The Speech Banned as “Inadmissible” by the U.N. Human Rights Council
See full text and worldwide newspaper coverage below.
“Human Rights Nightmare”
Speech before UN Human Rights Council’s 4th Session, Delivered by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, 23 March 2007
Six decades ago, in the aftermath of the Nazi horrors, Eleanor Roosevelt, Réné Cassin and other eminent figures gathered here, on the banks of Lake Geneva, to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. They created the Commission on Human Rights. Today, we ask: What has become of their noble dream?
In this session we see the answer. Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the Council pronounced, and what has it decided?
Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.
One might say, in Harry Truman’s words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.
But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.
It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements—and there will be three more this session—
Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world—millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries—continue to go ignored.
So yes, this Council is doing something. And the Middle East dictators who orchestrate this campaign will tell you it is a very good thing. That they seek to protect human rights, Palestinian rights.
So too, the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims.
But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?
Let us consider the past few months. More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is three times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions against Israel in July and November. Yet the champions of Palestinian rights—Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard—they say nothing. Little 3-year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered in their car by Prime Minister Haniyeh’s troops.
Why has this Council chosen silence?
Because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the despots who run this Council couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.
They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: To distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.
You ask: What has become of the founders’ dream? Of Eleanor Roosevelt, of Rene Casssin, of John Humphrey, P.C. Chang, Charles Malik, who assembled here in Geneva sixty years ago? With terrible lies and moral inversion, it is being turned into a nightmare.
Thank you, Mr. President.
RESPONSE OF CHAIR LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA
“For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement. I shall point out to the distinguished representative of the organization that just spoke, the distinguished representative of United Nations Watch, if you’d kindly listen to me.
I am sorry that I’m not in a position to thank you for your statement.
I should mention that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council.
The way in which members of this Council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible.
In the memory of the persons that you referred to, founders of the Human Rights Commission, and for the good of human rights, I would urge you in any future statements to observe some minimum proper conduct and language.
Otherwise, any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.”
Banned UN Watch Speech Covered in Newspapers Around the World
- Wall Street Journal editorial, “Your U.N. at Work” March 30, 2007
- New York Sun editorial, “I will not express thanks” March 30, 2007
- National Post (Canada) editorial, “The UN’s human rights charade,” March 31, 2007
- National Post (Canada) column, Steven Edwards, “UN’s ‘noble dream’ a nightmare,” March 31, 2007
- Slate blog, Michael Weiss, “Watch Out,” March 30, 2007
- The Australian op-ed, Alan Gold, “New name, but the shame is still the same,” April 17, 2007
- The Vancouver Sun op-ed, April 14, 2007; Winnipeg Free Press, April 15, 2007; Edmonton Journal, April 16, 2007, M. Ronen, “UN council doesn’t like to hear hard truths”
- Il Foglio Quotidiano editorial, “Nota impegnativa dell’Onu: Lapidare i froci non è reato, e altre nefandezze con l’egida multikulti,” March 31, 2007
- Commentary Magazine blog, “What Human-Rights Violations?”, March 26, 2007
- Foreign Policy blog, “U.N. Human Rights Council gets serious,” March 29, 2007
- Andrew Sullivan blog in Atlantic Monthly, “An Inadmissible Speech,” March 29, 2007
- Columbia Political Review, “The Neuer Affair”, by Bari Weiss,
15 years ago, in an unprecedented act, the U.N. Human Rights Council Chair ruled my speech “inadmissible,” adding: “Any statement you make in similar tones will be taken out of the records.” https://t.co/7qfPBW6BP5
Here's the backstory on what became known as The Banned Speech: pic.twitter.com/BNi1iSONJL
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) May 5, 2022
“Your U.N. at Work”
The Wall Street Journal
March 30, 2007; Page A14
When it comes to actual human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council reflexively discharges obfuscation, like a squid and its ink. That notwithstanding, the Council’s fraudulence was made perfectly clear last week, when a routine hearing on “the Occupied Palestinian Territory” was disrupted by candor.
John Dugard, a U.N. “special rapporteur” on human rights, delivered a treatise on Israel’s “colonialism and apartheid,” denouncing the purported way in which the Palestinians are “brutally subjugated by a Western-affiliated regime.” The envoy was given shows of support from the likes of Council members Cuba and Pakistan, as well as the “observer” states Sudan, Syria and Iran. The last accused Israel of “terrorist activities.” Just another day in Geneva.
The U.S. put forward a tepid rejoinder, calling the remarks “unhelpful.” Enter Hillel Neuer, executive director of the NGO U.N. Watch. Seated before the Council, Mr. Neuer had the temerity to point up its modus operandi. “The dictators who run this Council,” he said, “couldn’t care less about the Palestinians, or about any human rights. They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state.”
He continued, “They also seek something else: to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.” Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba furiously responded, “For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement,” thus violating U.N. protocol. He ruled the remarks inadmissible to the official record, and prohibited further statements “in similar tones.” In the depths of the U.N., this was of course logical: Mr. Neuer’s commentary had been accurate.
‘I Will Not Express Thanks’
New York Sun, March 30, 2007
Every once in a while there comes a diplomatic moment to remember, and New Yorkers who want to share one can go up on youtube.com and watch the representative in Geneva of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, in a March 23 speech before the 4th session of the Human Rights Council. In the adjacent columns, we print the full text of his remarks, lamenting the loss of the dream of Eleanor Roosevelt and other architects of the human rights movement within the United Nations system. Mr. Neuer offers the substance. But it’s worth watching the full clip (it’s only a few minutes long) to catch the scandalous behavior of the president of the council, as he — for what may be the only time in its history — refuses to thank a speaker for his intervention and declares he will ban Mr. Neuer, or any other critic of the commission, if he says anything similar again.
To provide the full context, UN Watch has put together a compendium of clippings called “Admissible and Inadmissable at the U.N. Human Rights Council.” It shows actual film clips of the president of the Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, thanking various diplomats for their testimony. He thanks a speaker for Zimbabwe talking about the ignorance of a delegate who has criticized human rights under President Mugabe. He thanks the delegate from Cuba for insulting a human rights expert who exposed abuses of the communist regime. When the permanent observer of Palestine asserts that the one that has a “monopoly on human rights violations” is Israel, which, he adds, is the darling of not only the ambassadors of America and Canada but also of the human rights commissioner, Louise Arbour, the observer is thanked by Mr. de Alba.
On the clip one can see Mr. de Alba thanking the delegation of Sudan for a statement saying that reports of violence against women in Darfur has been “exaggerated.”
Then one can watch and hear an envoy from Nigeria assert that “stoning under Sharia law for unnatural sexual acts … should not be equated with extrajudicial killings …”
Or watch an envoy of Iran defend the Holocaust denial conference. Or watch a defense of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Or speaker after speaker liken Israel to the Nazis, only to get thanked by Mr. de Alba or whoever is presiding.
Then one can watch Mr. de Alba lean back demonstrably in his chair and fold his arms across his face and adopt a disapproving visage as Mr. Neuer of UN Watch begins his recent testimony. He notes that 60 years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Cassin, and others gathered on the banks of Lake Geneva to reaffirm the principle of human dignity and created the Commission on Human Rights. He asks what has become of “this noble dream” and offers a devastating answer with a reprise of all the human rights abuses on which the council has been silent.
“Why has this council chosen silence?” Mr. Neuer asks. “Because Israel could not be blamed.” He ticks off the actions against Israel, the only one the council takes. When Mr. Neuer is done, Mr. de Alba says, “for the first time in this session, I will not express thanks for that statement. … I will not tolerate any similar statements in the council.” And he threatens to strike any similar statements from UN Watch from the record of the proceedings. We had to tip our hat to Mr. Neuer, who has, on occasion, written for these pages. Newspapermen have to have strong stomachs, but it’s nothing compared to what he needs to sit through these sessions. He presents with memorable force and dignity. The compendium of clips runs only seven minutes or so and is winging its way around the World Wide Web. It’s worth watching, a reminder of the wisdom of the decision of America’s former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, and his colleagues in the Bush administration to stand down from participating in this charade.
“The UN’s human rights charade”
National Post, March 31, 2007
Once again, the newly minted United Nations Human Rights Council has proven itself to be just as cynical and useless as the UN Commission on Human Rights it replaced last year.
On Friday, the Council wrapped up its forth session since its inception. Despite evidence from its own investigators that the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan is being perpetrated by that country’s dictatorial Islamist government, the Council was unable even to call the mass killings a genocide, much less pin blame on Khartoum. Muslim and African representatives would permit only an expression of “deep concern” for the murder of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of two million or more, and the systematic rape of women and girls.
The point of reconstituting the old commission as the new council a year ago was to prevent such shams. But the new body has been as wilfully blind as the one it superseded. The world would probably be better off if it were disbanded.
This unwillingness to “name names” is part of a new trend at the UN. Last fall, one of the General Assembly’s six standing policy committees recommended an end to “name-and-shame” human-rights reports that single out particular countries for criticism. Human-rights experts within the organization recommended, instead, working quietly with abuser nations to convince them to end the murder, torture, maiming and political imprisonment of dissident citizens. Some good that would do.
Too many UN member states already scoff at the body’s rebukes. The UN has no standing army with which to protect human rights, and economic sanctions almost never work because some country or other will ignore them.
Such is the case with Sudan and its actions in Darfur.
China–itself one of the worst rights abusers in the world–has long protected Sudan from censure at the UN, and has continued to prop up the Khartoum regime with trade and aid.
Still, on a symbolic level, it is a shame the UN Human Rights Commission was not more forthright in its condemnations of Sudan. Two weeks ago, its own fact-finding mission ruled that Sudan’s government “has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in those crimes.” Friday, the commission voted merely to “take note” of the report.
Many argue that there is nothing short of all-out military invasion that the West could do to stop the Darfur genocide. But since it is unlikely that any Western nation — including Canada — will devote a sizeable force to such an enterprise, other options should be explored.
The National Post is currently running a series of essays commissioned by STAND Canada (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) outlining some of these options. In one instalment appearing in Thursdays’s edition, for instance, former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock argued for increased name-and-shame diplomacy, the freezing of Khartoum’s ruling generals’ Western assets, as well as a protective force of at least 20,000 troops assembled in concert with the African Union. These are all ideas worth trying. And since the UN clearly isn’t going to take the initiative in Sudan, the community of civilized nations should.
While we are on the subject, it is worth nothing that the UN’s new prohibition on name-and-shame comes with certain notable exceptions. In the same month the commission refused to hear tales of mass rape in Sudan and Burma, the UN was accepting motions from Iran, China, Russia, Cuba and other abusers condemning the United States and Canada for their human rights records. Canada was also singled out for its official use of the term “visible minorities,” which the UN declared an expression of racism.
Then there is Israel, which has been a subject of obsession at the United Nations since the Jewish State came into being six decades ago.
As Hillel Neuer, executive director of the NGO United Nations Watch, told the 4th plenary session of the UN Human Rights Council on March 23, the Council has ignored crises all over the world — from Darfur to Zimbabwe to Central Asia to Arabon-Arab killings in Gaza — all the while passing resolution after resolution against the Middle East’s only true democracy.
It was a trenchant critique that went right to the core of the Council’s failings. So how did the Council’s President, Mexico’s Luis Alfonso De Alba, respond? By shooting the messenger, of course.
“For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement,” he huffed. “I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council. The way in which members of this Council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the Council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible ? I would urge you in any future statements to observe some minimum proper conduct and language. Otherwise, any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.”
His defensive outburst is a fitting symbol of what the Human Rights Council has become. Killing thousands in Darfur — that’s not so bad. But having the guts to tell the Council what a joke it’s become — well, that’s truly unforgivable.
“UN’s ‘noble dream’ a nightmare”
National Post, March 31, 2007
UNITED NATIONS — Some of the world’s most heinous human rights abusers have made outrageous statements in succeeding human rights chambers of the United Nations over the years, and when the chairpersons at such gatherings subsequently thank the speakers for their diatribes, UN apologists say: “That’s just UN protocol at work.”
The apologists have some explaining to do following a Human Rights Council address by Hillel Neuer, a Montrealer who heads the Geneva-based UN Watch monitoring group.
Watch his video here.
Far from being thanked for his presentation, he was warned by council president Luis Alfonso De Alba of Mexico that if he ever addressed the chamber in such a “tone” again, his words would be struck from the record.
Did he offend? If you’re a despot, you would have been burning with rage. If you’re a democrat who actually cares about such concepts as fair treatment and human decency, you would have been nodding your head in agreement at Mr. Neuer’s challenge to the council’s claim to be an internationally relevant human rights monitor.
Mr. Neuer made hard-hitting references to the council’s record since the UN General Assembly created it just over a year ago to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, which had become infiltrated with human rights abuser states who engineered self-serving resolutions.
His presentation suggested the council is no better than the commission when it comes to denouncing human rights violations wherever they may occur.
He forcefully pointed out that only when it comes to focusing on Israel — a common target throughout the UN system for Muslim and anti-West blocs — is the council ready to condemn or chastise (something it has done nine times over the past nine months).
Because it is so blinkered, Mr. Neuer lamented, the 47-member council has turned the “noble dream” for justice of Eleanor Roosevelt, Canadian John Humphrey and other founders of the UN’s human rights architecture “into a nightmare.”
