GENEVA,—Forty parliamentarians and human rights activists from 19 different countries ended their protest campaign today, in a failure to get the U.S. or the EU to even verbally oppose Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the U.N.‘s top rights body, and they circulated a resolution to condemn the Chavez government for gross violations.
“As Syria’s Assad kills his own people, and a year after the U.N. finally removed Col. Qaddafi’s regime from its Human Rights Council, the organization today is electing one of their loudest backers,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights group spearheading the protest. “It’s absurd.”
“Chavez is being elected in a Cuban-style ballot: there’s no competition. This is the product of a pre-cooked political deal done behind closed doors.”
“By choosing Chavez, the U.N. today grants legitimacy to a regime led by an autocrat who systematically harasses journalists, judges, human rights activists and student leaders, and a top supporter of the butchers of Syria and Iran.”
Despite UN Watch’s Miami Herald op-ed in May urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to live up to her pledge to keep bullies off the 47-nation body, and an internet petition by UN Watch appealing for action from EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton, Neuer said “we deeply regret that neither the US nor the EU took any action or made any statement to oppose Chavez. They could have persuaded another Latin American state to come forward, allowing Chavez to be defeated in a competitive vote as he was in 2006.”
Venezeula instead ran uncontested. “Thanks to a backroom deal by the Latin American group,” said Neuer, “we had a cooked-up slate of three candidates for three seats. An election with no competition is meaningless.”
In its submission published on the U.N. website, Venezuela claimed to be “a democratic and
social State that respects rights and justice,” whose citizens live under “one of the most advanced constitutions in the world,” enjoying “the full exercise of political freedoms,” which are “unprecedented in the history of the Republic.”
“The Chavez bid was especially absurd,” said Neuer, “in wake of the admission by a former top Venezuelan judge that verdicts in politically-sensitive cases are orchestrated by government officials.”
“Despite the promise of reform, it is tragic that the U.N.‘s top rights body routinely includes such serial violators as Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia. They and their allies enjoy impunity. When the prosecutor, judge and jury are the perpetrators themselves, justice becomes a joke,” said Neuer.
“Because council term limits require China, Cuba and Russia to step off next year, the Venezuelan candidacy is a strategic move by the authoritarian bloc, designed to limit the ability of Western democracies to adopt measures for victims in Syria, Iran and other hotspots,” said Neuer.
“The U.S. recently declared that it would fight to keep abusers from joining UN bodies. By Secretary Clinton and her EU counterparts failing to act, the face of the U.N.‘s highest human rights body will now be that of Hugo Chavez.”
We, the undersigned members of parliament, human rights activists and non-governmental organizations, strongly oppose the candidacy of Venezuela for the United Nations Human Rights Council. Having regard to its poor record on human rights protection at home, and its poor record in human rights promotion at the UN, the government of Venezuela fails to meet the minimum membership criteria established by the UN General Assembly. Instead, we urge the UN Human Rights Council to adopt this NGO-drafted Resolution on Venezuelan abuses.
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).
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