GENEVA, November 18, 2013 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch issued the following statement welcoming Ban Ki-moon’s visit today to Auschwitz, the first visit of a UN secretary-general to the Nazi death camp, and urging the world body to do more against mass atrocities as well as to address rising antisemitism in Europe.
“The secretary-general’s visit is a historic and welcome development for the leader of an organization founded in 1945 on the ashes of the Holocaust, with the aim to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person,” said executive director Hillel Neuer.
“The deafening silence and indifference that allowed Auschwitz to happen must serve as remembrance and reminder of the moral imperative for the United Nations — founded as the anti-Hitler alliance — to speak out and take action in the face of genocide, atrocity, hatred, intolerance, demonization, and gross abuses of human rights,” said Neuer.
“The UN must improve its record and do a great deal more to turn a spotlight on the world’s gravest human rights emergencies, and focus international attention on putting an end to mass crimes,” said Neuer. “The recent election of gross human rights abusers to the UN Human Rights Council — including a powerful dictatorship that is actively aiding Syria to murder its own people — underscores the reality whereby politics, regional alliances, and vote-trading are too often allowed to trump human rights. Responsible voices must not be silent.”
“But to draw only abstract and universal lessons from the Holocaust, as the UN often does, is to overlook what the Nazi crime was about. The UN chief’s visit to the death camp that symbolizes the Nazis’ deliberate murder of six million Jews — as part of Hitler’s publicly stated goal of ‘annihilation of the Jewish race’ — provides a historic opportunity for the world body to recommit itself to the fight against increasing manifestations of antisemitism in the Middle East, Europe, and around the world,” said Neuer.
“Regrettably, for example, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day statements of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay regularly omit any mention of the word antisemitism,” noted Neuer.
In 2007, UN Watch published its authoritative report card on the UN and antisemitism.
Mr. Ban’s visit comes ten days after the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights released a major poll showing an alarming rise in antisemitism. A survey of nearly 6,000 self-identified Jews in eight European Union countries showed that two-thirds of respondents found antisemitism to be a major problem in their countries, while more than 75% said the situation had become more acute over the last five years.
“Sadly, however, Kofi Annan’s historic 2004 UN gathering on antisemitism, and his call on the Geneva-based human rights machinery of the United Nations to become ‘mobilized in the battle against antisemitism,’ have been largely ignored,” said Neuer.
“Few if any of the UN human rights mechanisms — including those experts concerned with racism — have addressed antisemitism in any meaningful way. Events organized by the UN’s constructive Holocaust educational program based in New York have not found an echo in the substantive reporting of the UN’s vast international human rights law machinery.”
“It is the hope of UN Watch that today’s momentous visit will cause the United Nations to reflect on its history and founding purposes, and to reaffirm its solemn commitment to fight against atrocity and racial hatred.”