Libya – will the Human Rights Council recommend suspension of one of its members?
Thursday, 24 February 2011 21:11


On 25 February, the Human Rights Council (the Council) in Geneva will hold a special session on the ongoing human rights violations in Libya. It will be the first special session dealing with the human rights record of a current member of the Council. The request for the special session was presented by Hungary with the support of 21 member States of the Council, including Jordan, Qatar and Senegal, and 31 observer States including Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey.


At the organisational meeting for the special session, held on 23 February, Hungary (on behalf of the EU) welcomed in particular the work of NGOs in pressing for the special session to be held. It announced that the aim of the special session would be to adopt a resolution urging that steps be taken to prevent further deterioration of the situation and calling for accountability for those responsible for the violations.


Informal consultations on a revised version of the draft resolution took place on 24 February 2011. States from all regions supported the strong condemnation of human rights violations committed in Libya. The USA called on the Council to ‘stand with the Libyan people’, and China saw the ‘merit of a resolution on Libya’. Significant opposition arose with respect to a recommendation (OP13), addressed to the General Assembly, to consider the suspension of the rights of membership of Libya as foreseen by GA Resolution 60/251 for States that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights. Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group) and others called for ‘caution’ in the Council’s response, Cuba referred to ‘contradictory media information about the situation’, while China called the suggestion ‘premature’. However, the suspension of Libya also enjoyed significant support from several regions. This was perhaps best encapsulated by Brazil’s call for a ‘political signal that [the Council does not] accept a member that does not uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’.


The request for this special session of the Council followed a series of statements in New York regarding the situation in Libya. On 22 February, the Security Council called on the Libyan authorities to immediately end the violence in Libya and to take steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue. It also called on the Government to uphold its responsibility to protect its population, to act with restraint, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and to allow immediate access for human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies.


Speaking in Los Angeles on 22 February, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, reported that he had ‘bluntly’ told President Gaddafi in a phone conversation to end the violence against civilians. He stated, ‘Those responsible for violence against civilians must be held accountable. And among the events we have witnessed recently, some appear to be clear violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.’ The Secretary-General cut short his visit to Los Angeles to return to address the UN on the unfolding crisis in Libya, calling for the punishment of those using violence against civilians.


Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, have added their voices to the chorus of UN officials speaking out against the violence in Libya. They expressed their alarm at the reports of mass violence coming from Libya, including the reported use of military planes to attack protesters, the alleged involvement of foreign mercenaries in killing the protesters, and the arbitrary arrests of individuals including lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. ‘Widespread and systematic attacks against civilian populations by military forces, mercenaries, and aircraft are egregious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,’ they said in a joint statement issued late Tuesday. ‘If the reported nature and scale of such attacks are confirmed, they may well constitute crimes against humanity, for which national authorities should be held accountable.’


ISHR will follow the special session on Libya and report on key developments.

© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2018