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UN Watch Briefing

By Lula Ahrens
September 17, 2010 — Issue 252

A UN Watch-led coalition of 27 NGO’s has appealed for Libya to be expelled from the UN Human Rights Council. Libya and other rights abusers are influencing the “dictator-dominated” council’s resolutions, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer says. “But given the high quantity as well as quality of Libya’s oil, we fear most countries will choose silence.”

Libya took its seat in the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (HRC) this week for the first time since its May election. A three-week council session began on Monday, triggering the rights coalition’s appeal.

In a petition signed by 27 NGO’s on Thursday, they called on the UN’s 192 members to expel Libya from the council unless Kadhafi significantly improves its human rights situation. Several victims of Libyan human rights abuses were present during the coalition’s press conference on Friday.

Given its “notorious record as one of the world’s worst violators of human rights,” the NGO’s argue Libya’s membership contradicts the UN’s promise to elect member states based on their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Libyan oil
Under the resolution that created the HRC, the General Assembly may suspend any council member that commits “gross and systematic” human rights violations. A two-thirds vote is required.

But UN Watch director Hillel Neuer told Radio Netherlands it is highly unlikely that Libya will be suspended. “Given the high quantity as well as quality of Libya’s oil, we fear that most countries will choose silence,” he told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

He added that meanwhile, Libya’s influence continues. “As a voting member, Libya has the power to support or oppose any resolution, and as a result to influence its drafting. What may be even more damaging is that Libya’s presence in the world’s highest human rights body grants legitimacy to a murderous dictatorship - a crushing blow to Libya’s dissidents and ordinary citizens.”

World’s worst abusers
Neuer said the UN HRC, which he referred to as “the dictator-dominated council”, actively undermines and twists basic principles of human rights. He added that it has failed to take any action against “the world’s worst abusers” including Iran, China, Zimbabwe, Syria and Venezuela.

“And, far worse than that: there is a faction of 30 out of 47 seats, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, that actively promote measures to weaken the protection of freedom of speech and to erode the council’s few remaining mechanisms for independent scrutiny of country conduct,” Neuer said.

He added that after its creation in 2006, the new council gradually eliminated the country investigators for human rights in Belarus, Cuba, Liberia and DR Congo.