US ambassador to UN: Swiss candidate unfit for UN human rights council

Power voices disapproval of Jean Ziegler known for defending Hezbollah, Gaddafi and French Holocaust-denier Garaudy.

Samantha Power points 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Samantha Power points 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Switzerland’s candidate for the UN Human Rights Council, who has garnered criticism for his fiercely anti-Israel and anti-Western views, should be disqualified, Samantha Power, the newly appointed US ambassador to the UN, said last week.
Power tweeted her disapproval of Jean Ziegler on Thursday, writing, “Indeed. Dr. Ziegler is unfit for continued service at the @UN_HRC.”
Ziegler’s pro-Hezbollah position, his defense of the late French Holocaust-denier and Islamist Roger Garaudy and his role as co-founder of a human rights prize set up by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi unleased sharp criticism last week from UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO monitoring the UN Human Rights Council.
Ziegler told the Hezbollah publication Al-Akhbar in 2006: “I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group. It is a national movement of resistance.” He has not disavowed his pro-Hezbollah stance.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, wrote, “We applaud the principled statement of Ambassador Power and urge the US and other nations in the UN’s Western group to actively fight the incomprehensible Swiss nomination.”
In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Neuer said Ziegler has a long history of inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric and actions.
In 2005, Ziegler told pro- Palestinians supporters at a rally in Geneva that Gaza is “an immense concentration camp,” and Israeli soldiers are “concentration camp guards.”
He published a 2004 report to the UN’s then-commission on human rights on Israel, accusing the Jewish state of human rights violations. He exonerated Palestinian terrorist organizations of culpability in attacks against Israel. Ziegler called for an “outpouring of condemnation” in a press release and said then-prime minister Ariel Sharon committed “state terror.”
In response to UN Watch’s criticisms, the news outlet Swissinfo reported Ziegler as saying “This is the total defamation due to a severe report I published in 2002 on the right to food in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
When asked about Ziegler’s comment, Neuer told the Post the issue was not UN Watch, but “Jean Ziegler versus Jean Ziegler.” Neuer said Ziegler is the one who “boasted about creating the Gaddafi prize,” adding that he “is a fraud in every way.”
Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry issued a letter in support of Ziegler’s nomination.
According to the letter, while Ziegler served as the special rapporteur of the Commission of Human Rights and successively of the Human Rights Council on the right to food, “One of his many achievements has been to make the right to food one of the main priorities of UN agencies and bodies which fight poverty and hunger.”
However, WikiLeaks cables from 2002 reveal a period of gross incompetence during Ziegler’s tenure. According to a summary of a letter written by the World Food Program’s then-executive director James Morris to the UN’s secretary-general at the time, Kofi Annan, Ziegler is “seriously damaging the efforts of the World Food Program to respond to food crises around the world, and particularly now in southern Africa.”
The letter stated Ziegler “has made it harder rather than easier for WFP to help hungry people fulfill their right to food in emergencies.”
There is growing criticism in Switzerland of Ziegler’s record. The Swiss daily Tages- Anzeiger reported last week that Swiss MPs from three parties are slated to challenge Ziegler’s nomination at a hearing next week in the country’s capital, Bern.
Christian Lüscher, an MP with the Liberals party from Geneva, said Ziegler is unacceptable because of his closeness to dictators. The Tages- Anzeiger reported that Ziegler rejects Lüscher’s accusation that he coddles dictators.
In addition to Ziegler’s support of Gaddafi, he has close relations with Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro.
In a stinging commentary against Ziegler in the Swiss daily Basler Zeitung titled “Defender of Dictators,” Hansjörg Müller wrote that it is a “disgrace” that Switzerland endorsed Ziegler for the position.
Commenting on Ziegler’s fondness for dictators, Müller quoted Ziegler’s 2002 support for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Ziegler said of Mugabe that he was a person who has “history and morality with him,” at a time when the dictator was implementing a policy of land seizures during a mass famine. Ziegler was to distance himself from the authoritarian Mugabe in 2008.
The Facebook page of the Swiss-Israel friendship group wrote that Ziegler’s nomination to the UN Human Rights Council as an adviser was comparable to “Jack the Ripper being assigned to advise battered women in a shelter.”
The election of the 79-yearold Ziegler to the council is planned for September 27.
Maya Shwayder contributed to this report.