ON THE ATTACK: Venezuelan exile Eligio Cedeno, UN Watch's Hillel Neuer, and Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen, heading to United Nations European Headquarters to challenge the election of Hugo Chavez to the U.N.’s top human rights body. Geneva, June 27, 2012.

UN Watch’s Successful Campaign To Expel Maduro From the UN Human Rights Council


May: UN Watch publishes op-ed in the Miami Herald and launches the global campaign to oppose the bid by Hugo Chavez for a UNHRC seat.

June: To counter Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the world’s top human rights body, UN Watch invites Eligio Cedeño, a former Venezuelan political prisoner jailed for defying President Hugo Chavez, to address the UN Human Rights Council. Cedeno was Venezuela’s most-wanted man because he escaped to the United States. Exercising its right of reply, Venezuela’s representative called Cedeno a “terrorist and criminal who fled justice.” He also accused UN Watch of being a U.S. “lackey.“  The high-profile clash was covered in CNN, Spanish news agency EFE, Agence France Presse, and a feature in Canada’s National Post.

June: UN Watch organizes a powerful UNHRC speech by Venezuelan-born activist Thor Halvorssen, the head of Human Rights Foundation, who condemned Chavez’s bid for a UNHRC seat. Shouting repeatedly for the UN chair to stop the speech, the Cuban delegate flew into a range, his fists banging on the table, and knocking over his own chair. China, Russia and Pakistan also interrupted to back Cuba.

November: As reported by the New York Times, UN Watch joins with Human Rights Foundation to hold a press conference at UN Headquarters, on the eve of the election of new UNHRC members, featuring Marcel Granier, a Venezuelan journalist persecuted by the Chavez regime. Ahead of the vote, a UN Watch report highlights Venezuela’s poor human rights record and designates the country as “Not Qualified” to serve as a member of the Council.

November: UN Watch leads international coalition of 40 MPs and NGOs that appealed to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the EU, and world leaders to oppose Chavez’s bid. As a result of the campaign, the U.S. State Department adopted UN Watch’s position that any UNHRC member sanctioned by the UN Security Council for human rights violations should be ineligible to hold a leadership position in a UN body.


April: UN Watch invites Gonzalo Himiob Santome, a lawyer for Venezuelan political prisoners, to testify before UN Human Rights Council diplomats and activists, at its inaugural Geneva Summit for Human Rights, a parallel event held next to the UNHRC.


March:  UN Watch invites Venezuelan student leader Diego Scharifker to address diplomats, UN officials and human rights activists at its 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights.

November: UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer publishes letter in the Washington Post urging the U.N. Human Rights Council to stop “turn[ing] a blind eye to Mr. Chávez’s trampling of basic human rights and due process.


March: UN Watch invites Venezuelan opposition MP Miguel Angel Rodriguez to speak at its third annual Geneva Summit.

September: As Venezuela went before a mandatory UN review of its human rights record, UN Watch led a coalition of dissidents and rights groups to submit an unprecedented draft resolution to UN member states calling on them to condemn “the ongoing, systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Venezuela,” and to repeal “laws that restrict freedom of expression.”  The text was adopted at the “We Have A Dream” summit of dissidents, organized by UN Watch with the support of 25 NGOs, held in New York as a parallel event to the September 2011 UNGA opening.


June: UN Watch leads rally in front of UNHRC headquarters, together wth Iniciativa por Venezuela and other human rights groups, against Venezuela’s human rights abuses.

June: UN Watch organizes UNHRC break-out session on Venezuela with panel of dissidents including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s aunt Julieta Lopez, 33-year-old Alejandro Suarez Teppa, a Venezuelan philosophy student and protest camp leader who was arrested and brutally detained, and protest leader Eusebio Costa, 22. The event drew UN officials, ambassadors, NGOs and activists. Venezuela’s delegation lashed out against UN Watch and the speakers. The events were reported by Reuters and Spanish newswire EFE. Maria Corina Machado, a leading Venezuelan opposition figure, sent a video message expressing solidarity.

September: Addressing the UNHRC, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer called out Venezuela’s government for failing to investigate the torture of Judge Maria Afiuni — and was immediately interrupted by the Venezuelan delegation, claiming Neuer to be “lying about the human rights situation” in the country.


SeptemberUN Watch submits a proposed resolution to suspend Venezuela from the UN Human Rights Council. 

October: UN Watch leads an effort to oppose Venezuela’s election to the Human Rights Council with a report urging UN member states to condemn Maduro and his egregious human rights violations. UN Watch also brought former Venezuelan representative Victor Rodriquez Cedeno to speak before the UN and organized a press conference, where Diego Arria—former Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN and President of the Security Council—criticized the country’s poor human rights record. The campaign was reported around the world by the Times of India, the Daily News, and The Independent.


February: Two days after Venezuela filed charges of conspiracy against Antonio Ledezma—the 60-year-old mayor of Caracas under house arrest for opposing President Nicolas Maduro—an international coalition of 25 non-governmental human rights groups announced that Ledezma and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez have been selected as the 2016 co-recipients of the prestigious Geneva Summit Courage Award, representing all of Venezuela’s political prisoners.

