Monday, January 31, 2011

Madame Director-General, UNESCO

Irina Bokova, Director-General UNESCO
UNESCO Headquarters
Place de Fontenoy
Paris, France

30 January 2011

Dear Director-General:

I have here the draft of your talk on the occasion of the Opening Session of the International Symposium on Freedom of Expression at UNESCO on 26 January 2011, and I have watched the Webcast of your presentation of that talk. You appear to be sincere when you say: "We agree that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right underpinning all other civil liberties."

Unfortunately, the reason I am forced to question (forgive me) either your sincerity or your understanding of what it means to suppress Freedom of Expression, is that you have never addressed the Gayssot Act, which in France is designed specifically to suppress Freedom of Expression by making it a crime to question the findings of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-46 (art.9).

UNESCO is headquartered in Paris. I cannot believe that you are ignorant of the Gayssot Act, which makes it a crime against the French State to question the language of a Military Tribunal that originated some 65 years ago. It would appear to me that you have made a conscious decision to stand aside from confronting this clear assault on Freedom of Expression. With this decision you have made of yourself, and of UNESCO itself, mere bystanders to the ongoing corruption of the ideal of Freedom of Expression by the French State.

In a similar context following WWII, folk who acted in this way were referred to, contemptuously, as "bystanders."

You say: "UNESCO raises awareness about challenges to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We ring the bell when violations occur." It was along about this time, listening to you, that I began to feel impatient.

Where have you, where has UNESCO, ever "rang the bell" about laws in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Switzerland and other countries that have made it a crime against the State to question fragments of WWII history, particularly but not solely the charge that Germans used gas chambers to murder hundreds of thousands (millions?) of innocent, unarmed civilians?

You state: "Too many journalists find themselves in prison for the wrong reasons." For you, what are the "wrong" reasons? Men and women are in prison today in France, Germany, Austria and Spain for challenging State laws against questioning, again, fragments of WWII history. I can only sense that you agree that they should be—which is why you have decided in every such instance to not ring the UNESCO bell.

And then, what in this context is rather shameful, you quote George Orwell: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
The fact of the matter is that UNESCO and its Director Generals, both past and present, have not wanted to hear that some—some, not all—of the findings of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-46 (art.9) are not true, or merely half-true, or in some cases too obtuse to take seriously.

You say: "Freedom of expression means, indeed, the right to inform, whatever the context is, however difficult the situation might be. Protecting this fundamental human right is a process without an end. The case must be continually argued, violation of this right should never be accepted, and States and societies have to be helped to move forward."

Agreed, Madame Secretary General. I agree. Let's begin to move forward now. At UNESCO! In France! With the Gayssot Act! This really is your cup of tea, is it not?


Bradley R. Smith
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust
PO Box 439016
San Ysidro, CA 92143
Tel: 209 682 5327

NOTE: This communication will be distributed to personel at UNESCO Headquarters and to your field offices.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. If article 19 is a human right then it should be treated as a human right, without borders.
Laws against "Holocaust denial" is a crime against human rights.

Anonymous said...

Great letter. Don't hold your breath waiting on a response. I think you should make YouTube video of the letter. It deserves wide publicity.