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Freedom House, Other NGOs under Attack by Dictatorships at United Nations
In a stepped up campaign to intimidate and ultimately silence human rights organizations accredited at the UN, China and Cuba -- backed by several other dictatorships -- are attempting to strip Freedom House along with other UN-accredited non-governmental groups of their official status.
At root in the effort to withdraw accreditation to the rights groups is anger by dictatorships that non-governmental groups are effectively exposing rights violations at UN forums. Freedom House is charged by China with conduct violating regulations governing non-governmental groups at the recently concluded session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
Freedom House adamantly denies the charges. China led a similar campaign in 1995 that resulted in the blocking of Freedom House's credentials. In formal complaints issued to the United Nations, the Chinese and Cuban governments allege that Freedom House violated ground rules at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on March 29th of this year. Specifically, Freedom House stands accused of misuse of UN facilities to arrange for Chinese interpretation of testimony delivered by members of the Freedom House delegation, and misrepresenting the identities of its delegates. Freedom House vehemently rejects these claims and maintains it was thorough in ensuring that its activities in Geneva were in full compliance with United Nations regulations. Further, no UN staff in Geneva has accused Freedom House of any improper activity.
The Cuban government has also accused Freedom House of a range of abuses, which amount to the dissemination at the UN human rights commission meeting of materials on political repression in Cuba.
"This attack by China and Cuba is, at heart, an attempt by closed societies to muzzle free comment and the open discussion of human rights violations at the United Nations," said Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky. "It is one of the most serious assaults on freedom of expression and the rights of non-governmental groups ever mounted within the UN system."
Although on the surface this issue revolves around technical and procedural complaints, this is in fact a clear attempt by the Chinese and Cuban regimes to deflect attention away from substantive and legitimate charges of human rights abuses against them. Underlying their efforts is a more insidious campaign to silence human rights organizations like Freedom House. The International Council of the Association for Peace in the Continents, an NGO based in Spain, has also been singled out for censure.
Freedom House is concerned that the false accusations are part of a coordinated campaign to limit, if not ban, Freedom House's and other NGO participation at United Nations events, particularly the annual Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky is available for press interviews on this issue. Freedom House Trustees Mark Palmer (former US Ambassador to Hungary) and Otto Reich (former US Ambassador to Venezuela) participated in the Freedom House delegation to Geneva and are also available for comment.
Freedom House supports the development of democracy and civil society. The organization, in its 59th year, also produces Freedom In The World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, which reports on 190 countries, and Nations in Transit, a comprehensive study of civil society, rule of law, and economic liberalization in 27 former Soviet-bloc countries. Freedom House operates a Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. and conducts training and exchange programs in democracy building from offices in Budapest, Bucharest, Kiev, Riga, and Sarajevo.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.