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Cablegate: New Human Rights Council President Martin Uhomoibhi

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INFO RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2774

2008-07-01 12:57:00 08GENEVA498 US Mission Geneva CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN VZCZCXYZ0006\
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DE RUEHGV #0498/01 1831257\
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY ADXAE2BA9 MSI5578 400A)\
R 011257Z JUL 08 ZDS\
FM USMISSION GENEVA\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6662\
INFO RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE\
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2774\
C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000498 \
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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - NOFORN CAPTION ADDED \
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2018 \
TAGS: UNHRC PHUM PINR NI
SUBJECT: NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL PRESIDENT MARTIN UHOMOIBHI \
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Classified By: Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor, Reasons 1.4(b)(d) \
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1. (C) Summary: Nigerian Permanent Representative to the \
UN in Geneva, Martin Uhomoibhi, was formally elected \
President of the UN Human Rights Council June 18. His \
nomination by the African Group to serve as the Council's \
President for the 2008-2009 session had been contested from \
within the Group by Djibouti, which had the strong backing of \
Egypt, which wanted a Muslim PermRep from a majority Muslim \
country to hold the presidency. Uhomoibhi, a practicing \
Roman Catholic who is close to the Holy See's mission in \
Geneva, beat out his Djiboutian counterpart in an 18-15 vote \
within the African Group. Uhomoibhi, who took up his post in \
Geneva on March 15, 2007, has attended Council sessions \
infrequently; we are not aware of any previous experience he \
may have handling human rights issues. Mission Geneva has \
dealt closely with him at both the World Intellectual \
Property Organization (WIPO) and on International \
Organization on Migration (IOM) issues and found him \
approachable, articulate, and principled. He is reportedly \
strongly influenced by his faith, and has proven himself \
willing to stand up to pressure from Organization of the \
Islamic Conference (OIC) countries under many circumstances. \
Uhomoibhi's relative independence from African Group \
"group-think" could be very useful to Western Group views at \
the Council. Based on our past dealings with him, Uhomoibhi \
has been willing to broker compromises with the U.S. and \
other WHRG countries if we are active and engaged, although \
he would not necessarily favor Western views otherwise. \
Uhomoibhi has informed Ambassador Tichenor that he wants to \
work closely with the U.S. and that he wants to lead the \
Council to become a body "that is worthy of U.S. engagement." \
End Summary. \
\
Standing Up to the OIC \
---------------------- \
\
2. (C/NF) Ambassador Uhomoibhi has little track record at \
the Human Rights Council, but both there and in other \
Geneva-based fora has demonstrated some independence from the \
views of the OIC. His predecessor as Nigeria's PermRep in \
Geneva had been Muslim and had been much more closely aligned \
to the OIC. Uhomoibhi's close election by the African Group \
as Council President highlights a fault line in the group \
along religious lines which bears close monitoring in the \
Council on important issues such as defamation of religions \
and freedom of expression. Uhomoibhi told Ambassador \
Tichenor that Egyptian PermRep (and future Egyptian \
Ambassador to the U.S.) Sameh Shoukry had pressured him to \
"protect" Sudan at the Council from those who would criticize \
its human rights record. In another context, when serving as \
President of the WIPO General Assembly, Uhomoibhi told \
Ambassador Tichenor that he had received visits from both the \
Egyptian and Algerian PermReps, claiming that he was "not a \
good African" for cooperating with those who were attempting \
to force WIPO Director General Kamil Idris from office. \
Unlike some of his African Group counterparts, Uhomoibhi \
appears to pursue no pre-cooked agenda within Geneva fora, \
instead relying on where his principles guide him. This \
willingness to consider various issues on their merits has \
made and continues to make him potentially a sympathetic ally \
to the U.S under certain circumstances. \
\
Uhomoibhi's Record as WIPO General Assembly President \
--------------------------------------------- -------- \
\
3. (C/NF) Mission Geneva views of Ambassador Uhomoibhi are \
strongly influenced by our experience working with him since \
September 2007 in his role as WIPO GA President. At WIPO, \
the U.S. and other close allies were working to help force \
the resignation of WIPO DG Idris, a Sudanese national who had \
falsified his UN personnel records for personal gain. \
Uhomoibhi made the principled decision to support Idris's \
removal, and was supported by Zambia, Ghana and Rwanda, a \
similar split within the African Group to that we have seen \
at the Human Rights Council. Because he believed that Idris \
should resign, Uhomoibhi was accused by some of his African \
Group colleagues of being a tool of Western interests at \
WIPO. He stood up under the pressure, apparently deciding \
that Idris, by lying on his UN personnel records, had \
