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Letting Killers Guard Human Rights

If it were not so profoundly sad, it would qualify as the sick joke of the millennium: Libya has been elected to chair the United Nations Commission on Human Rights! When Caligula appointed his horse to the Senate, the horse at least did not have blood on its hoofs.

The procedure, of course, was perfectly legal: the chairmanship rotates every year from one global region to another. This year it was Africa's turn to nominate the chairman, and they nominated Libya. Only the US and Canada voted against. To their everlasting shame, European countries abstained.

It is a telling commentary on the moral bankruptcy of the UN that this decision comes at so delicate a time for the organization. President Bush has challenged the UN to show its seriousness about its own mandatory decisions about Iraq: otherwise it may meet the same ignominious end as the League of Nations, which proved impotent in the 1930's when confronted with the aggressive policies of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. To have Libya elected at this moment to chair the UN body responsible for human rights hardly helps support either the legitimacy or the moral authority of the world body.

Let us remember: Libya is a totalitarian tyranny; its leader, Muammar Ghaddafi, combines sometimes erratic behavior with extremist policies, supporting dictators all over the world. He heads one of the world's most oppressive regimes, where there is no pretense at elections and where dissent is instantly crushed.