Libya, the Commission on Human Rights and the African Group

Libyan League for Human Rights

The League has followed with great interest the recent developments concerning the question of human rights in Libya, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ election of the Libyan Government to chair its fifty-ninth session due to begin on 17 March 2003. Although this is not the first time that the Commission has chosen a non-elected Government to chair its proceedings, we hope that it will be the last time. Likewise, this is not the first time that the Libyan Government has chaired a United Nations body, nor will it be the last. We all still recall Mr. Mansour Kihkia’s successful presidency of the Security Council, the highest international authority, prior to his abduction in Cairo. For many years, Mr. Kikhia’s name was remembered in the corridors of the United Nations for his skilful presidency of that Council, which decides on questions of war and peace in the world. Libya has also chaired several important committees such as the Fifth Committee, which has the final word on all United Nations programmes, and the Trade and Development Board, which is concerned with development issues.

The chairmanship of such committees is not a monopoly of a particular State, nor does it necessarily testify to the good conduct or reputation of a State; it is merely a procedure based on the rule of rotation among the geographical groups. This year, it was the African Group’s turn to choose its candidate for the chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights. However, it is noteworthy that the members of the African Group which nominated the Libyan Government to chair the Commission on Human Rights were the very same States that previously thwarted Libya’s attempts to become the headquarters of the “Great” African Union, opposed Libya’s nomination to host the African Union’s Parliament and even obstructed Libya’s application to become the headquarters of the African Union’s Supreme Court. In addition, the same African Group endeavoured to prevent the Libyan Government from becoming a member of NEPAD on the ground that it was a non-elected Government that did not assure the minimum respect for the human rights of its citizens. All these resolute stands taken against the AFRICAN ambitions of the Libyan Government induced that Group to put forward Libya’s candidature for the chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights as a means to compensate its (Libya) African failures, particularly since the political importance and prestige of the Commission’s post cannot be compared with that of the African Union’s institutions concerning which all the Libyan Government’s endeavours were thwarted by the same African Group in spite of the huge amounts of money that was spent by the Libyan government on its various African attempts.

The question of human rights in Libya is, and will remain, primarily a matter of concern to us, as Libyans, regardless of whether or not the Commission voted for Libya’s chairmanship. The struggle for a Libyan society free from violence and tyranny will continue. The peaceful demand for the release of all the prisoners of opinion and conscience will not cease and we will continue to press our legitimate demand that the Libyan Government respect the international instruments adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which it is chairing, and particularly those that it ratified of its own accord without the slightest reservation, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There must be an end to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (art. 19), the right of peaceful assembly and demonstration (art. 21), the right to freedom of association, including the right to form and join political parties, trade unions and associations (art. 22) and the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs and “to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors” (art. 25). It is essential to establish a fair judicial system, as required by article 14 of the Covenant, and to safeguard the right to liberty and security of person as provided in article 9.

The League takes this opportunity to urge the Libyan Government, on the occasion of its election to the chairmanship of the Commission on Human Rights, to promulgate a general amnesty in respect of all the prisoners of opinion and conscience. The League also calls for the repeal of all the arbitrary and unjust “laws” and for the authorization of independent political activity through the establishment of political parties with a view to the holding of free and fair elections so that the people can, at last, choose their legitimate representatives.

May the cause of human rights triumph everywhere!

The Executive Committee
21 January 2003