The United Nations Human Rights Council, often considered the ‘Conscience of Humanity’, is unfortunately being hijacked and misused by representatives of undemocratic countries. They often appear more interested in protecting their governments from criticism than advancing the cause of human rights, condemning Israel more frequently than all 57 members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) (56 states plus “Palestine”) combined. At the Vienna Forum on May 9, 2010, NGO Representative David G. Littman gave examples on the misuse of what could have been a worthy institution.
(Video courtesy Henrik at Europe News.)
Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative at the UN in Geneva:
Association for World Education and World Union for Progressive Judaism
The Vienna Forum Conference took place at the Neuwaldegg Castle just outside Vienna on 6-9 May 2010. Co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute, the Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe (EICEE) and the Kairos Journal, there were more than 40 panellists, including academics and distinguished experts from various countries of Europe and the United States. The subject: ‘The Future of Europe and the Question of Islam’; I was conveniently placed as the last speaker on the last panel; my theme: ‘Islam at the UN Human Rights Council’. Although everything was filmed and recorded by the organizers, we are indebted to EuropeNews for having filmed and recorded everything independently and to the organizers in giving their prior approval for those videos and the presentations to be posted on various websites – mine is below virtually verbatim. The passages in square brackets were not pronounced in the 20 minutes allowed, but were in my prepared text and have been left as is my UN habit since 1986.
My intention was to read the conclusion to Churchill’s brief historic House of Commons speech on 13 May 1940 – ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ – pronounced almost exactly 70 years ago, but time did not allow me. He was received in Parliament two days after becoming Prime Minister with almost total silence by the Conservatives, in contrast to Neville Chamberlain, who was even cheered in the House of Lords. I have left Churchill’s words below, for they are certainly worth meditating today by those who can see and hear the Gathering Storm on the horizon.
By an extraordinary coincidence, Libya and Switzerland were accepted as members of the 47-State Human Rights Council on the 13th May 2010, exactly 70 years after Churchill’s speech. It is more than likely that Libya will be welcomed back – in 2003 Libya held the Chair – with enthusiasm by the OIC, Arab League, African Union and the NAM (Non-aligned Movement), as a form of Appeasement after the ‘Hannibal Affair‘ ; whereas Switzerland more grudgingly by most groups as a result of its popular vote against construction of minarets (November 2009), and being criticized in the customary “Defamation of Religions” resolution in March 2010.
Full transcript of the speech:
Note: The passages in square brackets  were not pronounced in the 20 minutes period allowed (finally 22 minutes) but were in my prepared text & have been left, as is my habit at the UN in Geneva.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be back in Vienna to address you and I wish to thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity to be the last speaker [on a crucial subject, ‘Islam at the UN Human Rights Council’.] As it is writ in sacred texts: “The first shall be last and the last first.” The World Conference on Human Rights was adopted here in 1993 as the VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION – referred to as the DPA; it recognised and affirmed:
that all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person, and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consequently should be the principal beneficiary and should participate actively in the realization of these rights and freedoms.
Article 1 states :
The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the solemn commitment of all States to fulfill their obligations to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, other instruments relating to human rights, and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.
[In this framework, enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights is essential for the full achievement of the purposes of the United Nations. Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.]
In its penultimate paragraph the [27-page Declaration & Programme of Action] DPA concludes with a Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights and “further recommends that the Commission on Human Rights annually review the progress towards this end.” Yes, you heard me correctly – “the Commission on Human Rights.”
[The DPA inspired me to plead successfully here in 1996 – with Archduke Felix Habsburg and his lawyer at a widely covered press conference – and later in the Hofburg for Archdukes Karl and Felix to be allowed to use their Austrian passports for travel to Austria, until then forbidden to both of them.]
[99 – The World Conference on Human Rights on Human Rights recommends that the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and other organs and agencies of the United Nations system related to human rights consider ways and means for the full implementation, without delay, of the recommendations contained in the present Declaration, including the possibility of proclaiming a United Nations decade for human rights. The World Conference on Human Rights further recommends that the Commission on Human Rights annually review the progress towards this end.
