|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
76th Meeting (PM)
General Assembly Suspends Libya from Human Rights Council
Hopes of Libyan People ‘Must not be Dashed’ Assembly President Says,
As Secretary-General Voices ‘Grave Concern’ at Ongoing Violence against Civilians
In an unprecedented move today, the United Nations General Assembly suspended Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council, the Organization’s pre-eminent human rights body, expressing its deep concern about the situation in that country in the wake of Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s violent crackdown on anti-Government protestors.
Adopting a consensus resolution, the Assembly acted on the 25 February recommendation by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which had urged the suspension in a resolution of its own. The Assembly, which created the Council five years ago, was charged with taking that action, and this afternoon’s decision marked the first time a sitting member was removed from the body. The Assembly also agreed that it would “review the matter as appropriate”.
“The world has spoken with one voice: we demand an immediate end to the violence against civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his address to the Assembly. He welcomed the recommendation of the Human Rights Council to suspend Libya’s membership “so long as the violence continued”, he added.
Mr. Ban also commended the Security Council’s decision over the weekend to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, and called for the urgent dispatching of an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international human rights in the country, in line with the Human Rights Council’s recommendation. (For coverage of the Security Council meeting, see Press Release SC/10187.)
There were reports that Government forces had fired indiscriminately on peaceful protesters in Libya and had bombed military bases in the east of the country, said Mr. Ban as he briefed the Assembly on the situation as it stood today. There were also reports of ongoing and serious clashes between Government forces and armed opponents in the west. “In these difficult and unpredictable circumstances”, he said, it was critical that the international community remained united.
“The winds of change are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa,” added the Secretary-General. The United Nations stood ready to assist in every way possible as the people of Libya demanded new rights and freedoms, he said.
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss agreed, emphasizing the importance of a strong Human Rights Council whose members were committed to strengthening the protection and promotion of fundamental rights — including by upholding the highest standards and by “proscribing double standards”.
As the Security Council and the Human Rights Council had taken steps to address the situation, he said, it was time for the Assembly to “do its part” in ensuring that fundamental rights were respected and that violations were punished. It was also necessary to show unity and resolve in the Assembly’s determination to promote the fundamental values of the United Nations Charter. The expectations of the men and women that were “hoping and struggling to have their rights respected” must not be dashed, he declared.
Taking the floor after adopting the resolution, delegation after delegation called for an end to the bloodshed in Libya and expressed solidarity with its people, especially since the crisis had been sparked by anti-Government protests that had, in the opening days, largely been peaceful. Many also emphasized their support for the extraordinary decision to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council.
The representative of New Zealand echoed the expression by many delegations of condolence to the families of the victims of Libya’s violent clashes. “No regime has the right to turn its own country and the lives of its own people into a living hell,” he said, adding the Libya had grossly abused the trust placed in it by the Human Rights Council when it had been granted membership.
The representative of the Philippines said his delegation was deeply concerned about the events in Libya, and that the international community must stand united to support its people. “The United Nations and the international community have an inescapable responsibility to extend whatever assistance it can muster to the Libyan people during this time of emergency and cataclysmic changes,” he said.
Costa Rica’s representative supported Libya’s suspension from the Human Rights Council, and said the Assembly’s “historical decision” was in full compliance with international law and responsibility of all United Nations Members to protect lives and promote fundamental rights. He reminded the Assembly, however, that the Libyan Government had already been “a voracious, repressive machine” when it had been elected to the Council in 2010. The lesson to be learned from the events of the past two weeks was the importance of improving the parameters of Council integration to prevent such situations from developing.
Some delegations stressed that the suspension was an extreme measure required by an extraordinary situation. The representative of Lebanon, introducing the draft resolution, underlined that the measure was both “exceptional and temporary”, and that Libya’s status would be restored “in due time”. He added that he hoped that time would come very soon.
Meanwhile, others expressed concern that the resolution might be misused. In that vein, Bolivia’s representative stressed that it was critical that the consensus reached today not be used to promote “unjustified interventions” against sovereign States, and warned against the selective application of any resolutions against States with a “different orientation” from the major Powers. Further on that note, Venezuela’s representative said that a decision like the one adopted by the Assembly today could only take place following a credible investigation. As such, he believed the resolution was premature, since Member States had yet to receive the results from the Human Rights Council’s independent inquiry into the events in Libya.
