A coalition of leading human rights groups from around the world have called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to rebuke Iran for its campaign of Holocaust denial, on the day the UN marks the genocide of Europe’s Jews with ceremonies in New York and Geneva. The letter urged Arbour to strongly condemn Tehran’s fundamentalist regime every time it dismisses the Holocaust as “a myth.” The 32 signatories include IHEU, Human Rights First, Freedom House, the Democracy Coalition Project, the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre, and the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women.
According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, Iran’s latest questioning of the Holocaust—in a January 8th letter to the Human Rights Council that was circulated as an official UN document—requires a response from High Commissioner Arbour. “Since Ahmadinejad’s odious remarks began in September 2005, important statements were issued by both Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon,” said Neuer. “But denial of genocide is a fundamental assault on human rights, and so it’s vital for Madame Arbour to finally speak out as well.”
The text of the letter follows below.
January 29, 2007
Dear Madame Arbour,
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, urge you to use the occasion of the United Nations’ second annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust to condemn, strongly and specifically, the repeated and ongoing denials of the Holocaust by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. By combating the denial of genocide the UN will on this day reassert its commitment to human rights.
These denials have come most recently in a January 8 letter from the Iranian ambassador in Geneva to the UN Human Rights Council. In that letter, the ambassador defended his government’s December conference questioning the Holocaust as “legitimate” and asserted that there are “serious opposing ideas over the issue.” It is unconscionable for Iran to exploit the UN’s foremost human rights forum to perpetrate, as President Jacques Chirac described it last week, “a crime against the truth, the absolute perversion of the soul and spirit.”
In its historic Resolution 60/7 establishing the Day of Commemoration, the General Assembly “reject[ed] any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part.” We commend the UN for reiterating this principle on several occasions. In his message for this year’s commemoration, Secretary-General Ban called those who claim that the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated “misguided.” Former Secretary-General Annan also deplored the December Holocaust denial conference, and he expressed his shock in September 2005 when the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first publicly denied the Holocaust and called for the destruction of Israel. The Security Council also condemned these remarks.
Nevertheless, the government of Iran continues to deny the Holocaust, as its recent letter to the Human Rights Council attests. Each incident of denial is a further incitement to hatred and anti-Semitism that requires condemnation by the UN.
The UN was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, and was created to prevent such horrors from ever happening again. In the words of former Secretary-General Annan:
The Holocaust occupies a unique place in the history of the United Nations…Our global mission of peace, freedom and human dignity was literally forged in fire — in fact the most awful fires mankind has ever seen…The United Nations has a sacred responsibility to combat hatred and intolerance. A United Nations that fails to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism denies its history and undermines its future…The United Nations must remain eternally vigilant.
You have the moral authority to ensure that this sacred responsibility is met. The ongoing racist campaign by Iran must be combated and publicly repudiated at each and every incident. Regrettably, diplomatically worded statements that do not specifically name Iran have failed to have the desired effect.
We appeal to you this year to honour the UN commitment to Holocaust Commemoration by strongly rebuking Iran’s campaign of Holocaust denial. Its threats cannot be ignored. Otherwise, the promise of “Never again” may ring hollow, yet again.
Human Rights First
Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women
Renate Bloem, UN Representative
Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director
France Libertés Fondation
Catherine Legna, Director
NGO Committee on Sustainable Development
Roma Stibravy, Chairperson
Women’s Federation for World Peace International
Elisabeth Riedl, European Secretary General
The Democracy Coalition Project
Theodore Piccone, Executive Director
Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre
Abdelbagi Jibril, Executive Director
Association of World Citizens
Virginia Swain, ECOSOC Representative
International Council of Jewish Women
Léonie de Picciotto, Representative to the UN
International Humanist and Ethical Union
Roy Brown, Main Representative, UN Geneva
Hillel C. Neuer, Executive Director
Worldwide Organization for Women
Afton Beutler, Vice President of International Relations
Deva Kaur Khalsa, Main Representative to UN
Transnational Radical Party
Matteo Mecacci, Representative to the UN
Endeavour Forum Inc.
Babette Francis, National & Overseas Co-ordinator
The Montagnard Foundation, Inc.
Kok Ksor, President
B’nai B’rith International
Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice-President
Association for World Education
Rene Wadlow, Representative to UN, Geneva
World Union of Progressive Judaism
Rabbi Uri Regev, President
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Director
International Federation of Housing and Planning
Paul Rijnaarts, Secretary General
American Psychological Association &
International Council of Psychologists
Florence L. Denmark, Main Representative to the UN
Thailand Burma Border Consortium
Sally Thompson, Deputy Executive Director
World Federation for Mental Health
Myrna Lachenal, Lead Representative to the UN, Geneva
Don Bosco Ashalayam
Fr. Jose Mathew SDB, Director
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Edward S. Beck, President
American Jewish Congress
David Twersky, Senior Adviser, International Affairs
Naghma Imdad, Director
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
Daniel Lack, Representative to the UN
European Union of Jewish Students
Olga Israel, Chairperson
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Angela C. Wu, International Director