Issue 361: Op-Ed in Today’s Miami Herald * Appeal by MPs & NGOs * Take-Action Petition

1. Take-Action Petition: Urge US & EU to Stop U.N. From Legitimizing Hugo Chavez
2. UN Watch Op-Ed in Today’s Miami Herald: “Venezuela: Another Test for UN Rights Body” 
3. UN Watch Releases Appeal by 40 MPs & Rights Groups: “Chavez Should be Denounced”

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Take Action: Urge US and EU to Stop U.N. From Legitimizing Hugo Chavez

For the past decade, Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez has trampled the rights of his people, provided moral and material support to mass murderers including Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and fomented virulent anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Semitic hatred. Yet now he’s about to be given a seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body.
There’s still time to stop him: Please click here and urge Hillary Clinton and the EU’s Catherine Ashton to take action now.

 

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Venezuela: Another test for U.N. rights body

The Miami Herald, May 2, 2012
Opinion Page

By Hillel C. Neuer

One year after the U.N.’s top human-rights body finally removed Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, the organization is quietly planning to elect Hugo Chávez, testing the Obama administration’s pledge to keep bullies off the 47-nation Human Rights Council.

Venezuela’s bid to join the world’s top human rights body appears especially absurd in wake of the recent admission by Eladio Aponte, former chief justice of the country’s highest criminal court, that verdicts in politically-sensitive cases are entirely orchestrated by government officials.

It was precisely to prevent the influence of such corrupted regimes that the Human Rights Council was created in the first place. In 2005, then U.N. chief Kofi Annan acknowledged that its predecessor was infected by a massive credibility deficit, with members joining only to shield their records of abuse, causing “politicization,” “selectivity” and “declining professionalism,” all of which “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

The retooled forum, declared the U.N. in 2006, would elect only those countries that “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Yet six years later, members of the new and improved council routinely include such serial human-rights violators as Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia. They and their allies enjoy impunity.

When the prosecutor, judge and jury are the perpetrators themselves, justice becomes a joke.

If Chávez is chosen, by a General Assembly vote expected in autumn, the U.N. will grant legitimacy to an ailing autocrat who systematically harasses journalists, judges, human rights activists and student leaders, a man who supports the butchers of Syria and Iran, just as he backed “brother” Gadhafi to the bitter end.

Because council term limits require China, Cuba and Russia to step off next year, the Venezuelan candidacy is a strategic move by the authoritarian bloc, designed to check the West’s ability to adopt measures for victims in Homs, Tehran and elsewhere.

In a backroom deal, the Latin American group cooked up a slate of three candidates to fill three available seats. The result: elections with no competition — a completely meaningless exercise.

Although countries are not obliged to ratify the Latins’ choice, history shows that when faced with an equal amount of candidates as seats — as when Gadhafi’s Libya ran on a fixed African ticket in 2010 — this is exactly what they will do.

Enter the United States.

In a major policy speech delivered in January before the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. ambassador for U.N. reform Joseph Torsella declared that the administration would “forge a new coalition at the U.N. in New York, a kind of ‘credibility caucus’ to promote truly competitive elections, rigorous application of membership criteria, and other reforms aimed at keeping the worst offenders on the sidelines” — with a specific finger pointed at the Human Rights Council.

Chávez has now thrown down the gauntlet. To stop him, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must persuade a Latin American country with a decent human rights record to run, and then lobby on its behalf.

It won’t be easy. Chávez’s anti-Western stance pleases many African, Asian and Middle Eastern states. Venezuelan offers of oil-funded aid will also go a long way.

Nevertheless, recent U.N. contests have shown that, when offered an alternative, most countries will pass on Chávez.

And the talking points of his campaign — spelled out in a Venezuelan document recently submitted to the U.N .— certainly ring hollow.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” we are told, “is a democratic and social State that respects rights and justice.” Venezuelans live under “one of the most advanced constitutions in the world,” enjoying “the full exercise of political freedoms,” which are “unprecedented in the history of the Republic.”

