CubaBrief: Virtual Forum 2000 Conference: “A New World Emerging? Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity” and a call for reform at the UN Human Rights Council

Over the past 24 years, Forum 2000 has organized an annual gathering to focus on pressing international issues. This year’s Forum 2000 Conference theme “A New World Emerging? Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity” will be a virtual conference held from October 12 – 14, 2020.

It coincides with the United Nations General Assembly voting several dictatorships with terrible human rights records onto the UN Human Rights Council, and takes place in the midst of a pandemic that was made worse by one of these candidates, the People’s Republic of China that has been aided and abetted by the dictatorship in Havana.

Therefore it is no small coincidence that Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), will be opening the Forum 2000 Conference. The Conference kicks off on Monday, October 12, at 2 PM (CET). This is a courageous stand rooted in truth challenging a powerful dictatorship at a time of crisis. Communist China has threatened retaliation against the Czech Republic for their solidarity with Taiwan.

This act of defiance is very much in the spirit of the founders of Forum 2000.  Forum 2000 is a joint initiative of the late Czech President Václav Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel. In 1990 in his book, Disturbing the Peace, President Havel presented a definition of hope that is relevant to the moment the world is traversing today.

“Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpromising the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

This is why next week Forum 2000 will be taking place and pushing for the restoration of solidarity and responsibility in the world that is emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also why on Friday, October 9th human rights defenders gathered virtually to oppose Cuba, China, Pakistan and Russia’s runs for the U.N. Human Rights Council at a press conference organized by the Geneva based watchdog group UNWatch.

Chinese rights activist Yang Jianli explained why China should not be elected to the UN Human Rights Council and highlighted Beijing’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

“In July of this year our organization, Citizen Power Initiatives for China, issued a comprehensive research report entitled “Examining China’s Response to the Covid-19 Outbreak.”  Based on meticulous analysis of data, much of it directly from sources in China, the report establishes a day-by-day, objective record of the Chinese government’s response to the virus outbreak, especially in the critical month between December 26, 2019 and January 25, 2020. The report concludes among other things: 

The Covid-19 epidemic could have been stopped in its early state.The Chinese government prioritized political stability over peoples’ lives and health.  The Chinese Government deliberately suppressed information about the source and extent of the outbreak and the overall threat of the pandemic.The Chinese Government deliberately misled the international community.

This is just one example.”

Cuban human rights activist Rosa Maria Payá provided a first hand account of how the UN Human Rights Council responded to a petition for an independent investigation into the July 22, 2012 extrajudicial killings of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante.

“In 2013, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, received and circulated a petition to create an international committee in order to conduct an independent investigation into the killing of Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. July 22 will mark nine years since my father, Oswaldo Payá, was assassinated by the Cuban communist regime. The investigation has yet to be conducted by the UN while the Cuban regime is again seeking a seat on the Human Rights Council, from where they pretend to protect their impunity and ensure sure that the multiple accusations against them, or against the rest of their criminal friends, in Venezuela, China, Russia, Belarus, etc. do not prosper.”

This is an example that “justice delayed is justice denied.” William Penn, the founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia, in his 1693 book Some Fruits of Solitude provides an early formulation of this legal maxim: “Our law says well, to delay Justice is Injustice. Not to have a Right, and not to come at it, differs little.” Justice has been denied the families of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante since July 22, 2012.

The failure of the UN Human Rights Council is compounded by the world’s democracies through the elections for the UN Human Rights Council legitimizing dictatorships with their votes. This is why UN Watch is proposing a major reform to the election system for the Council.

“If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers,” said Neuer, “then we should just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case in the General Assembly’s human rights committee. Non-democracies could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of international legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime.”

Ten years ago at Forum 2000 Vaclav Havel spoke of the financial crisis that had shaken the international community, but his words were not heeded and unfortunately are even more relevant for today.

“Of course, after this crisis, there will be thousands of theorists who will try to describe precisely how and why it happened and how to prevent it next time. But this will not be a sign that they have understood the message that this crisis has provided.”

The former Czech president observed that “the crisis is a call to humility. We should not take things for granted.” This was true when he said it in 2010, and even more so today in 2020.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 1, 2020 the Castro regime took the lead in backing the new security law in Hong Kong that effectively ended autonomy there. It is the latest example that Rosa Maria Payá was right when she observed on Friday that “all of these regimes act in gangs, conspiring together to cover their backs and deplete the mission of the Human Rights Council of content and effectiveness.”

UNWatch, October 9, 2020

Rosa Maria Paya Opposes Cuba’s Election to the UNHRC

Remarks of Rosa Maria Paya at UN Watch Press Conference, October 9, 2020

Speaking at UN Watch’s press conference today concerning next week’s elections to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, Cuban rights activist Rosa Maria Paya urged countries not to elect Cuba. See her remarks below. UN Watch published a detailed report on the elections which examines the pledges and human rights record of each country running. Click here for the report.

