Monday, February 21, 2011

Where is the UN and the Obama administration as the Libyan regime massacres its citizens?

Anyone who thought that the road to democracy in the Middle East would be easy only need look at Libya. As Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's son Sayf al-Islam al-Qaddafi stated in a television address, Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt and that, if ongoing demonstrations do not cease, "blood will flow in the streets." Meanwhile, Libya's Deputy Ambassador to the UN has accused al-Qaddafi of engaging in genocide. Reports of security forces using deadly force against demonstrators has been reported in Libya's major cities, Tripoli, Benghazi and Bayda, including heavy weapons. Foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa have b een brought in to suppress the demonstrators. These facts are not in dispute. The question is: where is the international community? Why hasn't the US and other countries brought the matter of the killing of what began as peaceful demonstrations to the United Nations?

Reports today say that much of Eastern Libya is in the hands of rebels opposed to the Qaddafi regime. Other reports indicate that Helicopter gunships have fired into crowds of protesters. Two Libyan Mirage F1 fighters defected to Malta with the pilots indicating that they refused to use their aircraft to fire on demonstrators. Hundreds of Libyans have already been killed. The death toll is unknown but Human Rights Watch believes it is very high, between 200 and 800 Libyans. Soldiers who have refused to shoot demonstrators have also been tortured and killed.

What can the UN do? First, the sanctions that were formerly imposed on Libya by the UN in 1992 after the Pan Am bombing in Lockerbie, Scotland,in December 1988, should be reimposed. The UN Security Council should vote to freeze Libyan assets around the world. The UN should vote to impose a naval blockade on shipping coming into and leaving Libya until Muammar al-Qaddafi is handed over to the International Court of Justice for trial for crimes against his own people.

Commodity prices, especially the price of oil, has spiked in response to the unrest in the Middle East, especially in Libya, a major oil producer in the region. The global business community is deeply concerned. However, they need to realize that ruthless regimes such as that of Muammar al-Qaddafi do not benefit the world business community. These regimes are inherently unstable and lead to vioence and instability. Failure to confront their dictatorial rule does not represent good business practice.

Tomorrow the UN Security Council will finally meet to consider the human rights violations that are occurring in Libya The Obama administration has been remarkably silent on events in Libya. A strong statement from President Obama condemning the Qaddafi regime and supporting the rebels efforts to rid Libya of 42 years of tyranny would send a powerful message to all in the Middle East who seek democracy. It would be an important shot in the arm for Libyans democrats and democratic forces throughout the Middle East.

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