- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

Freedom House siege
Representatives of Freedom House, the U.S.-based human rights watchdog, spent much of Friday in a basement conference room in New York, defending the organization's reputation from challenges by many of the governments it had criticized.
Freedom House is seeking to renew its U.N. accreditation, which is necessary for the group to participate in meetings. But representatives of Cuba, Sudan and China countries that repeatedly have found themselves on the blunt end of human rights reports are using their positions on the 19-member credentials committee to question the group's tactics and judgments.
At the meeting on Friday, Cuba charged that the New York-based organization conspired with terrorists and worked with the CIA, Sudan complained that Freedom House's accusations of genocide were a figment of its imagination, and Beijing rejected the group's listing of Taiwan as a separate entity.
Iran and Syria, which were not members of the committee but spoke as observers, expressed concern over the group's recent report on what Freedom House called the growing repression and lack of democracy in the Islamic world.
"Categorizing countries in that way," said the Iranian representative, "contributed to stereotypes that have already caused problems since the terrorist attacks of the last year."
Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky defended his group, insisting that it was "broadly based and nonpartisan." He said the report on Islamic governments was an accounting of democratic processes, and was not intended "to incite interreligious hostility."
The group has repeatedly denied hiring terrorists, but acknowledges contact with what it calls human rights groups around the world.
France, which sat on the committee, said it was satisfied with Freedom House's response to members' questions. The United States and Germany spoke on behalf of the organization.
"Freedom House is an important voice confronting many important issues around the world," said the U.S. representative. While "some states may not agree with Freedom House, it is important for NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] to speak out about human rights."
He added that, contrary to accusations by Cuba, the group is "completely independent" of the U.S. government. However, he said, like many such groups, Freedom House does receive U.S. government money.
Other well-known groups also have had trouble with accreditation this time around. The Paris-based human rights group France Libertes, founded by former first lady Danielle Mitterrand, was deferred for consideration until the group apparently could reverse its criticism of China's rule in Tibet.
The Chinese representative asked for a special report "on the subject of China's sovereignty over Tibet, to correct the error."
The committee, which has deferred the Freedom House decision since May, is expected to arrive at a resolution on the renewal soon. Some human rights analysts say that outright rejection of a group is rare, with perpetual deferment a more likely outcome.

ILO on airline slump
The bad news keeps on mounting for the airline industry and, by extension, for everyone else as well.
The International Labor Organization will issue a report today showing that for every "direct airline job" lost, seven other persons also will become unemployed. These secondary losses include airport jobs like baggage handling and maintenance work, as well as "perimeter" jobs in hotel and transport services.
Aircraft-related manufacturing has started to soften, said the report, which also holds a bleak outlook for companies involved in in-flight catering and entertainment.
The report predicts that as the ripples of September 11 spread, carriers in Asia, Latin America and Africa will feel the loss as well. Air cargo, for example, is down by a third in Asia, and a quarter in the United States.
"One of the consequences of the present crisis is that a number of airlines around the world will find themselves in financial difficulties," says the report, which also cautions that some carriers will close, others will be re-nationalized while some others will need subsidies.
The Geneva-based ILO says that "traffic forecasts for short-term growth are all negative" and warns that a recovery could be at least two years off. In its labor analysis, the report does not appear to mention the one growth sector for the U.S. airline industry security.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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