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Libya Elected To Chair UN Human Rights Commission - 2003-01-20

Libya has been elected to chair this year's United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting, despite U-S complaints that Libya has a poor human rights record and has been involved in sponsoring terrorism. Thirty-three countries backed Libyan ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji as commission chairperson.

U-S Ambassador to the U-N in Geneva Kevin Moley says Washington wanted its objection to Libya's presidency made known publicly. He said the outcome was not a loss for the United States, but for the Human Rights Commission. He says, "This is an opportunity that Libya has through its chairwoman to make dramatic improvements to its human rights record."

African countries hold this year's rotating presidency of the commission and chose Libya to chair the meeting.

English to Africa reporter Richard Kotey spoke with Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. He says Libya has one of the worst human rights record within the Africa Union, AU, and that record should have clearly disqualified Libya from being nominated to chair the Commission.

He says the nomination moves the African continent in the wrong direction especially at a time when the continent has made tremendous progress in human rights. He says his organization, Human Rights Watch, respects the prerogative of the Africa Union to choose its own candidate for the UN position, but clearly there must be benchmarks upon which leadership is measured. And he says the AU has not observed important criteria for choosing a country like Libya to chair the Commission.