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At UN, Arab Commission for Human Rights Out for Year in 18-0-1 Vote, Member List Demanded

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- Algeria's terrorism complaint against Rachid Mesli, the human rights advocate who spoke for the non-governmental organization Arab Commission for Human Rights at the UN in Geneva last June, resulted on Wednesday in the group's suspension from the UN for one year. Click here for previous coverage by Inner City Press.

  By a vote of 18 in favor and one abstaining, the group will also be required to turn over a list of all of its "members and associates" before it can be considered for reinstatement. We hope this sets an example, Algeria's representative said after the debate and vote, in the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs. But what sort of example does it set?

  Mesli has been granted refugee status in Switzerland. He was accused of terrorism in 1999, in a trial criticized by Amnesty International. Most countries on the UN's Committee on NGOs said that a conviction in any member state is enough to establish guilt. While neither Algeria nor the UN's head staffer for the Committee, Hanifa Mezoui, would agree to release to the Press any part of the complaint, Inner City Press obtained a copy of Algeria's January 14 letter and attachments, and puts them online here. Egypt called this the product of "a competent court whose verdict is unquestionable."

    Egypt ultimately made the proposal that a list of all members and associates be provided. The U.S. said it did not oppose such forced disclosure, but wanted more evidence of Mesli's guilt. The US agreed that the Arab Commission for Human Rights should be sanctioned for allowing Rachid Mesli of the separate, unaccredited group Alkarama, to testify in its place.

  The United Kingdom, which had initially expressed reservations, ultimately voted in favor of the punishment. After the vote, the UK's representative said it "seems heavy-handed." 

  Guinea, on the other hand, in the run-up to the vote said that the punishment should be more harsh. India said that "the UN must respect each member state" and the verdicts its courts reach. One wondered if Pakistan clearer those charged with involvement in the recent Mumbai bombings, if India would respect such a verdict.

  While the U.S. belatedly spoke of due process, it has in the past bounced groups from the UN over the objections of other states. A game of chicken took place on Wednesday morning, with the US Mission, now under Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and Susan Rice, seeming not to want to stand alone in voting no, or even to call for a vote. Sensing weakness, Egypt and Cuba pointed out that unless a member asked for a vote, it would be adopted by consensus. Ultimate the U.S. did call for a "recorded vote, for the record." The US was informed that the roll call would do just as well. And then it went 18 in favor, none against, and the lone abstention.

Footnote: Debate moved on to a Brazilian gay and lesbian group, which a number of states including Qatar implied is involved in pedophilia. The contrasts was marked, with the same states who opposed any delay in suspending Arab Commission on Human Rights asking for more and more information about the gay advocacy group, and saying no vote should be taken until all the questions were answered. And so it goes at the UN.

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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