A former United Nations human rights official admitted this week that he received the Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in 2002, after previously denying it in an August interview with the Washington Free Beacon.
Jean Ziegler, a former U.N. rapporteur who has been nominated to the United Nations Human Rights Council advisory committee, told a Swiss newspaper that he did receive the prize funded by the late Libyan dictator, but then returned it.
This contradicts a statement Ziegler made to the Free Beacon in an August interview.
“I can only tell you I didn’t get [the prize],” said Ziegler. “And if I had gotten it, I would not have accepted it.”
Ziegler also told the Free Beacon that he was not at the award ceremony where the prize was bestowed.
His reversal appears to have been prompted by a new video released by the human rights group U.N. Watch, which shows Ziegler on stage at the ceremony receiving the award.
“[Ziegler’s] new line is he gave it back, and my answer is ‘prove it,’” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch. “He has zero credibility.”
Ziegler’s involvement with the Qaddafi Prize has been a source of controversy since he was nominated to the UNHRC advisory council. He was quoted in several 1989 news reports as a representative for the prize committee but now denies that he played a role in the organization.
“How could I be a representative [for the Qaddafi prize]?” Ziegler told the Free Beacon in August. “It’s absurd. It’s totally and completely absurd.”
He said reports in UPI, Time magazine, and the Independent, which quoted him as a representative for the prize in 1989, were inaccurate.
The Qaddafi Prize was discontinued in 2011. It has been awarded to a series of prominent dictators and anti-Semites, including Louis Farrakhan, Fidel Castro, and Mahathir Mohamad.
Roger Garaudy, a French author and Holocaust denier, was awarded the Qaddafi prize alongside Ziegler in 2002.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power criticized Ziegler’s UNHRC nomination in August.
“Dr. Ziegler is unfit for continued service at the @UN_HRC,” wrote Power in a tweet to U.N. Watch.
The vote to confirm Ziegler to the UNHRC advisory committee is expected to take place on Thursday.
U.N. Watch announced on Friday that it would give Ziegler 72 hours to acknowledge his alleged role in the Qaddafi prize and apologize for misleading the public. The group said it would release video evidence and documentation of his involvement.
U.N. Watch showed reporters on Monday in Geneva a video of Ziegler accepting the prize. The video was produced by the Qaddafi Prize organization in 2007, according to U.N. Watch.