In other business, the General Assembly took note of documents A/65/691/Add.2‑6, in which the Secretary-General informed the President of the General Assembly that, since his communication contained in document A/65/691/Add.1, Nepal, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tonga had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter.
Also speaking today were representatives of Mauritius (on behalf of the African Group), Gabon, United States, Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico, Canada, Maldives, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, Peru, Liechtenstein, Norway, Japan, Russian Federation, Botswana, Nicaragua, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Ecuador, Australia, Israel, Cape Verde and Switzerland.
The representative of Venezuela also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will meet at a time and date to be announced.
The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider a draft resolution on suspending Libya’s membership in the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, amid ongoing clashes between anti-Government protesters and forces loyal to Muammar Al-Qadhafi.
JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, said that the events which had shaken the Arab world over the past few weeks “remind us that there can be neither security nor development unless human rights are respected.” The credibility of the international community, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council was at stake in ensuring that fundamental rights were respected and violations were punished.
He recalled that he had addressed the Human Rights Council’s high-level segment the day before and had noted the importance of a strong Council whose members were committed to strengthening the protection and promotion of human rights, by upholding the highest standards and by proscribing double standards.
Noting that the Security Council had held an emergency special session on Libya over the weekend — and if that body had failed to meet on that “deeply disturbing” situation, it would have meant a loss of credibility — he said that today it was up to the General Assembly to do its part. It was necessary to show unity and resolve in the Assembly’s determination to promote the fundamental values of the United Nations Charter. The expectations of the men and women that were “hoping and struggling to have their rights respected” must not be dashed.
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said the Assembly was meeting on a crisis marked by ongoing violence, amid a growing humanitarian emergency and a political situation that could quickly deteriorate further. Meeting in emergency session over the weekend, the Security Council had acted with unanimity and decisiveness.
“The world has spoken with one voice: we demand an immediate end to the violence against civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech,” he said, also welcoming the recommendation of the Human Rights Council to suspend Libya’s membership so long as the violence continued. He fully supported the Council’s decision to urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international human rights in Libya.
He commended the Council’s decision to refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. Those actions sent a strong and important message of great consequence within the region and beyond, that there was no impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity and that fundamental principles of justice and accountability shall prevail.
“Today, I urge the General Assembly to act decisively as well,” he said, describing the latest reports from the ground as “sobering”. “I am gravely concerned at the continued loss of life, the ongoing repression of the population and the clear incitement to violence against the civilian population by Colonel Qadhafi and his supporters,” he said, opening his briefing to the Assembly on the current situation on the ground. Arms depots and arsenals had reportedly been opened to gangs who terrorized communities. He cited reports that Government forces had fired indiscriminately on peaceful protesters and bombed military bases in the east of the country, and reports of ongoing and serious clashes between Government forces and armed opponents in the west.
The death toll from nearly two weeks of violence was unknown, but likely to exceed 1,000, he said, adding that perhaps thousands had been injured. Credible and consistent reports included allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture. While more members of the military were reportedly abandoning the regime and joining the demonstrations, Colonel Qadhafi and his supporters appeared to be holding a tight grip on western parts of the country, chiefly in Tripoli and neighbouring areas. According to some accounts, the Government was also deploying forces along the Tunisian border.
The violence could disrupt distribution networks and lead to food shortages, he continued. The main humanitarian concerns at the moment related to the west of the country, where access and information were extremely limited. Civilians continued to flee. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was present at the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, where more than 110,000 people had crossed so far and thousands more arrived by the hour. UNHCR was particularly concerned that thousands of refugees and other foreigners may be trapped in Libya.
Significant efforts were under way to facilitate the return of the stranded migrants to their home countries, he said. UNHCR had appealed to all neighbouring Governments in North Africa and Europe to maintain open land, air and sea borders for people fleeing the country. It was essential that all those seeking to leave Libya be allowed to do so, without discrimination and irrespective of their nationality.