Countries on the council that global monitors such as Human Rights Watch say have poor human rights records include Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Canada has a seat until 2009, but the United States recently declined for the second year to stand for election to the body, saying it has “thus far not proved itself to be…credible.”
Whether you agree or not with the substance of what Mr. Neuer had to say, any believer in freedom of speech would be alarmed by Mr. De Alba’s admonishment.
True, Mr. Neuer will have touched the nerves of several council members and their allies as he illustrated his points by using such terms as “Middle East dictators,” the “racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women,” the “occupiers of Tibet,” and the “butchers of Muslims in Chechnya.”
But to put Mr. De Alba’s admonishment in context, UN Watch has researched what others have said in the council chamber to which the body’s president did not say: “I’m not in a position to thank you for your statement … I will not tolerate any similar statements in the council.”
Playing on Mr. De Alba’s charge that Mr. Neuer’s references were “inadmissible,” the UN Watch file is presented in a video available on YouTube titled: “Admissible and Inadmissible at the UN Human Rights council.”
It and a research document show Mr. De Alba greets with thanks or otherwise allows speeches or acts in which:
– The Zimbabwe delegate calls his Finnish counterpart “ignorant” and accuses him of “astonishing and astounding hypocrisy.”
– The Cuban ambassador describes a UN expert’s report on abuses in Cuba as “libellous,” and tells her directly: “There is … a significant contribution you can make, and that would be by quitting.”
– The Palestinian representative says in reference to Canada and Louise Arbour, the Canadian jurist turned UN Human Rights Commissioner: “The one who has a monopoly on the violation of human rights is Israel … the darling of the ambassador of Canada and the darling of the High Commissioner.”
– A Sudanese official says: “Incidents of violence against women have been exaggerated.”
– The Nigerian ambassador says of attacks on homosexuals: “Death penalty by stoning for unnatural sexual acts … should not be equated with extrajudicial killings.”
– The Iranian ambassador says in a letter that the Holocaust is a “historical claim,” the “number of perished” is a particularly “legitimate question.”
The video contains more examples — concluding with Mr. Neuer’s speech followed by Mr. De Alba’s response.
A member of the New York bar who attended Montreal’s Concordia and McGill universities, Mr. Neuer became executive director of UN Watch in 2004. Though affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, the group comments on a broad range of human rights issues, expressing “deep disappointment” at the council’s “weak consensus resolution” yesterday on the human rights situation in Darfur.
Despite receiving an independent report squarely blaming the Arab-led government in Khartoum of being ultimately behind much of the Darfur violence, council members stopped short of endorsing the accusation.
Last month, UN Watch issued a report card on Canada’s record on the council, charging it rarely speaks out against the worst global bullies. In joining the consensus yesterday on the Darfur resolution, Canada made no public statement before the council on that issue.
At least Ottawa doesn’t risk being censored.
Slate, March 30, 2007
Bloggers cheer Hillel Neuer of Geneva-based nongovernmental organization UN Watch for his fierce denunciation of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Watch out: Hillel Neuer of UN Watch delivered a stunning rebuke to the U.N. Human Rights Council March 23 for its lopsided condemnation of Israel to the total silence about human rights violations in other countries like Cuba, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. Council President Luis Alfonso De Alba refused to thank Neuer for his speech—a procedural first that prompted UN Watch to assemble this video of rhetoric that evidently does warrant warm gratification from the body. Opening itself up to further scorn, the council Monday voted to abandon all inquiries into the human rights abuses of Iran and Uzbekistan.
At British democratic socialist blog Harry’s Place, commenter Nomist, says: “I was sitting there with a different delegation when [Hillel] made that speech, and I can tell you that the atmosphere in the room dropped about 10 degrees over the course of his speech. The sad thing is that he’s right. Earlier that day you had the Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories declare that, because Israel is a ‘Western-affiliated’ state, the West cannot expect the Developing world to do ANYTHING about Darfur, Zimbabwe et al until it takes care of the Israel/Palestine situation. In other words, the human rights of everyone in the developing world are being held hostage to the affairs of a few million people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”
Kathy at Screw the UN points out, a touch unsurprisingly, that: “Not only did President Alba refuse to thank Mr. Neuer for his statements; but then threatened to remove any more truthful statements about the treatment of Israel by the UN Human rights council from the record. Sad, Mr. Neuer held up a mirror to the UN Human Rights council and they refused to look in. This council is a useless organization and it proved that it intends to remain that way.” At Meta Rhetoric, Omri Ceren, a doctoral candidate in rhetoric, anatomizes De Alba’s censorious reply: “You’ll notice that the chair didn’t actually rebut any of the accusations. He did the procedural equivalent of putting his hands over his ears and yelling ‘I can’t hear you’. How dignified. And how very typical of the United Nations.”
