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U.S. Supports Expelling Libya From UN Rights Council

The Obama administration backs removing Libya from the UN Human Rights Council following the government’s attacks on protesters, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said.

“We support expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council,” Crowley told reporters in Washington today. He also said the U.S. has received indirect messages from Libyan government leader Muammar Qaddafi. Crowley declined to characterize the contents of the messages.

The previously scheduled Human Rights Council session in Geneva starting Feb. 28 is the first international meeting of foreign ministers since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, making it a convenient high-level forum to discuss Libya and the broader regional turmoil. Qaddafi today blamed the uprising against his 41-year rule on “drugged kids” and al-Qaeda as Switzerland froze some of his assets.

President Barack Obama yesterday said he’s sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attend the Human Rights Council session. The U.S. is seeking support from European countries and others for measures against Qaddafi’s regime after reports that hundreds may have been killed in a crackdown on protesters.

Clinton will address the council session and “hold consultations with her counterparts on the situation in Libya and events and trends in the broader Middle East,” Crowley said.

International Condemnation

International condemnation in such forums against countries such as Libya, Iran and Zimbabwe can be effective because their leaders have sought membership on the council and defend themselves vigorously before the United Nations-backed panel, said Neil Hicks, an international policy adviser at the New York-based Human Rights First advocacy group.

“It also sets the international context in which other, more direct measures might take place,” Hicks said, citing actions such as imposing sanctions and creating a no-fly zone over Libya to curtail the country’s potential military action. “All of those things will be influenced if there were a strong resolution from the Human Rights Council and some indication they were willing to take action and hold Libya accountable.”

The council may not expel Libya immediately, said Hicks, whose group is pressing for expulsion and other punitive measures against Libya, including multinational sanctions and enforcement of a no-fly zone over the country to prevent its military jets from targeting opponents.

The council would be more likely to order an inquiry into events in the country to determine what human-rights violations may have occurred before taking the step of expulsion, Hicks said.

Libya won election to the council last May, along with Angola, Malaysia, Thailand and Uganda, over the objections of 50 advocacy groups that said those nations violate the rights of their citizens.

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