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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 16th, 2007

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PRESS RELEASE
March 16, 2007

UN Rights Council Must Recognize Darfur Report.
New Body’s Credibility Is At Stake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media Relations
Tel: +41-22-734-1472

Geneva, March 16, 2007     —   UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer delivered the following statement today before the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva:

Mr. President,

The Darfur Mission asks the council to recognize what every ordinary citizen already knows:   that Sudan bears responsibility for innocents being killed and driven from their homes, villages destroyed, and rape used as a weapon on a massive scale.

The report urges condemnation of Sudan for these war crimes, and a monitoring mechanism to ensure its implementation of international obligations.   It pleads for humanitarian assistance, the safe return of refugees and victim compensation, and publishing a list of companies whose dealings enable the abuses to continue.

Mr. President,

The world now looks to Geneva, to this assembly. The credibility of this Council is at stake.   Will it do its duty and implement this report?

Several statements this morning were encouraging and showed compassion for Darfur’s victims, including those by Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Zambia, Canada, the EU, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

However, we are deeply disappointed by the many statements challenging the legitimacy of the mission and treating its work as a “non-report,” expressed by Sudan, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, and others.   UN Watch calls on these parties to recognize that this Mission and report are eminently credible, and urges them not to ignore the following basic facts:

  • First, that the mandate of this Mission respected the principles of due process.   It did not prejudge. It did not presume violations.   The Mission was instructed “to assess the human rights situation in Darfur and the needs of the Sudan in this regard.”   Unlike the three Council missions this year against Israel, this one did not begin backwards, by starting with the verdict and then seeking facts to support it.   It proceeded forwards, facts first.
  • Second, that the mandate respected the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity.   Unlike the inquiries against Israel, this one was not limited to examining the violations of only one actor in the region of concern.   Its scope covered the actions of all parties.   Indeed, the team noted violations on all sides.
  • Third, that Sudan participated in the mandate’s negotiation, together with the groups of which it is a member.   This privilege was not afforded to Israel in the council’s previous special sessions.   Instead Sudan was given fair treatment, even deference.   The team was instructed to consult with the Khartoum government, and it repeatedly attempted to do so.   Sudan promised cooperation, and was even praised for cooperation in the resolution.   But it has not cooperated.
  • Fourth, that Sudan and its allies participated in negotiating the team’s composition.   As a result, unlike the Council missions on Israel, this one saw the appointment of ambassadors from governments who often voted with the country concerned, one of whom had defended and praised Sudan at the December session.
  • Fifth, that Sudan and its allies joined consensus on the resolution creating the mission.   Israel was never consulted or engaged on the special sessions condemning it and these texts were opposed by the major democracies.

Mr. President,

The government of Sudan and its supporters have no claim against this mandate or this team.   It has been judged by an eminently fair proceeding, and it must respect that judgment.

Thank you.

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UN BRIEFING
News and Analysis from UN Watch in Geneva
March 16, 2007          

UN Watch in the News

This past week, the world’s leading newspapers continued to turn to UN Watch for authoritative comment on the UN and human rights:

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March 10, 2007 (also published March 11, 2007 in the New York Times)
“…Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that follows United Nations human rights activities, said, ‘The situation is grim, and one example is that the one aspect that has always been thought of as a bright spot — the experts — may be eliminated…’ ” more

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March 13, 2007 (also published March 13, 2007 in the International Herald Tribune)
“…Human rights advocates welcomed the unusually tough tone of the [Darfur] report and its recommendations, but they warned that steps were already under way to block its effect when the report comes up for adoption on Friday in Geneva. . . ‘This report   is Jody Williams and her team members, and this is definitely not the council,’ said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that monitors United Nations human rights activities. ‘The council will probably throw this report into Lake Geneva…'” more

MiaFarrow.org

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3/13/2007
NEW YORK CITY, USA:
This is in my view a very sensible and accurate analysis on why the Human Rights Council has failed to condemn Sudan for its violations,” actress and Darfur activist Mia Farrow, about a UN Watch background paper prepared for her website.   more

