What's In Blue

Posted Fri 29 Jun 2012

Pillay Briefing on Human Rights in Libya and the OPT

Council members are scheduled to be briefed in consultations on Monday afternoon (2 July) on Libya and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. (The closed session briefing will follow a similar morning briefing to Council members in consultations on Syria on 2 July. A third briefing is also scheduled on Sudan/South Sudan on Tuesday [3 July].) At press time, it does not seem that any Council action is anticipated following the consultations.

On Libya, Pillay is expected to update Council members on the situation of detainees held in various detention facilities throughout the country, among other issues. This was an issue she raised during her last (public) briefing to the Council on Libya on 25 January (S/PV.6707), where she concluded that urgent steps needed to be taken to put an end to ongoing human rights abuses, “particularly those occurring in detention.” (On 10 May, Special Representative Ian Martin briefed the Council, stating that around 4,000 detainees were still in the custody of brigades, either at formal or secret detention facilities and “cases of mistreatment and torture of detainees continue.”)

Pillay in the past has stressed the importance of addressing abuses committed by all actors during the Libyan conflict and she may choose to raise this issue again during the briefing. The recurring issue of civilian casualties as a result of NATO’s air campaign last year is also something which may arise.

Some Council members are also likely to want an update on the four-person defence team appointed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that has been detained by Libyan authorities in Zintan, Libya, following their visit to Saif al-Islam Qaddafi on 7 June. (Defence counsel Melinda Taylor has been accused of clandestinely passing Qaddafi a coded letter from a fugitive former aide, Mohammed Ismail. The Australian lawyer’s three colleagues—a Lebanese translator, a Russian national and a Spanish legal expert—are reportedly free to leave but have elected to stay with her until she is released.)

The Council issued a press statement on 15 June (SC/10674), which expressed serious concern over the detention of the ICC staff members and emphasised Libya’s legal obligation under resolution 1970 “to cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the ICC”. On 22 June, Libyan Attorney General Abdelaziz al-Hassadi met with the ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, in The Hague. An ICC statement issued after the meeting said the Court would investigate allegations of wrongdoing by its staff in Libya.

Besides discussing the human rights situations in Libya, Pillay is also scheduled to brief on the OPT. It is likely that she will cover the independent fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the rights of Palestinians in the OPT, including East Jerusalem. (The Human Rights Council [HRC] adopted a resolution establishing this mission on 22 March and its report is expected to be considered during the current session of the HRC, possibly in early July.) Council members may have questions about media reports saying that Israel has indicated that it will not cooperate with the HRC or the High Commissioner for Human Rights and will not grant access to the fact-finding mission.

Another issue related to the OPT that could be covered in the briefing is the continued Gaza blockade which is entering its sixth year. On 13 June, Valerie Amos—head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs—said the blockade affects 1.6 million Palestinians, with 80 percent of families there dependent on humanitarian aid. She further asserted that restrictions on the movement of goods and people amount to collective punishment in contravention of international law. (On 14 June, a similar statement was jointly released by fifty UN agencies and NGOs.)

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