Testimony at the UN
Speech before UN Human Rights Council 6th Session
20 September 2007
Delivered by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch
Mr. President, we meet today in the council’s first debate on specific countries. The agenda item is “the Human Rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” The rest of the world only gets treated next week – in the same amount of time allotted for one country today.
Let us consider the title of today’s item. Should we judge this book by its cover?
Not if we listen to the United Nations’ own Department of Public Information. It published a chart last year called “Commission on Human Rights versus Human Rights Council: Key Differences.”
The chart addresses the infamous agenda item from the old Commission-virtually identical to the one today, titled “Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.”
What is so interesting, however, is that this is not what the UNDPI called it. Instead, it did something rather brave. It recognized the item for what it really was, calling it, and I quote, “the Agenda Item Targeting Israel.”
Mr. President, the chief promise of reform was to end the bias and double standards that ultimately destroyed the old Commission-the chief example of which was this item.
Yet today we reconvene under the same infamous item-in the plain words of the UNDPI, the “Agenda Item Targeting Israel.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
In the same chart, the UNDPI promised a key difference with this new Council-that it would “start with a clean slate.”
Mr. President, where is the promised “clean slate”? And if it is not a clean slate, what kind of a slate is it?
Here’s what the leaders of the UN think. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced “the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range of human rights violations throughout the entire world.” High Commissioner Louise Arbour condemned this item as “selective.”
When this was adopted in June, my country, Canada, pointed out the Council’s breach of its own principles: universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity. Targeting any UN member state, said Canada, is “politicized, selective, partial, and subjective.”
Canada asked to call a vote, but was denied the right to do so. In July, Canada, the United States, and Poland – a member of the European Union-filed official proceedings to challenge this violation of the rule of law.
Soon this item and the package under which it was adopted will go before the General Assembly. If member states heed the voice of the Secretary-General, of the High Commissioner, and of principle, they will restore the promised clean slate by voting to remove this biased item.
Thank you, Mr. President.