UN ambassador hails ‘long overdue’ suspension of Libya

Reuben says Tripoli should have never been elected to Human Rights Council; called historic vote a "wakeup call" to UN.

March 3, 2011 01:45
3 minute read.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben 311. (photo credit: Shahar Azran)


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NEW YORK – Israel fully supports Libya’s suspension from membership in the Human Rights Council, Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben told the General Assembly on Tuesday, calling the suspension “long overdue.”

“For years we have been calling attention to the dire and alarming human rights situations in our region. The Libyan situation is a representative case in point,” Reuben said.

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“It is regrettable that such tragedies are only addressed when crises and murderous crimes – as in this case – unfold, despite the fact that such systematic, long-standing abhorrent human rights violations have been well-documented throughout the years,” he said.

“Libya under its current notorious regime should never have been elected to sit as a member in the Human Rights Council.”

In an “historic” occasion on Tuesday that Reuben referred to as a “wakeup call,” the General Assembly unanimously approved suspending Libya’s membership in the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

Noting that this is the first time either the Human Rights Council or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, has suspended a member state for gross violations of human rights, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the vote is “an important step forward in enhancing the credibility of the Human Rights Council, whose credibility on these issues has often, quite legitimately, been called into question.”

On the floor of the General Assembly, Rice said the unanimous suspension meant the body “has acted in the noblest traditions of the United Nations – and made it clear that governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place on the Human Rights Council.

“Membership on the Human Rights Council should be earned through respect for human rights, and not accorded to those who abuse them,” Rice said in her speech.

She deemed it “very significant and an important development” that Lebanon took the lead on the resolution, which was co-sponsored by the US, and noted that many other Arab countries sponsored the resolution, confronting issues of human rights in an Arab country dead-on.

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Venezuelan UN Ambassador Jorge Valero was a lone detractor, saying the General Assembly was wrong to suspend Libya because a planned Human Rights Council investigation in Libya had not yet taken place.

“A decision like this could only take place after an objective and credible investigation that confirms the veracity of the facts,” he said.

Valero accused the United States of planning an invasion of Libya, saying that “those who promote the use of military force against Libya do not seek to defend human rights, but to establish... a protectorate to violate them in one of the most important sources of oil and energy in the Middle East.”

On the floor of the General Assembly, Rice responded to the Venezuelan’s accusations, saying that the US “utterly rejects the willful and ugly distortion by the Venezuelan delegation of US policy and posture.

“At a time when this assembly is acting in unison in support of the Libyan people, it is shameful that one member state, whose own reprehensible record speaks for itself, would manipulate this occasion to spread lies, foster fear, and sow hate,” she said.

Calling the Venezuelan permanent representative’s remarks “ugly and reprehensible,” Rice said at a press conference after the General Assembly session that “he can live in the fantasy world that he apparently does.”

Rice said the Security Council has “not yet” discussed the prospect of military intervention in Libya.

The suspension met with near universal approval from government officials and nongovernmental entities alike.

“I strongly welcome the UN General Assembly’s resolution to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council. This outcome, which the UK has pressed for with partners, demonstrates the unity of the international community and its commitment to hold the Libyan regime accountable,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

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