PRESS RELEASE

But Report Released Today by Racism Expert Says Ahmadinejad’s Statements are
“Manifestation of Anti-Semitism”

Plus: See Below for Summary and Analysis of Today’s Human Rights Council Session

Geneva, September 18, 2006 — One day before Iranian President Ahmadinejad addresses the General Assembly in New York, UN Watch urged UN Secretary-General Annan to distance himself from recent remarks by Craig Mokhiber, the UN’s highest human rights official in New York, who equated Iran with Israel and pointedly refused to condemn the Iranian leader’s repeated statements that deny the Holocaust and advocate Israel’s destruction.

By contrast, at today’s session of the UN Human Rights Council, racism expert Doudou Diene delivered a report that chastised Iran, concluding that the “questioning of the right to exist of the State of Israel, in contravention of United Nations resolutions, constitutes a manifestation of anti-Semitism.”  Iran’s reply today echoed its previous written statement:  Ahmadinejad had merely addressed a “research question,” and the regime respected Judaism and Jews, but not Zionism.  (See discussion and Iran’s full written reply at UN Watch’s blog on our website.)

At a panel discussion on genocide organized last Thursday in New York by the UN’s new “Holocaust and the United Nations” outreach program, two advisers to Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed grave concern about Mr. Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements over the past year denying the Holocaust.

Edward Mortimer, Mr. Annan’s Director of Communications, was the first to raise the issue, asking the panel to address what the international community should do in face of “the head of one of the member states of the United Nations who has been publicly questioning the reality of the Holocaust, something which the General Assembly said should not be done.”

Dr. David Hamburg, Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention, agreed that the matter was “very serious,” saying that “since Hitler, it was hard to think of someone who so repeatedly and explicitly called for genocide.” Dr. Hamburg added that “here is a man calling for genocide-repeatedly and explicitly against one group-with nuclear weapons. . . . We need high level diplomacy that is much stronger than what has been done-the European Union and Japan and democracies worldwide should be in the lead.”

However, panelist Craig Mokhiber, the New York representative of High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, repeatedly refused to address the issue.  When asked directly what specific steps the UN should take before Ahamadinejad speaks tomorrow at the Gerneral Assembly, Mr. Mokhiber replied, “I probably don’t understand that question at all.”  He added that as a human rights official he could not see how the issue of incitement to genocide fell within his purview.

Mr. Mokhiber then admonished those who he said complain about violations against a specific people, and he instead urged equal concern for all crimes, “whether being committed by the government of Sudan or the government of Iran, or the government of Israel or the government of the United States.”

According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization, “not only did New York’s highest UN human rights official refuse to join Secretary-General Annan’s advisers in condemning the world’s leading anti-Semite, but he outrageously pronounced that Mr. Ahmadinejad is in reality no different than the objects of his genocidal hatred.”

Similarly, said Neuer, however flawed the U.S. rights record, “it is equally obscene to compare the genocidal Sudanese regime with a democratic country that is the most active and outspoken in seeking to put an end to that genocide.”

High Commissioner Arbour must also speak out, said UN Watch.  Neuer noted that, last year, in a private letter (responding to a joint statement by UN Watch and 30 other NGOs that was published today by the Human Rights Council), Ms. Arbour did condemn Ahmadinejad’s remarks.  However, said Neuer, “given the latest disturbing remarks by her representative, it is incumbent upon the High Commissioner to publicly tell the world where she stands on the issue of incitement to genocide and its denial — and she should do so urgently, before the Iranian leader addresses the UN tomorrow.”

Summary of Other News from Today’s Opening of the UN Human Rights Council:

  • UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Council to address situations other than the Middle East. His remarks, which opened the session and were read out by High Commissioner Louise Arbour, drew the Council’s attention to the grave situation in Darfur which “threaten[s] to get even worse in the near future.”
  • High Commissioner Arbour, in her own statement, also called on the Council to act on Darfur, as well as on other specific country situations like Sri Lanka.  The “deteriorating situation in Darfur stands out as a tragic reminder of [the international community’s] protection failures.” She noted that “despite the peace agreement, violations of human rights are being perpetrated on a large scale by government forces and their associated militia, as well as by rebel groups” and “no progress is being made in holding anyone accountable” for these crimes.
  • UN Watch calls on the Council to heed Mr. Annan’s and Ms. Arbour’s strong words.  This morning, Canada, the EU, Switzerland, and Jordan, as well as the United States expressed concern about Darfur.  So far, however, none has proposed specific Council action.  UN Watch and other NGOs recently listed more than 20 countries with compelling situations of human rights abuses that requre the Council’s attention — see list here.  UN watch urges the Council to act immediately to protect these and other victims.
  • Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), tried to block action on Darfur by threatening that any resolution for victims of Darfur would see the OIC retaliate with a repeat of the same resolutions they successfully sponsored in June:  condemnations of Israel for alleged violations against Palestinians, and of “religious intolerance,” the code word for the Danish cartoons controversy, and now, presumably, also for the statement by the pope last week.
  • The Palestinian representative excoriated High Commissioner Arbour for only citing countries “from the South.”
  • UN Watch urges the Council’s democratic member states, and other stakeholders concerned for the body’s future, to continue to oppose this disproportionate and unbalanced focus on Israel.  We note with interest that in his statement for the OIC this morning, the Pakistani Ambassador complained about member states who call resolutions of the Council one-sided.  The message of the Council’s democratic alliance, as well as of the major human rights NGOs, has clearly been heard — although whether it will be heeded still remains to be seen.

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