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UN Commission to Investigate Abuse in Libya

The President of the Human Rights Council Thailand's Sihasak Phuangketkeow announces the names of a three-members commission that will conduct investigations into suspected crimes against humanity in Libya, March 11, 2011

The United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed three high-level experts to investigate alleged human rights violations during the ongoing political turmoil in Libya. The Council adopted a resolution to launch an international independent investigation during a special session on Libya last month, which also suspended Libya’s membership in the Council.

It was the Thai president of the U.N. Human Rights Council who made the announcement after two weeks of consultations.

"I was tasked as president of the Human Rights Council to appoint an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya… I do hope that this commission of inquiry, which has been set up, will benefit from the cooperation of the country concerned," said Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

And that is the big question. The opposition forces in Libya have been clamoring for an investigation to examine their claims of torture, disappearances, extra-judicial executions and other abuse committed by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The experts appointed to examine these allegations are Cherif Bassiouni, Asma Khader and Philippe Kirsch. Bassiouni, who will chair the commission, is an Egyptian human rights expert and law professor at De Paul University in Chicago.

Khader is a former Jordanian minister of culture and human rights expert. And, Kirsch is a Canadian lawyer who served as a judge at the International Criminal Court from 2003 to 2009.

Council President Sihasak Phuangketkeow says the members of the Commission have solid reputations and will be objective in their probe.

"Now that the Commission has been set up, I will have to contact the authorities in Libya to ask for their cooperation to assist the task of the Commission as assigned under the resolution of the Human Rights Council. And, as you know, the task of the Commission is to investigate all alleged violations of human rights, to establish the facts surrounding those alleged violations and, also, if possible, to identify those who are responsible and consider accountability measures," he said.

The resolution, which called for a Commission of Inquiry, also condemns the recent gross systematic human rights violations in Libya, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians. It describes crimes, such as the detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators as amounting to crimes against humanity.

The Commission is expected to begin its work in the next two weeks and report its findings at the next Council session in June.

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