Libya And U.N.
It was a shock even for pro-Israel
activists who have long been skeptical
about the seriousness of the United
Nations role as peacemaker and
human rights advocate.
Despite strong U.S. pressure, the
U.N. Human Rights Commission
(UNHRC) on Monday elected the
Libyan U.N. ambassador as its new
Only three countries voted against
Libya in the secret ballot, with 17
states abstaining. Washington sources
say "no" votes were cast by the United
States, Canada and Guatemala.
"We took the steps necessary to
ensure that there would be a vote on
this matter, so that we could leave no
doubt about our objection to Libya,"
said Kevin E. Moley, the permanent
U.S. representative to the United
Nations in Geneva. "Calling for a vote
was an unprecedented and historic
action, breaking a half-century tradi-
tion of election by acclamation."
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-
chair of the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish
Organizations, said Libya's election
could be just the first step in its rise
up the U.N. leadership ranks. "The
vote just compounds the problem cre-
ated by Syria sitting on the Security
Council," he said.
The Syrians are halfway into a two-
year rotation on the key U.N. body.
"Libya could replace Syria; their elec-
tion to the UNHRC chair paves the
way for that."
Hoenlein expressed frustration that
nothing can be done to undo the vote.
"There doesn't seem to be much that
can be done in this rotational system
(for the UNHRC chair). "It under-
scores the skepticism and concern so
many have about the U.N. and the
Human Rights Commission, where
they spend 40 hours criticizing Israel,
and 40 minutes discussing China,
Iran, Iraq and the rest of the world."
Hoenlein said Jewish groups will
intensify their work with human rights
organizations to "encourage them to
recognize the absurdity of this."
Most groups don't need much con-
vincing. Amnesty International said
the human rights situation in Libya
has "seriously deteriorated" since the
Human Rights Watch this week
called Libya's human rights record
"appalling," and cited "the abduction,
forced disappearance or assassination
of political opponents; torture and
mistreatment of detainees; and long-
term detention without charge or trial
or after grossly unfair trials."
And Libya, now the U.N.'s chief
human rights watchdog, has "been a
closed country for United Nations and
non-governmental human rights inves-
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the
House majority leader,-this week
promised "even closer scrutiny of the
U.N. within Congress" and said that
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's
"legion of Libyan victims could teach
the Commission many things about
the depths of human cruelty. But the
immoral elevation of his dictatorship
to its chairmanship is utter hypocrisy."
DeLay also called the UNHRC a
"protection racket for serial human
(I I f 1 I
The new Congress is slowly shaking
off its start-of-session lethargy, which
means the usual posturing and poli-
ticking on church-state issues.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., didn't
waste any time introducing a proposed
constitutional amendment that would
legalize voluntary prayer in public -
Most Jewish groups oppose the
school prayer amendments that are
introduced at the beginning of every
term, but there is little anxiety that
Emerson's proposal will fare any better
than its predecessors.
Much likelier to see enactment is the
Houses of Worship Free Speech
Restoration Act. Rep. Walter Jones, R-
N.C., the chief sponsor, said the bill
would "restore First Amendment
rights to our nation's religious leaders"
by freeing churches, synagogues and
mosques from Internal Revenue
Service regulations preventing partisan
The bill was defeated in the House
last year, thanks to opposition from a
range of religious leaders who said it
would just ensnare houses of worship
in bitter partisan disputes and put
tremendous pressure on their leaders
to endorse candidates and raise money.
But the measure was pushed heavily
by the Christian Coalition, whose
influential voter guides have run afoul
of federal authorities because of their
This time around, Jones tempered
the measure's legislation, focusing only
on the right of pastors, rabbis and
priests to speak about political issues.
According to Jones, it does not address
political fundraising. ❑
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