This is a cross-post from Just Journalism
The media today covers the suspension of Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), following the continued reports of the Gaddafi regime’s violence against protesters. The vote by consensus to evict Libya represents the first of its kind at the UNHRC. However, none of the coverage mentions that the UN body is infamous for including human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China, and that several such regimes continue to be serving members of the organisation.
The Guardian’s article, from the Associated Press, gives the most sanitised descriptions of the UNHRC. ‘UN suspends Libya from human rights council over violence against protesters’ describes it as ‘the UN’s top human rights body’, noting that ‘the council is charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world’. No mention is made of the regimes with dubious human rights records which sit on the council, or how this affects its ability to protect and promote human rights.
Similarly, The Daily Telegraph’s ‘UN suspends Libya from Human Rights Council’, by Jon Swaine, quotes the declared aims of the UNHRC without providing any further information on the group:
‘The UN General Assembly, which comprises all 192 members, agreed to bar Libya from the council, which aims to “strengthen, promote and protect human rights”, on Tuesday evening in New York.’
On the BBC News website, the suspension is reported in the penultimate paragraph of an article primarily about events in Libya itself:
‘The UN has passed a resolution suspending Libya from its Human Rights Council and accusing it of committing gross and systematic violations of human rights.’
The closest any of today’s coverage came to discussing the history of the UNHRC’s make-up was in the Financial Times. ‘Libya ousted from UN Human Rights Council’, by Harvey Morris, states that Libya’s membership of the body had ‘always been controversial’:
‘Speakers noted Libya could be reinstated to the HRC, where the presence of the Gaddafi regime has always been controversial. It was a temporary measure to be reviewed in due course, “which we hope would be very soon”, said Nawaf Salam, Lebanese envoy, who introduced Tuesday’s resolution.’
However, this implies that the inclusion of human rights abusers such as Libya is the exception rather than the norm on the council. As Gideon Rachman, foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, recently noted on his blog:
‘The trouble is that Libya is only the most egregious example of a major violator of human-rights on the council. Other members include China, Cuba, Bahrain, Russia and Saudi Arabia.’
Today’s reporting follows the coverage the UNHRC received yesterday in The Guardian, where an editorial and comment piece both uncritically praised the group for its swift condemnation of Libya.