Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the General Assembly Resolution Suspending Libya from the Human Rights Council, at the General Assembly Stakeout

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
March 1, 2011


Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon. We had, just, a historic session of the General Assembly when all members unanimously agreed to the suspension of Libya’s membership from the Human Rights Council. This is the first time that either the Human Rights Council or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, have suspended any member state for gross violations of human rights. And we think this is an important step forward in enhancing the credibility of the Human Rights Council, whose credibility on these issues has often, quite legitimately, been called into question. Today, the General Assembly exercised its authority to suspend a member state for gross violations of human rights. In our view, this is progress, as was last Friday’s special session in Geneva for the Human Rights Council, and we hope its progress will be sustained.

Reporter: What’s the importance that many Arab countries, as Lebanon, took the lead for this resolution and many Arab countries sponsored the resolution for a human rights issue in an Arab country?

Ambassador Rice: I think it’s very significant and an important development. And similarly the Africa Group, which also claims Libya as a member, took strong leadership and brought this effort both to Geneva and to New York. And so, while we’re proud to have co-sponsored it, we certainly applaud their leadership.

Reporter: Ambassador, do you think it was an outrage that Libya was elected to the Human Rights Council in the first place? And also, this morning, lots of American officials said that all options are on the table, yet you denied forcefully that there is an invasion plan.

Ambassador Rice: The Venezuelan Perm Rep’s comments were ugly and reprehensible and I think I dealt with them emphatically in the chamber. And, you know, he can live in the fantasy world that he apparently does. Apparently there’s more than one delusional person speaking aloud this week. But, we’ll let his own remarks speak for themselves. But with respect to Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council, we regretted its election last year, we thought it was an unfortunate decision, but this, unfortunately, is a factor that comes into play when we have, as is sometimes customary, clean slates out of regional groups. And we have worked successfully in other instances to generate competition such that that kind of outcome is avoided.

Reporter: Can I ask you a question about the Security Council resolution? (inaudible) On the Security Council resolution that passed Saturday, some have now raised a question about the US asking for that paragraph six, which exempts Americans, and, I guess, others, anyone that’s not an ICC member, from referral and prosecution by the ICC. They say it undercuts international law—Brazil said it, now the head of the Rome Statute grouping of member states said it. Why did the US ask for that? And don’t you see a downside to saying there’s no impunity if you are excluding people from referral?

Ambassador Rice: No, I don’t see a downside. As you well know, the United States is not a party and we have thought it important, if we were going to, for the first time, affirmatively support such a resolution, to make sure that is was clear the limitations as to who jurisdiction applied to. That’s why we supported that phrase. Your assertion and that of others that somehow this provides a pass for mercenaries, I think, is completely misplaced. I don’t think that the International Criminal Court is going to spend its time and effort on foot soldiers that have been paid small amounts of money by Qadhafi. They’re going to focus on the big fish, so I think your interest was misplaced.

Reporter: (inaudible) Other action in the Security Council now, are you currently discussion a no fly zone?

Ambassador Rice: Are we currently discussing other action? No, not yet.

Reporter: Can you discuss what the Russians and Chinese are saying about the idea of a no fly zone?

Ambassador Rice: We’re constantly in discussions with our partners on the Council, in particular the P5, about issues that threaten international peace and security. We view this as one that falls into that category. And we’ll continue to stay in close consultation with them and with others.

Thanks very much.


PRN: 2011/040