This morning in Geneva the Human Rights Council is holding an emergency session on the situation in Libya. (Check out my preview of what is likely to come out of that meeting.) Astonishingly, the entire Libyan delegation to the Human Rights Council resigned in protest in what appears to be a very dramatic scene and threw their support behind the anti-Qaddafi movement. Leaders of the powerful non-aligned movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conferences also used the Human Rights Council forum to show solidarity with the anti-Qaddafi movement.
The Human Rights Council is oft-criticized, sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly. But this is a great example of how the Human Rights Council is supposed to work. It does not have much power on its own, but it can can be used as a forum to build momentum for the political isolation of countries.
Meanwhile, in New York the Security Council is set to meet later today on the Libya crisis.
This will be the second Security Council meeting this week on the situation in Libya. On Tuesday, the Council agreed, by consensus, on a condemnatory statement expressing concern over the violence. That meeting was criticized in some quarters for resulting in a rather pusillanimous outcome. I think that misses the point. Tuesday’s meeting was significant for the fact that it established consensus in the Security Council that the Libya situation was something that the Council ought to take up. That includes China and Russia–two countries that tend to tread lightly when it comes to Council involvement in the internal affairs of a member state.
Today, members of the council are expected to pass around a draft resolution that will likely include some measures meant to coerce the Qaddafi regime, like individual targeted sanctions.
And like with the Human Rights Council, this is how it is supposed to work: a country commits abuses against its own citizens, the Security Council passes measures to try and stop those abuses. Let’s just hope the Council lives up to its mission.
UPDATE: The Human Right’s Council’s just-passed, resolution. It was passed by consensus, which usually means watering down a resolution to the lowest common denominator. Not this time. It recommends the Libya be suspended from the Human Rights council, calls for an independent investigation, and uses some of the harshest language available to diplomats to condemn the violence.
The Human Rights Council,
Reaffirming the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, relevant international human rights instruments and international law,
Recalling General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,
Recalling further Council resolution 5/1 and 5/2 of 18 June 2007,
Expressing deep concern at the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government,
Reaffirming that all states have an obligation to protect the rights to life, liberty and security of the person,
Reaffirming also that all UN Member States have a commitment to the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,
Reaffirming further that this commitment applies in particular to members of the Human Rights Council, and that the United Nations General Assembly may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights,
Supporting the statements made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in particular the latter’s statement of 22 February 2011 calling for international investigation into Libyan violence and justice for victims,
Supporting also the Press Statement of the United Nations Security Council on Libya of 22 February 2011,
Also supporting the statement issued by the Council of the League of Arab States on 22 February 2011, the statement of the OIC Secretary General of 20 February 2011, the Communiqué of the 261st Meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, and the relevant conclusions of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council of 21 February 2011,
1. Expresses deep concern with the situation in Libya, and strongly condemns the recent gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Libya, including indiscriminate armed attacks against civilians, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity,
2. Strongly calls upon the Government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its population, to immediately put an end to all human rights violations, to stop any attacks against civilians, and to fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,
3. Strongly calls for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons, including those who were detained before the recent events, as well as for the immediate cessation of intimidation, persecution and arbitrary arrests of individuals, including lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists,
4. Also urges Libyan authorities to ensure the safety of all civilians, including citizens of third countries, to refrain from any reprisals against people who have taken part in the demonstrations, to facilitate the departure of those foreign nationals wishing to leave the country, and to allow the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance to those in need,
5. Urges Libyan authorities to immediately cease the blocking of public access to the internet and telecommunication networks,
6. Also urges Libyan authorities to respect the popular will, aspirations and demands of is people, and to do their utmost efforts to prevent further deterioration of the crisis and to promote a peaceful solution ensuring safety for all civilians and stability for the country,
7. Recalls the importance of accountability and the need to fight against impunity and in this regard stresses the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under government control, on civilians,
8. Urgently calls for an open, inclusive, meaningful national dialogue aimed at systemic changes responding to the people’s will and at the promotion and protection of human rights,
9. Reminds the Government of Libya to respect its commitment as a Member of the Human Rights Council to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and to cooperate fully with the Council and its Special Procedures,
10.Calls on the Libyan authorities to guarantee access to human rights and humanitarian organisations, including human rights monitors,
11.Decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya in connection with the on-going protests in the country, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated, and, where possible, identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable, and to report to the Council at its 17th session, and calls upon the Libyan authorities to fully cooperate with the Commission,
12.Requests the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner to provide all administrative, technical and logistical assistance required to enable the above-mentioned commission of inquiry to fulfil its mandate,
13. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide an oral update to the Council at its 16th session on the human rights situation in Libya, and to submit a follow-up report to the 17th session, as well as to organize an interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in Libya during the 17th session of the Council,
14. Recommends to the United Nations General Assembly, in view of the gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Libyan authorities, the consideration of the application of the measures foreseen in OP8 of General Assembly Resolution 60/251,
15. Decides to remain seized of the matter.