Greetings to you all, and a special thanks to Hillel and UN Watch for providing this opportunity.

In 2013, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, received and circulated a petition to create an international committee in order to conduct an independent investigation into the killing of Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. July 22 will mark nine years since my father, Oswaldo Payá, was assassinated by the Cuban communist regime. The investigation has yet to be conducted by the UN while the Cuban regime is again seeking a seat on the Human Rights Council, from where they pretend to protect their impunity and ensure sure that the multiple accusations against them, or against the rest of their criminal friends, in Venezuela, China, Russia, Belarus, etc. do not prosper.

We know that as a fact, because that impunity has been guaranteed each time the Cuban regime has been seated in the Council. Personally, I have been publicly interrupted, attacked, and even threatened by the ambassadors of the dictatorship in coordination with representatives from other regimes such as Russia, China, and Venezuela while addressing the plenary session of the Human Rights Council. All of these regimes act in gangs, conspiring together to cover their backs and deplete the mission of the Human Rights Council of content and effectiveness.

 The existence of a candidacy without competition of the Cuban dictatorship is not only an outrage against the Cuban people, but also a shame on the governments that sit in the United Nations. So, my words today are especially addressed to the member states of the European Union and the democracies of the Americas which should not legitimize with their vote the presence in the Human Rights Council of the longest dictatorship in our hemisphere. We urge you to vote against the Cuban dictatorship in the highest human rights body.

Actually, the 60-year tolerance of totalitarianism in Cuba demonstrated by the free world has impeded the stability of democracy in our continent and caused serious threats to the national security of several states. As has been widely documented, the Cuban intelligence apparatus of the Castro regime infiltrated the entire hemisphere, from social movements to guerrillas and criminal organizations. During these years, Cuba has served as a center for the dissemination of authoritarian models, such as the so-called “21st century socialism.” The Cuban dictators are involved in criminal and terrorist activities: drug trafficking, trafficking persons through the Communists Medical Brigades, corruption, and providing sanctuary and support to terrorists as recently denounced by the Colombian government.

 In fact, last year, the attacks on democratic regimes in Latin America have been especially intense and even violent, according to the allegations of the OAS General Secretariat. That entity that was forced to make itself available to “the member states in their efforts to confront the destabilizing actions organized by the Venezuelan and Cuban dictatorships.”

Solidarity is crucial now because Cuba is in crisis. Families are living through a deep humanitarian crisis and political repression, a crisis caused by the existence of a corrupt and criminal regime and aggravated by the Covid-19. However, amid hunger and medicine shortages, Cuban regime authorities have been blocking the release of humanitarian aid sent by the Cuban exile community in a citizen-led initiative to help their brothers and sisters on the island. For months now, Castro and Diaz Canel have been arbitrarily withholding the cargo, demonstrating that the dictatorship is the true blockade between the aid and the Cuban people.

We are talking about a regime that imposes a single-party system and prohibits the exercise of politics, freedom of expression and association, and even religious freedom.

All the democracies of the world, especially those that sit in the OAS and in the European Union, must vote against the Cuban dictators.  Josep Borrell and Michelle Bachelet must publicly protest against this candidacy. To do otherwise would be an act of complicity with criminals, an act of treason to the Cuban people and, frankly, a sabotage of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

It is imperative that all of the nations in the free world support the Cuban people’s fight for change because the victory of democracy in Cuba is essential to open the path to peace, prosperity and stability in the whole hemisphere.

https://unwatch.org/rosa-maria-paya-opposes-cubas-election-to-the-unhrc/

Forum 2000, October 9, 2020

How to attend the online 24th Forum 2000 Conference

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New World Emerging? Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity
October 12 – 14, 2020 

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 24th Forum 2000 Conference under the title “A New World Emerging? Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity” will be held exclusively online. All sessions will be held during the afternoon (CET). We will be updating you on the program, as well as on the ways to access the online discussions, here on the website and via our social media. Please follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube channel.

Also, subscribe to our newsletter so that you do not miss out on any further updates.

We are looking forward to welcoming you during the lively and fruitful Forum 2000 online discussions.

Let’s use this crisis as an opportunity!

#NewWorldEmerging

https://www.forum2000.cz/en/forum-2000-conferences-2020-how-to-participate-a-new-world-emerging

A New World Emerging?
Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity

ONLINE 24th Forum 2000 Conference
October 12 – 14, 2020

Due to the ongoing pandemic, all sessions of the 24th Forum 2000 Conference will be held exclusively online! This year’s Conference will discuss the need to restore responsibility and solidarity in a rapidly transforming world.