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March 13, 2007
“…The United Nation’s Human Rights Council will place Israel under permanent investigation for its ‘violations’ of international law in the territories—until such time as it withdraws to the pre-1967 border— according to Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch….”   more

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March 13, 2007

“…Hillel Neuer of UN Watch Geneva says it’s time for the Council to do what it’s supposed to do: ‘The situation is grim.   In the past 9 months 191 countries have been ignored…Only one country has been condemned in a one-sided fashion, being Israel.   It’s time for the Council to heed Kofi Annan’s words, which is to create something that is credible…'”   more

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March 13, 2007
“…The director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, denounced the council’s record, but he said that rather than rejecting the council, America should fight it from within…”   more

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March 12, 2007
“…El contenido del informe fue recibido calurosamente por Hillel C. Neuer, director ejecutivo de la organización no gubernamental United Nations Watch (observatorio de las Naciones Unidas), quien estimó que debería haberse producido mucho antes pues su aparición demandó nueve meses al Consejo. ‘Pero finalmente tenemos la verdad’, dijo Neuer a IPS…”   more

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March 12, 2007
“…Una veintena de ONG pidieron hoy a los nueve países europeos que participan en la inauguración de la cuarta sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos (CDH) de la ONU que, durante sus intervenciones, condenen firmemente la represión que ejerce Irán hacia las mujeres, disidentes y etnias minoritarias. Las distintas organizaciones no gubernamentales, entre ellas UN Watch, han dirigido una carta conjunta a los responsables de Exteriores de Suiza, Alemania, Luxemburgo, Países Bajos, Suecia, Francia, Liechtenstein, Noruega y España en la que les insta a protestar ante su homólogo iraní, Manoucher Mottaki, que también está previsto que participe hoy en la primera jornada del CDH…”   more

Activist Summit on Darfur

Please join us for the Activist Summit on Darfur to be held in Geneva at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, on March 28, 2007. Panelists include UN human rights experts, ambassadors, NGO activists and Darfuris. more

 Richard and Rhoda Goldman Graduate Fellowship

UN Watch is currently accepting applications for the one-year Richard and Rhoda Goldman Graduate Fellowship, to begin on September 1, 2007 at our Geneva headquarters. The Fellowship is designed to train recent university graduates as they begin their future career.   Candidates with experience at think tanks or human rights organizations are encouraged to apply. Deadline: April 15, 2007.   more

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Latest from the UN Human Rights Council

Following are highlights from the first week of the current session now underway in Geneva, to conclude on March 30.

Debating Darfur

  • Battle to Block New Report:   On Monday an assessment mission created by the Council in December released a report finding “large-scale international crimes”   in Darfur.   Sudan and the powerful Organization of the Islamic Conference   (OIC) immediately rejected the report—which was authored by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and four others—and they are fighting hard to prevent it from being officially adopted.   The outcome of this struggle—which hinges on whether the Council’s non-OIC African, Asian and Latin American members will side with Sudan and the OIC or with the West—will be a make or break moment for the Council’s credibility.   The Council will decide how to handle the report within the next two weeks.
  • UN Watch addressed the full plentary of the Council this afternoon: “If the Council cannot endorse the recommendations of this report, it will cast a shadow upon the reputation of the UN as a whole…”   Read our UN speech .   We commend the Council’s European democracies, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Ghana,   Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay for their statements at today’s session in support of the Williams team’s report.

