Wednesday, September 27, 2006

UN Human Rights Council Debates Violations in Cuba, Somalia, Palestinian Territories

UN Human Rights Council Debates Violations in Cuba, Somalia, Palestinian

Geneva, Sept. 26, 2006 — Today the UN Human Rights Council meeting in
Geneva debated reports delivered by its human rights envoys for Somalia,
Cuba and the Palestinian territories. UN Watch, a Geneva-based
non-governmental organization that monitors the world body's human
rights activities, welcomed the reports and issued the following statement.

* Report on Cuba: UN Watch applauds Ms. Christine Chanet, the Council
expert on Cuba, for her persistent work under difficult circumstances,
given the Cuban government's refusal to allow her to visit the country
or to otherwise cooperate. We fully endorse her call on the Cuban
government to stop prosecuting citizens, and to free those already
imprisoned, for exercising their basic civil and political rights—such
as the 60 pro-democracy activists still sitting in jail from the
government's March 2003 crackdown. UN Watch also endorses Ms. Chanet's
calls for the Castro regime to end restrictions against non-governmental
organizations, to allow for dissenting views in trade unions, press, and
political parties, and to lift the travel ban that prevents Cubans from
leaving the island without permission.

UN Watch condemned the Cuban ambassador for resorting to personal
insults against Chanet. "We will send your report to the same place as
your previous reports, i.e., to the circular file," he said. "Among
your many occupations, Ms. Chanet, this is not one of your honorable
jobs. No one will remember your illegitimate mandate. There is a
significant contribution that you might make—by quitting." Referring to
the U.S., Cuba said "we struggle for survival as a nation against the
most powerful and aggressive empire in history, this fascist clique
trying to destroy us."

"That Fidel Castro's Cuba, one of the world's most repressive
regimes, is a member of the Human Rights Council is an outrage," said UN
Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. "Cuba uses its Council seat not
to promote human rights, but to shield itself and fellow dictatorships
from criticism. For months, council delegates have been subjected to
Castro-style political theater, with Havana's ambassador lambasting its
political enemies, such as the U.S. and the E.U., and standing in the
way of needed reforms. Cuba's refusal to cooperate with Ms. Chanet is
just another example of its obstructionist policy vis-à-vis the Council."

* Report on Somalia: The sobering report by Ghanim Alnajjar, the
Council's expert on Somalia, documented widespread, severe human rights
violations and a dire humanitarian situation in this unstable country,
which has long suffered from both civil strife and natural disasters.
The establishment of a transitional government in 2004 initially seemed
encouraging, but that government is now fighting an Islamist group that
controls much of the southern part of the country, including the
capital, Mogadishu. Recent reports indicate that neighboring states are
becoming involved. UN Watch agrees with Mr. Alnajjar that yet another
war will have a devastating effect on Somali civilians, and calls on the
international community, and in particular regional organizations like
the African Union and Arab League, to redouble their efforts to help
bring about a stable government and lasting peace for Somalia. The
recent murder of an Italian nun, who worked in a Mogadishu pediatrics
hospital, underscores the alarming situation of violence and anarchy.

* Report on Palestinian Territories: UN Watch welcomed a new effort by
John Dugard, the Council's expert on the Palestinian territories, to
expand his purview beyond Israeli violations only—which is his current
mandate as crafted by the Council's Arab and Moslem states. For the
first time, his report this year begins to redress this imbalance by
protesting executions by the Palestinian Authority. "The Special
Rapporteur's mandate," Dugard acknowledged, "does not extend to human
rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority. It would,
however, be irresponsible for a human rights special rapporteur to allow
the execution of Palestinian prisoners to go unnoticed. . . The Special
Rapporteur expresses the hope that these executions were aberrations and
that the Palestinian Authority will in future refrain from this form of
punishment." UN Watch encourages Mr. Dugard to further expand his
purview to include Palestinian violations against Israeli victims as well.

UN Watch agreed with the rapporteur that Israel's disengagement
from Gaza constituted "an important step in the direction of the
resolution of the conflict in the region," and called on both Israel and
the Palestinians to fully implement all their obligations under the Road
Map for Middle East Peace. Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director,
expressed concern that Mr. Dugard's report inappropriately gave voice to
his personal, political views by criticizing the UN for participating in
the Quartet, sponsor of the Road Map, for adopting "a strategy of
political appeasement." Today, at a seminar held at the Council, Dugard
said that "Holocaust guilt consumes Europe." According to Neuer, "some
of John Dugard's statements on Israel sound eerily close to those of
Iran's President Ahmadinenjad and are cause for concern."

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993
to monitor UN compliance with the
principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental
Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative
Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an
Associate NGO to the UN Department
of Public Information.

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