Geneva, April 16, 2008 — Amnesty International should reconsider its speaking invitation to Jean Ziegler, a UN official who co-founded the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize and has supported the regimes of Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro and other major human rights violators, said UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization (Click to read UN Watch letter).
At its annual Swiss conference to be held this Saturday in Bern, Amnesty International plans to feature Mr. Ziegler together with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. In a letter sent today to Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan, who will be appearing on the same panel, UN Watch said it was “unconscionable that Amnesty, a leading human rights organization, would invite Mr. Ziegler, and we urge you to reconsider.”
As was reported in Time Magazine and elsewhere, Mr. Ziegler co-founded the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize in 1989, seen by many as a propaganda vehicle of the Libyan regime. Past recipients include Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The letter to Amnesty accused Mr. Ziegler of “supporting regimes that, according to your own reports, rank among the world’s worst violators of human rights, such as Zimbabwe, which Mr. Ziegler defended, saying, ‘Mugabe has history and morality with him.’”
UN Watch noted that Mr. Ziegler was recently elected to be an expert advisor to the UN Human Rights Council “by the same countries that decided to ignore the killings in Tibet and then to eviscerate protection of free speech.” Ziegler’s election drew strong protests from human rights groups and dissidents, parliamentarians in Europe and Canada, and editorialists in The Guardian, The Times of London and Investor’s Business Daily.
“The career of Mr. Ziegler symbolizes the cynical subversion of human rights that has so harmed the United Nations and its Human Rights Council… By granting Mr. Ziegler a podium at your conference, Amnesty International will harm its own reputation, and, worse, undermine the principles of the international human rights movement—and the cause of the millions of victims we are sworn to protect,” said UN Watch.
“This sends the wrong message at the wrong time,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.