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UN Watch Disappointed at U.N. Rights Chief

July 31, 2009

Thursday, 30 July 2009, 1:08 pm

Press Release: UN Watch

UN Watch Disappointed at U.N. Rights Chief Refusal to Meet Dalai Lamai
?But welcomes Pillay's criticism of China’s “systemic violations of
human rights”?Contact: Hillel Neuer at +41 79 332 8106, or
media1@unwatch.org.

GENEVA, July 29, 2009 — The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch
expressed disappointment at the refusal by United Nations rights chief
Navi Pillay to answer whether she will receive the Dalai Lama on his
visit to Geneva next week -- understood as a negative answer -- but
welcomed her criticism of China’s “serious systemic violations of human
rights” in Tibet, and her call for due process for detainees and access
to international observers.

“While the High Commissioner for Human Rights is supposed to be
independent and to act solely on principles,” said UN Watch executive
director Hillel Neuer, “her refusal to meet with the Dalai Lama—the
voice of Tibetan victims and a universal symbol of peace—reflects the
sad reality that U.N. institutions and officials operate under the
constant influence of power politics, especially when it involves China.”

Louise Arbour, Pillay’s predecessor, admitted to the Washington Post
last year that she routinely held back on criticism of China and Russia,
because she was “constrained by the reality of the organization’s power
centers, including China, Russia and the Group of 77.” (See UN Watch's
August 2008 report, "The Right to Name and Shame.")

Neuer welcomed Pillay’s new comments on Tibet, but said they were “too
little and too late. She’s still walking on eggshells. We urge the High
Commissioner to attribute direct responsibility to Beijing for specific
crimes in Tibet, and in general to make regular public statements on
China's gross and systematic abuses affecting a population of more than
one billion people.”

Pillay’s record after one year on the job, said Neuer, "indicates that,
aside from a few cautious statements, she is treading lightly over
abuses by some of the most powerful U.N. members, including China and
Russia, leaving the United Nations increasingly silent on some of the
world’s most pressing human rights issues.”

UN Watch obtained the copy of Pillay’s new statement on Tibet (see
below), which she recently gave to Jean-Claude Buhrer-Solal, an author
and former Le Monde correspondent on U.N. and human rights issues, for
his upcoming article in the French magazine Politique Internationale.

After Buhrer was unable to pose questions on Tibet during Pillay’s press
briefing at the April Durban Review Conference on racism, he submitted
them in writing. While her office often responds immediately to media
queries, in this case it took Pillay more than two months to reply.

Pillay’s statement carefully sidestepped the question about whether she
would meet with the Dalai Lama, who will be in Geneva on August 6, which
is understood to be a negative answer. She also ignored the question as
to whether she would ask China for permission to visit Tibet. Finally,
she also chose not to reply to the question about why the human rights
situation in Tibet was ignored at a world conference that was supposed
to address issues of discrimination against ethnic minorities.

______________

Questions Submitted by Journalist Jean-Claude Buhrer-Solal ?(May 19,
2009, as translated from the original French)

Madam High Commissioner,

Do human rights, which are in principle universal, like the fight
against racism, stop at the borders of certain countries? Indeed, why is
Tibet virtually cut off from the world since the repression of
demonstrations in March 2008, and why do its residents continue to be
the victims of racial discrimination?

The fate of Tibetans, their identity seriously threatened, appears to be
of little concern to the UN Human Rights Council, nor has it been raised
during the Durban Review Conference. Will Tibet be a taboo subject at
the United Nations?

Last year, China refused a request of your predecessor, Mrs. Louise
Arbour, to visit Tibet in order to view for herself the situation on the
ground. Where does this stand today? Have you renewed Ms. Arbour’s
request for yourself vis-a-vis the Chinese authorities?

Finally, would you be willing to receive the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace
Prize Laurate, who will visit Switzerland in early August, in order to
contribute, pursuant to your mandate, greater respect for human rights
and man in Tibet?

_______________

Response by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay?(July 24,
2009)

“While recognizing that Tibet is an integral part of China, China needs
to live up to its commitments to protect the rights of minorities,
including those of Tibetans. These are reflected in China’s Constitution
and the international treaties it has ratified. China's own law provides
formal guarantees and minority protections for ethnic groups, as well as
elements of self-governance. However, serious systemic violations of
human rights are reported to be taking place at the same time as
increasing exclusion of ethnic minorities from a top-down policy of
economic development of the western portion of the country.”

“Detentions and arrests have continued in Tibet since the events that
occurred in March 2008. It is important the government ensures that
those have been detained are treated with due process and that
independent actors are given access in order to assess conditions on the
ground.”

“China is scheduled to appear before the UN Committee for the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August this year. Its
conclusions will be an important examination of China’s commitment to
the protection of minority rights, including in Tibet.”

Additional comment by OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville:

The former High Commissioner Louise Arbour requested an invitation to
visit China including the Tibetan areas in mid-April 2008, but
unfortunately this was declined on the grounds of timing. OHCHR hopes
that China considers outstanding requests for invitations by Special
Procedures mandate holders. Various UN Special Rapporteurs have
continued to express concern about reports of arbitrary detention,
ill-treatment of detainees by the security forces, and failure to ensure
fair trials. China comes up periodically before various UN treaty bodies
– including, for example, the 41st Session of the Committee Against
Torture last November.
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