August 22, 2005
U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER'S VISION VINDICATED ON SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF HIS MURDER BY SUICIDE BOMBERS: "HE SET THE STAGE FOR UN HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION REMEMBRANCE"
On August 19, 2003, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was murdered by suicide bombers in Baghdad where he had been assigned to represent the UN Secretary-General. Vieira de Mello's last public appearance before leaving for Iraq was as keynote speaker to a Wiesenthal Center - UNESCO joint international conference on Educating for Tolerance-- The Case of Resurgent Antisemitism, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
At the conference, de Mello spoke of the Holocaust and the singling out of the State of Israel in the international arena. He also instructed his Secretariat to designate Dr Shimon Samuels, the Wiesenthal Center's Director for International Liaison, as "Expert Witness on Antisemitism" for the group responsible for carrying out the program of action developed at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
At a December 2003 meeting of this group, Dr. Samuels recalled the antisemitic paroxysm of the Durban conference, and called on the UN "to fix an annual Day of Holocaust Commemoration and for the Elimination of Antisemitism, for each 27 January." Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, was liberated by the Allies on January 27, 1945.
The UN Human Rights Commission's final document on the Durban process officially included this proposal of the Wiesenthal Center which was then presented to the UN General Assembly.
The Center expresses its satisfaction that Australia, Canada, Israel, Russia and the United States have now jointly requested that the proposal be debated at the 60th General Assembly session which opens on September 13th.
Dr. Samuels sees this debate as "an appropriate acknowledgement of Vieira de Mello's concern to redeem the Durban World Conference Against Racism's true intent as, also, the realization of the Wiesenthal Center's mission to draw the lessons of the Holocaust to the real issues of contemporary human rights violations."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.
For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036.