70 rights groups call on UN to condemn Tripoli

Rights groups question international response to violent situation, demand that Libya be stripped of membership to Human Rights Council.

February 22, 2011 06:08
3 minute read.
People gather during unrest in Benghazi

Libya protests men climbing 311. (photo credit: AP)

Feeling that his country has been “abandoned,” expatriate Libyan Mohamed Eljahmi sleeps these days with the news on, as he watches, from his Massachusetts home, the rising numbers of dead Libyan activists.

“Right now we are seeing massacres and atrocities against the Libyan people,” said Eljahmi, a co-founder of the American Libyan Freedom Alliance.

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“Where is the international community that spoke loudly and clearly when it came to Gaza? Where is Turkey, the new leader of the Islamic world that sent a ship to Gaza?” he asked bitterly.

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On Monday, he was among a number of activists who endorsed a call by 70 rights groups, which urged the United Nations and the world powers to condemn the Libyan government’s “crimes against humanity” and to call an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council.

They also demanded that Libya be stripped of its membership on the Human Rights Council.

“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,” the groups said in a letter they sent to the United States, the European Union and the UN.

On Monday, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon called Gaddafi to talk about the violence in his country.

According to a statement issued by the UN, “the secretary- general expressed deep concern at the escalating scale of violence and emphasized that it must stop immediately. He reiterated his call for respect for basic freedoms and human rights, including peaceful assembly and information.”

In addition, the statement said, Ban “urged all parties to exercise restraint and called upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogue to address legitimate concerns of the population.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which organized the 70 rights groups, said that “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.”

Eljahmi said he, too, felt let down by the mild UN statement, which he said needed to be stronger. But, he added, what is most important is that the international community act to safeguard the innocent people who are being killed.

Eljahmi, a software engineer, left Libya in 1977. His brother, Fathi Eljahmi, a human rights activist in Libya, was imprisoned for five years and tortured to death.

The events of the last several days has brought Eljahmi back to those years of anxiety when his brother was in jail.

The world has to “break its silence” and remove Gaddafi from office, he declared.

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