undermined the overall integrity and dignity of all Africans. \
Uhomoibhi worked closely with us on the text of Idris's \
retirement letter, not accepting Mission Geneva's proposed \
draft verbatim, but using it as the basis for constructive \
negotiations in which he served as intermediary between the \
U.S. and Idris. Once the WIPO GA accepted Idris's \
resignation, Uhomoibhi ran the election process for his \
replacement with scrupulous fairness, resulting in the \
election of a qualified candidate with high integrity. \
\
4. (C/NF) That is not to say, however, that left to his own \
devices, Uhomoibhi will always act in U.S. interests. As the \
long process of inducing WIPO DG Idris to resign ran its \
course, Uhomoibhi accepted the U.S. proposal to create a \
"friends of the chair" group to bridge disagreements over how \
to act on an internal audit report documenting misconduct on \
the part of Idris. Once the "friends" group was created, \
however, Uhomoibhi initially acquiesced to an attempt to \
stack the deck against the good governance side by allowing \
representatives from groups such as the OIC, G-77 and other \
blocs on the "friends" group -- players sympathetic to \
Idris's efforts to remain in his job. However, when the U.S. \
countered by arguing that, in that case, other blocs \
irrelevant to the issue like JUSCANZ, the EU, etc. should \
also be represented among "friends of the chair," Uhomoibhi \
changed his position, deciding that only the coordinators of \
WIPO's seven regional groups would serve as "friends." \
\
\
Nigeria's Role in IOM/Swing Election Campaign \
--------------------------------------------- \
\
5. (C/NF) Nigeria, as well as most other African Group \
members, supported U.S. candidate Bill Swing in June 18 \
elections for Director General of the IOM. Uhomoibhi took \
the initiative to host a lunch for select African Group \
ambassadors with all four IOM DG candidates. Uhomoibhi told \
us he was hosting the lunch and promoting a separate meeting \
for Swing with the entire Africa Group to help bolster \
Swing's chances. In fact, we did not favor the lunch and it \
was soon clear that Uhomoibhi was acting also to demonstrate \
his own leadership among the Africans. While he did campaign \
among Africans for Swing -- who ultimately won -- the lesson \
we draw is that while Uhomoibhi can be likeminded in pursuit \
of shared enterprise, he remains independent and devoted to \
advancing his own agenda. \
\
Biographical Information \
------------------------ \
\
6. (C) Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi is married to Dr. \
Perpetua E. Uhomoibhi and has two children, a college-age \
daughter studying in Nigeria and a pre-teenage son who lives \
with the family in Geneva. Uhomoibhi reportedly speaks \
little French, a factor that we understand undermined support \
for him among Francophone African Group members. Colleagues \
at the Mission of the Holy See in Geneva confirm that \
Uhomoibhi is a practicing Roman Catholic who is close to \
their Mission. Through repeated conversations with \
Uhomoibhi, Ambassador Tichenor has learned that Uhomoibhi's \
faith is central to his work, and Ambassador Tichenor \
considers Uhomoibhi's faith the basis of his willingness to \
take principled positions. A UNOG press release dated 19 \
June 2008 on Ambassador Uhomoibhi's appointment as Council \
President follows: \
\
7. (U) Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi is currently serving as \
Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland and Permanent \
Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Dr. \
Uhomoibhi begins his one-year term as President of the Human \
Rights Council today. Prior to his appointment to Geneva, \
Dr. Uhomoibhi served as the acting Director of the Office of \
the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of \
Nigeria from 2004 to 2007. From July 2003 to January 2004, \
he was Deputy Director and Head of Division for Inter-African \
Affairs at the Ministry. In 2000, Dr. Uhomoibhi was \
appointed Minister and Deputy Head of Mission to the Nigerian \
Embassy in Addis Ababa, where he concurrently served as his \
country's representative to the African Union and to the \
Economic Commission for Africa until 2003. In 1999 he was \
appointed Consul General of Nigeria in Atlanta, with \
responsibility for United States-Nigeria relations in the 16 \
states of the south-eastern United States. Dr. Uhomoibhi has \
also been serving as the President of the General Assembly of \
the World Intellectual Property Organization since September \
2007. \
\
From 1995 to 1999, Dr. Uhomoibhi served as Special Assistant \
to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Prior to that, from \
1993 to 1995, he served as the coordinator and alternative \
representative of Nigeria to the Security Council in New \
York. Dr. Uhomoibhi started his diplomatic career in 1984, \
when he joined the Minister of Foreign Affairs as a Senior \
First Secretary. In his previous career, from 1977 to 1984, \
he was a lecturer in diplomatic and African history at the \
University of Ibadan in Nigeria. \
\
Dr. Uhomoibhi graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1976 \
with a bachelor's degree in history. He also holds a \
master's in history and political science from the University \
of Ibadan and a D.Phil from Oxford University in Modern \
History and International Relations. \
\
Born on 3 November 1954 in Nigeria, Dr. Uhomoibhi is married \
with children. \
TICHENOR \

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