UN suspends Libya from rights council

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 10:47 AM

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly suspended Libya from its top human rights body as governments worldwide pressured Moammar Gadhafi to halt the deadly crackdown on his people.

The 192 U.N. member nations voted by consensus on the council's recommendation to suspend Libya's membership on the U.N's top human rights body for committing "gross and systematic violations of human rights." General Assembly President Joseph Deiss called for the vote and signaled its adoption by consensus by banging his wooden gavel.

The resolution sponsored by Arab and African states also expressed "deep concern" about the human rights situation in Libya.

It is the first time any country has been suspended from the 47-member council since it was formed in 2006. Based in Geneva, the council is charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.

Libya's suspension from the rights body comes after the U.N. Security Council and United States' imposition of sanctions on Moammar Gadhafi, his family and top associates, and the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Conference's condemnation of Libya's deadly attacks on civilians.

There have been no moves by the U.N. to create a no-fly zone, and the idea has been rejected by Russia, which has a veto-wielding permanent seat on the Security Council. But British Foreign Minister William Hague said Tuesday that his country and its allies could seek a no-fly zone without a U.N. mandate.

While NATO countries are mulling the idea of such a zone to prevent Gadhafi's forces from carrying out air strikes against opponents, Germany warned Wednesday against playing into charges that the West is meddling in Arab affairs. "I would advise that we conduct the debate ... about military options with all the appropriate caution and reserve," Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Wednesday in Berlin.

Canada announced on Tuesday it had frozen 2.3 billion Canadian dollars ($2.4 billion) in assets belonging to Gadhafi's regime. The government did not detail the assets.

Canada is also sending a warship to the Libyan coast, adding to an international military buildup in the region.

Tuesday's vote suspending Libya from the council does not permanently remove it from the body, but prevents it from participation until the General Assembly determines whether to restore the country to full status.

At a gathering of the U.N. Human Rights Council before last week's vote there, Libyan diplomats to the U.N. in Geneva were given a standing ovation as they announced they were renouncing Gadhafi's government. They, like Libyan diplomats to the U.N. in New York, have supported the U.N. moves against the government.

Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said Tuesday that Gadhafi is trying to replace him and Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham because they have both called for an end to his regime. Although Dabbashi told The Associated Press that "certainly it will not be accepted by the United Nations," U.N. diplomats say it could be complicated because, from a legal and protocol standpoint, the Gadhafi government is still accredited to the United Nations.

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