* Report suggested Gaddafi was rights champion
* Arabs, Cuba hailed his rights record at Nov. review
By Robert Evans
GENEVA, March 3 (Reuters) — A United Nations report hailing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rights record was on Thursday sidelined by the world body’s Human Rights Council just a few days before it was due to be adopted.
The report, reflecting a three-hour debate in the council last November, included praise for Libya from a range of countries who last Friday agreed that Gaddafi was a gross rights violator and backed his country’s removal from the body.
Rights activist groups said the decision by the steering bureau of the council to postpone adoption of the report would avoid embarrassment for Islamic, African and countries like Cuba who had earlier lauded Gaddafi as a democrat.
Hillel Neuer of UN Watch said the main effect of the report, compiled after a review of Libya’s record last November, “was to bolster Gaddafi’s oppressive regime, demoralise his victims and harm the reputation of the U.N.”
U.S. ambassador to the council Eileen Donahoe said the report should not be adopted until “the voices of the Libyan people, and not just the voice of the Gaddafi regime, can be reflected” in the final text.
Gaddafi struck at rebel control of a key coastal road for a second day on Thursday but received a warning he would be held to account at an international war crimes tribunal in the Hague for suspected crimes by his security forces.
Countries who praised Libya during the November session, part of the five-year-old council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of all U.N. member states, included Iran, Algeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan and Myanmar.
But last Friday several of these who are members of the council — including Pakistan and Algeria — supported a resolution launching an international inquiry into the ongoing crackdown on protestors and asked the U.N. General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership in the 47-member Geneva forum.
The General Assembly, in which all U.N. member states sit, unanimously agreed to the move on Tuesday — less than a year after three quarters of countries in the New York body had approved Libya’s accession to the rights council.
The UPR process is supposed to provide an objective review of each country’s performance in observing international rights pacts which they have signed and underpin U.N. documents like the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But critics say the process has been marked by determination among a majority council bloc of developing countries to ward off serious criticism by heaping praise on their allies — as they do also in the council itself.
Neuer of U.N. Watch, which closely monitors the council, said it should recognise the UPR on Libya was a fraud, withdraw the report and schedule a new session in which council countries “would tell the truth about the Gaddafi regime’s heinous crimes.” (Editing by Stephanie Nebehay)