoric but little real action for the victims who need it most.
O’REGAN: Yeah, and a big controversy in Spain at the moment.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much. We may check in with you later on this. Thank you.
Geneva, Feb. 20, 2008 — UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer was elected vice-president of the Geneva-based Special Committee of NGOs on Human Rights, part of the worldwide Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO).
The Special Committee is composed of more than 50 NGOs with UN consultative status that are active on a range of human rights issues. It works to bring together international NGOs, improve their cooperation, disseminate information, and increase their exchanges with the United Nations and its agencies.
Executive Director Hillel Neuer with the President of the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea, February 19, 2008.
“UN Watch is both immensely proud and gratified that Hillel Neuer has been elected a vice-president of the Special Committee of NGOs on Human Rights,” said Alfred H. Moses, chair of UN Watch. “Hillel’s election by acclamation is testimony to his leadership role on behalf of UN Watch in championing human rights worldwide,” said Moses.
“I am grateful to the special committee for this opportunity to promote the vital role of non-governmental organizations in the protection of human rights,” said Neuer.
“I extend my congratulations to Budi Tjahjono, the new president, and to the other members of the bureau. I look forward to fruitful cooperation with them and all of the committee’s constituent NGOs as we continue our critical work to enable NGOs to further the cause of human rights.”
The new bureau, which was elected on Febraury 8, 2008 and held its first meeting on Monday, is as follows. President: Budi Tjahjono (Pax Romana), Vice-Presidents: Hillel Neuer (UN Watch), Peter Prove (Lutheran World Federation), Helen Sackstein (International Alliance of Women), Treasurer: Lee Weingarten (Women International League for Peace & Freedom), Secretary: Philippe Dam (CONGO). Bureau members serve for three years