UN rights chief rejects calls to boycott Durban II
GENEVA — The new UN human rights chief slammed countries that are threatening to skip a UN conference over unfair criticism of Israel.
In her first address to the UN Human Rights Council, the new UN high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, praised the world body’s preparations for a follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference on racism and criticized those threatening to walk out of the conference. Several countries have announced they might skip the conference if it unfairly singles out Israel for opprobrium, as the 2001 conference in Durban did.
Pillay, a South African of Tamil descent, rejected that approach.
“I do not believe that ‘all or nothing’ is the right approach to affirm one’s principles or to win an argument,” Pillay said. “Should differences be allowed to become pretexts for inaction, the hopes and aspirations of the many victims of intolerance would be dashed irreparably. For these reasons, I urge those governments that have expressed an intention not to participate to reconsider their position.”
Among the countries that may skip the conference are Canada, the United States and Israel. France, Britain and the Netherlands also have expressed reservations.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the UN undersecretary general for communications and public information, Kiyo Akasaka, the Simon Wiesenthal Center protested a recent workshop co-sponsored by an anti-Semitic NGO that was active at the 2001 Durban UN World Conference Against Racism.
The workshop, “Human Rights and Armed Conflict: Principles and Practices,” was co-sponsored by the Arab Lawyers Union of Egypt and took place at a UN human rights conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
The Arab Lawyers Union of Egypt “in Durban in 2001, distributed a booklet of violently anti-Semitic cartoons and has, since then, continued its incitement to Jew-hatred,” said the Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels.
In related UN developments, a UN report reiterated a call for Israel to compensate Lebanon for damage from the 2006 war.
The report published last week by the office of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, called “Oil Slick on Lebanese Shores,” commended Lebanon for its cleanup efforts along the Mediterranean coastline and urged Israel to help pay for them.
“The secretary general wishes to urge the government of Israel to take the necessary actions towards assuming responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the government of Lebanon,” the report says, according to UN spokesperson Farhan Haq.
The report cites World Bank data that estimated the environmental toll from the 2006 war at a minimum of $526.9 million (US) and a maximum of $931.1 million.
This is not the first time the UN Secretariat has called on Israel to help pay for the war’s environmental costs.
The latest report will be made available to the UN General Assembly when it convenes in New York later this month.