All international United Nations staff had been evacuated two days ago. United Nations operations would continue from a secondary location, posing a major challenge to the coordination of international humanitarian assistance. “In these difficult and unpredictable circumstances, it is critical that the international community remain united,” he said.
He said that in Washington, D.C., the previous day, he had held in-depth consultations with United States President Barack Obama and would have similar conversations with other world and regional leaders over the coming days. The collective challenge would be to provide real protection for the people of Libya, to halt the violence and then address the growing humanitarian emergency. “The arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze imposed by Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) must be swiftly and effectively enforced,” he said. “We need concrete action on the ground to provide humanitarian and medical assistance. Time is of the essence. Thousands of lives are at risk.”
In the days ahead, United Nations assessment teams would deploy to organize the humanitarian response, working on the ground where they can in the eastern and western regions of Libya, he said. In the coming days, the Secretary-General would also bring together the heads of United Nations humanitarian agencies and programmes, as well as other international and regional groups, particularly the League of Arab States, African Union and the Organization of Islamic Conference.
From the beginning of the crisis, the Secretary-General said, he had called on the Libyan leadership to hear and heed the international community’s strong collective call to end the violence and to respect human rights and the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people. “The transition to a new democratic system of governance should start now,” he said, noting that “the winds of change were sweeping the Middle East and North Africa”, as people demanded new rights and new freedoms.
The United Nations stood ready to assist in every way possible, should the people of the region and their Governments request help, he said. Beyond immediate humanitarian needs, that could take many forms, from technical support in organizing elections to drafting new constitutions. The answer to many of the region’s most pressing challenges was economic and social development, which was where the United Nations and its international partners could most help — in education, women’s empowerment, social and economic advancement, job creation and youth opportunities. He stressed that in his talks with the region’s leaders, in every country, he had consistently urged restraint, open and inclusive dialogue and, above all, respect for the people’s aspirations in their fullest expression.
Introduction and Action on Draft
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), introducing the draft resolution on suspension of the rights of membership of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in the Human Rights Council (document A/65/L.60), said time was of the essence, as evidenced by the violence and killing endured by the Libyan people in the last few weeks. The League of Arab States, the African Union and other groups had issued statements condemning the situation, and the Human Rights Council had the previous week issued a recommendation that Libya be suspended from that 47 member-body.
The resolution currently before the Assembly had been drafted in line with that recommendation. He underlined that the measure to suspend Libya’s membership was “exceptional and temporary” and that its status would be restored “in due time”, which he hoped would be very soon. He also expressed solidarity and deep respect, as well as deep condolences, to the Libyan people.
SOMDUTH SOBORUN (Mauritius), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Group was in favour of the draft resolution. He recalled the statement of the African Union Peace and Security Council which had condemned the violence in Libya and underlined that the struggle of Libyan people was legitimate and should be respected. The international community “must send a strong message” to those responsible, thereby reiterating that the world was not insensitive to the situation.
Continuing, he said that members of the Human Rights Council had a particular duty to ensure and protect fundamental rights. The African Group joined consensus on the text and meanwhile supported making available humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people. The Group also hoped that the strong resolve of the international community would convince the Libyan authorities to exercise restraint and respect the rights of the protestors. Additionally, the Council should keep the situation under close review, he added.
On a point of order after the list of the text’s additional co-sponsors had been read out by the Secretariat, the representative of Gabon said his delegation supported — but was not sponsoring — the resolution.
The Assembly then adopted the resolution by consensus.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) deeply regretted the events in Libya and the loss of life there. His country was historically linked to the African and Arab worlds. Venezuelan’s people stood with the Libyan people in the struggle for self-determination and liberty. “The Libyan people must find their own destiny without foreign interference. No foreign force was authorized to intervene in the internal affairs of Libya,” he said. He commended “friendly” Security Council members who had prevented resolution 1970 (2011) from becoming “an instrument of war”. That resolution should not go beyond the goal of preserving sovereign unity and territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, however, the Pentagon had announced, according to the Agence France Presse news agency, that the United States military was repositioning military forces around Libya, he said. But the Council resolution had not authorized military intervention. An imperialist country was unilaterally and visibly deploying its military machinery to carry out unarmed attacks against Libya. The Spanish newspaper El Pais had stated that United States President Obama had proposed a no-fly zone over Libya.
