“UN’s last chance to save the Human Rights Council from itself,”

UN Set to End Scrutiny of Cuba and Belarus, Indict Israel; 27 NGOs Protest

says UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer

New York, Nov. 2, 2007 — A coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations is urging senior officials and member states of the U.N. to oppose a set of proposed changes to the Human Rights Council that would end that body’s scrutiny of abuses in Cuba and Belarus, obstruct resolutions that name specific countries for violations, and institute an Islamic-sponsored initiative to permanently censure Israel under a fixed agenda item.

“At a time when free speech and other basic liberties are increasingly under assault by Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and Fidel Castro in Cuba, the proposal to fire the independent UN human rights experts who report on violations by both regimes—and to eliminate these mandates forever—is simply unconscionable,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “Despite what many thought in June, it’s not too late—UN officials and member states have one last chance to save the Human Rights Council from itself.”

According to Neuer, “the proposed changes to council procedures would also make it harder than ever before to introduce country resolutions against Sudan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other serial abusers; intimidate the remaining ten independent experts through a restrictive ‘code of conduct’; and breach the promise of a clean agenda for the new council.”

Under the proposal, Section 7 of the council’s permanent agenda, the result of intense pressure from Arab and Islamic states, would revive what the UN Department of Public Information described last year as “the agenda item targeting Israel.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly criticized the proposed agenda item in a statement issued on June 20, 2007—for which he was rebuked by the Islamic bloc in the council plenary a month later—and High Commissioner Arbour, in letters sent to various NGOs, has called the item “selective.”

“To top it off,” said Neuer, “the June pact was rushed through in the darkness of night through unprecedented irregularities that included denying Canadian representative Terrence Cormier his right to vote.”

November 2, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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