U.S. lauds UN human rights award to supporter of Hamas massacre, ringleader of antisemitic Durban Conference

UN Watch expressed alarm that the U.S. today lauded the award of a UN human rights prize to an antisemitic Jordanian group that endorsed the Hamas massacre of October 7th and played a leading role in subverting the 2001 Durban Conference on Racism into an antisemitic hatefest.

“It is essential that the U.S. distance itself from the 2023 UN Human Rights Prize award to a NGO that abuses its UN accreditation to support the mass murder of Jews. We respectfully urge you to intervene and condemn Nizam Assaf and ACHRS for fueling antisemitism and for its role in hijacking the 2001 Durban conference,” wrote Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva, in a letter today to U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. (See below.)


The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

15 December 2023


Dear Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield,


We were shocked that you joined in celebrating the award today of the 2023 UN Human Rights Prize to the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS), represented by their director, Dr. Nizam Assaf.


In your speech today, you commended all of the awardees, saying that they “worked tirelessly to commit to the principles of the Human Rights Declaration.” In addition, the laudatory statement delivered today on behalf of the United States and other members of the Western European and Others Group not only congratulated Dr. Assaf and ACHRS among other recipients for their “outstanding achievements” but was hagiographical in its praise: “With this recognition you join a small but illustrious group of past honourees, who in many cases have become synonymous with the courage and conviction required to affect change in the world. Today your names will be entered alongside people like Dr. Martin Luther King…”


In fact, however, Dr. Assaf is the opposite of Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a ringleader of the antisemitic 2001 Durban Conference, and he and his group ACHRS have frequently disseminated antisemitic tropes. They even publicly celebrated and justified the Hamas October 7th mass murder and rape.


Dr. Assaf’s role in subverting the 2001 Durban Conference was documented by the UN’s Laurie Wiseberg, who served as that forum’s NGO Liaison Officer. She wrote that in the planning meetings leading up to Durban, Dr. Assaf promoted the position “there were no problems of racism or racial discrimination in the Middle East apart from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.” In the February 2001 Networking Meeting of Arab NGOs, in Amman, Jordan, organized by Dr. Assaf’s organization, Wiseberg recorded in her notes that she was “afraid that the whole conference may be at risk by a move to revive the Zionism equals Racism Resolution.” This is indeed what took place in Durban seven months later.


Beyond his nefarious role in organizing the subversion of the Durban Conference on Racism, Dr. Assaf and his group have published antisemitic and other statements on social media that should have disqualified him from being honored by the UN.


On October 7th, 2023, at 8:30 pm Amman time, right after Hamas terrorists murdered  some 1200 people in Israel, and engaged in mass rape, mutilations and abductions, Dr. Assaf posted on Facebook to celebrate the attack, publishing a quote of Mandela: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” He did not post any condemnation of Hamas’ mass murder and rape.


In September 2021, Dr. Assaf tweeted to celebrate the escape of six terrorists, whom he labeled “heroic,” from a prison in Nazareth. He wrote “Oh Zionist, listen, listen, the intifada will return.”


In August 2021, in an Arabic post to his Facebook page, he complained that “the Jewish lobby” was helping Morocco’s relations with the United States.


Dr. Assaf’s group ACHRS has also put out alarming statements under its own name. On October 18th, 2023, ACHRS published a statement accusing Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians. It provided a “brief historical framework” on the current conflict that is riddled with historical falsehoods, including this: “Once the Zionist Jews rejected Resolution 181, it presented the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, to establish a state of Israel in all of Palestine after the British Mandate expired…. At that moment, Zionist Jews rejected coexistence with Palestinians and Arabs denied the Zionist claim to statehood.”


Worse, the ACHRS statement justified the October 7th massacre by Hamas. Under the heading of “The Palestinian Right to Resistance,” the last section states that “the events starting from October 7th 2023 is to be understood as a reaction against the Israeli occupation and oppression that has been going on for more than 70 years. Hamas was nowhere mentioned. On top of it all, the above justification of the October 7th Hamas atrocities was written on letterhead that reads “Honorary of the UN Human Rights Prize 2023.” In other words, today’s UN award is being used by ACHRS to legitimize and launder its open support for Hamas mass murder and rape.


Excellency, it is essential that the U.S. distance itself from the 2023 UN Human Rights Prize award to a person and NGO that abuse their UN accreditation to support the mass murder of Jews. We respectfully urge you to intervene and condemn Dr. Assaf and ACHRS for fueling antisemitism and for its role in hijacking the 2001 Durban conference.


The UN Human Rights Prize is only awarded once every five years since it was first awarded in 1968 to eminent figures René Cassin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is a travesty to see the prize fall to such low depths, and it is critical for supporters of democracy and human rights to intervene at this moment.


Yours truly,

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

UN Watch