Isn’t the objective of this conference to help victims?

Testimony at the UN

In a moment that will encapsulate the disappointment of many human rights activists attending the Durban 2 conference, Iran’s delegate interrupted UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer for daring to mention this week’s testimony by Iranian torture victim Ahmed Batebi, delivered Sunday before a large human rights gathering held opposite the UN building.  See full speech below. 

 Iran interjected twice on a “point of order” and asked the chair to instruct UN Watch to stick to the “agenda item” under discussion, which was the “objectives of the conference.” Allowed to continue under caution of the Kenyan chair, Neuer nevertheless managed to conclude his speech, which he ended by “Isn’t the objective of this conference to help victims?”

Durban Review Conference
Oral Statement by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer
23 April 2009

Thank you, Mr. President.

The stated objective of this Durban Review Conference is to review countries’ progress on racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, in order to help millions of victims worldwide.

Today, after the conference outcome text has been adopted, we ask: Did the conference live up to its promise? Did it help millions of victims worldwide?

To answer that question, we need to listen to the victims. We did exactly that on Sunday, across the street from here, when more than 500 human rights victims, scholars and activists assembled at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.

UN Watch was proud to be among the 40 human rights groups from around the world that organized this momentous event.

We heard from victims, who know about racial and ethnic discrimination.

From Ester Mujawayo of Rwanda, whose mother, father and husband were murdered in the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, and yet who lives on — not only to remember the dead, but to treat the survivors.

From Gibreil Hamid of Darfur, who told us, in tears, about 50 of his relatives murdered in the racist genocide that continues there.

From Kristyiana Valcheva, one of the five Bulgarian nurses, and from Ashraf El –Hajoj, the Palestinian doctor — all of whom were framed, convicted and tortured in Libya, discriminated for being foreigners.

We also heard from victims of discrimination on grounds cited in Section 2 of the DDPA, based on sex, religion, political or other opinion.

We heard victim testimony from Soe Aung, a dissident from Burma.

From Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President of Stop Child Executions, about children on death row in Iran

From Ahmad Batebi from Iran, the student demonstrator who was tortured for 9 years in Iran, with his picture on the front cover of the Economist holding his friend’s bloodied t-shirt.

From Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the former political prisoner from Egypt.

From José Castillo, the former political prisoner from Cuba.

From Marlon Zakeyo, who fights political repression in Zimbabwe

From Pavel Marozau, human rights defender from Belarus.

KENYAN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AMOS WAKO: Islamic Republic of Iran—what’s the point of order?

IRAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. We should kindly advise the speaker to confine his observation to the theme of item number 9 and reframe from making references to names of countries—member state countries. Otherwise, according to your ruling, he should be stopped from continuation of his speech.

KENYAN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AMOS WAKO: May I ask the speaker to please take into consideration the observations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and stick to subject under discussion, namely the issues arising from the objectives of the review conference.

[UN Watch resumes testimony]

Now, here in my hands I hold the outcome of this conference.

To the distinguished delegates in this hall, I ask:

Why are does it ignore all of the situations represented by these victims?

In a conference that promised to review country performance on racism, why did the conference in fact fail to review a single country that perpetrates racism, discrimination and intolerance?

Why did the conference fail to review a single abuser?

Why is it silent on women facing systematic discrimination in Saudi Arabia?

Why is it silent on gays persecuted and even executed in Iran? On ethnic repression in Tibet?

Why is this conference, which promised to help Africans, silent on black Africans now being raped slaughtered by racist Sudan?

Mr. President,

I ask: If this a Review Conference, can someone tell me who has been reviewed?

KENYAN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AMOS WAKO: There is a point of order again from Iran—the Islamic Republic of Iran.

IRAN: Yes, thank you Mr. Chair. I don’t think that I will need to repeat my proposal. I would ask you to kindly pronounce the speaker out of order and stop him from continuation of his statement. I thank you.

KENYAN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AMOS WAKO: I think I do call the speaker to order and I would like to introduce the appropriate language. You only have minutes left so stick to the points—the objectives of this review conference.

[UN Watch resumes testimony]

I shall conclude merely with one question: has this conference really helped millions of victims worldwide? If so, who are they?

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch