Geneva, Oct. 25, 2006 —UN Watch today called on Jean Ziegler, the UN hunger expert scheduled to address the General Assembly this afternoon, to resign from his position as vice-president of the “Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize” organization. The Geneva-based non-governmental organization said that Mr. Ziegler’s political and financial ties to a dictator associated with torture and other abuses jeopardized the credibility of his mandate as the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
The Khaddafi Prize, established by the Libyan dictator with Mr. Ziegler’s help in 1989, has been awarded to several individuals accused of racism and anti-Semitism, including Louis Farrakhan and Mahathir Mohammed, as well as convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. Other winners of the award include anti-Western leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, and organizations who lobbied at the UN against the sanctions imposed on Libya after its agents bombed Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. According to Libya’s state-controlled news agency, Mr. Ziegler himself won the award in 2002, in the same year as Garaudy. Awardees have received two-hundred thousand dollars or more.
As recently documented by UN Watch and reported in a front page exposé in the leading Swiss newspaper Neue Zuricher Zeitung , Mr. Ziegler is vice-president of a group of interconnected organizations in Geneva known as “Nord-Sud XXI” that manage and award the Khaddafi Prize. Government records, UN documents and international news sources show that, despite recent denials by Mr. Ziegler, he played a leading role in founding the Khaddafi Prize, has maintained an ongoing relationship with the Prize organization, and himself won—but did not disclose his connections to—the Prize in 2002.
“Mr. Ziegler’s ties to the Khaddafi Prize conflict with the high standards of independence, impartiality and integrity required of a Special Rapporteur,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer. “An independent UN human rights expert should not be connected to any government, let alone a dictatorship that is routinely rated among Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst human rights abusing regimes. In the world of human rights, Mr. Ziegler is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Notwithstanding Libya’s recent renunciation of weapons of mass destruction in return for international favor, Khaddafi continues to rule by fiat, denying freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and other basic civil rights and liberties. Security forces have the power to pass sentence without trial. Arbitrary arrest and torture are commonplace. The Libyan government is seeking to execute five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, on trumped-up charges that they contaminated 400 children with HIV/AIDS.
“Jean Ziegler’s entanglement with the Libyan regime is not the only example of his disrespect for the standards that UN human rights experts are supposed to uphold,” according to Neuer. “In the six years he has held the position, Mr. Ziegler has consistently abused his UN mandate to further a radical political agenda, which includes frivolous claims that the U.S. is committing ‘genocide’ against Cuba.” Last year Mr. Ziegler became the first UN rights expert to be publicly criticized by Secretary-General Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Arbour, after he compared Israelis to Nazi concentration camp guards.
Mr. Ziegler’s polemics were on display again recently at the Human Rights Council. On October 4, Mr. Ziegler presented a report on this summer’s conflict in Lebanon that went far beyond food issues, broadly condemning Israeli “war crimes” but making no mention of Hezbollah. “I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” said Ziegler in an interview with Al Akhbar , a Lebanese newspaper, on September 19, 2006. “It is a national movement of resistance. . . I can understand Hizbollah when they kidnap soldiers in order to exchange them.” Mr. Ziegler’s one-sided report to the council stood in marked contrast to the balanced report of four other Special Rapporteurs, presented on the same day, which criticized both Israel and Hezbollah for violations.
In April, an international coalition of 20 human rights groups, including victims of the Libyan regime, signed an appeal opposing the Human Rights Council’s renewal of Mr. Ziegler’s term. See full text here.