Qaddafi No!-But Bibi Si!

Article excerpt

On Friday, Feb. 25, Col. Muammer Qaddafi was collaterally and inadvertently instrumental in re-invigorating the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Council unanimously condemned apparent human rights violations in Libya and, in an unprecedented move, recommended its expulsion from the body. It was aided by the defection of the members of the Libyan delegation to the Council who, in common with many of their compatriot diplomats, had abandoned the sinking ship in Tripoli.

Of course it also helped that Qaddafi's eccentricities, rather than his barbarities, had alienated all his neighbors. You know you're in trouble when your only friends in the world are similarly wayward caudillos like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega.

Washington and some, at least, of its allies in the West also were hoping that everyone would forget that it was Western oil company checks made out to the Qaddafi regime that had kept him in power all these years, especially when he made a geopolitical switch from his former reflexive anti-Western position.

The West now is sternly condemnatory of a regime ordering its air force to bomb civilians-so long, of course, as it was not Israel flying sorties into the crowded alleys of Gaza.

Closer to Tripoli, the Arab League, hitherto so tenderly solicitous of the Sudanese government's sensibilities, already had rescinded Libya's membership, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference joined in the condemnation of Qaddafi.

Libya's suspension from the Human Rights Council would not have been necessary had it not been for the complaisance of the African and Arab countries that persisted in running a rota system for important positions-not only membership on the Human Rights Council but on the Security Council as well, and even the presidency of the African Union, all of which Qaddafi's Libya has recently occupied.

It is not that they loved the colonel, who has consistently been a sandfly chewing away under the tail of his neighbors, but rather that they were prepared to go along with such a flagrant ethical breach of procedure in order to ensure that they in their turn would have their regular place at the rostrum.

Human rights advocates carefully crafted the rules for the revised Human Rights Council to reconcile African and non-aligned objections, so that there would be contested elections. However, the African states, recidivist rota makers, frustrated that move by either nominating only the same number of candidates as seats, or by putting up stalking horse candidates that ran to lose.

Those member states and the NGOs that genuinely pursue human rights should take this opportunity to ensure not just elections, but also elections which ensure that only properly qualified states are elected. This debacle might do just that.

However, its expulsion of Libya should do something to revive the prestige of the Council, which has been battered with varying degrees of credibility by sundry enemies. The action proved that it was not just Israel that could make the Council's agenda-even if there were those special circumstances that took away the benefit of Arab and African omerta. Of course, it will not change the minds of those who consider any scrutiny of Israel to be ipso facto unbalanced if not anti-Semitic, but it will at least deprive them of their traditional lament that the Council never considers the violations of Arab states.

Over at the Security Council, Qaddafi's alienation factor overcame even Russia and China's traditional and self-interested reluctance to countenance action against human rights-offending states. Realpolitik helps, of course. When one of the world's largest oil suppliers is about to change government, it is expedient to jump on the bandwagon no matter how belatedly.

One of the crucial and fascinating aspects is that Resolution 1970 refers events in Libya since Feb. 15 to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). …