100 – The World Conference on Human Rights requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to invite on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all States all organs and agencies of the United Nations system related to human rights, to report to him on the progress made in the implementation of the present Declaration and to submit a report to the General Assembly at its fifty-third session, through the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council.
Likewise, regional and, as appropriate, national human rights institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, may present their views to the Secretary-General on the progress made in the implementation of the present Declaration. Special attention should be paid to assessing the progress towards the goal of universal ratification of international human rights treaties and protocols adopted within the framework of the United Nations system.]
In articles published in 1994 on slavery in Sudan; threats against the Special Rapporteur Gaspar Biro; and since 1997 on: “Blasphemy at the United Nations”; “Universal Human Rights and ‘Human Rights in Islam'”; “Islamism Grows Stronger at the United Nations; Stealth Jihad at the UN; and many other texts, we have illustrated how a systematic effort has been made at the United Nations by certain member States to replace some of the dominant paradigms of international relations – now referred to as “complementary standards” by OIC countries [the Organization of the Islamic Conference] and the UN in a diplomatic language.
Already in September 1992, six months before the Vienna Conference, the Final Declaration of the Conference of the 108 Non-Aligned Countries held at Djarkarta, Indonesia, stressed “differences in cultures” and implied that differences in the interpretation of human rights should be recognized. This soon became the “cultural relativism” ploy which we have warned against systematically since then.
[Yes, religions and traditional societies deserve respect, without however losing sight of the goals laid down in the International Bill of Human Rights; but any reinterpretation of human rights beyond the existing framework of international norms – that is, the various forms of “cultural relativism” – quickly leads to grave human rights abuses by dictatorial regimes, whose countries are signatories to the International Bill of Rights and to the other International Human Rights Instruments.]
At the recent 13th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 March, speaking jointly for the Association for World Education and the World Union for Progressive Judaism in the context of the Vienna DPA, we paid homage to SÃ©rgio Vieira de Mello, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights who was tragically slaughtered, with 20 other members of his staff, in the Baghdad Canal Hotel Bombing of 19 August 2003, after the UN refused allied military protection – in order not to imply any UN links. He was there as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.
In his last report on the ‘Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights’, he pertinently stated the hopeless mess into which the Commission had fallen; it was this report that led to an attempt to improve the structure and mechanisms on Human Rights and finally to the creation of the Human Rights Council. [E/CN.4/2003/14]
[I personally remember how shocked he was on taking up his new job in autumn 2002 when he realised the level to which the Commission had sunk & then tried desperately to fix it rapidly. In a joking manner, I reminded him, before he left for Baghdad, of the words of Shakespeare in the mouth of John of Gaunt: “Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short; He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes.” (King Richard II, Act II: i, 35-36). He liked it, but three months later he was killed by a jihadist bomber.]
We shall quote his courageous words seven years later – as we did at the Commission soon after his death, and recently again – for they were a harbinger of the gathering, stealth storm that resulted in a decision to replace the discredited Commission with what was intended to be a responsible body – the Human Rights Council:
Membership of the Commission on Human Rights must carry responsibilities. I therefore wonder whether the time has not come for the Commission itself to develop a code of guidelines for access to membership of the Commission and a code of conduct for members while they serve on the Commission. After all, the Commission on Human Rights has a duty to humanity and the members of the Commission must themselves set the example of adherence to the international human rights norms – in practice as well as in law.” [Point 5 – see also Â§4]
His conclusion then is still meaningful today when we consider the disastrous follow-ups to the Vienna Declaration and the two World Conferences on Racism in 2001, known as Durban I and what is often called Durban II (last year in Geneva), despite what is propagated worldwide by Durban idolaters and the current catastrophic Human Rights Council. Here are de Mello’s words:
Without universal respect for human rights, the vision of the Charter of a world of peace grounded in respect for human rights and economic and social justice will remain an illusion. Let us vindicate the Charter’s vision by being faithful to the universal implementation of human rights. In doing so we shall continue in the direction of history, rather than allowing ourselves to be diverted from the course we know to be just.” [Â§ 55]
A year later in 2004, when introducing recommendations for a new Human Rights Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared that the Commission had been undermined by allowing participation of countries whose purpose was “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.” His chief of staff then, Mark Malloch Brown, put it more bluntly: “For the great global public, the performance or non-performance of the Human Rights Commission has become the litmus test of UN renewal.” Little has changed since – in reality it is worse – except that the great expectations have been dissipated by a gloomy despair, and worse is to come for those who do not have eyes to see and ears to hear.
