PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, January 5, 2009 — UN Watch, an independent non-govermental organization headquartered in Geneva, today called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights high commissioner Navi Pillay to reject a new draft declaration on racism that restricts free speech, prohibits expression deemed offensive to Islamic sensitivies, and portrays counter-terrorism efforts by the U.S., Western states and Israel as esentially “racist.”

“With Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya chairing the planning committee, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran as vice-chair, it’s heart-wrenching though not surprising that Durban 2 is hijacking the noble cause of human rights and anti-racism, with the aim of legitimizing an agenda of hate and extremism that targets innocents in Mumbai, Madrid, Israel, and elsewhere,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

In April 2009, Geneva will host a follow-up to the 2001 world conference conference against racism, held in Durban, South Africa, which saw anti-Semitic displays that were condemned by then rights chief Mary Robinson.

A UN committee headed by Russia recently published its revised draft declaration for the Durban 2 gathering. The new text significantly revises the previous version, reducing it from 88 pages to 38. Click here for UN Watch analysis of new Durban 2 draft, released today.

However, “despite massive editing, the new draft once again shatters each of the red lines set by the European Union as the minium requirement for their participation at Durban 2,” said Neuer.

“Just like in 2001, the proposed declaration veers off its mandate in order to single out Israel for opprobrium, and more generally indicts Western democracies,” said Neuer. “But it’s actually worse than 2001, because now Islamic states have inserted language seeking to delegitimize counter-terrorism efforts as racist, and to censor free speech in order to prevent what they call the “defamation of Islam.”

“As the most vocal defender of the Durban 2 process — in op-eds and press releases sent around the world — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has a moral obligation now to protest and push back,” said Neuer.

“So far, High Commissioner Pillay has for some reason reserved all of her criticism for Western states that have expressed concerns about the conference’s direction. We trust that she will not give a free pass to Libya, Iran, Cuba, and other anti-democratic regimes who are behind this latest effort to attack free speech, misuse human rights principles, and hijack the anti-racism cause for dangerous political ends.”

 

Click here for detailed UN Watch analysis of new Durban 2 draft, released today.

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