Movie Maker's Mike Silenced During "Human Rights Council" Session on "Human Rights"
by THOR HALVORSSEN
July 11, 2012
GENEVA -- Last Thursday, I was on the schedule to deliver testimony at the United Nations Human Rights Council. I was invited to be part of UN Watch's campaign to stop Hugo Chavez's bid to elect Venezuela to a seat on the council this November.
NGOs are allotted several minutes to say their peace and contribute to the debate about rights. I sat down to deliver my speech and no sooner had I mentioned the word "Cuba" in the context of human rights violations than the Cuban delegation began to create a scene, complete with banging their fists on the table and kicking over a chair, to force the council president to interrupt my speech on a point of order.
Here is what I was able to say:
My name is Thor Halvorssen and I am from Venezuela. In 2004, my mother was shot by the security forces of the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.
Through the Human Rights Foundation, which I founded and direct, I have carefully monitored the Venezuelan state and have established that its current government is among Latin America's worst human rights violators.
In Venezuela, exercising free speech is fraught with risks. Political dissent is criminalized. Property is capriciously and unlawfully seized. Opposition politicians are disqualified from elections thanks to false accusations. Journalists are harassed and media critical of the government is simply shut down. Judges are fired and even sent to prison when the president dislikes their rulings. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Venezuela since Lieutenant Colonel Chávez was elected president in 1999. Add to this the more than 5,000 who have died in the country's disgraceful prisons, many of them awaiting trial and therefore possibly innocent of the charges that put them behind bars in the first place. No such murder rate had ever existed in Venezuela, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The government has proven that it is incapable of protecting the most basic human right -- the right to life.
While all of this has taken place this council has remained silent.
Madam President, despite all of this, Venezuela is now seeking election to this council. When it was founded in 2006 the council promised that only those countries that "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights" would be the only ones elected. To elect Venezuela would shame and embarrass this council and would allow Venezuela to shield its horrendous record of abuse and equally problematically, to validate other authoritarian governments such as Syria, Iran and one that sits shamefully on this council: Cuba. Electing Venezuela would deny this council the chance to shine a light into the darkness that envelops Venezuela and it will blunt actions to protect 29 millions Venezuelans who are at the mercy [of a malicious and incompetent government].