Islamic countries criticise UN secretary general


New York : United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has come under attack for remarks that the UN Human Rights Council had ignored abuses around the world and targeted Israel instead.

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Ban angered the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) when he said in June that the Geneva-based council, of which there are several Islamic members, should look at all situations of human rights violations.

Pakistan, serving as OIC's chairman, told the 49-nation council at a resumed meeting Wednesday in Geneva that the council, not just the Islamic members, should "streamline" its relationship with Ban.

UN Watch, an NGO monitoring UN activities in Geneva, said Pakistan criticised Ban for blaming the council's special focus on Palestinian-related issues while ignoring human rights violations in other countries. Islamic countries have criticised Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians and for occupying Palestinian territories.

Egypt, another council member, said Ban's remarks were a "very unfortunate development and we would seek further clarification on that statement and the appropriate means of the council to verify the authenticity of that statement and its context."

"We're witnessing a dangerous attempt to censor the highest official of the United Nations, an effort to silence anyone who exposes the council's repeated breaches of its own principles of equality, universality, and non-selectivity," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Since its establishment in Geneva in 2006, the council has adopted several resolutions censuring Israel and ignored human rights abuses in Sudan until it came under attack by the UN for singling out Israel.

The United States has refused to join the council, saying that criteria for selecting its 49 sitting members were flawed and countries known for severe human rights abuses could be elected members.

The council replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was disbanded for failing to protect and promote human rights worldwide. But many governments, including the US, said the Human Rights Council could be worse than its predecessor.

UN Watch reported that Canada defended Ban at the session on Wednesday.

"We have to acknowledge that the secretary general is entitled to his views, and it would ill behove this council to appear to be constraining or discouraging the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, a fundamental freedom we are committed to uphold," Canada said.