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UN censors 100 rights groups on Chinese abuses

GENEVA, September 5, 2019 — The UN in Geneva confirmed it is censoring a human rights complaint on China's mass incarceration of Uighurs that was filed by a cross-regional coalition of more than 100 UN-accredited non-governmental organizations from numerous countries including Brazil, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Germany, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States.

United Nations Watch, a Swiss non-governmental organization, filed the joint complaint on June 4th to be circulated as an official UN document, following the standard protocol outlined by the UN human rights council's guidelines on NGO written submissions.

The letter by 135 NGOs urges UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet to condemn China's escalating abuse of UN rules to censor, interrupt and block references at the world body to its detention of an estimated 1 million Muslim Uighurs.

The joint complaint references an incident in March, widely shared on social media, in which UN Watch director Hillel Neuer took the floor at the UN Human Rights Council to condemn China's abuses of Uighur Muslims. Neuer was interrupted three times by the Communist regime's delegates in an attempt to shut down his testimony.

As noted in the complaint, UNHRC President Coly Seck of Senegal urged Neuer to "stick to the agenda item" on racial discrimination, implying that China's abuses against Muslim Uighurs did not qualify. Later in the debate, however, Seck told China to “prevent disturbing the proceedings of the room the next time.”

When UN Watch submitted the joint complaint by 125 NGOs about the incident, the UNHRC secretariat—in a break from past practice—refused to publish it, together with four other submissions.

"In our 15 years of submitting written statements to the UN for publication, this is the first time I've experienced such blatant, heavy-handed and unapologetic censorship," said Neuer today.

"In 2005 and 2010, the UN asked us to make certain modest edits to written statements, such as replacing the word 'regime' with 'government', but we've never seen anything like this before."

"That the UN is now barring the entire publication of major NGO statements while refusing to tell us which word, sentence or even statement is allegedly in breach of a UN rule is simply Kafkaesque. By exercising arbitrary censorship, the UN is also in breach of our right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Also Censored: Complaint Over UN Handing Names of Dissidents to China

One of the other censored UN Watch submissions urged the UNHRC secretariat to stop its potentially life-threatening practice of providing China with names of human rights dissidents who are accredited to attend UN sessions. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Block, replying to queries filed by lawmakers, noted that the UN Ethics Office confirmed that a “list of names” of activists registered to attend sessions of the UN Human Rights Council was handed to Chinese authorities by OHCHR. Whistelblower Emma Reilly tried to stop this practice, and was stifled; her case before a UN tribunal has now been stopped after the UN chief removed the judge at the last minute.

UN Refuses to Specify Reasons for Censorship

On July 30th, after UN Watch had asked why its statements were not published, the UN refused to specify which statements or words it found objectionable, instead making only a general remark that submissions must be "relevant to the work of the Human Rights Council" and must not contain "personal attacks against individuals." The UN failed to specify where the complaint had allegedly violated any UN rule or regulation.

In reaction to this unprecedented censorship, UN Watch filed an appeal with the UN Secretary-General on August 8th, protesting the "alarming" UNHRC action, and noting its selectivity.

The appeal also noted that the HRC Secretariat's failure to specify specific objections to the submission "infringes on NGO rights and appears to be a form of censorship."

Yesterday, in a meeting with the President of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, his advisor confirmed that UN Watch's appeal to UN chief Guterres was rejected. Eric Tistounet, Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch at the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the UN has the right to "intervene" to prevent written submissions which include "personal attacks," and that in doing so the UN is "not censoring anybody." Listen here at 5:38-6:54.

UN Accepts Antisemitic Statements, But Not Criticism of China or UN Officials

Notably, the UN human rights office routinely accepts for publication all manner of statements—including inflammatory and even racist and antisemitic statements—submitted by more than 4,000 UN-accredited NGOs, which it circulates as official documents of Human Rights Council sessions.

UN Watch Reaction

UN Watch is alarmed at China's growing influence at the UN. Recently, 50 UN member states signed a letter praising China for its human rights record and backing its policies in Xinjiang, where 1 million Uighur Muslims are being detained in camps.

