Cuba, China, Iran object to NGO call to expel them from UN rights bodies

Cuba, China and Iran immediately took the floor to protest after this speech was delivered today, seeking to delete the remarks from the record; see summary at bottom. See video below of the exchange, beginning at minute 20:10.


UN Watch Speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, June 26, 2012

Thank you, Madam President.

UN Watch held an international summit of human rights activists and NGOs in September, in New York, entitled We Have A Dream. We wish to read from their declaration, which offers key lessons for this council.

Quote:

“To the remaining tyrants and dictators around the globe, who have systematically violated the rights of their peoples, we give notice: Your time has passed. No more will the world suffer your specious arguments to justify policies and practices of abuse and repression in the name of claimed exceptions to the universality of basic human rights.  Belonging to diverse faiths and cultures, and originating from all regions of the world, we unequivocally reject such dishonest apologetics, which suit the interests of the despots, and not the interests, or ideas, of their peoples.”

“We assert that the writ of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly, continues to run through all societies, and for all times.  The talk of tyrants is refuted by the cries of prisoners, who—from the dungeons of Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Tibet, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere—demand justice and freedom on the basis of these universal laws and eternal truths.”

“Therefore, in renewing the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call on the United Nations to make the dream of the four freedoms a reality. We urge the United Nations General Assembly to pursue a new agenda for human rights, and call for the Member States to:

  • Remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system.
  • Welcoming the United Nations suspension this year of the Gaddafi regime from the Human Rights Council, and the successful campaigns to prevent the election of Iran and Syria to that body, we call on the United Nations to continue on the path of reform, including by:
    • Suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council;
    • Removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women; and
    • Expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of UN Women.”

Thank you, Madam President.

The speech immediately sparked several minutes of argument when Cuba, China, and Iran made formal objections seeking to delete the remarks from the record, and the U.S. delegation defended UN Watch’s right to speak. Following is a summary.

COUNCIL VICE-PRESIDENT (Rebukes UN Watch)

I’d like to remind delegations that they should uphold UN standards when referring to countries or territories.

CUBA (Objects to UN Watch Statement)
It doesn’t really deal with the issues that we’re discussing today in our debate. But this NGO was allowed to end [its speech], despite the fact that I lifted my flag, because I wanted to raise my point of order then—when that statement was being made…  I hope that our position is duly reflected on the topic.  I think [the UN Watch statement] is outside the debate today.

USA (Defends UN Watch’s Right to Speak)
We firmly believe that NGOs must be permitted to speak in the council. [While] we may disagree from time to time on the content of their statements, our view is that it is essential that civil society voices be heard here in an atmosphere of open expression. Without addressing the substance of the speaker’s statement, we are of the opinion that what we have heard of the intervention is indeed addressed to the subject matter at hand under agenda item 3. So we’d like to make sure that my statement is also on the record to that effect.

CHINA (Objects to UN Watch criticizing Council’s membership)
The contents of one of the NGOs [UN Watch] shouldn’t appear in the General Debate because its statement has nothing to do with what we are discussing today. She made no reference whatsoever on the report of the special procedures, or the contents of these reports. On the contrary, she violates in a gross manner the internal affairs and the sovereignty of the member states of the United Nations. These NGOs are not qualified at all to comment or to criticize the eligibility of the members of the United Nations or the members of the Council. A number of countries have been biased to those NGOs, and give notice to those NGOs, and to this my delegation would like to express its deep regret. We hope that in the future, Mr. Vice-President, you will give a just ruling on these matters.

USA (Again Defends UN Watch’s Right to Speak)
I’m taking the floor again just to reiterate the point that I made before. I will not go through the whole statement – please I would like you to refer to what I had said, and we believe that this still stands following the intervention from my distinguished colleagues from China.

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN (Objects to UN Watch Statement)
I would bring your attention, Vice-President, that this NGO speaks out of the agenda of General Debate of Item 3.

VICE-PRESIDENT (Declines to delete the remarks from the record)
It is my understanding that I already made my ruling after the statement so I would like to continue with our list of speakers, if there’s no objection.

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