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Swiss to sit with Libya on Human Rights Council

Switzerland was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly in New York. It was one of 14 countries standing for 14 seats.

This content was published on May 14, 2010 - 08:30

On the council it will sit alongside Libya, which won another of the uncontested seats. Switzerland received 175 votes in the election in New York, while Libya received 155.

Switzerland and Libya have been at odds since July 2008, when Geneva police arrested a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on charges of beating two of his servants. The servants withdrew their charges after being compensated, but Libya took a number of measures against Switzerland.

A Swiss businessman, Max Göldi, is currently serving a sentence in a Libyan jail for visa violations. Libya says the case is unconnected with the diplomatic dispute, but many in Switzerland regard him as a political prisoner.

A number of human rights organisations which were critical of Libya’s human rights record, had lobbied to prevent its election. However, in the event it easily exceeded the minimum of 97 votes – an absolute majority – needed to gain a seat.

The members of the UN are divided into five regional groups, each of which puts forwards its own candidates. It was the first time since the council was established in 2006 that there had been no competition within any of the groups. In the past, several rounds of voting have been necessary, but this time the results were more or less a foregone conclusion.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council has 47 members, who are elected for three year terms. Switzerland has already served one term, before stepping down last year.

The other countries elected on Thursday were Spain in the western European group, Angola, Mauritania and Uganda for Africa, Malaysia, the Maldives, Qatar and Thailand for Asia, Ecuador and Guatemala for Latin America and Moldavia and Poland for eastern Europe.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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