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Friday, 7 May, 2010

Joint Civil Society Appeal to Oppose Election of Libya
to The UN Human Rights Council

Dear NGO Colleagues,

We are alarmed by Libya’s candidacy for next week’s elections to the UN Human Rights Council, and urge you to sign the Joint Civil Society Appeal below. A statement of protest was issued this week at the United Nations by Mohammed Eljahmi, the brother of Libya’s leading dissident Fathi Eljahmi, who was tortured and killed by the Qaddafi regime. Additional protests were announced by the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who were framed and tortured under false accusations of poisoning children in a Beghazi hospital. The human rights community as whole must join the victims in expressing its outrage.

To join this urgent appeal, reply to this email by Monday with your (1) name; (2) title; (3) name of organization and (4) country.

Thank you as always.

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
United Nations Watch

Campaign contact:



TO: Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo, Spanish Permanent Representative to the UN, Presidency of the EU Council

May 10, 2010

Dear Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Yáñez-Barnuevo,

We, the undersigned global civil society coalition, comprised of non-governmental organizations from around the world, urge you to lead a campaign to ensure that the Libyan regime of Col. Moammar Qaddafi — one of the world’s most brutal and longest-running tyrannies — will be kept off the UN Human Rights Council in the upcoming May 13, 2010 elections to be held at the General Assembly in New York.

We recall the lasting damage caused by Libya’s election as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2003, and are alarmed that history may now be repeating itself.

When the new Council was created in 2006, it was supposed to improve on its widely discredited predecessor, the similarly-named Commission on Human Rights. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that the old Commission suffered from a fatal “credibility deficit”— one that was casting “a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.” He decried a situation where countries sought membership of the Commission “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.” “Politicization” and “selectivity,” according to Secretary-General Annan, were nothing less than “hallmarks of the Commission’s existing system.”

The new Council, however, promised to be different, with criteria of membership that contemplate electing those who “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Libya, by any measure, completely fails this test. The Libyan regime of Col. Qaddafi received Freedom House’s worst possible score on political rights and civil liberties, qualifying it as one of the world’s most repressive societies. Political parties, free speech and open media are banned. Violators face jail or the death sentence. Col. Qaddafi’s regime controls the country’s only internet service provider.

The Qaddafi regime also practices racial discrimination, persecuting two million black African migrants. In 1998, the UN itself — its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — expressed concern over Libya’s “acts of discrimination against migrant workers on the basis of their national or ethnic origin.” In 2000, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions issued a condemnation of “racist attacks on migrant workers” in Libya.

Tragically, this Libyan racism continues unabated. In its report dated March 22, 2009, the New York Times quoted former Libyan Minister of Trade Ali Abd Alaziz Isawi saying that black migrants “spread disease” and “crime.” For the African migrants themselves, reported the Times, life in Libya is often a dead end. “They call us animals and slaves,” said Paul Oknonghou, 28, a Nigerian migrant, who lives in a house crammed with a dozen others, lacking running water or a bathroom. “[A]pproximately two million Africans flocked to Libya believing that they would find warm receptions, good jobs and, perhaps, an easy path to Europe,” reported the Times. “Instead, they found a hostile environment and a struggle just to eat.”

Col. Qaddafi belongs in jail, not on the world’s highest human rights body. As documented in the recent joint report by Freedom House and UN Watch, Libya can be blocked if 96 countries decide to vote No. Although there are currently only 4 African states running for 4 seats—a closed slate—nevertheless Libya cannot be elected without 97 affirmative votes. According to Rule 94 of the UNGAR Rules of Procedure, Libya’s failure to win 97 votes in three rounds of voting would open up the field to other candidates. We urge you to act before the May 13 election, to encourage qualified African states to declare their candidacy, and to assist their campaigns.

In this regard, we recognize that your request for others to run will be made more difficult by the actions of your own regional group, the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), which, for the second year in a row, has submitted a closed slate—only two nominees, Switzerland and Spain, for two seats. This contravenes the 2006 promise that the reformed Council would bring competitive elections, and sets a poor example. We urge WEOG to rise to the occasion and encourage other of its member states, both EU and non-EU, to submit their candidacies.

In conclusion, we appreciate the political and economic reality whereby Libya has the ability to achieve broad influence with its vast oil reserves. Nevertheless, we trust that the influential countries whom you represent can and will lead a successful campaign to persuade a minimum of 96 UN member states to oppose this murderous, repressive and racist regime from winning a seat on the Human Rights Council.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

[Signatures of NGOs]

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