On 22 September 2006, the new Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper, Al-Akhbar launched a scurrilous attack on Kamal el Batal, one of the speakers at the IHEU/AWE-sponsored seminar held at the UN, Geneva on 18 September.
The newspaper falsely accused Mr el Batal of having organized a meeting at the UN Geneva on Hezbollah and Human Rights and of having held “coordination meetings with several American and Israeli organizations”. Al-Khabar also quoted Mohamad Safa of the “Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture” as saying in a clear reference to Mr el Batal, that he would not accept to have civil society in Lebanon represented by “suspects who use human rights as a cover and slogan and who work for the Israeli Mossad and intelligence”.
The attack on Mr el Batal, a respected defender of Human Rights from the Arab world, is scurrilous and unfounded.
The facts concerning Mr el Batal’s meetings in Geneva are these:
On 18 September, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), in conjunction with the Association for World Education hosted a parallel seminar in conjunction with the second session of the Human Rights Council. The seminar was entitled “Hezbollah vs Human Rights: Redressing the Balance” and was in response to the one-sided resolution passed by the Human Rights Council on 11 August condemning Israel for its Human Rights abuse while not even mentioning, let alone condemning, human rights abuses committed by Hezbollah during the same conflict.
The purpose of the seminar, therefore, was to provide a platform for a more balanced consideration of the problems raised by the recent conflict by drawing attention to many issues that were left unexamined in the Council debate. The seminar did not seek to excuse or justify any human rights abuse committed by Israel.
Mr el Batal was invited to Geneva by IHEU at our expense to speak about human rights abuse by Hezbollah in Lebanon before, during and since the conflict with Israel.
At the beginning of his presentation, Mr el Batal made clear that he did not support Israel, had no dealings with Israel and condemned all human rights abuse wherever or by whoever it was committed. Certainly, some of the statements made by Al-Akhbar as having been made by Mr el Batal are accurate because he was reporting known facts, such as the teaching of hatred of the Jews to children as young as five years of age in Lebanon, and attacks by Hezbollah on civilians in Lebanon.
Mr el Batal was one of four speakers at the seminar that was chaired by Roy Brown, main representative of IHEU at the UN, Geneva. Two of the other speakers at the seminar were Israeli, the mayor of the joint Jewish-Arab city of Ma’alot-Tarshiba, and the deputy director of the Western Galilee Hospital in Nataliyah, eye-witnesses to the Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel. Before the seminar, Mr el Batal was reluctant to meet either the Israelis or representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who we had asked to assist by bringing the two Israelis to Geneva. Mr el Batal finally met the Israelis and the organizers just before the seminar and was present on the platform with the other speakers during the seminar. He left Geneva the same evening.
The reported request by Mr. Safa to the Lebanese authorities that the false allegations and innuendo against Mr. el Batal be used as the basis for an investigation by the Public Prosecutor raises serious questions about the integrity of Mr Safa and his organization. These attacks on Mr Batal are tantamount to incitement to violence against him in the current atmosphere in Lebanon.