Comments: David G. Littman, representative of Association for World Education (AWE) and World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) to the UN in Geneva:
A month ago, I provided a long description of my incredible experiences at the UN Human Rights Council, warning that “readers may neither have the time nor the stamina to imbibe all this lengthy documentation, but it may serve some use today…” I hope it does; find it here.
The next day, I sent off another letter to The High Commissioner for Human Rights, which I shall not reproduce this time. No reply was received other than by someone on her behalf, but it did not reply in any way whatsoever to the valid points I had made concerning the grave injustice that had been done to me at the “Castle” des Nations on 24 April during Durban II.
I took the legal advice of a lawyer friend, Daniel Lack, Representative of the Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, who was kind enough to draft for me a letter barely a week before he died from a stroke, unexpectedly. This letter was sent to the High Commissioner on 2 June and concluded thus:“(…) I shall accordingly be resuming my attendance at UN meetings, based on my existing credentials, in the exercise of which I shall expect to receive no let or hindrance in the exercise of my functions as a duly accredited representative for two NGOs (for fifteen and ten years respectively), and in the scrupulous respect of the duties and responsibilities incumbent on me in that capacity – entitling me to the enjoyment of the rights and privileges of NGO representatives in accordance with the applicable regulations and rules of procedure.
Accordingly, I do indeed express the hope and expectation for my part on this understanding that we can look forward to fruitful cooperation. In any case, the month's suspension is over next week, and I will let it be "water over the dam" as there are crucial issues which challenge us all.”
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When I turned up at the “Alliance of Civilizations” room on 8 June, I was informed of the new Kafkaesque ‘rules’ by a security guard. NGOs are expected to stay on the left side of the hall and not move from there unless they have to deliver a statement (this turned out to be false and was simply excessive zeal by the guard, aimed at me – until I challenged this ‘ruling’ and he was corrected), but it was made clear that NGOs can no longer speak to representatives of State delegations as in the past. Now, one must wait for the end of the session to say hello.
There was one positive gesture from the Council podium. On requesting the possibility to pay homage to Daniel Lack, an old friend and probably one of the most veteran NGOs in Geneva from the 1970s, this was granted with a supplement of 15 seconds to our allocated time of 2 minutes (reduced from 3). Our text below relates to Slavery in the Sudan and the obfuscation of the Arab-Muslim slaves trades.
In order to pay a more solid homage to Daniel Lack, a very outspoken NGO, I have reproduced below his very forceful written statement submitted to the 6th special session on Gaza in January 2008.
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ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD EDUCATION
WORLD UNION FOR PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM
Joint Statement by David G. Littman – Tuesday (10:15am) 9 June 2009
Human Rights Council – 11th session (2-19 June)
President: Nigerian Ambassador and Permanent Representative Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi
Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council:
Slavery in the Sudan
[Small type passages in square brackets were not pronounced – as time reduced to 2 minutes]
Thank you, Mr. President. Before reading our joint statement under item 4, we wish to pay homage – personally and for many NGOs – to Daniel Lack, one of our most veteran human rights defenders in Geneva and a distinguished lawyer, who passed away suddenly two days ago. May his memory be cherished.
Sir, according to a leading member of the Government of Sudan’s Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children, James Aguir Alic, between 35,000 and 200,000 Southern Sudanese slaves remain in bondage in Northern Sudan. Many of the slaves are Christians or followers of traditional Dinka beliefs, being held in Southern Darfur and neighbouring Kordofan. Most of the Sudanese slaves were captured as booty in the context of a Jihad war declared by Sudan’s President Umar al-Bashir.
Liberated slaves report being subjected to beatings, death threats, female genital mutilations and rape – among other ordeals. Moreover, reports from the UN Secretary General’s International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur [January 2005] and from the Darfur Consortium [December 2008] confirm that slavery is being used as a weapon of war against Africans in Darfur.
Sir, the former prime minister of Sudan, Sadiq al-Mahdi, imam of the Ansar movement, explained this Jihad War context 10 years ago in a letter of 24 March 1999, addressed to High Commissioner Mary Robinson and widely circulated at the Commission. Here are his exact words [under Section III: War Crimes]:
[“The traditional concept of JIHAD ... is based upon a division of the world into two zones: one the zone of Peace, the other the zone of War. It requires initiating hostilities for religious purposes.]
It is true that the [NIF] regime has not enacted a law to realize slavery in Sudan. But the traditional concept of JIHAD does allow slavery as a by-product [of jihad].”
[The continued presence of chattel slavery in Sudan is clearly in contravention of both Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 8 of the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights, which states that “No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited”. We are extremely concerned that despite its ratification of the Covenant, and its signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the Sudanese government has been totally ineffective in reducing the vast number of its people consigned to a life of slavery. Furthermore, we are alarmed at the lack of attention paid by the Human Rights Council to this problem. Despite mention in the final outcome document of the Durban Review Conference of the historical trans-Atlantic slave trade and current human trafficking, the document completely ignored the existence of hundreds of thousands of modern-day chattel slaves.]