"It's bad enough that dictatorships like Iran and Venezuela endorse China's abuses," said UN Watch director Hillel Neuer. "But when the UN's own human rights office joins in by censoring speeches and statements about China, and when they put Chinese dissidents and their families at risk by handing over their names to the repressive regime, then we are in a very dangerous place."

"China's growing and pernicious influence at the UN is alarming, and it's time for democracies to push back to defend Chinese dissidents and victims, including Uighur Muslims, and to stand up for the right of civil society to speak out on their behalf."

Full text of Joint Complaint Censored by UN Human Rights Council Secretariat

China Violates Human Rights Council Rules in Attempt to Silence Legitimate Criticism of Its Anti-Muslim Racism

We, the undersigned coalition of more than 100 NGOs, urge Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet, Human Rights Council President Coly Seck, Member States and Civil Society to condemn China’s baseless attacks on Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of United Nations Watch, and to defend the right of all NGOs to speak out for human rights victims at Human Rights Council sessions.

On 19 March 2019, at the 40th Session of the UNHRC, under the Agenda Item 9 General Debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, Mr. Neuer took the floor to read an Oral Statement on behalf of Ingenieurs du Monde, a NGO with ECOSOC consultative status.

The speech criticized China for arbitrarily detaining 1 million Muslim Uighurs in extra-legal “re-education camps.”

Before Mr. Neuer could even finish this sentence, the Chinese delegation aggressively sought to shut down the speech, banging loudly and interrupting with three points of order on the spurious claim that a speech for 1 million Muslim victims was unrelated to the topic of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.

In response to the first interruption, Human Rights Council President Coly Seck stated that “we are considering Item 9 on the Agenda on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance,” and he then admonished Mr. Neuer “to stick to the agenda item.” Regrettably, this initial response by the UNHRC President implied an acceptance of China’s baseless objection and interruption, and sent the message that Mr. Neuer should stop speaking about the 1 million Muslim victims in China.

However, upon the next two interruptions, President Seck defended Mr. Neuer’s right to speak on China’s abuse of Uighur Muslims under Item 9. In the end, President Seck reprimanded China, stating: “I’d like to recall that under the agenda item we’re discussing, speakers can make reference to specific country situations. Please prevent disturbing the proceedings of the room the next time.”

Having failed on its Points of Order, China proceeded to rudely interrupt Mr. Neuer’s speech by loudly banging on the table. This violated Rule 113 of the Rules of Procedure, which allows delegations to make Points of Order, and to appeal a presidential ruling by calling for a vote, but not to harass and interrupt a legitimate statement by another delegate.

Indeed, there was no legal basis at all for China’s interruptions, as the speech in defense of an oppressed ethnic and religious minority in China was well within the scope of Item 9, which covers “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.”

The speech was also fully consistent with the UN Declaration on Racism (“any restriction on the complete self-fulfillment of human beings...which is based on racial or ethnic considerations is contrary to the principle of equality in dignity and rights...[and] cannot be admitted”); the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation”); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”). Moreover, it is noted that in this same debate on 19 March, as on all previous occasions under Item 9, other country and NGO speakers highlighted specific country situations.

Accordingly, the conduct of the Chinese delegation during that debate constituted an outrageous attempt to silence a legitimate statement for victims by a human rights activist at the United Nations and violated numerous UN rules and procedures regarding the long-established right of NGOs to participate in Council sessions, the origin of which was established under Article 71 of the UN Charter.

Furthermore, the right of NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status to participate in Council sessions, including through oral presentations, is expressly recognized under GA Resolution 60/251, the Council’s founding document (paragraph 11); HRC Resolution 5/1 on Institution Building (paragraph 3); and ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 on NGO participation (Paragraphs 27-32). This right is affirmed by the Council on its website and in its Practical Guide for NGO Participants, both of which clearly state that such NGOs may “make oral interventions” and “participate in debates, interactive dialogues, panel discussions and informal meetings,” among other things. In this case, Ingenieurs du Monde followed all of the relevant HRC procedures to register for a speaking slot for the Item 9 debate, and to accredit Mr. Neuer to deliver the relevant statement. We remind all stakeholders that it is a long-established practice that a NGO may accredit the representative of another NGO to read a statement on their behalf. This is an essential right for NGOs who may be unable to attend a given session in Geneva, due to a lack of material means or because of physical disabilities. To undermine this long-established right would amount to a form of discrimination and a gross infringement of the basic rights of NGOs.

