GENEVA, Aug. 13 – Switzerland has nominated the founding spokesman of the “Muammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize” for a position on the United Nations Human Rights Council, a move already drawing sharp controversy.
Jean Ziegler, who was exposed by Swiss media in 2011 for covering up his role in the Qaddafi prize organization, is expected to elected at the Council’s September session, for a spot on its advisory committee. The former UN official was rejected for a similar position in 2012.
Swiss MP and sociology professor Pierre Weiss has filed an objection against Ziegler with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter and Swiss President Ueli Maurer. Swiss journalist Françoise Buffat, former political affairs editor of the Journal de Genève, has also expressed opposition to the nomination.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental advocacy organization, sent a detailed letter to all UN missions refuting the Swiss government’s nomination letter. See full text below.
“While Muammar Qaddafi was raping women and girls across Libya—as documented by new revelations—Jean Ziegler was busy promoting the Libyan dictator as a hero of human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “Why is Switzerland, which claims to respect human rights, now reviving this scoundrel’s moribund UN career?”
UN Watch Email to UN Ambassadors
August 12, 2013
UN Watch is a non-governmental human rights organization accredited to the United Nations with Special Consultative Status.
We write in response to the attached Note Verbale in which Switzerland requests your support for the nomination of Mr. Jean Ziegler to the UN Human Rights Council. UN Watch urges you to strongly oppose this candidature, and to ask Switzerland to withdraw the nomination.
We deeply regret that the Note Verbale in support of Mr. Ziegler’s election to the UNHRC Advisory Committee was incomplete, inaccurate and misleading.
To correct the record, we have the honour to present below an annotated version—with the original text in bold—providing missing and material facts, with links to sources.
UN Watch believes that a review of Mr. Ziegler’s record establishes his clear failure to satisfy the official criteria of expertise in human rights, high moral standing, and impartiality.
Thank you for your consideration.
Hillel C. Neuer
Swiss Note Verbale for the Election of Jean Ziegler to the UNHRC—The Annotated Version
Mission permanente de Ia Suisse aupres de I’Office des Nations
Unies et des autres organisations internationales a Genève
The Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations and to the other international organizations in Geneva presents its compliments to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations and to the other international organizations in Geneva and has the honor to inform them that Switzerland has decided to present the candidature of Professor Jean Ziegler for election to the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council. Mr. Ziegler is best known for co-founding, co-managing and eventually winning the Moammar Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.
As reported by Time magazine, in April 1989, just a few months after Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, by Libyan intelligence agents, killing all 259 people on board, Mr. Ziegler announced the prize’s creation. It was seen by many, including Swiss newspapers such as the Journal de Genève and l’Hebdo (Exs. 3-4), as a transparent attempt by Qaddafi to change Libya’s damaged international image as a terrorist state.
Under Mr. Ziegler’s tutelage, the award spread propaganda for Qaddafi and elevated his ideological allies. Awardees included Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader known for his black supremacist ideology and antisemitic statements, and Mahathir Muhammad, the former Malaysian prime minister who once told a meeting of Islamic nations that Jews were responsible for all of the world’s ills.
In 2002, the prize was given to convicted French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy—and to Jean Ziegler himself.
In 2011, Mr. Ziegler’s attempts to cover up his role in the prize were exposed and refuted by Swiss TV’s “10vor10” program (video), confirming Mr. Ziegler’s key role in creating the Qaddafi prize, which it described as “an instrument of propaganda for the dictator”; and by Le Matin, which displayed one column of Mr. Ziegler’s claims next to an opposing column of contradictory information.
From 1963 to 2002, Mr. Ziegler served as law, sociology and international relations professor in different universities, in particular those of Geneva, Grenoble and Paris I -Sorbonne. The University of Geneva’s decision to grant Mr. Ziegler tenure provoked outrage from scholars and public figures in Switzerland, one of whom, the historian Herbert Luthy, returned his honorary doctorate in protest.
Jeanne Hersch, the distinguished Geneva human rights theorist and founding director of UNESCO’s philosophy division, described him as grossly unqualified, saying: “Ziegler owes his entire university career to political pressures—going almost to the point of blackmail. If he becomes a full professor, his promotion will have been the result of political considerations exclusively; his promotion can in no way be justified on scholarly grounds… Jean Ziegler has a talent for journalism but he is interested neither in accuracy nor in truth. He is not of professorial calibre. I explicitly deny his scholarly merit as a ‘sociologist’.” (Letter by J. Hersch to University of Geneva, 1976; see full essay co-authored by Hersch.)
