Suspension Of Jean Ziegler's UN Nomination Urged
Suspension Of Jean Ziegler's UN Nomination Urged
Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 12:14 pm
Press Release: UN Watch
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.)
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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
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.
* * * * * * *
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
• 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 cred
ibility 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: