Dictatorships urge "striking NGO statement from the record"
UN Watch, which heads an international campaign of parliamentarians and human rights groups opposed to Venezuela's candidacy, organized the speech today by Eligio Cedeno, Venezuela's most-wanted man (photo below). The banker and former political prisoner, who escaped the clutches of Hugo Chavez for asylum in the U.S., confronted his oppressor in a powerful plenary statement.
Exercising its right of reply, Venezuela's representative called Cedeno a "terrorist and criminal who fled justice." The Chavez diplomat falsely accused the U.S. of having invited Cedeno to the council, which he said was "to smear the reputation of my country." He also accused UN Watch of being a U.S. "lackey.“ (See video at mark 1:55:30)
And in a concerted effort with UN Watch, Thor Halvorssen, the Venezuelan-born head of the Human Rights Foundation -- whose mother was shot by Chavez forces -- also took the floor to challenge Venezuela's credentials, as well as those of existing members Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Click here for speech.
|Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundaiton|
Shouting repeatedly for the U.N. chair to stop the speech, the Cuban delegate flew into a range, fists banging on the table, and knocked over his chair.
Cuba insisted that non-governmental activists taking the floor at the U.N. “cannot question the hopes and aspirations of states to become members of the Human Rights Council, or their right to be members. You cannot say that my country does not have a right to be a member of this council.” Havana's delegate demanded that Halvorssen’s statement be “struck from the record.”
Russia and Pakistan similarly claimed that Halvorssen spoke out of turn. China said that activists at the U.N. “are not entitled to challenge the right of a country to become a member of the council.”
However, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer said that a quick intervention by the U.S. apparently convinced the chair to let the statement stand.
"Today was a rare moment at the U.N.," said Neuer. "We succeeded in putting Chavez -- who throws independent judges in jail, persecutes student activists, and aids mass murderers like Ahmadinejad and Assad -- on the defensive."
When Halvorssen referred to “authoritarian” regimes, Cuba interrupted again, calling this a “disrespectful term,” and asked the chair to prohibit him from speaking. China also objected, saying no one at the U.N. human rights council has a right “to label a sovereign state, to point a finger at a country that is a member, or which wishes to become a member.”
This was reported in the Canada Free Press.