The Canadian Behind Watchdog That Holds UN to Account

Hillel Neuer takes UN members to task for human rights abuses
March 3, 2021 Updated: March 3, 2021

Montreal born-and-bred Hillel Neuer is on a mission to hold the United Nations to account, while calling out member states’ human rights abuses or inaction on atrocities.

The executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch recently reiterated his criticism of China’s seat at the UN Human Rights Council, saying in a tweet that the UNHRC “will adopt 0 resolutions on that country’s gross and systematic human rights abuses.”

On Feb. 25, he took aim at Beijing over its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, tweeting, “We do have this little problem when you herd 1 million uighurs into camps, disappear those who sounded the alarm about the coronavirus, jail human rights activists and crush democracy in Hong Kong.”

The previous week, he criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for refusing to recognize the Chinese regime’s persecution campaign against Uyghurs as a genocide.

Epoch Times Photo
Blind Chinese rights activist and exiled dissident Chen Guangcheng (2nd R) receives the 2014 Geneva Summit Courage Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in Switzerland on Feb. 25, 2014, pictured with UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer (1st L), UN Watch chair Alfred H. Moses (2nd L), and Chen’s wife Yuan Weijing. (Courtesy Hillel Neuer)

The UN Watch website says the organization’s mandate is to “monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter.”

“We get the word out, whether it is critiquing the UN corruption, or the failures of the Human Rights Council to live up to its mandate, or calling out anti-Israel discrimination,” Neuer told The Epoch Times about his organization, which was launched in 1993 and today attracts several million social media engagements each year.

“We are a lone voice in the wilderness. There is no one saying the things that we are saying, with the compelling voice we bring,” he says, including reprimanding Israel bias and calling out “human rights violations in the worst dictatorships like China, Russia, Syria—the list goes on.”

After the Biden administration’s Feb. 8 announcement stating that the United States planned to rejoin the UNHRC, Neuer publicly cautioned President Joe Biden not to be a “cheerleader” for corrupt regimes. The Trump administration disengaged from the council in 2018, citing many member states’ rights violations.

“The cost of the U.S. rejoining is that it lends legitimacy to a council where tyrannies and other non-democracies now comprise 60 percent of the membership,” Neuer said in a UN Watch statement. “The Biden administration should be candid in calling out the council’s abuses.”

UN Resolutions

Neuer believes that the Uyghur crisis in China’s Xinjiang region is one of the biggest concerns today. However, the UNHRC has yet to take any formal action to address the situation.

In a Feb. 18 tweet, he summed up the body’s priority on the matter.

“In 2020 alone, the UN produced nearly 50 reports on ‘the Question of Palestine,’ many of them mandated by one-sided resolutions sponsored by dictatorships,” he wrote. “That’s nearly 50 more reports than the UN produced on the Uighurs in China.”

On the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Neuer slammed the Liberal government’s unexpected vote backing an anti-Israel resolution at the UN in December 2019.

“SHAME: Canada’s Justin Trudeau government just joined the jackals at the UN by voting for a one-sided resolution singling out Israel, co-sponsored by Syria, Venezuela & North Korea,” he tweeted at the time.

Epoch Times Photo
Delegations vote at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on June 13, 2018.  (Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Watch has a section on its website that lists up-to-date statistics on UN votes to allow people to track countries’ responses to resolutions. In a section titled “UN resolutions disproportionately condemn Israel,” the database shows that 112 resolutions have been made against Israel since 2015, with just 12 against Russia and 8 against Syria during the same period. The voting record shows “the world body’s peculiar obsession with scapegoating Israel,” the site says.

The database also highlights that 60 percent of UNHRC members are non-democracies.

As for Venezuela, Neuer laments that the Maduro regime is not being called to task as much as it should, except by UN Watch.

“Venezuela, because it is a leftist regime, a number of human rights groups don’t want to address it because they are sympathetic to the far left. They will ignore it. Cuba is the same,” he says. “We are picking up the slack.”

In one example, Neuer tweeted on Feb. 22: “Maduro just spoke at the UNHRC. Earlier, I asked them: ‘Given that your own experts just found that Maduro’s agents committed killings, torture & sexual violence, by what logic and morality can a convicted murderer, torturer & rapist stay a member of this Human Rights Council?’”

UN Watch has been quoted in the media over 500 times in the past year by CNN, Time Magazine, New York Times, Reuters, and others, Neuer says. Despite the global attention, he acknowledges that moving the needle at the world forum is, at best, a slow process.

“Votes don’t change at the UN very easily, but we’ve seen over the past few years that people have changed votes … toward Israel,” he says.

“We are not the end of the story, but the beginning of change.”