United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Libya (2011-2012)


Professor Bassiouni was appointed Chair of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Libya (“CoI”), established during the emergency session on 25 February 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. The CoI remained active during 2011–2012, producing two reports as a result of investigations into alleged violations of international human rights law in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya during the conflict period. The other members of the CoI were Philippe Kirsch (Canada/Belgium), former President of the ICC and Asma Khader (Jordan), human rights activist and former Minister of Culture. Professor Bassiouni resigned as Chair in October 2011, but remained a Member of the Commission. His successor was Philippe Kirsch. Professor Bassiouni’s resignation was in protest over the Office of the High Commissioner in Geneva disbanding the staff and taking over three months to reconstitute it, due to internal UN bureaucracy. Professor Bassiouni believed that the CoI could have completed important work during that period of time, which was hindered by this delay.

The first report was prepared under Professor Bassiouni’s chairmanship and was delivered to the 17th Human Rights Council Session (A/HRC/17/44) on 8 June 2011. There was an unprecedented attendance of government delegations, IGO, and NGO representatives, filling the room to capacity. After the delivery of the report, 41 governments asked for the floor. All but three (Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba) highly praised the Report and Professor Bassiouni personally.

The second report was prepared under the chairmanship of President Philippe Kirsch and was presented to the 19th Human Rights Council Session (A/HRC/19/68) on 9 March 2012. By then, the situation in Libya was no longer of political interest, and even though the Commission’s second report contained valuable information, attendance by government delegates, IGO, and NGO representatives was limited. This was not a reflection on the quality or importance of the report but a clear indication that CoIs are more driven by political realities than anything else.

The second report detailed 12 patterns of violations perpetrated by the Qadhafi regime or the thuwar and included an analysis of the NATO campaign. Professor Bassiouni continued to investigate the situation in Libya after the CoI’s mandate was terminated. His book published in 2013 is entitled Libya: From Repression to Revolution: A Record of Armed Conflict and International Law Violations, 2011–2013. The book has been described as a groundbreaking volume that provides the first comprehensive review of the Libyan conflict. It expands on and complements the CoI reports and provides the reader with the information essential to understanding the Libyan conflict, its causes and ramifications, and the difficulties the country faces as it rebuilds in the wake of 40 years of repression and the effects of the war.

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