And Elizabeth Cassidy, a member of UN Watch guest-blogging at international law site Opinio Juris, remarks on the council’s bloodless resolution passed on the genocide in Darfur, which somehow managed to elide the Sudanese government’s responsibility for it. Cassidy adds: “In its nine months of existence, the Council has condemned only one country in the entire world for human rights violations: Israel. At this session, the Council passed yet another resolution—its ninth—against the Jewish state.”
Read more about the UN Watch fracas.
Michael Weiss, a writer in New York, is co-founder and managing editor of Snarksmith.com.
New name, but the shame is still the same
The Australian, April 17, 2007
VIOLENCE and the murder of citizens in dozens of countries throughout the world should be of the greatest concern to the UN Human Rights Council, the phoenix that rose from the ashes of the disgraced UN Human Rights Commission.
But the council is apparently more concerned with polite conversation and respect, and it’s showing all the hallmarks of following in the footsteps of its notorious predecessor.
The old 53-member commission was scrapped because its constituent members – countries with abysmal records of human rights abuses against their own citizens – were never criticised for what they were doing.
While millions died or were raped or abducted in Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia and other hell-holes, the Geneva-based human rights bodies talked and talked and criticised anybody but the governments that made their citizens’ lives the stuff of nightmares. Yet it passed resolution after resolution against a single state: Israel.
It was hoped the new and smaller council, given the mandate to address all human rights violations, would have learned from the mistakes of its predecessor.
But if a recent interchange between council president Luis Alfonso de Alba and UN Watch is anything to go by, the members of the council are singing from the same discredited song-sheet as their predecessors. And the weakest and most abused people on earth will be the sufferers.
Giving testimony before the fourth session of the council in Geneva recently, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said: “Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution and violence against women, what has the council pronounced and what has it decided? Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.”
De Alba had to listen in rising fury as Neuer continued to denounce the UN council in a scathing condemnation of its bias.
“The entire rest of the world, millions upon millions of victims in 191 countries, continue to go ignored,” Neuer said. He claimed that racist murderers and the rapists of Darfur women insisted they cared about the rights of Palestinian women; that the occupiers of Tibet insisted they cared about those they occupied; and that the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya insisted they cared about Muslims.
It was a stunning denunciation, a non-government organisation laying bare the mendacity and prejudice of a key UN body. Yet Neuer hadn’t finished.
He excoriated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for their support of Palestinian rights against Israel while remaining silent when Palestinian factions commit human rights abuses against each other.
So what was de Alba’s reaction to the tirade? Did he look in any way humiliated as the failings of his council were exposed for the entire world to see?
Did he hang his head in shame for the countless men, women and children whom he and the council failed to protect and who were the victims of some of the world’s most unrelenting abusers of human rights? Did he raise his voice on issues where he and his council had been woefully silent?
No. Instead de Alba upbraided the young man from the NGO for rudeness and demanded that any future statements “should observe some minimum proper conduct and language”. He said: “For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement. I shall point out to the … representative of (UN) Watch … that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the council. The way in which members of this council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible. Any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.”
For the UN Human Rights Council, it seems, politeness has to come before the rights of the abused. How civilised.
Alan Gold is a Sydney writer. To see the exchange online, visit: unwatch.org
“UN council doesn’t like to hear hard truths”
Published in The Vancouver Sun, April 14, 2007; Winnipeg Free Press, April 15, 2007; Edmonton Journal, April 16, 2007.
By Moshe Ronen
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
On Friday, March 23, Montreal native Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based agency UN Watch, did just that — he interfered.
He got up in front of the UN Human Rights Council and offered a scathing assessment of its track record. It was perhaps the most worthwhile statement to come out of a UN agency session in a very long time.
A year ago, the council replaced the defunct UN Human Rights Commission which, made up mostly of non-democratic states, was mandated to monitor and report on human rights violations worldwide. It failed miserably because the world’s worst human rights violators (China, Russia and Sudan among them) became an integral part of the commission itself, condoning the atrocities they were supposed to be policing.
Unfortunately, not much has changed. Time and time again this new body continues to turn its back on those most in need. It has ignored the persecution of the people of Tibet, the millions suffering in Darfur, and the crisis facing Muslims living in Chechnya.
“Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the council pronounced, and what has it decided? Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal,” Neuer said.
Harsh words, perhaps, but undoubtedly warranted. The UN Human Rights Council is well known for its deafening silence — except when it comes to Israel. Then it roars like a lion, just as its predecessor did.
In its brief history, the council “has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. The entire rest of the world, millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries — continue to go ignored.”
Why is this council neglecting the world’s downtrodden? Why this disparaging preoccupation with the only democratic nation in the Middle East? What is the reason for this selective criticism, this blatantly disproportionate attention to Israel? Neuer offered the following explanation:
“They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: To distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.”
This is not how the institution was intended to run and it is certainly not the same human rights regime envisioned by such founders as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Casin and Canada’s own John Humphrey, the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He designed the declaration around the same core values that we enjoy here in Canada — values such as freedom, dignity and social justice.
The council itself is supposed to protect people who are denied such values. It has done nothing of the sort, choosing instead to ignore the world’s most vulnerable.
And when Neuer pointed that out, he was neither applauded nor commended. He was threatened. “I will not tolerate any similar statements in the council,” thundered Human Rights Council president Luis Alfonso de Alba. “The way in which members of this council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible…Any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.”
So, now we know how the Human Rights Council deals with criticism — it simply strikes it from the record. No discussion, no debate, no forum in which to disagree. And so, it seems, we can say goodbye to another core democratic value we hold so dear here in Canada, the freedom of speech. Isn’t it ironic that an organization whose mandate is to protect human rights can at the same time choose to deny perhaps our most basic right? This might be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.
It is time for Canadians to take a stand against such hypocrisy. Western nations must speak up against this corruption or consider dropping out of this tainted organization altogether.
Neuer’s address was a colossal condemnation of what is a deplorable excuse for a human rights body. His concluding statement was the perfect ending to a just and accurate commentary;
“You ask: What has become of the founders’ dream? With terrible lies and moral inversion, it is being turned into a nightmare.”
For this we say bravo to Hillel Neuer. And should the Council succeed in expunging his speech from the records, then so be it. It will never succeed in abolishing the truth.
Moshe Ronen is the National Chair of the Canada-Israel Committee. Hillel Neuer’s speech to the UN Human Rights Council can be found on the UN Watch website, unwatch.org
Nota impegnativa dell’Onu
Lapidare i froci non è reato, e altre nefandezze con l’egida multikulti
Il Foglio Quotidiano, March 31, 2007
For the original PDF version of the Il Foglio editorial page, click here.
Eccola la nota impegnativa delle Nazioni Unite, quella che provenendo dal soglio multikulti della bontà mondiale non turberà il sonno di nessuno: lapidare i froci non è reato. Alla riunione del Consiglio di Ginevra sui diritti umani, un organo ideato da Kofi Annan ma già più ridicolo della famigerata Commissione di cui l’anno scorso ha preso il posto, a settembre è stato presentato un documento di condanna della Nigeria per la mostruosa pratica di lapidazione, fino alla morte, degli omosessuali. L’ambasciatore nigeriano s’è difeso da par suo e ha spiegato ai colleghi che “la pena di morte per lapidazione contro chi compie atti sessuali contro natura è prevista dalla sharia e non dev’essere equiparata agli omicidi extragiudiziari anzi, davvero, non deve nemmeno essere considerata in questo rapporto”. La presidenza del consesso mondiale che, in teoria, dovrebbe tutelare i diritti umani ha ringraziato ed è passata ad altro, tendenzialmente a un voto di condanna nei confronti di Israele. In questa sessione sono già state approvate otto risoluzioni contro lo stato ebraico, e ce ne sono altre tre in lista d’attesa, ma non è passata nessuna critica formale ai soliti e ben noti torturatori. Questa settimana, il Consiglio ha deciso di non prendere in considerazione il peggioramento della situazione dei diritti umani in Iran e Uzbekistan. E anche l’inevitabile documento sul genocidio in Darfur (che, intanto, secondo l’Onu non è genocidio) ha evitato accuratamente di puntare il dito sul governo sudanese, viceversa il testo non sarebbe stato approvato. La solita alleanza tra macellai, dittatori e democrazie accondiscendenti continua, con l’egida Onu, a giustificare ogni abominio, compresi la violenza sulle donne nel mondo islamico, la negazione dell’Olocausto di Teheran, la tortura politica a Cuba, le bombe di Hezbollah. Alla fine di ogni intervento di questi personaggi, la presidenza del Consiglio Onu doverosamente ringrazia, malgrado le sconcezze ascoltate.
