30 NGOs Urge US & EU to Block Libyan Bid for UN Rights Council Seat

PRESS RELEASE

Coalition slams Western group for running Spain and Switzerland on ‘closed slate’

Geneva, May 10, 2010 – A coalition 30 non-governmental organizations, including many from Africa as well as Libyan victim groups, today appealed to the U.S. and E.U. representatives at the UN to block Libya’s from winning a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, in elections to be held this Thursday at the General Assembly in New York. (See full text below.)

The human rights groups sent letters to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and Spanish Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, asking them “to lead a campaign to ensure that the Libyan regime of Col. Moammar Qaddafi — one of the world’s most brutal and longest-running tyrannies — will be kept off the UN Human Rights Council” in the upcoming election.

“To see Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Qaddafi judge others on human rights will turn the U.N. council into a joke,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group that circulated the appeal.

joint report released last week by UN Watch and Freedom House rated all 14 candidates in the elections, and called on UN member states to reject Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Mauritania, and Qatar, deemed non-qualified based on their record on human rights and UN voting.

Today’s appeal by 30 NGOs from around world recalled “the lasting damage caused by Libya’s election as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2003.” The groups expressed alarm “that history may now be repeating itself.”

The coalition also slammed Western states for submitting a “closed slate” of only two countries, Spain and Switzerland, for two Western seats. “This contravenes the 2006 promise that the reformed Council would bring competitive elections, and sets a poor example.”

They urged the Western group “to rise to the occasion and encourage other of its member states, both EU and non-EU, to submit their candidacies.” Switzerland has been a leading promoter of the council, which is located in Geneva. Spain donated its $20 million chamber.

The appeal recognized “the reality whereby Libya has the ability to achieve broad influence with its vast oil reserves. Nevertheless, we trust that the influential countries whom you represent can and will lead a successful campaign to persuade a minimum of 96 UN member states to oppose this murderous, repressive and racist regime from winning a seat on the Human Rights Council.”

See full text below.

———————————-
JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY APPEAL TO OPPOSE ELECTION
OF LIBYA TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

TO: Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN

Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo, Spanish Permanent Representative to the UN, Presidency of the EU Council

May 10, 2010

Dear Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Yáñez-Barnuevo,

We, the undersigned global civil society coalition, comprised of non-governmental organizations from around the world, urge you to lead a campaign to ensure that the Libyan regime of Col. Moammar Qaddafi — one of the world’s most brutal and longest-running tyrannies — will be kept off the UN Human Rights Council in the upcoming May 13, 2010 elections to be held at the General Assembly in New York.

We recall the lasting damage caused by Libya’s election as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2003, and are alarmed that history may now be repeating itself.

When the new Council was created in 2006, it was supposed to improve on its widely discredited predecessor, the similarly-named Commission on Human Rights. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that the old Commission suffered from a fatal “credibility deficit”— one that was casting “a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.” He decried a situation where countries sought membership of the Commission “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.” “Politicization” and “selectivity,” according to Secretary-General Annan, were nothing less than “hallmarks of the Commission’s existing system.”

The new Council, however, promised to be different, with criteria of membership that contemplate electing those who “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Libya, by any measure, completely fails this test. The Libyan regime of Col. Qaddafi received Freedom House’s worst possible score on political rights and civil liberties, qualifying it as one of the world’s most repressive societies. Political parties, free speech and open media are banned. Violators face jail or the death sentence. Col. Qaddafi’s regime controls the country’s only internet service provider.

The Qaddafi regime also practices racial discrimination, persecuting two million black African migrants. In 1998, the UN itself — its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — expressed concern over Libya’s “acts of discrimination against migrant workers on the basis of their national or ethnic origin.” In 2000, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions issued a condemnation of “racist attacks on migrant workers” in Libya.

