Geneva, Sept. 26, 2006 — Today the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva debated reports delivered by its human rights envoys for Somalia, Cuba and the Palestinian territories. UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the world body’s human rights activities, welcomed the reports and issued the following statement.
- Report on Cuba: UN Watch applauds Ms. Christine Chanet, the Council expert on Cuba, for her persistent work under difficult circumstances, given the Cuban government’s refusal to allow her to visit the country or to otherwise cooperate. We fully endorse her call on the Cuban government to stop prosecuting citizens, and to free those already imprisoned, for exercising their basic civil and political rights—such as the 60 pro-democracy activists still sitting in jail from the government’s March 2003 crackdown. UN Watch also endorses Ms. Chanet’s calls for the Castro regime to end restrictions against non-governmental organizations, to allow for dissenting views in trade unions, press, and political parties, and to lift the travel ban that prevents Cubans from leaving the island without permission.
UN Watch condemned the Cuban ambassador for resorting to personal insults against Chanet. “We will send your report to the same place as your previous reports, i.e., to the circular file,” he said. “Among your many occupations, Ms. Chanet, this is not one of your honorable jobs. No one will remember your illegitimate mandate. There is a significant contribution that you might make—by quitting.” Referring to the U.S., Cuba said “we struggle for survival as a nation against the most powerful and aggressive empire in history, this fascist clique trying to destroy us.”
“That Fidel Castro’s Cuba, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, is a member of the Human Rights Council is an outrage,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Cuba uses its Council seat not to promote human rights, but to shield itself and fellow dictatorships from criticism. For months, council delegates have been subjected to Castro-style political theater, with Havana’s ambassador lambasting its political enemies, such as the U.S. and the E.U., and standing in the way of needed reforms. Cuba’s refusal to cooperate with Ms. Chanet is just another example of its obstructionist policy vis-à-vis the Council.”
- Report on Somalia: The sobering report by Ghanim Alnajjar, the Council’s expert on Somalia, documented widespread, severe human rights violations and a dire humanitarian situation in this unstable country, which has long suffered from both civil strife and natural disasters. The establishment of a transitional government in 2004 initially seemed encouraging, but that government is now fighting an Islamist group that controls much of the southern part of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu. Recent reports indicate that neighboring states are becoming involved. UN Watch agrees with Mr. Alnajjar that yet another war will have a devastating effect on Somali civilians, and calls on the international community, and in particular regional organizations like the African Union and Arab League, to redouble their efforts to help bring about a stable government and lasting peace for Somalia. The recent murder of an Italian nun, who worked in a Mogadishu pediatrics hospital, underscores the alarming situation of violence and anarchy.
- Report on Palestinian Territories: UN Watch welcomed a new effort by John Dugard, the Council’s expert on the Palestinian territories, to expand his purview beyond Israeli violations only—which is his current mandate as crafted by the Council’s Arab and Moslem states. For the first time, his report this year begins to redress this imbalance by protesting executions by the Palestinian Authority. “The Special Rapporteur’s mandate,” Dugard acknowledged, “does not extend to human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority. It would, however, be irresponsible for a human rights special rapporteur to allow the execution of Palestinian prisoners to go unnoticed. . . The Special Rapporteur expresses the hope that these executions were aberrations and that the Palestinian Authority will in future refrain from this form of punishment.” UN Watch encourages Mr. Dugard to further expand his purview to include Palestinian violations against Israeli victims as well.
UN Watch agreed with the rapporteur that Israel’s disengagement from Gaza constituted “an important step in the direction of the resolution of the conflict in the region,” and called on both Israel and the Palestinians to fully implement all their obligations under the Road Map for Middle East Peace. Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, expressed concern that Mr. Dugard’s report inappropriately gave voice to his personal, political views by criticizing the UN for participating in the Quartet, sponsor of the Road Map, for adopting “a strategy of political appeasement.” Today, at a seminar held at the Council, Dugard said that “Holocaust guilt consumes Europe.” According to Neuer, “some of John Dugard’s statements on Israel sound eerily close to those of Iran’s President Ahmadinenjad and are cause for concern.”