Libyan dissident: “Why is Qaddafi on the Human Rights Council?”; 27 NGOs Launch Campaign to Suspend Libya
Geneva, September 20 — A week into its controversial new membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council, Libya clashed with the U.S. today after the representative of the Qaddafi regime lashed out at speeches by victims of Libyan abuses and requested that the council president delete their remarks from the record, which included a challenge to Libya’s qualifications to serve on the UN’s highest human rights body. (See full trancript and links to video below.)
Sparking today’s commotion in the plenary was testimony by Mohamed Eljahmi, brother of the late Fathi Eljahmi, a noted Libyan dissident who died after suffering brutal imprisonment under the Qaddafi regime: “Why is the government of Mr. Qaddafi, which tortured and killed my brother—and which is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights—now an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council?”
Organized by the Geneva-based UN Watch, Eljahmi’s remarks were delivered as part of a new campaign by 27 human rights groups to have Libya suspended from the 47-nation council. Last Thursday, UN Watch arranged for testimony by Kristyana Valcheva, one of the five Bulgarian nurses who were imprisoned and tortured on false charges of poisoning children with HIV, and Ashraf El-Hajouj, the Palestinian doctor who was victimized with them.
After Eljahmi spoke, Libyan representative Ibrahim Aldredi lashed out at “certain irresponsible and imperious-type NGOs” for allegedly making “allegations which are really groundless and contentious.” He told the council president, Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, that Libya “would like the interventions by such NGOs to be deleted from the record” for being “incompatible with our procedures.”
But the U.S. immediately intervened, rallying to the defense of the victims’ testimony, saying that “accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak, and their speeches (must) be included in the record.”
Jalredi added that “the Libyan Arab Jamahariya under Muammar Al-Qaddafi was honored to be elected to the council, and the positive role of Libya was estimated in Africa and throughout the world with a view to strengthening human rights.”
“We take note of the points you raised,” said the council president, without issuing any ruling on Libya’s request.
The government of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi took its seat on the council last week, in a 3-week session that concludes on October 1st. Libya now has the power to vote on and influence the definition of women’s rights, mandates on freedom of speech and religion, and an expected two resolutions on Israel. The council was created in 2006 to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, which earned scorn when Libya was elected as chair in 2003.
(From today’s debate)
“Why is Qaddafi on the Human Rights Council?”
UN Human Rights Council, 15th Session
Testimony by Mohamed Eljahmi
on behalf of Freedom House and UN Watch
Geneva, 20 September 2010
This Council was created with the promise to elect countries that promote and protect human rights.
We ask: Does the UN’s election of Libya live up to this promise?
For me, this question is not academic. My late brother, Fathi Eljahmi, was a heroic dissident in Libya.
Under the rule of Mr. Qadhafi, membership in political parties or independent labor unions are crimes punishable by death. The fulfillment of citizens’ needs is tied to their absolute loyalty to Mr. Qadhafi.
Ordinary Libyans are accountable to a vast security apparatus. Their actions are scrutinized by Orwellian institutions, punishable by ruthless death squads.
Despite the danger, my brother Fathi chose to speak out for free speech and human rights. He was a courageous man. He was also my mentor and a father figure. He was an unconditionally loving and generous husband, son, and brother. Fathi was blessed with a great mind and a passion for equality and justice.
In 2002, he publicly set out his vision for a constitution, free speech, free enterprise, and an investigation into the massacre of 1200 prisoners at Abu Slim.
As a result, the government imprisoned Fathi for 17 months, until then-Senator Biden, who is now the US Vice President, interceded on his behalf. As soon as he was released, Fathi again spoke out for freedom and human rights. Two weeks later, he was sent back to prison, and subjected to five years of intense torture and isolation, leading to his death on May 21, 2009.
My family asks: When will this council establish an international investigation into my brother’s imprisonment, torture and death?
Why is the government of Mr. Qadhafi, which tortured and killed my brother—and which is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights—now an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council?
When will this council do the right thing, and stand with the Libyan people, to defend their human rights?
Thank you, Mr. President.
