May 12, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Human Rights Council’s credibility threatened by Libya’s probable election as member

Fourteen of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47 seats are up for election by the General Assembly on 13 May and one of the candidates running unopposed is particularly controversial: Libya, a country that is far from being a model of respect for human rights. The Human Rights Council’s predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, suffered a major blow to its credibility when Libya was elected as its Chair in January 2003. Now it seems the Human Rights Council’s credibility is to be undermined by having to accept Libya, a country that constantly violates its population’s most basic rights, as a member. The Libyan authorities continue to crack down on the country’s media, especially independent news websites, despite a few signs in the past two years or so that they were beginning to loosen their grip. The limited progress began to be reversed when the satellite TV station Al-Libiya was nationalised in June 2009. This was quickly followed by the nationalisation of another new station, Al-Wasat. Oea and Quryana, two newspapers owned by Al-Ghad, a private company controlled by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Seif Al-Islam, had to cease publication in January 2010 after the General Press Authority banned them from printing on the pretext of non-payment of certain bills. They continue to appear online Although independent news websites based abroad such as Libya al-Yum, Al-Manara and Jeel Libya have long been accessible in Libya, and their correspondents allowed to work in the country, the authorities began censoring the Internet in January 2010, blocking YouTube from 24 January onwards. This followed the posting of videos of demonstrations by the families of prisoners in the city of Benghazi, and of footage of members of Gaddafi’s family attending parties. Other independent and opposition websites were blocked on 24 January 2010 The authorities also recently set up a new regulatory body that is responsible for monitoring journalists who do investigative reporting on corruption cases in Libya. Freedom of expression is therefore closely controlled by this would-be member of the Human Rights Council although the right to impart and receive information is enshrined at the very heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 19. Many political leaders and NGOs think that by incorporating the less democratic countries into the Human Rights Council the situation in these countries will gradually improve. The examples of China and Cuba, which have been members of the Council for years, show that this is not the case. More and more questions are being raised about the methods used to choose the Human Rights Council’s members. Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by the loss of credibility that the council is likely to suffer if Libya also becomes a member. Muammar Gaddafi illustrates the new Reporters Without Borders campaign ad about the Predators of Press Freedom. The ad was conceived by the Saatchi & Saatchi agency and was designed by artists Stephen J Shanabrook and Veronika Georgieva.