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Libya Faces Expulsion from U.N. Human Rights Council

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 25 2011 (IPS) - The widespread condemnation of continued military atrocities against civilian demonstrators in Libya over the past week is paving the way for two of the harshest punitive measures against the repressive regime of Muammar el-Gaddafi: expulsion from the Human Rights Council and war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The 192-member U.N. General Assembly, which is mandated to elect the 47 members of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC), is expected to meet next week to call for the expulsion of Libya.

If the resolution is adopted, it will be the first time a sitting member of the U.N.’s premier human rights body is drummed out of office.

Asked if military intervention is a possibility, if all other measures fail, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sidestepped the question: “It is up to member states to decide.”

But he pointed out that “all options” are on the table – even as the 15-member Security Council is discussing a draft resolution calling for economic and military sanctions on Libya, including the freezing of assets, a travel ban on political and military leaders, and prosecution before the ICC.

At press time, members of the Council were still behind closed doors finalising the text of the resolution, which is likely to be put to a vote over the weekend.


Mindful of the fact that the General Assembly needs a two- thirds majority to expel Libya from the HRC, Ban said he had strongly recommended such a course of action. All those responsible for crimes against humanity should be held accountable and “must be punished”, he told reporters Friday.

Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report, told IPS: “I do not think that Gaddafi’s culpability for monstrous crimes against the Libyan people, presently and in years past, is a matter of dispute.”

“While it has in recent years become somewhat less fashionable to characterise Gaddafi as ‘a deranged, megalomaniacal dictator’ on account of his making nice with [former British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi, [former U.S. President George W.] Bush and British Petroleum, his regime has remained as vile and repressive as ever,” Rabbani told IPS.

Since the violent nationwide crackdown of demonstrators last week, the Libyan regime has been strongly censured by several regional and international organisations, including the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States, the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The latest censure came Friday from the HRC, which not only condemned the continued violence but also decided to set up an independent, international commission of inquiry into the killings in Libya and recommended that the General Assembly “consider suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council”.

Officially called the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since March 1977, the North African country has had an unconventional government with no president or prime minister. The country has been administered by the General People’s Congress with Gaddafi presumably abdicating his “powers” to the people.

Emad El-Din Shahin, Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, told IPS the Libyan leader claims he has himself not been in power and he has not been assuming any official responsibility since 1977 – although he considers himself the spiritual leader of the revolution.

“This does not absolve Gaddafi of his personal responsibility and accountability,” he said.

Rabbani said it goes without saying that Gaddafi should be held responsible and accountable for his crimes against the Libyan people.

“This accountability in my view should extend beyond his person, and include key regime figures as well as regional and international allies – some of which are no longer with us – that have enabled his regime and its assisted in its self-perpetuation,” he added.

Asked if Russia’s longstanding military relationship with Libya may trigger a Russian veto to protect Gaddafi in the Security Council, Shahin said: “Given the size of the atrocities and the international attention the Libyan case has taken, I doubt that Russia would use a veto in the Security Council.”

“And if the Gaddafi regime is gone, Russians would need to maintain good relations (as much as they can) with the new regime and continue its military transactions. But I think this will change, and Libya will tilt towards the United States, instead,” he noted.

Since Libya is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, any investigation would have to be referred by the Security Council. Asked if he believes Gaddafi is a candidate for ICC prosecution, Rabbani said: “I do not however think Gaddafi should be presented to the ICC in the unlikely event he survives the current uprising against his rule.”

This has nothing to do with the nature of his crimes and everything to do with the nature of the ICC, which is more accurately characterised as ‘The International Criminal Court for African Dictators and Warlords’, said Rabbani.

For the ICC to open a case, at this point, against yet another African leader while continuing to turn two blind eyes to the crimes – many of them greater crimes – of Western states, leaders and corporations, and their regional allies, gives justice a bad name and – to put it politely – partisan reputation, he noted.

“Put an Anglo-Saxon or Israeli in the dock, then ask me that question again,” Rabbani said.

Asked about possible military intervention, Rabbani told IPS that with things developing as they seemingly are, this is one of those cases where foreign intervention – particularly in humanitarian guise and particularly where it claims it is motivated by the search for accountability – is best avoided.

“We don’t need another Iraq, and those Libyan voices we have been hearing have strongly rejected foreign intervention in their country,” he said.

He predicted that if Russia concurs with Security Council moves to penalise Gaddafi, it will do so reluctantly.

While Russian-Libyan relations may be part of the explanation, this mainly reflects the traditional Russian attitude, shared also by China, that the Security Council should not interfere in what it considers the internal affairs of member states, Rabbani said.

“I should add that any Security Council measure against Gaddafi, particularly in light of the recent U.S. veto of a resolution that would confirm the illegality of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, would make the Security Council even more of a laughingstock when it comes to maintaining international peace and security than it already is,” he declared.

 
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