The United Nations should suspend China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council, several leading dissidents and former political prisoners said today.
In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights commissioner Navi Pillay (full text below), the activists call on them to “remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system.”
Welcoming the suspension of Libya’s Gaddafi regime from the Human Rights Council earlier this year and the success of efforts to stop Iran and Syria joining the same body, the dissidents ask the UN “to continue on the path of reform” by suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the Human Rights Council, which is currently in session; removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women; and expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of UN Women.
Signatories include Yang Jianli and Rebiya Kadeer, former Chinese political prisoners; Ahmad Batebi, former Iranian political prisoner; Fidel Suarez Cruz, former Cuban political prisoner; Grace Kwinjeh, Zimbabwean dissident and torture victim; and Jacqueline Kasha (above), Ugandan activist for LGBT rights. Witnesses included Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and counsel to prisoners of conscience, and David Lowe of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
Date: Sept. 28, 2011
To: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon & UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Dear Madam High Commissioner,
On behalf of the dissidents, activists and 22 human rights NGOs that participated in the We Have A Dream: Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution, on September 21-22, 2011, I present to you below the outcome document adopted there, being the Declaration of Dissidents for Universal Human Rights. It includes eight draft resolutions on compelling human rights situations. We respectfully ask you to please bring these to the attention of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, both of which are now in session, as well as all other relevant departments of the United Nations, and to support urgent United Nations action on these country situations and thematic areas of concern.
Thank you for your consideration.
Hillel C. Neuer
Declaration of Dissidents for Universal Human Rights
United Nations, New York, September 22, 2011
We, former prisoners of conscience, dissidents, victims of torture, persecution, and repression, fighters for freedom, democracy and the dignity of all human beings, gathered here at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, on 22 September 2011, do hereby declare:
Seventy years ago this week, in the face of Nazi tyranny, nations gathered in London to proclaim the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter that are the birthright of all human beings and the hallmarks of democratic society: Freedom of speech and of belief, freedom from fear and from want. These four freedoms form the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Two decades ago, the Soviet Union, the other great tyranny of the twentieth century, collapsed amidst the cry for freedom that first resonated through its satellite states. Today, across the Middle East, we are witnessing that same cry echoing from Cairo to Tripoli to Damascus, as old regimes are swept aside or cling to power through ever more brutal means.
Inspired by the courage and idealism shown by ordinary women and men fighting for basic freedoms across the world; enraged by the continuing evils perpetrated by authoritarian states, including genocide, torture, state-sanctioned violence, rape and starvation as an instrument of political repression, the imprisonment of thousands of men and women of conscience, the silencing of dissenting voices, the xenophobic persecution of minorities, the denial of freedom of thought, belief and worship; we, survivors of repression in our own countries of origin, recognize that human beings can be trampled, but their spirit can never be crushed.
At this decisive moment in the struggle for universal human rights, we celebrate the defeat of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi and of other brutal regimes in the surrounding region.
To the remaining tyrants and dictators around the globe, who have systematically violated the rights of their peoples, we give notice: Your time has passed. No more will the world suffer your specious arguments to justify policies and practices of abuse and repression in the name of claimed exceptions to the universality of basic human rights. Belonging to diverse faiths and cultures, and originating from all regions of the world, we, the authors of this Declaration, unequivocally reject such dishonest apologetics, which suit the interests of the despots, and not the interests, or ideas, of their peoples.
We assert that the writ of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly, continues to run through all societies, and for all times. The talk of tyrants is refuted by the cries of prisoners—who, from the dungeons of Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Tibet, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere—demand justice and freedom on the basis of these universal laws and eternal truths.
Therefore, in renewing the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call on the United Nations to make the dream of the four freedoms a reality. We urge the United Nations General Assembly to pursue a new agenda for human rights, and call for the Member States to:
• Remove tyrannical governments from special positions of power in the United Nations human rights system. Welcoming the United Nations suspension this year of the Gaddafi regime from the Human Rights Council, and the successful campaigns to prevent the election of Iran and Syria to that body, we call on the United Nations to continue on the path of reform, including by:
• Suspending China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council;
• Removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women; and
• Expelling Saudi Arabia from the Executive Board of UN Women.
• Adopt the annexed resolutions on compelling situations of human rights that have hitherto been neglected or ignored at the United Nations;
• Champion the cause of civil society by speaking out against the persecution of human rights defenders and dissidents, and for the freedom of non-governmental organizations to advocate for an end to repressive laws and practices;
• Guarantee the freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly, being the lifeblood of democracy;
• Condemn the ongoing censorship, harassment and imprisonment of Internet fighters for freedom and democracy;
• Demand equality, tolerance and freedom for minorities everywhere;
• Defend women who are victims of state-sanctioned subjugation; and
• Protect children from ideologies of hatred and intolerance that promote contempt for fundamental human rights.
1. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in China
2. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Cuba
3. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Pakistan
4. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Russia
5. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
6. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Syria
7. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela
8. Proposed UNGA Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Zimbabwe
Signed on this 22nd day of September, 2011, at the opening of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, for the We Have A Dream: Global Summit Against Discrimination and Persecution.
(For the text in French, please click here.)
Yang Jianli, Former Chinese political prisoner, founder of Initiatives for China
Ahmad Batebi, Former Iranian political prisoner
Fidel Suarez Cruz, Cuban dissident and former prisoner
John Dau, Survivor of war in Sudan and founder of John Dau Foundation
Rebiya Kadeer, Uyghur dissident and former political prisoner in China
Grace Kwinjeh, Zimbabwean dissident and torture victim
Berta Antunez, Women’s rights activist in Cuba with Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White)
Adeeb Yousif, Darfur human rights activist
Jacqueline Kasha, Ugandan activist for LGBT rights, recipient of Martin Ennals 2011 Human Rights Defenders Prize
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, Iranian human rights activist
Prof. Irwin Cotler, Canadian MP, former Minister of Justice & Attorney General, McGill U. law professor, international human rights lawyer, counsel to prisoners of conscience
David Lowe, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs, National Endowment of Democracy
Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, Chair of UN Watch
Katrina Lantos Swett, President of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
Philippe Robinet, French publisher of human rights testimonies
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch
John Suarez, Directorio
Human Rights Foundation
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 (DPI). For more information visit www.unwatch.org