Calling for the rejection of the “war-mongering mobilization” of the United States Air Force over the Mediterranean Sea, he said that country did not seek to establish human rights, but to protect its own interests. He was confident that all peace-loving peoples would reject a military occupation of Libya. The Arab and African nations and all peace-loving peoples would reject all military occupation of Libya. He rejected violence, imperialism and interventionism, and urged all countries to contribute to Libya’s territorial integrity. He deplored the double standards over human rights applied by imperialist countries.
He hailed the Arab people engaged in the process of peaceful and righteous rebellion. “It is time for peace; diplomacy, not war. It is time for dialogue, not violence,” he said. He called for immediate dialogue between the Libyan Government and the opposition forces to achieve understanding and reconciliation of the Libyan people. An Assembly decision like the one adopted today could only take place after a credible investigation. He considered the decision Member States had taken today to be premature as the Assembly had yet to receive the results from the Human Rights Council’s independent investigation into the events in Libya.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said the unprecedented suspension of Libya from the Human Rights Council was a “harsh rebuke, but one that Libya’s leaders had brought down upon themselves”. She said the United States continued to be appalled by the situation in Libya. “This action sends another clear warning to Mr. Qadhafi and those who stand by him: they must stop the killing.” The General Assembly had come together “to speak with one voice to Libya’s unrepentant rulers”. When the only way that a leader could cling to power was to violate the human rights of his own people, he had lost all legitimacy to rule. “He must go, and he must go now,” she said.
The United States had co-sponsored the resolution along with other delegations from around the world, which demonstrated the wide support for the text. As such, she “utterly rejected the wilful and ugly distortions” by the representative of Venezuela of United States policy. It was “shameful” that one Member State would manipulate the present occasion “to spread lies, foster fear and engender hate”. By contrast, the General Assembly had made it clear that Governments who turned guns on their own people had no place on the Human Rights Council, a body to which membership should be earned.
CSABA KÖRÖSI (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the resolution just adopted was a welcomed part of the clear response required by massive and shocking violence against peaceful demonstrators. It showed that in moments of gravest need, Member States could find unity. He fully supported the position of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights that each State had an obligation to protect the rights to life, liberty and security of its citizens. The international community, through the United Nations, had the responsibility to act should national authorities fail to fulfil their duty.
He underlined the additional obligations of members of the Human Rights Council, who were required to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of fundamental rights. Libya’s membership pledges had been blatantly violated and the General Assembly had simply made use of the available instruments foreseen at the time of the Council’s creation. He stressed that the decision was in no way a punishment for the people of Libya, but on the contrary, a show of solidarity with them. He hoped that future events would soon allow Libya’s full reinstatement. Meanwhile, he said, much remained to be done to protect and assist Libyans and foreigners in the country. In that light, he welcomed the recent action of the Security Council.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), whose delegation had co-sponsored the resolution, reiterated its “energetic condemnation” of the violence that had been used to repress the protests in Libya, as well as other grave violations of human rights. Unlimited respect for human rights was an obligation that must be ensured, and the Libyan Government was obligated to protect its population. Moreover, member States of the Human Rights Council had a duty to strictly observe humans rights norms. For that reason, the situation in Libya was even more a source of concern, and Mexico felt that it was “absolutely necessary” to pass the current resolution suspending Libya’s membership rights in the Council until the rule of law was preserved there.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said his delegation had co-sponsored the resolution. His country had suffered from war and violence for years. Lebanon’s Constitution respected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights violations in Libya had gone on for years. The most blatant had been in 1952, when Lebanese leaders were kidnapped and disappeared. The action by the Assembly today was proof to all that human rights were universal. No one in any part of the world held precedence over any other.
