Event on Durban II Sidelines Turns Spotlight Onto Repressive Regimes

Published on CNSnews.com, by Patrick Goodenough, April 20, 2009.

On the eve of the U.N.’s politically-charged racism conference in Geneva, human rights activists and dissidents from some of the world’s most repressive regimes met in the Swiss city Sunday to discuss violations not expected to feature in the conference documents.

The treatment of women in Iran, repression in Cuba and Libya and the plight of black Africans in Sudan’s Darfur region were among the issues aired at the “Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.”

Libya, Iran and Cuba are among 20 countries making up a preparatory body for the U.N. conference known as Durban II. All three have human rights records that are frequently and widely criticized, and their roles in setting the agenda contributed to the controversy that has resulted in a boycott by leading Western countries …

… Iranian-Canadian human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam of the Iran-focused campaign Stop Child Executions said that when Ahmadinejad prepares to speak, representatives of countries that believe in freedom and democracy should stand up, in solidarity with the people of Iran, and walk out.

Human rights abuses and repression in communist Cuba were also spotlighted at the Geneva Summit. Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo, a dissident journalist and former political prisoner, discussed his imprisonment and the targeting of his family.

He was imprisoned during a massive 2003 crackdown, sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment but released five years later under international pressure.

Castillo described Durban II as an “oxygen booth” for dictatorships, to enable them to “continue to trample on peoples’ lives.”

Other participants in the summit included a Tutsi survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Esther Mujawayo, and Zimbabwean human rights advocate Marlon Zakeyo. (full text).

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