Issue 190: UN Watch Turns Tables on Libyan Chair, Exposes Durban 2 Hypocrisy

The U.S. has decided not to attend the Durban II conference opening Monday in Geneva — click here for more.
Meanwhile, the top story on Swiss TV news last night was the surpise “coup d’eclat” by UN Watch, when it turned the tables on the Libyan chair of the Durban II planning committee, in a showdown yesterday that exposed the U.N. hypocrisy whereby the chief organizers of a world “anti-racism” conference are themselves the worst perpetrators of racism and discrimination. See the full exchange below, and related legal brief. Click here for dramatic video (in French). Stay tuned for the YouTube video of the full debate.

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United Nations Durban Review Conference
Preparatory Committee, Third Substantive Session
17 April 2009, Geneva

Statement by United Nations Watch
Delivered by Ashraf Ahmed El-Hojouj

Thank you, Madame Chair.

I don’t know if you recognize me. I am the Palestinian medical intern who was scapegoated by your country, Libya, in the HIV case in the Benghazi hospital, together with the five Bulgarian nurses.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop… stop…. I ask you to stop. You are, you are not addressing the agenda item… I will allow you to resume only if you address the agenda item we are discussing.

[Victim resumes testimony]

Section 1 of the draft declaration for this conference speaks about victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Based on my own suffering, I wish to offer some proposals.

Starting in 1999, as you know, the five nurses and I were falsely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, brutally tortured, convicted, and sentenced to death.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop… You are again not addressing the agenda item. I urge you to address the agenda item.

[Victim resumes testimony]

All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is?

On the basis of my personal experience, I would like to propose the following amendments regarding remedies, redress and compensatory measures:

One: The United Nations should condemn countries that scapegoat, falsely arrest, and torture vulnerable minorities.

Two: Countries that have committed such crimes must recognize their past, and issue an official, public, and unequivocal apology to the victims.

Three:  In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such countries must provide victims of discrimination with an appropriate remedy, including adequate compensation for material and immaterial damage.

Madame Chair, Libya told this conference that it practices no inequality or discrimination.

But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues, and to my family, who gave over thirty years serving your country, only to be kicked out  from their home, threatened with death, and subjected to state terrorism?

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: There is a request for a point of order. I give Libya the floor for a point of order.

LIBYAN DIPLOMAT:  Madame Chair, I object to the testimony by UN Watch. This is not the correct agenda item. Thank you, Madame Chair.

LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI: We shall now move on to the next speaker…

[Due to the unjustified cut-off by the Chair, the following portions were unable to be read.]

How can your government chair the planning committee for a world conference on discrimination, when it is on the list of the world’s worst of the worst, when it comes to discrimination and human rights violations?

When will your government recognize their crimes, apologize to me, to my colleagues, and to our families?

This week, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, the five nurses and I will present our complaint and compensation claim against Libya, filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual petitions.

The slogan for this Conference is “Dignity and justice for all.” Does this include your own country’s victims of discrimination?

Thank you, Madame Chair.

 _________________

Bulgarian Nurses Sue Libya in International Tribunal; UN Watch as Co-Counsel

Related to the above testimony, click here for the new 100-page legal complaint filed by the Bulgarian nurses against Libya with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual human rights complaints. See excerpt below, from pages 98-100, focusing on Libya’s role as chair of the Durban II preparatory committee. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer formerly with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, is serving as co-counsel in the action together with Dr. Liesbeth Zegveld, an international law professor and attorney in the Netherlands. The complaint is released here for the first time to the public. (Click here for the related complaint filed by Dr. El-Hojouj last year.)

Both Dr. Dr. El-Hojouj and Bulagrian nurse Kristiyna Valcheva will speak tomorrow at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, on Sunday, 19 April 2009. Watch live webcast at www.genevasummit.org This time Dr. El-Hojouj will be able to deliver his full speech — without interruptions.

  ____________________

Following is the excerpt from the Bulgarian Nurses vs. Libya lawsuit dealing with the Durban II conference.

Libya as Chair of World Conference Against Racism

Significantly, Libya today holds itself out as a world leader in combating racism and discrimination. In August 2007, Libya undertook to lead the worldwide struggle against racism when it was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Council to chair the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference. Also known as “Durban II,” the conference is mandated to review progress made on implementation of measures adopted in the final declaration of the 2001 World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa (“the Durban Declaration”), including assessment of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Upon being named Chairperson on August 27, 2007, Libyan ambassador Najjat al-Hajjaji thanked “all member states of the UN for the confidence you have placed in my country,” Libya, to chair the racism review conference.[1] In the context of the battle against discrimination, the Libyan representative specifically called attention to “[p]ersecution of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, those of particular ethnic groups.”[2] She expressed pride that the Durban process allowed “victims of racism to speak loud” about their suffering; for enabling “those who have been excluded and ostracized to break the bonds of silence”; and that “we have been able to diagnose face of racism today. To agree to practical steps.”[3]

