GENEVA (Feb. 10)
The U.N. Human Rights Commission announced Monday that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat would address its annual session now in progress here.
It will be the first time since the Persian Gulf War, when Arafat sided with Iraq, that the PLO chief will address the 53-member commission from the podium, an honor reserved for heads of state. His last appearance here was in 1988.
The announcement followed an address to the commission by U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, who delivered a sharp attack on the commission’s admission of countries that “are themselves gross violators of human rights.”
He singled out Iraq, Iran and Cuba.
American diplomats are clearly unhappy over the invitation to Arafat, although Quayle himself offered no criticism. “We will be interested to hear what he has to say on terrorism and we hope he will reject it,” the vice president told a news conference.
In the course of his speech, Quayle observed that “a month after the U.N. General Assembly redeemed its credibility by repealing overwhelmingly the so-called ‘Zionism-is-racism’ resolution, we can speak of moral suasion and the growing weight of world opinion.”
The Iraqi and Cuban delegates walked out of the hall before Quayle spoke, apparently aware their countries would be attacked. But Iran, one of the countries assailed as the antithesis of human rights practices, remained seated. Its chief delegate, Cyrus Nasseri, was just elected chairman of the commission.
Daniel Lack, representative of the World Jewish Congress, which has non-governmental organization status on the commission, addressed the world body last Friday.
He warned of nationalist extremism, religious prejudice and growing intolerance in Europe and other parts of the world subject to political, economic or social upheavals.
Lack was particularly disturbed by emergent anti-Semitism in the republics of the former Soviet Union. One especially alarming phenomenon is the spread of anti-Semitic hatred by extremist, nationalist and xenophobic groups of which more than 100 have sprung up in Russia alone, he said.
Lack also spoke of the plight of the Syrian Jewish community in Damascus, Aleppo and Kamishli, confirming to the commission that Jews are not permitted to emigrate from Syria and are allowed to travel abroad for only short periods.
The practice is a blatant violation of Syria’s obligations under Article 12 of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which grants everyone the right to emigrate, Lack said.