Another UN outrage

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By John Metzler

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

UNITED NATIONS — The same day that the UN Security Council met in special ministerial session in New York to resolutely condemn terrorism in all its forms, at the UN in Geneva, the Human Rights Committee elected its new chair for the upcoming session. In New York, states among them the USA and France forcefully condemned international terrorism. In Geneva, a representative of Col. Gadhafi’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was resoundingly elected to Chair the Human Rights Committee for the next year!

As the old adage goes, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Mind you, this is the same committee holding the annual ritual trying to get a resolution on human rights in Communist China, and which always gets sidetracked before a formal vote in the 53 member commission.

This is the committee where the election of the Chair is usually a pro-forma matter done by acclimation — but Washington tried a futile last minute blocking measure and only to garner the votes of Canada and Guatemala. Thirty-three states supported Libya and seventeen abstained in the vote. The European Union, not surprisingly abstained; let’s not forget there’s much black gold under the Libyan desert and there’s are so many opportunities for Italian and French firms to get that oil.

Fine, but let’s put these matters in context. While I have no doubt most serious members of the world community — especially the Europeans and Russia — genuinely oppose global terror as much as Washington does, the point is they are willing to waffle when it comes to the specific interpretation. Saddam already knows that!

As this column has stressed in the past years, Col. Gadhafi once the patron saint of global terror, has tried somewhat successfully to transform himself into a reasonable fellow and ready business partner. The Tripoli regime which once proudly associated itself with export of terror, now eagerly courts trade and tourism!

The Euros are eagerly buying into this as they are accepting the nonsensical prattle about the Islamic Republic of Iran being “moderate” and likewise open for business. This becomes classic moral relativism where many of the same states who fulminate ad nauseum about the American treatment of Islamic Al-Qaida thugs in Guantanamo (many of them EU citizens) will then say let’s do a deal with Tripoli and Teheran.

As Joanna Weschler of Human Rights Watch warned, “Libya’s election poses a real test for the commission, repressive governments must not be allowed to hijack the UN human rights system.”

Naturally putting Libya as Chair of the Human Rights Committee ( Najat Al-Hajjaji, a woman ambassador by the way) singularly cheapens the Committee’s moral authority and standing.

Few serious observers can say with a straight face that Libya has seriously changed — its just that Col. Gadhafi is smart enough to distance himself from the old imagery as not to gain membership in the Axis of Evil.

Given Libya’s record — the alleged 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland and the bombing of a French UTA airliner over the Sahara, both the USA and France have good reason to put Tripoli regime on notice — and on trial! Beyond the treatment of his own people, Libya has been implicated in widespread terrorism against Americans and Europeans. Interestingly Libya is still not totally free of UN sanctions stemming from the Lockerbie incident.

Thus for Libya, Chairing the Committee is a bit like a member of a leading Mafia family heading up a U.S. Senate investigation of organized crime, or perhaps a Serb paramilitary leader, putting on the black robes in the Hague to judge Slobodan Milosevic. This tragically tarnishes the process and brings ill repute to the noble ideals of the Committee.

It becomes morbidly laughable if it were not for the sad reality that the Human Rights Committee deals with rights in places like China, Burma, and Islamic Iran where civil and political transgressions by regimes are hardy funny.

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for World

Tuesday, January 28, 2002

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