Exclusive: The Inside Story of How CERN Sanctioned Russia | Watching UN Watch | The Human Rights Film Festival Returns

Today in The Geneva Observer:

As this Saturday marks the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a G|O exclusive in the form of a long-read inside story on how, on December 15, 2023, science and politics collided when CERN’s Council decided to terminate its cooperation agreements with the Russian Federation and Belarus. The move affected hundreds of CERN staff with Russian or Belarusian nationality. As you will read, it followed a highly sensitive and heated diplomatic discussion, its sensitivity in part explaining why it unfolded quietly until its conclusion. In the end, politics won, science lost. Targeted sanctions against the Russian Federation at WHO, the WTO, the ITU, the WIPO, and elsewhere did not profoundly change these organizations. But in CERN’s case, they strike at the heart of an illustrious European scientific organization of global significance, precisely founded on the very belief that international scientific cooperation was a driver for peace. It’s left CERN shaken to the soul. Science vs. politics is a debate of great public interest, and one that concerns us all. We have chosen to make our story about it freely accessible to all our readers.

Freely accessible too is “ICRC, Under Attack from UN Watch, Defends Its Neutrality in Gaza War,” Stephanie Nebehay’s report on UN Watch’s relentless campaign against the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As you will read, the Geneva-based NGO has now shifted its focus from UNRWA to ICRC, not shying away from using what the ICRC and an expert on the embattled humanitarian organization consider to be highly questionable tactics, bordering on disinformation.

Next Monday (February 26), the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) will open its 55th session. Over six weeks, it will scan the globe and map the state of human rights in our tormented world. Sessions of a UN body are a highly organized affair, heavy on arcane rules and procedures for the outside. The HRC is also the most political body of International Geneva, and a decision over which issue to take up, and who gets to participate in the discussions, is often an arduous process.

Twenty-two years ago, a group of human rights activists, encouraged by the Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello—a charismatic, think-different, reform-minded, passionate UN Human Rights Chief—had the visionary idea of using cinema to show and document human rights violations. There should be no barrier to entry when denouncing human rights violations; no restrictions to which country or person can be held to account. By dint of its freedom, and through gathering artists, human rights defenders, intellectuals and academics, the gathering would offer a different kind of space to defend and promote human rights, to pay tribute to the courage of its defenders. Thus was born the FIFDH, the Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights. Its 22nd edition opens March 8. Today, an interview with the team at the helm of this year’s program—of which, full disclosure, the G|O is proud to be a media partner.

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Today's Briefing: Philippe Mottaz - Stephanie Nebehay

Editorial assistance and research: David Jenny

Edited by: Dan Wheeler

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