An embattled nominee to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council claimed that reports about his ties to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi are part of a "disinformation campaign" led by a "Likud group," in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon this week.
Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler, who allegedly helped create the Muammar Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, was nominated by Switzerland to an advisory committee on the UNHRC. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power blasted Ziegler as "unfit" for the role last Friday, and a Swiss parliamentary committee reportedly voted to oppose the nomination on Tuesday.
The Qaddafi prize has been awarded to prominent human rights abusers and anti-Semites, including Fidel Castro, Louis Farrakhan and Mahathir Mohamad. Numerous media reports from the late 1980s cite Ziegler as a representative for the prize committee, including UPI, Time magazine and the Independent.
But Ziegler claimed the reports were mistaken in an interview with the Free Beacon. He said the allegations were part of a "disinformation campaign" by U.N. Watch, a prominent Geneva-based organizations that monitors human rights issues at the U.N.
"U.N. Watch, which is a Likud organization … they are having this disinformation campaign," said Ziegler. "The disinformation campaign started after my [2002 report on food rights] in the Palestine occupied territories."
"How could I be a representative [for the Qaddafi prize]?" he added. "It’s absurd. It’s totally and completely absurd."
Ziegler was quoted in UPI in 1989 as saying the prize was "conceived as an anti-Nobel Peace Prize award for the Third World." He also told the publication that the prize foundation had raised $10 million in capital, according to the report.
Time magazine listed him as a member of the jury that awarded the prize.
"That is a wrong quotation," Ziegler told the Free Beacon. He declined to say whether he had spoken to any of the publications for the articles.
When asked why these outlets allegedly misquoted him speaking about an organization that he had no involvement with, Ziegler said he did not know.
"I mean, you must ask the journalists. There [is] a lot of wrong information going around," he said.
Swiss TV challenged Ziegler’s account in a 2011 investigation, noting other evidence that he was involved with the Qaddafi prize, including documents that list him as an official in the organization that distributed the award.
There are also photos that show Ziegler meeting with Qaddafi. He told the Free Beacon that he met with Qaddafi as a representative of a Swiss political party.
The sociologist was nominated for the Qaddafi prize in 2002, along with the late author Roger Garaudy, who penned the 1996 Holocaust-denying manifesto The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.
Ziegler publicly defended Garaudy in a letter that same year, according to UN Watch, calling him "one of the leading thinkers of our time."
Ziegler maintains that he did not accept the 2002 Qaddafi award, although Swiss and Libyan media have reported otherwise, according to U.N. Watch. He told the Free Beacon that he did not attend the award ceremony that year.
Power was the first U.N. official to publicly speak out against Ziegler’s recent nomination to the UNHRC.
"Dr. Ziegler is unfit for continued service at the @UN_HRC," said Power in a tweet to U.N. Watch last Friday.
"I don’t know why she criticized me," said Ziegler.
He also dismissed a Swiss parliamentary committee’s objection to his nomination this week, saying it does not have say over the appointment.