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Friday, January 23, 2009
Day 3 of the UN Durban II planning committee meeting, January 21st, saw Iran once again take the floor more often than other single state. "The UN is giving a regime headed by a notorious racist a platform to manufacture anti-racist credentials," said Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN. "The only question now is whether President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are going to lend legitimacy to this travesty by joining these racists at the table," she added.
Here is an example of Iran's lecture on equality to the assembled Durban II crowd purporting to be meeting for the purpose of combating racism: "The crux of matter that in countries a different group of people - because of color, ethnicity, background - are treated in a discriminatory manner as they go to seek a job, or education or housing. As soon as their ethnical identity, color of skin is known to the employer, educator, supplier of housing, they are treated in a different manner. These double standards should be avoided."
And here is another gem from the Iranian "human rights" expert as he recommends wording for the Durban II "outcome document": "I would like to kindly draw the attention of the house to the fact that here we are working on a conference on racism and racial discrimination... I have my variation - at dictation speed - then if it sounds acceptable...: 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity of rights therefore any doctrine based on superiority of one over another is categorically and strongly rejected.'"
One more Iranian nugget of inspiration courtesy Durban II: "We like to see spirit of compromise... talking about the formulation of providing maximizing redress to victims through inter alia securing access to justice...Make sure justice is served...because justice delayed is justice denied from our point of view."
The speaker, a representative of a country whose president advocates genocide, was clearly wallowing in the UN-provided opportunity to pretend to care about racism. Despite the travesty, not one state made any mention of the lecturer's anti-racism credentials. Those credentials? As described in the most recent annual State Department report on Iran: "The government's poor human rights record worsened...The government severely limited citizens' right to change their government... Security forces committed acts of politically motivated abductions; torture and severe officially-sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning; amputation; flogging; and excessive use of force against and imprisonment of demonstrators...The government severely restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, movement, and privacy. The government placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion...Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems." (U.S. State Dept. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Iran, March 11, 2008)
But at the UN, Iran is a human rights authority figure - a Vice-President of the Durban II Executive Planning Committee (or Bureau). The game plan is as obvious, as it is obscene. Here is what the Nigerian delegate had to say about the Iranian contribution: "... one thing about the delegate of Iran is that he is always right in conceptualization and in location...This is the right way to go." "Iran has always this powerful way of conveying and analyzing. Each time you come forth. Iran has a very powerful line of logic and it is becoming difficult to disagree with Iran really."
In the midst of this back and forth, Iran, the EU and the Chair,Yuri Boychenko (Russia), have encouraged out-of-sight consultations in smaller groups. In one exchange, over a provision on "new emerging forms of racism," the European Union said it didn't want to "neglect old and persistent forms of racism." (Translation: they didn't want more allegations of "Islamophobia.") While Iran said old forms had "already been covered." (Translation: they don't want to condemn antisemitism.) Iran then volunteered: "we can work with them to come up with compromise language." And the Chair encouraged a meeting. The product of EU-Iranian consultations on the meaning of racism is sure to be enlightening.
This is exactly the swamp that would quickly surround President Obama should he make the mistake of attending.
By the end of the third day, only 25% of the Durban outcome document had been discussed. Only 8% of the document was agreed to and adopted. Every day at least one hour is lost as delegates meander into the meeting room in no particular rush to get things going. According to the Chair, at least four hours of valuable time have been squandered this week. The Chair's arrival an hour and a half late on the first day contributed to the obvious effort to leave as much undiscussed by the end of the week as possible.
Although this week-long session is allegedly devoted to moving the Durban process forward, in reality the strategy of delay suits the rights-abusing states perfectly. The longer the process can be deemed "in progress" or "still being decided" or "under negotiation" the longer the pressure is on European countries to stay involved due to the lack of a finalized document that clearly crosses red lines.
All participants are hoping that if they keep enough of a lid on the real Durban II agenda, President Obama will be convinced of the harmlessness of U.S. participation.
As the working group crept through the 37-page draft, any paragraph that caused discord (usually between the EU on one hand and Iran, Syria and the African Group on the other), was put on hold. Meanwhile the Chair increased the backroom wheeling and dealing by appointing "facilitators" to work out disagreements behind-the-scenes and report back to the Committee by the end of the week. Senegal, a major figure in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was appointed one of two facilitators.
Informally, delegates agree that Iran is hijacking the entire meeting, offering "input" on racism that even its allies at times have trouble swallowing. Day 3 marked the second day in a row that Iran took the floor more often than any other single state. Overall, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference dominated the proceedings, in particular Pakistan and Nigeria, in addition to Iran.
The Palestinian delegate made one intervention expressing an interest in moving the sections in the draft alleging Israel is racist from the "reviewing progress" section to the take-action section.
Here are other memorable moments from Day 3 of what the UN considers to be progress in the effort to combat racism:
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Durban II planning committee, now meeting in Geneva, today took up the Holocaust sections of the "draft outcome document." In final form it is scheduled for adoption at the April Conference. Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, commented: "The Durban II platform was the perfect opportunity for Iran and Syria to deny the facts of the Holocaust. Providing a forum to spew antisemitism is apparently the UN's idea of combating racism."
Today's events ought to signal an end to the U.S. State Department discussion about whether it is in the best interests of the United States to attend Durban II. "If Secretary of State Clinton agrees to go to Durban II, or engage in a political dialogue over the draft outcome document," says Professor Bayefsky, "she will legitimize an avenue for spreading hate - not tolerance."
