Left to right: UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer; Mohammed Eljahmi, brother of courageous Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi who was jailed, tortured and killed by Qaddafi regime; Freedom House Deputy Director Tom Melia. UN Watch and Freedom House organized a special UN briefing for diplomats and the press corps, urging all countries to vote against Libya in next week’s elections for the UN Human Rights Council. UN Headquarters, New York, May 4, 2010. Click here for more photos.
New York, May 6, 2010 – Pro-democracy group UN Watch launched a worldwide campaign to block Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi from winning a seat in next week’s elections to the UN Human Rights Council, with a mass email petition, a YouTube video appeal, and the presentation this week of Libyan victim testimony at a special briefing for diplomats and reporters at UN Headquarters, co-organized by UN Watch and Freedom House.
The two human rights groups also presented a new report rating the qualifications of Libya and the other 13 country candidates.
The event was attended by journalists from Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Radio Free Europe, and other major media organizations, and has already led to a major editorial in today’s New York Daily News. See below.
“Freedom House and UN Watch urge all UN General Assembly members not to write in the name of Libya or other unqualified states when filling out the four African slots on their secret ballot,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch. “They should instead write in the names of African countries with far greater qualifications.”
According to the report, of the 14 candidates announced to date, only 5 are considered to be “qualified” to serve on the Council, including Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Guatemala and Maldives. Additionally, 4 candidates are identified as having “questionable” records, including Moldova, Ecuador, Uganda and Thailand. To view a PDF copy of the report, click here. To take action and urge the U.S. to lead UN member states in blocking the Qaddafi regime’s latest cynical bid for legitimacy, click here.
The following editorial in today’s New York Daily News is based on the media briefing organized by UN Watch and Freedom House, including UN Watch’s presentation of how the UNHRC has turned a blind eye this year to well-documented killings and other mass abuses in Iran, China and Sri Lanka.The following editorial in today’s New York Daily News is based on the media briefing organized by UN Watch and Freedom House, including UN Watch’s presentation of how the UNHRC has turned a blind eye this year to well-documented killings and other mass abuses in Iran, China and Sri Lanka.
May 6th 2010
How dare the UN let Libya sit in judgment on human rights?
By James Kirchick
Last May, Fathi Eljahmi returned to his native Libya in a body bag, shipped home in the cargo hold of a commercial jetliner.
The 58-year-old political dissident had been tortured and imprisoned by the regime of Moammar Khadafy, the pockmarked military leader who has ruled the country for more than 40 years. Arrested in 2002 for the crime of advocating democracy, Eljahmi was placed in solitary confinement and denied medical treatment. Briefly released in 2004 after personal intervention from then-Sen. Joe Biden, he was imprisoned two weeks later after meeting with a small delegation from the U.S. Embassy. Libyan officials eventually let Eljahmi receive medical treatment in Jordan, but by then it was too late.
(Mohammed Eljahmi testifies at the UN this week, telling diplomats and reporters the story of his brother, courageous Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, who was jailed, tortured and killed by the Qaddafi regime. “Libya does not belong on the Human Rights Council,” he said, at the briefing held by UN Watch and Freedom House.Mohammed Eljahmi testifies at the UN this week, telling diplomats and reporters the story of his brother, courageous Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, who was jailed, tortured and killed by the Qaddafi regime. “Libya does not belong on the Human Rights Council,”
he said, at the briefing held by UN Watch and Freedom House.)
Contrast Eljahmi’s funereal repatriation with that of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer imprisoned for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Last August, Megrahi was released by the Scottish government on “compassion grounds” after a dubious doctor’s report found that he had terminal prostate cancer. He returned to Libya on Khadafy’s private jet and was met at the airport by cheering crowds waving Libyan flags.Seven months later, Megrahi is living in a luxurious villa, his once-terminal health status suddenly no longer dire.
This sickening comparison tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the men running the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, as the country is officially called. I can’t claim credit for conjuring it up; it was Eljahmi’s younger brother Mohammed, a software designer living in Boston, who called the attention of a small audience to it Tuesday at the United Nations, [organized by UN Watch and Freedom House]. He was there to protest the imminent decision by the world body to award a coveted seat on the organization’s Human Rights Council to – you guessed it – Libya. Next week, the General Assembly will vote to fill 14 of the 47 seats on the council as part of an annual rotation; joining Libya as candidates are fellow human rights abusers Angola, Malaysia, Mauritania and Qatar.
Widely hailed after surrendering its nuclear weapons program in the spring of 2003 – a decision that probably had something to do with the forcible disarmament of a nearby dictatorship just months earlier – Libya remains one of the world’s most illiberal regimes.
“At a time when the ranks of African democracies are growing, it sends a terrible message to the world that a notorious human rights abuser such as Libya appears uncontested on the ballot,” says Thomas Melia, deputy executive director of Freedom House. His organization gave Libya the worst possible score of 7 on its annual survey, “Freedom in the World,” making it one of the nine most repressive countries on Earth. Political organizing is banned. There are no independent media. The government operates the country’s sole Internet server.
To ask that Libya and other dictatorships be barred from serving on a body ostensibly committed to the promotion of human rights is not to insist upon some impossible, mythical paradigm for the United Nations. To do so merely holds the organization to its own standards. According to the 2006 resolution founding the Human Rights Council, member states must “take into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made hereto.” By allowing a country that routinely jails political dissidents and that has no free press onto the body charged with discouraging such abuses, the UN renders its lofty principles meaningless.
The farce now playing out in Turtle Bay is indicative of the larger problem with the Human Rights Council. The body was intended to be an improvement upon its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, which was scrapped after Western countries accused it of being a propaganda tool of the world’s worst human rights abusers; case in point, Libya was appointed head of the body in 2003.
But it appears that the changes have been in name only. The council, not unlike the commission, has completely ignored any and all abuses in China, the world’s most populous country and an authoritarian dictatorship. Nor has it condemned the regime in Cuba, which has increased its repression in spite of overtures from Washington. Too busy heaping scorn on the United States and Israel, the Human Rights Council hasn’t bothered to as much as appoint a special rapporteur to monitor the postelection crackdown in Iran.
Should Khadafy’s Libya proceed to earn a place on the Human Rights Council next week, as is increasingly likely, we will once again be left with the sad spectacle of the fox guarding the international henhouse. It speaks volumes about the integrity of the “international community” that it would choose a terrorist-celebrating murderer to sit in judgment of the world’s democracies.
“Everyone at the State Department kept telling me that Libya has changed,” Mohammed Eljahmi said in 2006, while his brother was languishing in a Libyan jail cell. “Libya has not changed.” Four years later, Libya still hasn’t changed. And neither, apparently, has the United Nations.
Kirchick is a writer at large with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and a contributing editor to The New Republic.