In addition to violating the above rules, China’s attempt to silence Mr. Neuer also constituted a brazen violation of the right of all NGO representatives to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We remind all stakeholders that NGOs are essential to the work of the Council.

Accordingly, we call on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet, Human Rights Council President Coly Seck, Member States and Civil Society to vigorously defend the rights of NGOs to speak out at the United Nations, and in particular at the Human Rights Council, on behalf of human rights victims worldwide, and to immediately reject and condemn any attempt by a UN member state, including China in this case, to interrupt and censor such legitimate NGO statements, or to engage in any form of wrongful pressure or intimidation against any NGO or their representatives.


Hillel C. Neuer, Executive Director, United Nations Watch, Switzerland
Souad Talsi MBE, Founder, Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Project, United Kingdom
Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, Rene Cassin, United Kingdom
Valle Thierry, Président, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, France
Marie-Anne Delahaut, President-CEO, Millennia 2025 Women & Innovation Foundation, Belgium
Jean Paul Laurent, Founder-CEO, Unspoken Smiles Foundation, France
Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Canada
Temour Shah, Program Coordinator, Rural Community Development Program, Pakistan
Mariam Ina Koita, Vice President, Inter-Action Globale, Mali
Charles Phillips, Executive Director, Service For Peace, Inc., United States
Erold Elcius, Président, Organisation Conseillère pour le Développement Économique et Social de la Commune des Gonaïves, Haiti
Jenifer White, Founder, Project 1948 Foundation, United States
Ashot Ayrapetyan, Director, Center for Interethnic Cooperation, United States
Kenneth Amoateng, Executive Director, Abibimman Foundation, United States
Tall Lacina, Président, Comité/Club Unesco Universitaire pour la Lutte Contre la Drogue et autres pandémies (CLUCOD), Côte D’Ivoire
Margaret Mayce, Main Representative, Dominican Leadership Conference, United States
Karim D. Philips, President, Young Heart Foundation, Ghana
Kwegueng Emile, Secrétaire Exécutif, Build Africa, Cameroon
Ramakrishnan Nagarajan, Executive Director, Ideosync Media Combine, India
François Simon Pierre Ngan Tonye, CEO, Association des Ressortissants et Amis D’Eseka, Cameroon
Lukman Adefolahan, Lead Coordinator, 21st Century Community Empowerment for Youth and Women Initiative, Nigeria
Aisha Ahmed, Chairperson, Murna Foundation, Nigeria
Mange Ram Adhana, President, Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India
Rose Ngalula, Co-Founder, Action Communautaire Femme et Enfant, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Padonou Sourou Fabrice, Président, Mouvement des Jeunes pour le Réveil et le Développement (MJRD), Bénin
Damien Noma, Executive Director, Association Respect Cameroun, Cameroon
Dr. Dominic Dixon, Executive Director, More Trust, India
Teh Francis, Director, Goodness and Mercy Missions Common Initiative Group, Cameroon
Vera Da Ros, President, Brazilian Harm Reduction and Human Rights Network – REDUC, Brazil
Pierrette J. Cazeau, President & Founder, Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation Inc., United States
Rashid Anyetei Odoi, Executive Director, Free World Foundation (FWF), Ghana
Marcel Saturnin Kouna, Président National, Association nationale de promotion et de protection des droits de l’homme, Cameroon
Thierno Hamidou Balde, Executive Director, Zero Pauvre Afrique, Guinea
Victor Amisi, Executive Director, Vision GRAM-International, Canada
Dosse Sossouga, Executive Director, Amis des Étrangers au Togo (A.D.E.T), Togo
Francis N. Nchu, Director, Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance – Cameroon, Cameroon
Michael Enahoro, Executive Director, Excellent World Foundation LTD/GTE, Cameroon
Roger Lokapatchu, Directeur Général, Association locale pour le développement intégral, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Datuk Agung Sidayu, Chairman, Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia, Indonesia
Darren Harper, President, Maawandoon Inc., Canada