As the ongoing pandemic shows, the international community seems tragically unprepared to jointly address the growing global challenges. Transatlantic cooperation has been weakened and global democracies have been divided by individual interests and domestic political concerns. A number of countries have still not overcome the wave of populism, radicalism, and self-centered nationalism, which may only worsen as economies falter. Meanwhile, authoritarian regimes are either sowing disorder, ruthlessly pursuing their long term power goals at the expense of everyone else, or both. The rapid technological developments create an additional layer of uncertainty and are ever more deeply affecting our societies, while providing authoritarians with a new set of useful tools. 

In spite of the aforementioned, the growing civic – and particularly youth – activism, demonstrated on many occasions in different countries during the COVID crisis, offers hope for more solidarity and perhaps even for a democratic renewal. What are the most responsible approaches towards tackling the global challenges and imminent threats when it comes to the dramatic post-pandemic fallout, the erosion of the rules-based international order, potential environmental breakdown, or major social and political disruptions caused by the emerging technologies? How to mobilize responsibility? How can we strengthen solidarity and global cooperation?

https://www.forum2000.cz/en/projects/a-new-world-emerging-restoring-responsibility-and-solidarity

UNWatch, October 9, 2020

Dissidents urge countries to oppose election of abusers to UN’s top human rights body

UN feared likely to elect China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan

GENEVA, October 9, 2020 – Human rights dissidents who have been persecuted for their activism by China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan joined today in calling on all UN member states to oppose those countries’ bids for election to the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

The human rights activists were hosted for an international press conference today by UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights group based in Geneva.

Click below for their remarks:
• On China: Yang Jianli, President of Initiatives for China, former political prisoner
• On CubaRosa Maria Paya, Cuban human rights activist, daughter of late dissident Oswaldo Paya
 On Russia: Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian democracy activist and vice president of the Free Russia Foundation
• On Pakistan: Taha Siddiqui, Award-winning Pakistani journalist attacked for criticizing the military

Background: the UNHRC Election to be Held on October 13, 2020

On Tuesday, October 13, the UN will elect 15 nations to its highest human rights body.

Earlier this week, a coalition of non-governmental human rights groups from Europe, the U.S. and Canada called on UN member states to oppose the election of China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which were deemed “unqualified” due to their human rights records as well as their voting records on UN resolutions concerning human rights.

Abuses by those candidates were detailed in a 30-page joint NGO report published by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, which is being circulated to UN diplomats.

“Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

As shown in the report, Cuba and Russia have no competition in their regional groups. While technically they still must obtain 97 positive votes, in practice their election is virtually certain.

The Asian regional group is the only one being contested, with five candidates vying for four available seats. “Yet because China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are so powerful at the United Nations, it’s almost certain they will be elected as well,” said Neuer.

“It’s logically absurd and morally obscene that the UN is about to elect to its top human rights body a regime that herded 1 million Uighurs into camps, arrested, crushed and disappeared those who tried to sound the alarm about the coronavirus, and suffocated freedom in Hong Kong,” said Neuer.

“Saudi Arabia carried out a record 184 executions in 2019. Russia assassinates journalists and poisons dissidents. Cuba is a police state,” said Neuer.

UN Watch has filed formal protests at the United Nations, published last week as official UN documents, against the election of ChinaCubaPakistanRussia, and Saudi Arabia.

Despite the lack of competition in almost every regional group, Neuer emphasized that there is a myth among UN diplomats that they are obliged to vote for all candidates on a clean slate. “Yet as made clear in our report, voting nations can and should refrain from electing rights abusers to the UN’s highest human rights body. We need to hear the EU’s high commissioner Josep Borrell and member states lead the call to oppose the worst abusers. So far, they have been silent.”

The report also listed Bolivia, Cote d’Ivoire, Nepal, Malawi, Mexico, Senegal and Ukraine as having “questionable” credentials, due to problematic human rights and UN voting records that should be improved.

“Sadly, all signs are that the UN will disregard its own rules and principles next Tuesday by rubber-stamping the election of China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — even though these regimes systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens,” said Neuer, “and consistently frustrate UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.”

UN Watch Call to Scrap Elections if Criteria Ignored

UN Watch is proposing a major reform to the election system. “If our own democracies continue to disregard the election criteria by voting for abusers,” said Neuer, “then we should just scrap elections altogether, and make every country a member, as is the case in the General Assembly’s human rights committee. Non-democracies could no longer hold up their UNHRC election as a shield of international legitimacy to cover up the abuses of their regime.”

“Regrettably,” said Neuer, “the EU has not said a word about hypocritical candidacies that only undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system. By turning a blind eye as human rights violators easily join and subvert the council, leading democracies will be complicit in the world body’s moral decline.”

“It will be an insult to their political prisoners and many other victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — if the UN helps gross abusers act as champions and global judges of human rights. When the UN’s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world’s victims suffer,” said Neuer.

https://unwatch.org/dissidents-urge-countries-to-oppose-election-of-abusers-to-uns-top-human-rights-body/