Iran Interrupts U.N. Racism Session

Iranians interrupt U.N racism session

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 23 (UPI) — A human rights group says members of the Iranian delegation disrupted its speech Thursday to the United Nations racism conference in Switzerland.

“Why Did Durban Review Fail to Review A Single Abuser?”
United Nations Durban Review Conference
Statement by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer
Geneva, April 23, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President.

The stated objective of this Durban Review Conference is to review countries’ progress on racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, in order to help millions of victims worldwide.

Today, after the conference outcome text has been adopted, we ask: Did the conference live up to its promise? Did it help millions of victims worldwide?

To answer that question, we need to listen to the victims. We did exactly that on Sunday, across the street from here, when more than 500 human rights victims, scholars and activists assembled at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.

UN Watch was proud to be among the 40 human rights groups from around the world that organized this momentous event.

We heard from victims, who know about racial and ethnic discrimination.

From Ester Mujawayo of Rwanda, whose mother, father and husband were murdered in the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, and yet who lives on — not only to remember the dead, but to treat the survivors.

From Gibreil Hamid of Darfur, who told us, in tears, about 50 of his relatives murdered in the racist genocide that continues there.

From Kristyiana Valcheva, one of the five Bulgarian nurses, and from Ashraf El –Hajoj, the Palestinian doctor — all of whom were framed, convicted and tortured in Libya, discriminated for being foreigners.

We also heard from victims of discrimination on grounds cited in Section 2 of the DDPA, based on sex, religion, political or other opinion.

We heard victim testimony from Soe Aung, a dissident from Burma. From Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President of Stop Child Executions, about children on death row in Iran. From Ahmad Batebi from Iran, the student demonstrator who was tortured for 9 years in Iran, a case made known to the world after the picture holding his friend’s bloodied t-shirton the front cover of The Economist .

From Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the former political prisoner from Egypt. From José Castillo, the former political prisoner from Cuba. From Marlon Zakeyo, who fights political repression in Zimbabwe. From Pavel Marozau, human rights defender from Belarus.

KENYAN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AMOS WAKO: Islamic Republic of Iran—what’s the point of order?

IRAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. We should kindly advise the speaker to confine his observation to the theme of item number 9 and reframe from making references to names of countries—member state countries. Otherwise, according to your ruling, he should be stopped from continuation of his speech.

CONFERENCE PRESIDENT WAKO: May I ask the speaker to please take into consideration the observations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and stick to subject under discussion, namely the issues arising from the objectives of the review conference.

[UN Watch resumes testimony]

Now, here in my hands I hold the outcome of this conference. To the distinguished delegates in this hall, I ask:

Why does it ignore all of the situations represented by these victims?

In a conference that promised to review country performance on racism, why did the conference in fact fail to review a single country that perpetrates racism, discrimination and intolerance? Why did the conference fail to review a single abuser?

Why is it silent on women facing systematic discrimination in Saudi Arabia? Why is it silent on gays persecuted and even executed in Iran? On ethnic repression in Tibet?

Why is this conference — which promised to help Africans — silent on black Africans now being raped and slaughtered by racist Sudan?

Mr. President,

I ask: If this a “Review” conference, can someone please tell me who has been reviewed?

CONFERENCE PRESIDENT WAKO: There is a point of order again from Iran—the Islamic Republic of Iran.

IRAN: Yes, thank you Mr. Chair. I don’t think that I will need to repeat my proposal. I would ask you to kindly pronounce the speaker out of order and stop him from continuation of his statement. I thank you.

CONFERENCE PRESIDENT WAKO: I think I do call the speaker to order and I would like to introduce the appropriate language. You only have minutes left, so stick to the points—the objectives of this review conference.

[UN Watch resumes testimony]

I shall conclude merely with one question: Has this conference really helped millions of victims worldwide? If so, who are they?

