Libya on the United Nations Human Rights Council? That sounds nuts. But this is the UN. By Thursday evening, with the Obama administration apparently AWOL on this outrage, it may be a done deal.
The United Nations General Assembly is due to vote Thursday on the election of 14 new members to the 47-seat Human Rights Council. Libya is among the candidates with good chances of landing a seat. For a rundown on just how disgusting an “election” this is, check out Anne Bayefsky’s latest article on Fox: Human Rights Just a Joke at the UN — in which Bayefsky enumerates some of the failings of the Human Rights Council as a whole, as well as the abuses of some of the current candidates, including Malaysia, Mauritania, Uganda, Angola and Qatar, as well as Libya.
So much for the UN Human Rights Council, which was set up in 2006 to remedy the rot of its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights (chaired in 2003 by Libya). The Council has already discredited itself with such grotesqueries as last year’s Durban Review Conference (for which Libya chaired the preparatory committee), the Goldstone Report on Gaza and the push by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which has taken a special interest in the Human Rights Council) to gag free speech in the name of fighting blasphemy.
But should Libya win this seat, there are wider implications — involving the General Assembly which is about to hold this “election.” Candidates for seats on the Human Rights Council are invited to submit pledges of their commitments to human rights — and after an odd delay, Libya’s note verbale — as UN diplo-lingo has it — has finally been posted on the UN web site. Any UN member state voting for Libya is presumably signing onto the garbage extreme contained in this note verbale plus its annex, which Libya wishes to have circulated as a document of the General Assembly.
The UN link to the note itself is a bit dicey — like a number of things on the UN website, one must sometimes fiddle around to pull up the document. So here’s the direct link, and if that doesn’t work, here’s a pdf version of the Libya Human Rights Note Verbale , pulled from the site.
Highlights include Libya’s statement that “the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is among the countries that fulfill their obligations regarding respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
Libya brags that it “chaired the Human Rights Commission in 2003” — which in theory is not strictly accurate, because the chair of the commission was supposed to set aside national affiliation, and serve only the interests of the Council, not those of Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi. But in practice, it was Libya’s regime that chaired the Commission, and Libya’s choice of phrasing here, while probably a slip of the pen, is about as close as this document ever gets to anything resembling the truth. (Libya neglects to mention that its chairing of the Commission in 2003 was so embarrassing, even for the UN, that the Commission was dissolved in the 2006 Potemkin reform that produced the current Human Rights Council).
Libya goes on to say: “More than ever, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has paid great attention to human rights over the past 30 years.” No doubt. Libya’s regime has worked hard for decades to ensure consistent violations of human rights. An effort on that scale must have required plenty of attention.
There’s a section of blather about the improvement of prison conditions (and perhaps they have somewhat improved, since Qaddafi’s regime massacred up to 1,200 prisoners at Libya’s Abu Salim Prison, and according to one witness, covered up the killings by dumping bodies in a trench and covering them with cement).
There’s also a boast that “the existing law on prisons in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is considered one of the most modern laws in the world.” Who is doing this considering is not mentioned. But the modernity of Libyan prison law seems to have escaped the notice of the U.S. State Department, which notes in its 2009 human rights report on Libya that prisoners there are subjected by security forces to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading conditions” and denied adequate medical care (see the death in 2009 of leading Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi).
In a similar vein, Libya’s statement extols Qaddafi’s “Great Green Charter of Human Rights of the Era of the Masses,” lists a jumble of UN conventions to which Libya is signatory (which ought to make you worry about those conventions), and winds up with another brief flash of honesty that ought to scare the daylights out of anyone really concerned with human rights. Namely, Libya plans to make a special effort “to advance and promote human rights” in keeping with its membership in the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (head-quartered in Jeddah) and the Non-Aligned Movement (recently chaired by Cuba, now planning a 2012 summit on Iran’s Kish Island, according to the Tehran Times).
You get the idea.
But here’s the point. Any UN member state that votes to put Libya on the Human Rights Council has received this bilge, swallowed it, and flashed a thumbs up. For that matter, any state that fails to protest actively, explicitly and quite loudly is complicit in this monstrous perversion of the most basic principles of human rights.
The clock is ticking down the last few hours before this vote. Will we hear anything from President Obama’s Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice? For that matter, will we hear anything from the outreach-loving White House? Under Obama, the U.S. joined the Human Rights Council last year, with the stated aim of trying to improve it from within. The U.S. bankrolls almost one-quarter of the budget of the same General Assembly that will vote Thursday on Libya’s bid for a seat on that Human Rights Council. Is a UN Libyan Blights Council what Americans are about to get for their money?