PRESS RELEASE

Canada ignored, Israel censured, Darfur atrocities dismissed

Geneva, June 20, 2007  —   Confusion, old habits and a new sense of lawlessness continued to plague the UN Human Rights Council today as it struggled to open its second year with newly established procedures.  Canada protested to the plenary for the second day in a row that it never consented to a reform package that most Geneva diplomats are treating as having been adopted by consensus during Monday’s post-midnight declaration by outgoing president Luis Alfonso de Alba.  Also today, the council repeated past practices by adopting two more resolutions slamming Israel—the only country it has yet condemned—and a 2-sentence decision on Darfur that called for more reports but avoided mentioning atrocities or criticizing Sudan.

Canada Denied Vote

“For possibly the first time in the history of the United Nations, one of its highest organs has declared a consensus in the face of repeated and unequivocal protestations by one of its founding members that it never gave consent, or even saw the final text,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “The council’s disregard for due process and the rule of law—and its contemptuous dismissal of Canada, one of its strongest supporters—calls into question its capacity to be a guardian of international human rights law.”

Yesterday, Canada’s request for a vote on the De Alba reform package was denied by a council vote of 46 to 1, despite the outgoing president’s unfulfilled pledge that his midnight Monday agreement would be addressed by the plenary for adoption on Tuesday morning.  Again today, when Jordanian ambassador Mousa Burayzat, as former rapporteur of the council, officially declared that the midnight package was adopted by “consensus,” Canadian diplomats repeated their objections.

Suggesting Canada’s representatives misunderstood international law, Burayzat said that “When I use the word consensus it does not mean unanimity, and I think this is a well accepted interpretation . . . it is not to contradict any country’s position or to try to change the facts that happened at Monday night.”  The new council Vice President, Sri Lankan ambassador Dayan Jayathilake also overruled Canada, saying “yesterday’s vote shows that there is a consensus that there was a consensus.”

Several diplomats in Geneva privately expressed shock that De Alba’s midnight promise to bring the reform package to a morning vote—captured on video and in an online UN press release that has now been altered—was subsequently ignored.

Israel Condemnations Brought to 11

In other developments, the council today raised its total condemnations of Israel to 11, adopting by consensus one resolution referencing “the grave situation of human rights in Lebanon caused by Israeli military operations,” and another censuring the Jewish state for not admitting two “urgent fact-finding missions” on alleged Israeli violations in Gaza, dating from July and November 2006.

“After a week of slaughter by Palestinian gunmen that claimed some 100 lives—with Hamas and Fatah gunmen shooting hospital patients, throwing handcuffed men off of rooftops, and executing victims in mosques, universities and before their children’s eyes—and the firing of rockets into Israeli cities, it is all too typical of the Human Rights Council to slam Israel, regarding events from last year,” said Neuer.  Both the July and November inquiries established by the council were opposed by Western democracies and human rights groups for ignoring Palestinian attacks.

Sudan Approves “Whitewash” Darfur Text

Both text were co-sponsored by Sudan, in the name of the Arab League.  “It is outrageous to see the leading sponsor of genocide in the world today passing judgment on the lone democracy in the Middle East, and all this on the same day as the council passes yet another Sudan-approved, whitewash text on Darfur,” Neuer said.

Sudan welcomed the decision calling for two further Darfur reports, which it also co-sponsored as a member of the African Group.  “I would like to thank the African Group for their support, and in particular their Ambassador Jazairy, and to thank the European Union, and in particular its coordinator [German] Ambassador Steiner for their efforts to reach this consensus decision” said Sudan’s envoy.  “By accepting a consensus decision for the third time, we would like to confirm our belief in the very constructive role of this council in its new format. It also confirmed our belief in the respect and promotion of human rights which constitute a basic pillar in our endeavor to achieve a society of democracy, peace, and the rule of law.”

A UN mission this January found the government guilty of taking part in massacres of civilians and actively supporting Janjaweed militias, which have killed as many as 400,000 people.

“Israeli concentration camps”

Neuer also criticized the Council for its silence over Palestinian Ambassador Mohammad Abu-Koash’s claim today that Israel exploits the “out-worn tag of anti-Semitism” in order to keep Palestinian detainees in “Israeli concentration camps.”  Last week, Algerian ambassador Idriss Jazairy said that the real victims of anti-Semitism are Arabs.

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