LIBRAN CABACTULAN (Philippines) said geographical distance and remoteness no longer isolated countries and regions from developments in other parts of the world. The ongoing tension and conflict in Libya could affect the entire region. As Libya plunged deeper into chaos, even distant countries like the Philippines were not immune. It was incumbent on the international community to ensure the security and welfare of the internally displaced persons in Libya and citizens of third States. It was necessary to allow humanitarian access and to provide safe passage to citizens fleeing Libya. Expressing solidarity with the Libyan people, he said his delegation was deeply concerned about the situation and hoped that the bloodshed would soon end and that peace and stability would once again reign.
The Philippine Government was doing its best to ensure the safety and welfare of its nationals in Libya, he said, thanking the Governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Malta, Greece and Turkey for allowing safe passage of Filipinos through their territories to return home. “The United Nations and the international community have an inescapable responsibility to extend whatever assistance it can muster to the Libyan people during this time of emergency and cataclysmic changes.” The stakes were high for the Libyan people and the entire world, he said, adding that a military solution would only cause more tragedy and hardship.
JOHN MCNEE (Canada) said his delegation joined others in applauding the adoption of the resolution suspending the Libya’s membership to the Human Rights Council. He expressed his Government’s outrage at the “appalling images” coming out of Libya, and said that the world could not “stand idly by” as Mr. Qadhafi and his regime “shed more blood”. To continue to allow that regime a voice in the Human Rights Council would be an affront to the people of Libya. It was for situations such as the one currently before the Assembly that the Council’s founding resolution had allowed for the suspension of sitting members. Canada was therefore pleased that the Human Rights Council had been able to respond so swiftly today, he said.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said the actions taken by the Human Rights Council, the Security Council and the General Assembly in response to Libya’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights” were not enough to save the many lives still being lost. Firm action needed to be taken in that regard. Condemning violence unleashed against people trying to exercise their rights, she said that such acts, in all likelihood, constituted crimes against humanity.
As it was clear that “the Libyan dictatorship” had no intention of upholding its responsibility to protect, she said it was the “clear and unambiguous responsibility” of the international community to protect innocents in Libya; to remove the leadership from power. The international community must also hold the Libyan leadership accountable and then help the people build a new, democratic country. Maldives was responding to the calls of Libyans as a fellow Muslim country. Today’s action must be followed by continued commitment and urgent action.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said the world was currently bearing witness to one of the most “embarrassing and shameful” situations seen in recent history. The United Nations system had reacted quickly and had acknowledged the urgency of the situation in Libya, as evidenced by the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution adopting sanctions and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.
He demanded that the Libyan authorities refrain from further violence and condemned violations of human rights, saying that States should ensure the rights to life, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Colombia had maintained its position in those respects, co-sponsoring both Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) and the text adopted by the Assembly today. The aspirations of the Libyan people to live in a more equitable society were legitimate. It would require bringing to justice those who had committed crimes. The international community must remain united in those matters.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile) said human rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent. The “disproportionate and brutal” actions of the Government in Tripoli against its own people were completely unacceptable. Such behaviour was particularly unacceptable of a member of the Human Rights Council. He was particularly concerned about the situation of women and children in Libya. Human Rights Council members were required to apply more strict norms in protecting human rights.
“Clearly, this is not the case in Libya right now,” he said, adding that Chile had co-sponsored the resolution because the defence and promotion of human rights was a pillar of its external and domestic policy. Chile was strongly committed to the United Nations and to the Human Rights Council. A Government that was systematically violating human rights should not belong on that Council. He expressed hope that circumstances would change, and that the Assembly would meet once again to restore Libya’s status.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said the resolution adopted today referred not only to the situation in Libya, but also to the United Nations, including to the “thorny dilemmas” that it must sometimes face in order to recognize the principles enshrined in its Charter. The United Nations valued diversity in points of view in its forums, he said, and therefore had very rarely seen the expulsion of its members. It recognized that pluralism and diversity were the strengths of multilateral diplomacy.
However, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly today sent a signal that the community of nations was demanding limits to the conduct of its Member States, and was moreover setting boundaries for that conduct. There was no doubt that the basic human rights of the Libyan people were being flagrantly violated. The Government of Libya was not complying with its most basic responsibilities, and therefore had no right take part in a representative forum such as the Human Rights Council.
PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) supported a sovereign, peaceful solution to the conflict without any form of foreign intervention. He was concerned about the statements by the United States and European Union that alluded to their consideration of the option of military action in Libya. Cuba categorically opposed any military intervention in Libya, as it would lead to thousands of deaths. On 25 February, Cuba had disassociated itself from paragraph 14 of the Human Rights Council’s resolution on the situation in Libya. The content of that paragraph set a harmful precedent for cooperation in the human rights arena.
From the outset, when that new human rights body had been established, Cuba had opposed the suspension clause included in its founding resolution. While he had hoped for a body without the type of double standards and politicization that had characterized the former Human Rights Commission, the inclusion of that clause on membership in resolution 60/251 set up “a negative precedent”, which saddled the new Council with a “new additive” that had no equal in a United Nations organ.
He went on to say that manipulation of the language in paragraph 8 of that resolution posed a serious challenge to the equal sovereignty of nations. It authorized the participation of all Member States in the Human Rights Council, but also set prerequisites to join that body and outlined the possibility of expelling a sitting member without identifying the minimum number of votes required that would be required to do so. A country could be elected with the support of most Member States and then be suspended if a minority called for it. That clause had fortunately never been invoked — until today — and its use now opened the door for those who aimed to use the Council as a “legitimate tool against countries that reject foreign interference”.
It was no coincidence that the countries that supported that clause were developed nations with a history of accusing States in the South of human rights abuses while remaining silent about their own, he said. It had not gone unnoticed that one country that had voted against resolution 60/251 was now the first to promote the use of one of the text’s most harmful phrases. It remained to be seen if the Assembly was capable of suspending “a powerful State” that was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents and the disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings of human beings in secrete concentration camps.
PABLO ANTONIO THALASSINÓS (Panama) energetically condemned the violations of the human rights of the Libyan people, and lamented the loss of life taking place there. Panama had supported the resolution adopted today, and also supported sending an independent investigation commission to Libya. All States had a responsibility to protect their people, he said, adding that Panama expressed its absolute support for Security Council resolution 1970 (2011) as a means to slow down or halt the violence unfolding in Libya. Panama stood firmly with the Libyan people, who were fighting with “unbreakable determination” for a democratic regime.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica) condemned gross violations of human rights in Libya, which he said were being ordered by the highest levels of the Libyan Government. He supported the country’s suspension from the Human Rights Council, which he called a historical decision in full compliance with international law and the United Nations memberships’ responsibility to protect lives and fundamental rights. He said he valued the universal reaction to “perverse actions” undertaken against civilians that might constitute crimes against humanity as a way of recognizing the prime role of human rights in the international system. He reminded the Assembly, however, that the Libyan Government had already been “a voracious repressive machine” when it was elected to the Human Rights Council last year. The lesson to be learned was the importance of improving the parameters of Council integration to prevent such situations from developing.
ROBERTO RODRÍGUEZ (Peru) said it was paradoxical that a member of the Human Rights Council would be using tactics that undermined human rights. The Libyan Government’s actions against demonstrators clamouring for change were completely unacceptable and must immediately cease and desist. He expressed condolences to the victims’ families. Peru had decided to suspend diplomatic relations with Libya until it stopped the violence.
He called on the Secretary-General to intervene to guarantee the human rights of the Libyan people. He had co-sponsored the Human Rights Council’s resolution calling for an independent investigation into rights violation on the ground, and he also supported Security Council resolution 1970 (2011). Today’s text was completely consistent with measures that must be taken when members of the Human Rights Council were not able to live up to their responsibilities. Today, the Assembly had sent a signal of the importance of respecting human rights and people worldwide.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), welcoming the Assembly’s action, voiced grave concern at the possibility that crimes against humanity were being committed in Libya “at this very moment”. He therefore welcomed the deployment of a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council and the Security Council’s referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. He welcomed also the firm and united stand shown by those consensus decisions. The General Assembly, as the only universal organ of the United Nations, had acted in accordance with the letter and the spirit of its resolution 60/251 on human rights, and had not only decisively assumed its responsibility, but also strengthened the authority and standing of the Human Rights Council.
