By Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip | Reuters
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday unanimously suspended Libya‘s membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council because of violence by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi against protesters.
The resolution was adopted by consensus in the 192-nation General Assembly on the basis of a recommendation from the 47-member Geneva-based council, the principal U.N. rights forum. That body accused Libyan authorities last Friday of “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the suspension, the council’s decision to set up an investigation into human rights abuses in Libya, and the U.N. Security Council‘s referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court.
“These actions send a strong and important message — a message of great consequence within the region and beyond — that there is no impunity, that those who commit crimes against humanity will be punished, that fundamental principles of justice and accountability shall prevail,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice echoed Ban, saying the General Assembly “made it clear that governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place on the Human Rights Council.”
Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Jorge Valero sought to turn the spotlight on the United States, which he said was preparing to take advantage of the situation in the oil-producing North African nation to invade and siphon off its energy resources.
“We urge peace-loving nations in all regions of the world to put a stop to the invasion plans against Libya, which have been unashamedly announced by the Department of State of the United States and the Pentagon,” he said.
“Its purpose is clear — to appropriate the vast potential of natural and energy resources that are stored in the motherland of the Libyan people,” Valero said.
Rice responded angrily, saying the “United States utterly rejects the willful and ugly distortion by the Venezuelan delegation of U.S. policy and posture.”
“At a time when this assembly is acting in unison in solidarity with the Libyan people, it’s shameful that one member state, whose own reprehensible record speaks for itself, would manipulate this occasion to spread lies,” she said.
Speaking to reporters later, Rice referred to her own remarks on Monday that Gaddafi is “delusional.”
“Apparently there’s more than one delusional person speaking aloud this week,” she said about Valero.
While not breaking the consensus, Cuba and Nicaragua, like Venezuela, disputed the move to suspend Libya.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was asked by reporters if Britain would support a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone, an idea Washington has said is an option after it was raised by Libya’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, one of the first Libyan diplomats to denounce Gaddafi and defect.
“We are not ruling anything out at this stage,” he said. “The Security Council is keeping the issue under review.”
“There are consultations going on between the different members of the Security Council,” Lyall Grant said. “If we think that further measures are warranted, then the Security Council will look to adopt such measures.”
Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, introducing the resolution, called it an “exceptional and temporary procedure.”
Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said the General Assembly’s move “puts Gaddafi and his cronies on notice that they will be held to account for attacking their people and denying their rights.”