Top UN human rights official Eric Tisotunet is accused by his former colleague of tampering with speakers lists to block human rights victims from speaking.

Joint Appeal by Human Rights Activists to Investigate Abuse by UN Official Eric Tistounet

For more information, see today’s press release: 100 Human Rights Activists Urge UN Probe of Top Official For Harassing Watchdog

Joint Appeal to United Nations Secretary General Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk:
Create Independent Investigation Into the Targeting of UN Watch

Dear Secretary General Antonio Guterres,
Dear High Commissioner Volker Türk,

We, the undersigned human rights activists, former cabinet ministers, civil society representatives, families of political prisoners, and other concerned citizens are alarmed by the allegations of harassment and gross misconduct by the Chief of the UN Human Rights Council branch committed against the non-governmental human rights organization UN Watch, as detailed in the Complaint dated 6 October 2022.

Excellency, we urge you to create an independent investigation as an essential step for accountability and justice.

The late United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “I deeply appreciate the valuable work performed by UN Watch. Informed and independent evaluation of the United Nations’ activities will prove a vital source as we seek to adapt the Organization to the needs of a changing world.”

Likewise, we express our strong support for the vital work of UN Watch to monitor the world body and uphold the Charter of the United Nations, and to promote and protect human rights for all.

We commend UN Watch for being one of the leading non-governmental organizations in bringing human rights defenders, dissidents, victims, and family members of political prisoners to testify before the United Nations.

Accordingly, we are gravely concerned by any restrictions on the ability of UN Watch to exercise its legitimate rights to take the floor at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), as detailed in the aforementioned Complaint, which would harm not only that organization, but also the human rights of victims of urgent country situations worldwide who are regularly given a voice and platform by UN Watch.

Excellencies, we urge you to ensure that members of the UNHRC Secretariat respect the right of non-governmental organizations to participate at the United Nations, grounded in Article 71 of the UN Charter, and, in particular, that they respect the right of NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status, such as UN Watch, to participate equally in Council sessions, including through making oral presentations and written statements, as recognized under UNGA Resolution 60/251, the Council’s founding document, HRC Resolution 5/1, and ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31.

In addition, we urge you to ensure that members of the UNHRC Secretariat respect the right of UN Watch to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For the United Nations to be a place for dialogue, all voices must be heard.

Excellencies, without urgent action, the essential work of UN Watch to safeguard the principles of the United Nations Charter, and to protect human rights for all, will be at grave risk.

Accordingly, we urge you to act swiftly to create an independent investigation, to ensure accountability, and to restore the legitimate rights of UN Watch to participate fully and on an equal basis at the United Nations.


Human Rights Activists

Abidine Ould-Merzough
Anti-slavery activist, European Coordinator of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania

Abraham Jiménez Enoa
Prominent Cuban journalist forced into exile, grandson of the bodyguard to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Anastasia Shevchenko
Russian Antiwar Committee

Andrey Kurkov
Ukraine’s most famous novelist, author of “Diary of an Invasion” on Russia’s war

Antonio Ledezma
Venezuelan opposition leader, political prisoner who escaped in November 2017

Berta Valle
Nicaraguan journalist, wife of opposition leader and former political prisoner Félix Maradiaga

Biram Dah Abeid
Leader of the fight against slavery in Mauritania

Can Dündar
Leading Turkish journalist arrested and forced into exile for his brave reporting

Dang Xuong Hung
Vietnamese Defector

Dennis Chau
Rights activist and son of Vietnamese political prisoner

Diego Arria
Former Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN and President of the Security Council

Dolkun Isa
President of the World Uyghur Congress, former pro-democracy student leader targeted in China

Duy Hoang
Spokesperson for Viet Tan

Enes Kanter Freedom
NBA basketball player and human rights activist

Ensaf Haidar
Human rights activist and wife of Saudi political prisoner Raif Badawi

Evan Mawarire
Zimbabwean protest leader, arrested six times and tortured for his civil rights work

Evgenia Kara-Murza
Activist, wife of jailed Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza

Fadzayi Mahere
Constitutional lawyer, opposition spokesperson arrested repeatedly in Zimbabwe

Felix Maradiaga
Nicaraguan opposition leader and former political prisoner, targeted by the government on false criminal charges

Frances Hui
Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation

Frank Calzon
Former Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba; former Washington representative, Freedom House

Grace Kwinjeh
Zimbabwean dissident

Dr. Gyal Lo
Tibetan activist, educational sociologist, and a leading expert on China’s assimilation and education policies in Tibet

Guillermo Marmol
Businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba

Hasler Iglesias
Venezuelan youth leader who went into hiding to escape arrest by the Maduro regime

Jewher Ilham
Uyghur rights advocate and author, daughter of Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti who is now serving a life sentence in China

Jianli Yang
Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, Tiananmen Square massacre survivor and President of Initiatives for China

John Suarez
Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba

Julieta Abrar
Human rights activist and aunt of former imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera
Ugandan LGBT activist, founder and director of Freedom and Roam Uganda

Kaveh Shahrooz
Human rights lawyer and policy expert

Lyubov Sobol
Russian opposition leader and prominent social media influencer

Maria Alejandra Aristeguieta
Founder of Vision 360, former Ambassador of Venezuela and Coordinator of Iniciativa Por Venezuela

Mariam Claren
Daughter of jailed womens’ rights activist and political prisoner Nahid Taghavi

Marie-Claire Kakpotia
Survivor and activist fighting to end Female Genital Mutilation

Marina Nemat
Iranian author imprisoned for criticizing the Iranian regime at the age of 16

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi
Human rights activist, co-founder of Oslo Women’s Rights Initiative

Massouda Jalal
Former Minister of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan

Michel Tran Duc
French-Vietnamese human rights activist

Mohamed Al-Jahmi
Brother of murderer Libyan dissident, Fathi Al-Jahmi

Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay
Iranian-born Canadian human rights advocate and co-founder of Stop Child Executions

Nurcan Baysal
Award-winning Kurdish journalist and activist, detained by Turkey

Olga Aivazovska
Forcibly displaced civil society leader & advocate for war crimes tribunal against Putin

Orhan Kemal Cengiz
Human rights lawyer and activist from Turkey

Ambassador Otto J. Reich
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, and President of the Center for a Free Cuba

Shengchun Sophie Luo
Activist, wife of Chinese political prisoner Ding Jiaxi

Sirley Avila Leon
Cuban dissident and victim of a machete attack by the regime

Soomaya Javadi
Young Hazara activist who fled Afghanistan following the overthrow of Kabul

Taha Siddiqui
Pakistani journalist and social media activist who narrowly escaped abduction

Tatsiana Khomich
Belarusian Coordination Council Representative for Political Prisoners and sister of imprisoned opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava

Tenzin Tsundue
Tibetan refugee and writer arrested 16 times for his activism

Timothy Cho
North Korean human rights activist and defector, imprisoned in North Korea and China

Vicente De Lima II
Brother of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, jailed for criticizing Duterte’s Drug War

Yavuz Aydin
Turkish judge purged by President Erdogan

Zarifa Ghafari
Youngest elected mayor in Afghanistan, survivor of three assassination attempts, forced into exile

Non-Governmental Organizations Accredited to the United Nations

Association Aide aux Femmes et Enfants
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Press Emblem Campaign


Centre Intercommunautaire Congolais pour les Personnes avec Handicap
Democratic Republic of Congo

International Institute for Child Protection

Human Rights Foundation

Initiative for Youth Awareness on Climate Change

Women’s Voices Now

Green Youth Council

Sister to Sister One in the Spirit

Pleaders of Children and Elderly People at Risk
Democratic Republic of Congo

Association For Promotion of Sustainable Development

Pakistan Council for Social Welfare and Human Rights

Community Agenda for Peace

Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique

Initiative pour le développement de l’Afrique

Afri-Health Optonet Association

International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

Forum Méditerranéen pour la promotion des droit du citoyen

Fundación Democrática Ítalo Americana

Tort for Torture Victims

Future Hope International

Youth Awareness And Guidance Organisation

Alliance for Development and Population Services

Solidarité Agissante pour le Développement Familial
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Un Monde Avenir

