In April 2009, when the UN human rights council chose Libya to head the planning committee and main committee of its world conference on racism, known as the Durban Review Conference), UN Watch exposed the obscenity of choosing an egregious human rights violator to chair a human rights conference.
From The New Republic report:
“Amidst the anti-Israel rants from all the usual NGOs, Libyan ambassador Najjat Al-Hajjaji (who was chairing the meeting) gave the floor to UN Watch…”
“But sitting in their chair was not Hillel Neuer, the group’s executive director and usual mouthpiece, but Ashraf El Hagog, the Palestinian doctor who was falsely accused of and sentenced to death for infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV (along with five Bulgarian nurses). El Hagog and the nurses were held in Libya on death row for nine years, mistreated and tortured, until their release was negotiated by France last year.”
“Madame Chairman,” El Hagog began, staring steely eyed at the Libyan ambassador. “I dont know if you recognize me. I am the Palestinian medical intern who was scapegoated by your country, Libya, in the HIV case in the Benghazi hospital, together with the five Bulgarian nurses.”
Al-Hajjaji immediately started banging her gavel. “Stop… stop…. I ask you to stop,” she yelled, first looking miffed, then exasperated. “You are, you are not addressing the agenda item… I will allow you to resume only if you address the agenda item we are discussing.” The room immediately fell silent.
El Hagog, being coached by Neuer sitting next to him, tried to introduce some amendments to the statement “based on my own suffering,” and was again interrupted by Al-Hajjaji banging her gavel. But he continued recounting the story of his torture, then said, “All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is?” After listing the amendments, he concluded: “Madame Chair, Libya told this conference that it practices no inequality or discrimination. But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues, and to my family…?”
At this point, Hajjaji recognized a point of order from … the Libyan delegation, who said that El Hagog was not speaking on the correct agenda item. Hajjaji used the objection as an excuse to move on to the next speaker.
United Nations Durban Review Conference
Preparatory Committee, Third Substantive Session
17 April 2009, Geneva
Statement by United Nations Watch
Delivered by Ashraf Ahmed El-Hojouj
Thank you, Madame Chair.
I don’t know if you recognize me. I am the Palestinian medical intern who was scapegoated by your country, Libya, in the HIV case in the Benghazi hospital, together with the five Bulgarian nurses.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop… stop…. I ask you to stop. You are, you are not addressing the agenda item… I will allow you to resume only if you address the agenda item we are discussing.
[Victim resumes testimony]
Section 1 of the draft declaration for this conference speaks about victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Based on my own suffering, I wish to offer some proposals.
Starting in 1999, as you know, the five nurses and I were falsely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, brutally tortured, convicted, and sentenced to death.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: Stop… You are again not addressing the agenda item. I urge you to address the agenda item.
[Victim resumes testimony]
All of this, which lasted for nearly a decade, was for only one reason: because the Libyan government was looking to scapegoat foreigners. Madame Chair, if that is not discrimination, then what is?
On the basis of my personal experience, I would like to propose the following amendments regarding remedies, redress and compensatory measures:
One: The United Nations should condemn countries that scapegoat, falsely arrest, and torture vulnerable minorities.
Two: Countries that have committed such crimes must recognize their past, and issue an official, public, and unequivocal apology to the victims.
Three: In accordance with Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such countries must provide victims of discrimination with an appropriate remedy, including adequate compensation for material and immaterial damage.
Madame Chair, Libya told this conference that it practices no inequality or discrimination.
But then how do you account for what was done to me, to my colleagues, and to my family, who gave over thirty years serving your country, only to be kicked out from their home, threatened with death, and subjected to state terrorism?
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI, AGAIN BANGING ON GAVEL: There is a request for a point of order. I give Libya the floor for a point of order.
LIBYAN DIPLOMAT: Madame Chair, I object to the testimony by UN Watch. This is not the correct agenda item. Thank you, Madame Chair.
LIBYAN CHAIR NAJJAT AL-HAJJAJI: We shall now move on to the next speaker…
[Due to the unjustified cut-off by the Chair, the following portions were unable to be read.]
How can your government chair the planning committee for a world conference on discrimination, when it is on the list of the world’s worst of the worst, when it comes to discrimination and human rights violations?
When will your government recognize their crimes, apologize to me, to my colleagues, and to our families?
This week, at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, the five nurses and I will present our complaint and compensation claim against Libya, filed with the UN Human Rights Committee, the highest international tribunal for individual petitions.
The slogan for this Conference is “Dignity and justice for all.” Does this include your own country’s victims of discrimination?
Thank you, Madame Chair.
Swiss TV, 17 avril 2009: Evénement imprévu à trois jours de la Conférence mondiale contre le racisme à Genève
Durant la conférence préparatoire, l’organisation UN Watch a en effet créé la surprise en amenant un invité inattendu, le médecin palestinien victime du régime Kadhafi, enfermé durant des années et torturé. La présidente libyenne a tenté de l’interrompre, l’homme a tout de même témoignagé.