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch’s campaign to expose the hypocrisy of the U.N. Durban II conference, and to spotlight the true victims of human rights abuses, won support in the following Wall Street Journal op-ed by Egyptian dissident and Harvard scholar Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Mr. Ibrahim participated as a panelist in last week’s Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy, an event organized by UN Watch and 30 other human rghts NGOs, in order to call attention to some of the world’s most pressing human rights situations. YouTube videos of the compelling presentations, including by Qaddafi torture victims, are viewable here.

Egyptian human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim looks on during the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy at the International Conference Center in Geneva April 19, 2009. (Reuters Photo)

Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2009


By Saad Eddin Ibrahim


In 1948, the United Nations recognized the “inherent dignity” and “the equal and inalienable rights” of all human beings when it ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though this week’s U.N. conference in Geneva claimed to stand for these noble values, the world’s dictators were the real winners.

Too many official country delegates didn’t come to Geneva to stand up for the oppressed. They came to condemn the “colonial powers” of the West and Israel. In so doing, they sought to guard against exposing their own regimes’ human-rights records. While the delegates met in the official conference hall, the true defenders of human rights — civil society organizations and dissidents — gathered at their own conference where they examined today’s most pressing human-rights issues.

The deep divide between those who seek to expose human-rights abuses and those who only use the language of human rights as a shield is not new. It started during Rio’s Earth Summit in 1992, where, for the first time, the U.N. agreed to host two forums: one for government representatives and one for NGOs. The divide between government and NGOs, and between the Third World and the West, reached an apex in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The central wedge issue was the treatment of the state of Israel.

Eight years ago, the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA) singled out Israel for the harshest rebuke of any country. It was not that Israel was totally innocent of charges about its continued occupation of the Palestinians. But the vehemence with which the delegates issued this condemnation, and their manner of voting on it — the delegates cheered “Down With Israel” — led many to conclude that the DPPA bordered on anti-Semitism.

What compounded this sentiment is that most of the governments that pile on to condemn Israel and the so-called “neocolonial” West have terrible human-rights records. These include tyrannical regimes such as Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Syria and Egypt (my home country). Their atrocious violations have been widely reported by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

But members of like-minded voting blocs — such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States — comprise more than two-thirds of the U.N. membership votes. Together, they can railroad through any resolution, no matter how absurd. It was this Afro-Islamic-Arab bloc that made sure Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be the keynote speaker in the opening session of this year’s U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Rightly anticipating that the Geneva conference would be a forum for anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda, the U.S. and a score of Western democracies boycotted the conference entirely. More countries — such as Britain, Germany and Holland — walked out of the conference when Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his usual anti-Israel tirade, calling the Jewish state a “most cruel and racist regime.”

Unfortunately, lost in this circus were the real victims who suffer at the hands of autocratic and theocratic regimes. The most vulnerable groups — the poor, women, children, migrant and stateless people — were ignored this week in Geneva.

Though the decision to boycott the conference was understandable, I believe it was a mistake. The U.S. and other democracies should have attended and fought back. An overwhelming majority of mankind would have applauded their moral courage.

I spent three years alone in an Egyptian prison for the crime of “tarnishing Egypt’s reputation.” Today, prisoners like Roxana Saberi in Iran languish in jails for crimes they did not commit. It is the job of true human-rights advocates to strengthen such victims by standing up to dictators.

Rather than letting Mr. Ahmadinejad steal the headlines, I would have liked to have seen the universally popular President Barack Obama take on the hypocrites who speak in the name of Islam and want to sacrifice such basic rights as freedom of speech by outlawing “Islamophobia.” Mr. Obama could have rescued the human-rights agenda from those who have hijacked it.

Though it didn’t happen in Geneva, I look forward to a campaign, led by Mr. Obama, to return the cause of human rights to its rightful owners.

Mr. Ibrahim was incarcerated by the Mubarak regime from 2000 to 2003. He is now a visiting professor at Harvard.
UN Watch