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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 16:28 GMT
Should Libya chair UN Human Rights Commission?
Libya has been voted chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, despite opposition from the United States and human rights groups.
The country was nominated by African countries and elected by a clear majority, despite the US's insistence that it will not endorse Libya's chairmanship.
The Commission, the UN's main human rights watchdog, oversees complaints of abuses worldwide, but it has been widely condemned as a toothless body.
The vote has highlighted what many see as a flaw in the way the body is set up. Libya's human rights record has been heavily criticised in the past.
The appointment has been staunchly defended, however, by the son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, who said it could embarrass middle eastern governments into improving their human rights record.
Do you think Libya should have been appointed to chair the UN Human Rights Commission? What will it mean for the body as a whole?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Tesfai Asfaha, USA
I suggest that all defenders of Libya's chairmanship move to that country and try to live there.
There isn't any other president in the African continent who has done so much for their own people as Gaddafi. Yes he should be chosen for the chairmanship.
I agree with Kemoh, there are a number of places in the world where Libya can reach.
They were elected to do the job, nobody is trying to get at the US - there are more limitations and difficulties out there than what America can see. Why shouldn't other parts of the world not get involved in human rights issues? It is cynical to say immediately that what Gaddafi Jnr has to say is hypocritical without him actually having a chance to express his views as yet in the role.
It is ironic, isn't it?
About as ironic as Iraq having to be flattened because its leaders have weapons of mass destruction, and to be flattened by the USA and the UK who - are the world's biggest holders of weapons of mass destruction. So I see no conflict at all in the UN's positions.
I am confused with the mixed feelings and opinions I read in this column. Basically, when a country is elected to chair an organization, like one of the United Nations bodies that we are talking about, you don't have to examine the leadership of that country. If you do, you end up electing none. To me, no leadership is free of dictatorship, or prejudice, corruption, fraud, racism, or some kind of unacceptable behaviours that would not be accepted by the true human rights watchers. In this regard, there is no reason why Libya could not be elected for this position.
Whichever country is chairing the UN Commission of Human Rights does not make a difference to me. The Commission is a toothless body in the first place. How many people in the world are daily being persecuted and facing inhumane atrocities? Often at the hands of UN Member States who they continue to be members? Most governments in the world practice double standards when it comes to human rights. I really do not give a damn!
Common sense will dictate that the Chair of the UN's Human Rights Commission, should be one who makes a genuine effort at home and abroad to defend human rights and for whom this defence is an intrinsic element of his culture. Certainly, Libya is not one of them. And it does not surprise me that African delegates voted for Libya. African leaders are afraid of calling to order their peers. They are the same ones who in the name of NEPAD scout around Europe and North America begging for money. Yet they plunder their countries and subject their own people to absolute indigence. Check out the likes of Mugabe, Biya, Eyadema, Bongo, N'guesso etc. If the United Nations honours people who usurp power and lord it over their subjects, then it is not working for the good of the people of the world.
The current human rights violations committed by the Australians are worse than Libya's. So why not ask the question; "Should Australia be Deputy Chair on the UN Human Rights Commission?"
The human rights situation in Libya is terrible, and therefore Libya has no moral authority to sit on such a body as this.
The US however, must bear a lot of responsibility for creating this situation by playing gross double standards with regard to human rights - simultaneously condemning abusers like Iran and Iraq, while turning a blind eye or even supporting countries like China and Israel despite their actions. The US has in this way undermined its own authority to speak on the issue of human rights by this hypocrisy. Now here we are paying the price.
Oluwole Babs, Nigeria
I wholeheartedly welcome the news of Libya's UN Human Rights chairmanship position. Why not? After all, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. I'm sick and tired of those who live in the glass houses in the West, who also like to throw stones at others.
As far as I'm concerned, the planet belongs to all of us. Who dares say Libya has no right to chair the UN Human Rights position like her predecessors from the West?
I think the title has to go to a country with a tradition of freedom and respect for human rights. Can you name one?
A laughable but typical UN decision based on politics instead of facts. I suppose it's more important to teach the US a lesson than it is to give the Human Rights Commission the leadership it deserves.
It seems to me that it is important that Libya, a country that would seem to be at odds with the US, is taking this important position. Which other country is going to have the courage to confront the United States with its own human rights infractions. It is so quickly forgotten that there are men in legal limbo in Guantanamo bay Cuba. Perhaps Human Rights Standards only apply to countries that are not endorsed by the United States.
I think Libya chairing the UN Human Rights Commission is a grand idea! What better way to demonstrate the futility and irrelevance of the UN? If the UN actually had the ability to take effective action on the world stage independent of the Great Powers then I might object, but since the UN is at best a political convenience and at worst a farce... have it!
