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the Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

As Bloodshed Continues, UN Set to Adopt Report Praising Libya's Human Rights Record

Steven Edwards, Postmedia News

The United Nations Human Rights Council could end up adopting a report praising Libya for its progress on human rights issues — despite the bloody confrontation between the forces of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and protesters calling for his ouster. (Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Human Rights Council is set to adopt a major report hailing Libya's human rights record — despite moving to suspend the Arab country's council membership amid an international outcry over attacks on civilians.

The report shows countries applauding and commending Libya as they note "with appreciation the country's commitment to upholding human rights on the ground."

Even Canada "welcomed improvements" Libya made "in its respect for human rights," according to the report, which is scheduled for a vote before the Geneva-based 47-member council March 18.

But the Canadian government also made a number of critically framed recommendations to the Gaddafi regime, including one calling for reinforced measures aimed at fully investigating torture claims.

The 23-page report was compiled as part of the council's "Universal Periodic Review" — a process the UN bills as a rigorous scrutiny of the human rights records of each UN member state every four years.

Highlighting what it called the council's "hypocrisy," UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group, on Monday called on the body's president to withdraw the report.

"It's now clear that the session on Libya was largely a fraud," said Hillel Neuer of Montreal, UN Watch executive director.

"The council should schedule a new session in which members would tell the truth about the Gaddafi regime's heinous crimes, which were committed over the four decades he's been in power, yet ignored by the UN."

According to UN Watch, topping the list of recalled witnesses should be the Libyan diplomats who defected last week and "admitted that the Gaddafi regime is a gross violator of human rights."

The UN launched the council in 2006 to replace a discredited Human Rights Commission, which had come to be manipulated by countries with poor human rights records. Canadian-led Eye on the UN was among other monitoring groups that on Monday claimed the council has also lost its legitimacy.

"The Universal Periodic Review system was touted as the No. 1 innovation because everyone would be scrutinized equally," said Anne Bayefsky, Eye on the UN chief, and senior fellow with New York-based Hudson Institute.

"But human rights abuser states caught on early that the rules enable them to line up countries that support them to speak on their behalf. The result is that human rights abuser states come away from the process looking like they were open-minded and had subjected themselves to scrutiny."

Iran, Sudan and Cuba are among countries that heaped praise on Libya's human rights record — despite themselves having poor human rights records, according to monitoring groups.

Libya should "continue its efforts to promote women's rights in social and public life, and protect them from violence," recommends Iran, which last year faced international criticism for sentencing a woman accused of adultery to death by stoning.

Sudan, which itself faces international sanctions for human rights abuses, said Libya should "continue its efforts to address the adverse effects of the sanctions imposed (on Libya) during the 1990s."

Cuba felt Libya was on the right track with its "positive efforts to increase the culture of the human rights of the Libyan people."

Israel was alone in not bothering with the diplomatic protocol of "welcoming" the report ahead of making critical remarks.

Israel notes that Libya's council membership "served to cover the ongoing systematic suppression, in law and in practice, of fundamental rights and freedoms," the report said bluntly.

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