Reports by independent human rights groups tell a very different story. (A variety of human rights groups circulated a response condemning Venezuela for human rights violations.)

For example, while Venezuela pledges in its U.N. submission to “increase access to the system of administration of justice,” and to hold “constructive dialogue” with U.N. experts, a recent and notorious case proves the complete opposite.

In 2009, Judge María Lourdes Afiuni had the courage to release a political prisoner and Chávez opponent whose detention had been declared arbitrary by a panel of U.N. experts.

Chávez immediately threw Judge Afiuni in jail, calling her a “bandit” on national television. She suffered abuse and damage to her health. Today she is under house arrest, only recently allowed to obtain treatment at a cancer hospital.

This is the real human rights record of today’s Venezuela.

In declaring its new policy, the U.S. emphasized that abusers of international norms should not be the public face of the U.N. Unless Secretary Clinton acts now, the face of the U.N.’s highest human rights body will soon be that of Hugo Chávez.

Hillel C. Neuer directs UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights organization.

(For more information on Venezuela’s candidacy and the UN Watch campaign to defeat Chavez,click here.)

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UN Watch today released the following Joint Appeal by 40 MPs, NGOs & human rights activists opposed to Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council: 

We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, strongly oppose the candidacy of Venezuela for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having regard to its poor record on human rights protection at home, and its poor record in human rights promotion at the UN, the government of Venezuela fails to meet the minimum membership criteria established by the UN General Assembly. Instead, we urge the UN Human Rights Council to adopt this NGO-drafted Resolution on Venezuelan abuses.

• Matteo Mecacci, Member of Italian Parliament, Chairman of Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
• Riccardo Migliori, Member of the Italian Parliament, Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
• Denis MacShane, Member of the UK Parliament, former Minister for Europe 
• Irwin Cotler, Member of Canadian Parliament, Liberal Critic for Human Rights, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights 
• Michael Danby, Member of Australian Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs 
• Hillel Neuer, United Nations Watch, Switzerland 
• Dr. Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident and former political prisoner, Founder and President of Initiatives for China 
• Robert R. LaGamma, President, Council for a Community of Democracies, USA 
• Laurence Kwark, Secretary General, Pax Romana, ICMICA/MIIC, Switzerland 
• Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation 
• Jacob Mchangama, Center for Political Studies, Denmark 
• Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Insitute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Nigeria 
• Ali AlAhmed, The Gulf Institute, USA
• Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder, Stop Child Executions, Canada
• John J. Suarez, International Secretary, Cuban Democratic Directorate 
• Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland 
• Dr. Francois Ullmann, President, Ingenieurs du Monde, Switzerland 
• Fazal-ur Rehman Afridi, Institut de recherche et d’études stratégiques de Khyber, France 
• Hu Ping, Chinese dissident, editor of Beijing Spring, former president of the Chinese Alliance for Democracy 
• Christina Fu, New Hope Foundation, President 
• Michael Craig, China Rights Network, President 
• Huang Hebian, The Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values 
• Mamady Kaba, African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADHHO), Guinea 
• Ann J. Buwalda, Esq., Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign USA 
• Ali Egal, Fanole Human Rights & Development Organization (FAHRO), Somalia/Kenya
• Jean Stoner, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, USA 
• Amina Bouayach, Morrocan Organisation For Human Rights, Morocco 
• Faisal Fulad, Gulf European Centre for Human Rights, UK 
• Dickson Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International, Kenya 
• Faisal Hassan, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, Bahrain 
• Elizabeth Vanardenne, UN Rep, International Federation of Business & Professional Women 
• Yang Kuanxing, Chinese dissident, editor of Yibao and original signatory to Charter ‘08, the manifesto calling for political reform in China 
• Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for Development of Democracy & Human Rights, Russia 
• Huguette Chomski Magnis, Mouvement Pour la Paix et Contre le Terrorisme, France 
• Kabaale G Timothy, African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Uganda 
• Gibreil I. M. Hamid, President, Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland 
• Dr. Harris O. Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates, USA 
• Galina Nechitailo, Vice-President, Environmental Women’s Assembly