As a veteran NGO human rights defender since 1986 at the United Nations in Geneva, I have watched – what is grandly called ‘the international community’ – at the Palais des Nations, which I sometimes call, in remembrance of Ludwig II [of Bavaria], the Palais Schwanstein:
descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
This timeless description by Churchill of Britain’s situation at a crucial moment on the 24th March 1938 in the House of Commons, during the period of grotesque Appeasement, gives a vivid image of the general climate nowadays at the UN Human Rights Council.
The problem is that everyone knows, but no one wants to recognise the fact that the Emperor strutting in his Palace des Nations, announcing royally: ‘L’Etat c’est moi’ [I am the State]- or rather ‘Les droits de l’Homme, c’est nous’ [Human Rights is us] – is stark naked.
Three months ago, we gave a longer presentation in the European Parliament in Brussels [at a Conference organized by the European Coalition for Israel: “How can the EU promote ‘Universal Values’ in the world community at large?”]. That text contains much documentation; it is available here for some background information.
You may also be interested in a recent piece that was posted on Jihad Watch in regard to ‘violence against women’, and further comments on FGM [Female Genital Mutilation], an origo mali (origin of evil) Council event, when we were again stopped on this subject, as reported at JihadWatch.
A classic example of this ‘Game of Nations’ Council, where the OIC constantly tries to rule the roost is also available on Robert Spencer’s Jihad-Watch with a vivid, unbelievable UN video: called ‘Shariah-gate Shipwreck’ where Egypt’s delegate, with an Adolf-like moustache (there’s an Association for such moustaches in Egypt), and waving my statement over his head, which he shouldn’t have been given, declared: “Islam will not be crucified at this Council.” Since then the word ‘Sharia’ is a taboo word at the Human Rights Council – this shows its absurdity when a three minute statement took 1Â½ hours, with endless points of order from Egypt, Pakistan, Iran (JihadWatch).
On that occasion, I condemned FGM, ‘honor killing’ and the stoning of women for alleged adultery that still occurs regularly in Iran, Sudan and other countries – pointing out that in Iran, they are buried up to their waists in pits and blunt stones are used for women, thereby increasing their agony in death – and that the marriage-age for girls remains at 9 years old, since the 1979 Islamic revolution reduced it by half of the 18 years in the days of the last Shah.
What is amusing is the crassness to which the ‘usual suspects’ are willing to go at the Council. Here are the words of the Iranian delegate, speaking on a ‘point of order’ – in fact, it was not a point of order, it was ‘a reply’ and he was politely reprimanded by the Romanian president.
Mr. President, the statement and the references made by this speaker in this statement is false and has nothing to do with the realities in my country. I just wanted, for the record… he said that “the stoning of women for alleged adultery still occurs regularly in Iran.” It’s not true it is completely false and is out of the question. Thank you.
Yet it not only does happen, but it is covered in the Iranian Penal Code states under Article 102: “The stoning of an adulterer or adulteress shall be carried out while each is placed in a hole and covered with soil, he up to his waist and she up to a line above her breasts.” Article 104 provides rules (…) ” the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could be defined as stones.”.
Courageous Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi
In a statement made in Geneva in 2008 by the courageous Iranian Noble Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, she explained that a girl in her native country is considered an adult and liable to punishment, even execution, at 9 and a boy at 15. She totally rejected “cultural relativism”.
[Two months earlier she told Reuters that Iran’s human rights record had regressed since 2006. After her Nobel Prize was confiscated, she released a statement: “Threats against my life and security and those of my family which began some time ago, have intensified.]
In a keynote address at Emory University School of Law on 17 Oct. 2008: [“Islam, Human Rights & Iran” at Atlanta, Georgia], where she said: “I have always opposed the Islamic Declaration on Human Rights.” Two months later she spoke again very courageously on Human Rights Day [10 December 2008] at the Palais des Nations [when I put to her a key question on such issues] (Emory Law).
