Human Rights High Commissioner Slams U.N. Official for “Inflammatory” Nazi Comparison


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Human Rights High Commissioner Slams U.N. Official for “Inflammatory” Nazi Comparison
Jean Ziegler Further Denounced for Describing Israelis as “Concentration Camp Guards”; Arbour Rejects His Explanations

Geneva, Jul. 22, 2005 –  United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour slammed one of her organization’s human rights appointees for making references to Israel that were “evocative of Nazi Germany, and in my view, inflammatory.”  In doing so, Arbour rejected the claims of Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, to the effect that his July 5th characterization of the Gaza Strip as a “concentration camp,” and of Israelis as concentration camp guards, was defensible on grounds he merely repeated remarks allegedly made by an Israeli, or that he was actually referring to “British concentration camps erected in Africa.”  The government of Canada has also protested directly to Ziegler for harming the credibility of all U.N. human rights experts.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group, had appealed to Arbour following Ziegler’s speech to a pro-Palestinian crowd of demonstrators in Geneva.  UN Watch urged the head of the U.N. human rights machinery to denounce Ziegler for his use of Nazi imagery in describing the Jewish state, which it argued was a classic form of anti-Semitism under the definition of the European Union’s center for monitoring racism.

In her reply to UN Watch, released today, Arbour wrote that, “[a]s High Commissioner for Human Rights, and as a longstanding human rights advocate, I feel free to disassociate myself with any reference to concentration camps in such circumstances as it is inevitably evocative of Nazi Germany, and in my view, inflammatory.”

Ziegler’s remarks had been swiftly condemned two weeks ago by the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  While Arbour was away in Africa, her spokesman similarly denounced Ziegler’s speech as “highly irresponsible.”  The High Commissioner’s new statement, copies of which were sent to Ziegler and Annan, is viewed as a sharper and personal admonishment.  Reprimands, say U.N. observers, are rarely if ever issued against the independent experts, who formally are answerable only to the 53-member Commission on Human Rights.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, welcomed Arbour’s statement as “a bold and unequivocal declaration that the discourse of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel demonization and dehumanization has no place in the halls of the United Nations, a body meant to promote human rights.”  Neuer praised Arbour as well as the Canadian government for speaking out.

“Ziegler’s prejudiced remarks reflect a larger cultural phenomenon within the Human Rights Commission, whereby Israel is the only country in the world subjected to scrutiny under a special agenda item—in which it is condemned as many times as every other country combined—and where the Islamic Group denies, as it did in April, that anti-Semitism is against Jews,” said Neuer.  “Arbour’s statement underscores the reality that current efforts to reform and restore credibility to the Human Rights Commission will be impossible so long as the glaring institutional bias against one country remains in place.  It’s the elephant in the room in the whole reform debate.”

According to Neuer, Ziegler has employed Nazi imagery several times over the past few years, and has “a transparent pattern and practice of excusing himself by saying that his Israeli friend Michael Warschawski, a self-described ‘anti-Zionist,’ said it first.  Does Ziegler also believe it is right to gas and massacre hundreds of thousands of Iraqis because a certain Iraqi advocated it first?”  Neuer said that “Ziegler’s mistake was to think his childish games ever had a chance with Madame Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court Justice—she’s way too smart.”

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information.
UN Watch