Analysis and Commentary from UN Watch in Geneva
September 20, 2010 — Issue 253
- Libya lashes out after UN Watch brings 3rd Libyan victim to testify on Qaddafi's crimes before U.N. Human Rights Council
- Qaddafi rep asks chair to delete speeches critical of Libya's membership on council
- U.S. defends UN Watch: “Their speeches must be in the record”
Geneva, September 20 — Libya lashed out today after UN Watch continued its onslaught against the desert dictatorship's membership in the UN Human Rights Council by bringing yet another victim to testify before the plenary to expose Qaddafi's crimes.
Libya demanded that the council president delete the victims' remarks from the record, which included challenges to Libya's new membership on the UN's highest human rights body. (See full trancript below.)
Sparking today's commotion in the plenary was testimony by Mohamed Eljahmi, brother of the late Fathi Eljahmi, a noted Libyan dissident who died after suffering brutal imprisonment under the Qaddafi regime.
Speaking on behalf of Freedom House, Eljahmi asked: "Why is the government of Mr. Qaddafi, which tortured and killed my brother—and which is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights—now an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council?"
Organized by the Geneva-based UN Watch, Eljahmi's remarks were delivered as part of a new campaign by 27 human rights groups to have Libya suspended from the 47-nation council.
On Thursday, UN Watch arranged for testimony by Kristyana Valcheva, one of the five Bulgarian nurses who were imprisoned and tortured on false charges of poisoning children with HIV, and Ashraf El-Hajouj, the Palestinian doctor who was victimized with them. Both were interrupted repeatedly by Libya.
After Eljahmi spoke, Libyan representative Ibrahim Aldredi lashed out at "certain irresponsible and imperious-type NGOs" for allegedly making "allegations which are really groundless and contentious."
He told the council president, Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, that Libya "would like the interventions by such NGOs to be deleted from the record" for being "incompatible with our procedures."
But the U.S. immediately intervened, rallying to the defense of the victims' testimony, saying that "accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak, and their speeches (must) be included in the record."
Jalredi added that "the Libyan Arab Jamahariya under Muammar Al-Qaddafi was honored to be elected to the council, and the positive role of Libya was estimated in Africa and throughout the world with a view to strengthening human rights."
“We take note of the points you raised," said the council president, without issuing any ruling on Libya's request.
The government of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi took its seat on the council last week, in a 3-week session that concludes on October 1st. The council was created in 2006 to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, which earned scorn when Libya was elected as chair in 2003.
(Following is the transcipt from today's debate)
"Why is Qaddafi on the Human Rights Council?"
UN Human Rights Council, 15th Session
Testimony by Mohamed Eljahmi on behalf of Freedom House
Organized by UN Watch
Geneva, 20 September 2010
This Council was created with the promise to elect countries that promote and protect human rights.
We ask: Does the UN’s election of Libya live up to this promise?
For me, this question is not academic. My late brother, Fathi Eljahmi, was a heroic dissident in Libya.
Under the rule of Mr. Qadhafi, membership in political parties or independent labor unions are crimes punishable by death. The fulfillment of citizens’ needs is tied to their absolute loyalty to Mr. Qadhafi.
Ordinary Libyans are accountable to a vast security apparatus. Their actions are scrutinized by Orwellian institutions, punishable by ruthless death squads.
Despite the danger, my brother Fathi chose to speak out for free speech and human rights. He was a courageous man. He was also my mentor and a father figure. He was an unconditionally loving and generous husband, son, and brother. Fathi was blessed with a great mind and a passion for equality and justice.
In 2002, he publicly set out his vision for a constitution, free speech, free enterprise, and an investigation into the massacre of 1200 prisoners at Abu Slim.
As a result, the government imprisoned Fathi for 17 months, until then-Senator Biden, who is now the US Vice President, interceded on his behalf. As soon as he was released, Fathi again spoke out for freedom and human rights. Two weeks later, he was sent back to prison, and subjected to five years of intense torture and isolation, leading to his death on May 21, 2009.
My family asks: When will this council establish an international investigation into my brother’s imprisonment, torture and death?
Why is the government of Mr. Qadhafi, which tortured and killed my brother—and which is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights—now an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council?
When will this council do the right thing, and stand with the Libyan people, to defend their human rights?
Thank you, Mr. President.
LIBYA EXERCISES RIGHT OF REPLY
Libya (Ambassador Ibrahim Aldredi): Thank you, Mr. President. I am making this statement to respond to the statements by certain irresponsible and imperious-type NGOs which are trying to put the work of the Council and to immobilize people using allegations which are really groundless and contentious. Mr. President, we would like the interventions by such NGOs to be deleted from the record -- last Thursday’s intervention, and some this afternoon. These should be deleted because they are interventions which are incompatible with our procedures.
United States (interjects with Point of Order): We would like to highlight that the U.S. believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak, and that their speeches be included in the record. As you know, the voices of civil society are extremely important to the work of this council. Though member states, including the United States, may occasionally disagree with the content of their statements, the council should cultivate an environment of openness where we can discuss our differences. Thank you.
Libya: I would state to the honorable Council that this should not be a forum for all sorts of allegations when they are baseless and not grounded in truth. The Libyan Arab Jamahariya under Muammar Al-Qaddafi was honored to be elected to the Council, and the positive role of Libya was estimated in Africa and throughout the world with a view to strengthening human rights. My delegation is fully prepared to cooperate with you, even if other members are not, to promote the work of the council, to ensure it is a genuine forum for protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Human Rights Council President (Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand): We take note of the points you raised.
Libya: We are not against the participation of NGOs, only against irresponsible statements by irresponsible NGOs.