UN Watch Statement UN Human Rights Council, 16th Session Agenda Item 9: “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”

Delivered by Gabriel Latner
March 22, 2011

UN WATCH: Mr. President, UN Watch is committed to the fight against discrimination. Many today have invoked the Durban Declaration. Notwithstanding our well-known objections to several parts of this text, we believe that those who call for its implementation ought to be held accountable to its legitimate requirements.

Therefore, we wish to address the declaration’s express prohibition, set forth in Article 2, against discrimination based on “political or other opinion.” Regrettably, this egregious form of discrimination, which often targets pro-democracy advocates, is widespread.

Let us consider a few examples, from around the globe.

In Saudi Arabia, there is gross and systematic discrimination against those who publicly display political dissent. When a peaceful protest was recently planned in Riyadh, the government pre-emptively crushed it by flooding the city with security forces, and warned protesters that they would be lashed and imprisoned.

In Cuba, there is gross and systematic discrimination against pro-democracy dissidents. In 2003, 75 such victims were arrested in the notorious Black Spring crackdown. While the government recently offered to release the 52 still behind bars, this was conditioned on the prisoners’ accepting exile—to risk never seeing their families again. The trial today of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, another victim of such discrimination, underscores the ongoing intolerance for pro-democracy voices.

PRESIDENT: Sorry to interrupt—we have a point of order from Cuba. Cuba, you have the floor.

CUBA: Thank you Mr President, I asked for the floor for a point of order to ask you to request the speaker to confine himself to the debate we are engaged in. This is general debate on the subject of  racism and has nothing to do with situations which are not related to this topic. One should use items such as Agenda Item 4 to address these issues. I will not allow this speaker to refer to this type of issue at this stage. Thank you.

PRESIDENT: Thank you, I give the floor to the United States.

UNITED STATES: We request that the NGO be allowed to speak and fulfil its time.

PRESIDENT: Our topic is Item 9:  “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, related forms of intolerance and follow up to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.” So I request the speaker to confine his remarks to the topic of this agenda item. And reference may be made to certain situations—but only as an example. And I urge that the speaker again confine himself to the agenda item.

UN WATCH:  Thank you, Mr. President. In reference to Article 2 of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA):

In China, there has been gross and systematic discrimination against heroic democracy activists like Wang Bingzhang, who is serving a life sentence in a Chinese prison, in solitary confinement.

As it happens, all of these countries are members of this Council.  As such, they are obliged, under Article 9 of UNGA Resolution 60/251, to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Under this same resolution and under the Unite Nations Charter the principle of non-discrimination applies not only to countries, but also to this Council.

In this regard, we recall that Article 8 mandates the suspension of member states which commit gross and systematic violations of human rights.  Three weeks ago, acting under this provision, the Council rightly suspended Libya. At the same time, we fear that observers may ask:  Does not the failure to apply the same sanction to China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia constitute selective prosecution?

Mr. President, if this Council asks the nations of the world to practice non-discrimination, should it not lead by example?  Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Sorry—we have a point of order. Cuba.

CUBA: Thank you, Mr President. I ask you to withdraw the floor from that speaker because he continues to be outside the agenda, you should address the item on the agenda.

PRESIDENT:  I believe that when you talk about discrimination, this is, it must be based under the Durban Declaration and Program of Action. But it does not apply to discrimination as you referred to, in the context of the (Human Rights) Council. So that part will have to be taken out. I give you the floor to conclude your remarks.

UNITED NATIONS WATCH: Thank you, Mr President.

PRESIDENT: Sorry—I give the floor to China first.

CHINA: Thank you, Mr President. I agree to what was said by my Cuban colleague on the point of order, on the procedural matter. United Nations Watch’s remarks have gone out the remit of discussion under Agenda Item 9. Therefore, I request, Mr President, to terminate his right of speaking, because the remarks do not belong to the scope our discussion under this agenda item.

PRESIDENT: I already gave my ruling on this item, so I urge that you conclude your remarks now.

UNITED NATIONS WATCH: Thank you, Mr President.

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