JERUSALEM (JTA) — The American Jewish Committee called on the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“The Gadhafi regime’s widespread use of brutal force against protestors makes a mockery of the U.N. Human Rights Council,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a statement released Monday.
“The world must not stand by while hundreds of people are being systematically killed, and many more brutalized and threatened as Gadhafi seeks to hold to the power he seized nearly 42 years ago.”
Hundreds are reported dead in protests calling for an end to Gadhafi’s 41-year reign; Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup.
Anti-government protests began Monday in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Media reported that pro-Gadhafi supporters and security forces were firing into crowds of demonstrators and government buildings were set on fire.
Libya was elected to a three-year term on the Human Rights Council last May. It received 155 votes from the 192-member U.N. General Assembly.
The AJC is urging the General Assembly to gather immediately in New York to take up the suspension of Libya’s council membership in a special session.
According to the 2006 U.N. General Assembly resolution creating the council, “the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
The U.N. Security Council was set to convene Tuesday in New York to hold a consultation on the unrest in Libya.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday night that the Libyan violence was a “serious violation of international law,” is “unacceptable” and “must stop immediately.”
The uprising in Libya has come at a time when Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi seemed willing to address some of the former Libyan Jewish community’s grievances.
In an interview published Monday in The Jerusalem Post, Raphael Luzon, chairman of the Jewish Libyan Diaspora in Britain, said he had met twice with Gadhafi, who said he was willing to give a proper burial to Jews buried in common graves and to come to a settlement over Jewish money left in the country. Gadhafi also approved a meeting between Jews and Muslims in Tripoli, Luzon told the newspaper.
Some 25,000 Jews were living in Libya in the 1930s, but . Now there are no Jews in Libya; the last moved to Italy in 2003.
Luzon told the Post that he is in touch with people in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the scene of deadly violence during four days of protests, and that the situation was worse than it appeared in the media. News reports Monday night said that city residents with the help of a defecting army unit had taken over the city.
Unconfirmed rumors Monday night said that Gadhafi had fled to Venezuela, which Libyan officials denied.
Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam went on state television late Sunday saying that his father remained in power and that the government would fight until "the last man, the last woman and the last bullet" to stay in power.
Gadhafi last week called on Palestinians to mass on Israel’s borders until their demands are met.
"Fleets of boats should take Palestinians … and wait by the Palestinian shores until the problem is resolved. This is a time of popular revolutions," Gadhafi said in a speech Feb. 14 on state television.