La settimana scorsa, quando il rappresentante di UN Watch ha preso la parola per denunciare queste cose, e dire che il sogno dei padri fondatori delle Nazioni Unite si è trasformato in un incubo, è successa una cosa straordinaria che vi consigliamo di andare a vedere sul sito unwatch.org. Lo spagnolo che presiedeva, dopo aver ringraziato ogni difensore dei torturatori fin lì ascoltato, si è rifiutato di fare altrettanto con il rappresentante di UN Watch, condannando il suo intervento, giudicandolo inammissibile e intollerabile. E’ la prova, non solo secondo il Wall Street Journal e il New York Sun, ma anche per una rivista progressista come Foreign Policy, che il Consiglio dei diritti umani dell’Onu “è ufficialmente una barzelletta”.
Copyright 2007, Il Foglio Quotidiano
“Bonus Thursday Video: U.N. Human Rights Council gets serious”
Michael H. Cognato
Blog by the editors of Foreign Policy, March 29, 2007
The U.N. Human Rights Council, it seems, is not entirely without backbone. This week, of course, it excused the human rights records of Iran and Uzbekistan without comment, as Passport noted yesterday. Criticism of the Council itself, however, is far too much for the delicate sensibilities of the ambassadors. A representative from U.N. Watch called the Council out on its dereliction of duty in testimony before the august body, and in return was pointedly “not thanked” by the chair. That’s about as close to an outright slap in the face as modern diplo-speak at the U.N. gets.
U.N. Watch has learned its lesson, though, and put together an instructive video on what is, and what is not, acceptable in the U.N. Human Rights Council, a bonus Thursday Video this week.
A quick summary:
IN: Personal insults, excusing violence against women, attacking gays, defending terrorist groups, denying the Holocaust, and accusing Israel of committing its own Holocaust.
OUT: Pointing out that the dictators “who run this Council couldn’t care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.”
To see UN Watch’s video, click here.
Original URL: https://foreignpolicy.com/2007/03/29/bonus-thursday-video-u-n-human-rights-council-gets-serious/
“The Neuer Affair”
Columbia Political Review
In the past few weeks, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the watchdog organization UNWatch, has become the persona non grata at the recently overhauled UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. At the Council’s fourth session in late March, Neuer delivered a speech that so infuriated Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba that it was stricken from the official UN record. What could Neuer have said to provoke such censure?
Beginning his speech by invoking the legacy of the Human Rights Commission’s founders, a group of five that included Eleanor Roosevelt and Réné Cassin, Neuer asked what had become of “their noble dream.” Three minutes later he delivered the verdict: “With terrible lies and moral inversion, it is being turned into a nightmare.”
In an all-but-extinct display of candor on the banks of Lake Geneva, Neuer outlined how and why the Council has gone so wrong. Under the disingenuous guise of protecting Palestinian rights, he argued, the representatives have avoided confronting their countries’ own sins. The result? Millions of human rights violators in 191 countries have been granted almost total impunity. “The racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims,” said Neuer. “But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?”
In the last several months, Neuer explained, more than 130 Palestinians civilians were killed in skirmishes between Hamas and Fatah, three times the combined total that lead to special sessions of the Human Rights Council in July and November. “Meanwhile, the champions of Palestinian rights — Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard — said nothing.” When 3- year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered by Hamas gunmen, the Council “chose silence,” said Neuer. Why? Because, Neuer asserted, despite their never-ending rhetoric about defending Palestinian rights, the members of the Council do not really care about human rights: they care about vilifying Israel.
Watching this speech via YouTube (it has been viewed at least 200,000 times), one can see the rage building within Mexican Council President Luis Alfonso de Alba. For the first time, de Alba, his arms tightly crossed, did not express the token thanks for a representative’s remarks. “I am sorry that I’m not in a position to thank you for your statement. I should mention that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council. The way in which members of this Council were referred to…is inadmissible.” De Alba added that any future statements made “in similar tones” would be prohibited.
For de Alba, the word “inadmissible” was not empty rhetoric. The Council keeps a de facto record— Ohchr.org—which offers full-text versions of all speeches delivered to the Council. Neuer’s speech was never posted on the site.
If the Council regularly censured speeches it considered undiplomatic, this incident might not be worthy of attention. But even the briefest glance at recent statements confirms de Alba’s pointed selectivity. At the Council’s sessions in the fall and winter of 2006, it approved a number of egregious remarks.