Cause Première

Human Development Society

Entrepreneurship Development and Support Initiative

Apostolic Ministerial International Network

Ariel Foundation International

Association des Ressortissants et Amis d’Eseka

Ben Newman Hope Care Foundation

Coup de Pouce
Democratic Republic of Congo

Dignité Impact

EKTA Welfare Society

Jewish Renaissance Foundation

Technical Centre for Fine Art and Computer Studies CIG

First Modern Agro. Tools – Common Initiative Group

Fondation Kalipa pour le Développement
Democratic Republic of Congo

The Council of Technical Education & Training

Global Economist Forum

Internationale Gemeinschaft für die Unterstützung von Kriegsopfern

Diligent Care for Creative Intelligence Development

Isiziba Community Based Organizations of South Africa
South Africa

Major Alliance Education Centre

MIROSLAVA International Alliance

Canterbury & New Zealand Business Association
New Zealand

Mouvement des Jeunes pour le Réveil et le Développement

Ngoma Club
Democratic Republic of Congo

Nouveaux Droits de l’homme Cameroun

Partage et Action en Synergie pour le Développement


Northern Citizen Community Board

NGO Monitor

Structural Analysis of Cultural Systems

REAL Women of Canada

Sun Charity USA

Vision GRAM-International

Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia Wira Tata Buena

Press Release

Take Action

100 Human Rights Activists Urge UN Probe of Top Official For Harassing Watchdog

GENEVA, July 11, 2023 — A cross-regional coalition of 100 human rights activists and UN-accredited civil society organizations today called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Volcker Türk to investigate Eric Tistounet, the powerful head of the UN Human Rights Council staff for the past two decades, for his campaign of “harassment and gross misconduct” targeting a human rights group that has been recognized for giving a global platform to dissidents of authoritarian regimes.

In the current 4-week session of the Human Rights Council that concludes on July 14, Mr. Tistounet blocked UN Watch from testifying in debates concerning abuses in Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela and Russia, said Hillel Neuer, an international human rights lawyer who directs the Geneva-based non-governmental organization.

Whistleblower Confirms: Head of UNHRC Staff Personally Intervenes to Block UN Watch From Speaking

“The numbers are astonishing: while groups friendly to Mr. Tistounet were allowed to speak in more than 20 debates in the current session, we have been prohibited from speaking more than once. And we know exactly what’s going on because Mr. Tistounet’s former employee revealed that he is close with China and other dictatorships that seek to silence UN Watch, and that he actually orders his UNHRC staff to tamper with speakers’ lists to prevent us from speaking.”

“What is shocking is that nine months ago, a senior aide to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres promised that they would review our Legal Complaint, which details how Mr. Tistounet wilfully and systematically rigs the system to block us from speaking. In the June 2021 session, we registered for 31 debates and were denied 30 out of 31 slots, and in June 2022 he barred us from all 36 debates. Only 10 NGOs get to speak in each debate, so he maliciously moves UN Watch down the list so that we are silenced. Coming from a UN human rights officer, this kind of unethical conduct is disgraceful,” said Neuer.

Leaked Emails: Eric Tistounet Orders Staff to Anonymously Smear Hillel Neuer Online

“According to leaked emails, Mr. Tistounet also engages in wilful and illegal harassment by instructing his Human Rights Council staff to go to internet cafés to anonymously spread false information about me online, and he told his employees to think of ways to have me physically detained by UN security, in order to block me from entering the Council chamber in Geneva.” (See pp. 18-24 of the Complaint.)

100 Activists Say Blocking UN Watch Silences Victims Worldwide

The signatories of today’s joint appeal — including some of the most prominent human rights dissidents and former political prisoners from China, Russia, Cuba, Turkey, North Korea, Libya, Belarus, Venezuela and Zimbabwe — said they were “gravely concerned by any restrictions on the ability of UN Watch to exercise its legitimate rights to take the floor at the UN Human Rights Council.”