Despite all this, last week the UN elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women with a four-year seat on the influential human rights body. This was a few days after Iran dropped an outrageous demand for a seat on the Human Rights Council. It should be noted that this special Status of Women Commission, according to its website, is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.” Iran will be joined next year by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. [Indeed: “The time is out of joint.” – Hamlet I, v. 189-90]
OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: ‘Happy note’
To update you on the latest situation: ten weeks ago [1 March 2010], OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, delivered a statement at what is called the ‘High Segment’ beginning of the 13th session of the Human Rights Council (I prefer the word ‘highfalutin’ as it is taken up with speeches by ministers from different States, often repeating the same platitudes). He then concluded on what he called a “Happy Note”.
[I am pleased to inform this Council that the OIC is on the verge of establishing an Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights. The vision and the mandate for the establishment of the Commission was provided by the leadership of the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Islamic Summit held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in December
2005. This vision was accorded a statuary status in the new OIC Charter, unanimously approved and entered into force in March 2008. (…) Islam places a premium on human rights by according primacy to ‘Hukook-ul-ibad’ or the rights of people.]
Again, I won’t read you the whole text which may be found in my Jihad Watch piece, but will only quote one revealing passage, often repeated at the UN ad nauseam [comments followed]:
We take pride that Islam was the first religion that called for full equality among people regardless of their race, language, ethnic origin, social status, etc. This equality has been associated with preserving human dignity, a concept that goes far beyond that of human rights. The establishment of the Commission will introduce a paradigm shift within the OIC in the way Universal Human Rights and freedoms flow together with Islamic values to offer a coherent and strong system aimed at facilitating the full enjoyment of all Human Rights in the Member States.
An absurd affirmation, announcing a new Islamic Declaration on Human Rights, confirming that the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam continues to be hailed steadfastly by the OIC as having primacy for all its 57 Member States over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, its article 24 and 25 state that all the articles are conditional on Sharia law, with no equality between Muslim men and women, nor between Muslims and non-Muslims.
[We have denounced this aberration at the Commission from January 1990, and in several articles since; as well as the publication of the Cairo Declaration, A Compilation of International Instruments Vol. II: Regional Instruments (UN-Office High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York / Geneva, 1997).
National Review ; International Bill Human Rights: Universality / International Standards / National Practices: E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/NGO/15
Nothing could be clearer than this solemn announcement by the OIC Secretary-General. But then came a worse clanger. On 19 April – only three weeks ago – when a meeting took place at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia between the OIC Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay, who was on a general visit. This was clearly a follow-up to Ihsanoglu’s statement at the UN Human Rights Council. We learn on the OIC website: “The High Commissioner congratulated the Secretary General on the prospective establishment of the Commission and assured full support of her Office in its formative phase.”
OIC Secretary General Receives the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
The OIC website refers to the Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights in Islam, which I advise you to read, as there is no time for me to develop it here:
[The Secretary General informed the High Commissioner that the OIC was on the verge of establishing an Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights The statute of the Commission was near finalization and likely to be entered into force following adoption by the forthcoming Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers due to be held in Dushanbe next month.
He emphasized that the establishment of the Commission must be viewed as a landmark event and a most positive development in the four decade long history of the Organization. Briefing the High Commissioner on the OIC Human Rights Commission, the Secretary General expressed the hope that the establishment of the Commission will introduce a paradigm shift within the OIC in the way universal human rights and freedoms flow together with Islamic values to offer a coherent and strong system aimed at facilitating the full enjoyment of all human rights in the OIC member states.
The High Commissioner congratulated the Secretary General on the prospective establishment of the Commission and assured full support of her Office in its formative phase. She also thanked Secretary General for his leadership and contribution to the successful outcome of the Durban Review Conference and indicated her hope for a continued cooperation with the OIC in the future. The meeting afforded the opportunity of exchange of views on the whole range of issues pertaining to the OIC’s engagement with the Office of the High Commissioner and ended with the agreement to continue to build on the cooperation and coordination between the two Organizations.]
