Note: The important link in this article is to this “Urgent Appeal to World Leaders to Prevent Atrocities in Libya.“
As uprisings sweep the Middle East and North Africa, the bloodiest crackdown is happening, right now, in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi has ruled for more than 41 years. There are reports of hundreds killed, of massacres in Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi, of snipers shooting peaceful protesters, of tanks crushing bystanders, of regime gunmen firing on mourners in funeral processions for protesters previously murdered, of rocket-propelled grenades and helicopter gunships used against crowds of demonstrators.
That’s Gaddafi. Since Gaddafi came to power in a 1969 coup, he has ruled by terror, crushing dissent with jailings, torture and murder. His career of sowing terror abroad — of the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, the UTA flight, the Berlin disco; of aiding Palestinian, Irish, Spanish and Italian terrorists — was an extension of his terror-based rule at home. Libyans know Gaddafi’s bloody ways better than anyone, having suffered under his tyranny for more than four decades. During that time, Gaddafi has plundered the national oil wealth to fund his brutal secret police, his “revolutionary committees” and the rest of his despotic state apparatus, and as blood money to help buy his way out from under U.S. and UN sanctions. He has also been readying the way for inheritance of his grotesque state machinery by one of his sons. For Libyans to rise up against Gaddafi takes staggering courage and determination. This, Libyans are now doing, and for this they are right now being massacred.
Gaddafi does not allow the kind of international media presence that recently flooded Egypt. Libyans are smuggling out reports by phone and internet — as they can, at great risk, when the lines aren’t being cut, as some have been. From the U.S., a leading human rights activist, Mohamed Eljahmi, has been sending out bulletins and appealing for support for the people of Libya. Eljahmi knows what he’s talking about. His late brother, once Libya’s leading democratic dissident, Fathi Eljahmi, died in 2009 in the custody of Gaddafi’s secret police, after years of imprisonment, isolation, medical neglect and Soviet-style application of abusive “psychiatry.”
What help is on the way for the people of Libya? Not nearly enough.
On Friday, President Obama issued an off-the-shelf five-sentence statement, lumping Libyans with protesters elsewhere, professing himself “deeply concerned” about “reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen,” and politely urging these several governments to “show restraint.” At the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have issued similar across-the-board comments on several countries, including Libya — Ban describing himself as “disturbed,” and Pillay giving a wholesale description of the crackdowns as “alarming.” All this amounts to nothing more than platitudes, for which Gaddafi has never shown the least respect. A great deal more is needed. As one place to begin, Geneva-based UN Watch, with the help of Mohamed Eljahmi, has put together “An Urgent Appeal to World Leaders to Prevent Atrocities in Libya.” It goes beyond expressions of dismay, to urge that the UN actually enlist its Human Rights Council to defend human rights for a change, starting by suspending Libya’s membership in the 47-seat Council, proceeding to a clear and specific condemnation of Libya’s massacre of its own citizens, and including the immediate dispatch of a mission of experts to investigate and document the Libyan government’s “crimes against humanity.” It may take a lot more than that to bring an end to more than 40 years of Gaddafi’s murderous rule, but Libyans are right now sacrificing themselves in exactly that cause. Who will help?