Kolawole Raheem, Finland
I am glad people are standing up against the atrocious election of Libya to head this once prestigious human rights body. As someone who has experienced first hand Qaddafi's oppression, I put him in no other category but that reserved for Hitler, Stalin, and Sharon. I urge anyone who thinks Qaddafi has rehabilitated to think twice. How can someone who ordered the public executions of college students who committed no other crime than resisting mandatory military draft be capable of redeeming himself or his humanity?
Give us chance and you will see.
Don't believe everything you hear about Libya
and half of what you see. Gadaffi fights for freedom like Nelson Mandela. He is Mandela's friend and helped him when all the world left him. We are human, come and see.
Joe Saccany, USA
This question should logically be asked in the past tense, at the end of the period of Libya's presidency of the Human Rights Committee, when we will have facts, and not conjecture on which to base our opinions. In the meantime let us not forget that from the day he took office, the President of Libya opposed South African Apartheid, while many western countries were actively supporting the evil and murderous South African regime.
Libya should not be rewarded by heading the UN Human Rights Commission. I do find it surprising that so many Africans from Sub-Saharan Africa find an affinity with the North African state. Many Sub-Saharan would testify to prejudice based on the colour of their skin as they attempt to seek a better life for themselves in North Africa.
Here we have another example of how out of touch the UN and those who run it are with reality. The "symbolic" nature of Libya's appointment is symbolic of the UN's impotence and lack of reasoning.
The UN is coming to an important juncture...soon we will see if it just becomes a defunct "League of Nations" or truly is relevant.
It is obvious to me that the UN is a fundamentally flawed organization, the fundamental flaw being that it grants the same voting rights to democratic and non-democratic nations. Why Libya's president is even able to head a commission - of any kind - is beyond me. Libya should be in some sort of purgatory, some sort of diplomatic "no man's land", until it implements a democracy. The UN is useful for taking the temperature of all nations, and providing a vehicle by which communications between nations can be facilitated, but all power and real activity should rest with and be undertaken by only subset of the UN that are democratic nations.
Jonathan Adams, USA
To Jonathan Adams, USA: Those "approved" by the USA tend to be morally superior candidates who usually are democratic nations with legitimate leaders with adequate records on human rights. Given that reality Mr. Adams, they are preferable to the pathetic joke the commission is now, and because of that, they should have the advantage in the nomination process. A higher standard must be restored.
To those proclaiming that Libya has a better human rights record than the UK or USA, ask yourself this question: Where would you rather practice Buddhism or some other non-majority religion, Libya or the UK? Where would you rather be accused of stealing, Libya or the US? Where would you rather produce a newspaper critical of the government, Libya or the US? If your answer to any of these questions was Libya, then I kindly ask you to resettle there.
The election of Libya to head the UN-Commission on Human Rights should not be the subject of any controversy at all. The way the Commission functions leaves no chance or room for individual countries to influence the outcomes of the decisions of the Commission on Global or national human rights violations. The Commission decides by consensus among and / or by vote of member states. Chairmanship is more symbolic (maybe political), and less substantive or technical.
Mohammed Anwar, UK
The fact that Libya could be nominated, elected and eventually secure a clear majority to the position of Chair of UN Human Rights Commission by African countries is a clear indication of the hypocrisy, double-standards and political immaturity of African leaders and the practice of the so-called democratization process by Africans.
I feel the election of a "maverick" country to its leadership is exactly what the UN Human Rights commission needed. Perhaps they will address the many human rights violations taking place by countries such as the United States and its vassals, in places like Guantanamo Bay and Israel.
Libya consistently stood up against apartheid when the USA and UK were cosying up to the South African government. Libya has consistently condemned abominable rights abuses in occupied Palestine at a time the USA has funded and abetted such abuses. I think it is time Libya and like-minded nations had their say and chairing the human rights body is one way to enable the country to express such views.
Andrew Smith, USA
Absolutely not! Libya has no charter of freedoms, no individual freedom or rights for its people - only rules and obligations, no equality for women nor toleration for religious expression other than Islam. Libya's appointment is a farce and an indication of the strength, in the world, of the lobbying by ill-informed and mis-directed countries, whose leaders want to contain the spread of freedom - a spread that would eventually topple them from power.
There is only one thing to say about Libya's Human Rights record. Pan Am Flight 103 exploding over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Libya was democratically elected. It is quite in the character of the Americans to call themselves champions of democracy but refuse to accept the democratic decision and deride it as ridiculous or absurd when the decision is not to their liking. Their arrogance is astounding: anyone who does not see things in the same light that America does is considered a fool.
