Published February 28, 2011
As the United Nations works feverishly to condemn Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi for cracking down on protesters, the body's Human Rights Council is poised to adopt a report chock-full of praise for Libya's human rights record.
The review commends Libya for improving educational opportunities, for making human rights a "priority" and for bettering its "constitutional" framework. Several countries, including Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia but also Canada, give Libya positive marks for the legal protections afforded to its citizens -- who are now revolting against the regime and facing bloody reprisal.
The U.S. mission in Geneva said it would look into the status of the document in response to a question about whether any efforts are being made to cancel or postpone consideration of the report. But an agenda put out by the United Nations in January said the Human Rights Council, of which Libya has been a member since last year, will "consider and adopt" the document at its session, which is under way and continues to the end of March.
UN Watch, a watchdog group based in Geneva, called on the council Monday to withdraw the report and launch a new review that "would tell the truth about the (Qaddafi) regime's heinous crimes."
UN Watch Director Hillel Neuer told FoxNews.com the review, formally known as the Universal Periodic Review, is a "complete distortion" of Libya's rights record.
"The review is supposed to be a serious examination of a country's human rights record to hold it accountable," Neuer said. "All they do is give praise and give cover to Libya's abuses."
The report -- put together after a November 2010 session, months before protesters challenged Qaddafi's legitimacy and prompted an historic confrontation with his regime -- includes dozens of recommendations for how Libya can improve human rights. But it also includes pages of commentary, mostly positive, from the other 46 delegations to the controversial Human Rights Council.
The praise comes from some unsurprising places. Sudan's delegation praised Libya for improving education conditions. North Korea noted Libya's progress "in the field of economic and social rights." Saudi Arabia praised Libya for improvements in "constitutional, legislative and institutional frameworks, which showed the importance that the country attached to human rights."
Egypt commended Libya for its development of a new criminal code and efforts to combat human trafficking and corruption. Oman, which is facing protests of its own, praised Libya during the review for its "clear commitment" to protecting human rights through a "legal framework."
Canada noted two very specific developments -- legislation granting women married to foreigners the right to pass on Libyan nationality to their children and an acknowledgement by the government of hundreds of prisoners deaths in 1996.
The commentary included some criticism, particularly from the United States and several European nations.
The United States, according to the report, called on Libya to "comply with its human rights treaty obligations." The U.S. also expressed concern about limited freedom of speech, politically motivated arrests and "reports of the torture of prisoners."
The last half of the report covered recommendations for Libya to improve conditions in the country. Libya backed dozens of generally worded recommendations to improve human rights, advance the status of women and "abolish" the use of torture. At the same time, Libya rejected recommendations to curb "arbitrary detention," among others.
The Human Rights Council is notorious for showing an anti-Israel bias and being slow to condemn human rights abuses by countries aligned with certain members of the 47-member council. The panel was boycotted by the United States during the Bush administration, but President Obama reversed policy in 2009 and sent a U.S. delegation to Geneva.
However, with the backing of the United States, the council easily passed a resolution Friday condemning Libya's abuses in response to the latest unrest, calling for an international inquiry and recommending the nation be suspended from the council itself.
The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on that resolution this week. The U.N. Security Council has separately approved a tough set of sanctions against the Libyan regime, imposing an arms embargo among other penalties and referring the case for an international war crimes investigation.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke bluntly about Qaddafi's abuses Monday, saying he is "delusional" and that his regime is "slaughtering his own people." She praised the U.N. for potentially compelling the regime to make a choice between ending the violence and being "held accountable" for continued abuses.
"In Libya, the United Nations is demonstrating the indispensable role that it can play in advancing our interests and defending our values," Rice said.
But Neuer questioned how the United Nations could move so vigorously toward approving sanctions without sidelining the human rights review from last year.
"Given that Libya's diplomats themselves have admitted their regime is a gross violator of human rights ... how can the Human Rights Council adopt this report?" he said. "How can they with a straight face adopt the recommendations and the assessments?"