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U.N. Suspends Libya From Rights Council, Citing Abuses

The U.N. General Assembly has suspended Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council, acting on the recommendation of other nations on the panel and the urging of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The consensus vote was a move to condemn Moammar Gadhafi's "gross and systematic violations of human rights," as Libya's military has been ordered to fire upon anti-government demonstrators, according to a statement from the Human Rights Council.

Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef described human rights abuses in Libya in an interview with NPR's Melissa Block for today's All Things Considered.

Morayef just left the city of Benghazi, where Human Rights Watch says that more than 200 people were killed during the recent violence.

"The vast majority of these deaths were caused by live gunfire. In the majority of cases, sniper shots," Morayef told Block.

"There were also eight cases where people were burned. They were handcuffed and burned in one of the detention centers," she said. "Witnesses were saying that these were military officers who'd refused to fight, but this isn't something we were able to independently verify."

Tuesday's vote to suspend Libya from the Human Rights Council was sponsored by Arab and African states.

The passage by consensus means that the suspension met with no real objections. Still, the AP reports that Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero expressed reservations.

"A decision such as this one could only take place after a genuine investigation,'' he said.

The move follows sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council on Gadhafi's regime. The Security Council has also requested that the International Criminal Court investigate Libya's government for possible crimes against humanity.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.