82. At its 17th meeting, on 29 May 2008, the Committee had before it a complaint lodged by the delegation of Cuba, in its capacity as Chair of the coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement, against the World Union for Progressive Judaism, a non-governmental organization based in the United States, having roster status with the Council. The representative of Cuba informed the Committee that during the sixth special session of the Human Rights Council on the theme “Human rights violations emanating from Israeli military incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” held in Geneva on 23 and 24 January 2008, the representative of the non-governmental organization had attempted during his intervention to delve into issues that fell beyond the scope of the mandate of the Human Rights Council. The President of the Council, Doru Costea (Romania), asked the representative twice to focus on the issue at hand; nevertheless, he continued his intervention in the same vein. When given a third and final reminder by the President of the Council to focus on the issue at hand, the representative of the non-governmental organization paraphrased Shakespeare, saying, “Rather than speak, I will conclude with one sentence. There is a general malaise in the air, a feeling that something is rotten in the state of this Council.”
83. The representative of Cuba stated that the misconduct of the representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism ran counter to the principles governing the establishment of consultative relations with non-governmental organizations, as stipulated in paragraphs 2 and 3 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31. He requested that the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva investigate the matter and submit its findings to the Committee to determine whether the organization had abused its status, in which case the Committee would have to take action.
84. A lengthy debate ensued, during which a number of States requested that a report be submitted to the Committee by 3 June.
85. The representative of the United States stated that, while he agreed to the investigation, he did not believe that the deadline of 3 June allowed sufficient time to gather all the facts. He was also aware that the representative of the organization had had a dialogue with the President of the Human Rights Council, outside the official meeting, during which an apology might have been issued. The representative of Israel believed that the Committee should also hear the views of the President of the Human Rights Council on the incident. The representative of Egypt was of the view that, if it was true that the representative of the non-governmental organization had apologized informally, there should not be a problem for the organization to do so in writing. He also highlighted that the case had been given more time than previous ones, given the fact that both the organization and the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva had been notified by the Section on 22 May 2008, upon the decision of the informal working group of the Committee. Requests were also made to air a video recording of the incident in the meeting room.
86. On 3 June, the Committee resumed consideration of the complaint and viewed the portion of the webcast referring to the comments made by the non-governmental organization representative, object of the complaint. The Committee also had before it a letter from the president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and a response from the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The latter informed the Committee that the secretariat had not received any request from either the President or any member of the Council for an investigation to be carried out. Additionally, there was no evidence of any potential security risk in the particular situation, which would have triggered an internal investigation report by the secretariat.
87. The representatives of Cuba, Egypt and Qatar expressed dissatisfaction with the letter from the president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which they found misleading and manipulative. They said the letter was defending the representative of the organization in Geneva and did not include an apology for his misconduct. Rather, it expressed regret that others felt offended by the misconduct of the representative of the organization, for which he had offered his apology to the President of the Human Rights Council after the Council’s meeting. They reiterated that the organization, like any other organization, should be held accountable for the actions and wrongdoings of its representatives, regardless of intent. They stressed that the misconduct in the incident, as also expressed in the words of the representative of the organization, was directed at the Human Rights Council, not personally at its honourable president. The Council was an inter-governmental body whose members were elected to represent the general membership of the United Nations, and non-conformity with the principles and arrangements governing relations with non-governmental organizations was not permissible. Consequently, the representative of Cuba requested that the Committee consider appropriate action in accordance with Council resolution 1996/31.
88. The representatives of Israel, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States asked for additional time to review the facts and information before the Committee. The representatives of the United States and Israel said they felt that the letter was a letter of apology, that it addressed the issue and was sufficient.
89. The president of the organization addressed the Committee, stressing that there had been no intention on the part of the organization to offend any member State of the Human Rights Council and stressed that his letter meant to provide an unconditional apology. He reiterated his apology for the language used by the representative of the organization and indicated would submit another letter to that effect. The second letter was submitted and circulated to the members of the Committee the next day, and was considered as an acceptable apology by the Committee.
90. On 6 June, the Chairman of the Committee read a letter of reprimand submitted by Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement after consultations with other members of the Committees, to be sent to the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The letter was approved by consensus.
91. The representative of the United States underlined the 36 years of service the organization had provided to the United Nations, emphasizing its good work. He expressed regret that the Committee had felt it necessary to send a letter reprimanding the organization and asserted the belief of his delegation that the case should have been closed after the president of the organization had made a sincere apology before the Committee. His statement was seconded by the representative of Israel, who emphasized that the organization had a long and respected relationship with the United Nations and had always acted in such a way as to uphold the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and promote democracy, peace and justice. Regarding the text of the letter to be sent to the organization, he said that there had been lengthy discussions on that matter and that his delegation only reluctantly agreed to the consensus.
92. The representative of Cuba highlighted that the Non-Aligned Movement had shown flexibility in order to obtain a consensus. He insisted that the organization had acted inappropriately, and that, consequently, an action by the Committee was required. He expressed the belief that the letter approved by the Committee fulfilled such a requirement. He also expressed confidence that the organization would take the necessary measures to ensure that the said incident was not repeated, underlining that the Committee had the prerogative to monitor the activities of the organization to confirm that the organization and its representatives conformed at all times to the principles governing the establishment and nature of its consultative relations with the Economic and Social Council.