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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.

Your reaction

Africa has a right to express its voice

Tesfai Asfaha, USA
As an Eritrean, I support the nomination as well as the election of President Gaddafi to be the chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission. Africa has a right to express its voice. After all, the UN is a world body, not the State Department. Castigating Gaddafi as a human right violator is like the pot calling the kettle black. Gaddafi is vilified as tyrant because he is not your ally. The UN must be freed from being a social club of the US and England.
Tesfai Asfaha, USA

I suggest that all defenders of Libya's chairmanship move to that country and try to live there.
Mirek, USA

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.
Pepe Bubulino, Denmark

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.
Rob D, UK

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.
Eric Hall, Pionsat France

Why don't we give Libya the chance to chair the commission since she was voted in by the other members

TT, Cameroon
Rather than criticising, why don't we give Libya the chance to chair the commission since she was voted in by the other members. We don't have to rely on America to make the decision all the time. A good leader should be a follower at times, moreover America's human right record is "shaky". It's the end that matters and the beginning, so let wait and see what Libya's going to do while chairing the commission
TT, Cameroon

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.
Asefa Dadi, USA

It's all about getting at the United States

Alec, UK
I thought the UN had lost it's credibility when Syria was made a member of the Security Council, but it has gone bonkers with the Libyan chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Commission. Both countries are instigators and harbours of terrorism. It's all about getting at the United States, the major paymaster.
Alec, UK

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!
Paulo, Botswana

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.
Pascal Bessong, France

Libya should be forced to bring its record into line with the standards expected by the UN

Sam, UK
While it is true that America does have a far from perfect human rights record (executions, Guantanamo bay etc), the Libyan record is a great deal further away. I think if any human was given the choice of which rights they want: American or Libyan, they would choose American. Libya should be forced to bring its record into line with the standards expected by the UN before it gets such a job.
Sam, UK

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?"
Aydin Oxc, Australia

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.
David Juan Rinetti, Argentina

This is an opportunity for Libya to prove its detractors wrong

Oluwole Babs, Nigeria
The election of Libya to head the UN Human Rights Commission should by no means raise dust. There's no country without a record of human rights violations. This is an opportunity for Libya to prove its detractors wrong.
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?
Victor Ogunfolaju, USA

I think the title has to go to a country with a tradition of freedom and respect for human rights. Can you name one?
Kaviani, Canada

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.
Richard, USA

The United Nations and the Africa Group undermines its own credibility in this decision.

Jonathan, Australia
The United Nations and the Africa Group undermines its own credibility in this decision. I am astounded that some contributors here claim the United States has a worse human rights record than Libya - I know which country I would rather be living in, and in which I would feel my rights were being protected. Elevating Libya to such a position only reinforces (and with reason) the views of those who oppose the United Nations and undermines the good work that it can do.
Jonathan, Australia

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.
Azan Aziz, UK

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!
Andrew Huntington, United States

The politics of isolation does not bring any good result.

Kolawole Raheem, Finland
Let the country that has a 100 percent clean human rights record "cast the first stone"! What is in a ceremonial heading of a section in the UN? I even think that when the so-called bad leaders are involved in good things they will change their bad habits. The politics of isolation does not bring any good result. Does it mean that those who oppose the leadership of Libya do not know that there are some Libyans fighting against lack of human rights? Please let us have a One World and improve it by allowing the bad boys to see that they will enjoy better life by being good boys!
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?
Mabrooka ElShergawia, Libya

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.
suliman, Africa

If the West were to open its arms to Libya, perhaps she could become a useful ally

Joe Saccany, USA
The only way to foster a world psychology of peace and human rights is to let all players participate. Libya has assumed an attitude of reconciliation in the last decade and a desire to rekindle its image in the world community, and it should be allowed. Perhaps if we hand the torch of peace and human rights to the most unlikely candidate, the flame will light the way for all other bad apples and spark a revolutionary change in thinking, especially amongst rogue or troublesome states. he Western World's forced exclusions and silly games of 'playing favourites' only fosters a world psychology of seclusion and division, siring even further frustration in nations like Libya - it is the very problem that sparks the anger and violence. Yet if the West were to open its arms to Libya, perhaps she could become a useful ally in a new world community of peace and mutual respect.
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.
C. Alexander Brown, Canada

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.
KRizk, Canada

America should stop all aid and support to the UN.

Peter, US
Appointing Libya as the chair of the human rights council after voting out America is an outrage and completely irresponsible of the UN. The world condemns America because you say we have a bad human rights record, but the world always seems to forget how much good America does in the world. If it weren't for US foreign aid millions would have starved to death over the years, and more would starve to death now. The UN gets most of its financing from the US and yet we always seem to be the subject of condemnation. I truly believe America should stop all aid and support to the UN.
Peter, US

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.
K Nietzschmann, Canada

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.
Robert Norsworthy, USA

Is it right for the Commission to be controlled solely by those "approved" by the United States.

Jonathan Adams, USA
Certainly Libya has committed many violations of human rights over the years, yet their involvement in such activities has been on the decline. Is it right for the Commission to be controlled solely by those "approved" by the United States. I feel that it isn't, and if developing nations are going to be able to receive a greater role in the UN and in world affairs, then perhaps we need to allow them to take on leadership roles. Regardless, while Libya has a severely blemished human rights record, it has improved since the 1980s and perhaps being given such a role will allow for greater scrutiny on the civil and human rights problems plaguing much of Africa.
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.
Steve Kenney, USA

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.
Whitney, USA

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.
Zeroualem, Switzerland

Perhaps it will now be embarrassed and turn negative to positive.