Mohamed Hassan, CEO, Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO), Ethiopia
Sylvanus Murray, President, Advocacy Initiative for Development (AID), United States
Alan Owen, Chairman, British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, United Kingdom
Samir Kumar Das, Advocate & Chairman, International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development (IMAECSED), India
Sandeep Ahuja, CEO, Operation ASHA, India
Patrick Spencer, Executive Director, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, United States
Iba Sarr, Directeur des Programmes, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Senegal
Sudaba Shiraliyeva, Director, “Women and Modern World” Social Charitable Centre, Azerbaijan
Dr. Alan Goldsmith, President, The Jewish Renaissance Foundation, United States
Banding Gassama, Président, Cause Première, Senegal
Anne Trehern, Secrétaire Générale, United Villages (Villages Unis), Switzerland
Botnaru Petru, Director, Terra-1530, Moldova
Hermann Koffi Kouame, Président, Change Human’s Life, Côte D’Ivoire
Prof. Rajendra Pratap Gupta, President, Disease Management Association of India, India
Getro Mathieu, Executive Director, Action Secours Ambulance (ASA), Haiti
Lucica Humenuc, President, SIRDO – Romanian Independent Society of Human Rights, Romania
Omonade Kejekpo, Executive Director, Poverty Alleviation for the Poor Initiative, Nigeria
Eskinder Kebede, Managing Director, Ethiopia Change and Development Association, Ethiopia
Robert Kibaya, Executive Director, Kikandwa Rural Communities Development Organization (KIRUCODO), Uganda
Godwin Osung, Founder, Godwin Osung International Foundation, Inc. (African Project), Nigeria
Ahmed Pathan, President & CEO, Green Planet, India
McShimana Jacobs Akem, Project Director, I.D.S-Intercommunity Development Social Organisation, Nigeria
Churchill Butalia, Coordinator, Alliance for Development and Population Services (ADEPS), Kenya
Descartes Mponge Malasi, Executive Director, ACADHOSHA (Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l’homme à Shabunda), Democratic Republic of the Congo
Fongoh Eric, General Coordinator, ICENECDEV-International Centre for Environmental Education and Community Development, Cameroon
Moussa Gawi, Président, Association Mauritanienne Pour la Promotion des Droits de L’homme AMPDH, Mauritania
Anand Karunakaran, Founder, Child Care Consortium, India
Lufuluabo Kabambi Thierry, Président, African Development Assistance Consult, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mamadou Sarr, Secrétaire Exécutif, Association Nationale des Partenaires Migrants, Senegal
Tohfa Eminova, President, Azerbaijani American Cultural Association in Florida, United States
Ataurrahman Khan, Executive President, National Women’s Welfare Society Darwha, India
Mbuh Raphael Mbuh, President, FI.MO.AT.C.I.G, Cameroon
Prince Charles Sackeyfio, President, Emperor Gaza International Foundation, Ghana
Rana Abdul Sattar, CEO & President, World Welfare Association, Pakistan
Obuesi Phillips, Global Director, Community Agenda for Peace, Nigeria
Teresa Kotturan, Main NGO Representative, Sisters of Charity Federation, United States
Romuald Djivoessoun, Directeur Exécutif, Autre Vie, Benin
Tijani Abdlumumin, Senior Youth Coordinator, Asabe Shehu Yar Adua Foundation, United States
Hazel Dukes, Links NGO Representative, The Links Inc., United States
Yves Laurin, President, French Committee for South Africa (Comité Français Pour l’Afrique du Sud), France
Shola Mese, Founder, Shola Mese Foundation, Nigeria
Spanana Ole Meitiaki, Program Coordinator, Ilngwesi Afya Program, Kenya
Emil Kambala, Secretary, Fondation Nehemie, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Braema Mathi, President, Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore
Sheldon Clare, President, Canada’s National Firearms Association, Canada
Germaine Tuamba, CEO, Centre d’Accompagnement des Filles Désoeuvrées, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Muzaffer Baca, Vice President, International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation, Turkey
Bikash Rautray, Secretary, Association for Rural Area Social Modification, Improvement and Nestling (ARASMIN), India
