NGO Statement Opposing the Nomination of Jean Ziegler to a New UN Post

Rapporteur Watch: Jean Ziegler’s Abuse of Mandate

To safeguard the important work of the great majority of UN independent human rights experts, known as the Special Procedures, UN Watch leads a diverse NGO coalition that has exposed the systematic abuse of mandate by Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Although he continues to deny it, Mr. Ziegler is the 1989 co-founder of the Moammar Khaddafi Prize for Human Rights—an award he went on to win himself in 2002.

Exposed: Jean Ziegler & the Khaddafi Prize (UN Watch June 2006 report)

Confirmation of UN Watch report by Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Switzerland’s newspaper of record


April 11, 2006

Ambassador Blaise Godet
Permanent Mission of Switzerland
to the United Nations Office and to
the other international organisations in Geneva
Rue de Varembé 9-11 (6th floor)
CH – 1211 Geneva 20
Geneva, Switzerland

Re:  NGO Statement Opposing the Nomination of Jean Ziegler to a New UN Post

Dear Ambassador Godet,

We, the undersigned human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, are gravely concerned to learn that Switzerland has nominated Jean Ziegler—founder of the “Muammar Khaddafi Prize for Human Rights”—for the position of expert on the UN Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.  For the sake of human rights victims world-wide, and to avoid casting a shadow upon the reputation and credibility of the United Nations as a whole—particularly its new Human Rights Council, which is supported by Switzerland—we strongly urge your Government to rescind its decision.

For six years, Mr. Ziegler has systematically abused his mandate as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, neglecting many of the world’s food emergencies in order to pursue an extremist political agenda that includes support for repressive rulers like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Libyan Colonel Muammar Khaddafi. Mr. Ziegler’s tenure, which is set to expire shortly, embodied everything that was discredited about the old Commission on Human Rights:  gross politicization, selectivity, lack of professionalism and lack of credibility.  (See “Blind to Burundi: Jean Ziegler’s Neglect of the World’s Food Emergencies,” UN Watch report, October 2004.)

Mr. Ziegler has a long and notorious record of supporting dictators and human rights violators.  It is therefore difficult to understand why he was ever appointed to a UN post in the first place:

  • Mr. Ziegler’s support and special affinity for totalitarian rulers has been documented by Dr. Jan Marejko, the Swiss philosopher and journalist:  “[Ziegler] went to Hanoi during the ’80s, where he heaped praise upon General Vo Nguyen Giap and had kind words for Ho Chi Minh with whom he spent ‘unforgettable moments drinking tea under a golden sun’. . . The fact that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were at this time desperately trying to escape their country in search of freedom […] was not worthy of consideration. Indeed, it would be hard to find an intellectual more stained by collaboration with evil regimes in the 20th century than Mr. Ziegler.”  (J. Marejko, “Che Guevara Lives at the UN,” August 2002.)
  • In 1989, shortly after the Libyan bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 260 innocent men, women and children, Jean Ziegler announced the establishment of the “Muammar Khadaffi Human Rights Prize”, in cooperation with the Libyan dictator.  (“Le Nobel de Khadhafi-Les autorités libyennes créent un nouveau prix des droits de l’homme; Jean Ziegler met la main à la pate,” L’Hebdo, April 27, 1989.)
  • This award was then used to celebrate recipients such as Roger Garaudy, a notorious Holocaust denier.  Yet Mr. Ziegler never renounced his actions.  On the contrary:  Mr. Ziegler himself won the prize in 2002.  After a public outcry caused him to declare that he would not accept the award, Mr. Ziegler refused to acknowledge the obscenity of receiving a prize named after a human rights criminal. Rather, he said, “I told my Libyan interlocutors that I could not accept an award or distinction from any country because of my responsibilities at the United Nations.”

What is worse, however, is to nominate Mr. Ziegler now —after witnessing the gross abuse of his UN mandate.  As you know, this past July Mr. Ziegler became the only UN human rights expert in history to be denounced by his own organization’s highest officials.  (“Annan slams UN official,” JTA, July 8, 2005; “Gaza comments by rights expert irresponsible— UN,” Reuters, July 7, 2005.)  Both Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour publicly denounced Mr. Ziegler for having compared Israelis to Nazis, a classic manifestation of anti-Semitism as defined by the European Union.

Mr. Ziegler’s record of UN abuse is well known:

  • During the first four years of his mandate, Jean Ziegler publicly criticized the U.S. on 34 occasions. Yet he never spoke out for the hungry or criticized any party in 15 of 17 countries deemed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to have a man-made food emergency. And of the 2 food emergency countries that he did criticize, he only did so once with respect to one (Ethiopia) and three times with respect to the other (Sudan). (Food emergencies ignored: Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Russian Federation (Chechnya), Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda)
  • Jean Ziegler almost never criticizes any government other than the U.S. and Israel. When he does, he suddenly dons the gloves of ginger U.N. diplomacy. Hence the Sudanese atrocities in Darfur for Ziegler are merely a cause for “concern,” the role of the Khartoum regime in atrocities only “alleged.” By contrast, the United States is an “imperialist dictatorship” responsible for all the world’s misery, the U.S. is committing “genocide” in Cuba, and Israel commits “state terror” and “war crimes” with the U.S.’s blessing. Mr. Ziegler has never used such denunciations against the government of Sudan, or any other country

In summary, the appointment of Mr. Ziegler would cause grievous harm to the new Human Rights Council.  As a strong advocate of the Council, we respectfully urge Switzerland to rescind its nomination of Mr. Ziegler for this or any other UN position.


Mohamed Abdulmalek
Libya Watch for Human Rights
Manchester, United Kingdom

Libya Human Rights Solidarity
Geneva, Switzerland

Sylvia Iriondo
Madres y Mujeres Anti-Represion por Cuba
(Mothers & Women against Repression)
Miami, United States

Angel De Fana
Plantados Until Freedom and Democracy in Cuba
Miami, United States

Vo Van Ai
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
Paris, France

Charles Mwape
Regional Director for Africa
Hope for Africa International
Lusaka, Zambia

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch
Geneva, Switzerland

Patrick Gaubert
International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism
(Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme)
Paris, France

Jose Mathew
Executive Director
Don Bosco Ahaylam
New Delhi, India

Wendy Wright
Concerned Women for America
Washington, DC, United States

Babette Francis
National & Overseas Coordinator
Endeavour Forum
Sydney, Australia

Virginia Swain
Institute for Global Leadership
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

Yolanda L. Jackson
International Liaison
Women’s Sports Foundation
New York, United States

Simonne Piazzini
UN Representative
Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation
(Agence des cités pour la coopération Nord-Sud)
Geneva, Switzerland

Kok Ksor
Montagnard Foundation
Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Naghma Imdad
Executive Director
Islamabad, Pakistan

John Suarez
Cuban Democratic Directorate
Miami, United States

Ms Sally Thompson
Deputy Executive Director
Thailand Burma Border Consortium
Bangkok, Thailand

Sara Winkowski
International Council of Jewish Women
Montevideo, Uruguay

Gwendolyn Landolt
National Vice President
REAL Women of Canada
Ottawa, Canada

Bernice Dubois
Board Member
European Council of WIZO Federations
Geneva, Switzerland

cc:     UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour
The Right Honourable Mr. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

UN Watch