Mohammed Anwar, UK
Absolutely nothing wrong with Libya being elected to chair the UN Commission of Human Rights. All those world leaders voting for Libya can not be wrong just because USA doesn't approve of it. Lets face it, if Libya has such a bad record of Human Rights Abuses, then perhaps it will now be embarrassed and turn negative to positive. Who has given the USA the right to approve or disapprove of a democratic decision by world leaders. USA can go and take a running jump. Well done Libya and I sincerely hope you do a good job of it now that you have the chance. Good Luck.
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.
Ernest Cole, The Gambia/Sierra Leone

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.
Nihar, USA

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.
Tony, USA

Libya's record on civil rights is appalling

Andrew Smith, USA
This has got to be one of the stupidest decisions the UN and Secretary-General Annan have ever made. Libya's record on civil rights is appalling: this is a nation that harbours terrorists, including those guilty of the Lockerbie sky-bombing, and has defied UN attempts to curtail the country's civil rights abuses. Although it would be nice to give Libya a chance to show it has changed, putting them as head of the UN Human Rights Commission is not the way to do so.
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.
William Taylor, Canada

There is only one thing to say about Libya's Human Rights record. Pan Am Flight 103 exploding over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Rhianna, USA & UK

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.
Tony, USA

Maybe something good for the continent will come out of that vote.

Emile, USA
If Libya wasn't picked for the commission, who should have been picked? Almost all African countries are abusers of human rights, from Egypt to Morocco to South Africa. Libya is also known to have a dismal record on human rights but maybe something good for the continent will come out of that vote.
Emile, USA

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.
Sami, Canada

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.
Jesse Bucher, United States

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.
Jumah A. Turkett, Liberia

The UN should defer the appointment until Gaddafi and his lieutenants complete a compulsory tutorial on human rights abuse

Abel Emah-Iyesele, Nigeria
The decision by the UN to elect Libya - a country known for her support for terrorism and abuse of human rights - should have been preceded with an adequate tutorial on what human rights abuse is all about. I don't think Libya presently has the credentials required to head such an important commission. The UN should defer the appointment until Gaddafi and his lieutenants complete a 3-month compulsory tutorial on human rights abuse.
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.
Mohamed Idriss Bangura, Sierra Leone/USA

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.
Hajir, Sweden

And the world wonders why the US doesn't take the UN seriously anymore!
Daniel Hilliard, USA

If the new circumstances can introduce changes in Libya itself, it would be a wonderful choice

Pappalil Prabhakaran, India
Since the issue is paramount to human rights, the choice of Libya with an automatic government cannot be the right choice. However, given the opportunity, if the new circumstances can introduce changes in Libya itself, it would be a wonderful choice. If it is used for mere personal or political religious vendetta, then the choice is most objectionable.
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.
Mark, USA

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. Libya
Daniel P McCarty, USA (ex-Libya)

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.
Jonathan Dawes, UK

It is regrettable that African leaders have again made such a ridiculous decision

Naboth, Liberia
It is disappointing to see a nation like Libya chairing the UN Human Rights Watch. Libya is a chief supporter of terrorism throughout Africa. It has not set any example to make her eligible to monitor other nations' human rights laws. For some reason people make these kind of dumb decisions and this is one that's going to affect not the rich, but poor people who have no choice. I know what it means to live in a country where there is no respect for human rights and it is regrettable that African leaders have again made such a ridiculous decision.
Naboth, Liberia

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.
Mike Jones, Canada

I wonder if Gaddafi will use the position to prosecute some African leaders for the way they treat their own people

Louise, Sydney, Australia
I wonder if Gaddafi will use the position to prosecute some African leaders for the way they treat their own people. This is certainly a man who is going to have difficulty telling the West it should take African refugees because they are being persecuted. If he does surely we can just tell him he needs to deal with the problem at its source.
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.
Trevor Wong, USA/Hong Kong

Libya has the moral authority to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the developing world

Matthew Glesne, USA
This is a typical case of arrogant thinking in the US government. Why do we think we have veto power over both the people of Libya and Africa, who overwhelmingly approve of the unique system of popular governance in Libya as well as its emerging leadership on the continent. Libya has the moral authority to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the developing world - those relating to the rights of women, income redistribution, mass participation in governance and US led hypocrisy in foreign affairs.
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!
David A Sunday-gar, Liberia/USA

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?
Mario, New Zealand

Colonel Gaddafi can by no means be a champion of human rights until he allows free elections

Phillip Munyanyi, Zimbabwe
Rewarding Gaddafi is just as good or as bad as giving Zimbabwe's Mugabe a Nobel peace price. Human rights is a serious issue and honestly what does Libya know about it? This guy has been in power forever and his people are by no means free. The world should not wonder when atrocities become the order of the day when we reward renowned tyrants like these. Colonel Gaddafi can by no means be a champion of human rights until he allows free elections in his country, but then again where in this world are human rights really respected?
Phillip Munyanyi, Zimbabwe

This is totally ridiculous. It just goes to show that the UN has already outlived its purpose, and should be disbanded.
Avi Steves, USA

It only mocks the people being abused by the Libyan government

Shanabou Arary, Libya
It does not mean anything new for the body as a whole. For the world, it is another country with its own mistakes (abuses). It only mocks the people being abused by the Libyan government.
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.
John Schein, USA

It is necessary that the post be held by Libya

Pianapue K Early, Liberia/USA
The question of whether Libya should head the UN Human Rights Commission is actually unnecessary. Libya is a member of the family of nations and it is necessary that the post be held by Libya. It is not the only country with bad human rights records. Human rights violations happen all over Africa and the world, including many of the so called developed nations. Every nation has a right to decide its own fate. Give Libya a chance.
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.
Kemoh Rogers, Sierra Leone/UK

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.
James Davey, UK

Should Libya chair the UN Human Rights Commission?



6437 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

20 Jan 03 | Africa
05 Sep 02 | Africa
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