The dissidents said this would harm “the human rights of victims of urgent country situations worldwide who are regularly given a voice and platform by UN Watch.”

“We express our strong support for the vital work of UN Watch to monitor the world body and uphold the Charter of the United Nations, and to promote and protect human rights for all,” said the activists, many of whom have been hosted by UN Watch to speak at the United Nations, either in the Human Rights Council or at UN sessions held as part of UN Watch’s annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights.

“We commend UN Watch for being one of the leading non-governmental organizations in bringing human rights defenders, dissidents, victims, and family members of political prisoners to testify before the United Nations,” said the human rights activists.

The joint appeal called on the UN officials to “create an independent investigation as an essential step for accountability and justice.”

Background: Tistounet Handed Names of Dissidents to China

More than any other group at the Human Rights Council, UN Watch routinely brings high profile dissidents to address the council, from China, Cuba, Libya, Russia and elsewhere. Many of the regimes have in turn pressured Tistounet’s office, as China recently did when UN Watch hosted Hong Kong activist Tania Chan.

In March, Venezuela’s Maduro regime filed a complaint to the UN calling to shut down UN Watch, after the group gave the floor at the Human Rights Council to opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez, María Corina Machado and Diego Arria.

As reported by the BBC and Le Monde, Mr. Tistounet is accused of putting in place a UN policy of handing over to China in advance the names of dissidents registered to speak at the UNHRC, putting their lives and their family members at risk, as Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa has testified.

Tistounet handed UN Watch speeches in advance to his friend Jean Ziegler,
the UNHRC expert who created the “Qaddafi Human Rights Prize”

In a June 2006 report, UN Watch exposed the role of UNHRC expert Jean Ziegler in co-creating and managing the Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, an award that was given to dictator Hugo Chavez, antisemite Louis Farrkhan and convicted French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, in the same year that Ziegler himself won the prize.

Tistounet participated in a panel honoring the controversial Qaddafi supporter, who in turn wrote the preface to one of Tistounet’s novels.

According to Emma Reilly, “Mr. Tistounet extended his targeting of UN Watch to his personal friend Mr. Jean Ziegler, whose UN appointments have
often been criticized by UN Watch. Uniquely among mandate holders, Mr. Ziegler would frequently come to the NGO liaison office and request to see lists of speakers to verify whether UN Watch would take the floor.”

“He would also request advance copies of UN Watch speeches, which we were instructed to provide. No other NGO was targeted in this manner, and no other mandate holder was accorded this favor.”

Tistounet intercepted UN Watch speeches, drafted reprimands for chair to read,
tampered with the time clock to run out UN Watch’s speaking time

Tistounet personally obtained all UN Watch speeches in advance, so he could draft unjustified reprimands for the chair to read out afterwards.

“Mr. Tistounet had a standing instruction that when a statement was received in advance from UN Watch, it was to be given directly to him either in his office or on the podium, and placed on the desk of his office if he could not be immediately located. This instruction did not exist for any other NGO,” testified whistleblower Emma Reilly.

“On occasion, when a UN Watch speech was received in advance, Mr. Tistounet would request that I draft new language for the President to give a false impression that the speeches broke the rules.”

“He was fully aware that his advice to successive Presidents to reprimand UN
Watch for disobeying rules was false, and that no rule was in fact being broken.”

In addition, when he could get away with it, Tistounet manipulated the clock to remove time from UN Watch.

“When points of order are made during speeches, the NGO liaison and Secretary are responsible for pressing a button on the podium to pause the NGO speaking time. it.”

“Mr. Tistounet issued a standing instruction that the button was not to be pressed during UN Watch speeches, but instead that their speaking time should be deemed to continue during the point of order. This instruction applied only to UN Watch.”

“Mr. Tistounet made clear on a number of occasions that his ultimate aim was to exclude Mr. Neuer and UN Watch more generally from UN premises.”

To sign the petition, click here

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