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Mugabe Hosting UN Summit for
Zimbabwe “Rebranding”

Human Rights Activists Decry “False Legitimacy to Brutal Regime”;
UK & Canada Boycotting

GENEVA, August 23 – The non-governmental human rights group UN Watch expressed “grave disappointment” at the UN decision to make Zimbabwe co-host of a global tourism summit, which opens tomorrow, saying it’s a “disgraceful show of support — and a terribly-timed award of false legitimacy — for a brutal, corrupt and authoritarian regime.”

Zimbabwe will now become co-president, together with Zambia, of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) until 2015.

“Amid reports of election-rigging and ongoing human rights abuses, Zimbabwe is the last country that should be legitimized by a UN summit of any kind,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

Over the past decade, UN Watch has brought numerous Zimbabwean human rights activists to testify on the sidelines of UN conferences.

According to Zimbabwe media, the Mugabe regime “wants to use the event to rebrand in the post election period.”

It’s outrageous that the UN is allowing itself to be used like this as a propaganda tool,” complained Neuer.

UN Watch welcomed reports that Britain and Canada will not be sending any representatives to the event. “We are calling on other countries to stay away,” Neuer said, adding: “If the UN were living up to its own ideals, Zimbabwe would be disqualified as a summit host for anything.”

“The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democracy dissidents, and turned the breadbasket of Africa into a basket-case. The notion that the UN should now spin this country as a lovely tourism destination is, frankly, sickening,” said Neuer.

Over 500 diplomats and dignitaries from 150 countries will be attending the 20th General Assembly at Victoria Falls.

“UN Watch applauds Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird for taking the initiative last year to pull out of this misguided venture and spotlight the grossly inappropriate UN honor to Mugabe,” said Neuer.

He added that the decision to allow Zimbabwe to host the conference, despite the Mugabe government’s history of human rights abuses and the current electoral crisis, “brings discredit upon the UN.”

“The good name of the world body is being used to legitimize Mugabe’s massive abuses of civil liberties which contravene UN human rights conventions. How can someone who violates core UN principles be elevated as a kind of example to the world?” Neuer asked.

Human rights activist Ephraim Tapa told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the UN's decision to allow Zimbabwe to host the meeting is "hypocrisy at its worst."

"We would have thought this was a good opportunity for the UN to remain true to its values of freedom, of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, which in Zimbabwe were sold short," Tapa said.

He added: "If this is the stance of the United Nations, then where else can Zimbabweans turn to (for human rights protection)?"