Taz Mukorombindo, CEO, Canterbury & New Zealand Business Association Inc., New Zealand
Mohammad Safi Ul Alam, Founder & CEO, Youth Foundation of Bangladesh, Bangladesh
Lakshmikanta Singh, Executive Director, Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO), Bangladesh
Amjad Khan, President, Ekta Welfare Society, India
Mohammed Masood Mohiuddin, Chairman, AIM Education & Research Society, India
Moussa Mahamadou, Coordinator, Association pour la Lutte contre le Travail des Enfants au Niger (ALTEN), Niger
Salim Khan, General Secretary, Social Development and Management Society, India
Télesphore Balonga, Président, Centre d’Accueil et de Volontariat pour Orphelins Abandonnés et Handicapés du Cameroun, Cameroon
Gugulethu Resha, Intern – Youth Programs & Capacity Building, South African Institute of International Affairs, South Africa
Alain Ilunga wa Ilunga, Président, Bureau Pour la Croissance Intégrale et la Dignité de L’enfant, Democratic Republic of Congo
Gertrude Kenyangi, Executive Director, Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN), Uganda
Abdoullah Bazyar, President, Internationale Gemeinschaft für die Unterstützung von Kriegsopfern e.V., Germany
Altin Hazizaj, Director, Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, Albania
Souvi Sidi Batt, Président, L’observatoire Maurtanien des Droits de l’homme et de la Démocratie, Mauritania
Rachel Nisbet, Communications, International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance, Switzerland
Imtiaz Ahmed, Chief Executive, DESSI International, Pakistan
Henry Appiah, International Coordinator, City 2000 Youth Action International, Ghana
Philippe Nanga, Coordinateur, Association Un Monde Avenir, Cameroon
David Borden, Executive Director, DRCNet Foundation, United States
Nick Kent, National Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy – Australia, Australia
Paul Usi Elomien, Executive Director, Community Social Welfare Foundation, Nigeria
Emmanuel Sevidzem, Managing Director, Technical Centre for Fine Art and Computer Studies CIG Group (TechCeFaCos), Cameroon
Abul Lkair, President, Mankind Welfare Organization, Pakistan
Babatope Babalobi, Executive Director, Bread of Life Development Foundation, Nigeria
Awoussi Koura-Napo, Présidente, Association Togolaise Femmes et Sida, Togo
Davy Koller, President, Österreichische Lebens – Rettungs – Gesellschaft Bundesverband Österreich (OLRG), Austria
Nathaniel Odudele, President, African Heritage Foundation Nigeria, Nigeria
Abayomi Olatunji, Executive Director, Entrepreneurship Development and Support Initiative, Nigeria
Moka Gabriel, President, Kalipa Foundation for Development, Democratic Republic of Congo
Mashario Sakata, Chairperson of the Board, Japan Asia Cultural Exchanges (JACE), United States
Kofi Kankam, President & CEO, Elizka Relief Foundation, Ghana
Hilaire Bell, Présidente, Cercle de Recherche sur les Droits et les Devoirs de la Personne Humaine (CRED), Switzerland
Sylvia Briggs, CEO, Women Educators Association of Nigeria, Nigeria
Cheikh Mohamed Vadhel Cheikh, Coordinator, Association Mauritanienne pour la Transparence et le Développement (ATED), Mauritania
Dr. George-Hill Anthony, CEO, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group, Nigeria
Yvonne Singleton Davis, Founder, Sister to Sister One in the Spirit, Inc., United States
Jay Sorensen, President, Kids First Fund, United States
Phillip Phinn, President General, Word of Life Christian Fellowship, Jamaica
Ann Fordham, Executive Director, International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), United Kingdom
Dopé Adjoko Benedicta Koudadje-Assagba, Directrice Exécutive, Credo Action, Togo
Neil Belanger, Executive Director, BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, Canada
Didier Kiyanga Mundonda, President, Coup de Pouce, Democratic Republic of Congo
Ibrahim Salih, Director, Local Action Organization, Sudan
David Younus, Chairman, All Christians Welfare Association, Pakistan
John Lupoli, Archbishop, World Council of Independent Christian Churches, United States
Tiffany Taylor, President, Sociologists for Women in Society, United States
Nicholas Kunga, Director, Volunteers For Africa, Kenya
Rami Harajli, Managing Director, Medrar Foundation, Lebanon

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