20 January 2003

Text: U.S. Deeply Disappointed in Libya's Human Rights Election, January 20, 2003

(Will chair U.N. commission despite its "horrible rights record")

Geneva -- The United States expressed "deep disappointment" January 20 at the election of Libya to chair this year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Ambassador Kevin E. Moley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said a country with Libya's "horrible human rights record" is "not fit" to occupy a position of moral authority within the U.N. system.

"The United States is deeply disappointed that members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have elected Libya, a well known human rights abuser and a country under U.N. sanctions, to chair its 59th Session," he said in a written statement.

At the January 20th Session to select the chair, the United States took the unprecedented step of calling for a vote. Normally the Commission chair is approved by acclamation. Libya had been put forward by the Commission's African regional group.

Moley said the U.S. called for a vote "so that we could leave no doubt about our objection to Libya." He said Qadhafi's regime detains political opponents, tortures and mistreats prisoners, and restricts freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and religion. "A country with this record does not merit a leadership role in the U.N. System."

The secret ballot on the Commission chair was passed with 33 in favor, three opposed and 17 abstentions.

Asked whether the outcome represented a defeat for the United States, Moley responded, "No, this was not a defeat for the United States. It was a defeat for the Human Rights Commission, a defeat for the system which allows countries with egregious abusive records on human rights to become members of the Commission."

The following is the text of the written statement by Ambassador Moley released by the U.S. Mission in Geneva:
(begin text)

Statement by Ambassador Kevin E. Moley Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

Following the Vote on Libya for Chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights
January 20, 2003

The United States is deeply disappointed that the members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have elected Libya, a known human rights abuser and a country under U.N. sanctions, to chair its 59th session. We took the steps necessary to ensure that there would be a vote on this matter, so that we could leave no doubt about our objection to Libya. Calling for a vote was an unprecedented and historic action, breaking a half-century tradition of election by acclamation. But we cannot have business as usual in what should be the world's foremost international human rights body. Libya's government continues to commit serious human rights violations. Qadhafi has detained political opponents for years without trial. Security forces torture and mistreat prisoners. The Government restricts freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and religion. Arbitrary arrests are used to suppress domestic opposition. A country with this record does not merit a leadership role in the U.N. System.

It is time to begin rebuilding the U.N. Commission on Human Rights into a body that fulfills its original mandate to champion democracy, freedom, and the human rights of all people, bringing scrutiny to bear on the worst offenders.

The United States will continue to make its position clear. We seek to actively engage and strengthen the moral authority of the Commission on Human Rights, so that it once again proves itself a forceful advocate for those in need of having their human rights protected. We are convinced that the best way for the Commission to ensure the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights over the long term is to have a membership comprised of countries with strong human rights records at home.

Today, America celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a champion of freedom and human dignity. We regret that more members of the Commission did not join with us on this day in sending a clear message to Libya and the rest of the world that human rights violators are not fit to occupy positions of moral or political authority in the United Nations system.

(end text)