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 25, 2006.)
• 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 credibility 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 -- click here for expanded list.