(New York) - The United Nations General Assembly should immediately suspend Libya's membership rights in the UN Human Rights Council, 63 nongovernmental organizations from around the world said today.
Acting in the face of mounting evidence of large-scale government attacks against protesters, the groups submitted a petition calling on the General Assembly to pass a resolution immediately suspending Libya's membership rights in the council. The Human Rights Council's founding document authorizes a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to suspend the membership rights of any Council member engaged in "gross and systematic violations of human rights."
"Libya lost any claim to sit at the Human Rights Council once it became clear that Muammar Gaddafi's vow to ‘cleanse Libya house by house' was no mere threat," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Suspending Libya is critical for the General Assembly's credibility as well as that of the Human Rights Council."
The petition calls for the General Assembly to follow without delay the lead set by several UN institutions and officials, as well as regional institutions including the League of Arab States and the African Union. On February 22, the UN Security Council "deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators and expressed deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians."
The League of Arab States on February 22 banned Libyan delegations from participating in all bodies affiliated with the Arab League. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union on February 23 strongly condemned "the indiscriminate and excessive use of force and lethal weapons against peaceful protestors."
While Libyan authorities have prevented human rights organizations and journalists from verifying on the ground the claims of large-scale atrocities, numerous witnesses have reported that hundreds of civilians had been killed by Libyan forces firing "randomly" at protesters.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has denounced "the callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protestors" and warned the government that "widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity."
"The General Assembly's ability to suspend Human Rights Council membership rights was tailor-made for a situation like the human rights crisis now under way in Libya," said Jose Luis Diaz, the head of office and representative at the UN for Amnesty International. "Allowing Libya to continue to serve on the Human Rights Council today would be an affront to those suffering in Libya and to human rights defenders across the globe who are demanding Libya's suspension."