However, she omitted to mention Libya’s own actions since the adoption of the 2001 Durban Declaration, which, as documented extensively by the CERD and human rights NGO’s,[4]includes precisely the persecution of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and those of particular ethnic groups, including Libya’s crimes committed against the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor on the basis of racist and xenophobic discrimination.[5]

Speaking in October 2008, at the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee, the Libyan representative said that “the fact that we are here today shows the commitment of our countries to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.” She called for “dignity and justice for all” and said:

Let us remember the countless victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance throughout the world who are counting on us to make the right decisions to alleviate the problems that they are facing and which they risk facing for a long time to come as a result of our inaction. Their struggle is our struggle, their challenges are our own.[6]

Once again, Libya deliberately omitted to mention – as documented extensively by the CERD and human rights NGO’s – its own “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance,” including against the Bulgarian nurses.[7] Nor did it mention Libya’s own failure to “make the right decisions” to alleviate the problems faced by the authors while suffering in Libyan prisons.

It is noteworthy that, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, an important concern of the Durban Review Conference is racism against migrant workers.[8] However, in the extensive Durban Review sessions, debates, and other proceedings that have taken place since August 2007, Libya’s oral and written submissions have deliberately omitted any mention of its documented practices of discrimination against migrant workers, or any mention of its specific violations against the authors.

On the contrary, in response to the Durban Review questionnaire circulated by the UN as part of the Durban Review process, where countries were asked about their implementation of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, Libya insisted on its unequivocal respect for non-discrimination principles, and cited in particular the treatment of foreign workers:

The sixth principle of the Green Charter defines Libya’s society of non discrimination. The law of 1991 number 20 in its first article introduced the non discrimination framework between male and female. The penal code does not discriminate between local or foreign workers in Libya.[9]

Asked to identify concrete measures for racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Libya declared:

The legislations [sic] incriminate all forms of discrimination and exploitation and racial discrimination. They are not only contained in the provisions of criminal or civil laws but also special codes like the 1991 (20) law and the green Charter. Libya provides equal work opportunity with full respect to gender equality.[10]

The remainder of Libya’s submission included declarations such as “Libya does not have the practice of racial discrimination, it is combating it through the struggle against imperialism, fascism and racism at the global level. Many countries have not yet abided by their international treaty obligations”;[11] Libya “is a harmonic country which provides equality to all people on its ground”;[12] “Libya’s legislations [sic] prohibited and criminalized all forms of discrimination even before Durban Declaration for combating racism as it was described before through adopting national legislation that prohibit discrimination mainly in law 5 and 20 of 1991.”[13]

Nowhere in Libya’s response to the pertinent questions of the Durban Review questionnaire did Libya acknowledge its documented practices of racism and discrimination against foreign workers in general – as detailed above by the CERD and human rights organizations[14] – or its years of violations of human rights, inter alia on grounds of discrimination, perpetrated against the Bulgarian nurses in particular.

Conclusion as regards the violation of the prohibition against discrimination

Libya violated its duties under Articles 2(1), 26 and 14 ICCPR, to respect the rights of the authors, recognized in the ICCPR without distinction of any kind, to guarantee equal treatment before the law, and the equal protection of the law and its specific duty to provide the authors with equal protection before courts and the entitlement, in full equality, to the minimum guarantees. There is substantial evidence of widespread discrimination by Libya against authors, all of which supports the conclusion that Libya’s actions were in intent and effect acts of prohibited discrimination.

 


[1] “Libya elected to chair World Conference on Racism” (28 August 2007), at UN Watch blog, available at http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=264.

[2] “Libya elected to chair World Conference on Racism” (28 August 2007), at UN Watch blog, available at http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=264.

[3] “Libya elected to chair World Conference on Racism” (28 August 2007), at UN Watch blog, available at http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=264.

[4] See, supra, section entitled “Evidence of Libya’s racist discrimination against foreign workers”.

[5] “Libya elected to chair World Conference on Racism” (28 August 2007), at UN Watch blog, available at http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=264.

[6] Statement by the Chairperson, Second Substantive Session of Durban Review Conference Preparatory Committee (6 October 2008), video available athttp://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=032.

[7] See, supra, section entitled “Evidence of Libya’s racist discrimination against foreign workers”.

[8] “Racism against migrants: a key question at the Durban Review Conference”, at OHCHR website for the Durban Review Conference, available at http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/story12.shtml.

[9] Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region,A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2, 18 July 2008, para. 16.

[10] Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region,A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2, 18 July 2008, para. 18.

[11] Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region,A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 19.

[12] Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region,A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 20.

[13] Libyan submission in Replies to the Questionnaire by States of the African region,A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2 (18 July 2008), para. 21.

[14] See, supra, section entitled “Evidence of Libya’s racist discrimination against foreign workers”.

 

Link to this briefing at https://unwatch.org/cms.asp?id=741148&campaign_id=63111

 

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