February 23, 2011
The UN Security Council has condemned the Libyan authorities for using force against protesters, calling for those responsible to be held to account. In a statement, the council demanded an immediate end to the violence and said Libya’s rulers had to “address the legitimate demands of the population”. Nearly 300 people have been killed so far, according to Human Rights Watch. Earlier, Col Muammar Gaddafi urged his supporters to attack the “cockroaches” and “rats” protesting against his rule. Anyone who took up arms against Libya would be executed, he warned. Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi later resigned and called on the armed forces to “join and heed the people’s demands”. The UN Security Council’s statement came after a day of debate on the uprising in Libya, which has seen the state lose control of much of the east of the country, foreign mercenaries allegedly attacking civilians on the streets and warplanes reportedly shooting and bombing protesters. The council’s 15 members said the Libyan authorities should “meet its responsibility to protect its population”, act with restraint, and respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
The Libyan authorities should also hold accountable those people responsible for attacking civilians, and respect the rights of its citizens to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and press freedom, they added. British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the statement was “extremely strong” and indicated further measures were likely in the coming days. Libya’s deputy permanent representative to the UN in New York, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who on Monday called on Col Gaddafi to step down, said the council’s statement was “not strong enough” but still “a good message to the regime in Libya about stopping the bloodshed”. But his superior, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Shalqam, dissociated himself from the remarks, calling Libya’s ruler “my friend”. The Arab League also condemned the “crimes” against protesters in Libya and said it would bar the country from League meetings. But Col Gaddafi was defiant in a rambling 75-minute speech broadcast on state television, saying he vowing to crush the revolt by “rats and mercenaries”. Standing outside the Bab al-Aziza barracks in Tripoli, which was damaged by a US air strike in 1986, he vowed: “I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr. I shall remain here defiant.”
He also called on his supporters to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless the protesters surrendered. “All of you who love Muammar Gaddafi, go out on the streets, secure the streets, don’t be afraid of them… Chase them, arrest them, hand them over,” he said. He portrayed the protesters as misguided youths who had been given drugs and money by a “small, sick group”, and blamed “bearded men” – a reference to Islamist – and Libyans living abroad for fomenting the violence. “The hour of work is here, the hour of onslaught is here, the hour of victory is here. No retreat, forward, forward, forward. Revolution, revolution,” he shouted at the end of the speech, pumping both fists in the air. Shortly after the speech, a BBC correspondent in Tripoli heard the sound of guns being fired, apparently into the air. She said fireworks were also set off and cars drove through the city at high speed, their horns blaring. In the eastern city of Benghazi, people watching the address reportedly threw shoes at television screens as a sign of their anger. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Col Gaddafi’s speech was “very, very appalling” and “amounted to him declaring war on his own people”. In New York, Mr Dabbashi said he had received information that the Libyan leader’s supporters had started attacking people in all western cities. “The Gaddafi statement was just code for his collaborators to start the genocide against the Libyan people. It just started a few hours ago. I hope the information I get is not accurate but if it is, it will be a real genocide,” he told reporters.
Amnesty International has called for police in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK to review their training of Libyan and Bahraini police in the light of the crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters. The human rights organisation said significant questions must be raised about what human rights criteria and standards, if any, were applied to the training given by the police service, especially given Libya and Bahrain’s record on crushing internal dissent and public protest. Amnesty International Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said: “The PSNI [Police Service of Norhtern Ireland] has been involved in delivering training to security forces in Libya, Bahrain and other countries with atrocious human rights records.
“Given events in those countries, with the deaths of perhaps hundreds of innocent protesters at the hands of security forces, it looks as if the government’s risk-assessment system isn’t working. We need much tighter checks when training is being given to police forces with a history of human rights abuses. “We call on the chief constable and the Northern Ireland policing board to look closely at recent events in Libya, Bahrain and other countries where they have helped to train the security forces, to ensure that much-needed lessons are learnt.
“A rigorous human rights assessment must be made before any future agreement to offer training to an overseas police force. In addition, the PSNI should carry out follow-up evaluation to ensure that any training offered results in an improvement in human rights and policing in that country. “The Northern Ireland Policing Board should ensure that such criteria and assessments are applied to all such overseas training. In addition, we call for greater transparency around the delivery of such training, and ask that the chief constable openly declares such training in his annual report.”
Shia opposition leaders said they would resist a government offer of dialogue until the kingdom’s Sunni rulers made a significant gesture by sacrificing Prince Khalifa, who has held his position since Bahrain’s independence from Britain in 1971. They also called for the release of political prisoners. A day after King Hamad was forced to call his army off the streets after a brutal military crackdown that killed at least seven people failed to quell the protests, the opposition has sensed momentum swinging its way. They are also hoping to take advantage of rumoured rifts in the Al Khalifa dynasty that have pitted hardliners, including the prime minister, against a group of reformists around the king and his son, Crown Prince Salman. The desire to see Prince Khalifa ousted is almost universally shared by the tens of thousands of protesters that reoccupied Pearl Monument, the symbolic centre of the capital Manama, after the security forces withdrew on Saturday evening. The prime minister, whose longevity has made him a hugely powerful figure in a royal family that numbers thousands, is widely blamed for the economic and political marginalisation of Bahrain’s Shia majority, which accounts for up to 70 per cent of the island kingdom’s native population.
Regarded as one of the richest men in the state, many Bahrainis – including some Sunnis – see him as a symbol of the corruption allegations that have blighted the ruling family. “After 40 years of being in power, the time has come for him to step down,” said Jawad Fairooz, a senior member of the main Shia opposition party Wefaq. “We are in favour of dialogue, but we should have enough confidence that the dialogue will be successful. We want some positive indications and a change of the government should be part of it.” With Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, adding her voice to international calls for reform yesterday, King Hamad has instructed the Crown Prince to begin negotiations with the opposition. It is demanding the introduction of a constitutional monarchy, genuine political representation and a fairer deal for Shias, who have largely shut out of jobs in government and the security forces. Protesters said they would remain at Pearl Monument until such demands were met.