The draft under discussion affirmed "...that the Holocaust...resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with numerous members of other minorities..." Syria objected and called for the words to be removed on the following grounds: "I don't think we should get into a kind of statistical debate. As far as I know that there is no agreement on the consensus on the percentage of those who perished in the Holocaust. Maybe there is some kind of consensus on the figures on the percentage, but we are not quite sure. Maybe those who perished half of the jewish people, maybe less than half, maybe third, maybe less..."
Then the European Union suggested the addition of a new paragraph: "Recalls and urges states to implement UN General Assembly Resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which observe that remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide; condemned without reservation any denial of the Holocaust; and urge all member states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, or in any activities."
Iran objected: "There is a notion inside this paragraph where there is talk about condemning without reservation any denial of holocaust. This entails with it implicit restriction on elaboration and review, or critical examination and review and study of holocaust - which is a very clear example of a violation of freedom of expression...a fundamental principle right for a democratic society....We suggest the deletion of this paragraph."
Neither of the paragraphs could be agreed upon since the Durban II process is to work by consensus.
At the Durban I Conference a minimalist reference to the Holocaust was agreed upon in exchange for condemnation of Israel as racist. Today it emerged that the same "trade-off" is in the offing for Durban II.
The Planning Committee also took up the latest draft sections alleging Israel is racist - the only such country-specific allegation in a document purportedly having global application. They include:
Iran and Syria dominated the second day of the planning meeting for Durban II which is now taking place in Geneva. On day 2 of the week-long session, January 20th, Iran took the floor more often than any other single state. Iran's attempt to dominate Durban II planning, " says Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, "is not surprising. They are a Vice-chair of the Durban Preparatory Committee and have long understood Durban II as the playing field of Islamic and Arab states." Both countries are actively shaping the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, hailed by its supporters as an important international effort to address racism. "Today's meeting, dominated by these two rights-abhorring, terrorism-supporting countries, resulted in a circus that is a slap in the face to anyone serious about human rights and racism" said Bayefsky.
By the end of day two the meeting had completed 9 out of 37 pages. The strategy of all those states who seek to bolster support for Durban II - particularly Arab and Islamic states and various African states such as South Africa - is to bury the real agenda under a mountain of UN verbiage and avoid getting to any issue of real importance. European governments admit (albeit behind-the-scenes) that the goal is to make it harder for them to walk out, since superficially there does not appear to be anything objectionable. What they're not saying is that efforts to keep a short-term lid on the Durban II hate-mongering until the conference itself, suits them just fine. The EU then avoids any pressure back home and the diplomats life is made a lot easier.
As a consequence of Iran and Syria's participation (with the help of Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, and Egypt in particular) the following ensued on day 2:
January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
This is opening day of the next Durban II planning meeting and the disinformation campaign is in full swing. The obfuscation starts with the title: Intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group to continue and finalize the process of negotiations on and drafting of the outcome document.
"What we do know, despite the UN-eze," says Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, "is that Durban II is widely perceived to be a serious threat to the successful international protection of human rights."
"Extremists, both governmental and non-governmental, are continuing to push the substance to the limits, while weak European states are unable or unwilling to push back. The overall strategy is to keep the Durban II plan under wraps as much as possible, until just days away from the April conference itself, so that it will be too late for many democratic states to pull out," Professor Bayefsky pointed out. "They are being entrapped like spiders in a web, under the charade of combating racism."
"One thing is certain," said Bayefsky, "this is no place for the United States."
The first thing diplomats did on opening day was agree that the draft document before them would formally become "the basis for further negotiations as the final document for the review conference."
Diplomats then deliberately worked at a snail's pace, making their way through two dozen paragraphs of the 250 paragraph document. Particularly active in these "anti-racism" discussions was Iran, whose President is a leading advocate of genocide against the Jewish people. Iran lectured: "This whole conference is to identify sources, root causes, perpetrators of racism and defend and compensate and help the victims. This should continually be borne in our mind."
Iran also objected to European efforts to limit the creation of new international norms at Durban II. Iran said "We don't want to prejudge the high possibility of new forms of ideas, and doctrines based on supremacy of one race over others, or other contemporary form of racism. Then we find ourselves in lack of legislative international norms to address them properly. So let us adopt an open-minded approach to this." Everybody watching knew this was part of an attempt by Islamic states to focus on Islamophobia, insert allegations that counter-terrorism activities are racist, and invent limits on freedom of expression, but the public conversation was conducted in vague generalities, for and against new standards.
In addition, there was an obvious effort by Islamic states to gang up on Denmark. Algeria responded to a Danish suggestion that a provision was not relevant with: "It's that very comment that is not relevant."
Cuba made the stakes at Durban II even plainer, when it claimed – erroneously – that the "document we adopt at the Durban Review Conference will be a legal document." When European Union countries sought to stress existing standards and the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Cuba responded "We understand the EU doesn't want to accept other norms in the area of racism." Whereupon, European countries retreated.
Here is what we also know:
1) The UN reissued the current draft of the "outcome document" with a January 12, 2009 date. This has now formally become the basis of negotiations. The draft on the table has the following glaring, objectionable provisions (exact quotes below):
**************Provisions in the January 12, 2009 draft of the Durban II "outcome document":
January 19, 2009
Obama and U.N.: R-e-f-o-r-m Article