March: UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer took the floor at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council to condemn the gross and systematic violations carried out by Council members, including Venezuela. The Venezuela delegation interrupted Neuer’s testimony to refute his claims against the Maduro regime. The video received 75,000 views on YouTube and its other online iterations.

May: At the 2016 Gala Dinner, UN Watch again honors opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma with the Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award. Mayor Ledezma’s daughter, Antonietta Ledezma, accepted on his behalf with a speech that went viral, reaching close to a million people and having nearly 260,000 views. Watch the video of her remarks here.

June: UN Watch invites former Venezuelan Ambassador Victor Rodriguez Cedeno to speak on its behalf at the Human Rights Council, where he charged the Maduro regime of starving families and for causing an “unprecedented political, economic, and social crisis.”

November: UN Watch releases a report exposing Venezuela’s corruption of its 2016 universal period human rights review. The country cheated the UN system by getting 500 fake groups to make submissions praising the Maduro regime. UN Watch’s report revealed that the so-called expert groups included the “Bolivian Baseball Association,” the “Cuban Federation of Canine Sports,” and the “Association for Obvious Things”—a group in Slovenia that hailed Venezuela’s record on combatting hunger. The state-backed fraud was picked up on social media and reported by Spanish-speaking news outlets including La VanguardiaMiami Diario, and El Nacional.


MayUN Watch circulates a new draft resolution to members of the Organization of American States, the U.S., and the European Union to convene an emergency special session of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council in order to consider suspending the Maduro government from its membership. Passing the resolution would help to “establish an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry into gross and systematic human rights violations in Venezuela to ensure that there is full accountability for those responsible for violations.”

June: Executive Director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer spoke before the 35th session of the Human Rights Council to expose Venezuela for covering up its mass hunger crisis. Neuer called out the absurdity of UN hunger expert Jean Ziegler’s praise of Venezuela for its “wonderful ending of hunger” despite millions of people without food.

August: UN Watch responds just hours after the Venezuelan police arrested pro-democracy leader Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma by calling for an emergency session of the Human Rights Council. UN Watch also proposes an amended draft resolution, documenting the abuses of the Maduro regime, as listed by UN experts themselves.

November: UN Watch organizes a Joint Appeal, signed by 50 leading Venezuelan figures and delivered to key UN ambassadors in Geneva, which became the global rallying cry against President Nicholas Maduro’s visit to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections. UN Watch held a packed press conference with leading dissidents, which was reported by journalists from the New York Times, Reuters, Agence-France Press, the Associated Press, Geneva’s Le Temps.

UN Watch organized a protest rally of human rights activists outside the UN. This angered Maduro — and so he expelled Switzerland’s top diplomat in Caracas.

September: Mitzy Ledezma, wife of jailed Venezuelan mayor Antonio Ledezma, speaks on UN Watch’s behalf at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, calling out the Maduro regime’s effort to curtail any form of protest against the government.

UN Watch and a cross-regional coalition of 12 human rights activists from Latin America, the U.S. and Europe, call on the UN Human Rights Council to convene an urgent meeting to suspend the membership of Venezuela. UN Watch expresses shock that the Human Rights Council allowed Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to open its September session. “The dictator will use the UN podium to mock the world, as he continues to starve, beat, torture, jail and kill his own people with impunity,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based non-governmental watchdog organization.

“Before Maduro speaks on Monday, Peru on behalf of the Lima Group of nations, supported by the European Union and the United States, should move for an Urgent Debate, and then adopt a version of this resolution (español) to finally expel the Maduro regime from the UNHRC, and to establish a Commission of Inquiry to hold perpetrators of gross human rights abuses to account,” said Neuer. UN Watch also launched an online petition to pressure democracies to act.

UN Watch’s August draft resolution was published by the United Nations as an official document at the UNHRC and circulated to all delegates.


September: UN Watch responds to a testimony delivered at the UN Human Rights Council by Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, who spewed lies and denied his country’s human rights abuses. Rosa Salazar Benazar, a Venezuelan human rights advocate and former fellow with UN Watch, challenges the Council by asking: “Why is the Maduro government a member of this Council? Why have you permitted Foreign Minister Arreaza to address this Council, when his own Government violates the rights of its people with impunity?”


September: Finally, after a decade of appeals and campaigning by UN Watch and its allies, the UN Human Rights Council adopts a resolution to investigate Venezuela’s human rights violations.

October 17:  Maduro elected to UNHRC.

October 19: UN Watch launched the campaign to expel Maduro under the leadership of Ambassador Diego Arria, former President of the United Nations Security Council and Permanent Representative of Venezuela.


September 24:  Venezuela and Cuba fail to stop Hillel Neuer’s appeal at the United Nations to expel Maduro from UNHRC.

