by Austin Bay
January 15, 2003shredded.
Libya -- and hence the thug regime of Col. Muhammar Gadafi -- is
set to chair the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).
A yawn and a shrug followed by a so what is an understandable
response. After all, the UN is the organization where Upper East Side
diplomats sip champagne and nip French cheese, while deploring mass
starvation in sub-Saharan Africa. Besides, Libya will hold the chair for
only a year.
But this is no time for the blase acceptance of a sociopath
whose murderous escapades and grandiose schemes have savaged fragile nations
throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Libya's links to torture and terror are proven. The Gadafi
regime's domestic opponents are either dead or live in exile under constant
threat of assassination. Libya's secret police and system of "revolutionary
committees" throttle the populace. Libya has no independent human rights
groups, and the Libyan government controls the press completely and
The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,
(which killed 270 people) came at Gadafi's order. It was no mistake; it was
no misunderstanding. Pan AM 103 was calculated, callous murder, and it took
14 years of politics and police work to wrench a "confession" and
compensation from the Libyan junta.
This "confession" was supposed to signal a change in Gadafi, the
birth of a "new and improved" political dude.
The "human rights" track record of the "old" Gadafi includes a
border war with Tunisia, attempts to undermine Egypt and assassinate
Egyptian officials, the attempted "annexation" of northern Chad, a proxy war
in Chad and murderous intrigue in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.
He also hobnobbed with Uganda's vicious Idi Amin, sending Amin troops and
weapons even as Amin's dictatorship disintegrated.
The "new" Gadafi looks a lot like the old beast. He now pals
with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, amid allegations over deals in
minerals extracted (i.e., looted) from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following a series of coups, Gadafi is muscling into the Central African
Republic (CAR) by providing "security assistance." This activity has an
interesting dimension, since the CAR and its neighbor, Chad, have been
fighting a low-grade border war. Remember, Chad's neighbor to the north is
Why elect a terrorist to police human rights violations?
Gadafi's been practicing another form of African finagling. Allegedly,
Gadafi has bankrolled the newly formed African Union (AU), thus buying votes
from the autocrats and elites. The UNHRC job is part of his payoff.
The UNHRC is already a damaged institution. Recall in May 2001,
the United States was voted off the UNHRC, to the delight of the planet's
Castros, bin Ladens and Milosevics. Quite a coup, huh, kicking the United
States, the world's greatest force for real human rights, off the board in
favor of such stellar, committed human rights activists like Sudan, Cuba,
Congo, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The sham is sickening, a destructive acid that undermines
genuine efforts to promote and protect human rights. That's the shame of it.
Appeals to reason directed toward the UN diplomatic clique go
unheard. Face it, too many UN bureaucrats are the elites of autocratic
nations. At the UN, they wear the outer garments of democracy (heck, the
General Assembly holds votes), but back home autocratic oppression and
corruption are their people's daily grind. The human rights to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness are threats to the autocrats.
But what the hey -- if this handing Gadafi the gavel undermines
UN field organizations that are often the only institutions in Earth's hard
corners that serve as the first international political road block against
brutal anarchy and genocide?
For the UNHRC elites, it's Libya's turn to sit and spout
platitudes. Don't rock the boat. Don't risk the New York and Geneva expense
accounts -- that's the credibility that really counts, the diplomatic
expense accounts. Yes, human rights. The Gadafi-led UNHRC will surely issue
a searing manifesto, right after the next round of champagne and the
bite-sized brick of gooey cheese.