He was director of the Laboratoire de sociologie des societés du Tiers-monde [Sociology laboratory of Third World societies] at the University of Geneva. This center, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, was used by Mr. Ziegler as the instrument to receive the Libyan Qaddafi Prize money. (See Ex. 28)
From 1967 to 1983 and from 1987 to 1999, he was also a member of the National Council of the Swiss Federal Parliament. During his mandate as a deputy he served with great personal commitment and distinguished himself through his skills. During these years, Mr. Ziegler supplied political aid to some of the world’s most brutal regimes. Ethiopian dictator Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, accused of widespread human rights violations and of bringing his country to starvation, handpicked Mr. Ziegler to help prepare his constitution calling for one-party rule.
He is the author of numerous publications. A recent book edited by Mr. Ziegler compares Qaddafi to the philosopher Rousseau. When Libya’s human rights record was reviewed in 2010 by the Human Rights Council, the “Nord Sud 21” front group, which managed the Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, distributed the propaganda book to try and influence UN delegates.
Professor Jean Ziegler has been a tireless advocate for the protection and promotion of human rights, in particular in the area of economic, social and cultural rights. Mr. Ziegler was close with some of the 20th Century’s most notorious dictators. According to Le Monde, he paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and to Kim Il Sung in North Korea. In 2002 he fawned over Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe—then in the midst of engineering mass famine through violent land seizures—saying, “Mugabe has history and morality with him.” About the Iranian proxy that is now aiding and abetting mass slaughter in Syria, Mr. Ziegler stated: “I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group. It is a national movement of resistance.”
From 2002 to 2008 [ed. note: he actually began in Sept. 2000] he was Special Rapporteur of the Commission of Human Rights and successively of the Human Rights Council on the right to food. From 2008 to 2009 and then from 2009 to 2012, he was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council. One of his many achievements has been to make the right to food one of the main priorities of UN agencies and bodies which fight poverty and hunger. Mr. Ziegler’s UN mandate on the right to food was sponsored by the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro, with whom Mr. Ziegler has been extremely close. In 2007, Mr. Ziegler undertook an official mission to the communist-ruled island, hailing the Castro regime as a government “in the vanguard of the struggle for the right to food.”
During Mr. Ziegler’s eight years on the job, he ignored many of the world’s most starving populations, instead focusing attention on his personal political agenda. As documented in the UN Watch report Blind to Burundi, Mr. Ziegler systematically failed to speak out for numerous food emergencies. He used his UN position to publicly criticize the United States on 34 occasions, but he never criticized any party involved in 15 of the 17 food emergencies examined, nor did he speak out on behalf of the people suffering under these famines. Regarding food emergencies in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda—Mr. Ziegler said nothing.
As a renowned expert with an excellent knowledge of economic, social and cultural rights, Professor Jean Ziegler has always shown an acute independence of thought. He is a figure that has the ability to actively promote human rights both in the civil society and in the international community. In 2011, following the war in Libya, an international coalition of 45 human rights groups, mostly from Africa, urged the United Nations to fire Mr. Ziegler for his actions over three decades to shield Libyan dictator Col. Qaddafi from scrutiny of his regime’s gross violations of human rights. The 45 NGOs also urged the Swiss government to apologize for nominating Mr. Ziegler to the UN council in 2008 and for lobbying on his behalf.
In that same year, the famed Salzburg Festival, citing Mr. Ziegler’s Qaddafi connections, canceled his keynote address at their summer event.
Switzerland is convinced that, if elected, Professor Jean Ziegler (see c.v. attached) will demonstrate an unwavering commitment during his mandate and will contribute to effectiveness and efficiency of the work of the Advisory Committee. In 2004, Mr. Ziegler was nominated for this same position by Venezuelan strongman and human rights abuser Hugo Chavez.
In light of the above, Switzerland would highly appreciate the support of Member States of the Human Rights Council for the candidature of Professor Jean Ziegler during the election which will take place during the 24th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2013. This nomination makes sense only according to the logic where by Syria is also currently running for a spot on the Council, together with China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Mr. Ziegler has always been supported at the UN by the world’s most egregious human rights abusers.
The Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations and to the other international organizations in Geneva avails itself of this opportunity to renew the assurances of its highest consideration to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations and to the other international organizations in Geneva. The election of Qaddafi’s top UN cheerleader will exemplify the supposedly reformed Council’s return to the dark days of its discredited predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, whose final nail in the coffin was electing the Qaddafi regime as its Chair.
Trending UN Watch tweets from July: UN Watch presses China on its repression of Uighur Muslims; U.N. hypocrisy on condemning Israel; Turkey turns UNESCO-listed Hagia