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U.N. Denies Status to Christian Charity After China Objects

GENEVA, July 27, 2009 — UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group, condemned the U.N.’s decision today to reject an international Christian charity as a non-governmental organization (NGO), a form of observer status, after it refused Beijing demands to disclose the addresses of its Chinese members, and “concerns” by Russia, Egypt, Cuba, Pakistan, and Sudan about its “ability to contribute” to the world body.

Despite a U.S. initiative to keep the application open, the Dynamic Christian World Mission Foundation—a group registered in Korea and California that promotes Christianity through educational projects in Russia, Japan and Kyrgyzstan—lost today by a vote of 23 to 22 at the Economic and Social Coucil (ECOSOC), the U.N. organ that oversees NGO participation at the UN Human Rights Council, in the last week of a month-long session in Geneva.

Today’s vote is a setback for religious freedom, and could set a dangerous precedent at the U.N. for repressive regimes to launch frivolous objections, or demand sensitive information, in order to subvert and obstruct the important work of civil society organizations in the areas of religion, education, and human rights.

Earlier in the year, the Christian group particularly angered China when it cited the lack of religious freedom in that country as the reason it would not divulge names and addresses of its Chinese members.

Those voting to reject the missionary group included Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia, China, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, and Venezuela.

Countries voting to support its application included the U.S., Brazil, Greece, Guatemala, Canada, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, and Portugal.

However, UN Watch welcomed two other votes initiated by Western states today that saw ECOSOC overrule earlier rejections by a lower committee that is dominated by anti-democratic governments, and grant accreditation to two NGOs that met all of the official criteria.

By a vote of 25 to 12, with 13 abstentions, the U.N. accredited the Brazilian Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Association. Those voting no included Algeria, Belarus, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

Egypt, an observer state on the 54-member body, suggested that the aim of the NGO and the countries supporting its application was “to make homosexuality universal,” and complained of “double standards” against Muslim charities that were rejected for ties to terrorism. In response, Brazil said the gay group merely represented a constituency of human beings.

Similarly, by a vote of 30 to 9, with 8 abstentions, the U.N. today also accredited the Democracy Coalition Project (DCP), a Washington-based organization founded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Those voting against included China, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela, Belarus, Bolivia, Malaysia, and Mozambique. China and Russia said the group “attacked countries specifically” and had “a political agenda.”

UN Watch has relied on certain DCP reports in scoring countries based on their U.N. voting records and positions taken.

Finally, UN Watch raised concerns about the procedure behind ECOSOC’s decision today to slap a one-year suspension on the Arab Commission for Human Rights, a group that frequently pillories Israel, but which angered Algeria with a June 2008 speech to the UN Human Rights Council that denounced that country’s numerous human rights violations and its attempts to cover them up at U.N. committees.

Algeria immediately launched a formal complaint, saying that Rachid Mesli, the human rights lawyer who read the speech, was a terrorist convicted by his country in 1999. (That trial was heavily criticized by Amnesty International, and Mesli was granted refugee status in Switzerland.) Algeria also invoked procedural objections.

In January, when the Algerian complaint came before the initial committee vote, 18 of the 19 countries voted to uphold it, with only the U.S. abstaining. The U.K., according to Inner City Press, subsequently criticized the punishment of the NGO as “heavy-handed.” However, no Western countries spoke out today, and the suspension was adopted by consensus.

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