Conflict of Interest: UN’s Jean Ziegler made country visits to praise political friends, not fight world’s hunger emergencies


Geneva, March 11, 2008 — The UN refused to publish a submission by a Geneva non-governmental organization detailing conflict of interest on the part of a UN rights official whose two reports released today heap praise on the Cuban and Bolivian governments. (See text below.) UN special rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler has spoken frequently of his long-time admiration for revolutionary figures Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, as well as Bolivia’s left-wing leader Evo Morales.

“With children starving in Zimbabwe, Burundi and Sierra Leone, it is sad that Ziegler devoted his only country missions this year to supporting his political friends instead of fighting hunger,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Ziegler’s October trip to Cuba, like his report today, was a stage-managed Potemkin visit for international consumption, designed to cleanse Cuba’s reputation after it eliminated the UN human rights council’s mandate on its abuses.”

According to the council’s rules, its experts must act with impartiality and objectivity. They are required to respect “truthfulness, loyalty and independence pertaining to their mandate,” and “uphold the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, probity, impartiality, equity, honesty and good faith.”

Neuer questioned whether Ziegler’s actions met these standards.

“As a judge, UN high commissioner Louise Arbour should inform Ziegler of his obligation to recuse himself from reporting on government leaders that he has endorsed politically,” said Neuer.

In 1989 Ziegler went to Libya to help found the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize, which was awarded to Castro in 1998 and to Morales in 2000. Ziegler returned to Libya in 2002 to win the prize himself, together with convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

While in Cuba this past October, Ziegler declined an invitation to meet dissidents because it might ”put in danger” his hosts’ ”openness.” Instead, he hailed the Castro regime as a model government — ”in the vanguard of the struggle for the right to food.”

“Never before in the history of the United Nations has there been a human rights expert whose country investigations are designed to praise, rather than critique, government actions,” said Neuer.

* * * *

The following was submitted as a NGO written statement to the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, but rejected by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 
Seventh session

Written statement submitted by UN Watch,
a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

Promotion and Protection of the Independence
and Impartiality of the Right to Food Mandate

(Item 3 — Right to Food)
UN Watch recalls the obligations under international law for UN human rights experts to be independent, impartial and non-selective.

In this regard, UN Watch regrets that these principles are called into question by the official visits undertaken by Mr. Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, to Bolivia (A/HRC/7/5/Add.2) and Cuba (A/HRC/7/5/Add.3).

UN experts make country visits in order to hold governments accountable to their commitments under international human rights law. Regrettably, here the Special Rapporteur did the opposite, making visits to Bolivia and Cuba in order to praise both governments. This has never been done before by any UN human rights expert.

Moreover, UN Watch regrets that the Special Rapporteur chose not to disclose to the Human Rights Council his particular history with the Morales government in Bolivia, and the Castro government in Cuba. In both instances, the principles of justice would have required him to recuse himself from reporting on these governments.

(a) Mr. Ziegler Should Have Disclosed Award in 2000 of Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize to Bolivian President Evo Morales

UN Watch regrets that the Special Rapporteur failed to disclose his role in granting an award in the year 2000 to Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize.

It is recalled that when the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize was founded in 1989 in Geneva, Mr. Ziegler was a member of its founding committee and was chosen to announce it to the world:


[Swiss] Socialist deputy 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. “The prize is conceived as an anti-Nobel Peace prize award for the Third World,” Ziegler said in a statement. Ziegler said committee members besides himself include Sam Nujoma, leader of the Southwest African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) and [four others].
Switzerland’s L’Hebdo magazine reported:


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 dollars—placed in a Swiss bank—it plans to create an international institute for human rights (planned in Geneva) and two “counter-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.

In the year 2000, the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize was awarded to Bolivia’s Mr. Morales, “in recognition of his trade union and political struggle for the liberation of the Bolivian people and emancipation” and his “bold methods against domination and exploitation exercised by capitalist regimes, notably the United States of America.”

Other Prize winners have included prominent racists and anti-Semites. For example, Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader known for his black supremacist ideology and his frequent anti-Semitic statements, was awarded the Prize in 1996. Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad—who told an October 2003 meeting of Islamic nations that Jews were responsible for all the world’s ills—was granted the prize in 2005. Other winners have included “the stone throwing children of Occupied Palestine.” In 2002, thirteen “intellectual and literary personalities” were given the prize for their “thought and creativity.” One of those chosen by the prize committee was Roger Garaudy, the convicted French Holocaust denier. Another was Mr. Ziegler himself.

(b) Mr. Ziegler Should Have Disclosed Cuba’s Sponsorshp of his UN Mandate, and Award in 1989 of Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize to former Cuban President Fidel Castro

UN Watch regrets that the Special Rapporteur failed to recuse himself or disclose to the Council his longstanding ties with the Cuban government, including the following:
• Cuba was the official sponsor of Mr. Ziegler’s UN appointment and renewal in 2000, 2003 and 2007. (See UN Resolutions E/CN.4/2000/L.19, E/CN.4/2003/L.27, and Resolution A/HRC/6/L.5, listing Cuba as sponsor.)

• In 1998, President Fidel Castro was awarded the Moammar Khaddafi Prize for Human Rights, the award, as indicated supra, co-founded by Mr. Ziegler nine years earlier.

• Mr. Ziegler’s longstanding ties to the Cuban government:
“[I]n 1964, Jean Ziegler … spent a long day serving as chauffeur to the revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara, who was here as head of a Cuban trade delegation… Ziegler told Guevara that he wanted to emigrate to Cuba, to help the young Communist nation build a more just society. Guevara motioned to the shimmering lights of the wealthy lakeside city below. ‘Here is the brain of the monster,’ the revolutionary told the scholar. ‘Your fight is here.’” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 23, 1998.)

UN Watch also regrets that media reports uncritically accepted Mr. Ziegler’s comment that Cuba’s invitation to him was “a signal that Cuba is opening up.”

While in Cuba, Mr. Ziegler reportedly declined an invitation to meet dissidents because, he said, it might “put in danger” his hosts’ “openness.” Instead, he hailed the Castro regime as a model government “in the vanguard of the struggle for the right to food.”


We remind the Special Rapporteur of his obligations under international human rights law to be independent, impartial and non-selective.


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