Elections to the Human Rights Council – Libya must protect and promote human rights at home and abroad

Press release

Elections to renew one third of the UN Human Rights Council have taken place on Thursday 13 May in New York. Following an agreement among African states, Libya has taken over one of the vacant seats of the African group.

The appalling situation of human rights in Libya since more than four decades and its questionable position on the international stage raise great concerns about its ability to play a constructive role in the UN main organ in charge of the promotion of human rights worldwide.

According to General Assembly resolution 60/251 creating the Human Rights Council, “when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto”. According to the same resolution, “members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and] shall fully cooperate with the Council”.

At the international level, Libya has failed so far to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms. It has not responded to two requests for invitation from the Special Rapporteur on Torture, while visits from the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have been agreed upon in principle but have never taken place. Libya has also failed to submit on time six reports to Treaty Bodies.

Against this background, our organisations call on the authorities of Libya to take very seriously the responsibilities lying with Human Rights Council members by taking rapid and concrete measures to improve Libya’s human rights records at home and its level of cooperation with the UN.

In its voluntary pledges released on May 12th, Libya commits itself to “cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to facilitate the achievement of its tasks in the field of human rights”. In order to demonstrate its willingness to cooperate with the United Nations, Libya must submit as soon as possible all pending reports to Treaty Bodies, and invite and facilitate the country visits of the Special Procedures who have so requested.

As Libya will be subject to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on November 9th, we urge the authorities to use this opportunity to undertake an in-depth and sincere examination of its human rights record and to launch reforms of the many dysfunctions which characterise the Libyan “Jamahiriya”.

By joining the Human Rights Council, Libya will be exposed to increased scrutiny from its peers and from international and national human rights organisations. Our organisations will be part of this effort to press for long-term, far-reaching human rights reforms in Libya.

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