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Effort Launched to Remove Libya from UN Human Rights Council

  • Lisa Schlein

A global coalition of human rights groups is launching a campaign to remove Libya from the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council.

A coalition of 27 non-government human rights groups, joined by victims of Libyan human rights violations, are protesting the membership of what they call one of the world's worst human rights violators in the U.N. body that is supposed to uphold and protect the rights of people around the world.

Human rights observers agree with Palestinian physician Ashraf El Hajouj who says that he and five Bulgarian nurses were framed, imprisoned and tortured in Libya for almost nine years on false charges of poisoning children with HIV. "Actually, we are the victims, the hidden victims of the Pan Am 103 [bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988] because the two cases - the HIV case and the Pan Am case - were going in the parallel way and almost all the politicians, they were denying this connection," El Hajouj said.

El Hajouj questions the real motive behind the release of the Lockerbie bomber from prison last year on compassionate grounds. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was freed because he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given three months to live. He now resides in Libya.

Lockerbie Victims Association member Bob Monetti also questions al-Megrahi's early release. His 20-year-old son, Rick, was one of 270 people killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

He says he knows al-Megrahi did not act alone, but that his guilt was proven and his conviction was correct.

"In 2003, Libya finally accepted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and a letter was sent to the United Nations. Hearing that Libya was responsible for the bombing and knowing that at least one murderer was in jail in Scotland gave some consolation and some sort of closure to the victims. The compassionate release last year by the Scots and the circus that followed ended that with a thud," Monetti said.

The groups campaigning to oust Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council are angry that the United Nations has given no official reaction to the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

An overwhelming majority of U.N. member states elected Libya to the 47-member Council in May.

U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer calls this an outrage. He says it sends the wrong message to what he calls the victims of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"Number one, we refuse to accept this result and number two, the procedure allows it," Neuer said. "The procedure says Article 8 of the Resolution of 2006 that governs the Human Rights Council provides that a country that systematically violates human rights can be suspended."

Two-thirds of the 47 members on the council need to vote to remove Libya from the forum. Neuer says this is unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, he says the campaign will continue.

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