A prominent pro-Israel lobbying group at the United Nations on Friday accused a senior official at the UN Human Rights Council of systematically trying to block their work over a number of years.
UN Watch filed a 30-page complaint to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres against Eric Tistounet, the chief of the Human Rights Council branch of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, accusing him of “systematic harassment, censorship and discrimination.”
The accusations are based on testimony from a UN whistleblower who used to work for Tistounet, which said that he repeatedly tried to manipulate proceedings so that UN Watch would not be able to participate in debates.
Eric Tistounet “repeatedly instructed me to move UN Watch further down the list for interactive dialogues and panel discussions, such that they would fall below the maximum number of NGO participants and lose the opportunity to speak,” UN Watch quoted the whistleblower as saying.
UN Watch said Tistounet, a French national who helped negotiate the creation of the council in 2006, had a grudge against UN Watch, which repeatedly highlighted the council’s anti-Israel bias.
The complaint also accused Tistounet of leading a campaign to harass and target UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
UN Watch was founded in 1993 and, according to its webpage, aims to combat “racism, antisemitism and anti-Israeli prejudice at the UN, taking the offensive against dictatorships and double standards.”
It is headquartered in Geneva and is a UN-accredited NGO, enabling it to participate in some debates and panels at the global body, where it has campaigned against human rights abuses around the world.
Some of Neuer’s appearances at the UN have gone viral, with videos shared on social media networks racking up millions of views. A speech he gave at the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, in which he responded to accusations that Israel engages in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, has had nearly 8 million views on YouTube.
Responding to the complaint, a UN spokesperson denied that UN Watch had been unfairly targeted or discriminated against.
“As previously indicated to UN Watch in response to their correspondence to the Human Rights Council Secretariat, the lists of speakers for NGOs for all speaking opportunities at the Human Rights Council are generated automatically, through a system which assigns speaking slots on a first-come, first-served basis based on the priority requested by the NGO and its time of registration,” the spokesperson said.
“With these same modalities, the organizations ‘UN Watch’ – together with ‘Ingénieurs du Monde,’ an NGO represented by the Executive Director of UN Watch, Mr. Hillel Neuer – were, for instance, able to deliver 26 statements during the 49th session; 17 statements during the 48th session; and 17 statements during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, respectively,” the spokesperson said.