UN General Assembly Suspends Libya From Human Rights Panel

The United Nations General Assembly, consisting of all 192 member nations, decided today to suspend Libya from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council because of attacks on protesters by Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

The resolution, adopted without a recorded vote because no nation asked for that formality to be observed, noted that the council’s bylaws provide for suspending a country’s membership for “gross and systematic” violations of human rights. It marked the first suspension of a council member.

“This is a harsh rebuke, but one that Libya’s leaders have brought down upon themselves,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said. “The U.S. continues to be appalled by the situation in Libya. This unprecedented action sends another clear warning to Mr. Qaddafi and those who still stand by him: They must stop killing.”

Action in the General Assembly followed the Human Rights Council’s adoption of a measure on Feb. 25 recommending that Libya be suspended and for an international committee to investigate human rights violations in the country.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that more than 1,000 Libyans have died in the protests against Qaddafi and that his regime is guilty of “serious transgressions” of international human rights and humanitarian law.

“We demand an immediate end of the violence against civilians and full respect for their fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful assembly and free speech,” Ban told the General Assembly.

‘Clear Incitement’

“The latest reports from the ground are sobering,” Ban said. “I am gravely concerned at the continuing loss of life, the ongoing repression of the people and the clear incitement of violence against the civilian population.”

Venezuela’s Ambassador Jorge Valero followed the action by attacking the Obama administration’s movement of naval assets into position around Libya.

“We urge peace-loving countries in all regions of the world to put a stop to the invasion plans against Libya,” Valero said. “Its purpose is clear: to appropriate the vast potential of natural and energy resources that are stored in the motherland of the Libyan people.” He said the U.S. wants to turned Libya into a “‘protectorate” to seize its oil.

‘Ugly Distortion’

Rice said the U.S. “utterly rejects the willful and ugly distortion by the Venezuelan delegation” of the U.S.’s policy. “At a time when this assembly is acting in unison to support the Libyan people, it is shameful that one member state whose own reprehensible record speaks for itself would manipulate this occasion to spread lies, foster fear and sew hate.”

The UN Security Council voted 15-0 on Feb. 26 to impose an arms embargo on Libya and a travel ban and asset freeze on Qaddafi, his top aides and close family members.

The U.S. was elected to the Human Rights Council in 2009 after President George W. Bush decided not to be a candidate for membership when the 47-nation body was established in 2006. The Bush administration was concerned that it would have an anti-Israel bias and include nations, such as current members China and Cuba, which have been accused of human rights abuses.

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