40 MPs & NGOs oppose recently-declared Chavez bid for seat on U.N.’s top rights body

PRESS RELEASE

Coalition from 19 countries including US, France, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Bahrain, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda

GENEVA, May 2, 2012 — Forty parliamentarians and human rights activists from 19 different countries launched a campaign today to block Venezuela’s recently-announced bid for a seat on the U.N.’s top rights body, calling instead for a resolution to condemn the Chavez government for gross violations.

 

“One year after the U.N. finally removed Col. Qaddafi’s regime from its Human Rights Council, the organization is quietly planning to elect one of his key backers,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights group spearheading the protest. “It’s absurd.”

 

“If Chavez is chosen, the U.N. will grant legitimacy to a regime led by an ailing autocrat that systematically harasses journalists, judges, human rights activists and student leaders, and a top supporter of the butchers of Syria and Iran.”

 

In an op-ed published in today’s Miami Herald, Neuer called on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to live up to her pledge to keep bullies off the 47-nation body. An internet petition by UN Watch also appeals for action from EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton.

 

Venezeula is currently running uncontested. “Thanks to a backroom deal by the Latin American group,” said Neuer, “we have a cooked-up slate of three candidates for three seats. An election with no competition is meaningless.”

 

Although countries are not obliged to ratify a region’s candidates, past elections show that when faced with an equal amount of candidates as seats — as when Qaddafi’s Libya ran on a fixed African ticket in 2010 — this is what they do.

 

“Unless another country comes forward,” said Neuer, “Chavez’s election by the UNGA this fall is virtually assured.”

 

In a submission just published on the U.N. website, Venezuela claims to be “a democratic and
social State that respects rights and justice,” whose citizens live under “one of the most advanced constitutions in the world,” enjoying “the full exercise of political freedoms,” which are “unprecedented in the history of the Republic.”

 

“The Chavez bid looks especially absurd,” said Neuer, “in wake of the recent admission by a former top Venezuelan judge that verdicts in politically-sensitive cases are orchestrated by government officials.”

“Despite the promise of reform, it is tragic that the U.N.’s top rights body routinely includes such serial violators as Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia. They and their allies enjoy impunity. When the prosecutor, judge and jury are the perpetrators themselves, justice becomes a joke,” said Neuer.

“Because council term limits require China, Cuba and Russia to step off next year, the Venezuelan candidacy is a strategic move by the authoritarian bloc, designed to limit the ability of Western democracies to adopt measures for victims in Syria, Iran and other hotspots,” said Neuer.

“The U.S. recently declared that it would fight to keep abusers from joining UN bodies. But unless Secretary Clinton and her EU counterparts act now, the face of the U.N.’s highest human rights body will soon be that of Hugo Chavez.”

 

Joint Appeal by MPs, NGOs & Human Rights Activists

May 2, 2012

We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, strongly oppose the candidacy of Venezuela for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having regard to its poor record on human rights protection at home, and its poor record in human rights promotion at the UN, the government of Venezuela fails to meet the minimum membership criteria established by the UN General Assembly. Instead, we urge the UN Human Rights Council to adopt this NGO-drafted Resolution on Venezuelan abuses.

• Matteo Mecacci, Member of Italian Parliament, Chairman of Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
• Riccardo Migliori, Member of the Italian Parliament, Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
• Denis MacShane, Member of the UK Parliament, former Minister for Europe
• Irwin Cotler, Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Critic for Human Rights, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights
• Michael Danby, Member of Australian Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs
• Hillel Neuer, United Nations Watch, Switzerland
• Dr. Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident and former political prisoner, Founder and President of Initiatives for China
• Robert R. LaGamma, President, Council for a Community of Democracies, USA
• Laurence Kwark, Secretary General, Pax Romana, ICMICA/MIIC, Switzerland
• Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation
• Jacob Mchangama, Center for Political Studies, Denmark
• Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Insitute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Nigeria
• Ali AlAhmed, The Gulf Institute, USA
• Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder, Stop Child Executions, Canada
• John J. Suarez, International Secretary, Cuban Democratic Directorate
• Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland
• Dr. Francois Ullmann, President, Ingenieurs du Monde, Switzerland
• Fazal-ur Rehman Afridi, Institut de recherche et d’études stratégiques de Khyber, France
• Hu Ping, Chinese dissident, editor of Beijing Spring, former president of the Chinese Alliance for Democracy
• Christina Fu, New Hope Foundation, President
• Michael Craig, China Rights Network, President
• Huang Hebian, The Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values
• Mamady Kaba, African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADHHO), Guinea
• Ann J. Buwalda, Esq., Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign USA
• Ali Egal, Fanole Human Rights & Development Organization (FAHRO), Somalia/Kenya
• Jean Stoner, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, USA
• Amina Bouayach, Morrocan Organisation For Human Rights, Morocco
• Faisal Fulad, Gulf European Centre for Human Rights, UK
• Dickson Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International, Kenya
• Faisal Hassan, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, Bahrain
• Elizabeth Vanardenne, UN Rep, International Federation of Business & Professional Women
• Yang Kuanxing, Chinese dissident, editor of Yibao and original signatory to Charter ‘08, the manifesto calling for political reform in China
• Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for Development of Democracy & Human Rights, Russia
• Huguette Chomski Magnis, Mouvement Pour la Paix et Contre le Terrorisme, France
• Kabaale G Timothy, African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Uganda
• Gibreil I. M. Hamid, President, Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland
• Dr. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates, USA
• Galina Nechitailo, Vice-President, Environmental Women’s Assembly

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