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This, and other attempts at stealth jihad – to muzzle freedom of expression at the UN Human Rights Council – is being effectively challenged by Western countries and NGOs and it is also possible that the influence of cyberspace, conveying such ‘news’ worldwide is having a beneficial effect. What we were able to say in our 10 two minute statements last month at the Human Rights Council, without being stopped, and in the absence of Egypt’s moustached comic trouble-maker is indicative.
The blatant Judeophobia /Antisemitism in the Arab-Muslim world is exemplified by the two ISESCO books we discovered on display at the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration [at the Palais des Nations, 19 December 2008], described in our Public Complaint documentation a year ago (12 January 2009). What is most disturbing is that ISESCO – the scholarly wing of the OIC countries – has an educational partnership with UNESCO since 1981, yet this changes nothing. The documents on all this are also available. [Written General Assembly NGO statement A/HRC/10/NGO/29 : Defamation of Judaism and Jews by ISESCO (OIC): 60th UDHR Anniversary at the UN]
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What is our policy recommendation? It is to oppose every attempt by Islamists or their allies to introduce Islamic values into our society. Those shari’a-linked values are totally alien to our Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment values on which our modern democratic societies have been built. We must oppose attempts to create parallel systems of justice. We must fight every step of the way all attempts to create Sharia courts. All of us: Christians, Jews, Hindus, Humanists, and especially Muslims must reject Shar’ia law because, as the Islamic scholar Hassan Mahmud has clearly stated – and as we can see – “Muslims are the first victims of Islamic law.”
Our joint parallel UN Conference at the 2005 Commission on Human Rights [18 April] covered this theme: ‘Victims of Jihad: Muslims / Apostates and Infidels/ Dhimmis /Women. [Association for World Education / International Humanist and Ethical Union / Association of World Citizens]
[We are making available a comprehensive 13-page analysis of the latest situation on ‘freedom of religion and belief’; ‘freedom of opinion and expression; and ‘combating defamation of religion’ in the corridors of power at the United Nations and elsewhere. It was prepared by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with whom I have often collaborated since 2006 in joint statements at the Council, via their main representative in Geneva, Roy W. Brown; one such case was the now famous ‘Sharia Affair’of 16 June 2008, mentioned earlier as the “Sharia-gate Shipwreck. The title of this paper: “Speaking Freely About Religion: Religious Freedom, Defamation and Blasphemy.”]
To conclude, let us all remember that it is now 65 years since the horrors of the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations – a body often more ‘Divided’ regionally, politically and spiritually, than ‘United.’ The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to create a framework for a world society, in need of universal codes based on mutual consent in order to function. We must always remain vigilant to prevent these international standards being contested by those who call into question – at the United Nations or elsewhere – the universality of these human rights principles. This creeping dhimmitude at the UN and elsewhere, led by the OIC and its agents and allies, should be denounced for what it is: a return to the medieval past.
In his analysis of Plato’s criticism of democracy, Sir Karl Popper refers to a paradox of freedom and a paradox of tolerance. In my presentation at a European Parliament [Brussels] Conference on 18 October 2007, and again on 28 January 2010, I ended with his philosophical reflection. I shall use it again, leaving for another time Churchill apt, ringing words 70 years ago [see below]:
[Less well known is the paradox of tolerance:]
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant
society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them. – [In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise.
But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of fists or pistols.]
We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade as criminal. (1)
as it is in the Sudan today, and elsewhere…. Thank you.
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The presentation ended here – no time to conclude with the apt Churchill quotation (below):
[In two days it will be the 11th of May. Seventy years ago on that very day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and on 13th May 1940 he delivered his brief and dramatic historic speech in the House of Commons: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ He concluded with words that are appropriate today:
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in a word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival (…) At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’ (2)
Churchill’s words should become a rallying cry for us all in the struggle to preserve our precious freedoms.]
1.David W. Miller, Pocket Popper, Oxford: Fontana paperbacks, 1983, p.322, note 4, p. 446
2.Hansard, 13 May 1940 (Â§1501-2, Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill. Finest Hour 1939-1941, vol. VI, p. 333.