UN 'bans critics from human rights forum': Dalai Lama excluded after pressure from Peking

THE largest international human rights conference in 25 years, which begins in Vienna on Monday, was overshadowed yesterday by allegations that UN organisers were bowing to demands from governments to exclude critics.

Apparently under pressure from Peking, the United Nations has refused to allow the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, to take part as an official member. The Austrian Foreign Minister, Alois Mock, summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest against the ban. 'The Dalai Lama was invited by the Austrian government, and he is staying here as a guest of the government,' said Mr Mock. 'I summoned the Chinese ambassador and told him this.'

About 16 Sikh and Kashmiri human rights groups based in Britain, the United States and Canada have had invitations to the conference withdrawn, allegedly at India's insistence. The British, US and Canadian delegations yesterday protested to the UN about the decision, which one diplomat described as 'way out of order'. Graham Hand, head of the Foreign Office human rights department, said the delegations had complained that the UN had no authority to exclude the organisations, adding: 'We hope and believe that this will now be reversed.'

The Sikh Human Rights Group, based in Southall, Middlesex, received a letter on 21 May from Ibrahima Fall, secretary-general of the conference, inviting the organisation to participate as an observer. On 2 June, however, another letter, this time signed by John Pace, the conference co-ordinator, said: 'Our letter dated 21 May concerning an invitation to the World Conference on Human Rights was sent to your organisation due to administrative oversight. That letter may now be disregarded.' Jasdev Singh Rai, director of the group, said that when he telephoned Vienna to query the withdrawal, he was told by one of Mr Pace's staff that India had objected to the presence of his and several other human rights bodies.

Mr Pace told the Independent that he had whittled down the number of potential participants from around 18,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Mr Rai's group was among a small number which had been eliminated at a late stage, but whose names had inadvertently been left on a mailing list.

A Western diplomat dismissed this, saying the UN had asked governments for their comments on applications from NGOs based on their soil. 'Western countries all refused to comment, on the grounds that we were not going to bar anyone. The rules are quite clear. There is no discretion for the UN to exclude groups on its own initiative.'

Mr Pace said, however: 'We are trying to put together an environment in which governments can decide how to implement human rights. Certain groups who want to focus on the human rights situation in one country - outfits of a denunciatory nature - are not compatible with trying to achieve a regional or international approach. This is an inter-governmental meeting. We can't focus entirely on governments having to defend themselves.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory