Rights Group Raps U.N. Vote for 2011 ‘Durban 3’ Summit


U.S. opposes holding event in New York
days after 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks

GENEVA, December 24, 2010 – During a late-night session that went to 4:00 a.m. this morning, the U.N. General Assembly voted 104 to 22, with 33 abstaining, to hold a “Durban 3” racism summit in New York, on September 21, 2011. (Click here for resolution text.)

“We support developing countries seeking to commemorate the terrible crime of slavery and the abuses of European colonialism,” said Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and the executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch. “However, the 2001 Durban conference and its progeny have become staging grounds for contemporary bigots and bullies — like the regimes of Sudan and Iran — to cover up their own racism and repression, and to scapegoat the U.S., the West, and Israel.”

Neuer urged all democracies to follow Canada’s lead in announcing that they will not legitimize the event with their participation.

“Based on past experience, we fear that the banner of human rights and anti-racism will be hijacked by Iranian President Ahmadinejad and other dictators to deflect attention from their crimes, and to incite anti-Western and anti-Semitic hatred,” said Neuer.

Neuer praised the U.N. for “itself now recognizing the dangers in such gatherings.” In an interview last week with AP, U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay, who oversaw the 2009 Durban Review Conference and was its leading defender, admitted that the criticism was justified.

Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the 2009 event in Geneva, Pillay acknowledged: “I was a bit naive. I wondered why people were so afraid that he would use it as a political platform, but I see that they were right,” she said. “I think that it was pretty evident to everyone that it is an inappropriate speech to make at that venue.”

Ahmadinejad used his speech to deliver an angry diatribe against Israel, calling it the most “cruel and repressive racist regime” and prompting a walkout by European delegates.

Today’s Durban 3 resolution calls for a summit of world leaders on September 21, 2011, “to commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration.” The event will include an opening plenary, “consecutive round tables,” “thematic panels,” a “closing plenary meeting,” culminating in a “political declaration” — all in celebration of the highly controversial 2001 World Conference of Racism held in Durban, South Africa.

In the committee stage, the U.S. said it was “deeply troubled by the choice of time and venue for the 10th anniversary commemorative event. Just days earlier, we will have honored the victims of 9/11, whose loved ones will be marking a solemn 10-year anniversary for them and the entire nation. It will be an especially sensitive time for the people of New York and a repeat of the vitriol sadly experienced at past Durban-related events risks undermining the relationship we have worked hard to strengthen over the past few years between the United States and the UN.”

UN Watch welcomed changes from the earlier vote in the committee stage, which was 121 to 19, with 35 abstaining. “Three more countries today moved to a ‘No’ vote, which is significant. The 17 less countries voting in favor is also weclome, though that may be partly due to delegates unwilling to staying for the late-night vote,” said Neuer.

UN Watch

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