UN Rights Chief Urged to Fight “Orwellian Distortions” in Proposals for Durban 2 Racism Declaration


Geneva, January 19, 2009 — As diplomats gathered in Geneva to draft the outcome declaration for the U.N.’s upcoming world conference on racism, UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights high commissioner Navi Pillay to take the lead in fighting to remove “Orwellian distortions” that taint the proposed text released today, and to speak our while negotiations are held this week.

UN Watch said the new draft declaration restricts free speech, prohibits expression deemed offensive to Islamic sensitivities, and portrays counter-terrorism efforts by the U.S., Western states and Israel as essentially “racist.”

“On Martin Luther King Day, when the international community should be honoring the vision and legacy of a human rights hero, the U.N. is instead featuring a Libyan-led political exercise that seeks to hijack the anti-racism cause for political ends.”

“With Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya chairing the planning committee, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran as vice-chair, it’s heart-wrenching though not surprising that Durban 2 is perverting the noble cause of human rights and anti-racism, with the aim of legitimizing an agenda of hate and extremism that continues to target innocent civilians in Mumbai, Madrid, Iraq, Israel, and elsewhere,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

In April 2009, Geneva will host a follow-up to the 2001 world conference conference against racism, held in Durban, South Africa, which featured displays, pamphlets, and caricatures that were condemned by then U.N. rights commissioner Mary Robinson as anti-Semitic. (“U.N. and Anti-Semitism,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 2002)

A U.N. drafting committee headed by Russia met today to review a new proposal for the Durban 2 gathering. The latest draft significantly revises the previous version, reducing it from 88 pages to 38. Click here for UN Watch analysis of new Durban 2 draft, released today.


However, “despite massive editing, the new draft once again shatters each of the red lines set by the European Union as the minium requirement for their participation at Durban 2,” said Neuer.

“Just like in 2001, the proposed declaration veers off its mandate in order to single out Israel for opprobrium, and more generally indicts Western democracies,” said Neuer.

“But it’s actually worse than 2001, because now Islamic states have inserted language seeking to delegitimize counter-terrorism efforts as racist, and to censor free speech in order to prevent what they call the “defamation of Islam.”

“As the most vocal defender of the Durban 2 process — in op-eds and press releases sent around the world — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay this week has the moral obligation to lead defenders of basic human rights principles in protesting these objectionable proposals and to push back,” said Neuer.

“So far, High Commissioner Pillay has for some reason reserved all of her criticism for Western states that expressed concerns about the conference’s direction. We trust that she will not give a free pass to Libya, Iran, Cuba, and other anti-democratic regimes who are behind this latest effort to attack free speech and misuse human rights principles, and to resist the campaign by the world’s most intolerant regimes to hijack the anti-racism cause for dangerous political ends. This week is crucial because the result will determine whether Western countries participate at Durban 2 or not,” said Neuer.


Click here for detailed UN Watch analysis of new Durban 2 draft, released today.


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