U.S. Rejects Top UN Official's Bid to Expel Watchdog NGO, Says Richard Falk is ‘Unfit to Serve’



UN Watch: “We do not take this lightly: the UN has
suspended NGOs for criticizing the wrong regimes”

GENEVA, June 9, 2013 America’s envoy to the UN Human Rights Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, has demanded the resignation of one of its top officials, saying Richard Falk’s attempt to investigate and potentially shut down a UN-accredited NGO could “threaten the independent voice of civil society at the United Nations.”falk
The strongly-worded U.S. statement, published on the website of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, “rejects and condemns” the scathing and unprecedented attack against UN Watch by Richard Falk, a top UN official according to the world body. The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League welcomed the U.S. statement and expressed support for UN Watch.
In his just-released annual report, Falk—the controversial human rights monitor tasked by the Council with investigating “Israel’s violations of the principles and bases of international law”—publicly called on the 47-nation body to pursue UN Watch after it successfully mobilized world leaders, including his own boss, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to condemn his comments blaming the Boston Marathon bombings on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv.”
Falk’s report accuses UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that combats antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, with “demeaning” and “defaming” his character, damaging the “credibility,” “effectiveness,” and “substantive intention” of his mandate, all of which “diverts attention from the message” and “shifts public interest away.”
In response, the U.S. representative emphasized that “NGOs are crucial participants at the United Nations, and in the Human Rights Council in particular, because they provide independent views and perspectives on important global issues and enrich debate to include non-government perspectives.”
“Ensuring their independence,” said Donahoe, “is crucial for the protection of freedom of speech and to promote open debate within the United Nations.”
The U.S. envoy underscored that “Mr. Falk’s most recent statement, which he dramatically and recklessly included in an official UN document, is characteristic of previous reprehensible comments and actions he has made during his tenure as a special rapporteur. It once again starkly demonstrates that he is unfit to serve in his role as a UN special rapporteur.”
“His views and behavior, both official and unofficial, are offensive and provocative and do nothing to advance peace in the Middle East or to further the protection and promotion of human rights. We again call for his resignation.”
UN Watch’s draft resolution to remove Falk has been published by the United Nations as an official document and will be put before the Council when he addresses it tomorrow. (See A/HRC/23/NGO/27 on the UNHRC Order of the Day for 10 June 2013, under Item 7, Interactive Dialogue with Richard Falk.)
UN Watch thanked the U.S. for defending the freedom of speech of NGOs, and urged the UN secretary-general and other member states to speak out as well.
“We call on UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to denounce Richard Falk’s McCarthy-style attempt to have rogue regimes conduct a retaliatory ‘investigation’ of UN Watch, as a punishment for successfully exposing his gross misconduct,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
“UN Watch categorically rejects Falk’s baseless and pathetic attempt to cast aspersions on our independence. It’s sad when a UN human rights official acts like a repressive regime — like Russia, Egypt or Zimbabwe — and seeks to muzzle NGOs because of what they think and say.”
“We do not take this lightly: the UN has suspended NGOs for criticizing the wrong regimes — and for UN Watch, which takes on the worst of the worst, that’s a long list,” said Neuer.
UN Watch is best known for organizing the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, together with 25 other human rights NGOs from around the world, providing a key gathering for dissidents, and for bringing victims to testify before the UN Human Rights Council, including from China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, and Venezuela.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, wrote Justice Brandeis, and that’s the simple reason why Falk wants to shut us down—so his despicable abuses can proliferate in the dark,” said Neuer.
In Falk’s report, as well as in intense lobbying efforts that he conducted this week as reported by UN insiders, the Council official demands that UN Watch “be investigated” to determine whether it qualifies as a genuine NGO.
“Falk is dangerously trying to intimidate and silence the UN’s only watchdog group, to grant himself impunity while he continues to exculpate terrorist groups and make other inflammatory remarks that contradict the UN’s founding principles,” said Neuer.
“We are in good company, however, given that Falk’s report also accuses Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of being ‘complicit’ with UN Watch for having condemned his ‘preposterous’ comments, in 2011 and again last month.”
Falk wrote that “it seems important to encourage a greater willingness on the part of senior United Nations officials to defend special rapporteurs subject to such diversionary attacks.”
Falk’s report claims that UN Watch’s “smear campaign” is carried out in “numerous settings, including at the Human Rights Council, as well as university venues where the Special Rapporteur gives lectures.”
The “smears” have been “sent to diplomats and United Nations officials, including the Secretary-General, who has apparently accepted the allegations at face value, issuing public criticism of the Special Rapporteur… with no effort to seek the views of the Special Rapporteur.”
In his report, Falk’s final recommendation is for the Human Rights Council to “establish a mechanism to support Special Rapporteurs who are subject to defamatory attacks, especially those that divert attention from the substantive human rights concerns relevant to their respective mandates.”

UN Watch