Judging by the facts, Libya has a much cleaner record on human rights than either Britain or the USA. Being the weaker nation however, Libya can not bark as hard. The UN has been defunct for many years and it does not really matter anyway who chairs what, in a body that simply serves the needs of five nations.
Allowing Libya to watch over human rights abuses will only assure their responsibility to improving their own record. Libya has shown a willingness to lead movements of Pan-Africanism, and frowns upon the actions of Islamic extremists, a contingency of the world's population that the United States supposedly most fears. The United States should look upon the decisions of Libya as opportunity for positive reconciliation of international relations. Continued pouting by American officials against stagnant griefs has no place within the current circumstances of world relations.
Africa can't be serious in selecting a nation that flagrantly disregards the rights of its citizen to assemble themselves and speak freely to chair such dignify committee.
Where are the democratic institutions in Libya? When have you heard about elections in Libya.
Those who have voted Libya in have brought damnation to themselves and Africa, for a betrayal of these cherished values is staring us in the face.
Abel Emah-Iyesele, Nigeria
Libya has no credibility to head this august body, furthermore this shows that Africa should not be trusted with making any major decision that should affect the world. Let's wait and see what negative effect this decision by African leaders will have on this commission.
The question is not whether Libya deserves the seat but if the commission is effective. In my opinion whoever takes the chair does not matter when the commission itself is dormant.
And the world wonders why the US doesn't take the UN seriously anymore!
Pappalil Prabhakaran, India
It is very disappointing to read comments by citizens of the US and Canada that are so confused as to think that Libya should be allowed anywhere near the UN human rights commission except as a serious violator. The fact that it is, proves the depravity of the UN and the complete betrayal of the charter. It is clearly of dubious value to the US and other free countries around the world.
The UN Human Rights Commission has absolved itself of any semblance of validity, first by voting off the US - the staunchest defender of human rights around the world - and then electing a known dictatorial, supporter of terrorism regime as its chair. If there is a shred of empathy left for the rights of those that suffer they will disband themselves and leave the job to a body that acts on what they purport to defend.
So Daniel P McCarty calls the USA the "staunchest defender of human rights around the world". I guess that's why it refuses to sign numerous treaties, including one that would bar them executing minors -a treaty that only a tiny handful of other nations have ignored, including Iraq.
These concerns could be aimed at the United States. This government too detains hundreds of people indefinitely and without trials or legal representation. And I don't think many readers here would disagree with that the US judicial system is seriously flawed and discriminatory.
Amnesty International have found both the US and UK guilty of human rights abuses. At the forefront of society, they should know better. Perhaps Libya has something to offer which could be beneficial.
Louise, Sydney, Australia
While I applaud the nations of Africa for attempting to ensure proper geographic representation among leadership positions in the United Nations, I fail to see how Libya was the best they could come up with. Frankly, if the UN Council on Human Rights wishes to show the world that it is more than a shield for some of the worst human rights abusers of the world, it should kick out all national representatives and bring in the NGOs. Be they Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or any organisation with the gall to stand up simultaneously to both "developed democratic" nations such as the US or "benevolent" dictatorships such as Iraq.
Matthew Glesne, USA
Well, the world has finally decided in favour of Libya. Sometimes other nations wonder what good can come from out of "the dark continent of Africa". My appeal to Libya is, make the difference for the best; not for the worse for Africa and the world. Be the light for all. Wish you good luck!
This defines absurdity. As in: "That would be like Libya chairing the UN Human Rights commission." Anyone see a link between this and why the United States administration views the UN as an irrelevance?
Phillip Munyanyi, Zimbabwe
This is totally ridiculous. It just goes to show that the UN has already outlived its purpose, and should be disbanded.
Shanabou Arary, Libya
This is the most absurd decision taken and those voting in favour of Libya to chair the UN human rights commission deserve a Libyan type government in their respective countries. Nothing less than lunacy. When these countries get a local Gaddafi, they should be reminded of their vote and left to their own fate. Let's hope that they will not come crying asking for help from the world community that they so shamelessly have insulted with this vote. Let us not forget this stain in the chapter of the UN.
Pianapue K Early, Liberia/USA
Surely Libya has a bad track record on human rights not only in Libya but through the country's involvement in atrocities in other parts of Africa and the world. However, if Libya has improved on her human rights record and continues to do so, perhaps giving the country the chairmanship for the UN commission of human rights can teach other parts of the world to do the same. The country was elected to the chairmanship through a democratic process.
It remains to be seen. If Libya improves its human rights and works tirelessly to ensure other countries do likewise this appointment will be a great success. Otherwise it will be shown to be a farce. However, they were democratically elected by the UN and as such have as much of a right to it as any other country.
20 Jan 03 | Africa
20 Jan 03 | Africa
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