Out of 4 applicants, Jean Ziegler is only one not to be shortlisted
Today: UNHRC appointment will go instead to Alfred de Zayas
GENEVA, March 23 – For the first time in his career, veteran UN human rights official Jean Ziegler—who was exposed this year by Swiss TV for his role in creating the “Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” and then disinvited from delivering the Salzburg Festival’s keynote address—has been denied a sought-after UN post, a new mandate sponsored by Cuba’s Communist government to ensure “equitable international order.”
Yet in a bizarre development yesterday, Ziegler, a former Swiss Socialist politician, apparently tried to preempt news of his rejection by telling Swiss news agency SDA that he declined to apply for the post.
“The UN’s own documents show that Ziegler’s completely lying,” said Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based UN Watch monitoring group.
The UN published Ziegler’s 9-page, detailed application form online, in which he declares: “I am personally very motivated to assume this mandate.”
The UN website lists Jean Ziegler as one of four applicants, and the report of the hiring committee (“Consultative Group”) shows that — by unanimous decision — only three of the canddates, meaning all except Ziegler, were interviewed and considered. The council president announced this week that the final appointment, set for today, will go to Alfred de Zayas.
In his application, Ziegler had stressed how important it was for him to win the new mandate, in order to “participate in the promotion of the justiciability of all human rights within the normative framework of the United Nations.”
Asked by the form to say what measures he would take to avoid accumulating UN functions, Ziegler pledged to end his current post as council advisor in exchange for the far more influential position.
The new mandate, “Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order,” was sponsored by Cuba to criticize Western countries that it says “wish to dominate the world with their economic and military models.”
Until now, Ziegler had easily won election to UN sinecures. This time, however, despite Ziegler still being one of the council’s senior advisers, he was the only one of all four applicants not to be considered for the post.
“The council has effectively expressed its lack of confidence in Ziegler,” said Neuer.
In his application, Ziegler made clear how badly he wanted the new post, which would have handed him a global podium and media coverage as a roving UN investigator, similar to his 2000-2008 post as the council’s expert on the right to food. Ziegler in his application offered six weeks per year to tour the world on country visits.
UN Watch played a key role in ensuring Ziegler’s defeat. The Geneva-based watchdog group was the first to expose his role in co-founding and managing the Moammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, his close ties to dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, and his support for the Hezbollah terrorist group.
In the past, Ziegler’s campaigns for UN posts had received overt backing from Libya and other anti-Western regimes, as well as from Swiss Socialist circles led by former foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. Distributing this glossy brochure, Calmy-Rey’s office had aggressively lobbied UN delegates for Ziegler’s last campaign in 2008, which he then won by an overwhelming vote.
The changes of government in Libya and Switzerland, said Neuer, played a role in Ziegler’s erosion of diplomatic support. Insiders say that neither Switzerland, which exercises key influence as a council member and host country, lobbied this time for Ziegler, nor did Libya. Ziegler’s opponents were thus able to gain the upper hand, with SDA reporting rumors that the US advocated against Ziegler’s latest bid.
“The defeat of this human rights impostor is a victory for the cause of UN reform and reaffirms the need to be persistent in exposing those who politically abuse sacred mandates designed to help victims,” said Neuer.
Swiss public opinion turned sharply against the Qaddafi regime and his supporters in 2008 after two of its citizens were taken captive by Libya, and because of last year’s war. In 2011, reports by Swiss TV and Le Matin demonstrated how Ziegler had lied for a period of years about his role in creating the Qaddafi Human Rights Prize.
UN Watch had been the first to expose Ziegler’s ties with Qaddafi in this major 2006 report. UN Watch also organized the recent campaign by 45 NGOs calling for Ziegler’s problematic record to be investigated.