United Nations Watch (Hillel Neuer):

Madam President,

Today we come with one question.

Given that this Council’s Fact Finding Mission has just found that the Venezuelan Government, state agents, and groups working with them, have systematically committed arbitrary killings, torture, and sexual violence, aimed at suppressing political opposition and generally terrorizing the population;

Given that these crimes were found to be highly coordinated pursuant to state policies, and part of a widespread and systematic course of conduct, thus amounting to “crimes against humanity”;

Given that the investigators found that President Maduro and the Ministers of the Interior and of Defence were aware of the crimes, gave orders, coordinated activities, and supplied resources in furtherance of the plans and policies… [Venezuela interrupts]

President: Excuse me, excuse me. Just one minute. Venezuela wants to make a point.

Venezuela:  The speaker is out of order. We are dealing with Item 3 General Debate.

President: Well, we are now under Item 3. Under Item 3, we are talking about thematic issues. Certain countries can be mentioned by way of example. I would give the floor back to the speaker now, under the condition of taking into account what I just said. Thank you very much.

UN Watch: Referring to civil and political rights, given that investigators found that President Maduro and this official furthered the plans and policies under which the crimes were committed;

Given all of the above, we ask this Council: By what logic, and by what morality, can a convicted murderer, torturer and rapist — convicted by your own investigators — remain a member of this Human Rights Council?

We now have a petition to the United Nations, found at unwatch.org/ExpelMaduro.

In the name of National Assembly President Juan Guaido, exiled Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma… [Cuba interrupts]

President: Excuse me, excuse me. I give the floor to Cuba.

Cuba: Once again, this NGO is politicizing the Council and he is using abusive language. We wish to recall that this is a clear violation of the provisions of Resolution 60/251 which states that the work of the Council will be guided by universality, non-selectivity, impartiality with a view to promoting and protecting human rights through dialogue and cooperation. This is not a matter to be discussed under Item 3. We cannot question the candidacies of member states, it is a lack of respect for the Council. We agree with what Venezuela is saying, and we call upon you to prevent the speaker from abusing the Council.

President: I am hearing different voices but everybody should respect appropriate language and appropriate dealing with each other. I also want to recall what I said earlier on, which is that this is Item 3. We are talking about thematic issues and countries should only be mentioned if they serve as an example for a thematic issue. Having said that, I will now give the floor back to the speaker.

Neuer: Invoking Article 8 of the founding Charter of this Council, Resolution 60/251, and in the name of 160,000 people who have signed this petition, when will the United Nations remove the Maduro government from this Human Rights Council?


February 26: After Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro addressed the UN Human Rights Council, UN Watch organized a high-level panel at the United Nations of international experts and Venezuelan opposition figures called for the removal of the Maduro regime from the world’s top rights body, on account of its gross and systematic violations of human rights. (Click here for AP news report.)

Broadcast live on UN Web TV, the event was co-sponsored by a cross-regional coalition including the UN missions of Honduras, Estonia and Ukraine, together with the independent non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, based in Geneva. (Click here for video of the event.) 

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, who moderated the UN panel, asked “Why hasn’t the UN General Assembly adopted a single resolution for human rights victims in Venezuela? Worse, why did they elect Venezuela to the Human Rights Council?”

Honduras Ambassador to the UN Lizzy Flores addressed the human rights crisis in Venezuela and appealed to the UN General Assembly, saying “it must act accordingly to remedy the situation” by removing Maduro.

Venezuelan opposition figure Maria Corina Machado described how all Venezuelans are “deprived of human rights, with no consequence whatsoever” and that removing Maduro from the council is a necessary step to “dismantling a criminal and mafia state.”

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, called Venezuela’s membership on the UNHRC a “mockery” of the council’s founding principles, of Venezuelan victims including the families of those who have been executed by the Maduro regime.

“Why is Venezuela sitting on the Human Rights Council?” asked former Venezuela Ambassador to the UN and president of the Security Council Diego Arria, chair of the campaign to expel Maduro. “This is a criminal narco-tyranny, a militarized regime with links to terrorists. It is precisely the opposite of what Kofi Annan had in mind when he proposed the creation of a new Human Rights Council.”

“Venezuela’s ongoing crimes against humanity makes its presence on the Human Rights Council as shocking as it is contemptuous of a rules-based international legal order,” said international rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, who served as a member of the Organization of American States’ inquiry into abuses in Venezuela.


March 18: In a UNHRC debate on Venezuela’s human rights record, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer took the floor to call for the Maduro regime to be expelled from the 47-nation body. In response, the council president, Ambassador Federico Villegas of Argentina, warned Neuer to watch his language.

October 3: UN Watch held a press conference next to the United Nations in New York, ahead of the elections to the Human Rights Council, opposing the election of the Maduro regime, featuring Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan activist and Director of the Human Rights NGO “Un Mundo Sin Mordaza” (A World Without Censorship).


October 11:  UN General Assembly finally rejects the Maduro regime’s bid to renew its membership on the UNHRC.







UN Watch