Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EU pushing for independent UN-led probe of Libya killings, rights abuses

Frank Jordans, The Associated Press
Wed, 23 Feb 2011 08:00:00 CST

GENEVA - The European Union pushed Wednesday for an independent U.N.-led probe into the killing of protesters and other human rights abuses allegedly committed by Libyan security forces, saying they "may amount to crimes against humanity."

The proposal was contained in a draft resolution tabled by EU members ahead of Friday's emergency meeting on Libya of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council.

If approved by a majority of the council's 47 members it would be the first time the frequently criticized body has acted against one of its own. Libya gained a seat on the council last year despite strong opposition from the United States, EU and human rights groups.

The draft condemns "extremely grave human rights violations committed in Libya, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators, which if widespread and systematic, may amount to crimes against humanity."

It calls on Libya to co-operate with U.N. investigators whose task would be to "ensure that there is full accountability for those responsible for violations."

The wording, which echoes a similar call from the U.N.'s top rights official Navi Pillay, goes beyond that of a U.N. Security Council statement late Tuesday condemning the crackdown and calling for an "immediate end to the violence."

African and Asian countries have in the past blocked criticism of abusive governments except when it has been directed at Israel, which has been the subject of six emergency meetings in five years.

But the call for Friday's meeting was signed by several Muslim governments — including Jordan, Qatar and the Palestinian Authority — indicating a crumbling of traditional bloc-support for the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

One rights group said the EU resolution doesn't go far enough and should include the suspension of Libya's council membership.

"We urge the council to call for Libya's removal, which would then be effected by a two-thirds vote of the U.N. General Assembly," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based U.N. Watch.

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