UNHRC set to debate suspending Libya's membership

Move marks first time the rights body holds session on one of its own members; PM calls on int'l community to condemn violence in Libya.

February 24, 2011 23:33
3 minute read.
Human Rights Council

UNHRC. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) is due to debate the suspension of Libya from the 47-member body when it holds a special session in Geneva on Friday to condemn the violence taking place there.

The meeting marks the first time in the council’s five-year history that it is holding a special session regarding one of its own members.

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On Thursday, diplomats in Geneva strengthened the language of the draft resolution, submitted by the European Union, to include a call to the UN General Assembly in New York to suspend Libya from the HRC, another unprecedented move.

The draft acknowledged the “decision of the Arab League to suspend Libya from its sessions in light of the deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters.”

It reaffirmed that member states have an obligation to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and that the General Assembly may suspend the membership of a state that has committed “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

The resolution also called for an independent UN-led probe of the violence in Libya. However, it failed to directly condemn the Libyan government, speaking only of human rights violations in Libya, “including indiscriminate armed attacks against civilians, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators, which if either widespread or systematic, would amount to crimes against humanity.”


It said that those responsible for the attacks should be held accountable.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the NGO UN Watch, told The Jerusalem Post that he welcomed the draft resolution’s call to suspend Libya’s HRC membership.

UN Watch has called for Libya’s removal from the council ever since it was granted membership in May, Neuer said.

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“We urge the UN General Assembly to convene immediately and take action to suspend Libya. There is no time to spare,” he said, adding that it was “tragic” that states had not spoken out about this earlier.

“Who knows if the Gaddafi regime might have been less arrogant if it knew the world was watching out for the human rights of the Libyan people,” Neuer said.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the international community to condemn the Libyan violence, including its government, although he did not mention the HRC meeting.

“I think that when a regime takes its army and security forces, and maliciously fires on its people, indiscriminately, and slaughters hundreds, this is a horrible thing,” Netanyahu said. “This obligates the strong condemnation of all civilized countries, certainly civilized democracies, and we strongly condemn it.”

Netanyahu also invoked the post-election protests that convulsed Iran in 2009.

“We know that we saw a similar sight on the streets of Tehran when the Iranian regime turned to its security forces and commando units and fired with malice and cruelty into the crowd and left Iranian citizens lying on the sidewalks, choking on their own blood,” the prime minister said.

“This is horrifying; it is horrifying in Libya and it is horrifying in Tehran as well. It obliges and demands strong and clear condemnation in both cases.”

Israel is one of more than 53 countries that signed a call for the special session of the HRC and is expected to address the council in Geneva on Friday.

Next week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to travel to Geneva to discuss Libya and unrest elsewhere in the Middle East with human rights diplomats, and to address the HRC.

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