Libyan Human Rights Violations and UN Expert Jean Ziegler

Testimony at the UN

Libyan Human Rights Violations and UN Expert Jean Ziegler

Interactive Dialogue with UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler

Speech before UN Human Rights Council 5th Session
12 June 2007

Delivered by Toby W. Frankenstein, UN Watch Legacy Heritage Fellow

Thank you Mr. President.

We commend Special Rapporteur Ziegler for raising in his report the plight of hunger migrants and refugees, including the many thousands who regularly seek passage through Libya.1  This weekend’s events are a tragic reminder of this crisis.  On Thursday, according to news reports, migrants in two boats sent a distress signal while off the Libyan coast, well within the Libyan search and rescue zone of responsibility. Regrettably, Libyan authorities and an Iranian cargo ship reportedly failed to go to their aid despite requests from Maltese authorities.2  The fate of these migrants remains unknown.

This incident underscores the gross and systematic violations by Libya of the rights of hunger migrants and refugees.  As the Special Rapporteur is aware, a major report by Human Rights Watch in September documented how Libya subjects migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to serious human rights abuses, including beatings, and forced return to countries where they could face persecution or torture, such as Eritrea and Somalia.3From 2003 to 2005, more than 140,000 people were subject to return or deportation.  The situation is grave and it is urgent.

Mr. Ziegler, though your report cites the Libyan situation only in passing, you are uniquely positioned to protect these victims.  As you mentioned last year on Swiss TV, once or twice a year you are personally hosted by Colonel Khadaffi, the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution, for what you described as “intellectual discussions.”4  Also, your credibility on human rights issues with the Libyan government is unimpeachable, due to your status as original spokesman,5 jury member6 and 2002 laureate7 of the Muammar Khadaffi Prize for Human Rights, as cited by Libya at the UN.8

Accordingly, Mr. Ziegler, can you tell us about steps that you are taking with the Libyan government to protect these hunger refugees?

Second, we note that your report praises, as examples for the world to follow, the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia,9  the country which you recently visited and officially endorsed for membership on this Council.10  Skeptics in the West may say that what these particular governments share is a varying degree of hostility toward Western values of political and economic liberty, while others may observe that the leaders of all three also each happen to be laureates of the aforementioned Khadaffi Prize.11  With Western democracies being the predominant supporters of the UN human rights machinery, some of its citizens may feel unfairly targeted and begin to question that support.

As you know, UN Watch has always advocated that Western governments strongly support this machinery.

Mr. Ziegler, to help us make our case and rebut the skeptics, can you tell us about Western governments that you have also praised as worthy examples for the world to follow?

Thank you, Mr. President.

Check Against Delivery

1A/HRC/4/30 at 17.

2“Libyan authorities refuse to rescue migrants due to bad sea conditions,” The Malta Indpendent, June 9, 2007; “Dispersed migrants’ boats saga: fate uncertain,” The Malta Indpendent, June 9, 2007,

3Human Rights Watch report, “Stemming the Flow: Abuses Against Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees,”

4Swiss SF1 TV interview of Jean Ziegler, June 27, 2006 (“Jean Ziegler admits that Khaddafi invites him from time to time. . . ‘When the prize was founded, I was asked by the oil-producing countries, like other intellectuals as well, whether I would appreciate it if such a prize was founded. I said yes, this is an opening. . .'”).

5Switzerland’s L’Hebdo magazine dedicated a full story under Mr. Ziegler’s photograph, “Le Nobel de Kadhafi — Les autorités libyennes créent un nouveau prix des droits de l’homme. Jean Ziegler met la main à la pâte,” L’Hebdo, 27 avril 1989 (“According to Jean Ziegler, ‘the Nobel Prize is a permanent humiliation for the Third World.’ The timing couldn’t be better-just as Libya is trying to restore its image. With the interest of $10 million-placed in a Swiss bank-it plans to create an international institute for human rights, planned in Geneva, and two ‘anti-Nobel Prizes.’ In mid-April, Jean Ziegler and ten ‘intellectuals and progressive fighters’ thus found themselves in Tripoli to set the project on track.”) Time magazine also reported on the Prize, citing Mr. Ziegler as a representative of the prize committee.  “World Notes: Prizes-And the Winner is. . . ,”  Time, May 8, 1989.

6“Jean Ziegler said a prize foundation fund in the name of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is registered in Geneva with capital of $10 million.  Annual winners will be selected and foundation capital managed by a committee of African and European politicians and intellectuals, he said. . . . Ziegler said committee members besides himself include Sam Nujoma, leader of the Southwest African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) and [four others].”  United Press International, April 23, 1989.  See also the official Libyan website,, listing Mr. Ziegler as original member of the Popular Committee that manages and awards the prize, and the role of the Nord-Sud XXI institute as the managing organization.  Mr. Ziegler is listed under Geneva Canton files as Vice-Chairman of the related Institut Nord-Sud.  Feuille d’Avis Officielle du canton de Genève, lundi 18 mars 2002, 442/10, at

7“French Holocaust denier, Swiss campaigner for victims share Kadhafi prize,” Agence France Presse-English, September 30, 2002; “‘Prix Kadhafi des droits de l’homme’ Jean Ziegler et Roger Garaudy parmi les treize lauréats,” Schweizerische Depeschenagentur AG (SDA)-Service de base français, 30 septembre 2002.  See also, inter alia, the “Activities and Events” page for 2002, listing Mr. Ziegler as a prize laureate and discussing his visit to Tripoli to receive it.

8See, e.g., Libya’s discussion of the prize in its March 3, 2004 statement to the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination,

9A/HRC/4/30 at 14, 7, and 6.

10Indian Country Today, May 10, 2007 (“Jean Ziegler . . . informed Morales that, due to the country’s positive human rights record . . .Bolivia is being considered for a permanent seat on the HRC . . . ‘I am sure that Bolivia will be elected as a member,’ he asserted…”).

11The Khaddafi Prize was awarded to Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1998; Bolivian leader Evo Morales in 2000 (in recognition of his “bold methods against domination and exploitation exercised by capitalist regimes, notably the United States of America”); and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in 2004.  That same year, Venezuela nominated Mr. Ziegler to the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights.

UN Watch

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