Testimony at the UN
UN Human Rights Council, 9th Session
Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
After UN investigator Sima Samar told the Human Rights Council on Sept. 16, 2008 about Sudan’s crimes on Darfur — mass killing, sexual violence against women and children, wholesale violation of human rights — Sudan, Egypt for the African Group, and other states demanded the termination of her mandate. Following is UN Watch’s response.
How to Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR
Delivered by Hillel Neuer, 17 September 2008
Thank you, Mr. President. On December 10th, the world will mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
How should we celebrate? Conferences and seminars have educational value. Yet if the promise of the Declaration is to have meaning for millions of human rights victims, we must do at least three things.
First, we must uphold its principles when they are violated. That means, when we learn of gross violations, we take action.
Sounds obvious. Yet in this session, some have asked us to do the very opposite. We just heard expert testimony of atrocities committed by the Sudanese government against the people of Darfur. This council’s own investigator documented Sudan’s destruction of civilian property, mass displacement, and violence and sexual abuse targeting women and children.
In response, we heard Sudan call for the expert’s mandate to be eliminated. We then heard arguments supporting this position by Egypt for the African group, and by others.
Mr. President, in ancient times, this was how persons in power treated bearers of bad news. They were eliminated. Yet if we are to honour the right to life guaranteed in the Declaration, we need to take action — against those who are destroying the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa peoples of Darfur, and not against those who bravely tell the world of their plight.
Second, we urge the council this year to take action against all of the world’s worst violations. According to a UN Watch report to be released this week, in the past year the council effectively addressed only two out of the twenty countries on the Freedom House list of worst human rights abusers.
Finally, to truly honour the 60th anniversary, we propose that, on December 10th, all nations assembled here declare an amnesty — an amnesty for their political prisoners.
Let us start with the bloggers of conscience, the human rights heroes of the 21st century. Let China release Du Daubin and Hong Qi. Let Mynamar release Nay Phone Latt. Let Egypt release Kareem Amer. Let Libya release Idrees Mohamed Boufayed. Let Vietnam release Dieu Cay. Let Syria release Kareem Arabji.
But we should not stop there. On December 10th, let all countries in the world free their imprisoned writers and journalists. Let Cuba release Normando González. Let Iran release Massoud Kurdpoor. Let North Korea release Song Keum Chul. Let Yemen release Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani.
Mr. President, this year, on December 10, let all nations — large and small — open their jail doors, and grant freedom — freedom to the courageous few who, around the globe, stare tyranny in the face, keep the spirit of the Universal Declaration alive, and stand as an inspiration to us all.
Thank you, Mr. President.