‘Nonsensical’: U.N. Human Rights Council Praises the Toppled Gaddafi Regime

By Patrick Goodenough | March 15, 2012 | 4:57am EDT

The U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva in March 2012. (UN Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. Human Rights Council has endorsed a report in which the human rights record of Libya’s erstwhile Gaddafi regime was enthusiastically praised by some of the world’s most repressive governments.

In a baffling move, the Geneva-based HRC on Wednesday adopted a report on the human rights record of a regime that no longer exists. No vote was requested; according to Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay, not a single country objected.

“I propose that the council adopt the decision on the outcome of the ‘universal periodic review’ of Libya,” Lasserre said as she concluded the session. After looking around, she added, “I see no objection to approving the decision, therefore it is hereby adopted. Thank you very much.”

Adding to the peculiarity of Wednesday’s decision, the adopted report includes praise for the Gaddafi regime by Libyan diplomats at the U.N. who served under that regime – but who amid last year’s conflict defected to the rebels and now represent the new government in Tripoli.

“With Libya’s own U.N. diplomats now admitting that the Gaddafi regime was a gross violator of human rights, it is nonsensical for the U.N. to adopt this false report,” Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the Geneva-based NGO, UN Watch, said in a statement.

The decision to adopt the report wrapped up Libya’s “universal periodic review” (UPR), a mechanism which examines every U.N. member state once every four years.

Libyan diplomat Abdel Shalut formed part of the Gaddafi-era delegation that presented the Libyan regime's report to the Human Rights Council in late 2010. At the time his official title was first secretary at the permanent mission of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in Geneva. Amid last year’s conflict he defected to the opposition, and now represents the new Libyan government at the HRC. (UN Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre)

The process involves a three-hour dialogue session in which the HRC discusses reports provided by the country under review, U.N. rights experts, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Then an outcome report is drawn up, discussed and finally adopted.

When Libya’s UPR began, the 42-year-old Gaddafi regime was in power. Libya was also a member of the HRC, having been elected by more than 80 percent of the U.N. membership. (Libya was suspended in March 2011, after Muammar Gaddafi’s use of force against civilians, and reinstated last November after the regime fell.)

Despite the dramatic changes that have taken place in Libya over the past year, the HRC chose not to discard the now clearly outdated UPR report, despite calls for the process to be redone.

When the “reformed” HRC was established in 2006, the UPR process was widely hailed as an innovative and unprecedented mechanism to examine the human rights records of every country. In practice, however, the exercise has disappointed rights activists and Western governments.

Typically, democracies’ criticisms of repressive regimes are largely overshadowed by praise from those regimes’ allies, as was the case when Iran and China went through their reviews.

Libya’s UPR in late 2010 followed that trend: After the regime’s delegates presented a report stating that citizens enjoy freedoms in line with the principles enshrined in Gaddafi’s “Great Green Document,” others lined up to praise Tripoli.

The report adopted on Wednesday incorporates those expressions of praise, and the council was reminded of them during a brief intervention by Neuer of UN Watch, who quoted directly from the document:

--“Pakistan praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s commitment to human rights.”

--“Algeria noted the efforts of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to promote human rights.”

--“The Islamic Republic of Iran noted that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya had implemented a number of international human rights instruments and had cooperated with relevant treaty bodies.”

--“Qatar praised the legal framework for the protection of human rights and freedoms.”

--“Sudan noted the country’s positive experience in achieving a high school enrolment rate and improvements in the education of women.”

--“The Syrian Arab Republic praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its serious commitment to and interaction with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. It commended the country for its democratic regime.”

--“[North Korea] praised the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for its achievements in the protection of human rights.”

--“Palestine commended the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for the consultations held with civil society in the preparation of the national report, which demonstrated its commitment to the improved enjoyment of human rights. Palestine praised the country for the Great Green Document on Human Rights.”

--“Brazil noted the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s economic and social progress.”

Neuer ended his statement by appealing for the HRC to throw out the report and begin again.

“The 2010 review that is before us today does not live up to basic standards,” he said. “It should be completely redone – for the victims. Is that too much to ask?”

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