SVEIN ATLE MICHELSEN (Norway) said the General Assembly had expressed the stated will of the Human Rights Council to suspend one of its members, in line with the Council’s recent “urgent recommendations”. As a member of the Human Rights Council, Norway warmly welcomed the adoption of the resolution today. With that action, the Assembly had maintained its credibility and that of the Human Rights Council. It had also sent a strong message in support of the Libyan people.
TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan) said his delegation was deeply concerned about the “gross and systematic violations of human rights” currently being committed by the Libyan Government, and had co-sponsored the resolution to suspend Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council. Japan expressed its deep condolences to the families of victims of violence, and stated that all perpetrators of those “heinous acts” must be brought to justice. He also called on the Government of Libya, including Mr. Qadhafi himself, to put an urgent end to the violence, and he hoped that Libya would move forward in the future with fundamental reforms that reflected the opinions of its people.
SERGEY N. KAREV ( Russian Federation) condemned the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Libya, but cautioned against interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. He supported the resolution just adopted and noted that it did not create a precedent that would allow for a lack of procedures to remove a member of the Human Rights Council. It did not mean the permanent removal of Libya from that human rights body, nor that there was a vacancy in that body to be filled by an election.
JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) expressed his condolences to the victims’ families. The Libyan regime’s systematic use of force evoked memories of the actions of other tyrants. That use of force could constitute crimes against humanity. “No regime has the right to turn its own country and the lives of its own people into a living hell,” he said. He supported the Assembly decision to suspend the rights of Libya in the Human Rights Council. As a member of that body, Libya must respect human rights. Respect for human right was a pillar on which the United Nations was founded. Libya had sought a role in the Human Rights Council and was responsible for upholding its obligations.
However, Libya had grossly abused that trust, he said, urging the Government to respect the will of its people. He called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The Libyan Government was responsible for attacks on civilians. He welcomed the Security Council decision to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court. Today, the Assembly had a responsibility to say it would not tolerate those insults to human rights; a responsibility to the people of Libya to discharge its duties accordingly.
CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his delegation had severed relations with the Libyan Government in support of the people of that country, who continued to bear the brunt of excessive use of force, gross violations of human rights and brutality. “That carnage must cease,” he said. Recalling that, in line with General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 2006, “members elected to the Human Rights Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”, he said such members therefore had a duty to cultivate a peaceful atmosphere for the full enjoyment and exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and of assembly by their citizens.
He said Botswana was of the view that the right of membership on the Council of any Member State that failed to measure up to those values were “not worth preserving”. The Assembly’s action today represented a collective and strong voice of disapproval of the “abuse of privilege and lack of remorse” by the Libyan authorities, and had sent a clear message that the continued indiscriminate use of force against its own people could not be condoned.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said dialogue and negotiation was the only viable path to resolve internal conflicts and to guarantee State sovereignty and integrity. He was concerned by and deeply regretted the loss of innocent human lives in Libya, a country with which Nicaragua had close ties. The Libyan Government must resolve its domestic problems and find a peaceful solution in a sovereign manner, without foreign interference, or any justification for it. He was deeply concerned over the ferocious media campaign against Libya and its people. The news was contradictory and inflated, and used for purposes of the great super-Powers, which were inciting violence to justify military intervention. Such acts would lead to chaos and complete destabilization of the country. That would enable them to expropriate Libya’s vast oil resources. He rejected all attempts to divide the Libyan territory in order to take advantage of its natural resources.
The measure just taken by the Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council was not going to lead to a solution, he said. Suspending those rights in a hurried manner created a precedent for those countries who turned a blind eye to massive human rights violations, that set up secret prisons and that used double standards for moral values, such as those perpetrated against Nicaragua and as seen in decisions made by the International Criminal Court. He called for calm and negotiations, an end to double standards and for a way to be opened for the Libyan people to achieve peace.
HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia) said the people and Government of his country were pained by the loss of life and destruction in Libya. Ultimately, it was the sovereign right and responsibility of the people there to “chart their own path”, he said. Yet, what was being seen instead was a Government unwilling to protect the rights of its own citizens, and all too willing to bring them harm.
The Libyan authorities must respect the voices of their citizens, respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and do their utmost to stop further loss of life and violence, he continued. Indonesia also underlined the responsibility of countries to help foreign nationals in Libya. The international community had taken urgent measures, including through the adoption of the resolution today, to support the Libyan people in enabling the democratic process to take place.
ZHANG DAN (China) said he hoped that the Assembly’s suspension of Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council did not constitute a precedent.
MOHAMMAD SARWAR MAHMOOD (Bangladesh) said he was profoundly shocked by the loss of human life in Libya. The safety and security of everyone, including the 60,000 Bangladeshi expatriates there, was necessary. He called on everyone to show maximum concern when dealing with the situation.
NORACHIT SINHASENI (Thailand) fully supported the resolution and said the international community was sending a clear and strong signal that violence and bloodshed in Libya must end now. The plight of Libyans was important, as was the plight of foreign workers in that country. Thailand had more than 25,000 workers and students in Libya. The Thai Government was doing all it could to bring them home safely. A ship was now transporting another 2,000 workers from Tripoli, but that only represented a fraction of those trying to leave. He thanked Egypt and Tunisia for their cooperation to that end. While the international community was rightly concerned about the plight of the Libyan people, it should not forget about others in need of assistance.
FRANCISCO CARRIÓN-MENA (Ecuador) said that, owing to its policy of defending human rights and supporting peace, his Government condemned the violence in Libya and did so from the framework of its own Constitution. It also condemned unjustified interventions by foreign Powers into the affairs of sovereign States, the “most pathetic recent case” of which had been Iraq. The resolution passed by the Assembly today referred only to Libya, and should not be used in any other context.
PABLO SOLÓN (Bolivia) said his delegation had joined the consensus in adopting the resolution before the Assembly today because it rejected the use of violence against unarmed civilian populations. The pain of massacre was not alien to Bolivia, he added. However, it was critical that the consensus reached today not be used to promote other, unjustified interventions. Bolivia warned against the selective application of any resolution against States that had a different orientation from the major Powers. He also called for “the broadest investigation possible” into events on the ground in Libya.
GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia) said the gross human rights violations in Libya warranted that country’s suspension from Human Rights Council. It was untenable that “a regime so clearly failing in its responsibility” would be fit to serve on such a United Nations body. He welcomed the strong statement by the League of Arab States, the communiqué by the African Union and the statement by the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The unanimous and robust sanctions imposed by the Security Council sent a clear signal that the international community would not stand idly by. He welcomed Council resolution 1970 (2011) and said Australia was working to implement it urgently. He urged the Council to adopt further action to protect the Libyan people if necessary.
MERON REUBEN (Israel) fully supported the suspension of Libya from the Human Rights Council; a move he said “was long overdue”. The Libyan situation was a representative case in point of the dire human rights situation in the Middle East and North Africa region. It was a tragedy that such situations only were addressed when violence unfolded. Libya should never have been elected to sit on the Human Rights Council. That fact should serve as a wakeup call when deliberating the future of the Human Rights Council and its membership.
ANTONIO PEDRO MONTEIRO LIMA (Cape Verde) said there were times when people sped up the march of history. People were basing their hopes on the overthrow of regimes that had been in power for many years. The world was currently witnessing the “spring” of peoples across the North Africa region. “What people would not wish to choose freely their own future?” The Assembly had clearly stated its position against the violence perpetrated by the Libyan Government by expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council today. Cape Verde expressed its solidarity with that measure and with the Libyan people, and was pleased to have taken part in that historic decision.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said his country had co-sponsored the resolution adopted by the General Assembly today. That action no doubt gave the Human Rights Council, and therefore the United Nations, more credibility.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Venezuela, reacting to the speech by the representative of the United States, said he could not understand that a country with such a long history of human rights violations worldwide could make such a statement.
* *** *For information media • not an official record