Modified version from the Ethiopian News and Opinion Journal
Military planes fire at civilian protesters in Libya
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* In signs of disagreement inside Libya’s ruling elite, the justice minister resigned in protest at the “excessive use of violence” against protesters. In India, Libya’s ambassador said he was resigning in protest at the violent crackdown.
* An international coalition of 70 rights groups today urged world powers and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to suspend Libya from its membership on the UN Human Rights Council, and to convene the UN Security Council to protect Libyan civilians from “crimes against humanity.”
The joint statement says that the widespread atrocities committed by Libya against its own people are “particularly odious” actions that amount to “crimes against humanity,” requiring member states to take action through the Security Council under the responsibility to protect doctrine. The letter was sent today to UN chief Ban Ki-moon; EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton; the Security Council representatives from the US, France, and the UK; and to the Human Rights Council delegates from the US and Hungary, which chairs the European Union.
The appeal calls for an emergency session of the Human Rights Council to suspend Libya’s membership, and to dispatch an urgent fact-finding team to the country.
“The muted response of the US and the EU to the Libyan atrocities is not only a let-down to the many Libyans risking their lives for freedom, but a shirking of their obligations, as members of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, to protect peace and human rights, and to prevent war crimes,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, and an international lawyer who represents Libyan torture victims.
“Baroness Ashton’s call for Libyan forces to exercise ‘restraint’ is entirely inappropriate. We’re dealing with the deliberate murder and massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters. By signaling diplomatic caution in the face of a bloodbath — instead of urgency and action — the EU is failing the victims. It’s time for basic human rights to come before oil,” said Neuer.
“The EU should also urge the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross to send urgently-needed medical supplies into Libya, particularly for hospitals in Benghazi. Ashton should attempt to visit Libya after her trip to Cairo tomorrow.” Attempts were made from Egypt to send urgent medical supplies to Libya, but the international community needs to step in, said Neuer.Urgent Appeal to Stop Atrocities in Libya
We, the undersigned non-governmental, human rights, and humanitarian organizations, urge you to mobilize the United Nations and the international community and take immediate action to halt the mass atrocities now being perpetrated by the Libyan government against its own people. The inexcusable silence cannot continue.
As you know, in the past several days, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s forces are estimated to have deliberately killed hundreds of peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders across the country. In the city of Benghazi alone, one doctor reported seeing at least 200 dead bodies. Witnesses report that a mixture of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and regime loyalists have attacked demonstrators with knives, assault rifles and heavy-caliber weapons.
Snipers are shooting peaceful protesters. Artillery and helicopter gunships have been used against crowds of demonstrators. Thugs armed with hammers and swords attacked families in their homes. Hospital officials report numerous victims shot in the head and chest, and one struck on the head by an anti-aircraft missile. Tanks are reported to be on the streets and crushing innocent bystanders. Witnesses report that mercenaries are shooting indiscriminately from helicopters and from the top of roofs. Women and children were seen jumping off Giuliana Bridge in Benghazi to escape. Many of them were killed by the impact of hitting the water, while others were drowned. The Libyan regime is seeking to hide all of these crimes by shutting off contact with the outside world. Foreign journalists have been refused entry. Internet and phone lines have been cut or disrupted.
There is no question here about intent. The government media has published open threats, promising that demonstrators would meet a “violent and thunderous response.”
Accordingly, the government of Libya is committing gross and systematic violations of the right to life as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Citizens seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are being massacred by the government.
Moreover, the government of Libya is committing crimes against humanity, as defined by the Explanatory Memorandum to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Libyan government’s mass killing of innocent civilians amount to particularly odious offences which constitute a serious attack on human dignity. As confirmed by numerous oral and video testimonies gathered by human rights organizations and news agencies, the Libyan government’s assault on its civilian population are not isolated or sporadic events. Rather, these actions constitute a widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities, intentionally committed, including murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts which reach the threshold of crimes against humanity.Responsibility to Protect
Under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, you have a clear and unambiguous responsibility to protect the people of Libya. The international community, through the United Nations, has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect the Libyan population. Because the Libyan national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from crimes against humanity, should peaceful means be inadequate, member states are obliged to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII.
In addition, we urge you to convene an emergency Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council, whose members have a duty, under UNGA Resolution 60/251, to address situations of gross and systematic violations of violations of human rights. The session should:
Call for the General Assembly to suspend Libya’s Council membership, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, which applies to member states that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights.
Strongly condemn, and demand an immediate end to, Libya’s massacre of its own citizens.
Dispatch immediately an international mission of independent experts to collect relevant facts and document violations of international human rights law and crimes against humanity, in order to end the impunity of the Libyan government. The mission should include an independent medical investigation into the deaths, and an investigation of the unlawful interference by the Libyan government with the access to and treatment of wounded.
Call on the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Council’s relevant Special Procedures to closely monitor the situation and take action as needed.
Call on the Council to remain seized of the matter and address the Libyan situation at its upcoming 16th regular session in March.
Member states and high officials of the United Nations have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya from what are preventable crimes. We urge you to use all available measures and levers to end atrocities throughout the country.
We urge you to send a clear message that, collectively, the international community, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council will not be bystanders to these mass atrocities. The credibility of the United Nations — and many innocent lives — are at stake.
(list of signatures at link)
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