LIBYA RESPONDS IN RIGHT OF REPLY
Libya (Ambassador Ibrahim Aldredi): Thank you, Mr. President. I am making this statement to respond to the statements by certain irresponsible and imperious-type NGOs which are trying to put the work of the Council and to immobilize people using allegations which are really groundless and contentious. Mr. President, we would like the interventions by such NGOs to be deleted from the record — last Thursday’s intervention, and some this afternoon. These should be deleted because they are interventions which are incompatible with our procedures.
United States (interrupts with Point of Order): We would like to highlight that the U.S. believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak, and that their speeches be included in the record. As you know, the voices of civil society are extremely important to the work of this council. Though member states, including the United States, may occasionally disagree with the content of their statements, the council should cultivate an environment of openness where we can discuss our differences. Thank you.
Libya: I would state to the honorable Council that this should not be a forum for all sorts of allegations when they are baseless and not grounded in truth. The Libyan Arab Jamahariya under Muammar Al-Qaddafi was honored to be elected to the Council, and the positive role of Libya was estimated in Africa and throughout the world with a view to strengthening human rights. My delegation is fully prepared to cooperate with you, even if other members are not, to promote the work of the council, to ensure it is a genuine forum for protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Human Rights Council President (Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand): We take note of the points you raised.
Libya: We are not against the participation of NGOs, only against irresponsible statements by irresponsible NGOs.
(The following appeal was launched last week by 27 NGOs)
Global NGO Campaign to Remove Libya
from the UN Human Rights Council
The election of the Libyan Arab Jamahariya to the United Nations Human Rights Council is an outrage to the global human rights community. Given its notorious record as one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, the Qaddafi regime’s membership on the Council flies in the face of the United Nations’ promise, enshrined in Resolution 60/251 (2006), to elect member states that are committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.
As a global coalition of non-governmental organizations dedicated to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we refuse to remain silent. We call on the international community to invoke Article 8 of the aforementioned resolution, which provides for the suspension of membership of states that commit systematic violations of human rights, unless and until the Qaddafi regime:
· Ends its systematic violation of the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to equality, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to free political organization;
· Ends its practices of arbitrary arrest, torture, and discrimination against minorities, in particular, the persecution of two million black African migrants;
· Acknowledges its crimes committed against the six medical workers, who were framed in 1998 under false charges of poisoning children with HIV, and then imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death row; apologizes; and provides full compensation to the six victims;
· Acknowledges its crimes in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and ceases to celebrate the convicted Libyan agent who was released from prison last year;
· Agrees to an international, independent investigation into the imprisonment and torture of Libyan human rights activist and dissident Fathi Eljahmi, resulting finally in his death in 2009; and
· Agrees to an international, independent investigation into the massacre of an estimated 1200 prisoners of the Abu Salim prison.
Victims of Pan Am 103
UN Watch, Switzerland
Dr. Mohamed M. Bugaighis
American Libyan Freedom Alliance
Droits Humains Sans Frontieres
International Federation of Liberal Youth
Association of Libya Imal / Libya Future
African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (Raddho-Guinee)
Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)
Mike Gesa Munabi
Students for Global Democracy Uganda
Gibreil I. M. Hamid
Darfur Peace and Development Center
Dr. Theodor Rathgeber
Forum Human Rights, Germany
Burkina Faso Civil Society Organizations Network for Development
Tilder Kumichii Ndichia
Gender Empowerment and Development
The Montagnard Foundation
Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany
Harris O. Schoenberg
UN Reform Advocates
María José Zamora Solórzano
Movimiento por Nicaragua
Sister Catherine C. Waters
Catholic International Education Office (OIEC)
Sylvia G. Iriondo
Mothers & Women Against Repression
Mrs. C. Gautam
Nepal International Consumers Union
International Christian Concern
Youth Enhancement Organization, Nigeria
Virginia S. Mueller
International Association of Women Lawyers
Dickson Mugendi David Ntwiga
Solidarity House International
Main Representative, CBJO
Main Representative, BBI
Dr. Marlette Black
International Presentation Association