Iran concerned about pre-Durban II human rights summit featuring former prisoner Ahmed Batebi

Speaking today at a working group for Durban II at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Iran voiced its concern about an upcoming Geneva summit of human rights activists, to be held on the eve of Durban II, which will feature former Iranian prisoner of conscience Ahmed Batebi, made famous by his front cover picture in The Economist, holding the bloodied t-shirt of a fellow student demonstrator.

Iran complained to the U.N. meeting that the April 19th Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy reserved the premier conference location across the street from the UN, while an alternative gathering — one spearheaded by a pro-Libyan group — will take place in a more remote location in the city. The Geneva Summit, said Iran, “had decided, with a lot of possibility, to reserve the Geneva Center for International Conferences, while other NGOs are forced to use Plainpalais.”

Iran issued the comment in the context of paragraph 139 of the Durban II draft text, which proposes funding for NGOs. Iran said that NGOs and experts in general should not be funded, but only those coming from developing countries.

The Czech Republic, speaking for the European Union (EU), opposed Iran’s amendment, saying, “We want all NGO’s and experts to be supported and not only the ones from developing countries.”

As for Iran’s comment that only certain NGOs can reserve the Geneva Conference Center whereas others (from developing countries) are forced to use Plainpalais due to financial and technical issues, the chairman replied that he thinks Plainpalais is beautiful and lively, which produced some laughter in the room.

Other issues discussed today included the flawed follow-up mechanisms to implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA), as well as the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The EU said that it wanted to have a debate about follow-up mechanisms in the context of the Durban II negotiations, whereas most other countries objected that this should be a task of the Human Rights Council (where the U.N. African-Islamic majority will have an easier time pushing its agenda).

The debate on the OHCHR centered on a paragraph regarding an OHCHR observatory to implement the DDPA. At the end of the session, a representative of the OHCHR spoke, explaining that the observatory “is not a mechanism by itself, nor a monitoring tool, nor a tool to rank countries or compare their performances. It is a tool to enhance the effectiveness of mechanisms.” Following the clarification, the OHCHR observatory paragraph was adopted by consensus.

ABOUT THE GENEVA SUMMIT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, TOLERANCE, AND DEMOCRACY

Organized by 40 human rights NGOs including UN Watch, SOS Racisme, and Freedom House, and to take place one day before the opening of the U.N. Durban Review Conference, the Geneva Summit—bringing together some of the world’s most well-known human rights heroes, genocide survivors, prisoners of conscience, anti-racism activists, and scholars of international law—will be a critical opportunity for NGO representatives from around the globe to call on the international community to address urgent and ongoing situations of genocide, ethnic cleansing, racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and political discrimination.The speakers at the Geneva Summit include some of today’s most prominent figures in the global human rights movement: Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt; Bo Kyi of Burma; Ester Mujawayo of Rwanda; Floyd Abrams from the United States; Ahmed Batebi of Iran; Irwin Cotler from Canada; and Jose Castillo from Cuba. In addition, the new generation of activists and cyber-dissidents will be represented by Bart Woord of the International Federation of Liberal Youth, and Esra’a al Shafei, who recently won an award from Harvard University award for her cutting-edge blog for human rights in the Middle East. TO REGISTER, CLICK ON Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy .

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