Tragically, this Libyan racism continues unabated. In its report dated March 22, 2009, the New York Times quoted former Libyan Minister of Trade Ali Abd Alaziz Isawi saying that black migrants “spread disease” and “crime.” For the African migrants themselves, reported the Times, life in Libya is often a dead end. “They call us animals and slaves,” said Paul Oknonghou, 28, a Nigerian migrant, who lives in a house crammed with a dozen others, lacking running water or a bathroom. “[A]pproximately two million Africans flocked to Libya believing that they would find warm receptions, good jobs and, perhaps, an easy path to Europe,” reported the Times. “Instead, they found a hostile environment and a struggle just to eat.”

Col. Qaddafi belongs in jail, not on the world’s highest human rights body. As documented in the recent joint report by Freedom House and UN Watch, Libya can be blocked if 96 countries decide to vote No. Although there are currently only 4 African states running for 4 seats—a closed slate—nevertheless Libya cannot be elected without 97 affirmative votes. According to Rule 94 of the UNGAR Rules of Procedure, Libya’s failure to win 97 votes in three rounds of voting would open up the field to other candidates. We urge you to act before the May 13 election, to encourage qualified African states to declare their candidacy, and to assist their campaigns.

In this regard, we recognize that your request for others to run will be made more difficult by the actions of your own regional group, the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), which, for the second year in a row, has submitted a closed slate—only two nominees, Switzerland and Spain, for two seats. This contravenes the 2006 promise that the reformed Council would bring competitive elections, and sets a poor example. We urge WEOG to rise to the occasion and encourage other of its member states, both EU and non-EU, to submit their candidacies.

In conclusion, we appreciate the political and economic reality whereby Libya has the ability to achieve broad influence with its vast oil reserves. Nevertheless, we trust that the influential countries whom you represent can and will lead a successful campaign to persuade a minimum of 96 UN member states to oppose this murderous, repressive and racist regime from winning a seat on the Human Rights Council.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer, Executive Director, United Nations Watch, Switzerland

Mohamed Bugaighis, Chairman, American Libyan Freedom Alliance, USA

Hassan M. El-Amin, Al-Mostakbal Libyan Media Group, UK

Tilder Kumichii Ndichia, Program Coordinator, Gender Empowerment and Development, Cameroon

Ted Brooks, Executive Director, Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy, Liberia

Dickson Mugendi David Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International, Kenya

Siaka Coulibaly, Executive Secretary, Civil Society Organizations Network for Development (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso

Norah Matovu – Winyi, Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Uganda

Ibrahima Niang, Mouvement citoyen, Senegal

Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Chairman, Center For Youth and Democracy, Somalia

Djingarey Maiga, Femmes et Droits Humains, Mali

G. Jasper Cummeh, III, Senior Policy Director, Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA), Liberia

Ulrich Delius, Director Africa Desk, Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany

Robert R. LaGamma, President, Council for a Community of Democracies, U.S.A.

Theodor Rathgeber, Forum Human Rights, Germany

Simonne Piazzini, Secretary General, Agence des cites pour la cooperation Nord-Sud, Switzerland

C. Gautam, Secretary, Nepal International Consumers Union, Nepal

Alejandro Armas, President, Espacio Civil a.c., Venezuela

Aixa Armas, Vice-President, Asociación Civil Mujer y Ciudadanía, Venezuela

European Union of Public Relations, Italy

Janisset Rivero, Directorio Democrático Cubano, Cuba

Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director, Freedom House, USA

Roy W Brown, IHEU Main Representative, UN Geneva, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Switzerland

Logan Maurer, Advocacy Director, International Christian Concern, USA

Alexander Verkhovsky, Director of SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, Russia

Catherine C. Waters, OP Main Representative, Catholic International Education Office, USA

Maria Vassiliou, President, Human Rights Defence Centre, Greece

Jacob Mchangama, Director of legal affairs, CEPOS, Denmark

Edgar Rivero, Director Ejecutivo, Observancia – Centro Interdisciplinario, Bolivia

Kok Ksor, President, Montagnard Foundation, Vietnam

Yuri Dzhibladze, President, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia

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