Cuban Ambassador Juan Antonio Fernadez Palacious, who upon receiving a report documenting human rights abuses in Cuba, said, “This libelous report does not deserve any respect or credibility. We will send it to the same place that we have sent all previous reports: the paper-recycling bin.” This earned the Council’s “thanks.”
Iranian ambassador Alireza Moayer, who penned a letter that called the Holocaust a “historical claim” and suggested that there are “serious opposing ideas over the issue” was given the Council’s tacit approval when it decided to circulate it.
Nigerian Ambassador Joseph Ayalogu’s speech on stoning as an appropriate punishment for homosexuality, rather than a human rights violation, also earned the Council’s “thanks.”
In each of these outrageous cases,the Council president formally, reliably, extended his gratitude. Why the difference in Neuer’s case? Unlike the comments above, which attack human rights (the one thing the Council is designed to defend), Neuer’s comments attacked the Council itself— unthinkable. They attacked the hypocrisy that has turned the Council into a farce.
That the UN Human Rights Council struck Neuer’s speech from the record but admitted, even thanked, speakers who brazenly called for the resignation of council representatives, spouted justifications for the killing of gays, and denied the Holocaust seems a newsworthy event in its own right.
For some, it was. The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial titled “Your UN at Work,” that compared the Council’s disregard of actual human rights violations to a squid discharging its ink. The New York Sun lauded the speech as well, calling it a “diplomatic moment to remember.” “Newspapermen have to have strong stomachs,” the Sun said, “but it’s nothing compared to what he needs to sit through these sessions.”
But it’s no surprise that Neuer’s speech drew cheers from conservative sources—they are the usual suspects. What’s distressing is the deafening silence on the part of those on the left who still claim to give a damn. It seems that issues of building a strong international community, free expression, human rights—causes that the American left has historically championed—are being ignored by left-wingers out of fear that they might be considered handmaidens of a “neoconservative” agenda. God forbid.
To be sure, the fear of being politically branded or, worse, tarnished, can be paralyzing. But such partisan fears are a lame excuse for ignoring Neuer’s censure, and more broadly, for withholding criticism about the Human Rights Council’s obsession with attacking Israel. Those on the left seem worried about the implication of criticizing the UN’s disproportionate focus on Israel. But this is a false fear. Criticism of the Council’s fixation on Israel is not equivalent to supporting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Indeed, such criticism should not be seen as doing the bidding of Israel, but as advocating action on far graver human rights violations that are currently ignored or underplayed on account of too much energy spent attacking Israel. It is for this reason that the left must speak up.
There is a lot about which the left can speak up. Between 2003 and 2007, the UN at large took 501 actions (resolutions, decisions, reports, cases, letters, and visits) on Israel and 220 on Sudan. This year alone, Israel has received 135 actions, while Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have received 69 and 40, respectively. Last year, at the Human Rights Council, Israel was top on the list with 39 actions, the US pulled in at second with 29, while Cote D’Ivoire had 9. This year, 15 actions have been taken on Israel, while Sudan, whose government has condoned (or at least failed to stem) the murder of at least 200,000 in an ongoing genocide, has received only 9 actions.
Yet some among the left’s ranks don’t see this dramatically disproportionate focus on Israel as a problem. Because Israel is a democracy, some argue, it is rightfully held to higher standards. This argument is premised on the assumption that Israel’s status as a democracy would lead it to answer to criticism that closed societies would simply ignore. But this argument ends up mandating avoiding the worst human rights violations: should the Council ignore genocide simply because it occurs in an undemocratic state?
“The UN charter claims that it gives equal treatment to all nations large and small,” Neuer said. Its specific mission is to be impartial and objective and so “singling out Israel” constitutes, by mere definition, “an egregious breach.”
Another argument that could conceivably explain the left’s silence is a case of mistaken idealism. Perhaps those who still hold out hope that the Council will act as an effective institution hesitate to lend credence to voices refuting that hope. And yet, at its core, the silence from the left represents cynicism rather than idealism. Stories like the Neuer speech are ignored because they no longer seem interesting or new to readers. As Neuer quips: “UN condemns Israel—yawn.”
He’s right. Indeed, searches through the archives of the New York Times, The Nation, NPR, and The American Prospect about Neuer’s censure produced zero hits. Pointing out bias against Israel is passé, especially when it comes from a guy named Hillel. Presumably the left still abides by the basic calculus that genocide is worse that occupation. If so, ignoring the substance of Neuer’s message is a luxury that victims in the Congo and Cote D’Ivoire can no longer afford.