Freedom House Applauds Suspension of Libya from UN Human Rights Council
Freedom House commends the decision by the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership on the Human Rights Council and urges UN members to refrain from electing other human rights abusing countries to that body in future elections.
Libya was easily elected by the UN General Assembly to sit on the 47-member Human Rights Council, the UN’s main human rights body, in May 2010 despite extensive campaigning by human rights organizations against its candidacy. Elections to the Human Rights Council are held annually by secret ballot. Although there are no criteria for countries to serve on the council, UN member states are urged to vote in a manner that takes into account a candidate country’s “contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Despite such guidance, a number of other countries with extremely poor human rights records—including China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Russia—currently hold seats on the council.
“Today’s decision by the General Assembly, as well as the strong sanctions imposed on Libya by the Security Council, sends a critical message that the UN system can respond quickly and effectively to urgent human rights issues,” said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House’s director of advocacy. “It is our hope that the momentous events in the Middle East over the past month have served to remind all UN member states that human rights are universal and that they must take seriously their responsibility to protect those rights.”
On February 27, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a package of sanctions against Libya that included an arms embargo, an asset freeze, a travel ban aimed at the regime’s leaders, and an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity. Two days earlier, the UN Human Rights Council held a special session in Geneva during which it adopted a strong resolution condemning the Libyan regime for the use of violence and calling for a commission of inquiry into its actions.
Libya is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and is consistently rated among the “World’s Most Repressive Societies” for receiving the lowest possible ratings in both the political rights and civil liberties categories.
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