Suspension Of Jean Ziegler's UN Nomination Urged
Human Rights Activists Urge Swiss to Suspend Tomorrow's UN Nomination of Khaddafi Ally Pending Independent Inquiry
Geneva, March 25, 2008 -- One day before the UN Human Rights Council votes to elect its 18 expert advisors, an activist for Darfur victims, a former political prisoner from Cuba, the former deputy prime minister of Sweden, and Canada's leading human rights advocate have joined to urge Swiss President Pascal Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey to suspend their nomination of Jean Ziegler, 1989 co-founder of the "Muammar Khaddadi Human Rights Prize," pending an independent and impartial inquiry into his record. (See full text of appeal below.)
Under the direction of Mrs. Calmy-Rey, who has close political ties with Ziegler, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has been engaged in an intense campaign of UN vote-trading in order to elect the former socialist politician from Geneva in tomorrow's vote. A glossy Swiss campaign brochure, sent to capitals around the world, describes Ziegler as a highly qualified champion of human rights.
However, Ziegler's qualifications for the UN human rights post are challenged by activists Angel De Fana, a former political prisoner who spent 20 years in a Cuban jail, Gibreil Hamid, who heads the Darfur Peace and Development Center and often testifies for Darfur victims before the UN Human Rights Council, former Swediish deputy prime minister Per Ahlmark, and McGill University law professor Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister who served as counsel to political prisoners Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov.
Supported by an international coalition of more than 20 non-governmental organizations, the activists point to Ziegler's long record of support for serial human rights violators including Libya's Khaddafi, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Ethiopian strongman Colonel Mengistu.
In 1962, Fidel Castro's police threw Angel De Fana in jail for being a member of a pro-democracy group named after José Martí, the Cuban writer and national hero. ''We had to hide to assemble,'' said De Fana, who languished in prison from 1962 to 1983, adding that he and fellow prisoners had to endure years of forced labor. "I was forced to cut stone in a quarry."
However, as UN expert on the right to food, Ziegler recently visited Cuba and hailed the Castro regime as a model government, and refused to meet with dissidents.
In the past five days, the Swiss president and foreign minister have also been flooded with hundreds of email appeals from around the world urging the suspension of the Ziegler nomination.
UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization, published a new video last week together with extensive documentation on Ziegler's questionable record, and urged NGO activists to take action through a campaign on its website.
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Appeal to Swiss President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey
Re: Jean Ziegler's Nomination to UN Human Rights Council
Dear President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey,
We urge you to withdraw your government's nomination of Jean Ziegler to the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the election for which is scheduled on March 26, 2008.
If elected, Mr. Ziegler would occupy one of the only three seats allotted to Western countries. The official criteria for the position are expertise in human rights, high moral standing, independence and impartiality. An analysis of Mr. Ziegler's record raises serious questions as to his satisfaction of these requirements. Concerns include:
• Mr. Ziegler's abuse of his current UN Mandate. As UN special rapporteur on the right to food for the past seven years, Mr. Ziegler ignored many of the world's most starving populations, instead focusing attention on his personal political agenda. As documented in the UN Watch report "Blind to Burundi," during 2000 to 2004, Mr. Ziegler systematically failed to speak out for numerous food emergencies, in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.
• Mr. Zieger's support for serial violators of human rights. In 1986, Mr. Ziegler served as advisor to Ethiopian dictator Colonel Mengistu on a constitution instituting one-party rule. In 2002 he praised the Zimbabwean dictator, saying, "Mugabe has history and morality with him." He paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Il-Sung in North Korea. Mr. Ziegler is also a long-time supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whose regime Mr. Ziegler hailed during an official visit in October, while he refused to meet Cuban dissidents. Also this year, during an interview in Lebanon, Mr. Ziegler said, "I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It is a national resistance movement. I can understand Hezbollah when they kidnap soldiers..."
• Mr. Ziegler's involvement with Libyan propaganda. In 1989, shortly after Libyan agents blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Mr. Ziegler went to Libya to co-found the "Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize," and served as its Geneva spokesman. The prize has since been awarded to anti-Western dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. It has also been awarded to notorious racists and anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad. Bizarrely, although he once boasted of it, Mr. Ziegler now denies any involvement with the prize. All of this was documented in a front-page story in your country's leading newspaper. (M. Haefliger, "Ziegler's Libyen Connection," Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June 25, 2006.)
• Mr. Ziegler's support for Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. In 1996, Mr. Ziegler publicly defended Roger Garaudy, a French Stalinist whose book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel denies the Holocaust. "All your work as a writer and philosopher," Mr. Ziegler wrote on April 1, 1996, "attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering honesty of your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of our time." In 2002, Mr. Garaudy was awarded the Khaddafi Prize--the same year that Mr. Ziegler received it as well.
Many of the world's leading authorities have objected to Mr. Ziegler's practices. In 2005, both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner Louise Arbour publicly denounced Mr. Ziegler for having compared Israeli soldiers to concentration camp guards. He is the only UN expert to have been so reprimanded. Seventy U.S. congressmen wrote to the UN, citing Mr. Ziegler for anti-Semitism, while the Canadian government filed an official protest.
In April 2006, an international coalition of 15 non-governmental organizations, including victims of Cuban and Libyan abuses, protested Mr. Ziegler's nomination as a UN expert, citing his disturbing record. Similarly, many scholars have questioned Mr. Ziegler's academic credentials. For example, when he was made professor at the University of Geneva, eminent historian Herbert Luthy returned his honorary doctorate in protest.
We note that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nominated Mr. Ziegler for the same post in 2004, but that he failed to win election.
In order to protect the credibility of the world's highest intergovernmental human rights body--with which Switzerland is heavily involved--we urge you to withdraw this nomination. At a minimum, it should be suspended pending the results of an independent and impartial inquiry into Mr. Ziegler's record.
Professor Irwin Cotler, M.P.
Human Rights Advocate
Member of Canadian Parliament & Opposition Critic on Human Rights
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General
President, Darfur Peace and Development Center
Former Peputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Angel De Fana
Director of political prisoners' organization
Plantados Hasta la Libertad y la Democracia
Additional Signatories: more than 20 non-governmental organizations: http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=130