We pointed out in our oral DRC statement on 24 April that article 62 refers to the ‘slave trade’ in the singular and not in the plural. Why omit the mass slavery for centuries of non-Muslims in the Middle East [documented extensively in Arab, Syriac, Greek and Armenian, Turkish and Indian texts], and the equally infamous Arab Slave Trade in Africa for over a millennium that continues today in some countries, particularly in Sudan. Why refer only to the European transatlantic slave trade?
We urge the Council and the international community to insist that the government of Sudan honour its obligation to eliminate slavery and the slave trade on its territory, to improve its legislation and enforcement where necessary, and to improve measures on the ground to release the enslaved, and bring the slave traders to justice. With others, we wish to highlight the need not only to release all slaves but also to reintegrate them into society and to provide socio-psychological care and education so that they may be fully restored to their rightful status in the community.
Thank you, Mr. President
1. Reuters, Skye Wheeler, “Misseriya and Dinka Grapple with History of Child Abduction, Aweil, November 14, 2008; BBC News, Joseph Winter, “No Return for Sudan’s Forgotten Slaves”, March 16, 2007.
Homage to Daniel Lack, distinguished lawyer and a human rights defender:
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One of his forceful written statements below
“6th Special session of the Human Rights Council on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent ones in occupied Gaza and West Bank town of Nablus, Geneva, 23-24 January 2008”
22 January 2008
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Sixth special session
Written statement* submitted by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[22 January 2008]
* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).
The call for a special session of the Human Rights Council by Syria and Pakistan in the name of the Arab and Islamic states member of the Human Rights Council is a shameful act of blatant hypocrisy which is a total misrepresentation of the incontestable facts on the ground.
The draft resolution which has been circulated in support is a travesty of the truth which nonetheless has the support of certain members of the Council who for reasons that are incomprehensible and make a mockery of every democratic principle, will surely cause irremediable harm to this Council’s standing if this text were to be adopted.
The alleged grave breaches of human rights to which this draft resolution refers as so-called incessant military attacks, are legitimate acts in the exercise of the inherent right of self-defence which Israel is under a duty to exercise in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, as a primary obligation to its citizens against repeated indiscriminate attacks against Israel’s civilian population which are deliberately directed by terrorist groups acting in the Gaza Strip with the enthusiastic support of the Hamas terrorist militia.
These deliberate and unprovoked indiscriminate terrorist attacks against Israel’s civilian population from the Gaza Strip have continued unabated over the last seven years, concerning which there has been no adverse comment, still less any condemnation by the UN Commission on Human Rights and certainly not by the Human Rights Council, notwithstanding Israel’s withdrawal from this area including the evacuation of 9,00 civilians from this area in 2005, in the forlorn hope that it would be a significant contribution to peace and to a two-state solution.
Contrary to the deliberate targeting of the civilian population in the area of Sderot and other population centres near the Israel border, comprising no less than 30,000 Israeli citizens, the Israeli urgent security measures have been conducted in the Gaza areas with demonstrated precision against exclusively terrorist groups clearly identified as such, frequently caught in the act of indiscriminate firing of Quassam rockets and mortars into these civilian concentrations.
In the four day period from January 15 to January 18, over 220 Quassam rockets and mortars have been directed against these civilian areas, well within Israel’s uncontested frontiers, respect for the inviolability of which is entirely absent on the part of the Hamas militias and their fellow terrorist groups, who openly and repeatedly proclaim before the whole world their avowed intent to cause death and destruction amongst Israel’s population. So far in the unexpired month of January alone, Palestinian terrorist groups have fired 450 Quassam short range rockets and mortars, the greatest number of such rockets to have struck Israel in a complete one month period.
Yet mention of all these incontrovertible facts are entirely absent from the draft resolution which its promoters and supporters would have the Human Rights Council
The genocidal intent of these groups is more than apparent, less than a week before the civilised world under UN auspices will be commemorating the 61st anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz death camp marking the Holocaust, whose example Hamas and its supporters with the aid of the Iranian regime would enthusiastically emulate
according to their repeatedly published statements.
The alleged humanitarian crisis falsely attributed to Israel’s reduction of electrical current to the Gaza Strip supposedly causing the closure of Gaza’s only power plant
is a further cynical falsehood claiming that Israel’s decision to reduce fuel supplies was to blame, when the Hamas leaders cynically shut down the power plant providing 20 percent of the Gaza Strip’s total electricity supply while ensuring that workshops constructing these missiles would not be affected.
This is the greatest challenge to which the Human Rights Council will be obliged to respond since the cynical Hezbollah act of aggression at the Lebanese border with Israel in June 2006, the far reaching negative consequences of which this body’s utter failure to confront , have still to be assessed.
The adoption of such a grotesquely false and unacceptable draft resolution cannot fail to undermine the essential human rights values which the Human Rights Council must imperatively protect by overwhelmingly rejecting this tissue of misrepresentations and falsehoods.
Failure to do so will constitute a major setback for the cause of human rights and the credibility of this body.