IHEU has written to the Chairman of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations in support of its fellow NGO, the World Union of Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), which is threatened with expulsion from the UN. In its letter, IHEU has urged the committee to seek evidence for the claims against the WUPJ and in any event, not to rush into a hasty decision.
Mr. Hasan Hamid HASSAN,
Chairman of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations
Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Sudan to the United Nations
305 East 47th street between 1st and 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10017
27 May 2008
By Fax and Email
We have become aware of a letter dated 13 May 2008 to you as Chairperson of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations from the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations in its capacity as Chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement. The letter makes a number of serious allegations against the World Union of Progressive Judaism, an NGO on the roster, and its representative in Geneva, which we believe to be misplaced and without foundation.
The letter refers in particular to an oral statement made by the representative on 24 January this year during the sixth Special Session of the Human Rights Council on “Human Rights Violations Emanating from the Israeli Military Incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
The latter states in part that
“the representative of the [WUPJ] attempted during his oral intervention to delve into issues that fall beyond the scope of the Council’s mandate.”
This allegation is contradicted however by the fact that the speaker specifically referred to and quoted from the written statement of the WUPJ (A/HRC/S-6/NGO/1), which was “circulated in accordance with ECOSOC resolution 1996/31” on 22 Jan. 2008 – and had thus been considered relevant by the UN Secretariat. Had the written statement not been considered relevant it would not have been accepted as a General Assembly document, officially received by the Secretary-General for the sixth Special Session of the Council.
The letter also alleges that the speaker was not “showing due respect to the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations…” in continuing to speak after being asked by the President of the Council to focus on the issue at hand. The speaker however clearly believed, given the acceptance by the Secretariat that the written statement was relevant to the issue in hand, that he was in fact doing so.
The final remark of the speaker of which the letter also complains was of course a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. What Hamlet actually said was “There is something rotten in the State of Denmark”, a quotation that would have surely resonated with those delegates of the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference familiar with Shakespeare. Furthermore, the sentence relates to “a general malaise”, rather than being a clear statement by the representative or his NGO. The President showed no objection to this humorous pun and was friendly after the meeting when Littman went to the podium to explain that he had meant no offence.
The letter went on to complain that:
“Instead of showing due respect to the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, and undertaking to support the work of the United Nations, the representative of the organization had frequently abused the privilege of accreditation to the Commission on Human Rights in the past, and more recently to the Human Rights Council, to undermine the United Nations system and make unfounded allegations against its Member States. Yet, in this late incident, the unacceptable insults and the defiance of the principles and arrangements governing the work of the United Nations organs and their relations with non-governmental organizations must not be overlooked.”
The Chair of the Co-ordinating Bureau of the NAM has however presented no evidence of “unfounded allegations”, nor do we believe will he find it easy to do so. The representative in question, David G Littman, a professional historian, has invariably based his statements to the Commission and now to the Council on documented evidence. May we respectfully suggest that your Committee ask for evidence of any such “unfounded allegations”.
Finally, regarding the claim that WUPJ and their representative have not supported the objectives of the UN, we find this claim to be entirely without foundation.
Sir, it is frequently the case that NGOs as well as State representatives make statements – or humorous remarks – in the Council which other States might find offensive. This is surely inevitable in an organisation such as the Human Rights Council. But it is surely vital to the future of the Council that minority or dissenting voices continue to be heard and humour accepted. It would create a tragic precedent if the NGO Committee were now to take action against WUPJ or their representative in Geneva either on the basis of the incident cited or on the basis of unsubstantiated claims. To do so would place at risk the accreditation status of any NGO having the temerity in the future to express views which the NAM found offensive.
We urge the Committee at its resumed session to ask the NAM to provide evidence of their claims, failing which we respectfully urge the Committee to reject their complaint, but in any event, not to rush into a hasty decision.
Roy W Brown
IHEU main representative, UN Geneva
Cc: Mrs Hanifa Mezoui, Secretary to the NGO Committee