Singling Out Israel:

  • Special Agenda Item Returning:   The committee preparing the Council’s new agenda is proposing to reinstitute the special agenda item to condemn Israel.   Four possible formulations   are presented, each of which would single out Israel alone out of 192 states for scrutiny under its own permanent agenda item.   This was the mark of shame of the discredited Commission on Human Rights, and proponents of last year’s creation of the Council—whose principles are “universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity”—had promised that the reform would have it removed.
  • More One-Sided Resolutions: The Council’s Arab Group and OIC members introduced three resolutions criticizing Israel.   The Council will discuss these drafts over the next two weeks and members will vote on them by Friday, March 30.   In its nine months of existence, the Council has adopted 8 resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations-and none against any other country.   The three additional   resolutions would:
  • entrench a 1993 mandate on Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories that would place the Jewish state under permanent investigation; presume the Jewish state to be guilty of “violations of the principles and bases of international law”; and ignore abuses against Palestinians committed by the Palestinian Authority;
  • criticize Israel for failing to cooperate with two investigatory missions into its recent military actions that began by prejudging its guilt; and
  • condemn “Israeli violations of religious and cultural rights” in regard to archaeological excavations, even though international investigators already debunked Islamic claims of a conspiracy to harm its holy shrine.
  • Condemnatory Speeches:   At the Council’s two and a half day “High Level Segment,” in which government ministers and other dignitaries addressed the body, many speakers urged the Council to maintain its focus on Israeli violations:
    • The Secretary-General of the OIC stressed that “the deteriorating human rights situation in Palestine must be addressed;” the Vice Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia   that “this Council must consider the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory;” and the Foreign Minister of Malaysia   that “concrete steps must be taken to address the gross and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinians.” As it happens, the Council has spoken of little else, with three special sessions and eight resolutions targeted against Israel alone in the past nine months.
    • The Foreign Minister of Iran   urged the Council to “continue to be seized with” the “gross and systematic violations of human rights” of the Palestinians by Israel “till the end of occupation.”   How this squares with his view, also frequently advanced by other repressive regimes, that the Council should “discard a confrontational approach [of] targeting countries” is unclear.
    • The Foreign Minister of Cuba   asserted that “[a]s long as the Palestinian people is prevented from its right to establish its own State and the Israeli occupiers continue to engage in the serious harassment of the civilian population in the occupied territories, this Council will not be able to do without the relevant issue on its agenda, or without the work of the Rapporteur following this situation.”   He was referring to proposals that the Council’s agenda include a special item dedicated solely to examining Israel, and that the mandate of the Council’s investigator into the human rights situation in Palestine, who can consider only actions by Israel, be made permanent.

Speaking out on World’s Worst Abuses

  • No Resolutions:   A number of democracies tried to draw attention—in speeches but regrettably not in resolutions—to many serious human rights problems around the world that the Council has not yet addressed, including those in Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.   The abuser countries responded with baseless accusations against the democracies that dared to mention them.   Cuba , for example, accused Sweden of “carry[ing] out ethnic cleansing that only allows those whose skin and hair color fit with the racial patterns of former Viking conquerors to remain in the country.”   Iran called France’s statement mentioning it a “manifestation of Islamophobia.”
  • Zimbabwe:   Democracies condemned the Zimbabwean government’s recent arrests and brutal beatings of opposition party leaders and members for attempting to assemble peacefully.   Zimbabwe reacted by accusing these governments of being “colonial slave-masters” seeking to take over the country.

Establishing the Council’s Mechanisms and Procedures

  • The new Council is still working on establishing its mechanisms, agenda, and rules of procedure.   These topics are being discussed at this session, but decisions will not be made until the Council’s next session in mid-June.   Some proposals under consideration pose threats to the Council’s future credibility and effectiveness, including the following:
    • Universal Review:     The Council is supposed to create a system of universal periodic review to examine the human rights records of all countries equally, but Islamic and developing countries are demanding that the review vary based on each country’s “level of development” and “cultural and religious specificities.”
    • Eliminating Experts:   The Council is supposed to maintain and improve the existing system of independent human rights experts that investigate and report on human rights issues generally or in specific countries.   But repressive regimes are seeking more member state control over the selection and conduct of these experts.   These regimes also are trying to eliminate all the experts that address, and often criticize, individual countries—except for the one investigating Israel.

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