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Activists Oppose Libyan Leadership of UN Human Rights Body - 2002-09-02

Libyan activists are calling for the world community to oppose Libya's candidacy to head the top United Nations human rights body next year. the activists argue that Libya's poor human rights record disqualifies it from taking the post.

The activists argue that Libya, under Colonel Mu'ammar Qaddafi, has been carrying out gross violations of human rights for years, including systematic torture of political prisoners, forced disappearances of dissidents and prolonged periods of detention without trial.

The activists are from several Libyan opposition organizations, and have come together to form the Libyan Human Rights Solidarity Group.

At a news conference in Geneva, they expressed opposition to Libya's nomination by African countries to lead the U.N. Human Rights Commission meetings next March.

Activist Juma Gamati says Libya's human rights record must change if it is to head the top U.N. human rights body. "We are just asking for Libya as a regime to move from this revolutionary dogma to a proper state," he said, 'a proper state where we have very clear separation between the judiciary system, an independent judiciary system, an independent executive, an independent legislature where we no longer see arbitrary arrests, where we no longer see torture, where we no longer see summary courts and executions, where we have some sort of freedom of expression."

Mr. Gamati says Libya's recent release of 65 political prisoners is a small gesture to appease the human-rights community. He argues there are an estimated 1,500-2,000 people locked up because they disagree with the Qaddafi government.

The Libyan activists say they are calling for real changes to the system, not cosmetic embellishments.

International human-rights groups like Amnesty International and the World Organization Against Torture have also come out against Libya's nomination to head the U.N. Human Rights Commission.